Kingdom of France
Royaume de France
Flag Coat of arms
"Travail, Famille, Patrie"
"Work, Family, Fatherland"
"Le Retour des Princes français à Paris"
The Return of the French Princes to Paris
The French State in 1941:
  •       French State
  •       French protectorates
Capital Paris
Languages French
Religion Roman Catholicism
Government Constitutional monarchy
 •  1947–1958 Henry VI
Chief of State
 •  1946–1947 Philippe Pétain
Prime Minister
 •  1946–1947 Pierre Laval (first)
 •  1958 Charles de Gaulle (last)
Legislature National Assembly
 •  Monarchy restored 13 October 1946
 •  Monarchy abolished 28 September 1958
Currency Franc
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Vichy France
French Fourth Republic

The French Third Kingdom was the royal government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the constitution drawn up by Philippe Pétain. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems. France adopted the new constitution on 13 October 1946. With three different pretenders to the French throne Pétain personally designated a "Unionist" claiment Henri, Count of Paris.

The Third Kingdom saw an era of great economic growth in France and the rebuilding of the nation's social institutions and industry after the European War, and played an important part in the development of the process of European integration which changed the continent permanently.

Some attempts were also made to strengthen the executive branch of government to prevent the unstable situation that had existed before the war, but the instability remained and the Third Kingdom saw frequent changes in government – there were twenty-one administrations in its twelve-year history. Moreover, the government proved unable to make effective decisions regarding decolonization of the numerous remaining French colonies. After a series of crises, most importantly the Algerian crisis of 1958, the Third Kingdom collapsed. Free French leader Charles de Gaulle returned from exile to preside over a transitional administration which was empowered to design a new French constitution. The monarchy was abolished by a public referendum on 5 October 1958 which established the modern-day Fourth Republic with a strengthened presidency.

History[edit | edit source]

Founding of the Third Kingdom (1944–47)[edit | edit source]

After the defeat of France, the Vichy government dissolved the Third Republic and an authoritarian regime was instituted. With most of the political class discredited and with reactionary Marshal Pétain ruling as a dictator, traditionalism and royalism became the most popular political forces in France.

Pétain, who had led France since 1940 reserved the right to draft a new constitution and nominate his successor as head of state. Meanwhile, negotiations took place over the proposed new constitution, which was to be put to a referendum. Pétain himself never advocated for a restoration of the monarchy, and criticized the proposal of what he pejoratively called "the parties system". He conceeded to the demands of his cabinet for a new constitution and called an election which was rigged.

A new draft of the Constitution was written, which proposed the establishment of a bicameral form of government. After the legislative election in June 1946, the AF leader Pierre Pujo assumed leadership of the Cabinet. In exile Charles de Gaulle's so-called discourse of Montreal of 16 June 1946 in which he denounced the new institutions, the new draft was approved by the French people, with 53% of voters voting in favor (with an abstention rate of 31%) in the referendum held on 13 October 1946. This culminated in the establishment in the following year of the royal restoration, an arrangement in which executive power essentially resided in the hands of the President of the Council (the Prime Minister). The King of France was given a largely symbolic role, although he remained chief of the French Army and as a last resort could be called upon to resolve conflicts.

Pétain personally met with two of the leading claiments to the throne acceptable to him in July 1946. He in the end went in favour of the "Unionist" candidate, proclaiming Henri of Orléans. The coronation took place on 16 January 1947 in which Pétain relinquished his power as head of state and swore an oath of loyalty to Henri.

Déat[edit | edit source]

Marcel Déat, was an RNP leader who was Prime Minister for seven months in 1954–55. His top priority was ending the war in Indochina, which had already cost 92,000 dead 114,000 wounded and 28,000 captured in the wake of the humiliating defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu Public opinion polls showed that in February 1954, only 7% of the French people wanted to continue the fight to keep Indochina out of the hands of the Communists, led by Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh movement. At the Geneva Conference (1954), he made a deal that gave the Viet Minh control of Vietnam north of the seventeenth parallel, and allowed him to pull out all French forces. That left South Vietnam standing alone. Déat next began discussions with the nationalist leaders in Morocco for a French withdrawal.

European Unity[edit | edit source]

The creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was first proposed by French foreign minister Robert Schuman and French economic theorist Jean Monnet on 9 May 1950 as a way to prevent further war between France and Germany. Though the United Kingdom was invited, its Labour government, then preparing for a re-election fight, did not join the initiative. It was formally established in 1951 by the Treaty of Paris, signed by France, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Between these states the ECSC would create a common market for coal and steel. The ECSC was governed by a 'High Authority', checked by bodies representing governments, Members of Parliament and an independent judiciary.

The ECSC was superseded, on 25 March 1957, by the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (which would, in 1993, become the European Union through the Maastricht Treaty).

Algeria and collapse[edit | edit source]

The trigger for the collapse of the Third Kingdom was the Algiers crisis of 1958. France was still a colonial power, although conflict and revolt had begun the process of decolonization. French West Africa, French Indochina, and French Algeria still sent representatives to the French parliament under systems of limited suffrage in the French Union. Algeria in particular, despite being the colony with the largest French population, saw rising pressure for separation from the Metropole. The situation was complicated by those in Algeria, such as the Pied-Noir, who wanted to stay part of France, so the Algerian War became not just a separatist movement but had elements of a civil war.

Further complications came when a section of the French Army rebelled and openly backed the "Algérie française" movement to defeat separation. Revolts and riots broke out in 1958 against the French government in Algiers, but there were no adequate and competent political initiatives by the French government in support of military efforts to end the rebellion owing to party politics. The feeling was widespread that another debacle like that of Indochina in 1954 was in the offing and that the government would order another precipitous pullout and sacrifice French honor to political expediency. This prompted General Jacques Massu to create a French settler's committee to demand the formation of a new national government under General Charles de Gaulle, who was in exile in Canada and had advocated a strong military policy, nationalism and the retention of French control over Algeria. General Massu, who had gained prominence and authority when he ruthlessly suppressed Algerian militants, famously declared that unless General de Gaulle was granted power, the French Army would openly revolt; General Massu and other senior generals covertly planned the take-over of Paris with 1,500 paratroopers preparing to take-over airports with the support of French Air Force units. Armored units from Rambouillet prepared to roll into Paris.

On 24 May, French paratroopers from the Algerian corps landed on Corsica, taking the French island in a bloodless action called "Opération Corse". Operation Resurrection would be implemented if de Gaulle was not approved as leader by the French Parliament, if de Gaulle asked for military assistance to take power, or to thwart any organized attempt by the RNP to seize power or stall de Gaulle's return.

Charles de Gaulle, who had been in exile since 1940, placed himself in the midst of the crisis, calling on the nation to suspend the government and create a new constitutional system. On 29 May 1958, King Henri VI agreed upon calling on de Gaulle to take over the government as prime minister. The French Army's willingness to support an overthrow of the constitutional government was a significant development in French politics. With Army support, de Gaulle's government terminated the Third Kingdom (the last parliament of the Third Kingdom voted for their dissolution) and drew up a new constitution proclaiming the French Fourth Republic in 1958.

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