The French Navy was formed under Jean-Baptiste Colbert's reforms in 1624, and King Louis XIV of France fought both the Kingdom of England and United Provinces at sea during his wars of conquest from 1664 to 1714. During the 1670s they scored a victory at the Battle of Palermo (1676) and gained dominance over the Mediterranean Sea until 1701, when they were defeated at the Battle of Velez-Malaga by a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet.
Despite these failures, the French Navy continued to fight at sea until peace was signed in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714. The French attacked Spanish and British ships in the Caribbean during the 1730s to gain more goods to put on the colonial market, and they remained powerful until the War of the Austrian Succession in the 1740s. They were defeated several times, and in the Seven Years' War of 1756-1763, France's navy was destroyed in Indian and Atlantic waters. France's navy was reformed by the time of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), and in 1777 they declared war on Great Britain again. The war was filled with victories in the East Indies and the Caribbean, although the Battle of the Saintes and Second Battle of Ushant were major defeats.
In 1789, France's monarchy was overthrown and replaced by a republic in 1792. In 1793, France declared war on Great Britain, the United Provinces, and Spain, although they had only 76 ships-of-the-line to fight Britain's 115 (not counting the significant Spanish and Dutch naval powers). The French managed to obtain many victories, but at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, all hopes of ever invading Britain were scotched. They also were blockaded by Britain, cutting off funds necessary for building more ships.
in the aftermath of the fall of the republic and Napoleon's empire, the French were mainly at peace, except for involvement in wars in the 1850s that included the Crimean War (fought mainly on the Crimean Peninsula) and Italian Wars of Unification (fought in Italy). Their navy eventually played an active role in transporting troops for maritime invasions of lesser powers, forming the French Empire. In 1886, the French navy destroyed a newly-painted Chinese fleet at the Battle of Fuzhou (Foochow), ending China's naval power and bringing France's navy to the top in Asia.
France's fleet fought in World War I (1914-1918) against the German Empire, but there were only a few major Franco-German naval battles. In World War II (1939-1945), the French fleets anchored in North Africa and Marseille were destroyed by the British to prevent them from falling into Nazi German hands, and the French fighters on land eventually liberated the country. France's navy has not played a major role since World War II.