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Sedan (Municipality, Ardennes, France)

Last modified: 2021-02-13 by ivan sache
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Flag of Sedan - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 2 August 2020

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Presentation of Sedan

The municipality of Sedan (16,193 inhabitants in 2018; 1,628 ha) is located 20 km east of Charleville-Mézières. The castle of Sedan is claimed to be the largest fortified medieval castle in Europe, with a total area of 30,000 m2 on seven floors.

Sedan region was first populated during the Palaeolithic era. The name Sedan appears for the first time in a text from 997. A priory was installed on the rocky spur that gives its name to the town.
Originally controlled by the monks of Mouzon and the bishops of Liège. Sedan passed to the La Marck family in 1424, as the seat of a principality. The sovereignty of the prince of Sedan was, however, not recognised until the middle of the 16th century. The independent princes became Protestants after the marriage of Henri Robert de La Marck with Françoise de Bourbon. The town then became a refuge for protestant artisans, such as the printer Jean Jannon and the inventor of enamels, Bernard Palissy, who made the fmae of the town.

In 1591, the last descendant of the La Marck lineage, Charlotte, who was then only 15, married Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, the loyal comrade-in-arms of Henry of Navarre, the future King of France Henry IV. After Charlotte had died in 1594 while giving birth. Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne was granted the title of Prince of Sedan, Duke of Bouillon and inherited all of Charlotte's estate. He conslidated his social rising by marrying Elisabeth of Nassau-Orange.
Regarded as the master-builder prince of Sedan, Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne adorned the town with large public, civil and religious buildings, including a Protestant church, a Town Hall and a military academy (Académie des Exercices). He converted the Arms Square, reinforced the fortifications and provided Sedan with rectilinear town planning.

In 1641, the involvement of Frédéric-Maurice de la Tour d'Auvergne, heir of Henri, in Cinq-Mars' conspiracy against the king, led to the end of the principality's independence, the Prince preferring to save his head and his freedom.
His brother, Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, better known as Turenne, remained loyal to the ving of France and was named Marshal of France by Mazarin in 1643. Abraham Fabert, appointed governor of Sedan in 1642, preserved the town's privileges and liberties, but encouraged the Protestants to convert to Catholicism.cIn 1646 Fabert granted three merchants from Paris the privilege of manufacturing black linen, like that of Holland. The Dijonval factory, the only royal manufacture of fine linen in France, was then established. After the troubled period of the Revolution, Sedan cloth industry resumed under the Consulate and the Empire.

On 2 September 1870,; during the Franco-Prussian War, Emperor of the French Napoleon III was taken prisoner with 100,000 soldiers at the First Battle of Sedan. To commemorate the victory that resulted on the unification of Germany, 2 September was declared in 1871 a national German holiday, as Sedan Day (Sedantag), and remained so until 1919. At the end of the 19th century meachnized factories established mostly in the town replaced the small hand weavers' workshops of the surrounding villages. The industrialist Adrien Duquesne, fascinated by handmade carpets frpù oriental countries, was convinced that it was possible to recreate this craft mechanically. After the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1889, he went into partnership with Henri Gosselin, an engineer from Sedan, to create a complex device that would allow double fixing of an end of wool in the shape of a figure 8 on a chain and weft to form a linen tapestry. The Sedan woven carpet became internationally renowned until production ended in 2006.

Sedan was occupied by the Germans for four years duringthe Fi rst World War I. From 12 to 15 May 1940, the German troops invaded neutral Belgium and crossed the river Meuse by winning the Second Battle of Sedan. This allowed them to win the Battle of France by bypassing the Maginot Line fortification system and entrapping the Allied Forces that were advancing east into Belgium, as part of the Allied Dyle Plan.

Olivier Touzeau, 2 August 2020

Flag of Sedan

The flag of Sedan (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms, "Argent an oak vert fructed or on a base vert a boar passant sable armed argent the snout gules". The Latin motto, "Undique Robur", reads "Strength from all sides". The arms appears on the flag as they were represented in the beginning of the 20th century, and the field argent is shown with a dégradé azure for the sky.
The arms were probably granted in 1568 by Henri-Robert de La Marck. The boar refers to four Princes of La Marck, Jean de La Marck, Evrard of Arenberg, Guilluame de La Marck, and Robert II, who were nicknamed "The Boar of the Ardennes". They appear on coins minted in 1614 by the princes, which feature a boar accosted by an oak. The arms were confirmed by Royal Letters signed on 10 May 1817 by Louis XVIII.
[Les armroiries de la ville de Sedan]

Walter Scott assigned to Guillaume de La Marck a boar's head as his “usual arms”. Behheaded in 1485, he was the brother of Robert I, Lord of Sedan. He is described as "a handsome and valiant knight, very cruel and ill-conditioned." He seized Bouillon and offered it to his brother, when fighting against the German Emperor to conquer Liège. First victorious, he was captured by treachery and declaresdbefore dying: "My head will bleed for a long time".
[Municipal website (archived)]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 2 August 2020

Modern "princely" flags

[Flag]         [Flag]

Flagq with the rms of La Marck and La Tour d'Auvergne, respectively - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 2 August 2020

Sedan also flies a white flag charged with the arms of the La Marck family, "Or a fess chequy gules and argent of three a demi-lion issuant gules armed and langued azure", and a white flag charged with the arms of La Tour d'Auvergne-Turenne family (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) represented here as "Quarterly, 1. La Tour d'Auvergne, 2. Boulogne 3. Turenne, 4. Bouillon. Inescutcheon Auvergne.

Olivier Touzeau, 2 August 2020