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France: Flag proposal by Dr. Marié (1881)

Last modified: 2011-11-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: marie (dr.) | bees: 4 (white) | fleurs-de-lis (yellow) | proposal |
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[French flag proposal]         [French flag proposal]

French flag proposal, 1881
Left, from the original, digitalized by the French National Library;
Right, color rendition by Eugene Ipavec, 6 January 2001

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Historical background

The Third Republic, which succeeded in 1871 the Second Empire, was originally meant as a shortlived, stopgap solution until the monarchy is restored, provided the two Bourbonic rival branches, the Legitimists and the Orleanists, would find an agreement. The national flag was a critical issue; one of the reasons of the (Legitimist) Count of Chambord's renunciation to the throne in 1873 was his rejection of the Tricolor flag - which had been accepted by the (Orleanist) King Louis-Philippe in 1830 and was also supported by the Bonapartists.

Ivan Sache, 25 August 2010

Dr. Marié's proposal

In August 1881, a Dr. Marié published in Draguignan, a small town located in the south of France, a weird pamphlet proposing a "patriotic union" and a new national flag on his own. The pamphlet, entitled Union patriotique et nouveau drapeau à l'adresse des représentants et des honnêtes gens de tous les partis (Patriotic union and new flag for the benefit of all parties' representatives and honest people), released by C. & A. Latil Printers, has 32 pages, describing the political situation of France and Dr. Marié's "patriotic union", and one colour plate showing the flag proposal. The pamphlet was registered with the French National Library, that offers a digitalized copy of the pamphlet on Gallica, its electronic repository.

Dr. Marié did not like any of the dominant parties of the time, that is the Radical democrats (socialists and communists), the Imperialists (Bonapartists), the Royalists and the Republicans. He advocates a weird system based on the "coexistence of the monarchic authority and the people's sovereignty in the legislative power", which is a kind of Constitutional monarchy. At fixed terms, the achievements of the monarch would be reviewed by a commission appointed by the Chamber; in case of failure to defend the common interest, the monarch would have to resign and would be succeeded by the head of the "second national princely house".
The doctor ends the description of his proposed system with a vibrant call to the Count of Chambord, believed to be the only capable monarch. The second princely house would be the "Napoléons". The doctor thinks that the political situation is most favourable to the Count because i) the monarchists are eventually united (in fact, the Orleanists agreed in 1873, with some reluctancy, tu support the Count's restoration, knowing that he had no heir and the royal power would be transfered to the Orléans branch after the Count's death); ii) the Imperial succession is vacant after Prince Napoléon's death in South Africa in 1879; iii) the Radical democrats stick to the forgotten and bloody heritage of the French Revolution; and iv) the ill-constituted Republic is about to crash down.
The pamphlet, which ends with "Long live the patriotic union! Long live the new flag", written in capitals, is dated 10 August 1881, and was therefore released short before the general election scheduled to 21 August. The results of the election did not match Dr. Marié's expectations: the Republicans (5,100,000 votes) defeated the Monarchists and Bonapartists (1,800,000), probably suppressing the Count of Chambord's last hope.

Here is the translation of the, sometimes obscure, sections of Dr. Marié's pamphlet introducing the new flag.

pp. 25-26 [outline of the flag design]
The only flag suitable for France shall be with both the white, monarchic and the tricolor, national colors, as the emblems of international independence and national human rights. Since France is the [Roman Catholic] Church's elder daughter, the union of the monarchic and national colors shall be cemented in a Christian way by heraldic signs, placed in a cross pattern, of the reigning House of France.
Therefore, the white standard of independence would bear in the middle a tricolor shield and would be crossed by golden fleurs-de-lis, or, why not, by silver bees, placed in the background of the flag.

pp. 29-34
Independence, as the first good of the nation, is symbolized with most dignity and generosity with the white color, which forms the background of the new flag.
In the middle of the flag is placed the tricolor national emblem, representing the people's rights and duties; mostly representing its invincible strength of legal deposition of systematic oppression or of abuse of governmental arbitrary.
Since France, as explained above, is monarchic even beyond the national will, the two aforementiond emblems are placed under the guard of the heraldic emblems of the two recognized Houses of France. The first, represented by golden fleurs-de-lis, would reign hereditarily, as long as not legally deposited. The second, represented by silver bees, would "hold back", until the first has failed, to be called to succeed it, and vice versa.
The whole of these emblems shall be placed under the sign of the cross, formed by the display of the heraldic signs of the reigning House of France, a Christian sign that is the most beautiful moralizing and civilizing flagship of the Nation, the Church's elder daughter.

Here is the sketchy description of the new flag. It forms a tacit constitution and completely satisfies all the parties and pretenders, that is:
1. The Republicans, with the three-colored emblem that guards the people's sovereignty in which lies the power to deposit the monarch who would not have dedicated himself to the fortune of the nation.
2. The Legitimists and the Count of Chambord himself, as well as the Orlé:ans Princes, who have merged together, with the white background of the flag, with the fleurs-de-lis and with the immediate accession to the new throne of France.
3. The Bonapartists and the Napoléon crown prince, with the three colors of the standard, with the rank of Second House of France that is kept, as the supreme reason of the revolution, the "expectating" place on the flag of the silver bees, Napoleons' heraldic sign, and also with a fair state annuity, that would also be inherent to this patriotic expectation.
4. Eventually, all, indistinctively, by the Christian sanction.

The color plate attached to the pamphlet shows the flag as square, white with in the middle a Tricolor flag of size 1/3 of the whole flag. The flag is charged with two lines of yellow fleurs-de-lis each crossed per saltire - over the Tricolor flag - and with four silver bees placed in each of the quarters formed by the bees.
The flag finial is a spear surrounded by a green wreath, seemingly made of laurel (left) and oak (right).

Ivan Sache, 25 August 2010