Historic provinces of France

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The administrative structure of France at the time of the Ancien Régime , based on a map drawn up in 1721 by the court geographer Guillaume Delisle . Printed in Nuremberg in 1741 by the heirs of Johann Baptist Homann (1664–1724).
The historical provinces of France before the revolution as well as territories belonging to France today from this period:
1 Île-de-France (the historical Domaine royal , capital Paris )
2 Berry (capital Bourges )
3 Orléanais (capital Orléans )
4 Normandie (capital Rouen )
5 Languedoc , mainly the county of Toulouse (main town Toulouse )
6 Lyonnais (main town Lyon )
7 Dauphiné , county Vienne (main town Grenoble )
8 Champagne (main town Troyes )
9 Aunis , an Aquitanian fief (main town La Rochelle )
10 Saintonge (main town Saintes )
11 Poitou , an Aquitaine fiefdom (main town Poitiers )
12 Aquitaine , since the 13th century Guyenne , with Gascogne (main town Bordeaux )
13 Bourgogne (main town Dijon )
14 Picardy (main town Amiens )
15 Anjou (main town Angers )
16 Provence (main town Aix- en-Provence )
17 Angoumois (main town Angoulême )
18 Bourbonnais (main town Moulins )
19 Marche (main town Guéret )
20 Bretagne (main town Rennes )
21 County Maine (main town Le Mans )
22 Touraine ( Main town Tours )
23 Limousin (main town Limoges )
24 County Foix (main town Foix )
25 Duchy of Auvergne (main town Clermont-Ferrand )
26 Béarn (main town Pau )
27 Alsace (main town Strasbourg )
28 Artois (main town Arras )
29 Roussillon (main town Perpignan )
30 Flanders (capital Lille )
31 Franche-Comté (free county of Burgundy) (capital Besançon )
32 Lorraine (capital Nancy )
33 Corsica (not shown on the map, capital Ajaccio )
34 Nivernais (capital Nevers )
35 County Venaissin , 1274–1791 papal fiefdom (Main town Avignon )
36 Mulhouse in Alsace (until 1798 part of what was then Switzerland , the Old Confederation )
37 Savoy , until 1860 part of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont (main town Chambéry )
38 County Nice , until 1860 part of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont (main town Nice )
39 County Mömpelgard (1397–1793 under Württemberg rule, capital Montbéliard )
The historical provinces (colors) and today's departments (lines)
Tax division of the provinces

The historical provinces of France (French provinces , Sg. Province ) are the former territorial units into which France was divided until 1792 .


Many provinces formerly correspond independent territories in different ways part of the passage of time the royal domain ( Domaine royal ) of the French kings had become: reverted to the French crown or retracted from this fiefdom , by personal union united with the French crown territories or areas of foreign States ceded to or annexed by France. The part of the Kingdom of Navarre (Royaume de Navarre) , which belongs to France and is also known as Nieder-Navarre (Basse-Navarre) , had a special status . This was in fact one of the provinces of France, but formally legally an independent kingdom connected with France only in personal union, which is why the kings of France until 1789 (and again after the Restoration until 1830) the title of King of France and of Navarre (roi de France et de Navarre) .

The provinces were subject to a common central government, but retained their individual legal status based on customary law (coutumes et privilèges) . Individual areas within a province could in turn have their own customary rights and thus form provinces within this province. It is therefore hardly possible to list all provinces conclusively. The central administration used different territorial administrative divisions for different purposes, which also changed from time to time, so that no uniform list can be drawn up on this basis either.

One of the most important legal differences was the different organization of tax collection . In the majority of the provinces, the so-called pays d'élections , local elected representatives, the so-called élus , were responsible for collecting taxes. In the so-called pays d'États there was a provincial assembly of estates , which was also responsible for the tax approval, although the French kings tried to limit the political role of the provincial estates as well as that of the general estates of the entire kingdom as much as possible. In the so-called pays d'imposition , which were annexed to the French state in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries , there were neither provincial estates nor élus , but the collection of taxes was directly in the hands of the royal intendants .

Institution development


The so-called gouvernements had existed as administrative units of the central government since the 14th century . They were under the direction of a governor , who mostly came from the nobility . The governorates initially served primarily military purposes, but over time also took on numerous civilian tasks. Since the noble governors were viewed by the absolutist kings as potential oppositional forces, they tried to limit their power. In 1661, Louis XIV determined that the governors were only allowed to stay in their governors for a limited period with the consent of the king .

The number of governorates fluctuated between 3 and 12 in the 15th and 16th centuries, and at that time a governorate usually comprised several provinces. Under Louis XIII. the number of governorates increased to almost 40 in the 17th century, so that their area now often corresponded to that of a single province. In 1776 their number was fixed at 39, of which 32 large governorates (grands grouvernements) and 7 small governorates (petits grouvernements) , which formed enclaves within the large ones .

Généralités and Intendances

The recettes générales or généralités were created in France in 1542 as districts of financial administration . At first there were 16 of these, in the course of the following centuries their number increased to 36 by 1784. The areas of the généralités only partially corresponded to those of the provinces. In larger provinces there were often several généralités , while several smaller provinces were combined into one généralité . The recettes générales were each subordinate to a receveur général , who was assisted by a trésorier de France , responsible for the royal goods, and a général des finances , responsible for direct and indirect taxes . The maîtres de requêtes had been responsible for financial control since 1555 .

At the beginning of the 17th century, the maîtres des requêtes received the title of police, judicial and financial directors and royal commissioners ( intendant de police, justice et finance et commissaire départi du roi ). Since the end of the 17th century they had their permanent seat in the généralité , for which they were responsible. The directors , who were direct representatives of the king who could be recalled at any time, actually became the heads of the state administration in the territory under their control and thus took over the tasks that had previously been performed by the governors. Often they also took care of the economic development of the area. Since the areas of responsibility of the artistic directors generally corresponded to the généralités , these are often referred to as généralités-intendances . In individual cases, however, the areas of généralités and intendances did not coincide : In Languedoc there were two généralités (in Toulouse and Montpellier ), but only one intendance (in Montpellier).

Dissolution of the provinces

During the French Revolution , in 1789, in the National Assembly , the representatives of the individual provinces declared the renunciation of the inherited privileges of their provinces, which were regarded as incompatible with the equality of all citizens. The National Assembly decided to dissolve the provinces and replace them with the départements , which, unlike the provinces, should all have the same size and status. When naming the newly formed departments, the names of the provinces that had existed up to that point were deliberately not used; instead, most of them were named after rivers and mountains.

The provinces have ceased to be political units since then, but their names live on as geographical names. When naming the present-day French regions , the names of the historical provinces were used again if the area of ​​the region largely corresponded to a historical territory. However, since the borders of a region are aligned with those of the départements, only in a few cases do they exactly coincide with the borders of the former provinces.

Provinces with year of annexation to the crown domain

province subordinate
Main towns of
the provinces
Year of permanent
to the crown domain
Angoumois   Angoulême 1515
Anjou   Angers 1480
Baugeois Baugé
Artois   Arras 1659
(Pays d ') Aunis   La Rochelle 1371
Auvergne   Clermont-Ferrand 1531 or 1610
Bearn   Pau 1594 (with Lower Navarre )
Beaujolais   Beaujeu
Berry   Bourges 1100
Boulonnais   Boulogne 1477 (with Picardy )
Bourbonnais   Moulins 1531
Brittany   Rennes 1532
Clos chicken Saint Malo
Cornouaille Quimper
Léon Lesneven
Burgundy (Bourgogne)   Dijon 1477
Autunois Autun
Auxerrois Auxerre
Auxois Semur-en-Auxois
Bassigny Langres
Chalonnais Chalon-sur-Saône
Bresse Bourg
Bugey Belley
Charolais Charolles
Mâconnais Mâcon
Pays de Gex Gex
Valromey Saint-Rambert
(Principauté de) Dombes Trévoux 1762
Champagne   Troyes 1285
Brie champenoise Meaux
Remois Reims
Senonais Sens
Vallage Joinville
Dauphiné   Grenoble 1349
Alsace (Alsace)   Strasbourg (Strasbourg) mostly 1648 to 1697,
Sundgau 1648,
Strasbourg 1681
Upper Alsace
Sundgau Belfort
Lower Alsace
Flanders (Flandres)   Lille 1668 (together with
southern Hennegau ( Hainaut ))
Flandre maritime
Flandre Wallonne
County of Foix
(Comté de Foix / Pays de Foix)
  Foix 1589
Donnezan Artigues
Forez   Saint-Etienne
Franche-Comté (until 1678 Reichsburgund)   Besançon 1678
Gascony   Also 1453 (with
Guyenne and Labourd )
Agenois Agen
Armagnac Also
Bigorre Tarbes
Comminges Saint-Bertrand
Condomois Condom
Couserans Saint-Lizier
Estarac Mirande
Lomagne Lectoure
(Pays de) Marsan Mont-de-Marsan
Quatre-Vallées Sarrancolin
Guyenne   Bordeaux 1453 (together with
Gascogne and Labourd )
Bazadois Bazas
Chalosse Saint-Sever
Périgord Périgueux
Quercy Cahors
Rouergue Rodez
Hainaut (Hainaut)   Valenciennes 1668 (together with Flanders )
Cambrésis Cambrai
Île-de-France   Paris (original crown domain)
Beauvaisis Beauvais
Brie française Lagni
Gâtinais français Nemours
Hurepoix Melun
Laonnois Laon
Mantois Mantes
Quart de Noyon
Soissonnois Soissons
Vexin français Pontoise
Valois Crepy
Corsica (Corse)   Bastia 1768
(Terre de) Labourd   Bayonne 1453 (together with
Guyenne and Gascogne )
Languedoc   Toulouse 1271
Gévaudan Mende
Velay Le Puy
Vivarais Viviers
Limousin   Limoges 1250
Lorraine (Lorraine)   Nancy 1766
Barrois , previously the Duchy of Bar Bar-le-Duc
Lyonnais   Lyon 1312
Plat pays de Lyonnais
City of Lyon ( Ville de Lyon )
Franc-Lyonnais Genay , Neuville from 1665
Maine   Le Mans 1481
Marche   Guéret 1531
Lower Navarre
  Saint-Palais 1594 (with Béarn )
Nivernais   Nevers 1669
Normandy   Rouen 1450
Pays d'Auge
Bessin Bayeux
Pays de Bray
Campagne de Caen
Pays de Caux Caudebec-en-Caux
le Houlme
Lieuvin Beuzeville ,
Épaignes ,
Lieurey ,
Campagne du Neubourg
Pays d'Ouche L'Aigle ,
Bernay ,
Breteuil-sur-Iton ,
Conches ,
Roumois Elbeuf , Brionne
Campagne de Saint-André
Vexin normand Quillebeuf
Orléanais   Orleans 1626
Blésois Blois
Pays chartrain Chartres
Dunois Châteaudun
Gâtinais orléanais Montargis
Vendômois Vendôme
Perche   Mortagne-au-Perche
Perche Vendômois
Picardy   Amiens 1477 (together with the
Boulonnais )
Ponthieu Abbeville
Santerre Péronne , Montdidier , Roye
Thiérache Guise
Vermandois Saint-Quentin
Vimeu Saint-Valery-sur-Somme
Poitou   Poitiers 1369
Provence   Aix-en-Provence 1481
Roussillon   Perpignan 1659
Cerdagne française Mont-Louis
Saintonge   Saintes 1371
(Vallée de) Soule   Mauléon 1510
Touraine   Tours 1584
Trois-Évêchés (the "Three Bishoprics") Diocese of Metz Metz 1648
Diocese of Toul Toul
Diocese of Verdun Verdun

List of governorates

The following list contains the 39 governorates existing in 1789 with the provinces belonging to them.

Governorate associated provinces
Anjou Anjou
Artois Artois
Aunis Aunis
Auvergne Auvergne
Bearn Béarn , Soule , Lower Navarre
Berry Berry
Boulonnais Boulonnais
Bourbonnais Bourbonnais
Brittany Brittany
Burgundy ( Bourgogne ) Burgundy
Champagne Champagne
Dauphiné Dauphiné
Dombes Dombes
Alsace ( Alsace ) Alsace
Flanders and Hainaut ( Flandre et Hainaut ) Flanders , Hainaut
County of Foix ( Comté de Foix ) County Foix
Franche-Comté Franche-Comté
Guyenne and Gascogne ( Guyenne et Gascogne ) Guyenne , Gascony , Labourd
Île-de-France Île-de-France (excluding Paris)
Corsica ( Corse ) Corsica
Languedoc Languedoc
Limousin Limousin
Lorraine ( Lorraine ) Lorraine
Lyonnais Lyonnais
Maine Maine
Marche Marche
Nivernais Nivernais
Normandy Normandy
Orléanais Orléanais
Paris Paris (part of the Île-de-France )
Picardy Picardy
Poitou Poitou
Provence Provence
Roussillon Roussillon
Saintonge and Angoumois ( Saintonge et Angoumois ) Saintonge , Angoumois
Saumurois Saumurois
Toul Toul
Touraine Touraine
Verdun and Metz Verdun , Metz

List of Généralités

The following list shows the Généralités that existed immediately before the French Revolution with their respective provinces.

Headquarters of the Généralité
Year of foundation of Généralité
associated provinces Tax status
Agen , later Bordeaux 1542 Guyenne (partially) pays d'élections
Aix 1542 Provence pays d'États
Alencon 1636 Normandy (partially) pays d'élections
Amiens 1542 Picardy (partially), Boulonnais , until 1754 also Artois pays d'élections
Also 1716 Gascony pays d'élections
Bastia 1768 Corsica
Bayonne 1784 Labord
Besançon 1676 Franche-Comté pays d'imposition
Bourges 1542 Berry , Marche (partially) pays d'élections
Caen 1542 Normandy (partially) pays d'élections
Châlons-sur-Marne 1542 Champagne , Brie , Sedan pays d'élections
Dijon 1542 Burgundy pays d'États
Grenoble 1542 Dauphiné pays d'États
Issoire , later Riom 1542 Auvergne pays d'élections
La Rochelle 1694 Aunis , Saintonge , Angoumois (partially) pays d'élections
Lille 1691 Flanders , from 1754 also Artois pays d'imposition
Limoges 1558 Limousin , Marche (partly), Angoumois (partly) pays d'élections
Lyon 1542 Lyonnais , Forez , Beaujolais pays d'élections
Metz 1552 the three dioceses ( Trois-Évêchés ) Metz , Toul and Verdun
Montauban 1635 Guyenne (partially), until 1716 also Gascony pays d'élections
Montpellier 1542 Languedoc (partially) (including Gévaudan and Vivarais ) pays d'États
Moulins 1587 Bourbonnais , Marche (partly), Nivernais (partly) pays d'élections
Nancy 1737 Lorraine pays d'imposition
Orleans 1558 Orléanais , Nivernais (partially) pays d'élections
Paris 1542 Île-de-France (mostly), Picardy (partly) pays d'élections
Pau 1784 Béarn , Soule , Lower Navarre , Bigorre , Quatre Vallées , Pays de Marsan , County Foix pays d'États
Perpignan 1660 Roussillon pays d'imposition
Poitiers 1542 Poitou pays d'élections
Rennes 1552 Brittany pays d'États
Rouen 1542 Normandy (partially) pays d'élections
Soissons 1595 Île-de-France (partly), Picardy (partly) pays d'élections
Strasbourg (Strasbourg) 1689 Alsace Alsace pays d'imposition
Toulouse 1542 Languedoc (partially) pays d'États
Tours 1542 Touraine , Maine , Anjou , Saumurois pays d'élections
Trévoux 1762 Dombes pays d'élections
Valenciennes 1678 Hainaut Hainaut pays d'imposition

See also