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Roussillon (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2016-11-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: roussillon |
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[Flag of Roussillon]

Flag of Roussillon - Image by Jorge Candeias, 10 December 2003

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History of Roussillon

Conquered by the Romans from the Iberians, Roussillon was then a division of the Provincia narbonensis, with the oppidum (fortified city) of Ruscino as its capital. The area was divided in four pagi, pagus ruscinonensis, pagus vallis asperi (Vallespir), pagus confluentis (Conflent), and pagus liviensis (Cerdagne, including the Spanish enclave of Llivia). The Roman Roussillon had two main ports, Cocoliberis (Collioure) and Portus Veneris (Port-Vendres).

Roussilon was sacked during the successive invasions by the Visigoths, the Arabs and the Franks. After the conquest of Septimania, Pepin the Short reincorporated Roussillon to the reunified Gaul (752-759). As a defense against the Caliphate of Cordova, the Carolingian kings set up the Spanish marsh, made of Septimania and the maritime Catalan counties: Roussillon, Empurias, Gerona and Barcelona. When the Carolingian rule vanished, Catalonia became de facto independent.

The Count of Barcelona, supported by the Church, transformed the area in a feudal monarchy which spread from the south of France to Aragon.
The towns were granted municipal rights, for instance Perpignan in 1197. The suppression of the Umeyyad state in southern Spain favoured the economical development of the region. Romanic art peaked in Roussillon with the cloisters of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa and Elne and the frescos of Saint-Martin de Fenollar.

During the Albigensian Crusade, King of Aragon Peter the Catholic was defeated and killed in Muret in 1213. Central-southern France, except the town of Montpellier, was de facto incorporated to the Kingdom of France. However, the Treaty of Corbeil, signed in 1258, left Roussillon to Catalonia. In 1262, King of Aragon James the Conqueror shared his kingdom between his two sons: Aragon, Catalonia and Valence remained united, whereas a new kingdom was made of the Balearic islands of Majorca and Ibiza, Roussillon and Montpellier. The powerful Kingdom of Majlorca, with Perpignan as its capital (1276), remained independent until 1344, when it was reincoporated to Aragon, except Montpellier which was ceded to France. Roussillon and Cerdagne were incorporated to the Principate of Catalonia, a kind of autonomous federation within the Kingdom of Aragon. The Catalan parliament (corts) had its seat in Barcelona but sent a deputation to Perpignan.

In 1463, James of Aragon attempted to get rid of the Catalans, with the help of King of France Louis XI, whose troops invaded Roussillon. The inhabitants of Perpignan surrendered only upon request of the King of Aragon, and were given the nickname of "rat eaters" for their resistance.

In 1493, Charles VIII retroceded Roussillon to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella the Catholic. They fortified Perpignan, which was then one of the best defended fortresses in Europe. In 1640, the Catalans revolted against Madrid and set up an alliance with Cardinal of Richelieu. Appointed Count of Barcelona the next day, King Louis XIII besieged and captured Perpignan, was defended by a Spanish garrison.
Roussillon was eventually incorporated to France In 1659 by the Treaty of the Pyrenees.

Ivan Sache, 10 December 2003

Flag of Roussillon

The flag of Roussillon is yellow with four horizontal stripes, exactly like the flag of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia.

Ivan Sache, 10 December 2003

Erroneous flag of Roussillon

[Erroneous flag of Roussillon]

Erroneous flag of Roussillon - Image by Ivan Sache, 13 September 2009

Some manufacturers still sell flags of Roussillon with vertical stripes, sometimes with equal number of red and yellow stripes.
This flag is a banner of the arms D'or aux quatre pals de gueules (Or four pallets gules), assigned to the province by Jacques Meurgey in his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941).

Meurgey states that Roussillon uses the arms of Aragon and never had specific arms. Dom Vaissette claimed that the early Counts of Roussillon bore arms with two buckles.
The arms of the Counts of Roussillon are based on the arms of the counts of Barcelone. The legend says that Joffre the Hairy, count of the Spanish marsh in the 8th century, was injured when fighting the Norsemen. Charles the Bald, as a tribute to his courage, drew four red stripes on Joffre's shield, which was plain gold, using of course Joffre's blood. A similar bloody legend 'explains' the colours of the Austrian flag.

Ivan Sache & Pascal Vagnat, 14 June 2009