A town in the Auvergne region of central France, in the department of Allier, famous for two things, its spa, and the collaborationist government in the Second World War.
The Roman name for the town was Vicus Calidus, calidus = 'hot'. It is the principal spa in France. For many centuries the kings came here, and it is still heavily frequented by visitors. The local mineral water is known as Vichy water or just Vichy.
France surrendered to Germany in an armistice of 22 June 1940. About 60% of the country, including Paris and all the northern and western coasts on the Atlantic, was put under direct German military rule. The south-eastern rump was allowed to remain nominally independent, with its capital at Vichy, under the First World War hero Marshal Henri Philippe Petain. In July he proclaimed his territory to be the Etat Français, 'French State'.
Officially his policy was attentisme, a 'wait and see' attitude: he tried to keep Vichy France neutral. The sinking of the French fleet in Toulon harbour by the British almost led to Vichy joining the war against its former ally Britain.
Petain's first prime minister was Pierre Laval, who was more in favour of collaboration with the Germans. He was replaced by Admiral Jean Darlan in December 1940, but returned to power in April 1942. Darlan was assassinated in Algiers. On 11 November 1942 Germany occupied the rest of France, and the Vichy government continued in a purely nominal capacity until September 1944, when Paris was liberated by the Free French forces of Charles de Gaulle.
After the war Petain and Laval were sentenced to death. Laval was executed in 1945, but Petain's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he died in prison in 1951 at the age of 95.