The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet became King of France. His descendants, the Direct Capetians, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon, unified the country with many wars and dynastic inheritance. The monarchy was the most powerful during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV of France. At that time, France had the largest population in Europe. The country had a big influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the common language of diplomacy in international affairs. Much of the Enlightenment happened in France. French scientists made big scientific discoveries in the 18th century. France also conquered many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia.
France had a monarchy until the French Revolution in 1789. King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were executed in 1793. Thousands of other French citizens were also killed. Napoleon Bonaparte took control of the Republic in 1799. He later made himself Emperor of the First Empire (1804–1814). His armies conquered most of continental Europe. The metric system was invented by French scientists during the French revolution.
After Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, another monarchy arose. Later Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte created the Second Empire in 1852. Louis-Napoléon was removed after the defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. The Third Republic replaced his regime.
The large French colonial empire in the 19th century included parts of West Africa and Southeast Asia. The culture and politics of these regions were influenced by France. Many ex-colonies officially speak the French language.
The country was where both the First and Second World Wars took place. During the First World War, millions were killed in the trenches including over a million in the Battle of the Somme. The conditions were very poor. The last surviving veteran was Pierre Picault who died on 20 November 2008 at the age of 109. During the Second World War, Nazis occupied France. The Allies landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944 and began the Battle of Normandy. German forces lost France in just a few months.