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Comines (Municipality, Nord, France)


Last modified: 2022-06-16 by ivan sache
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Two flags used in Comines - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 16 July 2020

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Presentation of Comines

The municipality of Comines (12,788 inhabitants in 2019; 1,602 ha) is located on the border with Belgium, 20 km north-west of Lille.

Comines, possibly named after the Latin word Comius or Cumma, a deformation of the Celtic word cumba, "a valley", was founded in the 3rd century by St. Chrysole. In the Middle Ages, the town was divided into a northern part belonging to Ieper and a southern part belonging to Lille. Comines was successively ran by the families of Wasiers, Clite, Halluin, Croÿ, Henin and Orléans. The castle of Comines was burnt in 1297, revamped and eventually destroyed in 1382 when King of France Charles VI burnt down the town; Colard de la Clyte rebuilt the castle, Vauban increased its defenses and the castle was destroyed again in 1674. In 1456, Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good granted to Comines a free fair beginning on St. Remigius' Day and lasting three days. Charles the Bold supported the industrialization of the town and granted a municipal administration with seven Councillors (échevins) submitted to a Bailiff.
There are today two neighbouring towns named Comines, one in Belgium and one in France, separated by river Lys. In 1668, the territories located south of the Lys were allocated to France (Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle). The northern territories were added in 1678 (Treaty of Nijmegen). The Ryswick peace (1697) confirmed the borders but the northern territories were reallocated to the Austrian Netherlands in 1713 (Treaty of Utrecht). The French Revolution definitively established the Lys as the border and separated the two towns of Comines.
In 1719, Philippe Hovyn, flax merchand and manufacturer in Ieper, set up a binding workshop in Comines-France, to avoid the customs tax. After the invention of the steam engine, the binding makers ceased to work at home and the production was industrialized. Around 1900, there were some 3,500 needle looms in Comines, producing each year some 400 million meters of binding. Comines was then the world capital of utilitarian binding. The current production of binding in Comines is 600 million meters made by 250 high-speed looms. The young factory workers, called marmousets du devant, are recalled by the Marmousets' Festival, celebrated on the third Sunday of July.
During the First World War, Comines was located close to the frontline and was totally destroyed. Kaiser Wilhelm II, visiting the frontline, stopped at Comines in 1915. Adolf Hitler, fighting in the 15th Bavarian Regiment in the region, stayed several times in Comines. On 26, 27 and 28 May 1940, there were violent fightings, part of the Battle of the Canal, in Comines.

Ivan Sache, 16 June 2022

Flags used in Comines

The flag of Comines is white with the municipal coat of arms, "Argent, a key palewise sable orled by five cinqfoils gules 2, 2 and 1. Th. Leuridan (Armorial des communes du département du Nord, 1909) gives these arms as used at the time. In the past, the arms were mostly used with a field or, as featured in the Armorial Général (image).

Leuridan reports several variations in the design of the arms. Joseph-Emmanuel Van Driesten (La Marche de Lille, 1556) shows the arms with eight cinquefoils in orle. Priest C.H. Derveaux (Annales religieuses de la ville de Comines, 1856) gives the arms are "Or a key sable surrounded by six roses gules in pale 3 and 3"; in La ville aux beaux clochers (1857), Derveaux uses bezants instead of roses. Statistique archéologique du département du Nord (1867) reports bezants on a field argent.
In his Histoire de Comines (1892), Priest L.J Messiaen writes that Comines was granted arms in the second half of the 12th century, as "Argent a key sable surrounded by bezants gules". The number of bezants was reportedly eight, representing the "orle of roses" of Baldwin de Comines, thus indicating that the arms of the town were granted by its first lords. Messiaen reports that in 1841 the Municipal Council of Comines-Nord [The Belgian part of the town] re-adopted the old arms "Or a key sable eight roses gules".
The oldest known seals of the town, however, feature only five roses; the arms carved on the bells of the pill, mostly dating back to the late 16th century, feature five roses. So do different documents of the same period kept in the archives of the hospital.

According to local historian André Schoonheere, the arms of Comines combine the roses of lord Baldwin with the key of the chapter of the collegiate church. This design emphasizes the power of the town, both civil and religious.
The arms of Baldwin de Comines were "Or an orle of eight roses gules"; his son married Margaret de Bailleul and added an escutcheon 'Gules a cross vair" (Bailleul) to his arms. The key probably comes from the arms of the chapter of the collegiate church dedicated to St. Peter, "Azure a St. Peter or on a base vert holding dexter a key or and sinister a book of the same surrounded by eight roses argent in pale 4 and 4", as featured in the Armorial Général (image).
L.J. Messiaen (see above), however, gives a more symbolic explanation of the key, which would mean that Comines was the key of Flanders, since the Flemish militias had to cross the bridge of Comines to enter the chastelleny of Lille.
[Sous le beffroi de Comines, 23 July 2018]

The town also uses a banner of arms, "Gules a chevron or cantonned by three scallops or a bordure or", which were the arms of the de la Clyte family, lords of Comines. Th. Leuridan assigned them to the municipality of Buysscheure, owned by the de la Clyte in the 15th century.
The most famous member of this lineage and bearer of the arms was the courtesan, diplomat and chronicler Philippe de Commines (c. 1447-1511).

Grandson of Colar, lord of Renescure and Saint-Venant, Knight of the Golden Fleece, Governor of Cassel, Bailiff of Ghent and Sovereign Bailiff of Flanders, Philippe de Commines was the godson of old Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good. In 1464, he was appointed squire by the Count of Charolais, Charles the Bold. Commines wrote his first Mémoires in 1464; in 1466, he was part of the Burgundian expedition against the rebelled towns of Dinant and Liège, which he related in detail. The next year, Duke Charles the Bold named him Chamberlain and armed him Knight.
In the night of 7 to 8 August, Commines left the Burgundian camp during the campaign of Normandy and paid allegiance to King of France Louis XI; the payload for the betrayal is yet to be elucidated. Made lord of Argenton, Commines became a main councillor of the old, sick king, being mostly in charge of the Italian issues. The vivid rendition of Louis XI's last days and death is probably the most famous part of the Mémoires.
After Louis XI's death, Commines took the party of the young Duke d'Orléans. In 1485, he quarreled with the Duke of Lorraine, was expelled from the court and deprived of several of his charges, and took shelter in September 1485 with the Duke of Bourbon. Involved in a plot set up by the Duke d'Orléans to abduct king Charles VIII, Commines was jailed in January 1487 in Amboise in one of the famous iron cages designed upon Louis XI's order. In 1489, the Parliament of Paris relegated for the next ten years in Dreux, but he was pardoned in late 1490. Reintegrated to the court, Commines was in May 1491 among the negotiators of the treaty of Senlis signed by Charles VIII, Maximilian and Philip the Handsome. He could not convince Charles VIII to launch the disastrous Italian War (1494-1495).
After the death of Charles VIII on 7 April 1498, Commines was disgraced by Louis XII, to be eventually reintegrated to the court in 1505 and involved in the French expedition to Genoa.
[Auguste Molinier. 1904. Les Sources de l'histoire de France - Des origines aux guerres d'Italie (1494). V. Introduction générale - Les Valois (suite), Louis XI et Charles VIII (1461-1494)

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 16 June 2022