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Duffel (Municipality, Province of Antwerp, Belgium)

Last modified: 2011-11-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: duffel | fleurs-de-lis: 3 (white) | berthout | wesemael |
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[Flag of Duffel]

Municipal flag of Duffel - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 29 January 2006

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Presentation of Duffel

The municipality of Duffel (16,140 inhabitants on 1 January 2007; 2,271 ha) is located on the river Nete, 10 km north of Mechelen and 15 km south of Antwerp.

A few artefacts from the Ages of Bronze and Iron were found in Duffel, but there is no historical record of the place before the 12th-13th centuries. The town was then divided into three domains: Duffel-Hoogheid (Lordship), Duffel-Voogdij (Tutorship) and Duffel-Perwijs (Parish). In 1059, the town was mentioned as Duffla, a contraction of dubro and lo(cus), which means "a place near water".
The oldest lords of Duffel are the Hildincshusen brothers, lords of Ter Elst. They were succeeded by the Berthout from Grimbergen (later from Mechelen). The Tutorship of Duffel belonged to the abbey of Nivelles until the end of the 13th century, when it was ceded to the Van Wesemael family. Perwijs belonged to the Duffel branch of Berthout. Through marriages and purcheses, the three domains of Duffel were united in the beginning of the 17th century by the family of Merode, also Marquis de Deinze, that kept it until the French Revolution.

The history of Duffel was eventful. The town blossomed in the 15th century thanks to clothmaking. Duffel fabrics were exported to Lübeck, Riga, Cologne and later to Spain and Portugal. The words "duffel", designing a black, rough woolen fabric, and "duffel coat" recall that period. However, the link between Duffel and the duffel coat is not straightforward and there is no duffel coat manufacture in the town. The duffelse jas (lit., Duffel coat) is indeed not from Duffel but rather an Anglo-Saxon product, originally imported by English soldiers. However, Duffel was famous for the high and constant quality of its fabric and the name of the town was borrowed to design the famous coats with wooden buttons.

Duffel was wealthy and had several brotherhoods, as well as three municipal militia; the St. George's Militia (Sint-Jorisgilde) took part to the Sacrament Procession in Lier in 1416 and was rewarded with a barrel of beer from Hamburg. In 1497, the Duffel militia won the first prize in a big shooting contest held in Mechelen. The next year, the town organized its own contest, including not only shooting events but also theater shows, set up in order to keep the visitors in the town all the day long. This is the origin of the Rhetoricians' Chamber of Duffel, known since the 16th century.
The Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) definitively ended welfare in Duffel and opened a long period of war. In 1914, the whole center of the town was destroyed during the fighting around the river Nete.

In the meantime, Duffel had became a small center of trade and industry. In 1840, it was one of the only villages in the region of Mechelen not relying exclusively on agriculture. Due to its location on the Nete and the building of the railway Brussels-Antwerp, it was connected to the important towns and to the port of Antwerp. Trade of lime, wood and coal flourished. In Duffel, the industrial revolution started with the creation of a wollen cloth manufacture powered with steam engines. The tileries, opened a few decades later, were more successful and became the biggest employers in the municipality with some 500 workers. In the early years of the 20th century, the paper mill G. Morrees en Cie, later renamed Papeteries Anversoises, was opened along the dykes of the Nete. Other factories were built there during the 20th century.

Duffel is the birth town of Cornelius Abt, better known as Kiliaen (1528/9-1607). Abt took the name of Van Kiel since he was born near a kiel (careenage?). He studied in Leuven and worked for 50 years as a proof-reader with the famous printer Christoffel Plantijn. He made the first Latin-Dutch dictionary and set up the bases of the usual Dutch language.

Source: Municipal website

Ivan Sache, 29 January 2006

Municipal flag of Duffel

The municipal flag of Duffel is vertically divided yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow-red-yellow (seven stripes) with three white fleurs de lis placed vertically in the central red stripe.
According to Gemeentewapens in België - Vlaanderen en Brussel [w2v02], the flag was adopted by the Municipal Council on 7 November 1988, confirmed by the Executive of Flanders on 9 May 1989 and published in the Belgian official gazette on 8 November 1989.
The flag shows the arms of the Berthout family, charged with the three fleurs-de-lis from the arms of the lords of Wesemael (but see below).

There are more details on the flag and arms of Duffel on the municipal website.
The municipal arms of Duffel are prescribed by Ministerial Decree of 16 February 1993 (Van evers en heiligen. Wapens en vlaggen van de gemeenten in de provincie Antwerpen [pbd98] says that the Decree confirmed the arms originally granted on 8 December 1952), and described as follows:
1. in goud drie palen van keel en een schildhoek van zilver beladen met vijf hermelijnstaartjes schuinkruisgewijze geplaatst
2. in keel drie lelies van zilver.

Per pale, first or three pales gules a canton argent five ermine placed in saltire, second gules three fleurs de lis argent.

The municipal flag is described in the Ministerial Decree of 9 May 1989 as:
Zeven even lange banen van geel en van rood met drie witte lelies paalsgewijze geplaatst op de middelste baan.
Seven equally wide yellow and red stripes with three white fleurs-de-lis placed palewise in the middle stripe.

The flag and arms recall the old stamps (schepengezels) of the three administrations (schepenbanken) of Duffel, Duffel-Voogdij, Duffel-Perwijs and Duffel-Hoogheid. Each component had indeed its own magistrates and seal, based on the arms of the respective lord of the component.
The seal of Duffel-Hoogheid is based on the arms of the Berthouts of Mechelen: Or three pales gules.
The seal of Duffel-Perwijs is based on the arms of the Berthouts of Duffel: Or three pales gules a canton argent five ermine. The Duffel branch of Berthout was founded by Hendrik I, son of Wouter IV van Berthout (of Mechelen), and the canton was added as a mark of cadency to distinguish the two branches.
The seal of Duffel-Voogdij is made of a a shield wih three complete fleurs-de-lis supported by an abbot's crozier, recalling the abbey of Nivelles. The origin of the shield is doubtful; the stamps used by the Van Wesemael family have three fleurs-de-lis with indented basis, whereas the arms of the abbey of Nivelles had complete fleurs-de-lis. It is probable, however, that the seal was made after the arms of the oldest owner of Duffel-Voogdij, that is the abbey of Nivelles.

Servais [svm55a] explains the mythical origin of the arms of Berthout as follows:
In the 12th century, the Lord of Berthout helped the King of Aragon in his struggle against the Moors. He fought there three times; the first time, he was rewarded with an estate and the title of provincial governor, the second time he was rewarded with the King's daughter, but refused both and went back to Flanders. The third time, the King asked Berthout waht he would like as a reward. Berthout asked for the right to bear the arms of Aragon and was granted them with three pales instead of four, celebrating his three victories over the Moors.

The Gelre Armorial shows several Berthout coat of arms:
- Berthout (Die He. (the Lord) van Mechelen, #809, folio 72v): "Or three pales gules";
- Henri VII Berthout (Die He. van Duffel, #833, folio 73v): "Or three pales gules (Berthout) a franc canton ermine";
- Jean de Berlaer (Berthout) (Die He. van Helmunt (Helmont), #838, folio 73v): "Argent three pales gules" (Berlaer)
- Guillaume Berthout de Duffel (H. Willem v. Duffel, #893, folio 75v): "Or three pales gules a franc canton ermine a crescent sable".

The Gelre Armorial shows also several Wesemael coat of arms:
- Jean of Wesemael, Marshal of Brabant (Die He. v. Weesmael, #813, folio 72v): "Gules three fleurs-de-lis couped argent";
- Gerrit of Wesemael, lord of Merksem (H. Gerit v. Mar, #829, folio 73r): "Or three fleurs-de-lis couped gules";
- Arnold of Wesemael, lord of Wyer (H. Arnt v. d. Wier, #1546, folio 107r): "Gules three fleurs-de-lis couped argent a label azure".
The Lalaing Armorial shows "Gules three fleurs-de-lis couped argent" for Wesemael (#24, folio 72v).

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat, Jan Mertens & Ivan Sache, 17 June 2007