Republique of France
“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity…and resurgence.”
– Louis-Napoleon, on being asked what his election as President would mean for France, 1868
The Republique of France is a nation scarred and debilitated by its experiences over the past seventy years. It has seen war and revolution, monarchy and republic. It has held an empire and has been fought over as a prize. At the height of its power under the legendary Napoleon Bonaparte, it sought to challenge the great Prussian Empire for dominance of Europe, and at its nadir it found itself unable to even defend its own borders, and suffered the ignominy of having some of its richest provinces laid waste during battles between the foreign powers that sought to govern its very destiny.
But the spirit of France has never been broken, and the legacy of its Revolution lives on. From the highest to the lowest in French society, a fierce patriotic pride burns bright in the heart of every citizen, and it is this that has carried the Republique through every tribulation it has endured since the fall of Napoleon.
Territorially, France is a shadow of its former self. Napoleon’s imperial dominion over the Iberian Peninsula is long gone. The region of Provence, including the vital naval base at Toulon, and the island of Corsica, were ceded to the Italian League after the chaos following Napoleon’s death in 1804. Its old power in North and West Africa has also been supplanted by the Britannians and Italians, although it retains quite a considerable amount of economic influence in the region. Currently, the Republique does not exert direct rule over any territory outside of France itself. However, the small kingdom of Belgium, although nominally independent, has effectively been a French military and economic satellite state since end of the 1830s.
Further afield, French trade missions and military advisors operate worldwide, using their alliance with the Prussians to work alongside Dutch free traders and mercenaries in places as far away as China. Although strictly speaking these concerns operate as private enterprises, they are all linked in some way to the French state, enabling the Republique to keep its finger on the pulse of foreign affairs, despite lacking an extensive colonial empire.
Since 1808 the Republique has been governed by a President as head of state, serving terms of seven years. The actual business of national administration is handled by the Chamber of Deputies, whose seats are allotted to French departments based on population size. France is one of the world’s most democratic nations, having adopted universal male suffrage in 1821. Although there are many political parties operating in this hothouse, French politics has traditionally been dominated by the so-called Parti Gaulois, a nationalist (but strongly pro-Prussian) organisation that dominated both the presidency and the Chamber of Deputies for decades. Through their influence, France has been officially allied to the Prussian Empire since the late 1800s.
However, all of this changed in 1866, with the election of the eccentric adventurer Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the legendary ruler, to the presidency. This was the climax of a growing resurgence of New Bonapartist influence. Formerly seen as minority dissidents, if not borderline terrorists, the Bonapartist opposition alliance, sometimes called the ‘Imperial Eagles’ faction, headed by the new president has risen to become a potent force in French politics, with its heady mixture of nationalistic propaganda and proto-liberal policies for social reform partially inspired by the attempted Europe-wide revolution of 1848, which has since gained a near-mythical status in France.
After just four years of his term, Bonaparte himself is still a mostly unknown quantity. He has reaffirmed the treaty with Prussia, even though it now places his nation technically at war with both the Russian Coalition and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and physically at war with the Kingdom of Britannia. However, few expect of him the near-supine compliance with Prussia that had been the hallmark of the Parti Gaulois. Louis-Napoleon, like his famous uncle, had plans for France, and playing the role of cat’s paw to Frederick Grunder is unlikely to be among them, at least not for very long.
The French military, formerly the terror of Europe, was shattered by 1810; the long campaign against the Britannians in Spain, the civil war between Napoleon’s marshals and fledgling republican government, and the Prussian invasion had all combined to wreck French military power. The nadir of this process was the ceding of Provence to the Italian League, a humiliation for the French which rivalled that of Trafalgar. French forces, other than a few mercenary companies, played virtually no direct part in the Battle of Waterloo, being unable even to contest the Britannian occupation of the Pas de Calais which allowed them to channel their forces into Belgium to face Blucher’s Prussians.
Since the advent of peace, the Republique has quietly rebuilt its military forces. Although now is the first time that France has been officially at war since 1815, French forces have been active around the world in one form or another since the 1830s. Military missions have been working with the Prussians, with the Ottoman Empire (in an unofficial capacity) and, lately, the Empire of the Blazing Sun. In particular, French engineers have been instrumental in strengthening and modernising the Wolfgang Fortresses, Prussia’s primary defence against the Russo-Polish invasion.
The French military is small compared to those of its neighbours, but it is a highly elite and well-motivated organisation. Like the Blazing Sun, France fields integrated combined-arms formations called Legions, although those of the French consist of only land and air divisions, for reasons explained below. The French soldier, commonly known by the honourable epithet chasseur, or ‘hunter’, is a highly disciplined and well-equipped instrument of war. The French military, unable to match in numbers the conscript mass armies of Prussia and Russia, focuses on training and technological innovation to make up for this deficit in materiel.
Nowhere has this become more apparent than in the French Navy; it has acquired Gravity Nullification Engine (GNE) technology, an innovation that no other nation as yet possesses. By means of this mysterious attribute, French seagoing vessels are capable of lifting themselves out of the water and becoming fully airborne for considerable periods of time. Although their speed is no match for purpose designed flying craft, the firepower they can bring to bear is virtually unmatched by anything else in the air, and they can operate freely over land and water. How the Republique got hold of this expertise is unclear, although fingers point to both Louis-Napoleon’s previous association with Lord Sturgeon’s expeditions, and the influence of the so-called ‘dissident’ Markov. Either way, the French navy, though limited in its reach, is a now a force that even the Britannians are taking very seriously once again.