Heraldry of French Regions

See also the nicely illustrated Armorial des Anciennes Provinces de France by Jean-Marc Frénéa.

Introduction

Historically, modern France was created by progressive enlargement. In the High Middle Ages, the king of France was the nominal liege of a large number of feudal lords who enjoyed great independence. Over time, the kings were able to add the territories of those lords to the Royal Domain, and to acquire new territories as well. These territories were the Old Regime provinces, and their heraldry is usually linked to the feudal lords who ruled them.

The Revolution of 1789 and Napoleon's Empire created modern France's administrative structures: townships (communes) which are the lowest level of government with elected mayors, cantons and arrondissements which are mainly electoral districts, and départements administered by appointed officials. The only significant change was the recent creation of regions.

Presently there are 96 départements in metropolitan France (including Corsica), and several overseas départements and territories. There are 28 (?) regions, which sometimes correspond to Old Regime provinces, and sometimes not.

Although laws of 1814 requiring cities and other organizations to obtain grants of arms from the "Conseil du Sceau" were never repealed, they are in effect obsolete. The successor of the Conseil du Sceau, which is the "Conseil d'administration du Ministère de la Justice", takes no interest in heraldry, and politely turns down requests for advice or grants from cities and informs them that they are free to use whatever designs they wish. Therefore, as for individuals, free assumption is the norm. The départements have adopted arms, especially in the 1950s. Unfortunately, it seems that the regions have adopted "modern" logos instead of designs based on their history.

Armory of Old Regime Provinces

  • Alençon: France modern, on a bordure gules 8 plates.
  • Angoumois: France modern and a label of 3 pendants gules.
  • Anjou: France modern a bordure gules.
  • Artois: France ancient, a label of three pendants gules, on each pendant three castles or.
  • Auxerrois: Azure a bend or.
  • Béarn: Or two cows passant gules in pale, horned, gorged and belled azure
  • Beaujolais: Or a lion rampant sable, armed and tongued gules, a label gules brochant in chief.
  • Berry: France modern a bordure engrailed gules.
  • Bigorre: Or two lions passant gules in pale.
  • Blaisois: France a label argent.
  • Boulonnais: Or three roundles gules.
  • Bourgogne: quarterly bendy of 6 or and azure a bordure gules, and France ancient a bordure gobony argent and gules.
  • Bresse: Argent a bend azure between two lions sable.
  • Bretagne: Ermine plain.
  • Bugey: Gules a lion ermine.
  • Châlonnais: Gules a bend or.
  • Champagne: Azure a bend argent between two cotices potent-counterpotent or.
  • Comminges: Gules four otelles argent.
  • Comtat-Venaissin: Gules two keys or per saltire.
  • Couserans: Azure a bell argent the clapper sable.
  • Dauphiné: quarterly France and or a dolphin azure.
  • Évreux: France ancient a bend gobony argent and gules.
  • Flandres: Or a lion rampant sable armed and tongued gules.
  • Forez: Gules a dolphin or.
  • Gévaudan: Per pale France ancient and or four pallets gules.
  • Guyenne: Gules a lion passant guardant or.
  • Ile-de-France: France ancient.
  • Languedoc: Gules a Toulouse cross or.
  • Limousin: Ermine a bend gules.
  • Lorraine: Or on a bend gules three eaglets argent.
  • Maine: Gules a lion or.
  • Navarre: Gules, a cross, saltire, (double) orle of chains, all linked, or.
  • Nivernais: France a bordure gobony argent and gules.
  • Normandie: Gules two lions passant guardant or, armed and tongued azure.
  • Orange: Or a hunting horn azure garnished and stringed gules.
  • Orléans: France modern a label argent.
  • Perche: France modern on a bordure gules 8 plates argent.
  • Poitou: Gules five castles or per saltire.
  • Ponthieu: Or three bends azure and a bordure gules.
  • Provence: Azure a fleur-de-lis or and in chief a label gules.
  • Rethel: Gules three rakes or.
  • Roussillon: Or four pallets gules.
  • Vermandois: chequy or and azure.
  • Vivarais: France ancient on a bordure or 8 escutcheons azure.

Armory of Départements and Regions

Unfortunately, although most departements have arms, few seem to use them. Here is a notable exception:

  • Finistère: Parti d'or au lion morné et contourné de sable, et d'azur au bélier saillant d'argent onglé et accorné d'or, les deux animaux affrontés ; au chef d'argent chargé de cinq mouchetures d'hermine rangées en fasce. Arms adopted in 1975.

References

See the page on French Heraldry. See also the article by Hervé Pinoteau in the 3d International Heraldry Symposium of the International Academy of Heraldry, Montmorency, 1983 (published by Le Léopard d'Or). 

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François Velde

Last modified: Aug 13, 2002