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Épernon (Municipality, Eure-et-Loir, France)

Last modified: 2024-03-23 by olivier touzeau
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Flag of Épernon, current and former versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 11 July 2021

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Presentation of Épernon

The municipality of Épernon (5,540 inhabitants in 2015, 643 ha), is located on river Eure, 30 km northeast of Chartres and 10 km of Maintenon.

In the 11th century, the counts of Montfort and Amaury (and especially Robert II, the son of Hugues Capet) raised the fortresses of Épernon and Montfort for the protection of the castle of Saint Léger and granted a charter to the town. Charters of the 12th and 13th century refer to the town as Sparno and Sparnonum, and by the 14th century it had become Espernon. In the 13th century Épernon became an independent lordship, attached to the crown of Navarre. In the 16th century, it was sold by Henry III of France to Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette (1554-1642), for whom it was raised to the rank of a duchy in 1581.

Born in Caumont in Gascony, Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette fought on the Catholic side in the French Wars of Religion; at the Siege of La Rochelle (1572-1573), he first came to the notice of the Duke of Anjou, the future Henry III of France. In 1578, Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette had been accepted into Henry's most intimate circle of favourites, know as Mignons. In 1581, Henry sold him the town of Épernon, at the same time raising it to the rank of a duchy thus creating Nogaret the first Duke of Épernon. Highly favored by Henry, he received from him lots of titles: maítre de camp of the Champagne regiment (1579), Governor of Fère (1580), Colonel-General of the infantry (1581), First Gentleman of the King's Chamber (1582), Knight of the Order of Holy Spirit, Governor of Boulonnais, Loches, Lyon, Metz and its surrounding areas (1583), Knight of the Orders of the King (1584), and Governor of Provence (1586). At the death of the Duke of Joyeuse (1587) he was awarded the titles of Admiral of France, Governor of Normandy, of Caen, and of Épernon.
Temporarily out of favour with the king, he returned to his side after the murder of Henry, Duke of Guise (1588), and advised reconciliation with Henry of Navarre, the future Henry IV of France. When Henry III was murdered (1589), Épernon opposed the accession of Henry of Navarre, who was then still a Protestant, and even made a secret treaty with Spain and attempted to install an independent government in Provence. When Henry was established as king, however, Épernon appeared at court posing as a loyal subject. He joined in every conspiracy of the reign without ever being caught, and there are grounds for believing that he helped to arrange the murder of the king by François Ravaillac, who lodged, in his preparatory visits to Paris, with Épernon's mistress, Charlotte du Tillet.
He played a large part in the immediate acceptance of Henry's widow, Marie de' Medici, as regent, her son Louis XIII being then too young to rule. He participated in the persecution of the Huguenots in Guyenne. He fell into disgrace after Louis came into power (1617) but avenged himself by planning Marie de' Medici's escape from her exile in Blois in 1619 and supporting her in the civil war that ensued. In 1622 he was appointed Governor of Guyenne, where he lived quietly for more than ten years in the castle of Cadillac. In 1634, however, his deteriorating relationship with Henri de Sourdis (brother and successor of Cardinal François de Sourdis) led to a public altercation in which Épernon struck Sourdis. Furious, Sourdis demanded his excommunication and Cardinal de Richelieu deprived him of his governorship in 1638 and exiled him to Loches in 1641.

Nogaret's second son, Bernard (1592-1661), succeeded his father to the dukedom. Bernard was named Colonel-General of Infantry and fought at the sieges of Saint-Jean-d'Angély and of Royan (1621) and at the attack of Susa Pass (1629). On 15 May 1633, Bernard became a Knight of the Order of the Holy Spirit and in 1635 he was charged by Louis XIII with restoring the order. He fought in Picardy (1636), in Guyenne, and finally against the Spaniards, and repressed the Croquant rebellions in 1637. He was charged by the Prince de Condé in 1638 with leading the assault at the Siege of Fuenterrabía (Hondarribia), but he refused, and yielded his post to Vice Admiral de Sourdis who launched an ill-fated attack that resulted in heavy losses. This disaster was attributed to the Duke of La Valette, and Richelieu, who hated La Valette, had him tried in front of an extraordinary court chaired by the king himself (1639). The court returned a sentence of death but La Valette, who knew Richelieu well, had prudently departed for England.
After Louis XIII's death, Bernard returned to France where the Parliament of Paris cancelled the judgement against him (1643). In 1648 he became governor of Guyenne. Bernard also served as governor of Burgundy (1654–1660).
After Bernard's death, the title was borne by the families of Goth de Rouillac and then Pardaillan de Gondrin, Dukes of Antin, and, finally, by Louis de Noailles, 4th Duke of Noailles (1713-1793), Peer of France and Marshal of France, son of Françoise Charlotte d'Aubigné, niece of Madame de Maintenon, and a nephew of Marie Victoire de Noailles, daughter-in-law of Louis XIV.

Épernon was well known for its sandstone quarries, used for millstones, for the building of the aqueduct of Maintenon, or for cobblestones, especially for example during Haussmann's renovation of Paris.
The French mathematician Michel Chasles (1793-1880) was born in Épernon.

Olivier Touzeau, 13 March 2018

Flag of Épernon

The flag of Épernon is white with the municipal logo, which was adopted in February 2021 and features the tower and the fleurs-de-lis from the municipal arms, "Azure a tower argent port and masoned sable in chief three fleurs-de-lis or", outlined in yellow, and the name of the municipality with the URL of the municipal website in blue.
The former flag of Épernon was white with the former municipal logo, composed of a stylized rendition of the municipal coat of arms with a yellow shadow.

Olivier Touzeau, 11 July 2021