Embarrassing Chapters in French History

Guess these people, places, and things in French history that the country would probably rather forget.
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: April 16, 2020
First submittedMay 3, 2018
Times taken8,409
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Answer
This country is able to quickly overwhelm and defeat France in 1940
Germany
In a 1976 blind taste test, wines from this U.S. state are judged
superior to wines from France
California
Napoleon loses 95% of his army after invading this country
Russia
Thousands are beheaded for political crimes during this part of the French Revolution
Reign of Terror
A law makes it illegal for women to wear these (unless on a bicycle or horse).
It was finally repealed in 2012.
Pants
Slaves overthrow their French oppressors to establish this country in 1804
Haiti
France loses this colony in 1962 after a brutal eight year war
Algeria
This celebrated female fashion designer collaborates with the Nazis
Coco Chanel
France protects and celebrates this film director who drugged and raped a 13 year old girl
Roman Polanski
This violent song, advising listeners to "Let impure blood water our lands"
is made the national anthem
La Marseillaise
This general becomes President after a coup causes the collapse of the Fourth Republic in 1958
Charles de Gaulle
In 1415, France loses this battle against a much smaller English army, mostly peasant archers
Battle of Agincourt
In this last 19th century "affair", an innocent Jewish soldier is convicted of treason
Dreyfus affair
This soccer player head butts an opponent in the World Cup finals
Zinedine Zidane
France loses many of its North American colonies as a result of this 1756-1763 war
Seven Years' War
The "Rainbow Warrior", a boat owned by this environmental group, is sunk for protesting
French nuclear tests in pristine ocean waters
Greenpeace
The French are forced to withdraw from this peninsula after losing the
Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954
Indochina
French intellectuals such as Jacques Derrida forever ruin the humanities
with the invention of this nihilistic "ism"
Postmodernism
Painter Paul Gauguin likely spreads syphilis to the population of this tropical island
Tahiti
People wearing these type of vests protest after yet another tax increase
reduces the quality of life for French citizens still further
Yellow
+4
Level 69
May 3, 2018
Pardon my schadenfreude
+3
Level 78
May 4, 2018
Algeria was a department not a colony of France. Thus it was actually a civil war in which Algeria ceded from the rest of France.
+3
Level 81
May 4, 2018
Algeria was a colony. Those departments (there were in fact 3) consisted of the French colons, not the native populations. Anyway, call it a civil war if you want, but it was a very nasty conflict.
+4
Level 49
Oct 1, 2018
Actually there were more than three departments. And there is absolutely no link between departments and the disparities between "colons" and "natives".

As a matter of fact Algeria was not a colony if you look on French administration. It had unequivocal different status from colonies.

That's why it has never been called a "war" but a "civil war".

But, again, speaking from former French point of view.

+1
Level 58
Aug 5, 2020
i'm half French, half Algerian, born and raised in France, and what you say is not true Yukhan. the Algerian war has never been called a civil war, and yes Algeria was colonized by France therefore it was a colony.
+5
Level 81
Jun 17, 2018
So someone wrote an Orwellian law that called a colony an integral part of a foreign power on another continent? The United States used doublespeak to call their colonies "protectorates", like invading, kicking people out and nuking their paradise islands was saving them from some evil force that might do something terrible to their homeland.
+2
Level 71
Apr 17, 2020
Does this mean that Algerians could freely move to and live in France without restriction before the war? Genuine question - I have no idea.
+8
Level 68
May 4, 2018
De Gaulle did not become president after a coup. Rene Coty passed on power to him in the context of a constitutional transformation "in the framework of Republican legality", as Coty stated in front of the parliament.
+10
Level 81
May 4, 2018
It was not a real coup indeed. And France is by no means ashamed of that. By the way, most french politicans still refer to De Gaulle one way or another.
+2
Level ∞
May 4, 2018
De Gaulle isn't the shameful part. It's the collapse of the Forth Republic.
+3
Level 81
May 4, 2018
Ok, but it collapsed because of Indochina and Algeria, so it's a bit redundant.
+3
Level 77
Jun 18, 2018
Not really, other countries lost colonies but carried on with the same political system.
+2
Level 37
Sep 29, 2018
The Fourth Republic was ill-designed. Glad it collapsed.
+3
Level 53
Oct 1, 2018
By collapse of the fourth republic, you actually mean major Constitution redesign, which could be good or bad or both depending on who you're asking. Nothing shameful about redesigning a constitution that was not working well (most government of the 4th republic lasted only a few months, which made it impossible to deal with major issues, like the war of Algeria).
+1
Level 77
Jun 18, 2018
De Gaulle's coming on power wasn't the coup referred to I think, but the military was pretty much on the way to a coup, partially even carried out already, like in Algeria and Corsica.
+2
Level 84
May 6, 2018
Francis I being captured by the Spanish army after the Battle of Pavia may be an interesting addition to the quiz.
+1
Level 37
Sep 29, 2018
Indeed, as well as John II being captured by the English at Poitiers in 1356 or Napoleon III being captured by the Prussians at Sedan in 1870.
+1
Level 70
Jun 8, 2020
Or even Louis IX's capture by the Egyptians in the Seventh Crusade in 1250. It seems there is a number of those.
+14
Level 83
May 7, 2018
Say what you will, but I love hearing people sing La Marseillaise. Especially at a rugby match.
+4
Level 77
Jun 18, 2018
The music is great, but the lyrics are nasty.

Still, "I have always honoured the king of Spain" is much more embarassing (Dutch anthem).

+5
Level 37
Sep 29, 2018
The lyrics are not nasty and btw the 'impure blood' is the French people's blood as opposed to the 'pure blood' of the nobility.
+1
Level 67
Apr 9, 2019
I don't think the Dutch anthem has that line
+1
Level 66
Mar 22, 2020
Dutch anthem does say (in -almost- modern language) "den Koning van Hispanje heb ik altijd geëerd" meaning basically what is said above. But subsequently the anthem points out that "Dat u de Spanjaards krenken, o edel Neerland zoet ... mijn edel hart dat bloedt" meaning "that the Spaniards injure you, sweet noble Low Country ... my noble heart bleeds". So the anthem is saying that "even though I have never attempted to hurt you, you are hurting us". Not so embarrassing then to try to do something about it.
+1
Level 66
Mar 22, 2020
What is perhaps embarrassing about it is that the first line says "Wilhelmus van Nassouwe ben ik, van Duitsen bloed den vaderland getrouwe", saying thus (you might think) "I Wilhelm being of German blood faithful to the Fatherland". Can't have gone down too well during the Second World War, I was thinking. Goes to show that the Dutch term "Duits" didn't then mean German in the way that it now does, so explaining the current confusion for English speakers between the English word "Dutch" and the German word "Deutsch". Hope that's clear now.
+1
Level 79
Apr 17, 2020
At least the music wasn't taken from a British drinking song. (The Star Spangled Banner)
+8
Level 59
May 7, 2018
Attempting to spell "La Marseillaise" was difficult
+2
Level 81
May 8, 2018
Oui.
+1
Level 37
Sep 30, 2018
^ Yes. DeGaulle was completed for us after DeGau..., and "7 years' war"after 7 year..." but we are forced to correctly spell "La Marseillaise" !!!
+1
Level ∞
Apr 16, 2020
No, you are not required to correctly spell it.
+7
Level 81
Jun 17, 2018
Petain?
+2
Level 35
Jun 12, 2020
Petain might be THE most embarassing part in recent French history and it's not even there
+10
Level 62
Aug 17, 2018
how's La Marseillaise an embarrassing chapter??
+5
Level 45
Sep 30, 2018
+Etanna I think because the lyrics referenced above could be taken as advocating violence... ‘impure blood watering the land’ sounds pretty harsh! Calling it embarrassing’s maybe a bit of a stretch though; pretty much all the European national anthems have some similarly aggressive lines, most were written in a period when violent uprisings and border wars were the norm for the region... they reflect these (then) realities, I’d argue, instead of being essentially violent songs. History student lecture completed ;)
+8
Level 65
Sep 30, 2018
The Zidane headbutt was awesome, and the French should be proud of it. Even his technique when headbutting the guy was excellent.
+3
Level 76
Apr 16, 2020
Italy should be ashamed of Materazzi instead!
+8
Level 39
Sep 30, 2018
Please accept also Azincourt for the "Agincourt battle". Nobody knows about "Agincourt" in France, they use Azincourt.
+2
Level 62
Aug 17, 2019
Yes, as a french, I never heard of Agincourt ! We only know Azincourt
+2
Level 65
Apr 17, 2020
+1
+1
Level 46
Nov 19, 2020
+1
+1
Level 81
Sep 30, 2018
Clue could be "This country is able to quickly overwhelm and defeat France in 1870 and then again in 1940." Well, technically the first time it was the North German Confederation and not Germany, but we don't have any nitpickers on this site, right? ;)
+3
Level 58
Oct 1, 2018
As a french, some question really surprises me:

-The "pants law": an old law no one knows about, not enforced since a very long time. I don't see how i can't be see as a national shame.

-De gaulle fifth republic: even if there is still to this day debates (in the leftwing) about this constitution, certainly no national shame or forgetable things (except for the algeria wars contest but that's an other question)

-Zidane headbutt: some critics publicly but in the end every frenchmen approves, certainly no shame or regret (except for the final result of the match..)

-Depardieu, who is indeed a living legend in france brought shame on himself with his many departures (belgium for taxe reason, Russia for the fun of pissing people). No shame here.

-Chanel: don't think anyone is ashamed about that either.

Didnt know azincourt is spelled agincourt in english (why though?).

Franco-prussian war of 1870 was way more embarassing.

+4
Level 68
Oct 4, 2018
Because this site is predominantly US centric, and therefore tends to have a bias for all things french. Notice the large amount of military loses in this quiz, following the myth of France always losing wars.
+1
Level ∞
Apr 16, 2020
Such as this quiz for example:

https://www.jetpunk.com/quizzes/april-fools-quiz-3

+1
Level 37
May 24, 2019
JackintheBox: "Den Koning van Hispanje heb ik altijd ge-eerd"

(The King of Spain I have always honored) is definitely a stanza in "Wilhelmus", (the Dutch National Anthem)! WHY it's still there, is another question.

+7
Level 82
Apr 16, 2020
Why the dig at postmodernism? Appreciate the attempt to be tongue-in-cheek, but I think Poe's Law kicks in here...
+2
Level ∞
Apr 16, 2020
It's tongue in cheek, but it's also mostly true. Here, for example, is an excerpt from Derrida:

This inflation of the sign "language" is the inflation of the sign itself, absolute inflation, inflation itself. Yet, by one of its aspects or shadows, it is itself still a sign: this crisis is also a symptom. It indicates, as if in spite of itself, that a historico-metaphysical epoch must finally de­termine as language the totality of its problematic horizon. It must do so not only because all that desire had wished to wrest from the play of lan­guage finds itself recaptured within that play but also because, for the same reason, language itself is menaced in its very life, helpless, adrift in the threat of limitlessness, brought back to its own finitude at the very moment when its limits seem to disappear, when it ceases to be self­assured, contained, and guaranteed by the infinite signified which seemed to exceed it.

+2
Level ∞
Apr 16, 2020
Poe's law clearly applies more to Derrida's writing than it does to my question which at least parses as human language.
+10
Level 82
Apr 17, 2020
I mean we can all take random excerpts from philosophy and argue that it's gibberish, but if you take the time to read something by Derrida in its entirety, I think you'll find it's a lot less challenging that it appears on the surface. Something like, say, The Spectre of Marx, is relatively straightforward. The complex language has more to do with the highly specific nature of academic language and the difficulties of translating French to English.

Derrida is challenging, but others who are tarred with the label of 'postmodernist' can be quite straightforward - Foucault's Discipline and Punish, for example, is very accessible (and indeed is often assigned to undergrads for precisely that reason).

But the argument that postmodernism is just artful bullshitting is weak and reminiscent of the 'cultural Marxism' conspiracy theory.

+9
Level 74
Apr 17, 2020
I agree, I don't understand how it can be preceived as an Embarrasing chapter in history, particularly when you take into account the influence post-structuralist thought has had in certain liberation movements.
+1
Level 80
Apr 16, 2020
After watching _A French Village_'s portrayal of the complexities of life in France under the German occupation, it's hard for me to get too worked up about Chanel's collaboration.
+1
Level 87
Apr 16, 2020
*Gauguin
+1
Level ∞
Apr 16, 2020
Fixed
+1
Level 79
Apr 16, 2020
"enivornmental" = "environmental". "13 year old" = "13-year-old".
+5
Level ∞
Apr 16, 2020
Fixed the misspelling, but I am not writing "13-year-old". It burns my eyes with its stylistic awfulness.
+1
Level 78
Apr 17, 2020
He is correct, though, QM. But, dealer's choice.
+1
Level ∞
Apr 17, 2020
The New Yorker magazine, the bastion of all things nitpicky when it comes to grammar, appears to use both conventions.

When there is a choice, I believe that the simpler option is usually best. The extra dashes feel fussy.

+2
Level 74
Apr 23, 2020
Gilets Jaunes should also be accepted
+1
Level 62
Apr 29, 2020
Oh please. The most embarrassing moment was the attempted coup by Captain Pete before an unnamed mouse, duck, and dog did him in.
+1
Level 80
Jun 1, 2020
Heh. Is Derrida new? Worthy inclusion. But what about Foucault?
+2
Level 53
Jun 29, 2020
La Marseillaise is not embarassing and its 'violent' message was written at a time of war. How would you like it to go? "Come, invaders, make yourselves at home! Traitors and kings, return us to our old slavery"?
+2
Level 18
Jul 15, 2020
You are wrong about La Marseillaise. When we speak about impure blood, we mean OUR blood, the blood of the French revolutionaries, in opposition to the noble "blue" blood
+1
Level 19
Nov 9, 2020
nope, it's is the blood of the enemy. If you read the lyrics again you'll see that it's the most logical explanation : They come to take away our family from our arms, to kill them, they "low" like beasts so their blood must flow. This song was sung by soldiers as they were walking to the battle field. No revolutionaries, only a bunch of men singing in hopes of getting their courage up. Hope you'll understand me, my english isn't very good.