the french flag

the tricolore

They have flags everywhere in France, but in 2012 attempted to outlaw the flying of flags of other endeavour that failed, for the moment.

The French flag is popularly referred to as the Tricolore, and it was the French Revolution that was responsible for bringing the National flag into existence. Until the Revolution in 1789, France was a monarchy. During the revolution, the Tricolore was used. Since the Revolution turned France from a monarchy to a republic, the Tricolore is recognised as a symbol of freedom and liberty around the world.


Contrary to popular belief the French flag is not of equal dimensions. It used to be, but on 17th May 1853, the ratio was changed to 30:33:37.

Colours and Meaning

Over the years, the colours of the French National flag have come to represent liberty, equality, and fraternity - all ideals associated with the French Revolution. But the meaning behind the colours has come after the fact, and there are many theories.

The general agreement is that the colours are red, white, and blue because they stand for the colours of Paris (red and blue) and the House of Bourbon (white).

It is sometimes said that the colours of the French flag represent the three main estates of the 'Ancien Regime' of the clergy (white), the nobility (red), and the middle class (blue). Blue, as a symbol of the middle class, comes first and red, representing the nobility, comes last. Both colours are situated on each side of white, referring to a superior order.

How much of this is true is debateable. The revolutionaries were not exactly fond of the nobility and are hardly likely to have agreed with this (or even any other) interpretation of their flag!

Here is an interpretation invented after the fact. Some think the French flag combines different symbols:

Blue is the colour of Saint Martin, a rich Gallo-Roman officer who ripped his blue cloak with his sword to give one half of it to a poor who was begging him in the snow. This is the symbol of care; of the duty that the rich had to help the poor.

White is the colour of the Virgin Mary, to whom the Kingdom of France was consecrated by Louis XIII in the 17th century. It is also the colour of Joan of Arc, under whose banner the English were finally driven out of the Kingdom. It became logically the colour of Royalty. The King's vessels carried plain white flags at sea.

Red is the colour of Saint Denis, the saint patron of Paris.

Today, most French people agree that they serve three beautiful colours: the blue of their history, the white of their hopes, and the red of the blood of their ancestors.


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