The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary French Noblemen of all time. This list of famous French Noblemen is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of French Noblemen.
With an HPI of 81.75, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans is the most famous French Nobleman. His biography has been translated into 41 different languages on wikipedia.
Monsieur Philippe I, Duke of Orléans (21 September 1640 – 9 June 1701) was the younger son of Louis XIII of France and his wife, Anne of Austria. His older brother was the "Sun King", Louis XIV. Styled Duke of Anjou from birth, Philippe became Duke of Orléans upon the death of his uncle Gaston in 1660. In 1661, Philippe also received the dukedoms of Valois and Chartres. Following Philippe's victory in battle in 1671, Louis XIV added the dukedom of Nemours, the marquisates of Coucy and Folembray, and the countships of Dourdan and Romorantin.Although he was open about his homosexual behaviour and freely acted effeminately, he married twice and fathered several children. He was the founder of the House of Orléans, a cadet branch of the ruling House of Bourbon, and thus the direct ancestor of Louis Philippe I, who ruled France from 1830 until 1848 in the July Monarchy. Through the children of his two marriages, Philippe became an ancestor of most modern-day Roman Catholic royalty, giving him the nickname of "the grandfather of Europe". He was also military commander at the Battle of Cassel in 1677. Through careful personal administration, Philippe greatly augmented the fortunes of the House of Orléans.
With an HPI of 81.16, William the Conqueror is the 2nd most famous French Nobleman. His biography has been translated into 93 different languages.
William I (c. 1028 – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. He was a descendant of Rollo and was Duke of Normandy from 1035 onward. His hold was secure on Normandy by 1060, following a long struggle to establish his throne, and he launched the Norman conquest of England six years later. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands, and by difficulties with his eldest son, Robert Curthose. William was the son of the unmarried Robert I, Duke of Normandy, by his mistress Herleva. His illegitimate status and his youth caused some difficulties for him after he succeeded his father, as did the anarchy which plagued the first years of his rule. During his childhood and adolescence, members of the Norman aristocracy battled each other, both for control of the child duke, and for their own ends. In 1047, William was able to quash a rebellion and begin to establish his authority over the duchy, a process that was not complete until about 1060. His marriage in the 1050s to Matilda of Flanders provided him with a powerful ally in the neighbouring county of Flanders. By the time of his marriage, William was able to arrange the appointment of his supporters as bishops and abbots in the Norman church. His consolidation of power allowed him to expand his horizons, and he secured control of the neighbouring county of Maine by 1062. In the 1050s and early 1060s, William became a contender for the throne of England held by the childless Edward the Confessor, his first cousin once removed. There were other potential claimants, including the powerful English earl Harold Godwinson, whom Edward named as king on his deathbed in January 1066. Arguing that Edward had previously promised the throne to him and that Harold had sworn to support his claim, William built a large fleet and invaded England in September 1066. He decisively defeated and killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. After further military efforts, William was crowned king on Christmas Day, 1066, in London. He made arrangements for the governance of England in early 1067 before returning to Normandy. Several unsuccessful rebellions followed, but William's hold was mostly secure on England by 1075, allowing him to spend the majority of his reign in continental Europe. William's final years were marked by difficulties in his continental domains, troubles with his son, Robert, and threatened invasions of England by the Danes. In 1086, he ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey listing all the land-holdings in England along with their pre-Conquest and current holders. He died in September 1087 while leading a campaign in northern France, and was buried in Caen. His reign in England was marked by the construction of castles, settling a new Norman nobility on the land, and change in the composition of the English clergy. He did not try to integrate his various domains into one empire but continued to administer each part separately. His lands were divided after his death: Normandy went to Robert, and England went to his second surviving son, William Rufus.
With an HPI of 80.95, Eleanor of Aquitaine is the 3rd most famous French Nobleman. Her biography has been translated into 59 different languages.
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 – 1 April 1204) (French: Aliénor d'Aquitaine) was queen consort of France (1137–1152) and England (1154–1189) and duchess of Aquitaine in her own right (1137–1204). As the heir of the House of Poitiers, rulers in southwestern France, she was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in western Europe during the High Middle Ages. She was patron of literary figures such as Wace, Benoît de Sainte-Maure, and Bernart de Ventadorn. She led armies several times in her life and was a leader of the Second Crusade. As the duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor was the most eligible bride in Europe. Three months after becoming duchess upon the death of her father, William X, she married King Louis VII of France, son of her guardian, King Louis VI. As queen of France, she participated in the unsuccessful Second Crusade. Soon afterwards, Eleanor sought an annulment of her marriage, but her request was rejected by Pope Eugene III. However, after the birth of her second daughter Alix, Louis agreed to an annulment, as 15 years of marriage had not produced a son. The marriage was annulled on 21 March 1152 on the grounds of consanguinity within the fourth degree. Their daughters were declared legitimate, custody was awarded to Louis, and Eleanor's lands were restored to her. As soon as the annulment was granted, Eleanor became engaged to the Duke of Normandy, who became King Henry II of England in 1154. Henry was her third cousin and 11 years younger. The couple married on Whitsun, 18 May 1152, eight weeks after the annulment of Eleanor's first marriage, in Poitiers Cathedral. Over the next 13 years, she bore eight children: five sons, three of whom became kings; and three daughters. However, Henry and Eleanor eventually became estranged. Henry imprisoned her in 1173 for supporting their son Henry's revolt against him. She was not released until 6 July 1189, when her husband Henry died and their third son, Richard the Lionheart, ascended the throne. As queen dowager, Eleanor acted as regent while Richard went on the Third Crusade. Eleanor also lived well into the reign of Richard's heir and her youngest son, John.
With an HPI of 80.24, Charles the Bold is the 4th most famous French Nobleman. His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.
Charles (Charles Martin; German: Karl Martin; Dutch: Karel Maarten; 10 November 1433 – 5 January 1477), nicknamed the Bold (German: der Kühne; Dutch: de Stoute; French: le Téméraire), was the Duke of Burgundy from 1467 to 1477. His main objective was to be crowned king by turning the growing Burgundian State into a territorially continuous kingdom. He declared himself and his lands independent, bought Upper Alsace and conquered Zutphen, Guelders and Lorraine, uniting at last Burgundian northern and southern possessions. This caused the enmity of several European powers and triggered the Burgundian Wars. His early death at the Battle of Nancy at the hands of Swiss mercenaries fighting for René II, Duke of Lorraine was of great consequence in European history. The Burgundian domains, long wedged between France and the Habsburg Empire, were divided, but the precise disposition of the vast and disparate territorial possessions involved was disputed among the European powers for centuries.
With an HPI of 79.98, Margaret of Valois is the 5th most famous French Nobleman. Her biography has been translated into 46 different languages.
Margaret of Valois (French: Marguerite, 14 May 1553 – 27 March 1615) was a French princess of the Valois dynasty who became queen consort of Navarre and later also of France. By her marriage to Henry III of Navarre (later Henry IV of France), she was queen of Navarre and then France at her husband's 1589 accession to the latter throne. Margaret was the daughter of King Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici and the sister of kings Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III. Her union with the king of Navarre, which had been intended to contribute to the reconciliation of Roman Catholics and Protestant Huguenots in France, was tarnished six days after the marriage ceremony by the St Bartholomew's Day massacre and the resumption of the French Wars of Religion. In the conflict between Henry III and the Malcontents, she took the side of Francis, Duke of Anjou, her younger brother, and this caused the king to have a deep aversion towards her. As Queen of Navarre, Margaret also played a pacifying role in the stormy relations between her husband and the French monarchy. Shuttled back and forth between the two courts, she endeavored to lead a happy conjugal life, but her sterility and the political tensions inherent in the civil conflict led to the end of her marriage. Mistreated by a brother quick to take offence and rejected by a fickle and opportunistic husband, she chose the path of opposition in 1585. She took the side of the Catholic League and was forced to live in Auvergne in an exile which lasted twenty years. In 1599, she consented to a "royal divorce" – i.e. the annulment of the marriage – but only after the payment of a generous compensation.A well-known woman of letters and an enlightened mind as well as an extremely generous patron, she played a considerable part in the cultural life of the court, especially after her return from exile in 1605. She was a vector of Neoplatonism, which preached the supremacy of platonic love over physical love. While imprisoned, she took advantage of the time to write her Memoirs. She was the first woman to have done so. She was one of the most fashionable women of her time, and influenced many of Europe's royal courts with her clothing. After her death the anecdotes and slanders circulated about her created a legend, which was consolidated around the nickname La Reine Margot invented by Alexandre Dumas père, handed down through the centuries the myth of a nymphomaniac and incestuous woman. At the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, historians have reviewed the extensive chronicles of her life, concluding that many elements of her scandalous reputation stemmed from anti-Valois propaganda and from a factionalism capable of denigrating the participation of women in politics, created by Bourbon dynasty court historians in the 17th century.
With an HPI of 78.83, Pope Leo IX is the 6th most famous French Nobleman. His biography has been translated into 63 different languages.
Pope Leo IX (21 June 1002 – 19 April 1054), born Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg, was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 12 February 1049 to his death in 1054. Leo IX is widely considered the most historically significant German pope of the Middle Ages; he was instrumental in the precipitation of the Great Schism of 1054, considered the turning point in which the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches formally separated. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church. Leo IX favored traditional morality in his reformation of the Catholic Church. One of his first public acts was to hold the Easter synod of 1049; he joined Emperor Henry III in Saxony and accompanied him to Cologne and Aachen. He also summoned a meeting of the higher clergy in Reims in which several important reforming decrees were passed. At Mainz he held a council at which the Italian and French as well as the German clergy were represented, and ambassadors of the Byzantine emperor were present. Here too, simony and the marriage of the clergy were the principal matters dealt with. He is regarded as a saint by the Catholic Church, his feast day celebrated on 19 April.
With an HPI of 78.28, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême is the 7th most famous French Nobleman. His biography has been translated into 44 different languages.
Louis Antoine of France, Duke of Angoulême (6 August 1775 – 3 June 1844) was the elder son of Charles X of France and the last Dauphin of France from 1824 to 1830. He was technically King of France and Navarre for less than 20 minutes before he himself abdicated, due to his father's abdication during the July Revolution in 1830. He never reigned over the country, but after his father's death in 1836, he was the legitimist pretender as Louis XIX. He was a petit-fils de France at birth, and was initially known as Louis Antoine d'Artois. After his father's accession to the throne, he became Dauphin de France, and his surname changed to de France, following the royal custom for princes with such rank.
With an HPI of 77.51, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans is the 8th most famous French Nobleman. His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.
Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (Philippe Charles; 2 August 1674 – 2 December 1723), was a member of the royal family of France and served as Regent of the Kingdom from 1715 to 1723. Born at his father's palace at Saint-Cloud, he was known from birth under the title of Duke of Chartres. His father was Louis XIV's younger brother Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, his mother was Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate. In 1692, Philippe married his first cousin, Françoise Marie de Bourbon – the youngest legitimised daughter (légitimée de France) of Philippe's uncle Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. Named regent of France for Louis XV until Louis attained his majority on 15 February 1723, the period of his de facto rule was known as the Regency (1715–23). He died at Versailles in 1723. He is also referred to as le Régent.
With an HPI of 77.44, Marie Thérèse of France is the 9th most famous French Nobleman. Her biography has been translated into 38 different languages.
Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France (19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851), Madame Royale, was the eldest child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and the only one to reach adulthood (her siblings all dying before the age of 11). She was married to Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, who was the eldest son of the future Charles X, her father's younger brother; thus the bride and groom were also first cousins. After her marriage, she was known as the Duchess of Angoulême. She became the Dauphine of France upon the accession of her father-in-law to the throne of France in 1824. Technically she was Queen of France for twenty minutes, on 2 August 1830, between the time her father-in-law signed the instrument of abdication and the time her husband, reluctantly, signed the same document.
With an HPI of 77.43, Raynald of Châtillon is the 10th most famous French Nobleman. His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.
Raynald of Châtillon (French: Renaud de Châtillon; c. 1125 – 4 July 1187), also known as Reynald or Reginald of Châtillon, was Prince of Antioch from 1153 to 1160 or 1161, and Lord of Oultrejordain from 1175 until his death. He was born the second son of a French noble family. After losing a part of his patrimony, he joined the Second Crusade in 1147. He settled in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and served in the royal army as a mercenary. Raynald married Constance, the reigning Princess of Antioch, in 1153, in spite of her subjects' opposition. He was always in need of funds. He captured and tortured Aimery of Limoges, Latin Patriarch of Antioch, because Aimery had refused to pay a subsidy to him. Raynald launched a plundering raid in Cyprus in 1155, causing great destruction. Four years later, the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I Komnenos, came to Antioch at the head of a large army, forcing Raynald to beg for his mercy. Raynald made a raid in the valley of the river Euphrates at Marash to seize booty from the local peasants in 1160 or 1161, but he was captured by the governor of Aleppo. Raynald was held in prison until 1176. After his release for a large ransom, he did not return to Antioch, because his wife had meanwhile died. He married Stephanie of Milly, the wealthy heiress of Oultrejordain. Since Baldwin IV of Jerusalem also granted Hebron to him, Raynald was one of the wealthiest barons of the realm. He controlled the caravan routes between Egypt and Syria. Baldwin, who suffered from leprosy, made him regent in 1177. Raynald led the crusader army that defeated Saladin at the Battle of Montgisard. He was the only Christian leader to pursue an offensive policy against Saladin, making plundering raids against the caravans travelling near his domains. He built a fleet of five ships which plundered the coast of the Red Sea, threatening the route of the Muslim pilgrims towards Mecca in early 1183. Saladin pledged that he would never forgive Raynald. Raynald was a firm supporter of Baldwin IV's sister, Sybilla, and her husband, Guy of Lusignan, during conflicts regarding the succession of the king. Sibylla and Guy were able to seize the throne in 1186 due to Raynald's co-operation with her uncle, Joscelin III of Courtenay. Raynald attacked a caravan travelling from Egypt to Syria in late 1186 or early 1187, claiming that the truce between Saladin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem did not bind him. After Raynald refused to pay a compensation, Saladin invaded the kingdom and annihilated the crusader army in the Battle of Hattin. Raynald was captured in the battlefield. Saladin personally beheaded him after he refused to convert to Islam. Most historians have regarded Raynald as an irresponsible adventurer whose lust for booty caused the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. On the other hand, Bernard Hamilton says that he was the only crusader leader who tried to prevent Saladin from unifying the nearby Muslim states.
Pantheon has 118 people classified as noblemen born between 495 and 1963. Of these 118, 3 (2.54%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living noblemen include Prince Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma, Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este, and Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro. The most famous deceased noblemen include Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, William the Conqueror, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. As of October 2020, 23 new noblemen have been added to Pantheon including Margaret of Valois, Louis, Duke of Brittany, and Princess Antoinette, Baroness of Massy.
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Which Noblemen were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Noblemen since 1700.