French territorial expansion, 1552–1798
In the mid 15th century, France was significantly smaller than it is today,
 and numerous border provinces (such as
County of Foix,
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
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
Duchy of Lorraine,
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
French Guiana), India (
Pondicherry), the Indian Ocean (
Réunion), the Far East, and a few African trading posts.
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