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Marche (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2010-11-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: marche | fleurs-de-lis (yellow) | lions: 3 (white) | lusignan |
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Flag of Marche - Image by Pierre Gay, 13 May 2003

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History of Marche

The County of Marche (Latin, Marchia) was founded in the 10 century. The first Counts of Marche were the lords of Charroux, now a village of 1,500 inhabitants, which was built near a Benedictine abbey dedicated to St. Savior. The abbey was protected by Charlemagne and housed several councils. The owner of venerated relics, such as parts of the True Cross and samples of the flesh and the blood of Christ, which attracted more than 25,000 visitors during the June pilgrimage, the abbey was extremely wealthy and owned land up to England. Suppressed in 1762, the abbey was preserved from total destruction by the writer Prosper Mérimée, General Inspector of the Historical Monuments during the Second Empire.

The next owners of Marche were the Counts of Lusignan, from Poitou, who claimed to descend from Melusine. The most famous member of the Lusignan family, Guy of Lusignan (1129-1194), was King of Jerusalem (1186-1192) and of Cyprus (1192-1194) after having been expelled from Jerusalem by Conrad I of Montferrat.

In 1308, King Philippe IV the Handsome incorporated Marche to the royal domain. Marche was later granted to the junior branch of the house of Bourbon as its apanage. In 1531, following the betrayal of Constable de Bourbon, all the his possessions, including Marche, were reincorporated to the royal domain.

The name of the province come from the Frankish word *marka, meaning "border". In the Carolingian times, a march was a territorial district expected to protect a border. Charlemagne created severals marches: a Danish march, which gave the name of Denmark; a Saxon marche (both to protect the north of Germany); a Sorb march (Elbe region), an Avar marche (around the Danube),; a Friulian march in Italy; a Gascon march and a Breton march (north of Nantes).
After the sharing of Charlemagne's empire, Charles the Bold, King of Francia Occidentalis, maintained the march system. Some of these marches became powerful feudal states (for instance Flanders and the County of Toulouse) when the Carolingian rule collapsed, most probably because they were located quite far from the central power (or at least its remains).

Ivan Sache & Hervé Rochard, 13 May 2003

Flag of Marche

The flag of Marche is a banner of the arms D'azur semé de fleurs de lis d'or, à la cotice de gueules chargée de trois lionceaux d'argent, brochant sur le tout (Azure semy de lis or on a bend gules three lions rampant bendwise argent), assigned to the province by Jacques Meurgey 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).

These arms were used by Count Jacques around 1360. They are similar to the arms of Bourbonnais, with the three lions as the surbrisure. Jacques was the second son of Louis I, Duke of Bourbon and founder of the third house of Bourbon.
The three lions, recalling the Lusignan family, come from the old arms of the province.

Ivan Sache & Hervé Rochard, 14 June 2009