The first mail service was set up on 19 June 1464 by decree of Louis XI but it only operated for the king and the royal court. Frances first stamps were the 20 centimes black & 1 franc orange- vermilion issued on 1 January 1849. The stamps were inscribed REPUB. FRANC.France was one of the original signatories of the UPU in 1874. On 1st January 1899, following the introduction of the Imperial Penny Post a week earlier, the French established a Colonial rate equal to the French internal mail rate.
1914 saw France entering the war against Germany after the invasion of Belgium, immediately moving into German Alsace. Horrendous trench warfare followed. In 1916 German stamps overprinted for the Western Military Command were used in various occupied areas. May 1939 saw the Germans invade Holland and Belgium and quickly passed through to enter France from the north-east and directly south of Luxembourg. The French army fell back and its British allies, pinned to the Channel coast, were forced to withdraw from Dunkirk. On 6 June 1944 the Allies invaded Normandy and in August, southern France. By the end of 1944 virtually all of France had been liberated and Paris became the capital again in August. Stamps of a new design were printed in Washington and brought to France by the Allies in June. These were used in liberated areas as the forces advanced.
France continues to issue many beautiful stamps depicting her outstanding art and culture. Collectors can enjoy a rich diversity of early classic stamps, also fascinating wartime postal history, postage dues, revenue stamps plus so much else. We recommend the excellent stamp listings in the Stanley Gibbons “France” catalogue and the Yvert & Tellier “Timbres de France” Volume 1.