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Guyenne and Gascony (Traditional province, France)


Last modified: 2009-10-02 by
Keywords: guyenne | aquitaine | gascogne | guyenne-et-gascogne | gascony | lion (yellow) | leopard (yellow) | lions: 2 (white) | lions: 2 (red) | sheaf | honour flag |
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Guyenne (Aquitaine)

History of Guyenne (Aquitaine)

Aquitania (from Latin, aqua, water) was divided in three provinces by the Romans.
Clovis incorporated the whole to the Kingdom of the Franks in 507 after his victory of Vouilléover Alaric II, King of the Wisigoths. Aquitaine was then a Duchy, whose most famous duke was St. William the Great (c. 755-812), also Count of Toulouse, who stopped the Moors and retired in the abbey of Gellone he had founded and which is known today as Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. William became the hero of several medieval chansons de geste, in which he is nicknamed Guillaume au Court-Nez (Short Nose).
Charlemagne made of Aquitaine a Kingdom in 781, which lasted until 827. Aquitaine was later a Duchy, ruled by the Poitou dynasty (William III Towhead, 951-963; Wiiliam IV Fierebrace, 963-994; William IX the Troubadour, 1086-1127; William X the Saint, 1127-1137).

In 1137, Crown Prince of France Louis, later King Louis VII, married Eleanor of Aquitaine and incorporated her Duchy to France. The unique daughter of William X, Eleanor brought as her dowry not only Aquitaine but also Périgord, Limousin, Poitou, Angoumois, Saintonge, Gascony, and the suzereignty over Auvergne and the County of Toulouse.
In 1152, Eleanor, repudiated by Louis VII, remarried with Henry II Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and later King of England (1154). Aquitaine was therefore incorporated to the Angevin Empire. The French Capetian kings were able to reincorporate Aquitaine to their domain for only short periods in 1294 (Philippe IV the Handsome), 1324 (Charles IV the Handsome) and 1369 (Charles V the Wise).
The Hundred Years' War began in Aquitaine in 1345. By the Treaty of Brétigny (8 May 1360), Aquitaine was given to the English, who called it Guyenne and created a Principality there in 1362. In 1380, the English possessions were reduced to the surroundings of Bordeaux and Bayonne. In 1453, the Bureau brothers defeated the English troops led by Talbot in Castillon-la-Bataille, near Bordeaux, in the last battle of the Hundred Years' War. In 1469, King Louis XI granted Guyenne to his younger brother Charles as his apanage. Guyenne was eventually incorporated to the royal domain in 1472.

Ivan Sache, 1 February 2003

Flag of Guyenne


Flag of Guyenne - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 1 February 2003

The flag of Guyenne is a banner of the arms De gueules au léopard d'or, armé et lampassé d'azur (Gules, a lion passant gardant or), assigned to the province by Jacques Meurgey in his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941).

Meurgey debunks the myth linking the leopards of Guyenne and England. The arms of Guyenne are said to date back to the ancient Kingdom of Aquitaine. When Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II, Duke of Normandy, she transferred Guyenne to England. The arms of England would have then be made of the two leopards of Aquitaine and Normandy. Max Prinet and Meaudre de Lapuyade have proven that this theory is wrong.

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009


History of Gascony

The original name of Gascony was Vasconia. An ancient Iberic people, the Vascons settled between the Pyrenees mountains and river Ebro. They were repelled by the Wisigoths and settled in the plains located north of the Pyrenees. The Vascons gave their name to the Gascons and the Basques, as well as to Gascony and Biscay.
In 778, Charlemagne created the Duchy of Aquitaine. In the south, the Duchy of Gascony, established in 872, was rapidly dismembered into several feudal states, including the Counties of Armagnac, Fezensac, Astarac, Gaure and Pardiac, and the Viscounties of Fezensaguet and Lomagne.

In the 11th century, Gascony was incorporated into Aquitaine (or Guyenne) and formed with it the province of Guyenne-et-Gascogne. Sources do not agree on the process and year of incorporation.
GASO says that Bernard of Armagnac took the whole Gascony in 1069 but was defeated the next year by Duke William VIII of Aquitaine. Grand Larousse Illustré du XXe Siècle says that when Duke Béranger died in 1036, Gascony was transfered to his nephew Eudes, Count of Poitou and Duke of Aquitaine. Guide Vert Michelin says that the Duchies of Aquitaine and Gascony merged in 1058.

Ivan Sache, 28 January 2003

Flag of Gascony


Flag of Gascony - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 28 January 2003

The flag of Gascony is a banner of the arms Ecartelé : au premier et au quatrième d'azur au lion d'argent, au deuxième et au troisième de gueules à la gerbe de blé d'or liée d'azur (Quarterly, first and fourth azure a lion rampant argent second and third gules a garb or).

In his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941), Jacques Meurgey assigns to the province Écartelé au 1er et 4e d'argent au lion de gueules, au 2e et 3e de gueules à la gerbe d'or liée d'azur (Quarterely 1. and 4. Argent a lion gules, 2. and 3. Gules a garb or tied azure), presenting the arms used on the modern flag as a "variant".
Anyway, these arms, ascribed to the province in the Armorial Général, do not have the least historical value; Gasocny was never a feudal domain worth bearing a coat of arms.

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009

Use of Honour flags in the South-West of France

I was recently in the South-West of France (department of Dordogne to be more specific) and I noticed there a custom I totally ignored before.
In every village, a tall pinetree trunk is erected in front of the house of a representative (usually a member of the municipal council). All branches are cut, excepted the uppermost ones, which are eventually replaced with green ones if they die. Tricolour flags (often a pair) are added on the top of the "mast", where they flank a rectangular shield, with a tricolour border and the words Honneur à notre élu (Honour to our representative). I saw the same kind of mast in front the municipal building (not the town hall, but a building where the inhabitants can meet), with several flags and the words Honneur à nos élus (Honour to our representatives). In front of a restaurant, whose owner was municipal councellor, the words were Honneur au patron (Honour to the landlord).
Such masts were visible in all villages I came across. They seem to stand there for the whole duration of the mandate of the representative.

I do not know the origin of this custom and the geographical area to which it spreads, but I never saw such masts in other parts of France.

Ivan Sache, 30 May 1999