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France: Bourbon Restauration

1814-1830

Last modified: 2017-08-10 by ivan sache
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French national flag, 1814-1830 - Image by Pierre Gay


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History of the Bourbon Restauration

After the fall of Napoléon I's Empire in 1814, the Kingdom of France was reestablished and Louis XVIII was crowned King of France. This regime - the short return of Napoleon I from Elba in 1815 (Les Cent-Jours) excluded -, which ended with the July revolution in 1830 is called the Bourbon Restauration.
Several nobles who had left France in 1789 came back with Louis XVIII and urged him to reestablish the absolute monarchy. The king, although not particularly wise in politics, understood it would not be possible to suppress all the political and social benefits of the Revolution and the Empire. Talleyrand (Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, 1754-1838), appointed Head of the Provisory Government after Napoléon's fall (1 April 1814), convinced Louis XVIII to grant France a Constitutional Charter (Charte). The adoption of the Charter in 1814 upset the Ultra-royalist party, collectively known as the Ultras, who demanded its suppression and the restoration of the Ancient Regime as it was in 1789.
The Chamber, controlled by the Ultras and nicknamed the Unobtainaible Chamber (Chambre introuvable), imposed in 1815 reactionary reforms to the King. In summer 1815, a violent campaign against the Republicans and the Bonapartists, known as the White Terror (Terreur blanche), spread all over the south of France. Accordingly, Louis XVIII dissolved the Chamber in 1816.

Presidents of the Council Richelieu (Armand Emmanuel du Plessis, 1766-1822; President, 1816-1818 and 1820-1821) and Decazes (Élie, Duke de Decazes et Glucksberg, 1780-1860; President, 1819-1820) promoted liberal reforms. However, the assassination of the Duke de Berry in 1820 was used by the ultras to impose new reactionary reforms, mostly under the Presidency of Villèle (Jean-Baptiste Guillaume Joseph, Count de Villèle, 1773-1854; President, 1822-1828). Louis XVIII died in 1824 and was succeeded by his Ultra-royalist brother, Charles X in 1824.
In 1828, Martignac (Jean-Baptiste Gay, Count de Martignac, 1778-1832; President, 1818-1829) succeeded Villèle. His liberal reforms did not improve Charles X's image, though. In 1829, Polignac (Jules Auguste Armand, Prince de Polignac, 1780-1847) was appointed President of the Council. The Chamber rejected him and was dissolved by Charles X. The opposition won the elections. The orders (Ordonnances) from 25 July 1830, signed by Polignac, dissolved the Chamber before it could have gathered, modified the 1814 Charter and suppressed the freedom of press. In spite of the popular success caused by the seizure of Algiers on 4 July, Paris revolted on 27, 28 and 29 July (Les Trois Glorieuses) and Charles X abdicated on 2 August.

Ivan Sache, 1 June 2003


The restoration of the white flag

One of the main demands of the Ultra-royalists was the restoration of the symbols of the Ancient Regime, and especially the royal white flag. The flag mostly pleased by the Ultras was the white flag with a semy of yellow fleurs-de-lis. The restoration of this flag as the national flag, which it was not under the Ancient Regime, was a major political mistake since people had accepted the French Tricolore flag and did not want to restore one of the most prominent symbols of the Ancient Regime.

Ivan Sache, 1 June 2003


Naval flags under the Restauration

The album Pavillons des puissances maritimes, released between 1815 and 1830, shows the following French naval flags (pavillons):
- Royal ensign: a white flag, semy of 43 yellow fleurs-de-lis, the royal arms (shield, crown, two collars of knighthood, angel supporters);
- French ensign: a plain white flag;
- Pennant: a plain white streamer;
- Naval flag for ships on which the Dauphin and his spouse are embarked: a white flag, semy of 24 yellow fleurs-de-lis, the Dauphin arms (Quarterly France and Dauphiné) over all with the Dauphin's crown, one collar of knighthood, two anchors crossed behind the shield. The anchors seem to be steel-coloured with yellow stocks;
- Naval flag for ships on which Princes of the Royal House are embarked: a white flag, semy of 50 yellow fleurs-de-lis. The pattern of the fleurs-de-lis is exactly like the stars on the present American flag.

Jan Mertens, 22 June 2003

The plain white flag became the national ensign in 1814. In 1817, merchants had the right to add a distinguishing mark to the plain ensign.
[Hervé Pinoteau. Le chaos français et ses signes. Étude sur la symbolique de l'État français depuis la Révolution de 1789. Loudun, PSR, 1998]

Corentin Chamboredon, 28 April 2017

The book The Artful Roux: marine painters of Marseille by Philip Chadwick Foster Smith (Salem MA, Peabody Museum, 1978) illustrates paintings by Ange-Joseph Antoine Roux (1765-1835) of the following during the Restuaration:
- Le Pierre, ketch (locally, a bombarde), dated 1816, flying a white ensign at the mizzen head and a white flag at the main;
- La Briséis, corvette (i.e. a naval vessel), dated 1818, flying a white ensign at the mizzen stays, a pennant at the main mast head and a flag at the foremast head (both probably white, but it is a b&w reproduction).
A painting by his younger brother Mathieu Antoine Roux (1799-1872) of La Fanny, bark, dated 1832 shows it flying a tricolour at the mizzen stays, a name flag at the mizzen head, the red and white striped swallowtailed registration flag at the main, and a Marseille flag, white with blue cross, at the foremast.
One by another brother, François Joseph Frédéric Roux (1805-70) of Le Napoléon, bark, dated 1838, also shows her flying a tricolour flag.
The same artist also illustrated an album of the ships in which Admiral Jean-Baptiste Willaumez (1763-1845) had served in a long career (Jacques Vichot,(Ed.). L'Album de l'amiral Willaumez (Paris, Association des amis du Musée de la Marine, 1973). Most are Napoleonic, and so pre-1815, but it also includes a picture of the frigate L'Épreuve, 60, in 1817, flying a white ensign with a second white flag at the foremast, and one of the cutter Le M&acurc;teur, 18, in 1825, flying what looks like a white ensign (but it is depicted in a calm, so it is difficult to be certain).

So from these sources it would seem to be a reversal to white flags until 1830, then back to the tricolour.

Ian Sumner & Dominique Cureau, 28 April 2017


The flag of the Four Sergents of La Rochelle

Louis XVIII's ultra-conservative rule caused an increasing opposition in the country, especially by the way of secrete societies. The most famous of them was the carbonari movement (or carbonarism), which had initially developed in the Kingdom of Naples against the Napoleonian domination (1806-1815) and later against the Italian rulers.
Carbonarism then moved to France, and fought for liberal ideals, unification of Italy and return of the Bonaparte family on the throne of France. Carbonari were organized in ventes of 20 members, called bons cousins. They took part to General Berton's plot in Nantes and to the Four Sergeants' plot in La Rochelle. The Four Sergeants (Boris, Goubin, Pommier and Raoulx) were guillotinized in Paris in 1822. Their great courage initiated a liberal campaign and they became legendary.

The flag used by the Four Sergeants was part of the collection of Imperial Prince Napoléon (a.k.a. Jérôme, 1822-1891]. Used by the carbonari ventes between 1821 and 1822, the flag was seen during the plot of the 29th Regiment of the Line in Belfort, then in Paris, and finally in La Rochelle. It was preserved in La Rochelle, given to Lieutenant-Colonel Caron, then to M. Dubourjal, then to Marquis d'Audan, who finally offered it to Prince Napoleon in 1888.

The flag is a French tricolor, in size 100 cm x 172 cm, equipped with a tricolor sash and a golden peak qs its finial. The obverse and reverse of the flag had the respective white inscription:

  Obverse       Reverse
CONSTITUTION    HONNEUR
     ET           ET
 NAPOLEON II    PATRIE

Napoléon II was the son of Napoléon I and Marie-Louise, titled King of Rome, Duke of Reichstadt. Born in 1811, the child was more or less kept prisoner in the Schönbrunn palace until his death in 1832. Recognized Emperor by the Chambers in Paris after his father's abdication, he never reigned.
[Pierre Charrié [chr92]. Drapeaux et Etendards du XIXe siècle.]

Ivan Sache, 9 September 2001


The newspaper Le Drapeau Blanc (The White Flag)

The newspaper Le Drapeau Blanc was published in Paris from 1819 to 1830 by Alphonse Louis Dieudonné Martainville (1776-1830).

After the riots of the 9-10 Thermidor of the Year II (27-28 July 1794), which caused the fall of Robespierre and the end of the Convention, Martainville joined the Muscadins, a group of young counter-revolutionaries famous for their excentric clothes. Under theEmpire, Martainville became a journalist and successful vaudeville writer, in which he aired his political opinions (Le Pied de mouton, 1807).
From 1815 onwards, Martainville wrote royalist articles in the newspapers Le Journal de Paris, La Gazette de France and La Quotidienne. He founded Le Drapeau Blanc in 1819, intially as a periodical leaflet, in order to avoid censorship which was rigorously applied to regular newspapers. In July 1819, Le Drapeau Blanc became a daily newspaper. The motto of the newspaper was Vive le Roi ! ... quand même. (Vive le Roi, even though). Martainville argued that Louis XVIII's government was too liberal and clearly supported the Ultra-royalist party.

Le Drapeau Blanc was the main opponent to Decazes' liberal cabinet. Villèle's Ultra-royalist cabinet was also considered too weak by Martainville. At the end of 1822, Martainville appointed Lamennais editor-in-chief of Le Drapeau Blanc. Félicité de Lamennais (1782-1854) was the apologist of Ultramontanism against Gallicanism. The Ultramontanists defended the abolute power of the Pope and opposed to the Gallicans, who defended a relative independence of the French Roman Catholic church from the Holy See. The Ultramontanists eventually won with the proclamation of the papal infallibility in 1870 and the separation of church and state in 1905. Lamennais was disapproved by Pope Gregor XVI in 1832 and left the Roman Catholic church two years later.
Le Drapeau Blanc became therefore the main enemy of Villèle and the Gallican Catholics. The Ultramontanist campaign reached its peak on 22 August 1823, through the "Letter to the Grand Master of the University", published in Le Drapeau Blanc. "Grand Master of the University" was the official title of His Grace Denis, Count de Frayssinous (1765-1841). Lamennais attacked Frayssinous, which was a way to attack the Gallicans without naming them. Villèle's reaction was terrible: Lamennais was forced to exile to Switzerland and Martainville had to abandon the leadership on the Drapeau Blanc, which was directed by a company funded by Baron d'Eckstein. Le Drapeau Blanc lost its independence and became Villèle's unofficial newspaper. Most subscribers left and Le Drapeau Blanc was published for the last time on 1 February 1827.

On 16 May 1829, Martainville, upon indirect request by Prince de Polignac, published Le Démocrate, which changed its name to Le Drapeau Blanc on 15 July 1829. Le Drapeau Blanc was, along with La Gazette de France and La Quotidienne, one of the rare supporters of the Orders from the 25 July 1830. The last issue of Le Drapeau Blanc was released on 26 July, the day before the beginning of the revolution in Paris. Martainville died a few days later and Le Drapeau Blanc never appeared again.
[Encyclopadia Universalis]

Ivan Sache, 1 June 2003


The song Le Vieux Drapeau (The Old Flag)

Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780-1857) was a French poet and chansonnier (songwriter). He worked initially as a typographer and was later involved in the bankrupcy of his family’s bank. In 1809, he was hired by the University as a copyist. His anti-governmental poems and songs caused his dismissal in 1821. However, his works, of popular, liberal and patriotic inspiration, became rapidly famous. Renowned writers, such as Stendhal and Merimée, considered him as the greatest poet of the 19th century. Châteaubriand, Hugo and Dumas honoured him. Béranger refused titles and dignities, a seat at the Académie française included. Elected in 1848 Representative in Paris without having been candidate, he resigned, to the great disappointment of his supporters and of "modern" writers, such as Baudelaire and Flaubert, who denounced his literary opportunism. Béranger was rediscovered by the French nationalists in the beginning of the 20th century.
The Napoleonic epic was a main source of inspiration for Béranger. In 1820, he wrote a song called Le Vieux Drapeau (The Old Flag), which can be found in Béranger's Complete Works, published in 1850 in Brussels by the Librairie Encyclopédique de Périchon.
The song is made of six stanzas of eight octosyllabs each. In fact, each stanza is made of two independent quatrains, each with enclosed rhyme, that is an ABBA rhyme scheme.

1. De mes vieux compagnons de gloire			I was just surrounded
Je viens de me voir entouré :				By my old companions in glory:
Nos souvenirs m'ont enivré,				Our memories intoxicated me,
Le vin m'a rendu la mémoire.				Wine restored my memory.
Fier de mes exploits et des leurs,			I kept my flag in my hut,
J'ai mon drapeau dans ma chaumière.			Proud of my exploits and theirs.
Quand secouerai-je la poussière				When shall I shake off the dust
Qui ternit ses nobles couleurs ?			Which tarnishes its noble colours?

2. Il est caché sous l"humble paille			It is hidden under the humble straw
Où je dors pauvre et mutilé,				Where I sleep, poor and disabled,
Lui qui, sûr de vaincre, a volé				Him which, sure of the victory, flew
Vingt ans de bataille en bataille ! 			For twenty years from battle to battle!
Chargé de lauriers et de fleurs,			Laden with laurels and flowers, 
Il brilla sur l'Europe entière.				It shone over the whole Europe.
Quand secouerai-je la poussière				When shall I shake off the dust
Qui ternit ses nobles couleurs ?			Which tarnishes its noble colours?	

3. Ce drapeau payait à la France			This flag paid to France
Tout le sang qu'il nous a coûté.			All the blood it costed us.
Sur le sein de la liberté				On the bosom of liberty
Nos fils jouaient avec sa lance.			Our sons played with its spear.
Qu'il prouve encore aux oppresseurs			May it still prove to oppressors
Combien la gloire est roturière.			How glory is of common birth.
Quand secouerai-je la poussière				When shall I shake off the dust
Qui ternit ses nobles couleurs ?			Which tarnishes its noble colours? 

4. Son aigle est resté dans la poudre,			Its eagle remained in the dust,
Fatigué de lointains exploits.				Tired of its far-off exploits.
Rendons-lui le coq des Gaulois:				Give him back the Gauls’ rooster:
Il sut aussi lancer la foudre.				It also knew how to throw the thunderbolt.
La France, oubliant ses douleurs, 			France, forgetting its pains,
Le re b&ecute;nira, libre et fière.			Shall bless it again, free and proud.
Quand secouerai-je la poussière				When shall I shake off the dust
Qui ternit ses nobles couleurs ?			Which tarnishes its noble colours? 	 

5. Las d'errer avec la Victoire, 			Weary of wander with Victory,
Des lois il deviendra l'appui. 				it shall become the support of the laws.
Chaque soldat fut, grâce à lui,				Every soldier was, thanks to it,
Citoyen au bord de la Loire.				A citizen on the shore of the Loire.
Seul il peut voiler nos malheurs;			Only it can veil our misfortunes;
Déployons-le sur la frontière.				Let us unfurl it on the border.
Quand secouerai-je la poussière				When shall I shake off the dust
Qui ternit ses nobles couleurs ?			Which tarnishes its noble colours?	 

6. Mais il est là près de mes armes ;			But it lies here close to my arms;
Un instant osons l'entrevoir.				Let us make it out for a while.
Viens, mon drapeau, viens, mon espoir ! 		Come, my flag, come, my hope!
C'est à toi d'essuyer mes larmes.			You shall dry my tears.
D'un guerrier qui verse des pleurs			Heaven shall hear the prayer
Le ciel entendra la prière : 				From a warrior who shed a tear:
Oui, je secouerai la poussière				Yes, I shall shake off the dust
Qui ternit tes nobles couleurs.	 			Which tarnishes your noble colours.

The song is full of hints which would have been clearly understood by a reader in 1820. It is a rant by an old veteran of the Napoleonic wars, who keeps a [Tricolor] flag in his humble house and regrets the glorious Napoleonic times. He calls several symbols of the Revolution and the Empire, such as the eagle, the Liberty, the Victory, the rooster, which were more or less banned during the Restauration. The "noble colours" are associated with the men of common birth who made the Napoleonic glory, The Bourbons are presented as the "oppressors" and the "dust which tarnished the noble colours" can also be associated to them. The last two octosyllabs are common to the first five stanza and come back like a call to a 'counter-restauration" and the reestablishment of the Tricolor flag.

, 7 June 2003