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Ivry-la-Bataille (Municipality, Eure, France)

Last modified: 2007-05-05 by ivan sache
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Flag of Ivry-la-Bataille, horizontal and vertical versions - Images by Arnaud Leroy, 3 December 2004

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Presentation of Ivry-la-Bataille

The small city of Ivry-la-Bataille (2,700 inhabitants) is located in Upper-Normandy, on the river Eure, 30 km south-east of Evreux and 70 km west of Paris.
The name of the city probably comes from the Latin toponym Ibriacum, coming itself from a Celtic root meaning ford or bridge. This etymology is consistent with the location of Ivry on the river Eure.
The patron saint of Ivry is saint Martin, which indicates that the local parish is very old. The cult of saint Martin was one of the earliest ones in the beginning of christianization of Gaul. There are several villages called Saint-Martin all over France and Martin is still the most widespread family name in France.
There are four cities and villages called Ivry in France: Ivry-en-Montagne, Ivry-la-Bataille, Ivry-le-Temple and Ivry-sur-Seine. Here the qualifying term la Bataille refers to the battle that took place near Ivry on 14 March 1590, which was the last fighting between King Henri IV and his challengers from the ultra-Catholic Holy League.

In the Middle Ages, Ivry was defended by a big fortress built in the second half of the Xth century by Raoul of Ivry, Count of Bayeux and half-brother of Duke of Normandy Richard III. In the XIth and XIIth centuries, the fortress was disputed among the Normand feudal lords and between France and Normandy. Near the end of the XIIth century, it was incorporated to the French royal domain. The fortress was later trashed in 1418 by the Duke of Gloucester, in 1424 by the French and a few months later by the Duke of Bedford. The remains of the fortress were restored in the 1970-1980.

King of France Henri III (1551-1589, King in 1574) had no children. When his brother the Duke of Alençon died in 1584, his cousin Henri III of Navarra (1553-1610, King of Navarra in 1572) became the legitimate pretender to the throne of France. However, Henri of Navarra was a Protestant and had been excommunicated by the Pope. Most of the French princes refused to acknowledge him as the pretender. Those Catholic princes set up the Sainte-Ligue (aka the Sainte-Union or simply the Ligue) and challenged Henri III's power. After the murder of Henri I de Guise (1549-1588), the main leader of the League, in Blois in 1588, the League launched a military rebellion and took the control of Paris, which was ruled by the Conseil des Seize (Council of the Sixteen). The League was directed by Charles de Lorraine (1554-1611), Duke of Mayenne and Guise's brother, proclaimed Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom.
On 1 August 1589, the fanatic monk Jacques Clément stabbed to death Henri III in Saint-Cloud during the siege of Paris by the armies of the two Henris. Before dying, Henri III proclaimed Henri of Navarra his successor as Henri IV. The League proclaimed the old Charles de Bourbon (1523-1590), Cardinal of Rouen since 1550, King as Charles X.

Mayenne stationed his troops in Normandy, where he was defeated by Henri IV in Arques-la-Bataille, near Dieppe, in 1589. In order to restore his repute, he decided to march against Paris besieged by the royal garrisons. In reaction, Henri besieged the city of Dreux, located on the border between Normandy and Ile-de-France and hold by the League. Mayenne modified his plans and marched against Dreux. Henri withdrew but remained in the neighbourhood, deploying his troops in the St. André's plain between Nonancourt and Ivry. Mayenne marched once again against Henri but it was late in the evening when the two armies met, and the battle was postponed to the next day.

On 14 March 1590, at daybreak, Mayenne's army, made of 12,000 infantry and 4,000 horses, including 2,000 Spaniards, faced Henri's 8,000 infantry and 2,000 horses. Before the beginning of the battle, Henri, bareheaded, harangued his troops:

Mes amis, vous êtes Français, voila l'ennemi. A eux ! et si vous perdez vos cornettes, ralliez-vous à mon panache blanc, vous le trouverez toujours au chemin de l'honneur et de la victoire !
My friends, you are French, and this is the enemy. Against them! and if you lose your cornettes [standard-bearers], rally round my white panache, you will always find it showing the way of honour and victory.

Henri then put on his battle helmet, which was decorated with a panache of white feathers.
The battle started with a salvo shot by the royal artillery, followed by the confrontation of the horses. The Duke of Aumont hammered the League's light horses but had to step back when charged by a squad of Walloons. Duke of Montpensier and Baron of Biron also charged at the League's army and force it to step back for a while. The conclusive move, however, was performed by Henri himself, who charged at the League's lancers, who were too close to the fight to use their arms properly.
The battle turned into a terrible mess and it was believed for a while that Henri had been killed: his standard-bearer was injured and could harldy stand, while an officer wearing the same kind of panache as the King was killed by a lancer. Henri turned back and encouraged his fellows, who were about to escape:

Tournez visage, afin que si vous ne voulez combattre, vous me voyiez du moins mourir !
Turn your faces, so that if you don't fight you could at least see me dying!

The fight was short and Henri's experience defeated the huge League's army; among the League's leaders, Duke of Egmont was killed, whereas Duke of Nemours and Duke of Aumale escaped. Pursued by the royal troops, Mayenne ran to the river Eure: he was able to cross the river but most of his troops were killed by Henri's soldiers or drowned into the river.
The League's army was completely disbanded: 2,500 out of the 4,000 horsemen were killed, the infantry was killed, dispersed or surrended. Moreover, Henri captured five cannons and all the colours of the enemy, including Mayenne's flag, white with a semy of black fleur de lys, and Egmont's red standard.
After the battle, Henri is said to have rest under a big pear tree and moved to Ivry, where the house where he spent the night is still shown.

A few days before the battle, the German colonel Schomberg claimed the pay of his soldiers. Henri answered him:

Jamais homme d'honneur ne demanderait argent la veille d'une bataille.
A man of honour would never claim money before a battle.

Just before the beginning of the battle, Henri told Schomberg:

Monsieur de Schomberg, je vous ai offensé. Cette journée peut être la dernière de ma vie et je ne veux emporter l'honneur d'un gentilhomme ; je sais votre valeur et votre mérite. Pardonnez-moi et embrassez-moi.
Sir, I offended you. this day might be the last of my life and I don't want to steal the honour of a gentleman; I am aware of your value and your merit. Please forgive me and kiss me.

Schomberg answered:

Il est vrai, Sire, votre Majesté me blessa l'autre jour, aujourd'hui, elle me tue, car l'honneur qu'elle me fait m'oblige à mourir pour elle !
It is true that Your Majesty offended me, but today you kill me, because the honour you are showing to me forces me to die for you.

Schomberg fought fiercely side by side with the king and died during the battle.

In order to calm down the political situation, Henri IV abjured Protestantism in Saint-Denis on 25 July 1593, was sacred in Chartres on 27 February 1594, and entered Paris on 22 March 1594, saying (or supposed to have said) Paris vaut bien une messe (Paris is quite worth a mass). Pope Clement VIII lifted Henri's excommunication on 17 September 1595. The last leaders of the League, Mayenne and Epernon, rallied the King in 1596.
The battle of Ivry is remembered by a pyramidal obelisk built by Napoléon I between Ivry and Epieds.

Ivry-la-Bataille is the birth city of the actor Raymond Bussières, who was before the Second World War member of the avant-garde group Octobre, directed by Jacques Prévert. Raymond Bussières played in several movies, the most famous of them being Les Portes de la Nuit and Casque d'Or. He played also in several theater plays with his wife Annette Poivre and the actor Maurice Baquet.
The engineer Charles-Henry Brasier (1864-1941) was also born in Ivry-la-Bataille. He invented the V-shaped four cylinders engine for cars and was one of the main race car manufacturers before the First World War. In 1903, he took the cycles manufacturers Richard as a partner and the Richard-Brasier cars won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1904 and 1905.
Father Jacques-Désiré Laval (1803-1864) was physician in Ivry-la-Bataille before he took the coat in 1838 and went to Mauritius in 1841. Father Laval learned the Creole language and attempted to help the recently liberated slaves. He founded a network of chapels on the island and was highly estimated both by the Christians and the Moslims, who nicknamed him "God's friend". The anniversary of his death, on 9 September, is a main day of pilgrimage in Mauritius; father Laval was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 29 April 1979.

Source: Municipal website

In 1828, the architect Pierre Fontaine revamped the Campana gallery of the Louvre Museum, in Paris, where Greek antiquities are shown. He asked the painter Charles de Steuben to decorate the walls and ceiling of the gallery. Steuben decorated the archs of the gallery with the coat of arms of the most famous people from the times of Henri IV (Mornay, Sully, Aumont, Lesdiguières, Crillon, La Guiche). His masterpiece was a big painting on the ceiling showing "Henri IV's clemency after the battle of Ivry". The King, wearing his white panache, is placed in the center of the painting; the flags of Spain and Burgundy are shown, as well as a yellow flag with a red cross. The man lying in the foregroud bears a jacket with the coat of arms of Lorraine. Since the painting was made more than two centuries after the battle and mosty intended for decoration and propaganda, historicity of the representation is probably very weak.

Ivan Sache, 3 December 2004

Municipal flag of Ivry-la-Bataille

The flag of Ivry-la-Bataille, as reported by Arnaud Leroy, is a banner of the municipal arms of the city. It is yellow with three yellow chevrons placed vertically.

The municipal arms of Ivry-la-Bataille are:
D'or à trois chevrons de gueules (Or three chevrons gules).
They are based on the seal used by the lord of Ivry in 1239, as reported on the cartulaire (collection of property acts) of Evreux, dated from the XIVth century.

A vertical, forked banner of the very same design is also used. Images of the two flags can be seen on the municipal website of Ivry-la-Bataille, section Fêtes Médiévales, as well as forked yellow-red and red-yellow banners.

Ivan Sache, 3 December 2004