Despite a crushing defeat in the Stade de France, England head coach Stuart Lancaster praised his team's character.
England fought back from 16-3 down to lead 16-21 in the second half, with Maxime Machenaud and Alex Goode exchaning penalties to leave the score at 19-24 with time running out.
However Gael Fickou's 78th-minute try stole the result for France in dramatic fashion, in a tough blow for England's championship hosts.
Fielding two new caps in Luther Burrell and Jack Nowell, Lancaster's young team impressed in another painful learning experience.
"At the start we put ourselves into a bit of a hole," said Lancaster.
"But I thought the boys showed incredible character, resilience and a lot of skill to put ourselves in a position to win it.
"But a bit of French flair at the end and they got the win.
"It was a good place to come and the crowd's up and I thought our young players learned a lot today and I'm very proud of them."
England will next travel to Murrayfield to play Scotland, who face Ireland on Sunday.