City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
The Académie française (French pronunciation: [akademi fʁɑ̃sɛːz], English: French Academy) is the pre-eminent French council for matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution, it was restored as a division of the Institut de France in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is the oldest of the five académies of the institute.
The Académie consists of forty members, known informally as les immortels (the immortals). New members are elected by the members of the Académie itself. Academicians hold office for life, but they may resign or be dismissed for misconduct. Philippe Pétain, named Marshal of France after the victory of Verdun of World War I, was elected to the Academy in 1931 and, after his governorship of Vichy France in World War II, was forced to resign his seat in 1945. The body has the task of acting as an official authority on the language; it is charged with publishing an official dictionary of the language. Its rulings, however, are only advisory, not binding on either the public or the government.