June 2024: Catch up with French history: 10, 50 and 100 years ago

From the presidency of François Hollande to that of Gaston Doumergue with an erotic film between them

Former French president François Hollande in 2012
President François Hollande oversaw the merging of many French regions ten years ago
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We catch up with the memories of French presidents Hollande and Doumergue as well as a notorious erotic film in our look back at French history 10, 50 and 100 years ago.

Ten years ago

On June 2, plans were announced to reduce the number of regions in metropolitan France from 22 in an effort to cut regional bureaucracy and spending. The change – which whittled the number down to 13 – became effective from January 1, 2016.

Certain regions merged and their names were combined, such as Burgundy and Franche-Comté to become Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. 

Others, such as Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon took on a brand new moniker – in this case Occitanie.

Initiated by then-President François Hollande, the proposal was presented as a way to eliminate overlapping responsibilities and red tape, saving €15billion in the process.

“This is where we will learn who are the real reformers and who are the conservatives," Hollande said in a TV broadcast announcing the measure.

Indeed, many people in France were reluctant to lose their historical and cultural identity as a result of the change. One poll showed that while 68% believed the measure to be for the best, 77% did not want their own region to disappear.

Read more: Scooter François Hollande used to visit his lover to be auctioned

Fifty years ago

French-language film Emmanuelle, one of the most profitable pornographic films in history, was shown in cinemas for the first time, with a premiere in Paris. 

It told the story of a bored, beautiful housewife who embarks on a journey of sexual discovery in Thailand. 

Having been held up for several months by censorship authorities, it was eventually released in France on June 26. 

The film went on to sell 8.89 million tickets in France, with one cinema on the Champs-Elysees famously showing it for 11 years.

Elsewhere it proved equally popular. Emmanuelle was the first adult film to play in regular British cinemas, albeit after extensive cuts to most of the sex scenes. 

In the US, it was distributed by Columbia Pictures and was their first X-rated film.

Emmanuelle quickly became a movie franchise. Its Dutch star Sylvia Kristel told the Guardian in 2001 that the role had initially tempted her for travel opportunities: “Back then you had to be really rich to travel like we did. And I really wanted to see Thailand.” 

She died in 2012 at the age of 60.

Read more: De Gaulle’s myth of Paris freeing itself leaves a complex legacy

One hundred years ago

Gaston Doumergue became President of France on June 13, succeeding Alexandre Millerand, who had resigned. 

He served until 1931 but returned to politics three years later as Prime Minister in a conservative national unity government after the riots of February 6, 1934 during which police shot and killed 17 people, nine of whom were far-right protesters.

His return was testament to his affability: fondly nicknamed "Gastounet’, he was widely regarded as one of the most popular French presidents.

Doumergue was single when he was elected and became the first President of France to marry in office. He can also lay claim to being the only Protestant head of state in France since the abjuration of Henry IV in 1593.

He died on June 18, 1937 at the age of 73.