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Le Cateau-Cambrésis (Municipality, Nord, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-20 by ivan sache
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Flag of Le Cateau-Cambrésis - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 14 December 2020

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Presentation of Le Cateau-Cambrésis

The municipality of Le Cateau-Cambrésis (6,951 inhabitants in 2018; 2,724 ha; municipal website) is located 25 km of Cambrai. Cambrésis refers to the prince-bishopric established in 1007 and ruled by the archbichop of Cambrai.

Le Cateau-Cambrésis (Le Cateau until 5 October 1977) was established as the merger of two hamlets, Péronne and Vendelgies, where the wooden Sainte-Marie castle (castellum sanctae Marie) was located. Emperor Otto III allowed the bishop of Cambrai to fortify the castle in a diploma signed on 21 April 1001.
The Peace of Cateau-Cambr├ęsis, ending the Italian Wars, was agreed there in April 1559. Until 1678, the town belonged to the Spanish Netherlands. France conquered it by the treaty of Nijmegen signed in 1678. On 28 March 1794, allied forces under the prince of Coburg defeated French forces at Le Cateau.

Jacques Paturle (1779-1858) established in 1818 a cloth mill in Le Cateau. He owned as his assistants two Protestants of Swiss origin, Auguste (1801-1878) and Charles (1796-1875) Seydoux, who would be the root of a dynasty of industrialists and businessmen. Auguste Seydoux was appointed director of the factory in 1848 and served as mayor of the town from 1852 to 1870. He was also elected General Councillor and Representative. Auguste Seydoux was succeeded in 1870 by his son Charles (1827-1896), who was also General Councillor (1877-1896), Vice President (1880) and President (1892-1896) of the General Council of Nord. Charles' wife, Blanche Renard, founded in 1873 the Société maternelle, a mutual aid society for the young mothers working at the factory. Among their eight children, Alfred (1852-1911) served as the Regent of the Banque de France, Albert (1866-1918) was elected Representative in 1910 and 1914, and André (1871-1927), Delegate of the Red Cross during the First World War, managed to rebuild the factory after the war. The Seydoux family kept control of the factory, and, through paternalistic capitalism, of the town Le Cateau until 1936 and the first worker's strikes. The Seydoux factory was eventually closed in 1981.
The subsequent generations of the Seydoux family diversified their business, entering the media and cinema market; Jérôme Seydoux (b. 1934) acquired in 1980 Chargeurs Réunis, renamed the group to Chargeurs in 1983, and withdrew from the transport business. The group acquired Pathé Cinéma in 1990. His brother Michel Seydoux (b. 1947) produced via the company Caméra One, founded in 1971, several famous movies, such as Don Giovanni (Joseph Losey, 1979), Cyrano de Bergerac (Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1990), Smoking / No Smoking (Alain Resnais, 1993) and On connaît la chanson (Alain Resnais, 1997). He also presided the football club of Lille from 2002 to 2016, winning both the national championship and the French Cup in 2011. Jérôme Seydoux' grand daughter, Léa Seydoux (b. 1985) is a noted actress, twice featured as James Bond Girl (Spectre, 2015; No Time To Die, 2021), and awardee of the Palme d'Or in the 2013 Cannes Festival for La Vie d'Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Color), shared with the movie director, Abdellatif Kechiche, and the actress Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Le Cateau is the birth town of Marshal Édouard Mortier (1768-1835). On Napoleon's behalf, he conquered Hanover in 1803. Created Marshal of France in 1804, Mortier fought the Austro-Russian troops in Dürenstein in 1805, and significantly contributed to the victory of Friedland in 1807. He was made Duke of Treviso in 1808. During the Spanish campaign, Mortier seized Saragosse; commander of the Young Imperial Guard during the Russian campaign, he was a short-lived Governor of Kremlin and organized the retreat with Marshal Ney. One of the last defenders of Paris in 1814, he rallied Napoleon returning from Elba island but health problems prevented him to command the Imperial Guard as expected.
King Louis-Philippe appointed him Grand Chancellor of the Légion d'Honneur in 1830; Mortier reluctantly accepted in 1834 the position of President of the Council of Ministers but resigned five months later. Mortier was killed during the Fieschi attempt that targeted the king.

La Cateau is the birth town of the painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Although his family left the town a few years after his birth, Matisse never forgot his birth town. Asked to support the establishment of a museum dedicated to modern art in Le Cateau, the painter offered 82 original paintings and designed their display. His declining health prevented him to attend the inauguration of the museum on 8 November 1952 and he died two years later without having seen "his" museum. In 1956, the local painter Auguste Herbin (1882-1960) offered 24 of his paintings to the museum. The Matisse collection was increased by donations by the painter's family and the National Museum of Modern Art. Finally, in 2008, Alice Tériade (1917-2007), widow of the art publisher and critic Tériade (1897-1983), offered to the museum a set of 39 works by Matisse, Picasso, Giacometti, Léger, Miró..., which decorated the Villa Natacha in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Matisse also designed the stained-glass windows Les Abeilles (The Bees) set up in the kindergarten named after him. Herbin offered in 1986 a mosaic and the stained-glass windows Joy, set up in the primary school named for him.

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 7 February 2021

Flag of Le Cateau-Cambrésis

The flag of Le Cateau-Cambrésis (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) is diagonally divided yellow over blue from the lower hoist to the upper fly.
The yellow part is charged with the stylized, countercolored arms of Cambrésis, "Or three lions azure", which are also featured on an inescutcheon in the arms of Cambrai.
The blue part is charged with the stylized, yellow silhouette of the castle from the municipal coat of arms, "Azure, a three-towered castle or windows sable the central gate argent". This refers to the Sainte-Marie castle (French, château, locally, cateau), built around year 1000 by the bishop of Cambrai. Th. Leuridan (Armorial des communes du département du Nord, 1909) gives the municipal arms as "Gules a three-towered castle argent"; these arms, featured on old municipal seals, and were still in use at the time. On the modern arms, the shield is surmounted by a ducal coronet added in 1821 as a tribute to Marshal Mortier, Duke of Treviso. The War Cross was added after the First World War.
[Municipal website]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 7 February 2021