Last modified: 2005-11-12 by ivan sache
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Municipal flag of Antoing - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 22 May 2005
The municipality of Antoing (7,705 inhabitants, 3,113 ha) is located on
the river Scheldt (in French, Escaut), 10 km south-west of Tournai, close to the border with France. It is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Antoing,
Bruyelle, Calonne, Fontenoy, Maubray and Péronnes.
Antoing is the capital city of the pays blanc (the white country), where limestone has been extracted since the Roman times. Limestone is used in lime kilns and cement works, which belch out a white dust all around. The pays blanc is opposed to the pays noir (the black country), the coal mining basin. The main cement works was located in Vaulx, near the railway Tourani-Antoing.
Antoing is also the Walloon capital city of pumpkin, which is celebrated, along with the other Cucurbitaceae, in the fête des courges every year in September. The heaviest pumpkin and the most distant from Belgium pumpkin are awarded during the festival.
In the Middle Ages, Antoing was a feudal domain with a big fortress. The castle of Antoing, one of the most famous in Belgium, was first mentioned in the XIIth century. The present-day castle dates from the XIIIth (outer walls) and XVth century (fortified gate, barbican and donjon) and was redesigned in Neo-Gothic style by the French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879). In the XIVth century, the castle of Antoing belonged to the powerful Melun family; it was transfered in 1634 to the Princes of Ligne, owners in Hainaut of the castle of Beloeil by inheritance and still living there.
The battle of Fontenoy took place on 11 May 1745, during the war of Austrian Succession (1740-1748). This war opposed on land Prussia, France, Bavaria, Saxe and Spain to Austria, and at sea and in the colonies France and Prussia to England and Austria. The origin of the war was the succession of Emperor Charles VI of Hapsburg (1711-1740) in 1740, promised to his daughter Maria Theresa (1717-1780) by the "pragmatic sanction" of 1713. Austria ceded Silesia to Prussia in 1742 and defeated Bavaria in 1745. The same year, Maria Theresa's husband, François of Lorraine (1708-1765), was elected Emperor and Maria Theresa took the title of Empress. France carried on war into the Austrian Low Countries and conquered them after the victory of Fontenoy. However, France had to withdraw from all the conquered territories after the treaty of Aachen (1748), which recognized the "pragmatic sanction" and the incorporation of Silesia to Prussia. Marie Teresa later fought in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) againt Frederic II of Prussia but could not reincorporate Silesia to Austria.
In 1744, the French troops invaded Flanders and conquered Menen, Ieper, Knokke and Veurne. In May 1745, King Louis XV decided to besiege Tournai, which controlled the valley of Scheldt and was defended by a big Dutch garrison. An army made of Dutch, English, Hanovrian and Austrian regiments was formed at the end of April in Brussels to help the besieged. This army was commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765), the Austrian Marshal Königsegg and Prince of Waldeck. On 9 May, they met the French army and seized easily the village of Vezon and the hamlets of Bourgeon and Vezonchaux on 10 May. They were prepared to defeat easily the rest of the French troops. However, the French commander was Maurice, Count of Saxe (1696-1750), aka Marshal of Saxe, the natural son of Elector of Saxe and King of Poland Augustus II and Countess Aurora von Königsmarck; Saxe is considered as the best strategist of that time. As soon as he saw the enemy, Saxe ordered the withdrawal of most of his troops into the zone Antoing-Fontenoy-Gaurain; on the evening of the 10 May, the French positions were closed by three redoubts set up between Antoing and Fonteny, and Saxe waited for the enemy to rush.
The battle of Fontenoy started on 11 May at 5 AM and ended around 2 PM.
Waldeck's Dutch troops emerged from the haze and were caught two times
by the French artillery postioned in Antoing, Fontenoy and in the mill
of Bruyelle; demoralized, they gave up the fight. Cumberland's
Anglo-Hanovrian batallions attempted to break through the French lines
in the north of Antoing around 11 AM. Count of Anterroches said to the
English his famous sentence: Messieurs, nous ne tirons jamais les
premiers ; tirez vous-même, often shortened as Tirez les premiers,
Messieurs les Anglais (Shoot first, English Gentlemen). The English
shot and broke through the line to the plain of Fontenoy, where Saxe
was prepared to welcome them. Cumberland's soldiers formed the famous
"Fontenoy column", a rectangle protected on three edges. They resisted
to the assaults of the French and Irish battalions and of the cavalry
until the attack by the French reserves commanded by Lowendal. Lacking
the Dutch support, Cumberland had to withdraw.
The losses were very heavy: 5,000 were killed and 9,000 injured; 2,000 horses were killed, injured or escaped. The Irish brigade, made of the regiments of Clare, Dillon, Bulkeley, Roth, Berwick and Lally, significantly contributed to the French victory. The regiment of Dillon was commanded in Fontenoy by Colonel Jacques Dillon, Knight of the Order of Malta, who was killed during the battle.
The French army captured only one colour, the flag of the 2nd Regiment of English Guards, captured by Sergent Wheelock, from the regiment of Bulkeley. The Irish had 657 dead or injured. The cavalry regiment of Fitz-James lost half of its squadrons. An Irish cross was erected in the center of Fontenoy in 1907 to commemorate the battle.
In 1907-1908, another famous French strategist studied elementary mathematics at the Sacré-Coeur College in Antoing; his name was Charles de Gaulle. In May 1908, aged 18, he published an article on the Jesuits (La Congrégation) in the review Hors de France published by the College of Antoing.
The hermitage Notre-Dame-aux-Bois took part to most significants events
of the history of Antoing. A chapel named Notre-Dame-des-Hauts-Arbres
(Our Lady of the High Trees) was built in 1435 in a clearing already
settled by pilgrims coming back from Jerusalem. A men's convent was
built in the clearing, as listed in the municipal account of Tournai
dated 1513; the convent was trashed in 1566 by the Iconoclasts, but was
still settled in 1705. Afterwards, life was so difficult that the last
monks left Antoing; in 1745, the hermitage was settled by a gamekeeper
hired by the Prince of Ligne. During the battle of Fontenoy, it was
used as a field hospital; Louis XV and the Dauphin stayed not far from
there. Later, the hermitage was used as a shrine and then a farm. At
the end of the XIXth century, the Prince of Ligne took stones from the
chapel to rebuild the main entrance of his castle in Antoing.
Notre-Dame-aux-Bois was an important place of pilgrimage, with a miraculous source (still there) and a statuette of the Blessed Virgin made of oak wood in the XVIth century. There were several conflicts between Antoing and the neighbouring village of Ramecroix for the rights on the chapel and the statuette, which disappeared in 1914. Accordingly, Canon Doye, priest in Antoing from 1882 to 1889, nicknamed the chapel Notre-Dame-du-Diable (Our Lady of the Devil).
Ivan Sache, 22 May 2005
The municipal flag of Antoing is made of six wavy diagonal stripes,
alternatively red and white.
According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, it was adopted by the Municipal Council on 28 May 1990 and confirmed by the Executive of the French Community on 18 December 1991, with the following official description:
Bandé ondé de six pièces rouges et blanches
Six laizes diagonales descendantes ondées alternativement rouges et blanches.
The stripes symbolize the six former municipalities merged into Antoing, the waves symbolize the river Scheldt. The colours come from the arms of the former lords of Antoing, used as the municipal arms of Antoing since 12 December 1953:
De gueules au lion d'argent.
Gules a lion argent
These arms are shown in the Gelre Armorial for Die Heer v. Antoenge (The Lord of Antoing).
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 22 May 2005