History of the French Flag

Written by on July 19, 2019 in French Icons

Blue, white and red flag of France at the Arc de Triomphe, Paris

The French call their flag Le drapeau tricolore. English speakers know it as the French Tricolore. It’s one of the most iconic flags in European history. But how did it come to be?

The evolution of the French Flag

The flag of France before the French Revolution featured the fleur-de-lis on a blue background. The Bourbon family who ruled from the late 1500’s to the time of the French Revolution (and for a short while in the 1800s) had a white flag with gold fleur-de-Lis.

As a symbol of the despised royal family and aristocracy, come the French Revolution, the fleurs-de-lis had to go. During the uprising the blue and red colours of the Paris flag as we know it, were taken up by the militia. It was based on the blue and red rosettes they wore. They came about  thanks to Marie Joseph Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. He was made commander of the newly formed National Guard (a national police force) in 1789. And he created a rosette of red, white and blue for his force. It’s thought to be the first time the colours were used to represent France.

Now you might think it odd that an aristocrat was appointed to this position when all around him were losing their heads. But he was a hero of the people after going to America to fight in the American Revolution. When he returned he joined the cause of the revolutionaries in France. The colours were adopted for the French flag. And, for a while the flag even featured a rooster, another emblem of France.

The flag underwent a short-lived amendment when Napoleon Bonaparte added gold eagles. Then it was abolished for a few years when France become a constitutional monarchy again (1830-1848). It finally made a come-back when France returned to being a republic.

Read about Picpus Cemetery, Paris where the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution is buried. Here each year there is a remembrance service on 4th July.

Related Articles

Guide to the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur Paris

You might think, when you visit Montmartre and gaze at the beautiful church of Sacré-Coeur, perched on a hill in the highest part of Paris, that is has been there for centuries. There is something timeless about the iconic luminous domes, pure white walls and elegant lines. But this is a relatively modern church. The […]

Continue Reading

The Pyramid at the Louvre

The Pyramid at the Louvre

Written by on March 28, 2019 in French Icons, Paris

When it comes to innovation in architecture, Paris has long been a leader and in the last 150 years, dozens of architectural gems have made it famous for originality and boldness. Just a few include the Eiffel Tower, Pompidou centre, the Louis Vuitton Foundation and La Grande Arche in the Défense business district. These new […]

Continue Reading

Who was Jean Jaurès | History of France

Wherever you go in France you’re sure to come across a Place Jean Jaurès, a rue Jean Jaurès, Avenue Jean Jaurès, schools and even metro stations of that name in Paris and Lyon. Every French school child will learn about Jean Jaurès. He is one of the most well-known figures of French history, though he […]

Continue Reading

A Soap story from Marseille | Savon de Marseille

Genuine Marseille soap is made by artisans with the provenance, passion and long-standing tradition in their blood to lay claim to makers of genuine Marseilles soap. A bar that contains 72% olive oil – and once tried, you will always be loyal to its soapy concoction. History of Marseille Soap In 1688 Louis IV passed […]

Continue Reading

A glimpse of the future at the Millau Viaduct  Aveyron France

The river and gorges of the Tarn are well known and undoubtedly it’s worth losing yourself for a while here in what is the deepest canyon in France. But this really is a place where the vastness of nature meets the enormity of human creation. And, if the Pont du Gard transports you back to […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.