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Kingdom of France: Compagnies Franches de la Marine (ca. 1760)

Last modified: 2002-01-18 by
Keywords: compagnies franches de la marine | fleur-de-lys (yellow) |
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[Compagnies Franches de la Marine]by Tom Gregg


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Description of the flag

It was long thought that a blue flag with a white cross, fleur-de-lys on the arms of the cross and anchors in the quarters was the color of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, but this was incorrect.

Tom Gregg, 30 July 1999


Colonel's Color

[CFM, Golonel's Color]by Tom Gregg


Discussion of the flag

I am puzzled about the reconstruction colour. Specifically I am puzzled about the cantons as "strewn with fleurs de lis". I was under the belief that in 17th-18th century France semee de fleurs de lis d'or was a high distinction, reserved for regiments with the Royal appellation. Documentary and visual evidence seems to support this assumption. My puzzlement is that I know of no documents or references indicating that the multiple Free Companies of the Marine held this Royal distinction as is clearly indicated by the recreated colour.

The closest period correlation I have found to this recreated colour seems to be that of the Royal-Marine, (not to be confused with the Corps Royal de l'Infanterie de la Marine or La Marine.) In 1762, the colour of the Royal-Marine was composed of the cross of France with two sky blue cantons and two aurore cantons (saffron / golden) strewn with fleurs de lis.

Here is the citation refering to the Royal-Marine flags from the historical journal of the French Ministry of Defense, Revue Historique de l'Armée #2 , 1978 (Special), Un régiment comtois: le"Soixante" 1669-1678 by General Pierre Bertin.

"Ses drapeaux avaient deux quartiers bleu céleste et deux quartiers aurore ecartelés par la croix blanche de France semee de fleurs de lis d'or."

Regarding the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, in my research I have found evidence (citing the Archives nationales-Colonies) that they were originally entitled Les compagnies détachées de la Marine (companies detached from the la Marine Regiment.) In 1690 they were reorganized to Compagnies Franche de la Marine. This same source specifically identifies the flag of these new Compagnies Franches de la Marine as being the white cross with 2 blue cantons and 2 green cantons. This is consistent with the contemporary documentary and visual evidence of devolution of colours in the French Royal Army of the 16th-18th centuries.

Here is the citation from the historical journal of the French Ministry of Defense, Revue Historique de l'Armée vol. 38, #3 , 1967, Les troupes du roi à la Martinique 1664-1762 by Jacques Petitjean-Roget.

"En 1690 les compagnies détachées de la Marine furent supprimées et l'on créa quartre-vingts compagnies franches de la Marine. [...] Le drapeau des compagnies franches arborait la croix blanche avec deux cantons bleus et deux verts."

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Pollock, Historian at the USAF Air University, 26 February 2000

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