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Breteuil (Municipality, Oise, France)

Last modified: 2021-06-16 by ivan sache
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Flag of Breteuil - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 23 July 2020

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Presentation of Breteuil

The municipality of Breteuil (4,244 inhabitants in 2018; 1,727 ha; municipal website) is located 100 km north of Paris.

Breteuil was the site of a wealthy Gallo-Roman town established under Emperor August. Excavations performed in Vendeuil-Caply allowed the localization of two theaters, the bigger accommodating up to 5,000 people, temples, a military camp and remains of dwellings arranged according to a grid plan; sculptures, pieces of pottery, fragments of wall paintings, coins and other artifacts are kept in the local archeological museum. The town declined after a big blaze that partially destroyed it in 170 and was suppressed by the Barbarian Invasions in the 3rd century.

The modern town of Breteuil, known as Britolium in 1060, developed in the Middle Ages around the castle erected by the Count of Breteuil and a Benedictine abbey, erected nearby in 1020 by Gilduinus and recognized by King Louis IX (St. Louis).
Among the famous guests of the castle are the kings of France Louis VIII (1225), Philip the Handsome (1303) and Philip V (1347). The town was delivered to the king of Navarre in 1353. During the Hundred Years' War, captains Lahire and Blanchefort surrendered to the Duke of Bedford, who burned down the castle. Lahire subsequently restored the castle and Charles VII ordered to increase its fortifications. This did not prevent the castle to be seized by the Burgundians, who partially destroyed it. For more safety, they finally negotiated with Lahire the complete dismantling of the fortress.
The only remains of the abbey are the abbot's chapel (13th century) and the convent building, rebuilt in the 18th century.

Control of water was a bone of contention between the feudal lord and the abbot, each owning its own water mill, the Orgissel Mill and the Monks' Mill, mentioned in 1049, respectively; in the early 15th century, Perrot Guillon, the lord's miller, deliberately flooded the Monks' Mill. Water of Breteuil, famous for its purity, was introduced to the court of Louis XVI by Chancellor Charles-Honoré de Barentin, lord of Hardivillers. In January 1792, a police regulation prohibited laundering in the town's fountains, whose use was solely allowed for freshwater supply.

Ivan Sache, 29 April 2021

Flag of Breteuil

The flag of Breteuil (photo, photo) is white with the municipal coat of arms, "Or, a cross gules cantonned by 16 alerions azure a canton or a mullet gules". The alerions, often erroneously presneted as bees, and the star are only outlined on the modern representation of the arms.

This shield is made of the arms of the Montmorency-Laval, a junior branch of the Montmorency lineage, lords of Breteuil since 1305; in their arms, the four alerions in the canton of the arms of Montmorency are replaced by the star. The shield is surmounted by mural crown or with three towers and three gates, allegedly representing a small town, while bigger towns would have four or five towers.
Beneath the shield, the oak and laurel wreaths symbolize force and triumph, respectively. The two War Crosses were awarded on 23 October 1921 and 7 May 1950, respectively.
[Municipal website]

Érard of Montmorency (1260-1334), Knight and King's Counsel, married in 1305 Clémence of Muret, Dame of Breteuil, Chérisy and Beausault. He was a son of Matthew III of Montmorency-Laval, Baron of Montmorency, and a grandson of Bouchard VI, Baron of Montmorency and husband of Isabeau of Laval, and a grand grandson of Matthew II the Great (1174-1230, Baron of Montmorency and Constable of France. Matthew II commanded the right wing of the royal army during the battle of Bouvines (1214); as a reward, king Philip I Augustus allowed him to use 16 alerions in his arms (Montmorency modern) instead of 4 (Montmorency ancien).
[Maison de Montmorency, by Étienne Pattou]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 29 April 2021