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This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy (disambiguation).



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Country France
Time zone CET

Picardy (French: Picardie) is a historical province of France, in the north of France. The historical capital and largest city is Amiens.

During the Middle Ages, 'Picardy' referred to that part of France north of Paris, and it even included the Dutch speaking Flanders. Thus, the name applied to an area much larger than what we now think of as Picardy. This area corresponds to all the territories from Paris to the Netherlands. In the Latin Quarter of Paris, people identified a "Picardy Nation" (Nation Picarde) of students, most of whom actually came from Flanders, who studied in the prestigious Sorbonne University.

In a narrower sense, Picardy refers to the area covered by the gouvernement (military region) of Picardy as created in the 16th century. This area is the Somme département, the northern half of the Aisne département, and a small fringe in the north of the Oise département. This is what most people think of as Picardy today. The older definition survives in the name of the Picard language, which applies not only to the dialects of Picardy proper, but also to the Romance dialects spoken in the Nord-Pas de Calais région, north of Picardy proper.

Picardy proper now lies inside the administrative region of Picardy, making up half of this region. Before the French Revolution, the coastal areas of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais were considered part of Picardy, but are now part of the Nord-Pas de Calais région. However, anciently these areas belonged to the province of Artois, and had been detached from Artois in the 15th century.

Most of Picardy is a vast plain with open fields, famed for the gruesome Battle of the Somme[1]. The main crops of Picardy are wheat, sugar beets, and fodder. Sugar beet was introduced by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars in order to counter the United Kingdom which had seized the sugar islands possessed by France in the Caribbean. The sugar industry made the fortune of Picardy in the 19th century and contributed to the ruin of the sugar economy in the Caribbean.

Villages of Picardy have a distinct character, with their houses made of dark red bricks, in contrast with the neighbouring provinces.

A minority of people still speak the Picard language, one of the languages of France, which is also spoken in Artois (Nord-Pas de Calais région). "P'tit quinquin", a Picard song, is a symbol of the local culture (and of that of Artois).

In popular culture

  • The song "Roses of Picardy' is a ballad written in 1916 during World War I
  • The name of the character Jean-Luc Picard in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation was directly inspired by the region



1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PICARDY (La Picardie), one of the old provinces of France, bounded on the N. by Hainaut and Artois, on the E. by Champagne, on the S. by the Ile de France, and on the W. by Normandy and the English Channel. Its maritime frontier ran from the mouth of the Aa to the cliffs of Caux, and it included the whole of the basin of the Somme and part of that of the Oise. The chief towns of Picardy were Amiens, Boulogne, Abbeville, Laon, Soissons, Montreuil, Peronne, Beauvais, Montdidier, St Quentin and Noyon. Its principal rivers were the Somme and the Oise. Picardy formed part of the archdiocese of Reims, and its bishoprics were Amiens, Beauvais, Senlis, Soissons, Noyon and Laon. In 1789 the province of Picardy was covered by the three bishoprics of Amiens, Noyon and Boulogne. It was one of the provinces of the five great fermes, districts subject to the tariff of 1664, and in judicial matters was under the authority of the parlement of Paris. Its area now forms the department of the Somme and parts of the departments of Pas de Calais, Aisne and Oise.

The name of Picardy does not appear until the r3th century, but was employed by Matthew Paris and was in general use in the 14th century. In the 13th century the province was divided into the two bailliages of Amiens and Vermandois, but its regular organization as part of the kingdom of France only dates from the beginning of the 16th century. At this time it was divided into north and south Picardy. North Picardy, or Picardy proper, formed one of the great military governorships of the kingdom, while south Picardy was included in the Ile de France. North Picardy was divided into upper and lower Picardy, the former being the interior part of the province and the latter the district along the coast. Upper Picardy comprised the districts of Amienois, Santerre, Vermandois and Thierache, and lower Picardy those of Ponthieu, Vimeu, Boulonnais and Calaisis, or the Pays reconquis; south Picardy included the districts of Beauvaisis, Laonnais and Soissonais.

Under the Romans Picardy was part of Belgica secunda; it was inhabited by the Morini, the Ambiani, the Veromandui, the Bellovaci and the Suessiones, whose names still appear in Amiens, Vermandois, Beauvais and Soissons. The Romans intersected the district with roads and built several castra to defend the valley of the Somme. In the 3rd century Christianity was preached here, and St Quentin and others were martyred. A little later abbeys were founded, among them Corbie, St Valery and St Riquier. Early in the 5th century Picardy became the centre of Merovingian France, for, as the historian Michelet says, "l'histoire de l'antique France semble entassee en Picardie." Clovis had his first capital at Soissons, Charlemagne had his at Noyon, and Laon was the capital and the refuge of the later and feebler Carolingian sovereigns.

During the later feudal period Picardy was the home of the counts of Vermandois, of Clermont and of Ponthieu, the sire of Coucy and others. The neighbouring dukes of Burgundy cast covetous eyes upon the province; in 1435, by the famous treaty of Arras, the royal towns and lands in the valley of the Somme were ceded by King Charles VII. to Burgundy. However, after the death of Charles the Bold in 1477 Picardy was finally united with the crown of France. The province was early an industrial district. Flemish immigrants brought with them the lucrative trade of weaving cloth, and the Somme towns were soon competing with those of Flanders. The Picard towns were noted for their love of independence, which often brought them into collision with the kings of France during the 13th century. At a later time the province received a number of Spanish immigrants. In the middle ages the Picards formed one of the four "nations" at the university of Paris. Picardy has a high place as a home of Gothic art, this being testified to by the superb cathedrals at Amiens and Noyon, while within its borders is the famous château of Coucy.

Picardy has a literature of its own, which was rich and popular in the 12th century. It suffered greatly from the ravages of the Normans, and later during the Hundred Years' War and the wars between France and Spain. Within it are the famous fields of Crecy, Agincourt and St Quentin, while it also includes places of conference like Guines, Amiens and Picquigny. The Picard had a high reputation as a soldier, being sometimes called the "Gascon of the North," and in 1558 Henry II. created the regiment de Picardie. Many anthropological remains have been found in the Somme valley.

See Labourt, Essai sur l'origine des villes de Picardie (Amiens, 1840); Grenier, Introduction d l'histoire generate de la province de Picardie (Amiens, 1856); and H. Carnoy, Litterature orale de la Picarde (1883).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


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Proper noun


  1. A région of France.


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