France's first 'real' pre-dreadnoughts: The Charlemagne-class
This is a remake of a very old drawing of Alvama's, covering all three ships of the class. The Charlemagnes were the first French battleships with the 'standard' arrangement of two 305mm guns forward and aft in twin turrets, as practised by most other naval powers of the period. Since the French press - and by extension, the French public - were quite critical of the battleship as a type in this era, tight cost and size limits were imposed upon the French designers, resulting in very compact 11.000-tonners (4.000 tons less than the contemporary British Majestics) with an ill-conceived two-caliber secondary battery (10x 138mm, 8x 100mm) and very poor seakeeping; their belts had impressive thickness, but were very shallow, and much of the hull was wholly unprotected.
As with other French ships of this era, the superstructure was sometimes painted white, sometimes buff; the system (if any) behind this is still not clear to me. Jordan's claim that they were all always painted buff does not correspond with photographic evidence; some period photographs obviously and undeniably show white superstructures, as do some contemporary yard models.
The first two - Charlemagne and Gaulois - were virtually identical except for very minor differences in bridge shape and steampipe arrangement, so Gaulois had her gun barrels painted black for Identification.
Saint Louis differed in many ways, most visibly the shape of the aft boat davits and a rearranged boat stowage, but also in funnel shape, fore and - especially - aft bridge layout, less pronounced flying bridge and sundry hull details.
All served in the Mediterranean in the first world war. Charlemagne and Gaulois were active at Gallipoli, where Gaulois was badly damaged by Turkish coastal artillery. Charlemagne was never substantially modernized and decommissioned in 1916.
Gaulois had her superstructure significantly reduced and their fighting tops removed in 1915/6 during her repairs of battle damage sustained at Gallipoli, in an attempt to cut topweight. She also received bulges, which were not intended to improve protection, but rather to decrease the savage roll these ships had due to their tumblehome hulls. In this form, she was lost to a submarine torpedo launched by the German UB-47.
Saint Louis also was rebuilt in 1916. She received the same bulges and had her masts cut down even more thoroughly, with the tube masts removed altogether; her bridge was lowered and the aft part of the flying bridge removed. Although there is no photographic evidence of her in this state prior to her decommissioning in 1917, the photographs showing her disarmed hulk depict new searchlight platforms with searchlights on the pole masts, so the tube masts were almost certainly removed before she was decommissioned, otherwise no new searchlight platforms would have been fitted.
Charlemagne was scrapped soon after the war, Saint Louis only in the early 1930s after serving as a training hulk for engineers throughout the 1920s.