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Berthierville, Quebec (Canada)


Last modified: 2019-08-15 by rob raeside
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[Berthierville flag] image by Ivan Sache, 10 July 2019

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Description of the flag

The municipality of Berthierville (4,228 inhabitants in 2018; 689 ha) is located 25 km south-east of D'Autray, 70 km south-west of  Trois-Rivières), and 80 km north-east of Montreal.

Berthierville is named for Captain Alexandre Berthier (1638-1708), first lord of the place in 1672. Born in Bergerac (France) in a Huguenot family, as Isaac Berthier, he landed in Quebec on 30 June 1665 among the troops sent from the Antilles by Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy to submit the Iroquois. A few months later, he converted to the Roman Catholic religion and changed his surname to Alexandre, which led some historians to believe that there were indeed two captains named Berthier. Commander of the Assomption Fort in Saint-Jean and of the rear-guard troops in autumn 1666, Berthier was then repatriated to France with the Carignan Regiment. Back to Quebec in 1570, he was granted on 29 October 1672 the domain of Bellechasse (Berthier-en-bas) by Jean Talon, Intendant (Governor) of Nouvelle-France (1665-1668 / 1670-1672). The next year, he acquired the domain of Villemur (Berthier-en-haut) from Hugues Randin. Berthier settled and increased his domains: the 1681 census records him as the most important farmer in Villemur. He then settled in Berthier-en-bas where he commanded the local militia. Member of the Quebec War Council in 1682, Berthier was proposed as the Governor of Montreal in 1683, to no avail.

After Berthier's death, his domain was acquired on 25 April 1718 by a merchant from Montreal, Pierre de Lestage (1682-1743); on 7 March 1765, his nephews sold the domain to James Cuthbert (1769-1849). Born in an old Scottish noble family, Cuthbert served in the British navy and then commanded his own infantry company; he left the army in 1765. Appointed member of the Quebec Council by General Murray on 14 June 1766 and, the same year, Judge, Cuthbert was a main opponent to Guy Carleton, Murray's successor as Lieutenant-Governor. Berthier was captured during the 1776-1777 American invasion, while his manor was burned down and his domain looted. Back to Canada, Berthier restored his domain and seated at the Legislative Council, where he had been appointed in 1775. A main opponent to Governor Haldimand, Berthier was expelled from the Council in 1786. A wealthy lord, Cuthbert had too many political enemies to be a successful politician. He attempted in 1792 to be elected at the Chamber, to no avail; his appeals at the local and European British authorities, as well as his requests to be named Baronet and Colonel, were not considered.

The municipality of Berthier-en-Haut was established on 1 July 1845, to be incorporated two years later to the county municipality of Berthier, which was itself divided around 1850 into two municipalities, Berthier No. I and Berthier No. II. The Village of Berthier was formed on 14 April 1852 from part of Berthier No. I, to be transformed into the town ("ville") of Berthier on 18 September 1865. The town was eventually renamed to Berthierville in 1942.
Dictionnaire biographique du Canada
Municipal website

Berthierville is home of a museum dedicated to the iconic racing driver Gilles Villeneuve (1950-1982), who resided in the town for most of his life. Originally specialized in snowmobile racing, Villeneuve was hired by Ferrari to compete in Formula One World Championship. He won six Grand Prix (1978: Canada; 1979: South Africa, United States West and United States East; 1981: Monaco and Spain). "The faster driver in the history of motor racing" according to his former teammate Jody Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve died in 1982 in a terrible crash during the qualifying session of the Belgium Grand Prix in Zolder. His body, repatriated the next day by a Boeing 707 chartered by the Canadian Army, was exposed in the Berthierville cultural center, where more than 5,000 people paid him a last homage. His funeral was attended by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, René Lévesque, Prime Minister of Quebec, and Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger, Archbishop Emeritus of Montreal. His son, Jacques Villeneuve (b. 1971) won 11 Formula One Grand Prix (all with Williams-Renault; 4 in 2016 an 7 in 2017, the year he claimed the
title of Champion of the World in 1997)., Gilles Villeneuve Museum website Radio Canada, 12 May 1982

The legendary wheel-banging duel between Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux happened on 1 July 1979 in Dijon, during the French Grand Prix. Considered as the greatest duel in Formula One history, the duel for the second position overshadowed the victory claimed by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, the first win for him, for Renault, and for a turbocharged car.

The flag of Berthierville, as shown on a black and white photo featuring Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve (Gilles Villeneuve Museum) is (most probably) white with the municipal coat of arms in the center.

The arms of Berthierville, designed in 1950, recall the main events of the history of the town. The arms are vertically divided into three equally wide fields. In the first, red, field, the yellow dragon, a symbol of force and pride, is the emblem of Bergerac, the birth town of Captain Alexandre Berthier. The dragon holds a sword recalling Berthier's military value and bellicose courage; the captain was gloriously injured when fighting for his faith and his king. In the second field, the main, green part is charged with a gray retort recalling the Melchers distillery, one of the town's two main industries (founded in 1898 by Joseph-Marcellin Wilson in a former sugar mill and closed in 1978, this was the first gin distillery established in Canada); on the retort, the red flames represents the other industry, the match factory ran by Eddy Match Co. Ltd. (1919-1957). The field's upper part, blue, is charged with a gray sheep wearing a yellow halo. This is a symbol of Saint Genevieve of Paris, the parish patron saint, who was a humble shepherdess. The third division features the arms of Cuthbert, "Or a fess gules in chief a wyvern vert". The Cuthbert claimed to descend from St. Cuthbert, a Scottish monk (d. 681; Bishop of Lindisfarne and patron saint of the old Kingdom of Northumbria) reputed to be the first human inhabitant of the devil and snake-infested Farne islands. Beneath the shield, a scroll azure is charged with "VILLE DE
BERTHIERVILLE" in letters sable.
Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 10 July 2019