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Leers (Municipality, Nord, France)

Last modified: 2017-05-31 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Leers

Leers-Nord was named after the German word leer, empty, uncultivated. The village was divided along the Belva street into two twin villages, Leers-North and Leers-South. Under the Ancient Regime, Leers depended on the Bishopric of Tournai but most of the village was ran by the châtellenie of Lille; the borders between the Tournaisis and Lille were extremely complex and caused a lot of trouble to the villagers; in 1671, the parish priest complained because he needed a safe-conduct to visit some of his parishioners. During the epidemics, some parts of the village were quarantined whereas other were not. In 1769, it was decided to officially split Leers beetween the Kingdom of France and the Empire of Austria. The Borders Treaty eventually signed in 1781 allocated the whole village to France, but all the problems were not solved yet. The inhabitants of the villages neighbouring Mouscron complained to the government of the Low Countries because they could no longer go to Tournai, since they had to cross Belva, which was in France. Louis XVI sent a commissionner to retrocede 276 bonniers (a local surface unit) to the Empress. Accurate measurement of the bonniers was not easy, and Leers was split again only in 1790. The borders were fixed in 1819. The Belgian village has kept the name of Leers-Nord (today incorporated into the municipality of Estaimpuis) whereas the French one is simply called Leers. Leers-Nord and Leers are officially twinned since 14 September 1986.

Source: Municipal website of Estaimpuis

Ivan Sache, 6 June 2005

The flag incident in Leers (1837)

The website of the Municipal Brassband of Leers reports a flag affair that occurred in Leers in 1837. The report is kept in the Departmental Archives of Nord (M222/341).

On 15 August 1837 in the morning, just before the beginning of the Assumption procession, a rumour went out the village of Leers: the flag of the Music Society should be used during the procession, after nearly seven years of prohibition. Mayor Jean-Baptiste Delannoy and his garde-champêtre (rural policeman) Jean-Baptiste Delerue worried about the rumour: the flag was white, colour of the monarchy, and decorated with fleurs-de-lis, the emblems of the Ancient Regime, thus potentially troublemaking. The orders given by the Prefets about such flags were very clear and the flag could be considered as seditious. The 1830 revolution brought back the Tricolore flag and the white flag was outlawed.
The return of the controversial flag was promoted by veterinarian Jean-Baptiste Dubus, who had been keeping the flag for seven years in a outbuilding of his estate. The Mayor decided to avoid any problem and ordered the garde-champêtre to seize the flag, which was made immediatly.
In the afternoon at the pub, the garde-champêtre was taken to task by Municipal Councillor Charles-Louis Delannoy, who claimed that the flag should not have been seized. Delannoy said that the flag could not be considered as a forbidden emblem since the fleur-de-lis had been masked with red ribbon. Therefore, the Mayor went beyond his rights. The Mayor and the Municipal Councillor exchanged several letters with the Prefecture about this flag affair.

There are probably several affairs of that ilk to be found in local archives all over France. The return of the French Tricolore flag was extremely controversial and it was really accepted as the national flag only during the Third Republic.

Ivan Sache, 27 June 2005