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Le Neubourg (Municipality, Eure, France)

Last modified: 2013-12-28 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Le Neubourg]

Flag of Le Neubourg - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 20 March 2007


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Presentation of Le Neubourg

The municipality of Le Neubourg (3,922 inhabitants in 2004; 991 ha) is located in Normandy, south of Rouen. It is the small capital of the agricultural region known as "plaine du Neubourg" or "plateau du Neubourg", one of the main area of flax production in France.

In the 9th-10th centuries, the plateau of Neubourg was settled by Celtic tribes in the south and Frankish tribes in its median part, whereas its northernmost part was covered with forests. The Northmen cleared that part. Le Neubourg was most probably founded by Northmen colonists around 900-1000 and might have been early named Nyja Borg (new settlement), although its oldest known name is Novus Burgus (Latin). The south of the plateau remained a mixed Celtic-Frankish area, which was eventually cleared around 1000.
The fortress built in Le Neubourg around 1000, too, played a significant role in the early history of Normandy. It was besieged by King of England Henry Beauclerc (c. 1068-1135; King in 1100, Duke of Normandy in 1106), who was the fourth son of William the Conqueror. After the death of Henry from eating "a surfeit of lampreys", the Normand barons gathered in Le Neubourg and elected Henry's nephew, Stephen of Blois (1096-1154) as the King of England instead of Henry's daughter, Empress Mathilda. The struggle between Stephen and Mathilda resulted in the civil war known as the Anarchy, settled in 1153 by the naming of Mathilda's son, Henry Plantagenet, as his heir by Stephen. On 2 November 1160, the marriage of Marguerite of France (1158-1197), daughter of King Louis VII, with Henry the Young King (1155-1183, crowned in 1170 but deceased earlier than his father), son of Henry II Plantagenet, was celebrated in Le Neubourg. Pope Alexander III allowed the marriage of the very young children. The castle of Le Neubourg was sacked in 1198 during the conquest of Normandy by King of France Philippe-Auguste. During the Hundred Years' War, the castle was seized and occupied by the English. It was again seized during the Wars of Religion.

In November 1660, the wealthy Alexandre de Rieux, Marquis de Sourdéac and Baron of Neubourg, decided to celebrate in his castle the peace with Spain and Louis XIV's marriage: he commissioned the famous writer Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) to write a tragi-comedy with dances and music. The play, called La toison d'or (The Golden Fleece), differs from Corneille's masterpieces (Le Cid, Horace, Cinna etc.) by the use of machines (special effects), of which Sourdéac was fond. This was the first play with such fééries ever played in France.
In 1785, the "Old Castle", deemed obsolete, was suppressed to build a new village square: the donjon, the chapel and most of the walls were destroyed, and only the "Maison Neufve", built in the 17th century, a 13th--century hall and a tower were kept.

Source: Municipal website

Le Neubourg is the birth place of the politician Jacques Charles Dupont (1767-1855; biography), who took the name of Dupont de l'Eure after the creation of the department of Eure in 1790, to be distinguished from another politician called Dupont. Appointed lawyer at the Parliament of Normandy, Dupont de l'Eure had a very long career in politics and justice, being actively involved in the three revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848. Unlike many others, he never changed his mind following the political changes, being considered by both his supporters and opponents as a model of professional and political integrity.
On 27 February 1792, aged 25, Dupont was elected municipal officer in Le Neubourg; he was further appointed district administrator in Louviers, judge at the Civil Court of Louviers and eventually public prosecutor at the Criminal Court of Eure in 1798. On 14 April 1798, Dupont was elected representative of Eure at the Five-Hundreds Council set up by the Directoire government. A supporter of Bonaparte's coup establishing the Consulate, Dupont was appointed President of the Criminal Court of Eure and Knight of the Legion of Honour, which did not prevent him to exercize justice independently from the Imperial government. To acknowledge his skills, the Emperor appointed him Knight of the Empire and President of a Chamber of the Court of Rouen.
Dupont was Vice President of the Chamber during the Bourbonic Restauration. Elected representative of Eure in 1817, he joined the constitutional opposition; accordingly, he was sacked from public office next year. Constantly reelected during the Restauration, Dupont was one of the leaders of the liberal opposition, campaigning for the liberty of press and signing the "manifesto of the 221" against the Polignac government.
Dupont de l'Eure went to Paris after the fall of Charles X in 1830, where he was convinced by Lafayette to support the July Monarchy, "the best of the republics". He was Minister in the early governments set up by King Louis-Philippe, who did not like his independent way of thinking and speaking. Dupont left the government on 27 December 1830 when Lafayette was forced to retire, joining again the opposition. Constantly reelected, Dupont actively contributed to the Banquet Campaign that started in 1847: the Republican opposition organized "private" banquets, which were a way to by-pass the law forbidding public meetings. The banquet presided by Dupont in Le Neubourg on 12 December 1847 has remained famous.
After the fall of Louis-Philippe, the Chamber was invaded by the opponents on 24 February 1848; Dupont, aged 81, was appointed Chairman and Provisory President of the Council of the Ministers by the coalition that had seized the power but had not found its leader yet. Dupont resigned on 4 May 1848, transfering the power from the Provisory Government to the newly elected assembly, where he kept sitting until 1849.
On 4 September 1881, Gambetta inaugurated in Le Neubourg a bronze statue of Dupont made by the sculptor Decorchemont and paid by a national subscription. The statue was stolen by the Germans in 1942; on 20 June 1948, the president of the National Assembly Edouard Herriot, inaugurated the new statue of Dupont made by Roger Courroy.

The Museum of the Anatomic Écorché (website), opened in Le Neubourg in 1995, is a tribute to Dr. Louis Auzoux (1797-1880; biography), born in the neighbouring village of Saint-Aubin d'Écrosville. Auzoux set up a method of production of anatomic, skinless models of the human being (écorché) for the purpose of teaching. Auzoux presented his first model to the Royal Academy of Medicine in 1822, which issued a positive report in 1824. Officially commissionned by the Ministry of the Interior, Auzoux presented the next year his first écorché to the Academy of Sciences. Mass production started in 1828 in Saint-Aubin, employing 50 workers. In 1830, Auzoux released his Grand Écorché, which would serve as a template for models sold all over the world fot more than 150 ans. The Auzoux method became a standard for the study of anatomy: in 1845, Auzoux proposed two smaller and cheaper models to decrease the cost of his method.
Before Auzoux, anatomy was mostly studied on real bodies, which fed a nefarious body trade associated with cemetary desecration. Accordingly, Auzoux was considered as a benefactor: he was congratulated by the King of England, the Tsar of Russia and even the Pope, who "introduced" a Grand Écorché in the Holy See. Don Pedro, Emperor of Brazil, said about Auzoux: "He is the only man who taught me the little I know in anatomy."
Auzoux technique involved lead moulds filled with papier-mâché. The pieces were then assembled with metal wires, fitted together, sand-papered and covered with paper. The blood vessels were then pasted and the pieces were painted. Nerves and membranes were added before the definitive assemblage of the models, which had up to 230 pieces and showed 2,000 anatomic structures.
Also interested in plants and animals, Auzoux used the same technique to produce anatomic models of the horse, the fly, the may bug, the bee, the fern, the sprouting wheat grain, etc. Some 200 original models were given to the museum after the closure of the factory at Saint-Aubin in 2002.
The municipal museum of Nagasaki shows an Auzoux écorché that was found a few hundreds meters from the impaction of the atomic bomb on 9 August 1945; when it was realized that it was not a body but a model, it was decided to keep it as a symbol of all the victims of the bomb.
There is a vivid description of an Auzoux écorché in the novel Bouvard et Pécuchet by Gustave Flaubert (1881, unfinished). Bouvard and Pécuchet are two copy-clerks who retire after coming into an inheritance and decide to flounder through almost every branch of knowledge. Since they experiment nearly everything but are not able to analyze properly any of their findings, the book is often considered as the encyclopaedia of stupidity. In Chapter 3, the two fellows order an Auzoux écorché that causes a lot of trouble since the villagers, believing they are cutting a real body into pieces, call the police.

Ivan Sache, 20 March 2007


Flag of Le Neubourg

Le Neubourg is twinned with the English town of Gillingham (Dorset). In July 2006, the twinning committee met in Le Neubourg. Photos of the event (no longer online) show members of the commitee, the Queen of Neubourg, and the flag of Neubourg. The flag is similar to the municipal logotype, with the elements originally in white on the logotype in yellow on the flag. The building shown on the flag is the massive St. Paul church of Le Neubourg, built at the end of the 15th century, in late Gothical style. The two towers surmonting the gate and the vaults of the church were never finished. Burned by the Duke of Parma on 14 March 1592, the church was restored in 1610. The steeple an the campanile were destroyed in 1940.

Ivan Sache, 20 March 2007