The French revolution started on July 14th 1789, but practically it had been ended by
Napoleon’s coup d’état on November 9th 1799 (the “Coup of Brumaire”). In this decade,
France tried virtually every political system, from the constitutional monarchy to the
dictatorship. Initially, hallmarked by marquis Lafayette (the same who fought on the side of
Americans), a constitutional monarchy was set up, ruled by Louis XVI. Eventually, on
September 21st 1792 the monarchy was replaced by a newly declared republic. Louis was
tried by the Jacobines and executed on January 21st 1793. The dethronement of Louis created
even more tension in the already very polarized French society. For a start, out of 28 million
French, actually only 3 million spoke French1 (the Ile-de-France dialect that became the
The largest counterrevolution movement was based in Vendée (Western France, south of
Nantes), started in March of 1793 and was crushed officially on 30th July 1796. The society
of Vendée was less polarized than other, “revolutionist” regions2, thus as a quite organic group
they offered a solid basis for a mass counterrevolution. The last drop in the glass was the
execution of the king. Initially having spread to the neighbouring regions, its momentum was
broken in several battles and although the republican army gained control until January of
1794 after the battle of Savenay3, but the guerilla warfare lasted until mid-1796.
The counter-revolutionists established the Catholic and Royal Army , which was led by
several professional soldiers. A great example of them was Henri de La Rochejaquelein, the
youngest general of this army. He was an officer of the French Lifeguards, and participated in
the defense of the Tuileries, and later resigned his rank in the revolutionary army.
Their symbols were actually simple, usually the colors of the French royal house (the
Bourbon White), the Fleur-de-Lis, and a motto, usually around these lines: “Long live the
King, and the Bourbon House”. Rochejaquelein was also depicted by a similar flag. Actually,
the current flag is very similar in its symbolism to Rochejacquelein’s battle colors.
The set and layout of this color is the same what was a kind of standard during the Vendée.
However, the lack of bullet marks and stains suggests that this flag was either painted in the
late days of the counter-revolution, or was used by a very successful battalion. The latter is
less likely. In contemporary battles, generals fought within the range of missiles, for example,
in the battle of Borodino, 47 (!) French generals died4. The exact unit of origin is currently
quite impossible to find, although the identification is simpler than with standardized flags, as
1 Estimated by abbot Grégoire Rapport sur la nécessité et les moyens d’anéantir les patois et d’universaliser
l’usage de la langue française, presented at the National Convent, 1794.
2 Schama, Simon. Citizens. 2004. p. 694
3 Taylor, Ida Ashworth. The tragedy of an army: La Vendée… 1913. p. 315.
4. Riehn, Richard. Napoleon’s Russian Campaign. 2005. p. 479.
I couldn’t find two matching ones. There were some with unit names on them, maybe this one
served only as a general official flag.
Another explanation might be that the flag was originated in the emigrant community of
French royalists, but the Bourbon-restoration flags have better worked details and usually a
bit different symbolism. The simple painted finish also suggests a hurried job, while the
embroidered-inlaid emigrant flags were made with thorough craftsmanship.
The dating of the flag should be between 1793-96, thus before 1800.