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Colors of the Paris National Guard (France) during the French Revolution (1789-1792)

3. Description (1/6)

Last modified: 2018-07-14 by ivan sache
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  • Part 1. Historical background
  • Part 2. Sources describing the colors and analysis

See also:


Presentation

I am presenting below the colors from Tisserand's book. The colors are arranged by Divisions (1st to 6th) and Battalions (1st to 10th in each Division). The list of the districts is given by Tisserand after Almanach militaire de la garde nationale parisienne pour l'année 1790 (Military yearbook 1790 for the Paris National Guard). For several colors, the name of the person or group who offered the color is given. Unless specified, the descriptions given below are mine, after the color plates.

Details on the districts are taken from:
E. Boursin & Augustin Chalamelle. 1893. Dictionnaire de la Révolution française. Institutions, hommes et faits. Jouvet & Cie, Paris. [Internet Archive]
Details on the churches and convents are taken from:
Odon Jean Marie Delarc. 1801. L'Église de Paris pendant la Révolution française, 1789-1801. Vol. 1. Desclée, de Brouwer & Cie, Paris [Google Books]

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018


Saint Jacques du Haut Pas District (1st Division, 1st Battalion)

[Flag]

Color of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Division - Image by Lazare-Maurice Tisserand, 1875

The district was named for the St. Jacques du Haut Pas church, built in 1630-1684, the eponymous parish being established in 1633. The church was one of the 15 churches reopened to the Roman Catholic cult in 1793, following the proclamation of the religious freedom. After the coup of the 18 Fructidor of the Year V (4 September 1797), the Catholics had to share the church with the Theophilanthropists (lit. Friends of God and Man), a deistic sect set up by disciples of Rousseau and Robespierre. The church was renamed as Temple of Charity until fully reallocated to the Catholic cult in 1801 by the Concordat.
The district was presided by the printer Robert Estienne (1723-1794), elected judge-consul in 1789 (the judges-consuls were replaced in 1790 by the Commercial Courts).
Tisserand writes, as a footnote, that the district "subsequently merged with the Val-de-Grâce District".

Sépet gives the following description: "The color is square, 6 ft in size. In the center a white cross. At each end of the cross a grayish Liberty Cap. In the center of the cross the Bastile fortress, still smoking. Above an azure blue scroll inscribed in golden letters with the motto "EX SERVITUTE LIBERTAS" (Latin: Liberty emerged from servitude; "servitute" seems to be a faultive form of "servitude"). Above the Bastile a cypher made of the golden letters "S.J.H.P.", for "Saint Jacques du Haut Pas". The four corners of the flag royal blue semé with golden fleurs-de-lis.
The reverse of the color is similar to the obverse, except in the center, which shows a civic crown surrounded with a golden glory etc."
White sash.
Flag offered by Mrs. Perkins.
[Vieilh de Varenne's rendition; Margerand's rendition]

E. Liris explains that the color, offered by the Marchioness of La Fayette and designed by the painter Nebel, clearly represents liberty as firmly established.
The flag is square, quartered into four blue squares by a broad white cross throughout, on the model of the colors of the French Guards ("Gardes françaises"). In the center of the flag is the representation of the Bastile fortress, surmonted by a blackish smoke. This conveys the scaring image of a black castle, without any bridge, which was often used in the prisoner's account and in the satiric songs of the time. However, this representation lacks the violent images of cannons and fightings usually shown on the representation of the storming of the Bastile. This means that either the Bastille was already a legendary place or revolutionary violence was deliberately concealed. The four liberty caps replace the four fleurs-de-lis featured on the flag of the French Guards.
The reverse of the color features a radiating crown, probably as a symbol of compromise.

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018


Saint Victor District (1st Division, 2nd Battalion)

[Flag]

Color of the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Division - Image by Lazare-Maurice Tisserand, 1875

The district was named for the St. Victor abbey, founded in the early 12th century by William of Champeaux near an old chapel dedicated to St. Victor, the eponymous parish being established in 1135. The School of St. Victor was one of the cradles of the University of Paris; among its most famous scholars are Hugh of St. Victor and Thomas Becket. The last remaining part of the abbey, known as Alexander's tower, was demolished in 1840.
The district was presided by Jean Charles Robert Brière de Surgy (1753-1829), appointed auditor at the Revenue Court in 1785, subsequenlty made Baron by Napoléon I in 1813.

White flag with an allegoric scene. Above the scene a silver scroll with the motto "CONCORDE LIBERTE" (French: Concord Liberty). Champfleury details the scene as "preaching peace", showing "below an airborne allegoric Liberty, a ploughman with broken chains at his feet". White sash.
Flag offered by the women citizens of the district.
[Vieilh de Varenne's rendition; Margerand's rendition]

E. Liris explains that the color, designed by the painter Bourgoin, features allegoric representations of Liberty, Justice and Concord, and an old farmer in rags, a realistic figure that may represent poor, populous boroughs made of gardens and convents. Liberty dominates the scene, freeing the old man from his chains and raising the liberty cap on a pike, as a triumphant challenge to servitude. Justice validates Liberty's behavior, sticking her sword into an open book inscribed "Law" and putting her left hand on Justice, as a sign of approval. The sces mixes serenity and anxiety: Jutice has a headband on her eyes, while the old man gnalces at Liberty, both anxious and grateful. Aboge the group, Concord, half concealed in the heavens, is about to place a civic crown on the heads of Liberty and Justice. The motto highlights the urgent need to restore peace.
During the blessing of the color, priest Chaix d'Est Ange exalted the liberation "of the most useful part of people" and lengthily condemend "the horrible saty, the scaring towers... the hundred fire cannons prepared for the massacre of citizens", here the Bastile; he concluded, however, on "peace and obedience in the practice of Christian virtues". Liberty and Concord therefore appeared as uniting their efforts to reconcilaite the ancient and new orders in a certain harmony.

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018


Saint André des Arts District (1st Division, 3rd Battalion)

[Flag]

Color of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Division - Image by Lazare-Maurice Tisserand, 1875

The district was named for the St. André des Arts (then written "Arcs") church, the seat of a parish established in 1212. Maintained as a parish church in 1790, the church was closed by the Directory in 1796, sold in 1797 and demolished in 1808.
The district was presided by the lawyer Charles-Pierre Angelesme de Saint-Sabin, elected échevin of Paris in 1777 (the échevins sat with the Provost of the Merchants at the Town Hall).

Champfleury gives an elaborated description of the color: "The color is under the protection of an allegory of Renown holding a spear topped by a Liberty Cap, with the motto "UNION FORCE ET VERTU" (French: Union Force and Virtue). At the base of the color, cannons, axes, cannonballs and rifles mean that Force was not unintentionally placed between Union and Vertu, which it is prepared to defend."
White sash.
Flag offered by the women citizens of the district.
The color was blessed on 24 August 1789; the ceremony was the first time that a whole battalion wore the uniform of the National Guard.
[Vieilh de Varenne's rendition; Margerand's rendition]

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018


Saint Marcel District (1st Division, 4th Battalion)

[Flag]

Color of the 4th Battalion of the 1st Division - Image by Lazare-Maurice Tisserand, 1875

The district was named for the St. Marcel collegiate church, the seat of a parish established in the 15th century. Demolished in 1806, the church was completely rebuilt in 1856, and, again, in 1966.
The district was presided by the quarternier Moinery (maybe Antoine Moinery, master dyer at the Gobelins Royal Manufacture; the quarteniers were borough [quartier] police officers). The district formed in 1790 the Finistère section, subsequently renamed Lazouski section and, eventually, Gobelins section.
The battalion was commanded by the brewer André-Arnoult Acloque (1748-1802). On 20 June 1792, Acloque protected King Louis XVI, who was forced to accept to wear a Liberty Cap by the mob that had invaded the Tuileries Palace.

White flag with an octagonal frame and vegetal wreaths in the corner. In the middle of the frame, an allegoric scene representing a farmer holding a scythe, in the background a farm and a castle. Below the scene, a silver scroll with the motto "MORT OU LIBERTE" (French: Death or Liberty).
White sash.
Flag offered by the Gobelins Royal Manufacture.
[Vieilh de Varenne's rendition; Margerand's rendition]

Sépet gives a detailed description of the "scared farmer running through the fields to the Gobelins barrier". Champfleury describes "a plougher, armed of his scythe, raising an infuriated hand to a fortress seen in the background".

E. Liris points out that the man is not dressed like a farmer of the time, maybe evoking the Great Fear, a general panic that took place in the seond half of July 1789; feared by rumors, peasants armed themselves in self-defense ant attacked a few manors. The farmer's attitude and eyes, as well as the scythe, convey an impression of discomfort. In the French iconography, the scythe hold by a skeleton has been symbolizing death since the 15th century. The Bible mentions the sickle that shall cut weeds; as a symbol of punishment, the scythe shall cut any life. The motto increases the dramatic intensity of the scene.
However, the blessing of the color was a peaceful ceremony, where invited notables congratulated the new authorities and the citizen-king; eemphasis was put on children's education to diminish criminality and on search for talents.

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018


Saint Louis en l'Île (1st Division, 5th Battalion)

[Flag]

Color of the 5th Battalion of the 1st Division - Image by Lazare-Maurice Tisserand, 1875

The district was named for the St. Louis en l'Île (then written "Isle") church, rebuilt for the second time in 1726, the eponymous parish being established in 1623. The cemetery surrounding the church was close short before the Revolution, the bodies being subsequently buried in the Clamart cemetery. Closed in 1791, the church was acquired in 1817 by the Municipality of Paris. Priest Coroller served as the parish priest, sometimes clandestine, from 1785 to 1821. On 10 March 1805, Pope Pius VII celebrated a mass in the church, which had been reallocated to the Roman Catholic cult in 1801 by the Concordat.
The district was presided by de la Mouche, account auditor and town councillor.
The battalion was commanded by the architect François Soufflot aka Soufflot le Romain, the nephew and successor of the famous architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713-1780).

A white square diamond touching the edges of the flag, charged with a vertical spear topped with a Liberty Cap, a shovel and a crozier crossed per saltire and branches (the emblems of the Third State). Triangles in the corners of the flag, upper left and lower right, blue with a white X-shaped cross, upper right and lower left, red with a white X-shaped cross. In the middle, a silver scroll with the motto "VIA UNITA MAJOR NUNC ET SEMPER" (Latin: The United Force will be, Now and Forever, the Strongest).
White sash.
Flag offered by the ladies of the district.
[Vieilh de Varenne's rendition; Margerand's rendition]

E. Liris explains that the main element featured on the color is the union of the three orders, the attributes of Nobility, Clergy and the Third Estate being connected by a trophy to form fasces. In the center, the Nobility sword is surmounted by a liberty cap. Vieilh de Varenne comments on the fragility of the union: "Would unfortunately discord start again, we would be worst then we were". The motto, however, is much more optimistic.

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018


Val de Grâce District (1st Division, 6th Battalion)

[Flag]

Color of the 6th Battalion of the 1st Division - Image by Lazare-Maurice Tisserand, 1875

The district, presided by Boucher, town councillor. was named for the Val de Grâce de Notre Dame de la Crèche abbey, a Benedictine convent, built, including a chapel, by Ann of Austria to celebrate the long expected (23 years) birth of Louis XIV (1638). The convent, closed in 1790, was transformed into a military hospital, which it still is (Hôpital d'instruction des armées du Val-de-Grâce).

White flag with a semy of yellow fleurs-de-lis. In the middle a yellow radiating sun charged with the coat of arms of Paris on a red disk, surmounted with "LIBERTE" (French: Liberty) surrounded by a green wreath. Below the sun, a red/pink scroll with the motto "CRAINDRE DIEU, HONORER SON ROI" (French: Fear God, Honour your King).
Blue and red sash.
Flag offered by the women and maiden of the Saint Médard parish.
[Vieilh de Varenne's rendition; Margerand's rendition]

Tisserand omits the writing at the bottom of the color shown on the original plate, "Au district du Val de Grace par les Dames et Delles de la Paroisse de St. Médard", probably considering that the caption was added to the original plate but did not appear on the color.

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018


Saint Étienne du Mont District (1st Division, 7th Battalion)

[Flag]

Color of the 7th Battalion of the 1st Division - Image by Lazare-Maurice Tisserand, 1875

The district was named for the St. Étienne du Mont church, built in the 13th century, the eponymous parish dating back to the 8th century. After the coup of the 18 Fructidor of the Year V (4 September 1797), the Roman Catholics had to share the church with the Theophilanthropists (lit. Friends of God and Man), a deistic sect set up by disciples of Rousseau and Robespierre. The church was renamed as Temple of Filial Piety until fully reallocated to the Catholic cult in 1801 by the Concordat. Pope Pius VII celebrated a mass in the church on 10 January 1805.
The district was presided by Sarrazin, former échevin (1769) (the échevins sat with the Provost of the Merchants at the Town Hall).

Flag quartered blue-red by a white cross. In each quarter, a yellow fleur-de-lis pointing to the middle of the flag. In the middle, St. Geneviève protecting a ship flying a two-pointed white flag. Below, a coat of arms "Azure three fleurs-de-lis or" over a miter and a crozier, surrounded by two palms. Above, the motto "IL NE PÉRIRA PAS" (French: She Shall Not Perish).
White sash.
Flag offered by the Gentlemen ("Messieurs", monks of noble origin) of Sainte-Geneviève.
[Vieilh de Varenne's rendition; Margerand's rendition]

Champfleury names the symbol as the "cart of the state", which is odd for a ship. The author might have been inadvertently "contaminated" by the famous metaphor "The cart of the state sails on a volcano", from Grandeur et décadence de Monsieur Joseph Prudhomme, a play published in 1852 by Henri Monnier (1799-1877).

St. Geneviève (423-c. 503-512) is the patron saint of Paris. She organized the successful defense of the town besieged by Attila (451) and Childeric I (465).
The St. Geneviève abbey was located close to the St. Étienne du Mont church, on the hills still known as St. Geneviève's Mount. The abbey was founded in 502 by King Clovis and Queen Clotilde as the Sts. Apostles (Sts. Peter and Paul) monastery, upon St. Geneviève's request. Geneviève was buried in the abbey, close to the tombs of her favored disciples, Clovis and Clotilde. The abbey, renamed for the saint, became a main place of pilgrimages and religious power, housing several councils. Rebuilt in the 12th century, the abbey was looted and suppressed during the French Revolution, while the St. Geneviève's shrine was destroyed and her bones burned down; the new shrine, lacking relics, is now kept in the St. Étienne du Mont church. The remaining buildings of the abbey, including the Clovis Tower, are today part of the Henri IV College.

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018


Sorbonne District (1st Division, 8th Battalion)

[Flag]

Color of the 8th Battalion of the 1st Division - Image by Lazare-Maurice Tisserand, 1875

The district was named for the Sorbonne College, founded in the 13th century for the poor students by the theologian Robert de Sorbon. In the late 15th century, the Sorbonne housed the first printhouse in Paris, operated by German printers from Mainz. The Sorbonne was mostly famous for its theologians, who condemend Voltaire and the encyclopedists. Abolished in 1790 by the Constituent Assembly, the Sorbonne was reorganized in 1808 by Napoléon I, who transferred it under the rule of the Paris University. Today, the Sorbonne houses several university departments, as well as the the Chancellery of the Paris Universities.
The district was presided by Leclerc, former judge-consul (the judges-cousuls were replaced in 1790 by the Commercial Courts).

Flag quartered red-blue by a white cross. In the middle, an allegoric scene portraying a Roman soldier standing near a column supporting a spear topped by a Liberty Cap. The column engraved with the motto "N'OBEIR QU'A LA LOI" (French: To Obey Only the Law).
White sash.
Flag offered by Mr. de la Fayette.
[Vieilh de Varenne's rendition; Margerand's rendition]

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2018