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Provence (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2011-06-10 by ivan sache
Keywords: provence | fleur-de-lis (yellow) | label (red) | anjou | aragon |
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[Flag of Provence 1]      [Flag of Provence 2]

Flags of Provence
Left, "Aragonese" flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 13 September 2009;
Right, "Anjou" flag - Image by Pierre Gay, 6 December 2003


See also:

External site of interest:


Geography of Provence

Provence is considered today as made of the departments of Var, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, Vaucluse, Alpes-Maritimes, and the southern part of the department of Drôme (Drôme provençale). This broad definition encompasses the County of Nice (east of Alpes-Maritimes) and the Comtat Venaissin (most of Vaucluse), which are, historically, not parts of Provence.

Provence is limited by the Italian border (east), the traditional province of Dauphiné (north, the limit being more or less the limit between the Southern and the Northern Alps), the river Rhôone (west) and the Mediterranean Sea (south).

Ivan Sache, 6 December 2003


History of Provence

The Roman conquest

Before the Roman conquest, Provence was inhabited by several tribes such as the Deceati, the Ligaunians, the Oxibians, the Sueltri, the Salyans, the Desuviati and the Vulgienti. In the 7th century BP, Greek emigrants from Phocia (Asia Minor) founded Massilia (Marseilles) in the area then inhabited by the Segobrigi, where they brought olive trees and vines. Several daughter colonies were founded by the Phoceans, who developed industry and agriculture all over Provence.

Around 170 BP, the Phoceans called their Roman allies for help against the Ligurian tribes. The Roman legions crossed the Alps and conquered the territory inhabited by the Ligurians, up to the river Var. In 124 BP, the Romans crossed the Var and conquered a vast area they called Provincia, the short form of Provincia Romana. Under Emperor August, Provence was part of the Provincia Narbonensis, which included also Languedoc, Vivarais, Dauphiné and Savoy. Around 368, Provence was detached from the Provincia Narbonensis to make the Secunda Provincia Narbonensis.


The Kingdom of Provence

The Burgundianss, invading Provence from the north in 406, settled in 474 in the west of the province, up to the left bank of the river Durance. In 474, the Visigoths, expelled from Spain, seized Arles and settled the part of Provence not already occupied by the Burgundians. Later, Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths, incorporated Provence into his Italian kingdom.
In 536, Witiges, one of Theodoric's successors, ceded Provence to the Kingdom of the Franks. Chlothar I bequeathed it to his son Guntram, King of Burgundy and Orléans. In 843, Provence was allocated to Lothair by the Treaty of Verdun. Lothair's son, Charles, founded in 855 the Kingdom of Provence, which was reincorporated to France by Charles the Bald. Boso, appointed Governor of Provence by his brother-in-law Charles the Bald, was proclaimed in 879 King of Provence by an assembly of archbishops, bishops and feudal lords gathered in the castle of Mantaille.
Boson was succeeded in 887 by his son Louis the Blind, solemnely elected by a bishops' assembly in 890. The real power was exerted by Hugh, Count of Arles a relative of Louis, who succeeded him in 923. Crowned King of Lombardy in 929, Hugh ceded Provence to Rudolf II, King of Transjurane Burgundy and Germany. Rudolf appointed elected Counts to govern Provence, who became hereditary rulers, as it happened in other parts of France, and set up a feodal state, placed under the direct, although remote and theoretical, protection of the German Emperor in 1032, and therefore completely independent of France until 1481.


The Bosonid Counts of Provence (948-1102)

Boso (948-971) pacified Provence with the help of the Genoese, expelling the Sarracens from their last fortress, Fraxinet (La Garde-Freinet).
William I the Great (971-992), Boso's elder son, definitively got rid of the Sarracens in 980 and married Adelaïde Blanche, daughter of Geoffrey, Count of Anjou.
During Bertrand's reign (1063-1090), the Council of Clermont (1095) called for the First Crusade, to which several Provencal lords took part. Bertrand had no children and was succeeded by Gilbert (1090-1102), son of count Otto de Lorraine. Gilbert had no sons but two daughters, one of them, Douce, being married to Raymond Béranger, Count of Barcelona.


The house of Barcelona (1102-1245)

Raymond-Béranger I (1102-1131) became short before his death Knight of the Temple Order, which had been founded in Jerusalem in 1118 by the Provencal knights Hugh of Bagarris and Geoffrey Adhémar. He was succeeded by his son Raymond-Béranger II (1131-1145), who defeated the powerful lords of Les Baux with the help of his brother Raymond-Béranger, Count of Bercelona and King of Aragon. The beginning of the reign of Raymond-Béranger III (1145-1166), still minor when his father died, was marked by the revolt of the Count of Les Baux and Boniface of Castellane, who were once again defeated by the King of Aragon. Raymond-Béranger III married Richilde, daughter of Ladislas, King of Poland. When the town of Nice rose up, the Count of Provence, coming from Aragon to join the siege, was killed by a crossbow bolt.
Raymond-Béranger III's cousin, Alfonso I (1166-1196), King of Aragon, inherited Provence. He seized Nice and definitively got rid of the lords of Les Baux. Married with Sancha of Castile, he was succeeded as King of Aragon by his son Peter and as Count of Provence by his other son Alfonso.. Alfonso II (1196-1209) married Garsende, daughter of the last Count of Forcalquier, whose states had been independent of Provence since one century. Captured by his father-in-law, Alfonso was released by his brother, Peter of Aragon. When the Count of Forcalquier died, his domain was reincorporated to Provence.
Alfonso was succeeded by his son Raymond-Béranger IV (1209-1245), who organized his state and subjugated the towns of Marseilles, Arles, Avignon and Nice, suppressing the republican status granted by the German Emperor. The towns that had supported him (for instance, Aix-en-Provence) were allowed to bear the arms of Aragon. Among Raymond-Béranger IV's four daughters, Marguerite married King of France Louis IX (St. Louis), Eleanor married King of England Henry III of England, and Béatrix married King of Naples Charles of Anjou.
During that period, Provence had very close relationships with Languedoc, being in the same cultural Occitan area. This Golden Age ended after the invasion of Languedoc during the Albigensian Crusade and the incorporation of the County of Toulouse to France, which established the border between France and the German Empire on the river Rhône.


The first house of Anjou (1245-1382)

Charles I of Anjou (1245-1285), the son of King of France Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile, King of Naples, Sicily and Jerusalem, became Count of Provence by marrying Béatrix. Peter III, King of Aragon, seized the Kingdom of Sicily and set the Sicilians against the French, who were slaughtered on Easter Day 1282 during the "Sicilian Vespers".
Charles II (1285-1309), succeeding his father, had to leave three of his sons as hostages to the King of Aragon, until being reconciled with him. Charles II was involved in the destruction of the Order of the Temple. The great western schism took place during his reign, Pope Clement V settling in Avignon in 1308. Charles II was succeeded by Robert (1309-1343), father of "Queen" Joan.
During her long and difficult reign (1343-1382), Joan married four times but had only one son, who died early. She adopted as her heir Louis of Anjou, son of King of France John. Lacking money, she sold in 1338 the town of Avignon to Pope Clement VI for only 8,000 guilders. Her challenger Charles of Durazzo, Charles II's grandson, captured her in 1382. Joan's murder in Naples was the beginning of the Provencal civil war.


The second house of Anjou (1382-1481)

Louis I of Anjou (1382-1384) defeated Charles of Durazzo. His son Louis II (1384-1417), who started his reign under the regency of his mother Mary of Blois, suppressed the Durazzo party, confirmed the municipal rights of Aix, sponsored the university and created a sovereign court presided by a juge-mage.
Louis III (1417-1434) expelled the Aragonese from the Kingdom of Naples. During Louis' Italian campaign, King of Aragon Alfonso raided and looted Marseilles. When about to die, Louis appointed his brother René as his successor.
René d'Anjou (1434-1480, a.k.a. le Bon Roi René) ceded his rights on Lorraine to Charles de Vaudémont, and attempted to subjugate the rebels in Sicily and Naples, to no avail. He spent the rest of his reign surrounded by a brilliant court, encouraging arts and agriculture. Not survived by any of his sons, René bequeathed his states to his nephew Charles III.
Charles III (1480-1481), the 23rd and last Count of Provence, threarened by the King of Aragon and other princes, decided, probably advised long before by René, to cede the County of Provence to his cousin, the King of France Louis XI.


The takeover by France (1481)

Louis XI "accepted" Provence, which was formally incorporated to the Kingdom of France in 1487, under Charles VIII. To secure the political independence of Provence, the king promised to mantain les franchises, statuts, prérogatives, us et coutumes of Provence, which was united to the kingdom not as un accessoire à un principal, but as un principal à un autre principal (peer to peer).
Until the reign of Louis XV, this very theoretical independence was preserved by the Parliament of Aix, created in 1501 as a sovereign justice court, and whose edicts started with De par le roi, comte de Provence et de Forcalquier. When sending Edicts to Provence, the kings of France used the same title, an use stopped when Louis XVI's brother, later King Louis XVIII, was granted the title of Count of Provence. Often challenging the Royal power, the Parliament was eventually suppressed in 1771.
Just before the 1789 Revolution, Provence was divided into Upper-Provence, made of the six diocèses (religious divisions) of Sisteron, Apt, Digne, Senez, Riez and Glandèves, and of the four senéchaussées (administrative divisions) of Castellane, Digne, Sisteron and Forcalquier; and Lower-Provence, made of the seven diocèses of Arles, Aix, Marseille, Toulon, Fréjus, Grasse and Vence, and the eight senéchaussees of Aix, Draguignan, Arles, Marseille, Toulon, Hyères, Brignoles and Grasse.
When incorporated to France, Provence was divided into 26 administrative (tax) units, known as vigueries (from Latin vicariae), bailliages (bajuliae) and vaux or vallées (valleys). In 1541, François I suppressed the bailliages and replaced them by vigueries, which were suppressed in 1749. The vallées were also suppressed, except the vallée of Barrême, which existed until the Revolution. In 1789, theres were 23 vigueries, including 680 municipalities. Marseilles, Arles and Salon had the specific status of adjacent lands (terres adjacentes), which were not included into the vigueries.

Source: Louis de Bresc. Armorial des Communes de Provence [bjs94]

Ivan Sache, 6 December 2003


The two flags of Provence

Two flags are used today to represent Provence, based on the two "traditional" arms of Provence. There is no evidence they were ever used either as the flag of the County of Provence or as the flag of the Province of Provence within the Kingdom of France.

From the early 12th century to the middle of the 13th century, Provence is said to have used the arms of Aragon (D'or à quatre pals de gueules - Or four pales gules). Louis de Bresc quotes Abbott Brianville (Jeu d'Armoiries, Lyon, c. 1660) as the source of this theory.

The second arms of Provence, D'azur à une fleur de lis d'or surmontée d'un lambel de trois pendants de gueules (Azure a fleur-de-lis or and a label of three points gules), are a simplification of the arms of Count of Provence Charles of Anjou. According to Louis de Bresc, they were ascribed in the Armorial Général (I, 437 ; bl. II, 1093 ; enr. 300). In his Histoire de Provence, Nostradamus writes that the label has five points, but it seems that the label always had three points. Honoré Bouché (Histoire de Provence claims that the fleur-de-lis was already present on the arms of Count Gilbert, last count from the house of Boso. Gilbert's family could have received those arms from the King of France or a Royal prince before the foundation of the Kingdom of Arles, when Provence was still under direct Royal suzereignty. According to Nostradamus, Counts Alfonso I and Alfonso II, from the house of Barcelona, used a fleur-de-lis on their seal. Unfortunately, these seals have been lost, as well as letters from Count Robert, bearing the seal, seen by Bouché.
In his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941), Jacques Meurgey shows the "Anjou" arms, explaining that Charles I of Anjou, the husband of Countess Beatrix of Provence, bore France ancien au lambel de gueules de trois pièces (France ancient a label gules, that is Anjou-Sicily). The arms ascribed to Provence are simplified, with France modern instead of France ancient.

Today, the banners of those two arms are widely used in Provence, sometimes together. The Occitanists probably prefer the Aragonese banner, which refers to the golden age of the Occitan, independent Provence. In the department of Vaucluse, several municipalities have added their name in Provencal on the road shields, which bear the Aragonese arms.

The flag with vertical red and yellow stripes appears in the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [eba94], #66, with the following caption:

PROVENCE
Occitans
South-East France

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009