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Saint-Malo during the Middle Ages was a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance River, controlling not only the estuary but the open sea beyond. The promontory fort of Aleth, south of the modern centre in what is now the Saint-Servan district, commanded approaches to the Rance even before the Romans, but modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by Saint Aaron andSaint Brendan early in the 6th century. Its name is derived from a man said to have been a follower of Brendan, Saint Malo.
Saint-Malo had a tradition of asserting its autonomy in dealings with the French authorities and even with the local Breton authorities. From 1490–1493, Saint-Malo declared itself to be an independentrepublic, taking the motto "not French, not Breton, but Malouins".
Saint-Malo became notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and sometimes pirates. (In the nineteenth century the city's "piratical" notoriety was portrayed in Jean Richepin's play Le flibustier and in César Cui's like-named opera derived therefrom.) The corsairs of Saint-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute, but also brought wealth from further afield.Jacques Cartier, who sailed the Saint Lawrence River and visited the sites of Quebec City and Montreal — and is thus credited as the discoverer of Canada, lived in and sailed from Saint-Malo, as did the first colonists to settle the Falklands – hence the islands' French name Îles Malouines, which gave rise to the Spanish name Islas Malvinas.
In 1758 the Raid on St Malo saw a British expedition land intending to capture the town. However the British made no attempt on St Malo, and instead occupied the nearby town of St Servan where they destroyed 30 privateers before departing.
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France is affectionately referred to as "the Hexagon" for its overall shape.French history goes back to the Gauls, a Celtic tribe which inhabited the area circa 300BC until being conquered by Julius Caesar.The Franks were the first tribe to adopt Catholic Christianity after the Roman Empire collapsed. France became an independent location in the Treaty of Verdun in (843 AD), which divided up Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire into several portions.The French monarchy reached its zenith during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, who stood for seventy-two years as the Monarch of all Monarchs. His palace of Versailles and its Hall of Mirrors are a splendid treasure-trove of Baroque art.The French Revolution ended the rule of the monarchy with the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" On July 14th, 1789 angry mobs stormed La Bastille prison and began the Revolution in which Louis XVI, his wife Marie-Antoinette and thousands of others met the guillotine.One decade after the revolution, Napolean Bonaparte seized control of the Republic and named himself Emperor. His armies conquered most of Europe and his Napoleonic Code became a lasting legal foundation for concepts of personal status and property.During the period of colonization France controlled the largest empire in the world, second only to Britain.France is one of the founding members of the European Union and the United Nations, as well as one of the nuclear armed nations of the world.Text by Steve Smith.