French territorial expansion, 1552–1798
In the mid 15th century, France was significantly smaller than it is today, and numerous border provinces (such as Roussillon, Cerdagne, Calais, Béarn, Navarre, County of Foix, Flanders, Artois, Lorraine, Alsace, Trois-Évêchés, Franche-Comté, Savoy, Bresse, Bugey, Gex, Nice, Provence, Corsica and Brittany) were autonomous or foreign-held (as by the Kingdom of England); there were also foreign enclaves, like the Comtat Venaissin. In addition, certain provinces within France were ostensibly personal fiefdoms of noble families (like the Bourbonnais, Marche, Forez and Auvergne provinces held by the House of Bourbon until the provinces were forcibly integrated into the royal domaine in 1527 after the fall of Charles III, Duke of Bourbon).
The late 15th, 16th and 17th centuries would see France undergo a massive territorial expansion and an attempt to better integrate its provinces into an administrative whole. During this period, France expanded to nearly its modern territorial extent through the acquisition of Picardy, Burgundy, Anjou, Maine, Provence, Brittany, Franche-Comté, French Flanders, Navarre, Roussillon, the Duchy of Lorraine, Alsace and Corsica.
Royal flag in presence of the Royal family of the Kingdom of France
French acquisitions from 1461–1789:
Only the Duchy of Savoy, the city of Nice and some other small papal (e.g., Avignon) and foreign possessions would be acquired later. (For a map of historic French provinces, see Provinces of France). France also embarked on exploration, colonisation, and mercantile exchanges with the Americas (New France, Louisiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, French Guiana), India (Pondicherry), the Indian Ocean (Réunion), the Far East, and a few African trading posts.
Although Paris was the capital of France, the later Valois kings largely abandoned the city as their primary residence, preferring instead various châteaux of the Loire Valley and Parisian countryside. Henry IV made Paris his primary residence (promoting a major building boom in private mansions), but Louis XIV once again withdrew from the city in the last decades of his reign and Versailles became the primary seat of the French monarchy for much of the following century.
The administrative and legal system in France in this period is generally called the Ancien Régime.