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Boulogne-sur-Mer (Municipality, Pas-de-Calais, France)

Last modified: 2013-03-12 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Boulogne]

Flag of Boulogne - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 15 November 2002

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Presentation of Boulogne-sur-Mer

The municipality of Boulogne-sur-Mer (43,070 inhabitants in 2010; 842 ha) is located on the mouth of the river Liane on the Pas de Calais, the narrow bottleneck which separates the Channel from the North Sea and France from Britain.

When Julius Caesar attempted to invade Britain (55-54 BP), a port named Portus Iltius was built near the present town of Boulogne. In 63, Emperor Claudius conquered Britain and set up the Classis Brittanica (Britton Fleet), based in a port which was later protected by a castrum. In the 2nd century, the lower town built around the port was known as Gesoriacum, while the upper town built around the castrum was known as Bononia.
Boulogne became in the 9th century the seat of a powerful county. Count Eustace II supported William the Conqueror during the invasion of Britain. His wife founded in Boulogne the St. Wulmer abbey and the Notre-Dame church. One of their sons was Godefroid of Bouillon (1061-1100), Duke of Lower Lorraine and King of Jerusalem (1099). In the 12th century, the pilgrimage set up in the Notre-Dame church was so important that 14 kings of France and five kings of England accomplished it. Herring fishing was the main source of income of the town.

Count Renaud of Dammartin granted the citizens of Boulogne their first municipal charter in 1203. Renaud was among the feudal lords defeated in 1214 in Bouvines by King of France Philip II Augustus. In 1223, the king gave the County of Boulogne to his illegitimate son, Philippe Hurepel (the Bristling). When King of France Louis VIII died in 1226, Hurepel revolted against the regent Blanche of Castile and reorganized the defence of Boulogne. Hurepel died in 1236 without male descent; the county was incorporated successively to Artois and Burgundy, until King Louis XI eventually incorporated the town to the Kingdom of France in 1478.
Louis XI claimed that Notre-Dame, venerated in the town, was the real "Lord" of Boulogne, and that he, as his vassal, should try to defend her interests by all means, including incorporation of the county to France. Due to its strategical location, Boulogne was called "the most bordering town of the kingdom". Lacking any defence, the lower town was seized several times by the English during the Hundred Years' War (1339, 1347, 1353, 1377) and completely looted by Henry VII in 1492. In 1510, Henry VIII seized the upper town, which was purchased back by Francis I in 1544.
Following the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), the border moved northwards and Boulogne lost its strategical importance. Trade (and smuggling) with Britain developed.

Boulogne was proclaimed in 1803 an Imperial Town. To prepare the invasion of Britain, Napoléon I set up the Boulogne Camp. In August 1805, however, the Emperor to sent the Coast and Ocean Armies to Austria and the project of invasion was abandoned. The Boulogne Camp is commemorated by the Grand Army Column. Of 53 m in height and 4 m in diameter, the column was designed by the architect Éloi Labarre (1764-1833). Two kilometers away, a monument commemorates the second distribution of the Légion d'Honneur by Napoléon I, which took place there on 16 August 1804.
In August 1840, Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later, Emperor Napoléon III) secretely landed from England near Boulogne. He failed to rouse Boulogne to revolt and was jailed into the fortress of Ham, from which he escaped six years later, using the clothes of a mason named Badinguet.
The Restauration and the Second Empire (1815 to 1870) was the Gilded Age of Boulogne. A posh bating resort was built, linked to Paris by railway in 1848; Boulogne was the first fishing port in France.
Hardly damaged during the First World War, Boulogne experienced more than 500 bombings during the Second World War. When liberated on 17 September 1944, 85% of the town was disastered (but not necessarily destroyed) and the port was completely ruined. The town was rebuilt by the architect and urbanist Pierre Vivier (1909-1999).

Boulogne is the birth town of the egyptologist Auguste Mariette (1821-1881), who discovered several ancient Egyptian monuments and founded the Cairo museum; of the novelist and critic Charles-Augustin de Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869); of the theater actors Constant Coquelin, a.k.a. Coquelin l'Ainé (Sr.) (1804-1869) and Ernest Coquelin, a.k.a. Coquelin le Cadet (Jr.) (1846-1901); of the doctor Guillaume Duchenne (1806-1875), founder of electrotherapy; of the scientist Ernest Hamy (1842-1905), founder of the ethnography museum in Paris, now Musée de l'Homme; and of the painter Georges Mathieu (1921-2012), a member of the lyric abstractive school.
General San Martin, one of the liberators of Argentina (1816), Chile (1817), and Peru (1821), died in exile in Boulogne in 1850. The Casa San Martin is now a museum.

Sources: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 15 November 2002

Flag of Boulogne-sur-Mer

The flag of Boulogne is quartered blue-yellow by a white cross. The municipal arms are placed in the middle of the flag.

The municipal arms are "Or an escutcheon gules charged with a swan argent surrounded by three bezants gules".
The swan, symbolizing purity, was already shown on a municipal seal dated 1286. The roundels come from the arms of the Counts of Boulogne (13th century).

Ivan Sache, 15 November 2002

Yacht Club de Boulogne-sur-Mer

[YC Boulogne]

Burgee of YCB - Image by Ivan Sache

Yacht Club de Boulogne-sur-Mer (YCB, website)), established in 1997, has a burgee made of two light blue triangles along the hoist and a red lozenge in the rest of the flag. The lozenge is separated from the triangle by a white fimbriation. The dark blue letters "Y", "C" and "B" are placed in the two triangles and in the lozenge, respectively.

Ivan Sache, 15 November 2002