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Guyenne and Gascony (Traditional province, France)


Last modified: 2024-05-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: guyenne | gascogne |
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Guyenne (Aquitaine)

History of Guyenne (Aquitaine)

Aquitania (from Latin, aqua, "water") was divided in three provinces by the Romans. Clovis incorporated them to the Kingdom of the Franks in 507 after having defeated in Vouillé Alaric II, King of the Visigoths. Aquitaine was then a Duchy, whose most famous duke was St. William the Great (c. 755-812), also Count of Toulouse, who stopped the Moors and retired in the abbey of Gellone he had founded (known today as Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert). William became the hero of several medieval chansons de geste, as Guillaume au Court-Nez (Short Nose).
Charlemagne made of Aquitaine a Kingdom in 781, which lasted until 827. Aquitaine was later a Duchy, ruled by the Poitou dynasty (William III Towhead, 951-963; Wiiliam IV Fierebrace, 963-994; William IX the Troubadour, 1086-1127; William X the Saint, 1127-1137).

In 1137, Crown Prince of France Louis, later King Louis VII, married Eleanor of Aquitaine and incorporated her Duchy to France. The unique daughter of William X, Eleanor brought as her dowry not only Aquitaine but also Périgord, Limousin, Poitou, Angoumois, Saintonge, Gascony, and the suzereignty over Auvergne and the County of Toulouse.
In 1152, Eleanor, repudiated by Louis VII, remarried with Henry II Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and later King of England (1154). Aquitaine was therefore incorporated to the Angevin Empire. The French Capetian kings were able to reincorporate Aquitaine to their domain for only short periods in 1294 (Philippe IV the Handsome), 1324 (Charles IV the Handsome) and 1369 (Charles V the Wise).
The Hundred Years' War began in Aquitaine in 1345. By the Treaty of Brétigny (8 May 1360), Aquitaine was given to the English, who called it Guyenne and created a Principality there in 1362. In 1380, the English possessions were reduced to the surroundings of Bordeaux and Bayonne. In 1453, the Bureau brothers defeated the English troops led by Talbot in the last battle of the Hundred Years' War, fought in Castillon-la-Bataille, near Bordeaux. In 1469, King Louis XI granted Guyenne to his younger brother Charles as his apanage. Guyenne was eventually incorporated to the Royal domain in 1472.

Ivan Sache, 1 February 2003

Flag of Guyenne


Flag of Guyenne - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 1 February 2003

The flag of Guyenne is a banner of the arms "Gules, a lion passant gardant or", assigned to the province by Jacques Meurgey in his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941).

Meurgey debunks the myth linking the leopards of Guyenne and England. The arms of Guyenne are said to date back to the ancient Kingdom of Aquitaine. When Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II, Duke of Normandy, she transferred Guyenne to England. The arms of England would have then be made of the two leopards of Aquitaine and Normandy. Max Prinet and Meaudre de Lapuyade have proven that this theory is wrong.

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009


History of Gascony

The original name of Gascony is Vasconia. An ancient Iberian people, the Vascons settled between the Pyrenees mountains and river Ebro. Repelled by the Visigoths, they settled in the plains located north of the Pyrenees. The Vascons gave their name to the Gascons and the Basques, to Gascony and to Biscay.
In 778, Charlemagne established the Duchy of Aquitaine. In the south, the Duchy of Gascony, established in 872, was rapidly dismembered into several feudal states, including the Counties of Armagnac, Fezensac, Astarac, Gaure, and Pardiac, and the Viscounties of Fezensaguet and Lomagne.

In the 11th century, Gascony was incorporated into Aquitaine (or Guyenne) and formed with it the province of Guyenne-et-Gascogne. Sources do not agree on the process and year of incorporation.
GASO said that Bernard of Armagnac took over the whole Gascony in 1069 but was defeated the next year by Duke William VIII of Aquitaine. The Grand Larousse Illustré du XXe Siècle says that when Duke Béranger died in 1036, Gascony was transfered to his nephew Odo, Count of Poitou and Duke of Aquitaine. The Guide Vert Michelin says that the Duchies of Aquitaine and Gascony merged in 1058.

Ivan Sache, 28 January 2003

Flag of Gascony


Flag of Gascony - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 28 January 2003

The flag of Gascony is a banner of the arms "Quarterly, 1. and 4. Azure a lion rampant argent, 2. and 3. Gules a garb or".

In his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941), Jacques Meurgey assigns to the province "Quarterely 1. and 4. Argent a lion gules, 2. and 3. Gules a garb or tied azure", presenting the arms used on the modern flag as a "variant".
Anyway, these arms, ascribed to the province in the Armorial Général, do not have the least historical value, since Gascony was never a feudal domain worth bearing a coat of arms.

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009

Proposed flags of Gascony


Proposed flag of Gascony - Image by Tomislav Todorović, 14 February 2021

A red flag with awhite saltire, known as the Union Gascona (Gascon Union) or simply Lo(u) Sautèr (The Saltire), has been proposed for the flag of Gascony. Its origin is still unknown: the claims that it originates from the Middle Ages seem to have first appeared at the Heraldica website, where the cross flags introduced by the Crusaders in 1188 first mentioned in the Chronicle by Roger de Hoveden, were claimed to be the model for the flags introduced later in the other countries. However, the flag had previously been attributed to Guyenne, not Gascony, in La Grande Encyclopédie (published in France, 1886-1902) and described as if having been used in 15th century; still that would not exclude its use in Gascony at the time, for it was essentially merged with Guyenne since 11th century. Some other claims suggest the arms of Geoffrey de Neville, who served as the Seneschal of Gascony in 13th century, as a possible model for the flag (the Neville arms are indeed "gules a saltire argent"), while the others derive it from the saltire of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Bordeaux (which might connect it to either Guyenne or Gascony). Lastly, a 2006 post at website by a Michel Fourment claims that The Saltire was officially adopted as the flag of Gascony on 13 January 1903, without any further details; with regard to the date, it was suggested that the flag might have been introduced by the Félibrige movement, which would then put its origin into the end of 19th century or the beginning of 20th century. The question of the origin of the flag remains open for further exploration.

The flag symbolism has gained several unofficial explanations, such as interpreting the saltire as the crossing of the river Garonne and the road to Compostela and the four quarters as the varieties of Gascon language/dialect. There are also attempts to make it a symbol of St. Quitteria, the patron saintess of Gascony, based on a 17th-century painting depicting her, which can be seen in the church of Bruges (presentation). It shall also be noted that the flag colors, either one or both of them, are present in the arms of most of pays which Gascogne comprises, such as Albret, Armagnac, Bigorre, Couserans or Comminges.

The flag use is verified, either with the black inscription "GASCONHA" in the center (photo) or plain (photo). The basic plain variant is being promoted by the music band Boisson Divine, who frequently use it at their concerts (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo). The ratio seems to vary a lot; the one that seems to be used a bit more than the others is 3:5.
[Wikipedia, Wikipedia]


Proposed flag of Gascony - Image by Tomislav Todorović, 25 April 2020

An alternative to the banner of arms assigned to Gascony by Jacques Meurgey was proposed in 2015 by the association "Région Gascogne Prospective" (formerly, "Conservatoire du Patrimoine de Gascogne").
The flag (photo, photo, photo, photo) is divided white-red along the descending diagonal and charged in the center with the Venus of Brassempouy.
The red triangle represents the Gascon territory. The Venus of Brassempouy personifies the population. The white and red evokes the cultural heritage.
Several other designs are shown as proposals on the association's website; that one appears to be the only one existing in the cloth.
[La Daune, emblème gascon, 12 October 2015]

The Venus of Brassempouy (French, Dame de Brassempouy; Gascon, Daune), aka the Lady with the Hood, is a 3.65 cm high statuette, dated c. 21000 BC. Sculpted in the core of a mammoth's tusk, the Venus is the "first human face", that is, the oldest known representation of a human face. The statuette is interpreted as a symbolic image of women, not a specific representation.
[La "Dame à la Capuche"]

The Venus of Brassempouy was found in 1892 with another eight feminine statuettes in the Pope's Cave, Brassempouy (Landes). Édouard Piette, an amateur paleontologist, excavated from 1891 to 1897 the prehistoric caves of Gourdan, Lortet, Arudy, Mas d'Azil and Brassempouy, all located in the south-west of France. In 1904, he refused to sell his collection, in spite of having self-funded all his research, and offered it to the Museum of National Antiques, today the Museum of National Archeology (which uses a stylized version of the Venus of Brassempouy as its emblem), housed in the former royal castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Piette required his collection to be presented in a dedicated room, according to his own classification, and should never be modified. The restoration performed one century later respected his will.
[La collection Édouard Piette]

Ivan Sache & Tomislav Todorović, 14 February 2021

Use of Honour flags in the South-West of France

In several villages of Dordogne, a tall pinetree trunk is erected in front of the house of a representative (usually a member of the Municipal Council). All branches are cut, excepted the uppermost ones, which are eventually replaced with green ones if they die. Tricolour flags (often a pair) are added on the top of the "mast", where they flank a rectangular shield, with a tricolour border and the words "Honneur à notre élu" (Honour to our representative). The same kind of mast can be seen in front the municipal building (not the Town Hall, but a building where the inhabitants can meet), with several flags and the words "Honneur à nos élus" (Honour to our representatives). In front of a restaurant, whose owner was municipal councellor, the words can be "Honneur au patron" (Honour to the landlord).

Ivan Sache, 30 May 1999

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