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Angoulême (Municipality, Charente, France)

Last modified: 2024-03-23 by olivier touzeau
Keywords: charente | angouleme | castle (white) | fleur-de-lis |
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Flags of Angoulême - left, indoor right, outdoor - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 8 February 2022

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Presentation of Angoulême

Angoulême (41,407 inhabitants; 2,185 ha) is a commune and the prefecture of the Charente department. It is the seat of Grand Angoulême agglomeration community.

Before the Roman period, the plateau was occupied by an oppidum. The rocky promontory overlooking the Charente river 80 metres high and over the Anguienne river 60 metres high forms a strategic position. The town was not located on major roads but it had a prosperous period at the end of the Roman Empire; the first fortress dates from this era. The first bishop of Angoulême was Saint Ausone of Angoulême in the 3rd century. The administrative importance of the city was strengthened by the implementation of a County in the 6th century with Turpion (or Turpin) (839–863), adviser to Charles the Bald. However, the town was always attached to the various kingdoms of Aquitaine. The city was besieged for the first time by Clovis in 507 after the battle of Vouillé, then taken in 508. During the battle, Clovis was seriously wounded in the leg. During his stay in Angoulême, Clovis pulled down the old Visigothic cathedral dedicated to Saint-Saturnin to build a new one bearing the name of Saint-Pierre. The end of antiquity for the city was in 768, when Pepin the Short defeated Hunald II and linked it to the Frankish kingdom.

In 848 Angoulême was sacked by the Viking chief Hastein. In 896 or 930 the city suffered another attack from invading Vikings but this time the Vikings faced an effective resistance. Guillaume I, third Count of Angoulême, at the head of his troops, made them surrender in a decisive battle. During this engagement, he split open to the waist Stonius, the Norman chief, with a massive blow together with his helmet and breastplate. This earned him the name Taillefer, which was borne by all his descendants until Isabella of Angoulême who was also known as Isabelle Taillefer, the wife of King John of England. After becoming a widow, Isabella subsequently married Hugh X of Lusignan in 1220, and the title was passed to the Lusignan family. On the death of Hugh XIII in 1302 without issue, the County of Angoulême passed his possessions to the crown of France. From the 10th to the 13th centuries the counts of Angoulême, the Taillefer, then the Lusignan strengthened the defences of the city and widened it. In 1110, Bishop Girard II ordered the construction of the present cathedral. In 1360 the city, like all of Angoumois, passed into the hands of the Plantagenet English with the Treaty of Brétigny. The English were expelled in 1373 by the troops of Charles V. The County of Angoulême was given to Louis d'Orléans who was the brother of King Charles VI in 1394 and it then passed to his son Jean d'Orléans (1400–1467), the grandfather of Marguerite de Navarre and François I. The Good Count Jean of Angoulême greatly expanded the County castle after his return from English captivity in the middle of the 15th century.

Angoulême, the seat of the County of Angoumois, came into the possession of a branch of the family of Valois from which came François I, King of France from 1515 to 1547 who was born in Cognac in 1494. The duchy, now crown land, thereafter was passed on within the ruling house of France. The last duke of Angoulême was Louis-Antoine (died 1844), eldest son of Charles X of France. John Calvin, friend of Jean du Tillet the archdeacon of Angoulême, took refuge in Angoulême when he was forced to flee Paris in 1533. Angoulême was affected by the Revolt of the Pitauds (peasant revolt): in 1541, the gabelle (salt tax) was imposed on Saintonge and Angoumois. These provinces did not pay the tax on salt. The revolt broke out around Angoulême and farmers from the surrounding countryside took the city in July 1548. During the first wars of religion the city took up arms: it was reconquered in 1563 by Montpensier. In 1565 Charles IX passed through the city during his royal tour of France (1564–1566) accompanied by the court.In October 1568 the city was taken by the Protestants under Coligny.

During the French Revolution the city was called Mountagne-Charente.

During World War II, on 24 June 1940, the special intervention troops Das Reich supported by other units of the Wehrmacht arrived in Angoulême. These troops took prisoners and neutralized the many refugee French soldiers in the city. The Das Reich division progressed towards spanish border to set the line of demarkation to cut France in two. Angoulême was located in the occupied zone under German authority and was the seat of the Feld Kommandatur. The border with the free zone, passed about 20 kilometres east of Angoulême and split the department in two. On 20 August 1940 a convoy of Spanish Republicans were sent from Angoulême: this was the first convoy of the history of Deportation in Europe. On 19 March 1944 allied bombing caused widespread damage at the National Explosives factory. In September the city was liberated.

After the war, the city underwent a major expansion of its suburbs. First Grand Font and Bel-Air, following the reconstruction program for war damage of the area around the station which was bombed in 1944. Then in the 1960s the districts of Basseau and the Grande-Garenne were built and then there was the creation of Priority Urban Zones (ZUP) at Ma Campagne in the 1970s. Gradually industries moved into more spacious industrial zones created in the peripheral communes between 1959 and 1975. Urbanisation also affected the peripheral communes with housing estates at Soyaux and Ruelle-sur-Touvre.

In 1972, the city signed a "pilot city" contract with the State which allowed the city to make large scale public works - e.g. the small ring road, the district of at Ma Campagne, the Saint-Martial town centre, underground parkings, computerized management of traffic lights, urban transport.... In 1989 after defeat in the municipal elections, the mayor, Jean-Michel Boucheron, left a hole of 164 million francs in the finances of the city and a debt of 1.2 billion francs. This deficit has burdened the finances of the city and long served as justification for the non-involvement in the completion of public works. The small ring road was completed in 1995.

Angoulême, along with paper and printing, has long been associated with animation, illustration and the graphic arts. The "Cité internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image" includes an exhibition space and cinema. A new museum dedicated to the motion picture opened in 2007. The Angoulême International Comics Festival takes place for a week every year in January and attracts nearly a quarter of a million international visitors.

Olivier Touzeau, 8 February 2022

Coaf of arms of Angoulême

The coat of arms of Angoulême is blazoned: Azure, a castle with open arch flanked by two towers all of Argent masoned and windowed in Sable surmounted by a fleur-de-lis of Or, also surmounted by a marquis coronet the same.

The motto "FORTITUDO MEA CIVIUM FIDES" means "My strength is in the loyalty of my citizens".

Olivier Touzeau, 8 February 2022

The arms are featured in the Armorial Général ( website).

Ivan Sache, 14 March 2022

Flag of Angoulême

The flag of Angoulême is made of compony border of blue, white, yellow, and a central panel. Two versions are known with photographic evidences:

  1. observed outdoor, with regular squares in the border, and a blue panel with the castle and the fleur-de-lis.
    This was observed in situ by French vexillologist Pascal Vagnat in 2001 and 2006 (website) and in the book by Renouard, Michel, "Aimer le Poitou-Charentes", Rennes, éditions Ouest-France, 1996.
  2. observed indoor, with more squares, blue squares in each corner, and half-sized blue rectangles between the yellow and white squares, and with a central white panel and the full coat of arms with motto in the center (photo, 2020; photo, 2020).

Olivier Touzeau, 8 February 2022