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Le Chesnay-Rocquencourt (Municipality, Yvelines, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-06 by ivan sache
Keywords: chesnay (le) | rocquencourt | parly 2 |
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Presentation of Le Chesnay-Rocquencourt

The new municipality of Le Chesnay-Rocquencourt (31,324 inhabitants in 2016; 702 ha; municipal website) was established on 1 January 2019 as the merger of the former municipalities of Le Chesnay (28,001 inh.; 424 ha) and Rocquencourt (3,323 inh.; 278 ha).

Ivan Sache, 6 January 2019


Former municipalities

Le Chesnay

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Flag of Le Chesnay, two versions - Images by Ivan Sache, 4 November 2009 - coat of arms by Didier Dudal

The former municipality of Le Chesnay, closely bordering Versailles (some streets have one side in Le Chesnay and the other in Versailles), is located 15 km west of Paris.

Le Chesnay was once "a place planted with oaks". The old names of the village refer to the oak either by its Latin name, quercus (Quercetum), or by its Gaul name, cassanus (Canoilum, 1122; Cheneum, Chesnetum, 13th century). In modern French, a place planted with oaks is called a chênaie, from chêne, "an oak"; the Gaul root is also dominating the Latin root in French toponymy.
In the 12th century, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés abbey, located in the middle of the pastures (prés) then surrounding Paris, granted a part of its domain in Le Chesnay to the Canons of the Saint-Benoît abbey, also located in Paris, provided they would build a church there. Nearly suppressed during the Hundred Years' War and by epidemics, the village, inhabited by a few lumberjacks and farmers leaving in clearings, was very loosely controlled by the Saint-Germain-des-Prés abbey.

In the middle of the 17th century, the building of the Palace of Versailles by Louis XIV caused the reestablishment of the parish and the increase of the village. Pierre Le Pelletier des Touches, Councillor of the King, and Charles Maignard, lord of Bernières, successively owned the castle of Le Chesnay. Other nobles built manors close to the park of Versailles; the Castle of Parc Aubert is said to have been designed by Mansart and Le Nôtre, Louis XIV's architect and landscape designer, respectively. Louis XIV eventually purchased the domain of Le Chesnay, which was settled by officers, guards, seamen, gardeners and servants employed in Versailles.

On 1 July 1815, Le Chesnay and Rocquencourt were the place of the last battle fought by Napoléon's Grande Armée.
In 1870, the village had 600 inhabitants, mostly farmers and cattle- breeders living in the lower part of the municipality ("plain"). In 1910, the upper part of the municipality ("plateau") developed around the new St. Anthony church. Urbanization and industrialization started after the First World War, with the population of the town climbing from 4,000 in 1920 to 9,000 in 1953. The lower and upper villages were eventually merged into a single, urbanized entity.

The flag of Le Chesnay is green with the municipal coat of arms in the middle (photo, municipal gazette Évènements, No. 204, January 2009.
The special issue of Évènements dedicated to the new municipal library / theater, June 2009, shows a photo of the flag flying in front of the former Fenwick factory, that is before 2000. On this flag, the coat of arms is surmonted by a blue cartouche bearing the name of the municipality in white capital letters.

The coat of arms of Le Chesnay is "Gules an oak eradicated or inescutcheon azure a bend argent three cinquefoils gules".
The oak makes the arms canting. The escutcheon represents the arms of the Maignard de Bernières family.

According to François-Alexandre Aubert de La Chesnaye des Bois' Dictionnaire de la noblesse, contenant les généalogies, l'histoire et la chronologie des familles nobles de France, Volume 9 (1775), the Maignard de Bernières family stems back to Richard Maignard, Governor of Vernon (Normandy) in 1447. His son, Guillaume Maignard (d. 1514), Councillor at the Parliament of Rouen, was the first lord of Bernières in the family. Five generations later, Charles III (1612-1662), the owner of the castle of Le Chesnay, was Councillor at the Parliament of Paris and State Councillor. His son Louis-Charles (d. 1710) was erected Marquis of Bernières in 1678.

Ivan Sache, 4 November 2009


Rocquencourt

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Flag of Rocquencourt - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 27 June 2005

The former municipality of Rocquencourt is mostly known for the "Rocquencourt triangle", which is the junction of the two highways A12 and A13 and the place of a very "popular" traffic jam in the west of Paris.

Rocquencourt was named after its first lord, Rocco (Rocconis Curtum), who was a patrice (higher dignitary) of King of Neustria Theuderic III (673 and 675-690/691). The son of Clovis II, Theuderic III was overthrown by his brother, Childeric II, King of Austrasia in 673, reconquered his throne in 675 and was defeated in Tertry (c. 687) by Pepin of Herstal.
The domain of Rocquencourt was granted by Theuderic III to the abbey of St. Germain l'Auxerrois in Paris in 678. A few years later, Abbot Landebert exchanged the domain with the abbey of St. Denis.

On 1 July 1815, Napoléon I's Grande Armée fought its last battle in Rocquencourt and the neighbouring municipality of Le Chesnay. After the defeat of Waterloo on 18 June 1815, Grouchy's army withdrew to France via Namur and Dinant. The army, including some 28,000 able soldiers, 1,000 casualties and 100 cannons entered Paris on 29 June, a few days before the Prussians. The Brits and the Dutch stayed near Senlis.
Napoléon abdicated on 22 June; on 29 June, he was supposed to surrender to the Brits but he donned his Colonel's uniform and proposed to the provisory government to command the army for the last time. He probably believed he would be able to turn the situation round. However, nobody listened to him and he had to leave the castle of Malmaison in civilian clothes; Prussian cavalrymen arrived a few hours too late to arrest him.
The provisory government led by Fouché appointed Davout General in Chief. The French troops concentrated in Paris had as many soldiers as the invaders and much more cannons. Moreover, the Prussians and the Anglo-Dutch troops were separated. Davout sent to Wellington and Blücher a proposal of armistice but asked Exelmans to muster the cavalry located on the left bank of the Seine and to march against the Prussians, who stayed in Versailles. Exelmans ordered the Piré division to rush to Rocquencourt via Sèvres and Vaucresson in order to block the Prussian line of retreat and commanded himself the central column made of two dragoons' divisions, which rushed straight to Versailles via Plessis-Piquet and Vélizy. The Prussian hussars left Versailles for Plessis-Piquet and were repelled by the French dragoons in Vélizy. They withdrew to Versailles but could not enter the city because of the dragoons chasing them. On their way to Saint-Germain, their first squadron was shot at the entrance of Rocquencourt by Piré's infantrymen hidden in the fields. The Prussian general von Sohr ordered his men to escape through the fields but was himself injured, captured and brought back to Paris. The Prussians were blocked into a small, narrow street in Le Chesnay and attempted to hide in the yard of the Poupinet farm, where all of them were killed or captured. However, the main body of the Prussian army rushed to Saint-Germain; Exelmans resisted until the next day and withdrew to Paris with 437 prisoners and several horses. A few days later, Exelmans attempted to avoid the capitulation of the French army, to no avail. Exelmans, awarded the title of Marshal of France in 1851, died the next year after a horse fall.
[The battle of Rocquencourt by Didier Dudal and Robert Ouvrard]

The national arboretum of Chèvreloup is located on the municipal territory of Rocquencourt. Set up in 1927 in a former part of the park of Versailles, the arboretum is managed by the National Museum of Natural History, which uses it as an annex of the Jardin des Plantes, located in the center of Paris. Its oldest tree is a Japanese sophora planted under King Louis XV. Chèvreloup is mostly known for its collection of conifers, including some weird-shaped trees obtained by breeding.

Rocquencourt houses the social seat of the Institut national de recherche en informatique et en automatique (INRIA, website), a state agency founded in 1967 as the Institut de recherche d'informatique et d'automatique (IRIA). INRIA, managed by the Ministry of Research and the Ministry of Industry, is specialized in the sciences and technologies of communication and information. INRIA employs in Rocquencourt 480, including 299 scientists working in 41 research teams. INRIA manages AFNIC, the French TLD Internet registry.

The flag of Rocquencourt, hoisted in front of the Town Hall, is white with the municipal coat of arms, "Azure three fleurs-de-lis or a chief of the same a rock gules".
These arms were designed by Robert Louis after a municipal seal used in 1790, whose cast is kept in the National Archives. They were adopted by the Municipal Council on 2 July 1956 and officially registered in the Armorial of the Towns of the Department of Seine-et-Oise (the forerunner of the department of Yvelines).
The arms are canting (rock); the fleurs-de-lis recall that Rocquencourt is located close to the royal town of Versailles.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 27 June 2005


Parly 2

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Flag of Parly 2 - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 August 2017

Parly 2 (corporate website) is a regional shopping mall (90,000 m2, some 250 shops, c. 20 million visitors every year) established in the municipalities of Le Chesnay and Rocquencourt.
The shopping mall is adjacent to the Chesnay-Trianon condominium, also called Parly 2. The biggest condominium in Europe, Parly 2 is made of 278 buildings grouped into 36 residences, housing nearly 20,000 inhabitants.

Parly 2, "a genuine town inside the town is a pioneer urban model imagined in the 1960s by two visionaries, Jean-Louis Solal and Robert de Balkany". Their dream was "to elaborate an 'eldorado' based west of Paris, on the model of the American Way of Life. The synthesis of the best of the town and modernity in the heart of a preserved natural environment, Parly 2 was thought as the extension of the Paris posh boroughs in the countryside".
Parly 2 was inaugurated on 4 November 1969 in the presence of the tout-Paris - members of the government, celebrities, and the iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel, as the first shopping mall in Île-de-France [but second in France, the Cap 3000 mall having been inaugurated close to Nice on 21 October 1969]. The imposing, avant-gardist architecture designed by Claude Balick was inspired by the Southdale shopping mall in Minneapolis (USA). Rich stuff was used, such as marble and mahogany, to increase the prestige of the place.
The name of Parly 2 was constructed on "Paris", representing the town, and "Marly", representing the natural environment via the neighboring Marly forest, once a Royal hunting domain. The corporate website conveniently conceals that Parly 2 was indeed a second choice; the shopping mail was originally named Paris 2, but the Municipal Council of Paris strongly opposed to the use of the name of the town for a commercial purpose. This did not prevent the "gates" and "squares" of the mall to be named for famous places in Paris: Concorde, Vendôme, Luxembourg, Saint-Michel, Saint-Germain.

The poshest companies from Paris, such as Dior, Chanel, Lanvin, Hédiard and Lenôtre, soon opened shops in Parly 2. The organization of fashion shows by Dior made of Parly 2 a "cultural symbol"; the cultural reputation of the mall was eventually achieved with a straightforward reference to Parly 2 in Le domaine des dieux (1971), opus 17 in the series Astérix le Gaulois: Julius Caesar refuses that the new housing estate, to be built near the Gaul village, is named "Rome II".
More seriously, Parly 2 was described an analyzed in great detail by the sociologist Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) in his best-seller La société de consommation, ses mythes, ses structures (1970; excerpts).
An Y-shaped extension was inaugurated in 1987, designed in the style of the time and connected to the original building by the Arts' Footbridge. The historical part of Parly 2 was revamped in 2010-2011 in the "sixty-posh" spirit, as was in 2016-2017 the extension. Indeed, Parly 2 is a permanent building site, with an ever-increasing demand in buildings, access roads and parking lots.

The flag of Parly 2 is orange with the mall's logo, which was adopted in 2011 - probably for the inauguration of the renovated historical building.

Ivan Sache, 19 August 2017