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Franche-Comté (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2010-11-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: franche-comte | lion (yellow) | rectangles (yellow) | billets (yellow) |
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Flag of Franche-Comté - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 27 January 2003

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History of Franche-Comté

Franche-Comté was originally the County of Burgundy, which was different from the Duchy of Burgundy. The name Comté was then used in the feminine (la Comté), and this use was kept in the name of la Franche-Comté, which should have been in modern French le Franc-Comté. Therefore, le comté is the cheese produced in la Comté.

The German Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa inherited Franche-Comté in 1155. The province was then successively allocated to the houses of Ivrea, Hohenstaufen and Chalon.
In 1295, King of France Philip the Handsome purchased the County of Burgundy and granted it to his son Philip the Tall as his apanage. The name of Franche-Comtéappeared for the first time in 1366. similar to the Swiss Franches-Montagnes, the name expressing the aspiration to freedom of the inhabitants of the area.

In 1384, Philip the Bold, son of King John the Good, who had already been granted the Duchy of Burgundy as his apanage, married the heir of the County and unified it with the Duchy. The four great Dukes of Burgundy struggled against the feudal lords in Franche-Comté and increased the powers of the States and of the Parliament

In 1477, the last Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, died and his enemy, King of France Louis XI, invaded Franche-Comté. In 1493, Charles VIII retroceded the province to Maximilian of Austria, who had married Mary of Burgundy, Charles the Bold's daughter. In 1598, Isabel, daughter of King of Spain Philip II, married the Archduke of Austria.
The inhabitants of Franche-Comté were rather happy with the very distant Spanish and later Austrian administration, which allowed them a de facto independence. For instance, the town of Besançon was a kind of independent municipal republic, since Emperor Rudolf II "confirmed" a chart granted by an "earlier emperor" without noticing it was a pure forgery. Therefore, the Comtois were scared when the Kings of France increased their attempts to reincorporate them into the Kingdom of France.

In 1635, Richelieu ordered the invasion of the Franche-Comté because his enemy Gaston d'Orléans had found shelter there. France appointed Swedish mercenaries led by Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, who totally looted the province during the Ten Years' War.
In 1648, by the Peace of Westfalia, Mazarin, on Louis XIV's behalf, withdrew from Franche-Comté, which became a neutral territory. Twenty years later, Louis XIV "claimed" Franche-Comté was his inheritance from his defunct wife Maria-Theresa of Austria. After the invasion of the province, Louis XIV retroceded it to Spain. He eventually incorporated Franche-Comté to France in 1678 by the Treaty of Nijmegen.
The great local hero of the time was Jean-Claude Prost (1607-1681), a merchant from Saint-Claude who started a guerilla in 1636 and resumed it in 1668. In 1674, Prost was about to be captured but could flee to Milan, which was then a Spanish possession, where he died seven years later. Prost was better known by his nickname of Lacuzon. In the local patois, cuzon means "worry", and the nickname refered to Prost's severe face.

The Principality of Montbéliard, now in Franche-Comté, was incorporated to France in 1793.

Ivan Sache, 27 January 2003

Flag of Franche-Comté

The flag of Franche-Comté is a banner of the arms, D'azur semé de billettes d'or au lion du même, armé et lampassé de gueules, brochant sur le tout (Azure billetty a lion rampant crowned or armed and langued gules), 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).

According to Meurgey, the ancient owner of the province, the House of Swabia, bore "Azure a lion or". The billets were subsequently added as a mark of cadency and the arms were granted to the house of Burgundy-Comté.
The arms ascribed to the province in the Armorial Général (and never used) are De sable à la fasce d'or écartelé d'or au pal de sable (Sable a fess or quarterly or a pallet sable).

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009