Last modified: 2004-07-31 by ivan sache
Keywords: oise | chaumont-en-vexin | mount (green) | sun (red) | crown: mural (yellow) |
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by Arnaud Leroy
Source: Mairie de Chaumont-en-Vexin
Chaumont-en-Vexin (2,982 habitants, 1,800 hectares) is located on the river Troesne, in the north of the Vexin Français. The municipality is made of the city of Chaumont and the smaller villages of Bertichères, Laillerie and Rebetz.
In the Middle-Ages, Chaumont was one of the thirteen bailiwicks constituting Ile-de-France, the core of the then small kingdom of France. The city was built around a fortified camp (castrum), later a castle, set up on a natural hillock, and mentioned in 1112 as castrum calvimontis (bare mount). The first known viscount of Chaumont was Robert I le Roux (the Redhaead), a.k.a. l'Eloquent (the Eloquent). A seal from 1211, kept in the French National Archives, is captioned s[igiluum] maioris [et] parium communie calvimo[n]tis, indicating that a city with a municipal organisation had developed around the castrum.
Chaumont had a great strategic importance since it was located on the
border with Normandy. The city belonged from 1325 to 1579 to the big
domain of the Montmorency family, one of the oldest French noble lineages.
In the XVth century, the Saint-Jean Baptiste church was built on the hill in flamboyant style by architect Nicolas Jouette. Its characteristic square tower was added in the Renaissance and its stained-glass windows were placed in the XVIth century. The church can be reached only by XIVth-century stone stairs.
The castle of Bertichères was built in the same period in the eponymous hamlet. It was the residence of the counts of Chaumont and later the prefered residence of Monsieur (Philippe, duke of Orléans, 1640-1701), king Louis XIV's brother. The castle is now a golf country-club with one of the best greens in Europe.
The chapel Saint-Henri, located in the Recollet convent (today the city hall) was the meeting place of the Sans-Culottes club during the French Revolution. In September 1792, the 12 representatives of the department of Oise at the National Convention were elected in Chaumont.
Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882), novelist (Les Pléiades, 1874) and essayist (Essai sur les inégalites des races humaines, 1853-1855, one of the early sources of the racist theories), was elected general councillor of Chaumont in 1870.
Ivan Sache, 4 March 2004
Chaumont-en-Vexin was also the headquarters of the US American Expeditionary Force in France during the First World War (1917-19) and its Commanding General, John J. Pershing. There was even a US Navy troop transport (USS Chaumont (AP-5)) named after the town. It became once again famous in passing during the Second World War When General of the Army (or General, as he then was) Douglas MacArthur used to fulminate against the "Chaumont Gang" that were conspiring against his getting the supplies and men which he needed. This apparently was due (in MacArthur's words) because one of the so-called Chaumont Gang, a Lt Col George Catlett Marshall, who had been jealous of his (MacArthur's) fame and exploits as commanding general of the 42nd Division. Doug got his revenge a dozen years afterwards when as Chief of Staff of the US Army, he wrote a damning fitness report on Colonel Marshall stating that "this individual was unfit to command any unit above regimental size." Fast forward another fifteen years, and this same General Marshall now held MacArthur's old post as Army Chief of Staff; hence MacArthur's absolute conviction that the "Chaumont Gang" were out to get him.
Ron Lahav, 5 March 2004
The flag of Chaumont-en-Vexin is vertically divided blue-white with the crowned municipal arms. The arms represent a green mount on a white field, surmonted by a personalized white sun with red rays. These arms are canting if we read Chaumont as Chaud + Mont, warm + mount, which is etymologically incorrect (see above). The same kind of pseudo-canting coat of arms is found in Chaumont-sur-Loire.
Ivan Sache, 4 March 2004