The French are a major civilization in Age of Empires III. They are the descendants of the Franks who inhabited regions in France. They held large areas in the New World until the late 1700s, but they still have small colonies in South America today. They famously supported the American Revolution after the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.
France underwent a violent revolution in the late 18th century, and by the early 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte was France's Emperor and supreme commander. He proceeded to conquer almost all of Europe with his Grande Armée, barring Britain and Russia.
The French military possesses a troop roster similar to the Spanish; they have a diverse selection of units. The Lancer unit, however, is replaced by the powerful Cuirassier, which is typically a common sight in late-Age armies. They have one of the best economies in the game due to their fast-gathering Coureur des Bois. One of the French's main specialty is their stronger alliances with Native American settlements as their Home City provides many unique cards for it.
France began the age of exploration as one of the more powerful nations in Europe economically, militarily, and geographically. Initially they trailed the Spanish and Portuguese in the quest for overseas trade and empire, but made significant progress in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They were exploring and attempting to settle North America before the British, attracted by the fishing off Newfoundland, fur trading, and their search for a northwest passage around the Americas to the Pacific Ocean and Asia.
A sixteenth century settlement in Florida was wiped out by the Spanish. Several attempts to settle in Nova Scotia and along the St. Lawrence River finally resulted in a permanent settlement in Quebec. From there intrepid explorers, including Champlain, Marquette, and many others, worked their way through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi to its mouth. They established better relations with the Native Americans than any other European nation, mainly because they encouraged fur trading and were less interested in permanent settlement. French trappers and traders came to America in relatively small numbers to make a fortune in furs, and then returned home. They eventually built a string of trading posts and forts along the interior trade route at New Orleans, St. Louis, Mackinac Island, Detroit, and Fort Duquesne (modern Pittsburgh).
French involvement in Europe, India, and the Caribbean meant that colonizing efforts in Canada were not strongly or systematically supported. The efforts of the smaller French population to keep the rapidly growing British bottled up along the Atlantic seaboard could not be sustained. When war came in the eighteenth century, Canada was lost in battle and traded at the negotiation table for some spice islands in Indonesia. The French retained their control of the Mississippi and Missouri River watersheds until the early nineteenth century, when Napoleon sold France's vast holdings to the fledgling United States to support his wars in Europe.