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Montfermeil (Municipality, Seine-Saint-Denis, France)

Last modified: 2020-09-12 by ivan sache
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Flag of Montfermeil - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 6 September 2020

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Presentation of Montfermeil

The municipality of Montfermeil (24,457 inhabitants in 2008; 545 ha; municipal website) is located 15 km east of Paris.

Montfermeil was mentioned for the first time in 1122, as Montefirmo, and in 1124 as Montfermolio ("fortified mount"). In 1165, a lord Adam founded the priory of Val Adam, signing the foundation chartr as Adam de Montfermeil.
The domain of Montfermeil was purchased in 1605 by the Protestant Hilaire Lhoste, councillor and private secretary of King Henry IV. In July 1611, Marie de' Medici upgraded the status of Montfermeil to a seigniory, increasing the powers granted to Lhoste. Antoine Pélissier, councillor and private secretary of Louis XIV, purchased the domain in 1678 and started the building of a castle, which was completed in 1695 by its next owner, Michel de Chamillard (1652-1721). Appointed State Secretary of War (1709-1715) and protected by Madame de Maintenon, Chamillard found the castle of Montfermeil too small regarding his own rank and sold it to Michel Bégon.
In 1735, Jean Hyacinthe Hocquart purchased Montfermeil. In 1764, his son Jean Hyacinthe Emmanuel, Honor Councillor at the Parliament, was made the first Marquess of Montfermeil. In 1790, the Marquess exiled to Toulouse and the castle was purchased by General Loison; in 1804, the Marchioness of Montfermeil purchased back the domain, which was rented from 1842 onwards to different people, including Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski (1770-1861), President of the Provisory Government of Poland (1830-1831), exiled in France from 1833 to his death. Abandoned and ruined, the castle was demolished in 1928.

During the interbellum, new boroughs were created, Montfermeil being labelled "a green and happy suburbs". The population increased from 2,000 inhabitants in 1919 to more than 6,000 in 1939. In 1960, the architect Bernard Zehrfuss (1911-1996), designer of the the seat of UNESCO in Paris, designed an ambitious urbanization plan, based on the principles of the modern movement Space, Light, Nature. Out of the 10,000 flats planned, only 1,500 were built in Montfermeil and 1,600 in the neighboring town of Clichy-sous-Bois.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885), caught in flagrans delicto of adultery in Paris in July 1845, was "recommended" to leave the town for a while. Together with Juliette Drouet, he moved to Chelles, crossing Montfermeil on their way. The Chelles mill described in one of his poem is actually the Montfermeil mill. Of much significance, Hugo located in Montfermeil the inn ran by the nefarious Thénardier couple in Les Misérables. In the novel, Jean Valjean met Cosette at a well subsequently renamed the Jean Valjean Fountain.
Hugo was not the first writer inspired by Montfermeil, then a bucolic rural village. The long ago forgotten, prolific writer Paul de Kock (1793-1871, mostly remembered for the salty song Madame Arthur popularized by Yvette Guibert) published in 1827 the novel La laitière de Montfermeil, describing the thwarted romance between a poor milkwoman and a rich bourgeois. A vaudeville of the same name, "imitated from the novel by M. Paul de Kock", was published the same year by Émile, Brazier and Périn.

Ivan Sache, 6 December 2011

Flag of Montfermeil

The flag of Montfermeil (photo, photo, photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms in the center.
The flag for indoor use (photo) has the word "Montfermeil" written in golden serif letters.

The arms of Montfermeil are "Gules three roses argent". The shield is surmounted by a four-towered mural crown argent and surrounded by two branches of grapevine vert fructed gules tied per saltire by a scroll or.
The arms were designed in 1923 by Georges Lesueur and Frantz Funck- Brentano (1862-1947), a noted archivist, historian and writer, who lived in Montfermeil for 50 years. Specialized in the history of the Bastille fortress and the related use of the lettres de cachet, he wrote popular books on the Man in the Iron Mask, the Affair of the Poisons and the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. He contributed to the nationalist and monarchist history review Minerva and to Charles Maurras' Action française. Elected member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1928, Funck-Brentano presided the Society for Historical Studies. His son, Christian Funck-Brentano (1894-1966), was one of the founder of the daily Le Monde.
The roses are taken from the arms of the Hocquart family, documented since 1543. The mural crown recalls the etymology of Montfermeil. The grapevines recall that wine growing was a main activity in the town until the 20th century.
Red and green were subsequently adopted as the colors of Montfermeil.
[Municipal website (archived)]

Olivier Touzeau, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 6 September 2020