For the past two years, France has had been dealing with setting up a new system of regions, combining smaller units to former new, greater ones. This decision has been the cause of many controversies. Among the many issues these regions face is the choice of new symbols to represent themselves with. In our last article, we looked at the process which the regions of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté are taking to find their new symbols. Both regions show promise and look to adopt good, well-founded symbolism. Today we’ll explore two more regions, namely Hauts-de-France and Grand Est.
I would like to reiterate from the last article that the information provided herein is based on publicly available information. As such, some of the latest changes may not have filtered down to us.
Hauts-de-France (Upper France)
Hauts-de-France or “Upper France”, is, as the name suggests, France’s northernmost region, created by joining together the regions of Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The southern half of region encompasses the lowlands along the river Somme and its north is sometimes referred to as the “French Netherlands”, historically belonging to the Flanders region.
The former regions themselves present us with a disappointing pair of corporate logo flags. Nord-Pas de Calais’s flag displayed a white bell tower rising from an orange heart on a blue background, all accompanied by the obligatory “Région Nord-Pas de Calais” written below. The wonderfully original symbolism is as follows “The heart symbolises the human warmth of the inhabitants, the belfry is emblematic of the architecture of the region.” It’s worth mentioning the logo underwent several “refurbishments” throughout the years and the flag did the same, each time changing to match the tastes of a new design period. Luckily the French know their historical symbols and aren’t afraid to use them where the administration fails to implement them. As such the heraldic flag of Flanders has seen use in the region and is often labelled by sellers as the regional flag. One might argue this is a mistake, while another response may be that the sellers are merely labelling the flag for how it is used anyway. The flag displays a black lion rampant, armed and langued red, on a yellow field.
Meanwhile, some kilometres south, Picardy’s logo flag followed a similar route to Nord-Pas de Calais. A green field with a white stylised “P” above the name of the region “PICARDIE”. Bureaucratic originality never fails to amaze. And once again, the flag underwent several changes depending on what kind of “logo” was currently in use and in fashion, never putting down roots. It should thus come as no surprise that the locals adopted their own symbolism which better represents them. The flag is quartered with the tree yellow French lilies in the first and fourth quarters and three red lions rampant in a white field in second and third quarters. The flag is a banner of arms of the Picard coat of arms, designed by Picard students in Paris centuries prior. The three lilies show the region’s connection to France while the three lions in turn refer to its ties to the regions of Brabant, Hainaut and Luxembourg, all three bearing a lion in their arms.
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Grand Est (Great East)
The Great East region is located on the north-eastern edge of France, bordering Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. It ascended up from the Rhine lowlands up into the Vosges mountain range, down across the the basins of the Moselle and Meuse rivers and ends at the Ardennes mountain range. The region was created by joining together three former French regions: Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine.
It is a pleasure to for once be able to write that a region in France used a great flag. This is truly the case with the flag of Alsace, which, in fact, has a history of good flag design. The most recent flag, used from 2003 until the region’s integration into the Great East, is a banner of arms. Combining the arms of the former Upper and Lower Rhine provinces and extending the resulting arms into a rectangular field, Alsace boasts a wonderful flag. In a red field a silver diagonal stripe, from upper hoist to lower fly, with a thin bordering stripe edged with trefoils or fleur-de-lis (both depictions exist) on either side. Above and below the stripe are three gold crowns. Worthy of mention and often flown by the residents of the former region are its two previous flags. The first combines aforementioned arms of Upper and Lower Rhein, the second is a ladesfarben-style bicolour of red over white.
Next up, things go downhill again. The administration of the former region of Champagne-Ardenne, was as creative as all the others, namely not at all. On a white sheet two intertwined hearts, green and yellow. Contrary to what the flag used by the administration might suggest, the region does have a perfect acceptable flag available to it. It more or less follows the borders of the historical County of Champagne, whose counts even became kings of France and from whose grapes a world-famous sparkling wide of the same name is made. One would think that that alone could provide sufficient incentive to use a banner of the historical province’s arms: on a blue field a silver stripe from top hoist to bottom fly, above and below a gold stripe potent and counter potent.
And finally, the third region, Lorraine. The regional administration implemented a logo flag showing a white field with the “deconstructed” stylised historical arms of the region at the center above the name of the region. Once again, the region has at its disposal a historical coat of arms and a flag derived from it and yet they decided to use a logo. The flag is a golden field with a red strip from top hoist to bottom fly containing three white alerions (heraldic creatures similar to eagles).
We have three wonderful historical flags with a common manifesting denominator in the diagonal stripe. Unfortunately, Great East has so far made no attempts to utilise this symbolism and has opted instead for a, you guessed it, white flag with a logo featuring the region’s name. But once again, to end on a more positive note, the strong regional symbolism has begun to manifest in public creativity. As such several proposals and options for the regional arms and flag have begun to float around. Below you may for instance see a design combining the three banners of arms into three vertical stripes on a flag to create a thought-provoking combination. Furthermore there have also been some interesting heraldic propositions. The first coat of arms below marshals the historical regional arms while the second, which has even gained some attention in the press, combines elements from regional heraldry.
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In part 3 we will look at several more new French regional flags.
What’s your view on the new flags of Upper France and Great East? Should these regions embrace their historical symbolism or should they take a new route? Tell us what you think about the designs or if you have your own proposals in the comments below this article or on our social media!