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Cambrai (Municipality, Nord, France)


Last modified: 2006-12-23 by ivan sache
Keywords: nord | cambrai | kamerijk | eagle: double-headed (black) |
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[Flag of Cambrai]

Flag of Cambrai - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 5 May 2002

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Presentation of Cambrai

The municipality of Cambrai (34,993 inhabitants) is a sous-préfecture of the department of Nord, watered by the river Scheldt (called Escaut in France). Cambrai is the capital of Cambrésis, a rich agricultural region (cereals and sugar beet). Traditional products of Cambrai are linen batiste, used to make handkerchieves and lingery, and the famous bêtises de Cambrai, a kind of mint candies. Note that bêtise means in French "silly thing".
The Cambrésis Sill (Seuil du Cambrésis) is a natural crossing between Flanders and the Paris Basin. Therefore, the area was highly disputed in the past.

In 1508, the Cambrai League was an alliance set up by Pope Julius II (1443-1513), Germanic Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519), King of France Louis XII (1462-1515), and King of Aragon Ferdinand II (1452-1516) against the Republic of Venice. After his victory in Agnadel (May 1509), Louis XII was abandoned by his allies, and Julius II set up against France the Holy League in 1511-1512.
In 1529, the treaty of Cambrai, also called the Ladies' Peace, was signed by Louise de Savoie (1476-1531), on behalf of her son François I (1494-1547), King of France, and Marguerite of Austria (1480-1530) Maximilian I's daughter, on behalf of Germanic Emperor Charles V (1500-1558). The treaty ended the first of the three wars which opposed Francois I and Charles V in 1521-1529, 1536-1538, and 1539-1544.
In 1677, Louis XIV incorporated Cambrai to France. The Cambrésis was incorporated to France in 1678 following the treaty of Nijmegen.

In 1695, François de Salignac de la Motte-Fénelon (1651-1715), a.k.a. le Cygne de Cambrai (The Cambrai Swan) was appointed Archbishop of Cambrai. In 1697, his book Explication des maximes des saints (Explanations of the maxims of the saints), which defended the quietist doctrina, was rejected by the Holy See. In 1699, another of his books, Les aventures de Télémaque, which was an indirect criticism of Louis XIV's rule, caused Fénelon's disgrace. He retired in Cambrai, where his charity during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) has remained famous. Fénelon died in 1715 following a traffic accident in which his coach had been involved.

During the First World War, Cambrai was occupied by the German forces in August 1914, and was one of the main points of the Hindenburg line, built by the Germans following their withdrawal in March 1917 (Operation Alberich). On 20 November 1917, the British Army launched an offensive against Cambrai. This was the first battle during which tanks were massively used. After 15 days of attacks and counter-attacks, no decisive success was obtained. More than 45,000 Brits and 55,000 Germans were killed and several villages were totally destroyed.
The British Royal Tank Regiment celebrates each year the battle on Cambrai Day.

Ivan Sache, 5 May 2002

Flag of Cambrai

The flag of Cambrai, as confirmed by the municipal administration, is yellow with the municipal coat of arms placed in the middle of the flag.

The municipal website (page no longer online) gives a detailed history of the municipal arms, after an article dated 19 June 1962, and written by Canon C. Thelliez, Diocesan Archivist, Member of the Society of Archaeology of Region Nord, Member of the Commission of the Museum of Cambrai.
The municipal arms of Cambrai are based on the oldest known arms of the town, used since 1340 on the scel aux causes [a kind of legal seal] and until the end of the XVIIIth century on several official acts. These arms were: Or, a double-headed eagle sable, crowned, armed and beaked gules, holding in her claws the shield of the County of Cambrésis (Or, three lions 2 and 1 issant azure - or sable -, armed and langued gules). The County of Cambrésis was a sovereign ecclesiastic state, neutral and part of the Holy Roman Empire since 1107, when the Empire granted to the Church Notre-Dame and the Bishop the sovereignty over the city of Cambrai and the County of CambrÈsis.
In 1510, however, Roman Emperor Maximilian transformed the County in a Duchy, granted to Bishop Jacques de Croÿ, who was allowed to add in chief of his arms the Imperial double-headed eagle sable, crowned and beaked gules. A three-pendent label gules was placed on the chest of the eagle to distinguish the arms from those of the Empire.
In the first half of the XVIIth century and after a transient Spanish domination, the Magistrat de Cambrai used new arms with the double-headed eagle sable, crowned, beaked and armed gules bearing the arms of the County of CambrÈsis. These new arms were intended to acknowledge the incorporation of Cambrai into the Holy Roman Empire, which was disputed by the Archbishops-Dukes of Cambrai and the King of France. In 1677, following the capitulation of the city, a treaty signed by Louis XIV and the Chapter of the Church of Cambrai officialized the incorporation of Cambrai to France.
After the 1815 Restauration, King Louis XVIII reestablished by a Decree dated 11 November 1815 the former arms of the city:
D'or à une aigle à deux têtes de sable, couronnée, becquée et membrée de gueules, chargée sur l'estomac d'un écusson d'or à trois lions d'azur (Or a double-headed eagle sable, crowned, beaked and membered gules, bearing on chest an escutcheon or, three lions azure.)
Due to its bravery and resistance during the two World Wars, Cambrai was allowed to add to its arms the Cross of the Légion d'Honneur and the War Cross. The current arms are described as follows:
D'or à l'aigle à deux têtes de sable, couronnée, becquée et pattée de gueules soutenant dans ses srres l'écu de Cambrésis, d'or à trois lions yssant deux et un d'azur, pattés et lampassés de gueules, portant sur la poitrine un lambel de gueules à trois pendants accostés en pointe de la Croix de la Légion d'Honneur à dextre, et de la Croix de Guerre à senestre.

Ivan Sache & Pascal Vagnat, 5 May 2002