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French governments come and go
By Donald H. Dool
September 08, 2017

After four years as President of the Second Republic, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed emperor of the Second Empirein 1852 as Napoleon III. During the next 18 years he intervened in the Crimea, Mexico and Italy. This resulted in the annexation of the duchy of Savoy and the county of Nice, then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. He was unseated following defeat and capture at the Battle of Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and the Third Republic replaced his regime.

The Third Republic lasted from 1870 until July 10, 1940, when France’s defeat by Nazi Germany in World War II led to the formation of the Vichy government in France.

The newly formed republic got off to a bad start; the war was continued for another five months until a Prussian victory that resulted in the loss of the French regions of Alsace and Lorraine, social upheaval, and the establishment of the Paris Commune. Re-establishing the monarchy was considered, but how it should be constructed and who should be the monarch could not be agreed upon caused this idea to fail.

The Third Republic, which had been created as a provisional government, now became the permanent government of France. Under the Third Republic many French colonial possessions, including French Indochina, French Madagascar, French Polynesia, and large territories in West Africa were acquired during the period prior to the Great War.

World War II brought an end to the Third Republic when the Germans occupied France. The rival governments of Charles de Gaulle’s Free French and Philippe Pétain’s Vichy France replaced it.

After France was liberated in 1944 and the Vichy government was dissolved the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF) was instituted. Charles de Gaulle led the GPRF from 1944 to 1946. Elections were held in October 1946 that approved a new constitution that instituted a bicameral form of government. When this went into effect in 1947, the Fourth Republic was established.

The Algiers crisis of 1958 brought about the collapse of the French Fourth Republic.  Conflict and revolt had begun the process of decolonizing.

Governments had been forming and falling in quick succession since the Second World War. No party or coalition had been able to sustain a parliamentary majority. In June 1958, Charles de Gaulle was appointed head of the government and a constitutional law empowered the new government to draft a new constitution of France It was approved overwhelmingly in the referendum of September 1958. The new constitution was signed into law and the Fifth Republic replaced the Fourth Republic. Again, Charles de Gaulle was the leader of France. The Fifth Republic still exists.

The female figure that appears on French coins, stamps and other items is Marianne, the official symbol of France. Marianne was created during the French Revolution as a symbol of liberty. The name is a combination of the two most popular names at the time, Marie and Anne.

Several options for the next column, either the French possessions or move south to Spain.

Contact Don Dool with questions, corrections and comments at


Works Cited:

Eklund, O. P. “Copper Coins of France.” The Numismatist. 1931. Rpt. n.p.: n.p.,1962.

France. 31 July 2017.

Fifth Republic. 31 July 2017.

Krause, Chester L., and Mishler, Clifford.  Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900. Ed. Colin R. Bruce II. 3rd. ed. Iola, WI: Krause, 2001.

…, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-Present. Ed. Colin R. Bruce II. 29th ed. Iola,  WI: Krause, 2002.

Marianne. 1 Aug 2017.

Neumann, Josef. Beschreibung der bekanntesten Kupfermüzen. 6 vols. Prague: 1858-1872. Rpt. 7 vols. Leipzig: 1966.

Third Republic. 31 July 2017.

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