10/02/2011 10:52 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2011

The 10 Best French Villains

Villains make for good stories. French history, literature, and cinema are fascinating,
ergo there has to be a great cast of French villains, non?

Here are ten of them in all their villainous glory, but in no particular order. Keep in mind
that villainy is often in the eye of the beholder. If you liked your fries "à la liberté," then
that can amp up a villainous quotient. A French villain in the US is often a hero across
the pond. For a detailed look at what leads a great statesman to the hell of infamy, see my
biography "Éminence : Cardinal Richelieu and the Rise of France" (Walker & Company/Bloomsbury USA, 2011).

Before I begin, a word to les amis and the francophiles who like their history sanitized,
perhaps because they take too literally writer Ernest Renan's injunction that forgetting a
few pages of history is essential to national cohesion: get over it. Renan was wrong, and
that takes nothing away from France. Besides, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

French villans