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Boulogne-sur-Mer (Municipality, Pas-de-Calais, France)

Last modified: 2004-10-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: pas-de-calais | boulogne-sur-mer | cross (white) | swan (white) | discs: 3 (red) |
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[Flag of Boulogne]by Arnaud Leroy

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Presentation of Boulogne-sur-Mer

Boulogne-sur-Mer (50,000 inhabitants; 100,000 inhabitants with outskirts), is a sous-préfecture of the department of Pas-de-Calais. The city is located on the mouth of the river Liane on the Pas de Calais, the narrow bottleneck which separates the Channel from the North Sea and France from Britain. Being one of the closest cities to Britain, Boulogne was involved in several reciprocal attempts of invasions.

When Julius Caesar attempted to invade Britain (55-54 BP), a port named Portus Iltius was built near the present city of Boulogne. In 63, Emperor Claudius conquered Britain and set up the Classis Brittanica, the Britton Fleet, based in a port which was later protected by a castrum. In the IInd century, the lower city built around the port was known as Gesoriacum, whereas the upper city built around the castrum was known as Bononia.

Boulogne became a countal city in the IXth century. The counts of Boulogne were powerfeul lords. Eustache II helped William the Conqueror during the invasion of Britain. His wife founded in Boulogne the St. Wulmer's abbey and the church Notre-Dame. One of their sons was Godefroi of Bouillon (1061-1100), duke of Lower Lorraine and king of Jerusalem (1099). In the XIIth century, an important pilgrimage was set up in the church Notre-Dame, so important that 14 kings of France and five kings of England performed it. Herring fishing was the main source of outcome of the city.

In 1203, count Renaud of Dammartin granted the citizens of Boulogne their first municipal chart. Renaud was defeated in Bouvines (1214), along with other feudal lords, by king of France Philippe-Auguste. In 1223, the king gave the county of Boulogne to his illegitimate son Philippe Hurepel (the Bristling). When king of France Louis VIII died in 1226, Hurepel revolted against the regent Blanche of Castile and reorganized the defence of Boulogne. In 1236, Hurepel died without male descent and the county was incorporated successively to Artois and Burgundy, until king Louis XI eventually incorporated the city to the kingdom of France in 1478.
Louis XI claimed that Notre-Dame venerated in the city was the real "Lord" of Boulogne, and that he, as her vassal, should try to defend her interests by all means, including incorporation of the county to France. Due to its strategical location, Boulogne was called "the most bordering city of the kingdom". Lacking any defence, the lower city was seized several times by the English during the Hundred Years' War (1339, 1347, 1353, 1377) and completely trashed by Henry VII in 1492. In 1510, Henry VIII seized the upper city, which was purchased back by François I in 1544.

Following the treaty of the Pyrénées (1659), the border moved northwards and Boulogne lost its strategical importance. Trade and smuggling with Britain developed.
In 1800, Boulogne became a sous-préfecture and in 1803 an imperial city (ville impériale). Napoléon I planned to invade Britain and set up the Camp de Boulogne. In August 1805, the emperor decided to sent the Coast and Ocean Armies to Austria and the project of invasion was abandoned. The Column of the Great Army, built 3 km north of Boulogne, commemorates the Camp of Boulogne. The column is 53 m high and has a diameter of 4 m. It was built by the architect Eloi Labarre (1764-1833). Two kilometers away, a monument commemorates the second distribution of the Légion d'Honneur by Napoléon I, which took place there on 16 August 1804.

In August 1840, prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later emperor Napoléon III) secretely landed from England near Boulogne. He failed to rouse Boulogne to revolt and was jailed into the fortress of Ham, from which he escaped six years later, using the clothes of a mason named Badinguet.
The Restauration and the Second Empire (1815 to 1870) was the golden age of Boulogne. A posh bating resort was built, linked to Paris by railway in 1848, and Boulogne was the first fishing port in France.

Boulogne was hardly damaged during the First World War, but experienced more than 500 bombings during the Second World War. When liberated on 17 September 1944, 85% of the city was disastered (but not necessarily destroyed) and the port was completely trashed. The ciy was rebuilt by the architect and urbanist Pierre Vivier (1909-1999).

As said above, Boulogne is the birth city of Godefroi of Bouillon, but also of Auguste Mariette (1821-1881), who discovered several ancient Egyptian monuments and founded the Cairo museum; Charles-Augustin de Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869), a novelist and critic Marcel Proust did not appreciate at all (the first draft of A la recherche du temps perdu was entitled Against Sainte-Beuve); the theater actors Constant Coquelin, a.k.a. Coquelin l'Ainé (Sr.) (1804-1869) and Ernest Coquelin, a.k.a. Coquelin le Cadet (Jr.) (1846-1901); Guillaume Duchenne (1806-1875), founder of electrotherapy; Ernest Hamy (1842-1905), founder of the ethnography museum in Paris, now Musée de l'Homme; Georges Mathieu (1921-), a painter member of the lyric abstractive school.
General San Martin, one of the liberators of Argentina (1816), Chile (1817), and Peru (1821), died in exile in Boulogne in 1850 in the Casa San Martin, now a museum.


Ivan Sache, 15 November 2002

Municipal flag of Boulogne-sur-Mer

The municipal flag of Boulogne is divided by a white cross in four blue, yellow, yellow and blue quarters. The municipal arms are placed in the middle of the cross.

The municipal arms are (GASO):

D'or à l'écusson de gueules chargé d'un cygne d'argent, accompagné de trois tourteaux aussi de gueules.

The swan symbolizes purity, and was already present on a municipal seal dated 1286. The roundels come from the arms of the counts of Boulogne (XIIth century).

Ivan Sache, 15 November 2002

Yacht Club de Boulogne-sur-Mer

[YC Boulogne]by Ivan Sache

Yacht Club de Boulogne-sur-Mer, established in 1997, has a burgee made of two light blue triangles along the hoist and a red lozenge in the rest of the flag. The lozenge is separated from the triangle by a white fimbriation. The letters Y, C and B, in dark blue are placed in the two triangles and the lozenge, respectively.

Source: YCB website

Ivan Sache, 15 November 2002