Tour de France 2020

The Heraldry of France
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Chris Green
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Tour de France 2020

Postby Chris Green » 29 Aug 2020, 15:04

The heraldic Tour de France will once again be following the riders this year.

The riders started from Nice earlier this afternoon (Saturday) and will be touring the countryside in the vicinity before a sprint finish back in Nice. The city's arms date from the 15th century when Nice was part of the Duchy of Savoy. It was gifted to France in 1860 by Duke Victor Emmanuel II in gratitude for France's hand in the unification of Italy.

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Blazon: Argent, an eagle displayed crowned gules standing upon three rocks vert issuing from the sea azure in base.
D'argent à l'aigle de gueules, le vol abaissé, posée sur trois coupeaux de sinople, mouvants d'une mer d'azur.
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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Chris Green » 30 Aug 2020, 10:53

Sunday's stage is once again in and around Nice. For some years now the first few stages have been held outside France, but the Corona pandemic put paid to that this year.

Yesterday we saw the arms of the city of Nice. They are also the arms of the Alpes-Maritimes Département (though with a tremont sable), but many départements do have arms that are quite different to those of the principal conurbation, as we shall no doubt see later on. France is now divided into 18 administrative Régions, Nice being in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA), whose capital is Marseille. PACA's arms include those of Nice at Q4, though with a tremont sable instead of vert.

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Blazon: Parti, au premier d’or au quatre pals de gueules, au second coupé en premier d’or au dauphin d’azur crété, barbé, loré, peautré et oreillé de gueules, et en second d’argent à l’aigle couronné de gueules, empiétant une montagne aux trois coupeaux de sable issant d’une mer d’azur et ondée d’argent.


Q2 represents Dauphiné (from which derived the title and arms of the Dauphin, heir to the French throne). The dexter side Or four Pallets Gules are not the well-known arms of Aragon, or of Catalonia nor even of Rousillon (which is at least in France though not in PACA), but from the arms of Aix-en-Provence.

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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Chris Green » 31 Aug 2020, 06:56

Monday's stage has the riders saying "adieu" to Nice and heading North-West towards Sisteron.

To the West of Nice and North of Cannes lies Grasse, considered (at least by its citizens) to be the world capital of perfume. The arms of Grasse might therefore be expected to include jasmine flowers or perhaps scent bottles. But no, they feature the Agnus Dei, differing only from all the other Agni Dei by its halo having three torteaux.

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Blazon: D'azur à l'agneau pascal d'argent, la tête contournée,ornée d'un nimbe d'or chargé de trois tourteaux de gueules, portant une longue croix de gueules au guidon d'argent chargé d'une croix de gueules.


These arms were first attributed to Grasse in 1427 and recorded in the Armorial Général de France in 1696.

Pedalling on through the Alpes de Haut Provence the riders pass through Digne-les-Bains. The arms of Digne can scarcely be considered to rank even among the also-rans of French civic heraldry. The use of one letter of the alphabet perhaps raises the odd eye-brow. The use of three, one of which is reversed, I fear qualifies the arms of Digne for the "Heraldry Hall of Shame".

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Blazon: D'azur à la fleur de lys d'or accompagnée en chef d'une croisette de gueules, aux flancs de deux lettres L capitales affrontées d'argent et en pointe d'une lettre D capitale aussi d'or.


Just as the riders are happy to make it to the finishing line at Sisteron, we heraldists should be glad as we have left behind us the horror of the arms of Digne. But what is this that greets us?! More letters? Nom d'une pipe alors! But wait, are there really three letters, an S and two Os? The blazon tells us that these are not Os at all, they are annulets. Soo that's all right then.

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Blazon: De gueules, à une grande S d'or, couronnée du même, accompagnée de deux fleurs de lis d'or, posées une à chaque flanc, et en pointe de deux annelets du même.
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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Chris Green » 31 Aug 2020, 07:19

I have concluded that, at least as far as Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is concerned, inveighing about the use of letters of the alphabet is a lost cause. No less than 43 communes use letters, more than a dozen the entire name of the commune. :roll:
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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Torsten Laneryd » 01 Sep 2020, 11:02

Thank you Chris for this daily treat . I love that you also present the blazons :)

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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Chris Green » 01 Sep 2020, 11:48

Today (Tuesday) the start is from yesterday's finish, Sisteron. The route wends its way northwards as far as Corps whose arms are these:

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Blazon: D'azur, au chevron d'argent, accompagné en chef de deux étoiles d'or, et en pointe, d'un ours passant du même


Corps is in the Département of Isère, whose area includes much of what was once Dauphiné. Not surprisingly therefore its arms feature the heraldic dolphin.

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Blazon: Coupé ondé, au premier d’azur à la fasce ondée d’argent, au second d’or au dauphin d’azur crêté, barbé, loré, peautré et oreillé de gueules.


Isère is in its turn in the Région of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, whose arms feature Dauphiné at Q4 (see the blazon for the origins of Qs1-3).

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Blazon: Écartelé : au premier d'or au gonfanon de gueules bordé de sinople (Auvergne) ; au deuxième de gueules à la croix d'argent (Savoie) ; au troisième de gueules au lion d'argent (Lyonnais) ; au quatrième d'or au dauphin d'azur, crêté, barbé, loré, peautré et oreillé de gueules (Dauphiné).


The mountainous finish is at Orcières-Merlette in the commune of Orcières, scene of a famous Tour de France stage in 1971, when the great Eddie Merckx was humiliated by Luis Ocaña. The arms of Orcières, like those of Corps, feature a bear. Whether any bears remain in these mountains I know not. The riders are unlikely to see any as the noise of the helicopters will frighten them away.

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Blazon: D'argent au chef de gueules, à l'ours entier de sable tenant de ses pattes de devant une couronne d'or brochant sur le tout.
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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Chris Green » 02 Sep 2020, 13:03

Wedneday's stage started at Gap, the capital of the Département of Hautes-Alpes. Gap's arms are at first sight easily confusable (is that a word?) with those of many other towns, consisting as they do of a fortified city gate. However the blazon is so detailed as to make this city gate quite unique.

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Blazon: D'azur à un portail de ville d'or crénelé, ouvert et ajouré de trois pièces du champ, maçonné de sable, sommé de quatre tourelles ouvertes et ajourées, les deux du centre plus hautes et couvertes, les deux autres crénelées.


The arms of Hautes-Alpes Département feature the Cross of Languedoc (or of Toulouse) and the Dolphin of Dauphiné.

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Blazon: Parti, en 1 de gueules à la croix cléchée, vidée et pommetée de douze pièces d’or et en 2 d’or au dauphin d’azur crêté, barbé, loré, peautré et oreillé de gueules; au chef d’azur semé de fleurs de lys d’or.


Pedalling on, the riders pass through Nyons which, on the face of it looks to have a city gate not so very different from that of Gap although of a different tincture. But no - this is a "château donjonné de trois tourelles".

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Blazon: D'argent au château donjonné de trois tourelles de gueules, celle du milieu plus haute, le tout ouvert, ajouré et maçonné de sable.


Further on the race passes through a city known for its nougat: Montélimar, whose arms feature only what is in English known as an orb.

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Blazon: De gueules au monde d'azur cintré d'argent bordé d'or et croisé du même.


The end of the stage is at Privas, whose arms present something of a mystery. It should be explained that Privas is famed for its marrons glacés which of course are made from chestnuts. Yet here we celebrate the marrons glacés with - an oak tree!

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Blazon: D'argent au chêne terrassé de sinople, englandé d'or au chef d'azur chargé de trois fleurs de lys d'or.
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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Iain Boyd » 02 Sep 2020, 22:05

Re the arms of Privas -

I was intrigued that the oak tree was blazoned as -

D'argent au chêne terrassé de sinople, englandé d'or


'Englandé' seems an unusual description for what we would probably blazon as 'acorned' or 'seme of acorns'.

So far, I have been unable to do a successful Google search for 'Englandé relating to French heraldry.

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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Jeremy Fox » 02 Sep 2020, 23:31

I'd probably use "fructed" in English.
Possibly, "englandé" = "hung with", from "glander," to hang up.

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Re: Tour de France 2020

Postby Chris Green » 03 Sep 2020, 07:13

Today (Thursday) the race starts from Le Teil on the West bank of the Rhone opposite Montélimar. Le Teil's arms look, at a quick glance, not unlike those of Privas which we saw yesterday. But here be no acorns. This is a lime tree not an oak.

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Blazon: D'or au tilleul de sinople, au chef d'azur chargé d'une fleur de lys du champ accostée de deux étoiles du même.


Le Teil is in the Département of Ardèche whose arms are supposedly those of the medieval County of Viviers or Vivarais. As the area was part of the Holy Roman Empire until 1308 we may assume that prior to that date the arms of the county did not feature France Ancient.

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Blazon: D'azur semé de fleurs de lys d'or à la bordure du même chargée de huit écussons aussi d'azur.


The mountainous finish is at Mont Aigoual in the Département of Gard. From the summit one can apparently see the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, Mont Blanc and the Alps, though the weather would need to be crystal clear.

The arms of Gard feature the Cross of Languedoc as do those of many communities in the region.

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Blazon: De gueules à la croix cléchée, vidée et pommetée de douze pièces d’or, au chef engrêlé d’argent.
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