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Flag of Lorraine - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 10 May 2003
The Frankish times
Lorraine was inhabited by the two Celtic tribes Mediomatrici and Leuci, with their capital in Metz and Toul, respectively. During the Roman era, two main ways, Lyon-Trier and Reims-Strasbourg, crossed in Metz. The Romans withdrew from Lorraine in 407 under the pressure of the Alamans and the Franks.
In 511, the Frankish Kingdom of Austrasia was founded in Metz, lasting until 751. Austrasia spread from the left bank of the Rhine river to the North Sea. King Sigebert I (561-575) and his wife Brunhilda (534-613) developed a brilliant civilisation, preserving the Latin culture in their kingdom. They faught against the neighbouring Kingdom of Neustria. Fredegund, Queen of Neustria (545-597) married King Chilperic I (561-584) after he had strangled his wife Galswintha (540-568). Brunhilda was Galswintha's sister and fought against Fredegund, who murdered Sigebert. Chilperic was also murdered and his son Clothair II (584-629) captured Brunehaut. The old queen was tortured for three days and tied by her hair to a horse put into a gallop.
In 751, Pepin the Short (715-768), the root of the Arnulfian dynasty, unified the Frankish Kingdom after having deposed the last Merovingian king, Childeric III. Pepin started the Carolingian renaissance, which was later developed by his son Charlemagne. Lorraine was the center of the Carolingian kingdom. Bishop Chrodegang (742-766) proposed in Metz a liturgical reform that quickly spread all over Western Europe and Abbot Smaragdus wrote in Saint-Mihiel his famous spiritual treatises.
Charlemagne's son and successor, Louis the Pious (778-840, Emperor
in 814) had three sons, Lothair (795-855), Pepin (803-838)
and Louis the German (805-876). His Ordinatio Imperii
(817) appointed Lothair Associate
Emperor, Pepin was granted the Kingdom of
Aquitaine and Louis the Kingdom of the
In 819, Louis the Pious married again with Judith of Bavaria and they had a son in 823, Charles the Bold (823-877). Charles' birth drastically changed Louis' succession. Pepin revolted against his father but he died in 838. In 840, Lothair was crowned Emperor after Louis the Pious' death. Charles the Bold and Louis the German defeated Lothair in Fontenoy-en-Puisaye in 841. The alliance was confirmed in 842 by the Strasbourg Oath, which is the oldest text written both in Romanic and Germanic languages. In 843, Lothair was forced to sign the Treaty of Verdun. Charles the Bold was allocated Francia occidentalis, Louis the Germanic Germania, and Lothair the land located between France and Germany, which constituted later the kingdom of Lotharingia (Lotharii regnum, later known as Lorraine in French and Lothringen in German).
In 870, Lothair II (835-869), Lothair's son and King of Lotharingia, died. By the Treaty of Mersen, his kingdom was shared between his uncles, Charles the Bold and Louis the German. Louis died in 876 and Charles was defeated by his nephew Louis in Andernach. In 895, Arnulf (?-899), Louis the German's grand son, King of Germania (887-899) and Emperor (896-899) appointed his natural son Zwentibold King of Lotharingia. The king was killed in 900, and King of France Charles the Simple (898-923) appointed Count of Hainaut Reginar Duke of Lotharingia. Reginar's son, Gilbert, acknowledged in 925 the suzerainty of Emperor Henry I and married his daughter Gerberge. When Gilbert died in 940, King Otto (936-973, Emperor in 962), gave the Duchy to Gilbert son, then to Conrad the Red, whom he deposed in 953, and eventually to his brother Brunas, Archbishop of Cologne.
The Duchy of Lorraine
In 959, Lotharingia was divided into Lower-Lotharingia, or Duchy of Lothier, which spread from Luxembourg to the river Rhine, and Upper-Lotharingia, which progressively took the name of Lorraine. The Duchy of Lorraine was de facto independent and the dynasty of Gérard de Châtenois (Duke in 1048) ruled it until the 15th century.
In 1431, the Duchy of Lorraine was ceded to the house of Anjou. The Three Bishoprics (Metz, Toul and Verdun) were excluded form the Duchy by the Emperor to limit the powers of the princely dynasties. In 1473, the Duchy was retroceded to the house of Vaudémont, which was related to the ancient dukes. Duke René II defeated and killed Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bald in Nancy in 1477, ending his attempt to restore the ancient Lotharingia by linking his Burgundian and Flemish possessions.
Seized in 1552, Metz, Toul and Verdun were incorporated into the Kingdom of France, as the first step of
the takeover of Lorraine by France. However, Duke Anton I
(1508-1544) preserved the independence of Lorraine and got rid of the
imperial trusteeship by the Treaty of Nuremberg in 1542. His grand
son Charles III (1559-1608) promoted the ultra-Catholic Holy League
and presented Lorraine as a main defense of Catholicism against
the Protestants. In 1630, during the Thirty Years' War, Lorraine rallied
the Imperial and Catholic cause. Accordingly, Louis XIII invaded
and looted the Duchy in 1631-1637, destroying most of its
fortresses. The Duchy was invaded again by Louis XIV in 1670.
The full independence of Lorraine was reestablished by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697. In 1737, the last Duke of Lorraine, François II, exchanged his Duchy for Tuscany. Stanislas Leszczynski (1677-1766) was appointed Duke of Lorraine. Stanislas was King of Poland but abdicated in 1738 following the Polish Succession War. He was the father-in-law of King of France Louis XV. In 1766, the Duchy of Lorraine was incorporated into the Kingdom of France.
After the French defeat in 1870, the Treaty of Francfort split
Lorraine into two parts by creating the
Imperial Land of Alsace-Lorraine
(Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen), which included the north-east
of Lorraine. This area was reincorporated to France in 1919 by the
Treaty of Versailles.
In 1940, Germany incorporated the department of Moselle to the Third Reich. The territorial unity of Lorraine was reestablished in 1945 after the German capitulation.
Ivan Sache, 10 May 2003
The flag of Lorraine is the banner of the arms D'or à la bande de gueules chargée de trois alérions d'argent (Or on a bend gules three alerions bendwise argent), 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).
The history of the emblems of Lorraine is described in great detail, with images, by Pascal Vagnat on the website of the Regional Council of Lorraine (7 pages), and can be summarized as follows:
Simon II, Duke of Lorraine, already used these arms on a seal
dated 1183. All further dukes used them until the incorporation to
France in 1766. A legend says that the dukes of Lorraine are
descendants of Godfrey of Bouillon (1061-1100), who was Duke of
Lower-Lorraine (Lothier) from 1089 to 1095. During the siege of
Jerusalem in 1099, Godefroi is said to have killed three birds with
the same arrow. This event was a good omen and predicted that
Godfrey would become King of Jerusalem. Therefore, Godfrey added
the three alerions to the red bend of his shield. The legend seems to
be based on epics written in the middle of the 13th century.
The historians of the Renaissance magnified the legend and "established" that the Dukes of Lorraine were Godfrey's descendants.
A seal, dated 1196, of Ferri of Bitche, Simon II's brother, shows a pennant with the arms of Lorraine. Later, the banners, standards and flags used in Lorraine were fairly diverse. Some of these flags were banner of arms or were charged with the greater arms of the Duchy, whereas other flags were charged with the Cross of Lorraine or a representation of the Annunciation. In 1766, the banner of arms was no longer in common use in the Duchy. None of those flags ever had the status of state flag.
The arms of Lorraine disappeared during the French Revolution and reemerged in Nancy on 9 November 1826, during the Bourbonic Restauration. On that day, the ashes of the Dukes of Lorraine were returned into the dynasty vault located in the Round Chapel, which had been desecrated during the Revolution. Banners charged with alerions and crosses of Lorraine were seen everywhere in the town.
During the celebration of the 100th anniversary of incorporation of Lorraine to France, presided in 1866 by Emperess Eugénie de Montijo and the Imperial Prince "an incredible profusion of flags, banners and Lorrain heraldical emblems was seen: flags with the three alerions, yellow flags with a red Cross of Lorraine, banners showing the greater arms of Lorraine or their quarters." It is said that the Imperial Prince bore the shield of Lorraine.
In 1871, the Lorrains refused the German annexation and the
black-white-red flag by hosting the French Tricolore flag. Therefore,
the French Tricolore and the Lorraine flags were forbidden. It was
proposed to design new arms for Alsace-Lorraine by combining the
municipal arms of Strasbourg, capital
of the Reichsland, and Metz, capital of the German
Lorraine, but this proposal was rejected. The coat of arms officially
granted by the Emperor combined the arms of the two
Alsatian districts with the arms of
Lorraine. The shield was placed on the chest of a crowned Imperial
The Reichsland was also granted a flag by the Emperor. This flag was the German flag, horizontally divided black-white-red with the imperial arms in the middle of the flag and the arms of Alsace-Lorraine in canton. This flag was supposed to be a state flag but it was also used as a civil flag.
The Emperor did not recognize any civil flag for the Reichsland, which did not have a sovereignty status. However, unofficial local flags were used by the Alsatians-Lorrains. The flag used in Alsace was horizontally divided red-white and the flag used in Lorraine was horizontally divided blue-white. The origin of the latter flag is unknown. It might have been a truncated Tricolore flag used as a sign of protest.
In 1911, the Reichsland was granted a Constitution allowing more autonomy. The Deputees of the local assembly selected a new flag, the Alsatian red-white flag with a yellow cross of Lorraine in canton. The flag was supposed to highlight the new status of the territory and its rights, similar to those of the other German states. This flag was, however, never officialized by the Emperor.
In 1919, the French Tricolore was reestablished and the emblems of the Reichsland were forbidden. The banner of arms of Lorraine was tolerated and probably prefered by the authorities to the red and white Alsatian flag, deemed too German.
In 1940, all French and Lorrain emblems were forbidden by the Germans.
In 1986, the Regional Council of Lorraine used a logo which had no reference to the arms of Lorraine. In 1993, a new logo was created by the Lorrain artist CharlElie Couture (now called simply CharlElie), on the basis of Godefroi's alerions. The arms of Lorraine have no official status but can be seen on the facade of the Saint-Clément Abbey, siege of the Regional Council. There is no specific flag used by the Regional Council but the banner of arms of Lorraine.
Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009
The history of the cross of Lorraine is summarized by Michel Pastoureau in Les emblèmes de la France [pst98].
The patriarchal, double cross-pieced cross was one of the pre-heraldical emblems of the Kingdom of Hungary. Used on Hungarian coins at the end of the 12th century, it was later included in the Royal arms. At the same time in Anjou (west of France), a reliquary of the True Cross was an object of specific devotion. This reliquary had the shape of the double cross-pieced cross. It was most probably of Byzantine origin and was kept in the castle of the counts of Anjou. In the 12th-13th centuries, the double cross-pieced cross was considered as the image of the True Cross all over the eastern Christian countries. The upper cross-piece, usually shorter than the lower one, recalled the titulus, on which the writing I.N.R.I. (Jhesus Nazareus Rex Iudeorum) had been written. This representation was less common in the western Christian countries.
In the 14th-15th centuries, the Dukes of the second house of Anjou made a specific cult of the double cross-pieced cross. Coins and seals, as well as artworks such as the Apocalypse Tapestry (c. 1380), were decorated with the cross, which was then called "Cross of Anjou" or, less frequently, "Cross of Jerusalem". René of Anjou, Duke of Lorraine in 1431, Introduced in the east of France by René of Anjou, Duke of Lorraine in 1431, the cross was eventually adopted as the emblem of the Duchy of Lorraine and of all the Lorrains.
In 1477, during the siege of Nancy, Duke René II of Vaudémont, used the cross as a rallying symbol. Following the lift of the siege, the cross became extremely popular in Lorraine. In the 16th century, heraldists dropped the name "Cross of Anjou" and coined the current name "Cross of Lorraine" (croix de Lorraine).
In the 19th century, the Cross of Lorraine was included among the
iconographical attributes of Joan of
Arc, who was from Lorraine. After the incorporation of a great
part of Lorraine to Germany following the 1870 war, the Cross of
Lorraine became a symbol of memory and resistance.
The hill of Sion-Vaudémont, located 20 km south of Nancy, is a stronghold of Lorrain patriotism. The hill has the shape of a horseshoe and is therefore considered as a good omen. In the Middle-Ages, the hill was a place of prayer for the Crusaders, and received the name of Zion (in French, Sion). It is said that René de Vaudémont defeated Charles the Bald under the banner of Notre-Dame of Sion.
On 10 September 1873, the last Prussian soldiers left the part of
Lorraine which would remain French. A broken Cross of Lorraine was
placed in the basilica of Sion, with the writing in Lorraine patois
Ce n'a me po tojo (Ce n'est pas pour toujours - This is
not forever). On 24 June 1920, a golden palm was added to hide the
break of the cross, and a new motto was added, Ce n'ato me po
tojo (Ce n'était pas pour toujours - This was not
forever). In 1946, the end of the Second World War was celebrated by
a new cross with the motto Estour inc po tojo (Maintenant
c'est pour toujours - Now it is forever). On 9 September 1973,
the Peace Day involved 10,000 pilgrims, including former German war
prisoners. A marble scroll charged with the word
Réconciliation was placed on the altar beside the other
The hill of Sion is better known as the "inspired hill" (la colline inspirée). This nickname was coined in 1913 by the writer and politician Maurice Barrès (1862-1923), born in Charmes, c. 25 km from Vaudémont. Barrès was the leader of the nationalist movement in France before the First World War. He attempted to reconciliate romantism and a kind of patriotic regionalism, and was therefore a warm partisan of the First World War and the revenge over Germany. His work is now mostly forgotten, but he dramatically influenced the next generation of French writers, including those who did not share his political views. Mauriac, Bernanos and even the Communist Aragon have acknowledged his influence, whereas Proust, his contemporary, expressed a strong admiration for his work in spite of being in total disagreemnt with Barrès' political views.
The Cross of Lorraine resurfaced in June 1940, when it was adopted
as the emblem of the Free France, the small
group of soldiers who refused the capitulation and rallied
General de Gaulle in London. Vice Admiral Muselier, the first
Commander-in-Chief of the Free French Naval
Forces, is most probably the inventor of the symbol of the Free
France. The naval and airborne forces that had rallied de Gaulle
were asked to use the Cross of Lorraine as their emblem. Since
Pétain's French State had kept the
Tricolore as the national flag, it was necessary to add a charge to
the Tricolor flag used by the Free France. An emblem with a strong
historical meaning was required to be opposed to the German
Hakenkreuz. Muselier recalled the Cross of Lorraine he had
seen several times as a patriotic symbol during his childhood in
Lorraine. It took de Gaulle several months to officially adopt the
Cross of Lorraine as the emblem of the Free France.
On 29 January 1941, de Gaulle created the Order of Liberation. The badge of the Order is a shield bearing a sword charged with a small Cross of Lorraine. The ribbon is bicolor, black and green for mourning and hope, respectively. The motto (Patriam servando victoriam tulit) proclaims the fatherland service and announces the victory.
The Cross of Lorraine was officially prescribed as the emblem of the Free France (later the Fighting France) by a Regulation of 5 June 1941. At the end of the war, it was often associated with the V of Victory.
After the war, the Cross of Lorraine was used by the successive Gaullist parties under the Fourth and Fifth Republics. It was used by the RPF (Rassemblement du Peuple Français) in April 1947, then by the UNR (Union pour la Nouvelle République) in October 1958, by the UDR (Union des Démocrates pour la République) in June 1967, and eventually by the RPR (Rassemblement pour la République) in December 1976. When the RPR morphed into the UMP in 2002, the Cross of Lorraine was dropped from its emblem. More and more people, not necessarily from the opposition parties, had indeed claimed that the RPR and then the UMP were no longer representative of de Gaulle's ideas and should therefore drop his emblem.
Ivan Sache, 10 May 2003