Last modified: 2010-11-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: val-de-marne | vincennes | fleurs-de-lis (yellow) | castle (white) | discs: 3 (white) | louis (robert) | error |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors
Flag of Vincennes - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 7 March 2007
Thev town of Vincennes (46,600 inhabitants; 1.92 sq. km), bordering Paris eastwards, is one of the most densely populated municipalities in France.
Vincennes is mostly known for its castle, built in XIVth century, one of the
biggest and best preserved medieval castles in Europe, and its
The creation and development of Vincennes is closely linked to the history of its castle. It all began in the XIIth century when King Louis VII chose the Vincennes forest as a hunting ground. Royal residence from Philippe Auguste to Louis XIV, the castle gradually acquired its current elements. The medieval buildings, in particular the keep and the large enclosure, constitute the only conserved Middle-Ages royal residence in France. During the XIIIth century, Philippe-Auguste and Louis IX (Saint-Louis), who frequently stayed in Vicennes, built a manor. From St. Louis' death in 1271 in Tunis to the middle of the XVIIth century, Vincennes became the sovereigns' principal residence. From 1270 to 1350, Philippe III, then Philippe V got married there, and Louis X, Philippe V, and Charles IV died there.
The existence of the hamlet of La Pissotte dates back to the first half of
the XIth century: houses situated along an ancient roman way formed
a hamlet on the territory of the domain of Montreuil.
At the end of the Hundred Years' War, Vincennes re-established itself as an important place of rest for the kings of France. Louis XI, François I and Henri II, among others, stayed at the castle. In 1373, Charles V created the castle's yard to house the royal servants: it consisted of a square-shaped arrangement of houses in the castle extension. At the end of the XVIIth century, the castle yard and the Pissotte (a parish since 1667 only) were united into the one same parish.
In the middle of the XVIIIth century the King and Queen's pavilions were built, where Anne of Austria stayed with young Louis XIV and Mazarin. With the death of Louis XIV in 1715, Vincennes was abandoned as a royal residence. Versailles, or even the Loire Valley residences, such as Chambord or Chenonceaux, were preferred. In the XVIIIth century, Vincennes housed a porcelain manufactory, a state prison and an arms manufactory.
In 1787, the municipality of Vincennes was created. The Register of Grievances
contains complaints against the exiguity of the territory: the inhabitants
were forced to rent arable land on the grounds of Montreuil and
Fontenay, but their claims were rejected. During the Revolutionary
period, Vincennes had a size of 238 hectares (including the castle and its
gardens, the Petit-Parc, and part of the forest), but was of little interest
to the people of Vincennes. It was only in July 1829 that 58 hectares were
taken, by Royal Order, at the expense of Montreuil, and 36 from Fontenay.
Vincennes finally benefited from a soil that was its own, and could start
its evolution from a village to a city.
With the building of the Fort-Neuf in 1841, Vincennes became a garrison town, and the population of Vincennes grew by almost 3,800 between 1817 and 1856. In 1861, there were 2,000 more inhabitants, and Vincennes showed a strong population growth rate right up to the middle of the XXth century, with 50,434 inhabitants in 1954. The construction of the railroad connecting Bastille to Verneuil-l'Etang, the industrialization of Paris, and the extension of the Metro to the castle in 1934 all contributed to this important dynamism.
Nowadays, the castle hosts a museum (opening in 2007), and the History Services of the Ministry of Defense (created in 2005), which include the History Departments of the Land Forces (in Vincennes since 1946), of the Air Force (since 1974), and of the Navy (since 1974).
The bois de Vincennes (Vincennes Wood), is one of the prefered recreation area of the inhabitants of Paris. It includes a zoo, a racetrack, a floral park, and the INSEP (National Institute for Sport and Physical Training).
Source: Municipal website
The ditches of the castle of Vincennes were the place of one of the most
shameful event of the Napoleonic era, the execution of Duke of Enghien
on 21 March 1804.
On 25 March 1802, France and Britain signed a peace treaty in Amiens. In spring 1803, however, Britain denounced the treaty and Prime Minister Pitt decided to get rid of First Consul Bonaparte (later Emperor Napoléon I). Pitt supported fanatic Royalists gathered in London and led by Georges Cadoudal. On 9 March 1804, Cadoudal and the 47 members of his plot were arrested in Paris. Cadoudal admitted that he was waiting for the arrival in Paris of a Prince of the Royal family before attempting a coup against the First Consul. Bonaparte believed (or pretended to do so) that this Prince was the Duke of Enghien.
Louis-Antoine Henri de Bourbon-Condé, Duke of Enghien (1772-1804), son of Louis Joseph, Prince of Cond&ea&cute;, was the last heir of the Condé family. He fled in 1789 and served in the Royalist troops until the disbanding of the Royal regiments in 1801. He then settled in Ettenheim (Baden) close to the Rhine river and the French border, where he drew a pension from England.
Spies reported to Bonaparte that General Dumouriez, a former Revolutionary General who had joined the Austrian camp in 1793, was in Ettenheim with the Duke. In fact, they confused Dumouriez with a certain M. de Thumery, who was actually in Ettenheim. The First Consul ordered the abduction of the Prince from from Baden to France in order to definitively suppress the Royalist plot. Generals Ordener and Caulaincourt sent a dragoon squadron which caught nightly the Duke in his house in Ettenheim. The Duke was immediatly brought to the castle of Vincennes via Strasbourg.
On 20 March, around 5 PM, the Duke was questioned by a military
commission headed by General Hulin and supervized by General Savary,
Bonaparte's aide de camp. The Duke proudly admitted having fought the
French Republic but rejected any idea of plot against the First Consul.
He asked for an interview with Bonaparte, which was rejected by Savary
The trial started during the night. The Duke admitted he had accepted to
serve in the British troops. He was not allowed a defense counsel and no
witness was called. The Duke was sentenced to death and immediatly shot
in the ditches of Vincennes lit by a lantern.
Counsellor Réal, who should have presided the trial, arrived in Vincennes only after the execution, and came back immediatly to the Castle of Malmaison to tell Bonaparte what had happened. It seems that Bonaparte was surprized by what he heard, but approved the execution for the reasons of state. He said to Mrs. Rémusat "The Duke plotted like any other conspirer, he must have been treated like any other conspirer".
In France, the reprobation after the execution of the Duke of Enghien remained tacit. Châteaubriand, who had just been appointed Minister of the Republic in Valais/Wallis (Switzerland) officially resigned because of his wife's poor health. In Europe, nobody dared condemn the execution, except Tsar Alexander I (who had himself been involved in the murder of his father Paul I). The Duke of Baden did not complain on the abduction which had taken place from his state.
However, the execution of the Duke of Enghien caused a definitive breakdown between Bonaparte and the aristocrats who had supported him (for instance Châteaubriand). Most historians have considered the execution of the Duke of Enghoien as a big mistake, if not a crime, but Napoléon I in his St. Helena exile never changed his mind, considering it was a case of legitimate defense.
The ditches of Vincennes are mentioned by Marcel Proust in Le Côté de Guermantes, one of the components of A la recherche du temps perdu. Around 1900, the main social activity of the (fictive) Duchess of Guermantes, member of one of the oldest noble French families, is to wittily gossip on other (fictive but also not fictive) noble families, especially those which were granted titles by Napoléon I. The Duchess reports than someone asked one of these "Empire nobles" if he had picked up his title into the ditches of Vincennes.
Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 7 March 2007
The castle has undergone an important restoration programme since
1988, especially the donjon, the highest remaining construction of that
kind in Europe. After 12 years of renovation, the donjon reopened in 2007.
The city of Vincennes has decided to celebrate this opening with many events
called L'année du Château (The Castle's Year).
The castle being one of the main symbols of the town of Vincennes, it has been decided to use a flag which would express the attachment of Vincennes to its history and its castle, and the strength of its identity. The flag was unveiled on 9 March 2007 for the inauguration of L'année du Château. It is displayed on the town hall and at the entries of the city.
The flag is based on the coat of arms of Vincennes : the hoist (1/3rd) shows the coat of arms' chief (azure semy de lis or). The fly (2/3rd) shows a red field with the castle's donjon ans three round balls (Gules a castle triple towered argent in base three plates placed 1 and 2).
The flag was designed by the municipality with my advice. The drawing of the castle on the flag is the same as Robert Louis' drawing on the municipal coat of arms.
In 1889, a group of young people from Vincennes established a coat of arms to
decorate the invitations to a ball they were holding. At that time,
Vincennes, like numerous other districts in the Seine departement, did not
have a coat of arms. They used the town of Paris' badge, and replaced the
symbolic Paris ship with the image of the keep of the castle of
Vincennes. They also put three round balls under the castle. The
engraver placed the badge on a decorated cartridge and surmounted it with a
crown. During the construction of the town hall of Vincennes, the architect
Calinaud used this coat of arms and its cartridge as decoration. After being
submitted to the Heraldic Commission of the Seine, the composition of the
coat of arms was determined by a Prefectoral Decree on 20 June 1942, and on
31 March 1952, the Vincennes Municipal Council fixed its external ornaments
definitively; the French heraldist Robert Louis, who lived in Vincennes,
made the features and colours of these armorial bearings.
The main element of the coat of arms is of course the donjon (keep) of Vincennes castle. Built in the XIVth century, under the reign of King of France Charles V the Wise, it is the highest remaining building of that kind in Europe. It rises 50 m above the ground of its courtyard.
The three round balls stand for the heroism of Daumesnil: having embraced a military career at the age of 15 and taken part to all of Napoléon's campaigns, he lost a leg at Wagram in 1809. Made Baron of the Empire in 1808, then Brigadier General in 1812 and appointed Governor of the castle of Vincennes the same year, he blocked the allied forces who tried to capture it in 1814, and again in 1815, where, when surrounded, he retorted to the Prussian General: "Give me back my leg and I'll give you Vincennes". The blockade ended on 15 November 1815; having been sacked under the Restoration, Daumesnil returned to his former office as Governor of the castle from 1830 to his death in 1832. The round balls also recall the gunnery school which was situated in the Vincennes wood.
The chief (of France) stands for the Royal past of Vincennes: the castle was a Royal residence from the XIIth to the XVIIth century.
Olivier Touzeau, 7 March 2007
Former flag of Vincennes (1930s/1960s?) - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 7 March 2007
Vincennes may have used in the past a vertically divided blue-red flag with the coat of arms in the centre. The town hall owns several flags of this kind, which have never been in use for decades; they should, however, be called vexilloids, since they have the rectangular shape of a classical flag, a 2:3 ratio, but nothing to hoist them on a mast. They probably have been used as table cloths; the sewn coat of arms is not shown as on the official drawing by the heraldist Robert Louis, and it looks hand-made. The exact date of use is unknown, but it was probably at some point between the 1930s and the 1960s.
Former flag of Vincennes (1970s/1980s) - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 12 April 2007
Vincennes has had an "official" flag between the flag shown above and its today's, official flag. That flag was vertically divided medium blue- red with the coat-of-arms, including the mural crown, in the center. I have seen it as table flags belonging to the Twin towns' Office of the town of Vincennes. Several of these flags, which seem to date back to the 1970/80ies do exist, but they have not been in use for years. Their use must have been limited to twin towns ceremonies. I don't know if any flag of this kind has ever flown over the town hall, but they obviously have been officially used - maybe only as table flags.
Olivier Touzeau, 12 April 2007
Erroneous flag of Vincennes - Image by Ivan Sache, 7 March 2007
According to anonymous visual observations reported in Franciae Vexilla [frv], #26/72, June 2002, the town of
Vincennes uses a vertically divided blue-red flag.
Vincennes does use forked blue and red pennants for decorative purposes in ceremonies as on the national day (14 July) or on remembrance of the end of World Wars I and II. The choice of blue and red is of course because of the coat of arms, but these are decorations, and are not supposed to be "symbols" of the town.
In the early 2000s, Vincennes used no flag and Franciae Vexilla's report is wrong.
Ivan Sache & Olivier Touzeau, 7 March 2007