The French colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies, protectorates and mandate territories that came under French rule from the 16th century onward. A distinction is generally made between the "First French Colonial Empire," that existed until 1814, by which time most of it had been lost or sold, and the "Second French Colonial Empire", which began with the conquest of Algiers in 1830.
Colonial flags with a tricolour canton. The flags with the French flag in the canton, which on many occasions were already existing flags without the tricolour, resembled the British colonial flags, which originated as defacements of the British ensigns, which have the British Union Jack in the canton, and a red, white or blue fly.
Timeline of largest empires to date. The earliest empire which can with certainty be stated to have been larger than all previous empires was that of Upper and Lower Egypt, which covered ten times the area of the previous largest civilisation around the year 3000 BC.