From 1993 to 1995 he was the chief of staff (directeur de cabinet) to Education Minister François Bayrou, from 1995 to 1997 advisor to Prime Minister Alain Juppé for education and culture matters, and from 1995 to 1998, along with François Bayroux and Claude Allègre, he was the president of school inspectors.
In 1997 he became Mayor of Périgueux, and was reelected both in 2001 and 2005. He was also elected Senator of Dordogne in 1998.
In May 2002, he became Minister for School Education in Jean-Pierre Raffarin's cabinet, then on 1 April 2004 Minister for Cooperation, Development and Francophony.
Xavier Darcos entered the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 2006, and at the French Academy in 2013. He is also commandor of the Légion d'Honneur, Officer of the National Order of Merit, Commandor of the Academic palm and Commandor of the Art and letter decoration.