Flag of France: Wikis


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Flag of France
See adjacent text.
Name Tricolore
Design A vertical tricolour of blue, white, and red.
See adjacent text.
Use National ensign
Proportion 2:3
Adopted 17 May 1853
Design As above, but with bars in proportion 30:33:37. (See French ensigns.)

The national flag of France (known in French as drapeau tricolore, drapeau français, and in military parlance, les couleurs) is a tricolour featuring three vertical bands coloured blue (hoist side), white, and red. It is known to English speakers as the French tricolour or simply the tricolour.

The royal government used many flags, the best known being a blue shield and yellow fleur-de-lis on a white background, or state flag. Early in the French Revolution, the Paris militia, which played a prominent role in the storming of the Bastille, wore a cockade of blue and red, the city's traditional colors. According to Lafayette, white, the "ancient French colour", was added to militia cockade to create a tricolor, or national, cockade.[1] This cockade became part of the uniform of the National Guard, which succeeded the militia and was commanded by Lafayette. The colors and design of the cockade are the basis of the Tricolor flag, adopted in 1790. A modified design by Jacques Louis David was adopted in 1794. A solid white flag was used during the Bourbon restoration in 1815-1830, but the tricolor has been used since.



The colours adopted by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, which replaced a darker version of the flag,

Scheme Blue White Red
Pantone[2] Reflex Blue Safe Red 032
RGB[2] (0,85,164) (255,255,255) (250,60,50)
HTML[2] #0055A4 #FFFFFF #EF4135
NCS S 2565 R80B N/A S 0580 Y80R

Currently, the flag is 50 percent wider than its height (i.e. in the proportion 2:3) and, except in the French navy, has stripes of equal width. Initially, the three stripes of the flag were not equally wide, being in the proportions 30 (blue), 33 (white) and 37 (red). The theory behind this was that if they were equal then the white stripe, being brighter, would appear disproportionately wider to the human eye.[citation needed] Under Napoleon I, the proportions were changed to make the stripes' width equal, but by a regulation dated 17 May 1853, the navy went back to using the 30:33:37 proportions, which it continues to use, as the flapping of the flag makes portions farther from the halyard seem smaller.


Flag of France and the flag of EU at the French Embassy in London

Blue and red are the traditional colors of Paris, used on the city's coat of arms. Blue is identified with Saint Martin, red with Saint Denis. At the storming of the Bastille in 1789, the Paris militia wore blue and red cockades on their hats. White had long featured prominently on French flags and is described as the "ancient French colour" by Lafayette.[1] White was added it to the "revolutionary" colors of the militia cockade to "nationalize" the design, thus creating the tricolor cockade.[1] Although Lafayette identified the white stripe with the nation, other accounts identify it with the monarchy.[3]

Various meanings have been ascribed to the colors. French politics polarized soon after the tricolor cockade was adopted. Royalists began wearing white cockades and flying white flags, while the Jacobins, and later the Socialists, flew the red flag. White came to represent monarchy even though the traditional royal standard was blue and white. Meanwhile, the tricolor came to be seen as a symbol of moderation and of a nationalism that came ahead of factionalism. French schools teach that each color represents an estate of the Ancien Régime: White for the clergy, red for the nobility and blue for the bourgeoisie. Blue, as the symbol of the bourgeoisie, comes first within the colour enumeration and red, representing the nobility, comes last. Both extreme colours are situated on each side of white referring to a superior order.



Middle ages

During the early Middle Ages, the oriflamme, the flag of Saint-Denis, was used—red, with two, three, or five spikes. Originally, it was the personal flag of Charlemagne, given to him by the Pope in the ninth century. Over time, it became the royal banner under the Carolingians and the Capetians. It was stored in Saint-Denis abbey, where it was taken when war broke out. French kings went forth into battle preceded either by Saint Martin's red cape, which was supposed to protect the monarch, or by the red banner of Saint Denis.

A tricolour band surrounds this 14th century image of the King of France

Later during the Middle Ages, these colours came to be associated with the reigning house of France. In 1328, the coat-of-arms of the House of Valois was blue with gold fleurs-de-lis bordered in red. From this time on, the kings of France were represented in vignettes and manuscripts wearing a red gown under a blue coat decorated with gold fleurs-de-lis. It should be noted that, in liturgical symbolism, gold is the equivalent of white.

Many other examples exist of the association of the three colours —blue, white and red— with the French kings and their households.

During the Hundred Years War, England was recognised by a red cross, Burgundy, a red saltire, and France, a white cross. This cross could figure either on a blue or a red field. The blue field eventually became the common standard for French armies. The French regiments were later assigned the white cross as standard, with their proper colours in the cantons.

The French flag of a white cross on a blue field is still seen on some flags derived from it, such as those of Quebec and Martinique.

The flag of Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years War is described in her own words, "I had a banner of which the field was sprinkled with lilies; the world was painted there, with an angel at each side; it was white of the white cloth called 'boccassin'; there was written above it, I believe, 'JHESUS MARIA'; it was fringed with silk.".[4]

The Tricolore

From the accession of the Bourbons on the throne of France, the green ensign of the navy became a plain white flag, being the symbol of purity and of royal authority. The merchant navy was assigned "the old flag of the nation of France", the white cross on a blue field.

The tricolor flag is derived from cockades used during the French Revolution. These were circular emblems attached to the hat. Camille Desmoulins asked his followers to wear green cockades on July 12, 1789. The Paris militia, formed on July 13, adopted a blue and red cockade. Blue and red are the traditional colors of Paris, used on the city's coat of arms. Cockades with various color schemes were used during the storming of the Bastille on July 14.[5] The blue and red cockade was presented to King Louis XVI at the Hôtel de Ville on July 17.[1] Lafayette argued for the addition of a white stripe to "nationalize" the design.[1] On July 27, a tricolour cockade was adopted as part of the uniform of the National Guard, which succeeded the militia.[6]

A drapeau tricoloure with vertical red, white and blue stripes was approved by the Constituent Assembly on October 24, 1790. Simplified designs were used to illustrate how the revolution broke with the past. The order was reversed to blue-white-red (the current design) by a resolution passed February 15, 1794. Despite its official status, the tricoloure was rarely used during the French Revolution. Instead, the red flag of the Jacobin Club, symbolizing defiance and national emergency, was flown. The tricoloure was restored to prominence under Napoleon.

After the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the tricolore — with its revolutionary connotations — was replaced by a white flag, the pre-revolutionary naval flag. However, following the July Revolution of 1830, "Citizen-King" Louis-Philippe restored the tricolour, and it has remained France's national flag since that time.

Following the overthrow of Napoleon III, voters elected a royalist majority to the National Assembly of the new Third Republic. This parliament then offered the throne to the Bourbon pretender, Henri, comte de Chambord. However, he insisted that he would accept the throne on the condition that the tricolour be replaced by the white flag. As the tricolour had become a cherished national symbol, this proved impossible to accommodate. Plans to restore the monarchy were adjourned and ultimately dropped, and France has remained a republic, with the tricolour flag, ever since.

The Vichy régime, which dropped the word "republic" in favour of "the French state", maintained the use of the tricolour but Philippe Pétain use a version of the tricolour defaced with a fasces and stars as personal standard. This flag is called the "Francisque". During this same period, Free French Forces used a tricolour defaced with a red Cross of Lorraine.

The constitutions of 1946 and 1958 (article 2) instituted the "blue, white and red" flag as the national emblem of the Republic


  1. ^ a b c d e Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier Lafayette (marquis de), Memoirs, correspondence and manuscripts of General Lafayette, Vol. 2, p. 252.
  2. ^ a b c "Die Symbole der französischen Republik" (in German). Embassy of the French Republic in Germany. http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/de/frankreich_3/frankreich-entdecken_244/portrat-frankreichs_247/die-symbole-der-franzosischen-republik_260/trikolore-die-nationalfahne_114.html. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  3. ^ "The French flag". http://www.elysee.fr/elysee/anglais/the_symbols_of_the_republic/the_french_flag/the_french_flag.20357.html. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  4. ^ Whitney Smith, Flags through the ages and across the world, McGraw-Hill, England, 1975 ISBN 0-07-059093-1, pp. 66-67, The Standard of Joan of Arc,after quoting her from her trial transcript he states: "it was her influence which determined that white should serve as the principal French national color from shortly after her death in 1431 until the French Revolution almost 350 years later."
  5. ^ Crowdy, Terry, French Revolutionary Infantry 1789-1802, p. 42 (2004).
  6. ^ Clifford, Dale, "Can the Uniform Make the Citizen? Paris, 1789-1791," Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2001, p. 369.
  7. ^ http://www.taxiclic.com/articles/Drapeau-francais.html http://www.cia-france.com/francais/la_france_le_francais/bleu_blanc_rouge.htm http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/article-imprim.php3?id_article=5157 http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/histoire/SYMBOLES/sommaire.asp http://www.ambafrance-us.org/fr/aaz/republique.asp

Further reading

  • Flags Through the Ages and Across the World, Smith, Whitney, McGraw-Hill Book Co. Ltd, England, 1975. ISBN 0-07-059093-1.

External links

Simple English

The national flag of France is the French Tricoulour or the Tricolour (in french it is le drapeau tricolore). It was adopted 15 February 1794. It is blue, white and red. The current colors are the ones that Valéry Giscard d'Estaing chose.


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