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History of France

What does France's flag represent?


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October 30, 2009 1:47AM

The blue and red of the flag have been the colours of Paris since 1358 when they were used by the followers of Etienne Marcel, then leader of a Parisian revolt against the King of France and the Dauphin. In 1794, the Convention officially adopted the tricolour, the Commander of the Guard, Lafayette, having reputedly added the royal white between the blue and the red.

Meanings have subsequently been ascribed to the colours. It is sometimes said - and taught in French schools - that the colours of the French flag represent the three main estates of the Ancien Régime (the clergy: white, the nobility: red and the bourgeoisie: blue). Blue, as the symbol of the bourgeoisie, comes first within the colour enumeration and red, representing the nobility, comes last. Both extreme colours are situated on each side of white referring to a superior order. If it is true that blue was the colour of the bourgeoisie during medieval times, the white colour may be linked to Joan of Arc (a first use, with a lamb) and later, along with the fleur de lys, to the monarchy.

French armies had such a flag, the Navy only using a plain white flag. Officers, and generals, wore white scarves in order to be recognizable. The red colour, often associated with Saint Denis, was used as the royal standard (oriflamme) during the Middle Ages; though red and blue were the colours used in opposition to the monarchy by the followers of Etienne Marcel.