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France

Interesting facts
France is the world's most popular tourist destination – some 83.7 million visitors arrived in France, according to the World Tourism Organization report published in 2014, making it the world's most-visited country.

France is the largest country in the EU, and known as 'the hexagon' – with an area of 551,000 sq km it's almost a fifth of the EU’s total area, and due to its six-sided shape France is sometimes referred to as l’hexagone. About a quarter is covered by forest; only Sweden and Finland have more.

Louis XIX was the king of France for just 20 minutes, the shortest ever reign – he ascended to the French throne in July 1830 after his father Charles X abdicated, and abdicated himself 20 minutes later in favour of his nephew, the Duke of Bordeaux. He shares this record with Crown Prince Luís Filipe, who technically became king of Portugal after his father was assassinated but died from a wound 20 minutes later.

Liberté, égalitié, fraternité meaning ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ (or brotherhood) is the national motto of France – it first appeared around the time of the Revolution (1789–1799), and was written into the constitutions of 1946 and 1958. Today you’ll see it on coins, postage stamps and government logos often alongside ‘Marianne’ who symbolises the ‘triumph of the Republic’. The legal system in France is still largely based on the principles set down in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Code Civil after the revolution, in the 1800s.

The French Army was the first to use camouflage in 1915 (World War I) – the word camouflage came from the French verb ‘to make up for the stage’. Guns and vehicles were painted by artists called camofleurs.

In France you can marry a dead person – under French law, in exceptional cases you can marry posthumously, as long as you can also prove that the deceased had the intention of marrying while alive and you receive permission from the French president. The most recent approved case was in 2017, when the partner of a gay policeman gunned down on Paris's Champs-Elysees by a jihadist was granted permission to marry his partner posthumously.

France was the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food – since February 2016, shops must donate wastage to food banks or charities.
About one million French people living near the border with Italy speak Italian – although French is the official language and the first language of 88 percent of the population, there are various indigenous regional dialects and languages, such as Alsacian, Basque, Breton, Catalan, Occitan and Flemish. On a larger scale, French is the second most spoken mother tongue in Europe, after German and before English, and is predicted to become number one by 2025 due to the country's high birth rate.

The Académie Française has aimed to preserve the French language since 1634 – by attempting to ban, somewhat unsuccessfully, foreign words such as blog, hashtag, parking, email and weekend. It was started by a small group of French intellects and officially recognised by Louis XIII in 1635.

 

 

 
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