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Nemours (Municipality, Seine-et-Marne, France)

Last modified: 2016-02-15 by ivan sache
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Flag of Nemours - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 6 September 2015

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Presentation of Nemours

The municipality of Nemours (12,770 inhabitants in 2012; 1,083 ha; municipal website) is located 80 km south-east of Paris and 20 km south of Fontainebleau. The town is crossed by the former Route Nationale 7, connecting Paris to the Mediterranean coast, once known as the Holidays' Road.

Nemours is the home of the Departmental Museum of Prehistory in Île-de-France (website), established in 1981 to display the results of excavations performed in the area since the middle 19th century. The noted painter Edmond Doigneau (1865-1954) initiated research in the Beauregards massif in 1867. He was succeeded during the interbellum by André Nouel, Raoul Daniel and Édouard Soudan. Between 1955 and 1961, another 35 sites were discovered by André Cheynier, Edmond Vignard and Raymond Delarue (E. Vignard & G. Vacher. Quinze années de fouilles dans les Gros Monts des Beauregards de Nemours (Seine-et-Marne), Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française. Études et travaux, 62, 84-97; PDF). The finding of the remains of a reindeer hunters' camp in the gravel pit of Pincevent (A. Leroi-Gourhan & M. Brézillon. L'habitation magdalénienne n° 1 de Pincevent près Montereau (Seine-et-Marne), Gallia préhistoire 9, 263-385, 1966; PDF) urged a campaign of systematic survey and preservation of sited threatened by urbanization. This yielded the discovery of the site of Étiolles in 1972, famous for an engraved stone featuring a horse. Most of the sites are dated from the Magdalenian culture (Upper Paleolithic); a tooth found in Pincevent in 2011 is the oldest human artefact (14000 BPE) found in Île-de-France.

In the Middle Ages, a village emerged around the St. Peter church. Once a dependence of Château-Landon, today a smaller town, Nemours gained significance at the end of the 12th century, when ruled by powerful lords; in 1120, Orso, a close vassal of King Louis VI, erected a castle on the left bank of river Loing. The medieval town grew up, surrounded by the "Small Ditches". Fifty years later, Gautier (d. 1205), the chamberlain of King Louis VII, chartered the town: the inhabitants were allocated a house and an arpent (c. an acre) of arable land. Gautier revamped the church and founded an hospital to accommodate the pilgrims attracted by the relics of St. John the Baptist.
The lords of Nemours had to sell the domain in 1274 to the King of France to fund their enrolment to the Crusades. Several kings, Louis IX (St. Louis) included, would stay in Nemours. The fortifications of the town prevented any damage during the Hundred Years' War.

The Duchy of Nemours was erected in 1404 by King Charles VI for Charles III the Noble, King of Navarre. The duchy was subsequently granted to the most powerful lineages of the kingdom: Bourbon (1425-1464), Armagnac (1464-1503), Foix (1507-1512), Medici (1515-1516), Savoy (1528-1657), and Orléans (1672-1793).
The elegant and charming Jacques de Savoie-Nemours (1531-1585, duke in 1533) was the model of Monsieur de Nemours, a main character of the novel La Princesse de Clèves, anonymously published in 1678 by Marie-Madeleine de La Fayette (1634-1693). Written according to the norms of the historical novel, La Princesse de Clèves appears as the precursor of the modern novels based on psychological analysis. Highly estimated ("one of the most charming piece I have ever read") by Madame de Sévigné (1626-1696), the book has inspired several subsequent writers, such as Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) and Raymond Radiguet (1903-1923), whose novel Le Bal du Comte d'Orgel follows the same plot as La Princesse de Clèves.

The establishment of the Bailiwick of Nemours in 1514 further boosted the development of the town. The castle became the seat of the Bailiwick and of the Town Council, including also a court of justice and prison cells. Inaugurated in 1724, the Canal of the Loing established a direct connection between the valley of Loire and Paris via Nemours.
The Gilded Age of Nemours ended with the French Revolution. The municipality of Saint-Pierre-de-Nemours was separated from Nemours, while the neighbouring town of Fontainebleau became the administrative capital of the region, and, subsequently, an Imperial town.
The bridge over river Loing, suppressed in 1770 by a flood, was rebuilt by engineer Boistard. The new bridge (Grand-pont) was inaugurated in 1804 by Pope Pius VII heading to Paris for the coronation of Emperor Napoléon I. In August 1944, the withdrawing Germans attempted to destroy the bridge with 15 bombs of 1,000 pounds each; discovered just in time, the bombs were defused by soldiers from the 5th US Division of Infantry, who liberated the town on 23 August 1944.

The economist, diplomat and politician Pierre-Samuel Dupont de Nemours (1739-1817) was the father of the chemist Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours (1771-1834), founder in 1802 of the Du Pont de Nemours, Père et Fils et Cie powder mill, the precursor of the well-known E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) chemical group. Elected in 1789 Representative of the Bailiwick of Nemours at the States General, Pierre Dupont took the name of Dupont de Nemours for the sake of differentiation from other Dupont. He presided the Constituent Assembly in 1790 and physically protected, together with his son Eleuthère, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the Tuileries insurrection of 10 August 1792. Sentenced to death, he was saved by Robespierre's fall.

Ivan Sache, 6 September 2015

Flag of Nemours

The flag of Nemours (photo, photo) is white with the emblem of the municipality, which is made of the arms of Nemours, surmounting the writing "Nemours / ville active".

The arms of Nemours are "Argent a forest vert on a base of the same a chief azure semy de fleurs-de-lis or a label argent. The shield surmounted by a three-towered mural crown or and surrounded by oak branches, of the same with acorns argent."
The arms in today's use were designed by Robert Louis, based on the arms registered with the Armorial Général on 20 January 1699. The forest recalls a possible etymology of the name of the town, derived from Latin nemus, nemosisnem and ose, meaning together "divided by a river", here the Loing. The chief is made of the arms of the House of Orléans, Dukes of Nemours from 1672 to 1793.
[Nemours market website]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 6 September 2015