The Kingdom of France (Old French: Reaume de France, Middle French: Royaulme de France, French: Royaume de France) was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was among the most powerful states in Europe and a great power from the High Middle Ages onward. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.
France originated as West Francia (Francia Occidentalis), the western half of the Carolingian Empire, with the Treaty of Verdun (843). A branch of the Carolingian dynasty continued to rule until 987, when Hugh Capet was elected king and founded the Capetian dynasty. The territory remained known as Francia and its ruler as rex Francorum ("king of the Franks") well into the High Middle Ages. The first king calling himself Roi de France ("King of France") was Philip II, in 1190. France continued to be ruled by the Capetians and their cadet lines—the Valois and Bourbon—until the monarchy was abolished in 1792 during the French Revolution.
France in the Middle Ages was a de-centralised, feudal monarchy. In Brittany and Catalonia (now a part of Spain) the authority of the French king was barely felt. Lorraine and Provence were states of the Holy Roman Empire and not yet a part of France. Initially, West Frankish kings were elected by the secular and ecclesiastic magnates, but the regular coronation of the eldest son of the reigning king during his father's lifetime established the principle of male primogeniture, which became codified in the Salic law. During the Late Middle Ages, rivalry between the Capetian Dynasty, rulers of the Kingdom of France and their vassals the House of Plantagenet, who also ruled the Kingdom of England, resulted in many armed struggles. The most notorious of them all are the series of conflicts known as the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) in which the kings of England laid claim to the French throne. Emerging victorious from said conflicts, France subsequently sought to extend its influence into Italy, but was defeated by Spain and the Holy Roman Empire in the ensuing Italian Wars (1494–1559).
France in the early modern era was increasingly centralised; the French language began to displace other languages from official use, and the monarch expanded his absolute power, albeit in an administrative system (the Ancien Régime) complicated by historic and regional irregularities in taxation, legal, judicial, and ecclesiastic divisions, and local prerogatives. Religiously France became divided between the Catholic majority and a Protestant minority, the Huguenots, which led to a series of civil wars, the Wars of Religion (1562–1598). The Wars of Religion crippled France, but triumph over Spain and the Habsburg Monarchy in the Thirty Years' War made France the most powerful nation on the continent once more. The kingdom became Europe's dominant cultural, political and military power in the 17th century under the Sun King. In parallel, France developed its first colonial empire in Asia, Africa, and in the Americas. Colonial conflicts with Great Britain led to the loss of much of its North American holdings by 1763. French intervention in the American Revolutionary War helped secure the independence of the new United States of America but was costly and achieved little for France.
The Kingdom of France adopted a written constitution in 1791, but the Kingdom was abolished a year later and replaced with the First French Republic. The monarchy was restored by the other great powers in 1814 and lasted (except for the Hundred Days in 1815) until the French Revolution of 1848.