The Former French Provinces
The former French provinces are actually the historical French regions. The outlines of provinces in France often originated in a major city of that time and its strong influence on a given piece of land, i.e. the unborn region. The said city “protected” this region (good examples are Midi-Pyrenees or Rhone Alpes). Other regions were created by a political will as Poitou Charentes, in this case to have a unity between the two cities of Tours and Bordeaux. The “Vichy” political regime (led by Marshal Pétain during WW2) finally created the current administrative regions. French départments
as we know them today were created just after the révolution française, in 1789.
The former French provinces were oftent linked to a king’s power or belonged to a kingdom or duchy. Below is a list of the former French Provinces, on each page you will find information about the given province.
Map of the Former French Provinces.
The size of Brittany has not really changed and it is easily recognizable on the map, in the North-West of France. Brittany is a former Celtic area that was independent from the neighbouring areas that formed the then unborn France. In the past, it has sometimes been called Little Britain to differentiate it from Great Britain.
Today the region is made up of the following départments
: Côtes-d'Armor, Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine and Finistère. Historically, it also encompassed what is nowadays the Loire Atlantique department but this was amended by the Vichy political regime.
Maine is located next to Anjou and Normandy. Its name originates from the current city of Le Mans. This land was invaded a number of times as it was at the crossroads of several lands ruled by powerful counts and dukes.
The history of the area is made up of bloody struggles and battles.
Normandy is a former French province that was the Duchy of Normandy. Normandy is today made up of two French regions: Uper-Normandy and Lower-Normandy, which corresponds to the size of the former province.
The Vikings, which were called “Northmen” at that time, gave their name to the region around 800. Normandy and England are linked as the Normans conquerred England around 1066.
4. Île-de-France - Paris:
The Ile de France former province has been the place where decisions were made during most of French history. Paris is obviously its main city. Today the former province corresponds to both Picardy and Ile de France.
The name of the region, “Ile de France” was originally “Pays de France” but as this means “country of France” it was amended as it could be misinterpreted with the nation’s name. "Île-de-France" (meaning "Island of France") was chosen because of the many rivers that are present around the area.
This area was originally reserved to the king of France, excluded from the feudal system of that time.
Picardy is located in the northern part of France. The name of the inahbitants is Picards
The former Picardy province corresponds to the area of France located north of Paris, an area much larger than that coveed today by the Picardy region. The language spoken in the former French province was the Picard language, a dialect full of eferences to the local culture. Nowadays only few people can speak the language.
Artois was initially a feudal county. Through battles and legacies, it was succesfully part of Flanders, France, Burgundy, Spain (through the “Spanish Netherlands”). This land was in frontline during WWI, which caused much damage to the former province.
7. The French Flanders:
Flanders are a nothern area of France, the main city being Lille. The current French Flanders correspond to a previously Dutch-speaking province, part of the Sprachraum, a groupe of areas where the same language or dialect is spoken. This province has always been heavily influenced byt the Dutch nd Belgian cultures. As Artois, this area of France has belonged to the Spanish Netherlands. Another aspectthey share is the fact that both have been the place of numerous battles from the middle-Ages to WWII.
The historic province of Champagne is located in the northeastern area of France. The ancient borders of Champagne are more or less thos sof the current Champagne Ardennes region created under the Vichy political regime. Once famous for its fairs (during the Middle-Ages), the area is much more renowned today for its highly regarded (and many times rewarded) wine called Champagne wine.
9. Duchy of Lorraine:
The Duchy of Lorraine was divided around 960 in two separate areas. Reunited later on, it was mostly occupied by the French kings but fierce battles regularly would take place between the king of France and local dukes who wanted an autonomous area under their only control. These battles were military but also political, and finally the former province of Lorraine became an part of the current France in 1766.
The name Alsace derives from German influences. This part of France has always been very influenced by the neighbouring Germany. The former province belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, then later on it has been a neverending struggle between Germany and France ot take control of this stategic military and political area.
11. Province of Anjou:
Anjou was historically a county, a duchy and a province whose main city was Angers. Anou is part of the famous Loire Valley boasting great castles and wines. The current department of Maine et Loire corresponds to the historic Anjou area. This former province name is still famous nowadays for its famous wine production.
Touraine is another former province of France whose fame comes from great wines and historic features like castles. It is not surprising to see so many castles in the area as it as always been a strategic way to reach Paris from the South of France. The capital of the former province was obviously the city of Tours. The province was divided during the French revolution in the three current departments of Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher and Indre, all being names of local rivers.
The province of Orleans is organized around the cities of Orléans, Blois and Chartres. It belonged to the Capet family, a family of French kings. The province’s size and borders bo not correspond to any current area, it could be described as a vast area around the city of Orléans, ideally located (not far from Paris).
14. Duchy of Burgundy:
The former province of Burgundy corresponds to current areas located in France and Switzerland. As in neighbouring provinces, the Germanic influence there has been strong for ages.
Franche-Comté is a former French province, its name means "Free County". Formerly it was part of the Duchy and county of Burgundy but also belonged to kingdoms as the Frankish Kingdom, Kingdom of Burgundy and Merovingian & Carolingian dominations.
16. Poitou (Poitiers) :
The former province of Poitou was originally occupied by the Pictons, also called Pictaves. Poitou was linked to Aquitaine and thus given successively to the king of France and king of England. The province of Poitou originally encompassed the Vendée department, that is nowadays part of the Pays de la Loire region.
Berry is a central region of France. The former province was the birthplace of many kings. Thus the influence of this Duchy was great at that time. Berry eventually became part of France in 1601.