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Ivry-la-Bataille (Municipality, Eure, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-20 by ivan sache
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Flag of Ivry-la-Bataille, horizontal and vertical versions - Images by Arnaud Leroy, 3 December 2004

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Presentation of Ivry-la-Bataille

The municipality of Ivry-la-Bataille (2,666 inhabitants in 2013, 776 ha; municipal website) is located on river Eure, 30 km south-east of Évreux and 70 km west of Paris.
The name of Ivry probably comes from the Latin toponym Ibriacum, from a Celtic root meaning "a ford" or "a bridge". This is consistent with the location of Ivry on river Eure.
The patron saint of Ivry is St. Martin, which indicates that the local parish is very old. The cult of saint Martin was one of the earliest ones in the beginning of christianization of Gaul.

In the Middle Ages, Ivry was defended by a big fortress (presentation) built in the second half of the 10th century by Rudolf of Ivry (945-1015), Count of Bayeux and half-brother of Duke of Normandy Richard III (r. 1026-1027). In the 11th-12th centuries, the fortress was disputed among the Normand feudal lords and between France and Normandy, until eventually incorporated to the French royal domain. The fortress was later looted in 1418 by Humphrey of Lancaster (1390-1447), Duke of Gloucester, in 1424 by the French, and a few months later by John of Lancaster (1389-1435), Duke of Bedford. The remains of the fortress were restored in the 1970s-1980s.

The qualifying term, la Bataille, refers to the battle that took place near Ivry on 14 March 1590, which was the last fighting between King Henry IV (r. 1572-1610) and his challengers from the ultra-Catholic Holy League.
In 1589, Charles, Duke of Mayenne (1554-1611), one of the leaders of the League, stationed his troops in Normandy, where he was defeated by Henry IV in Arques-la-Bataille, near Dieppe. To restore his repute, he decided to march against Paris besieged by the royal Dieppe. In reaction, Henry IV besieged the town of Dreux, located on the border between Normandy and Île-de-France and hold by the League. Changing his plans, Mayenne marched against Dreux. Henry IV withdrew but remained in the neighbourhood, deploying his troops in the St. André's plain between Nonancourt and Ivry. Mayenne marched once again against Henry IV; the two armies met late in the evening so that the battle was postponed to the next day.
On 14 March 1590, at daybreak, Mayenne's army, made of 12,000 infantry and 4,000 horses, including 2,000 Spaniards, faced Henry IV 's 8,000 infantry and 2,000 horses. Before the beginning of the battle, Henry, bareheaded, harangued his troops:"My friends, you are French, and this is the enemy. Against them! and if you lose your cornet, rally round my white panache, you will always find it showing the way of honour and victory". Henry then put on his battle helmet, which was decorated with a panache of white feathers.
The battle started with a salvo shot by the royal artillery, followed by the confrontation of the horses. The Duke of Aumont hammered the League's light horses but had to step back when charged by a squad of Walloons. The Duke of Montpensier and the Baron of Biron also charged at the League's army and force it to step back for a while. The conclusive move, however, was performed by Henry himself, who charged at the League's lancers, who were too close to the fight to use their arms properly.
The battle turned into a terrible mess and it was believed for a while that Henry had been killed: his standard-bearer was injured and could harldy stand, while an officer wearing the same kind of panache as the King was killed by a lancer. Henry turned back and encouraged his fellows, who were about to escape: "Turn your faces, so that if you don't fight you could at least see me dying!"
The fight was short and Henry's experience defeated the huge League's army; among the League's leaders, the Duke of Egmont was killed, whereas the Duke of Nemours and the Duke of Aumale escaped. Pursued by the royal troops, Mayenne ran to the river Eure: he was able to cross the river but most of his troops were killed by Henry's soldiers or drowned into the river.
The League's army was completely disbanded: 2,500 out of the 4,000 horsemen were killed, the infantry was killed, dispersed or surrended. Moreover, Henry captured five cannons and all the colours of the enemy, including Mayenne's color, white with a semy of black fleur-de-lis, and Egmont's red standard.
After the battle, Henry is said to have rest under a big pear tree and moved to Ivry, where the house where he spent the night is still shown.

A few days before the battle, the German Colonel Schomberg claimed the pay of his soldiers. Henry answered him: "A man of honour would never claim money before a battle". Just before the beginning of the battle, Henry told Schomberg: "Sir, I offended you. This day might be the last of my life and I don't want to steal the honour of a gentleman; I am aware of your value and your merit. Please forgive me and kiss me".
Schomberg answered: "It is true that Your Majesty offended me, but today you kill me, because the honour you are showing to me forces me to die for you". Schomberg fought fiercely side by side with the king and died during the battle.

In order to calm down the political situation, Henry IV abjured Protestantism in Saint-Denis on 25 July 1593, was sacred in Chartres on 27 February 1594, and entered Paris on 22 March 1594, allegedly saying Paris vaut bien une messe (Paris is quite worth a mass). Pope Clement VIII lifted Henry's excommunication on 17 September 1595. The last leaders of the League, Mayenne and Épernon, rallied the King in 1596.
The battle of Ivry is remembered by a pyramidal obelisk built by Napoléon I between Ivry and Épieds.

Ivry-la-Bataille is the birth town of the actor Raymond Bussières (1907-1982), who was before the Second World War member of the avant-garde group Octobre, directed by Jacques Prévert (1900-1977). Bussières played in several movies, the most famous of them being Les Portes de la Nuit and Casque d'Or. He played also in several theater plays with his wife Annette Poivre (1917-1988) and the actor and cellist Maurice Baquet (1911-2005).
The engineer Charles-Henry Brasier (1864-1941), born in Ivry-la-Bataille, invented the V-shaped four cylinders engine for cars. One of the main race car manufacturers before the First World War, he established in 1903 a partnership with the cycles manufacturers Richard; Richard-Brasier cars won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1904 and 1905.
Father Jacques-Désiré Laval (1803-1864; beatified by Pope John Paul II on 29 April 1979) was physician in Ivry-la-Bataille before he took the coat in 1838 and went to Mauritius in 1841. Father Laval learned the Creole language and attempted to help the recently liberated slaves. He founded a network of chapels on the island and was highly estimated both by the Christians and the Muslims, who nicknamed him "God's friend". The anniversary of his death, on 9 September, is a main day of pilgrimage in Mauritius.

In 1828, the architect Pierre Fontaine (1762-1853) revamped the Campana gallery of the Louvre Museum, in Paris, where Greek antiquities are shown. He asked the painter Charles de Steuben (1788-1856) to decorate the walls and ceiling of the gallery. Steuben decorated the archs of the gallery with the coat of arms of the most famous people from the times of Henry IV (Mornay, Sully, Aumont, Lesdiguières, Crillon, La Guiche). His masterpiece was a big painting on the ceiling showing "Henry IV's clemency after the battle of Ivry". The King, wearing his white panache, is placed in the center of the painting; the flags of Spain and Burgundy are shown, as well as a yellow flag with a red cross. The man lying in the foregroud bears a jacket with the coat of arms of Lorraine. Since the painting was made more than two centuries after the battle and mosty intended for decoration and propaganda, historicity of the representation is probably very weak.

Ivan Sache, 3 December 2004

Flag of Ivry-la-Bataille

The flag of Ivry-la-Bataille is a banner of the municipal arms, "Or three chevrons gules".
The arms are based on the seal used by the lord of Ivry in 1239, as reported in the chartulary of Évreux, dated from the 14th century.
A vertical, forked banner of the very same design is also used.

Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 3 December 2004