The Tricolour Flag
Article 2 of the Fifth Republic’s Constitution states the national emblem is the blue, red and white flag. This three-coloured flag, visible on public buildings, during commemorations and sports events, results from a long evolution. A legacy from the Revolution and the Republic, it symbolizes the French Nation.
The three colours before the flag
French monarchs have worn the three colours distinctly. The blue banner floated for Charlemagne’s coronation, commemorates Saint Martin’s cloak he gave to a poor man.
From Clovis to Charles X, the royal coat was sky blue, with a golden fleur-de-lis, symbol of loyalty and fidelity.
During Hugues Capet’s and his descent’s reigns, the red banner of Saint Denis, protector of the kingdom, becomes the King’s standard.
From 1638 to 1790 white was the colour of the royal and marine flags. From 1814 to 1830, white was also the colour of the royal army’s ensign.
A Tricolour flag for the French Revolution
The three-coloured flag was instituted by the French Revolution.
During the Federation celebration, on July 14th 1790, the Champ de Mars was decorated with the tricolor flag.
The tricolor flag and rosette became the symbols of the living Nation.
A decree in Pluviôse 27th, Year 2 (1794) states: "The banner and national flag will be composed of the three national colours, in three equal bands, the blue one being attached to the flag hilt, the white being in the middle and the red floating".
The 1815 Restoration hoped to re-establish the white flag, symbol of continuation with monarchy, while the 1848 upheaval tried to establish the red flag as the Republic’s standard.
From then onwards, the tricolor was no longer questioned: little by little, all families and opinions within the French Nation recognized themselves in it.
For more information:
Les trois couleurs, M. Agulhon, Gallimard, 1987