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Kingdom of France (843?-1792)

Royaume de France

Last modified: 2004-01-17 by
Keywords: fleur-de-lys (yellow) | cross (white) | white flag | bastille | royal standard | angels: 2 | echelles du levant |
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'State' flag

[The Royal Standard]by Mario Fabretto

This flag was mostly used as a royal standard. The French monarchy was of divine essence, and the concept of 'state' in its modern sense, did not exist at that time. The identification of the sovereign and the kingdom probably peaked with Louis XIV, whose motto L'Etat, c'est moi (I am the State) reflected the concept of absolute monarchy.

The royal standard was white with a semy of yellow fleur-de-lys and the greater amrs of the kingdom placed in the middle.

The medal shown below the shield belongs to the Order of the Holy Spirit (Ordre du Saint-Esprit). This Order was the most famous of the chevalry orders in ancient France. It was created by king Henri III in 1578, suppressed in 1791, and reestablished in 1815-1830 ( Restauration). Therefore, the flag shown above cannot have been used before the end of the XVIth century.

Ivan Sache & Marc Tanneau, 22 September 2003


'Banner of France' (Bannière de France)

Ancient 'banner of France' (France Ancient)

[The Fleurdelysée banner]by Pierre Gay

The arms Azur semé de lis or made its first royal appearance on Louis VIII's seal, but we know that Philippe II (1180-1223) already used it on his banners; his cloak was blue, embroidered with golden lilies (to recall the stars of heaven: it was actually called the 'cosmic cloak'). Besides, the stylized lys pattern could be found on coins of the times of Louis VI (1081-1137) and Louis VII (1120-1180).

Pierre Gay, 29 September 1998


The modern 'banner of France' (France Modern)

[France Modern]by Rick Wyatt

Charles V modified the arms of France in 1365 to honor the Holy Trinity. The modification was adopted progressively: Charles VI (1368-1422) used the old disposition, called France Ancient, on his counter seal, but also used France Modern on every other occasion. Nevertheless, it is considered that Charles V made the first official use of France Modern.

Pierre Gay, 29 September 1998


White flag

Royal battle flag

Prior to 1792 the notion of a French flag is itself fuzzy. The usual story told is this: during the Crusades, various nations adopted crosses of various colours. Brittany was black, Flanders and Lorraine green, Italy and Sweden yellow, Burgundy a red Saint Andrew's, Gascony a white Saint Andrew's. France allegely had a red cross and England a white cross. The first crusaders all had red crosses: this scheme was adopted in 1188, at least for France, England and Flanders. It appears that the English switched to the red cross of Saint George sometime in the late XIVth century. And then, in 1420, King of France Charles VI disowned his son the Dauphin Charles and chose Henry V of England as his successor, and the English 'took over' the French red cross as their own. I'm not sure how much sense this all makes, but one thing seems clear from the iconography: in 1356 and 1380, the English had white crosses and the French red; in 1415 and after, the colours were inverted.

Anyway, Dauphin Charles had to find an emblem of his own. In 1422, when Charles VI died, he became Charles VII, adopted a white cross as emblem and a white flag as banner. Joan of Arc's famous banner was white with religious figures embroidered on it. Thereafter the three parties to the civil wars of 1420-36 are distinguished by the cross: white for the French, red for the English and red saltire for the Burgundians.

The white flag itself was the flag of commanding officers, such as colonel generals, and later colonels. In particular, it was the flag of the kKing when he was with the troops.

François Velde, 30 June 1995


'State' flag in the Echelles du Levant

The white flag was hoisted on the French consulates in the Echelles du Levant by ordinance of 3 March 1781. Echelles du Levant ('Ports of Levant') were trading posts established by the Christian nations in Islamic countries from XVIth century onwards. Echelle means 'ladder' and was used to name the trading posts because access to land was done through ladders. The word comes from Italian scala, whichalso gave in French escale (port of call).

The use of the white flag on the consulates was the first reported use of the white flag on land. The consulates administratively depended on the State Secretary of Navy.

Source: Encyclopaedia Universalis, Thesaurus, p.564 Drapeaux dans l'Ancien Régime.

Ivan Sache, 3 February 2001


Flag over the Bastille

[The Flag over the Bastille]by Timothy Boronczyk

Smith [smi75c] states that it is the flag flown over the Bastille on that fateful day more than two centuries ago (14 July 1789).

Edward Mooney, 14 July 1998 (sic!)

[Bastille flag]by Randy Young

Source: Flags of the World [cra89]

This rendition is not correct since the flag should be square. It was a regimental flag, thus explaining the square pattern and the white cross in the canton. It was used by the defenders of the Bastille, which was a royal fortress.

Ivan Sache, 20 January 1999

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