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Hautes-Pyrénées (Department, France)

Last modified: 2019-05-10 by ivan sache
Keywords: hautes-pyrénées | bigorre |
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Administrative data

Code: 65
Region: Occitanie (Midi-Pyrénées until 2014)
Traditional province: Guyenne and Gascony
Bordering departments: Haute-Garonne, Gers, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Bordering country: Spain (Autonomous Community of Aragon [Province of Huesca], Autonomous Community of Catalonia [Province of Lleida])

Area: 4,464 km2
Population (2016): 227,829 inhabitants

Préfecture: Tarbes
Sous-préfectures: Argelès-Gazost, Bagnères-de-Bigorre
Subdivisions: 3 arrondissements, 17 cantons, 469 municipalities.

The department is named ("Upper Pyrenees") after the Pyrénées mountains.

Ivan Sache, 14 April 2019


Banner of arms of Hautes-Pyrénées / Bigorre

[Flag]

Banner of arms of Hautes-Pyrénées - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 3 May 2019

Jean-Lou Montès proposed in 1999 to adopt as the departmental flag the banner of the arms of Bigorre. The flag had rarely been seen before, except during the Hesteyade festival in Ibos, where it is still used (photo, photo).
[La Dépêche, 7 February 1999]

Bigorre is located in the upper watershed of river Adour, on the northern slopes of the Pyrenees, and comprises today the centre and west of the departement of Hautes-Pyrénées.
The County of Bigorre was a small feudatory of the Duchy of Gascony, created in the 9th century, annexed by Philip IV in 1302, ceded to the King of England in 1360 by the Treaty of Brétigny, reconquered by France in 1370, ceded to the Counts of Foix in 1425, subsequently to the lordship of Albret in 1483, then to the Bourbon with Jeanne d'Albret (mother of King of Navarre, Henry III, who became in 1589 Henry IV of France). In 1607 the county was united to the French Crown.

Pascal Vagnat & Olivier Touzeau, 3 May 2019

The coat of arms of Hautes-Pyrénées was assigned by Jacques Meurgey de Tupigny & Robert Louis in Marques symboliques des départements français as "Gules tow leopards or langued azure in pale". The department was mostly formed by the former County of Bigorre, therefore the arms' assignment.

Gilles Fresson, manager of the cathedral of Chartres, pointed out that a rose in stained glass No. 114 features a riding lord holding a yellow shield charged with two red leopards. For centuries, the rider was identified as an obscure lord of Beaumont. Fresson rather believed that the knight was indeed Guido of Montfort, Count of Bigorre after his marriage with Petronilla, heiress of Bigorre. Nearby are portrayed Guy's father, Simon of Montfort, and his brother, Amauri of Montfort. Accordingly, the rose would feature the oldest known representation of the arm of Bigorre.
Stéphane Abadie, owner of a Ph.D. in medieval history and President of the Société académique des Hautes-Pyrénées, corrected the putative attribution of the arms to Boso of Matha-Chabanais, Petronilla's 5th (and last) husband.

In the aftermath of the Albingensian Crusade, Simon of Montfort, the crusaders' leader, successively imposed to Petronilla as her husband his junior son, Guido, and two of his supporters, Aymeric of Rancon and Boso of Matha-Chabanais. This was a convenient way to gain control over Bigorre.
The church of Chabanais-en-Angoumois keeps the tomb of Jordan II of Chabanais, Boso's brother and once Count of Bigorre, decorated ith two crowned leopards. André Delpech (Pétronille de Bigorre, une comtesse d'oc et d'oil, 1996) explains that the States of Bigorre, researching much later the genuine arms of the county, found a seal featuring the leopard arms appended to a charter dated 1239 and mentioning Petronilla. This was, however, most probably the seal of Boso of Matha-Chabanais, whose arms were mistaken for the original arms of Bigorre, which are still unknown.
The knight portrayed on the Chartres rose is probably a member of the Chabanais lineage, most probably Boso, who fought close to Simon of Montfort during the Albigensian Crusade, or, maybe, Jordan.
[La Dépêche, 27 April 2016]

Petronilla of Bigorre (1184-1251) was the daughter of the Count of Comminges, Bernard IV, and of the Countess of Bigorre, Stephanie, aka Beatrice IV. Aged 12, she was mrried in 1196, upon order of King of Aragón, Alfonso II, to his vassal Gaston VI Moncade, aged 24. Widow in 1214, Petronilla married Nuño Sanchez, subsequently Count of Roussillon, who was the cousin of the new, young king of Aragón, Peter II. As his predecessor, Nuño did not care of his wife, who was not associated to any political decision.
Nuño Sanchez soon left Bigorre to besiege a French garrison established by Simon of Montfort in Beaucaire (Languedoc). As a retaliation, Montfort rushed to Bigorre and obtained from the local bishops the nullification of Petronilla's marriage; the official reason was the kniship link between Moncade and Nuño Sanchez's lineage.
On 6 November 1216, Petronilla of Bigorre married in Tarbes Guido of Montfort, to prevent the invasion of Bigorre by the French crusaders. The county was poor, with income much too low to hire mercenaries and warlords to protect it; her only supporters, William-Raimond of Moncade, Count of Béarn, her father, and her former husband, had very limited power compared to the main actors of the on-going war. Marriages between heirs of lineages fighting bloody wars against each other ere not uncommon in that troubled period.

Petronilla, 14 years older than her husband, turned into an influent dame. The arranged marriage was reportedly happy; as opposed to her previous husbands, Guido of Montfort introduced his wife to the Montfort party and always kept her close to him. In autumn 1217, Count Raymond VI raised the town of Toulouse against its French rulers, who had suppressed the town's Consulate and liberties. The stronghold of the Montfort party, the old castle of the Counts of Toulouse confiscated by the French was besieged by the Occitan party. Petronilla gave birth to her daughter, Alix, during the siege. Alix' grand fathers fought in the two camps, Simon of Montfort as the head of the French party, and Bernard of Comminges among the assaulters. In 1218, Guido of Montfort was severely injured by a crossbow bolt shot by Bernard of Comminges, his father-in-law. After the death of Simon of Montort, hit by a stone thown by a trebuchet - ran by women, according to the local tradition, on 25 June 1218, Amauri of Montfort took the lead of the French party, ordering to withdraw to Carcassonne. Soon after the birth of his second daughter, Petronilla, Guido of Montfort was killed on 20 July 1220 in Castelnaudary.

Once again a widow, Petronilla failed to interest the prominent lineages of the time. Her marriage contract with Guido stated that their children would inherit the County of Bigorre and the Viscounty of Marsan, Petronilla's own domains, and, nominally, the County of Comminges still hold by her father. To secure the situation, the Montfort party sought a "prince consort" who would marry Petronilla and bear the "void" title of Count of Bigorre.
in 1222, Petronilla married Aymeric of Rancon, a low-rank lord from Limousin. Two years later, facing the Occitan reconquest and lacking funds, Amauri of Montfort transferred his claims on the County of Toulouse and the neighboring domains to the king of France. Louis VIII re-activated the crusade, enrolling Amauri and Aymeric, who died during the siege of Avignon. For her last union, Petronilla married Boso of Matha, co-lord of Chabanais, a town located 30 km of Rancon. With her husband, Petronilla came back to Bigorre, 22 years after her leave; to prevent any attempt of murder, the Montfort party decided to keep Petronilla's daughters in safety near Paris.
In 1228, Petronilla gave birth to her third daughter, Mathe. She could rear her and attempted to transfer her the Viscounty of Marsan. In the same time, Boso of Matha recovered part of Comminges and significantly increased the county of Bigorre; accordingly, he also expected some reward to be transmitted to his daughter. Amauri of Montfort found a convenient arrangement: Alix would marry Jordan II of Chabanais, Boso's brother. The couple would inherit Petronilla's domain, except Marsan, to be offered to Mathe.

Boso of Matha died in 1247; so did Alix in 1250. The old Countess Petronilla transferred Bigorre to her brother-in-law, Simon V of Montfort, Count of Leicester and Seneschal of Gascony. Head of the Montfort party, Simon had been appointed tutor of Alix's son, Esquivat, in 1243, following the death of Jordan of Chabanais.
Petronilla retired in the Cistercian abbey of Escaladieu, where she died, aged 67.
[Académie des Arts, Lettres et Sciences de Languedoc]

Ivan Sache, 5 May 2019