Maximum realistic French territorial expansion (excluding colonies) in the centuries before the French Revolution?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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#1
What if the maximum size that France could have realistically expanded to (excluding colonies, of course) in the centuries leading up to the French Revolution? Basically, I want to know which additional territories pre-revolutionary France could have realistically conquered, annexed, and permanently kept and what the maximum realistic size of pre-revolutionary France (again, excluding colonies) would have been.

I know that France had a realistic chance at the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium) in 1748 but that Louis XV blew it by giving away this territory (which France successfully conquered during the War of Austrian Succession) in order to look like a magnanimous peacemaker. However, what other territories could France have realistically acquired and annexed (and permanently kept) in the centuries leading up to the French Revolution?

Any thoughts on this?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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SoCal
#2
For the record, France actually did expand quite a bit in the 800 years before the French Revolution:



However, I'm wondering if it could have expanded even more during this time--and if so, to which territories?
 
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#3
Given the massive coalitions that Louis XIV faced every time he tried to expand France's borders throughout his reign, I don't think they could have taken much more than they had pre-Revolution. Western Europe had settled into a relatively stable and territorially consistent region. Wars of outright conquest which led to annexation was very rare in 18th century Western and Central Europe. Instead there were a bunch of the so-called "Cabinet Wars" which were mostly concerned with dynastic succession rather than the conquest of land. I don't think the France of Louis XV would have had any realistic hope of conquering more land (they took a little bit but not too much). Louis XV was both less ambitious than his great-grandfather, and also less determined and competent.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,700
SoCal
#4
Given the massive coalitions that Louis XIV faced every time he tried to expand France's borders throughout his reign, I don't think they could have taken much more than they had pre-Revolution. Western Europe had settled into a relatively stable and territorially consistent region. Wars of outright conquest which led to annexation was very rare in 18th century Western and Central Europe. Instead there were a bunch of the so-called "Cabinet Wars" which were mostly concerned with dynastic succession rather than the conquest of land. I don't think the France of Louis XV would have had any realistic hope of conquering more land (they took a little bit but not too much). Louis XV was both less ambitious than his great-grandfather, and also less determined and competent.
What about before Louis XIV?

Also, what about the possibility of additional personal unions eventually resulting in political unions? I mean, that's how Navarre ultimately joined France--its King Henry III became King Henry IV of France after the Valois died out in the male line in 1589.
 
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#5
What about before Louis XIV?

Also, what about the possibility of additional personal unions eventually resulting in political unions? I mean, that's how Navarre ultimately joined France--its King Henry III became King Henry IV of France after the Valois died out in the male line in 1589.
There are lot of different factors that result in a personal union, so it's almost impossible to predict if France would gain any more of them. So many things could go differently. I'm no expert on dynastic relationships in France, so I can't give any solid arguments on this point.
 
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Jul 2009
9,836
#6
What about before Louis XIV?

Also, what about the possibility of additional personal unions eventually resulting in political unions? I mean, that's how Navarre ultimately joined France--its King Henry III became King Henry IV of France after the Valois died out in the male line in 1589.
In regard to "personal union," the result (1714/15) of the War of Spanish Succession could be viewed as something of a French victory. The House of Bourbon gained the throne of Spain extending French influence (but not control) to both the Iberian peninsula, AND to the vast Spanish colonial empire in the Western hemisphere. More importantly, France had effectively removed Spain as an historically hostile power in its rear - a considerable achievement. France was not at war with Spain for an entire century.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,700
SoCal
#7
In regard to "personal union," the result of the War of Spanish Succession could be viewed as something of a French victory. The House of Bourbon gained the throne of Spain extending French influence (but not control) to both the Iberian peninsula, AND to the vast Spanish colonial empire in the Western hemisphere. France had effectively removed Spain as an historically hostile power in its rear - a considerable achievement.
Certainly--though this could have probably been done without a decade-long war.