Meet Marianne

This Bastille Day, we celebrate the birth of the French République. Discover all its key symbols.

 

From racy plaster busts to modern postage stamps: Marianne appears in many guises.

Marianne

Goddess? Mother ? Warrior? Bridget Bardot? Marianne is all of those things and more.  Symbol of the French Republic since 1792, she appears in most of France’s 36,000 town halls, on coins, banknotes, wine labels, and every official government document. Because there is no official image of Marianne, artists are free to represent her as they wish. That is why, like Barbie, she has many iterations. Bare-breasted in Delacroix’s famous Louvre painting, frivolous and flouncy during the Belle Epoque, square-jawed and determined during WWII… however she may appear, Marianne represents the Republic and its trinity of values: Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité.

The coq gaulois, or Gallic rooster, turns up a lot at French sporting events.

Le Coq Galois

Some call the French frogs, but a more accurate symbolic animal is the unofficial mascot of France: the coq Galois, or Gallic rooster. It’s a play on words: the ancient Romans called France Gaul, and a resident of the region Gallus, which also happens to be Latin for rooster. The symbol is especially linked to sporting events, and appears on the jerseys of Les bleus, French athletes who represent the nation.

Cockades were worn by Revolutionaries on their hats or coats as a sign of their allegiance to a new world order.

The Tricolor

The French flag and its three vertical bands of bleu, blanc and rouge, was officially adopted as a symbol of the Republic in 1790. It’s based on a cockade, a circular bow made of blue and red ribbons worn by Revolutionaries to show their allegiance to a new world order. White, the dynastic color of the Bourbon kings, was added and the French Tricolor was born. Learn more about the cockade and how it was added to Marie Antoinette’s bedroom furniture after the Revolution—to make the royal household look in synch with the changing times— on our  new Versailles Unlocked tour.

Vive la France!