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France

The national flag of France is a tricolour featuring three vertical bands coloured royal blue (hoist side), white, and red.

Blue and red are the traditional colours of Paris, used on the city's coat of arms. Blue is identified with Saint Martin, red with Saint Denis. At the storming of the Bastille in 1789, the Paris militia wore blue and red cockades on their hats. White had long featured prominently on French flags and is described as the "ancient French colour" by Lafayette. White was added to the "revolutionary" colours of the militia cockade to "nationalize" the design, thus creating the tricolour cockade. Although Lafayette identified the white stripe with the nation, other accounts identify it with the monarchy. Lafayette denied that the flag contains any reference to the red-and-white livery of the Duc d'Orléans. However, this myth did allow Orléanists to adopt the tricolour as their own.

Blue and red are associated with the Virgin Mary the patron saint of France, and were the colours of Charlemagne's ensign and war cry, "Montjoie". The colours of the French flag may also represent the three main estates of the Ancien Régime (the clergy: white, the nobility: red and the bourgeoisie: blue). Blue, as the symbol of class, comes first and red, representing the nobility, comes last. Both extreme colours are situated on each side of white referring to a superior order.

Lafayette's tricolour cockade was adopted in July 1789, a moment of national unity that soon faded. Royalists began wearing white cockades and flying white flags, while the Jacobins, and later the Socialists, flew the red flag. The tricolour, which combines royalist white with republican red, came to be seen as a symbol of moderation and of a nationalism that transcended factionalism.
 




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