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Traditions - General Info

French Tricolour - History and meaning

This page was updated on: Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at: 2:44 pm

French Tricolour, designed during the Revolution

The French Tricolour is the national emblem of the French Republic.

It was created in 1789, during the French Revolution, however, it took its final form in 1794 when it became the official flag of the French Navy.

The National Convention decided on the characteristics of the national flag on February 15, 1794 (27 pluviose, year II); "Three national colours, arranged in bands vertically, the blue on the hoist side, the white in the centre and the red floating in the air".

History has it that the painter Jacques-Louis David chose the order of the colours.

The French Tricolour became the official flag of the French Armies in 1812, but was removed during the two Bourbon Restorations.

It reappeared during the Revolution of 1830 as a sign of insurrection and rallying against King Charles X.

Louis-Philippe, the future Napoleon III, reaffirmed the tricolor blue, white, red flag as the flag of France.

The French Tricolour has thus been the flag of France since 1830.

In 1958, Article 2 of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic set 'the tricolour blue, white, red flag as the national emblem’.

Variations of the French Tricolour

However, the characteristics of the French flag vary according to its use.

It becomes square, but still with three equal-size bands, when used during ceremonies.

On the other hand, it becomes 50% longer than wide, but with bands of increasing dimensions (30.33.37), when it becomes the flag of the French Navy.

Symbolism of the French flag’s colours

This flag of 2: 3 proportions (the length is twice the height) consists of three vertical bands - blue, white and red - which have the same width and length.

Blue and red are the colours of the City of Paris; blue was initially associated with the Carolingian dynasty and red with the Capetians.

They became the colours of the National Guard; this popular militia, formed in the early days of the Revolution, indeed adopted the colours of the City of Paris in the form of a cockade.

The blue is by the hoist and the red, also considered as a symbol of the blood shed during the Revolution, floats in the air.

The white, the colour of the French monarchy, is placed between the blue and the red to symbolize the king of France encircled in Paris.

History has it that the Marquis de la Fayette chose these three colors.

He indeed wrote in his memoirs that three days after the storming of the Bastille, he convinced Louis XVI to wear the blue and red cockade to meet and acknowledge the National Guard at the Hôtel-de-Ville de Paris.

As a result, white, the symbol of the monarchy, was added to this cockade.

The reunion of these three colours symbolized the reunification of France and was the sign of "the august and eternal alliance between the monarch and the people".

However, the royalists recognize blue as the colour of Charlemagne and Saint-Martin, red as that of Saint-Denis and white the colour of royalty.

Finally, the vertical bands of the French Tricolour also symbolize the faith in Freedom, which is part of our republican motto.

The French Tricolour floats in and outside all the town halls of France and public buildings.

It is of course hoisted at all major national and official civil and military celebrations, such as July 14, 8 May 1945 and November 11.

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