French Christmas Quiz: the Answers

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. We are rather glad of a respite this week, having spent the previous few days lurching between social events. Only New Year’s Eve to go now and then it’s back to normal.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for throughout Christmas – the answers to the Christmas quiz. I hope you enjoyed it. This was all a bit of fun, so please don’t take it too seriously and send me letter bombs if you don’t agree with the answers.

Some of the questions were quite easy but a few were trick questions. Let’s look at the answers and, where relevant, the explanations. Score points for correct answers as indicated.

  1. In which country was Yves Montand born?

Answer: (c) Italy (one point)

2.  Which of the following actors never played Commissaire Maigret?

Answer: (c) Philippe Noiret (one point) and (d) Lino Ventura (one point)

3.  What is a baguette?

Answer: (a) a conductor’s baton (one point) and (d) a type of loaf (one point)

4.  Of the seven Presidents of the 5th Republic how many have been socialists?

Answer: (b) one – François Mitterand (one point)

5.  Who is reputed to have said, ‘How can you govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?’ 

Answer: (c) Charles de Gaulle (one point)

6.  Which is France’s third largest city in terms of population?

Answer: (c) Lyon (one point). Paris is no. 1 and Marseille is no. 2.

7.  How tall was Napoleon Bonaparte?

Answer: (d) 5’ 7” (one point). He was actually 5’ 6 1/2” tall but I rounded it up, so if you put 5’ 6” I’ll be generous and allow you a point for that – even though I didn’t offer it as an option.

8.  How tall is President Sarkozy?

Answer: (c) 5’ 5” (one point). This is the height he is believed to be. He’s a bit sensitive about it, apparently.

9.  Which is France’s most recently-established département?

Answer: (a) the island of Mayotte (one point). It was granted departmental status on 31st March 2011. It is a DOM – département d’outre-mer. It’s also a région d’outre-mer, a collectivité territoriale with special status.

10. How many monarchs named Louis have ruled France?

Answer: this is a difficult one, to which there are several possible answers. Louis XVI was executed in 1793. His son was recognised as the titular king Louis XVII 1793-95 by the coalition powers but was imprisoned for much of that time and can hardly be said to have ruled. His uncle claimed the throne on his death in 1793 as Louis XVIII and finally came to the throne on the restoration of the monarchy in 1814. Then there was Louis-Philippe I (1830-48), who was proclaimed King of the French on the overthrow of Charles X. I don’t count Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, since he started off as president, not as monarch, in 1848 and then took the name Napoleon III when he became emperor in 1852. Complicated, isn’t it?  

I will allow one point each for the following answers (but you can have only one):

  • 17 – excluding Louis XVII since he didn’t actually rule and also excluding Louis-Philippe I since his name wasn’t pure Louis, but including Louis XVIII.
  • 18 – including Louis XVII but excluding Louis-Philippe I; or excluding Louis XVII but including Louis-Philippe I.
  • 19 – including both Louis XVII and Louis-Philippe I. 

11. Which singer played the lead role, Etienne Lantier, in the film version of Zola’s Germinal?

Answer: (d) Renaud (one point)

12. What is the main ingredient of the dish cacasse a cul nu?

Answer: (c) potatoes (one point)

13. How many countries does France border? And, for an extra brainteaser, can you name them?

Answer: (c) eight (one point). They are (no extra points for this): Spain, Andorra, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. If you’re clever, you’ll have noticed that I forgot to specify l’héxagone, in which case you could say (d) 10 and include Brazil and Surinam, bordered by French Guyana. No additional points for that, though.

14. On which of the following trees does mistletoe seldom grow in France?

Answer: (d) the oak (one point)

15. Which southern French city is known as ‘the pinkest of the pink cities’?

Answer: (c) Montauban (one point). I know that Toulouse is ‘la ville rose’ but Montauban is indeed nicknamed ‘la plus rose des villes roses’.

16. What do the French celebrate on 14th July every year?

Answer: (b) la Fête de la Fédération in 1790 (one point). Contrary to popular belief, the 14th July does not commemorate the storming of the Bastille itself but the celebration held a year later to mark that event and promote fraternity. However, if you put (d) the storming of the Bastille, I’ll let you have half a point.    

17. Of which European principality is the French President the co-ruler?

Answer: (a) Andorra (one point)

18. How did shepherds in the Landes area get about before 4x4s?

Answer: (d) on stilts (one point)

19. Which item of clothing are French women forbidden to wear by law?

Answer: (d) trousers (one point). The law was passed in Year VIII of the Republic (1799/1800) and has never been repealed.

20. When did French women get the right to vote?

Answer: (b) French women got the right to vote in 1944 (one point). They did not have the opportunity to exercise this right until 1945 when the first post-war elections were held.

Maximum points: 22.

How did you do? I hope you didn’t cheat by looking at the Internet.

18-22 points: félicitations! You’re a real Francophile.

12-17 points: bien fait. You know France pretty well.

6-11 points: pas mauvais but room for improvement.

0-5 points: pas terrible. Go to the bottom of the class and write out 100 times, ‘I must pay more attention to Vanessa’s blog.’

Copyright © 2011 A writer’s lot in France, all rights reserved


  1. Oh dear! I clearly need to read your blog more often!!! Happy New Year to you both, best wishes,


  2. That was a great quiz Vanessa! I got 11 points so I need to roll my sleeves up and improve my French general knowledge. Not ready to be a French citizen just yet …


    • Thanks for having a go, Steph, and well done – 11 points is not bad at all. I’m sure I wouldn’t do as well as that if it were a quiz I hadn’t devised myself! I enjoyed working on the questions although, as I anticipated, there is a bit of controversy about a couple of the answers! Glad you enjoyed it, anyway.


  3. Concerning the number of Louis, Louis XVII never ruled and is not recognized as a King today as Monarchy had been abolished when he would have technically been ruler of France. And Louis-Philippe is not Louis, he is Louis-Philippe (hint, his number is 1 not 19 😉 )

    Concerning July 14th, while it was implemented as a commemoration of the Fête de la Fédération (in 1890 I assume, I need to double-check), it was maintained as a commemoration of the Storming of the Bastille (i.e. the start of the Revolution). In that case, popular belief gets to have the final word.


    • Hi David, and thanks for your comments and for providing your answers on the previous post. I think there is room for interpretation on both points.

      Regarding the number of Louis, I personally agree that there were 17. However, at the time a large proportion of the world that mattered did recognise Louis XVII, whether France itself did or not – and I have no doubt that there are those today who still think this. Louis-Philippe is more debatable – and thanks for the hint! – but I have heard people claim that there were actually 20 monarchs named Louis, since they include Louis-Napoléon as well (I don’t agree with that, as I said in the post). Anyway, the fact is that there are enough interpretations for me to feel that if you said 17, 18 or 19 it would do.

      Regarding the 14th July, the strict interpretation is that it commemorates la Fête de la Fédération. The Raspail government in 1880 (I think that’s the date) wanted to distance itself from the violence associated with the storming of the Bastille, which is why they endorsed the Fête de la Fédération instead. However, since many people today associate 14th July with the storming of the Bastille I allowed half a point. I have been rapped over the knuckles several times by French people for suggesting that 14th July celebrates the storming of the Bastille.

      So, there we are. It rather depends on your point of view, which is why I was prepared to be flexible on both of these points. If it gets people interested in French history, that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

      Bonne fin d’année.


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