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Ecquevilly (Municipality, Yvelines, France)

Last modified: 2019-01-14 by ivan sache
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Flag of Ecquevilly - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 27 July 2005

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Presentation of Ecquevilly

The municipality of Ecquevilly (4,319 inhabitants in 2016; 1,127 ha; municipal website) is located 40 km west of Paris, in the south of river Seine.

The region was settled in the middle and late Paleolithic; several artifacts have been found in Meulan, Les Mureaux, Maule and Bazemont, which are towns located less than 20 km from Ecquevilly. The settlers were hunter-gatherers who also fished in the Seine. In the Neolithic, the population increased and the civilization peaked c. 3,000 BP; dolmens (funerary stone structures) have been foud in Les Mureaux, Aubergenville and Epône.
In Ecquevilly, the oldest remains of human activity are Celtic flint axes and pottery fragments. In the Roman times, the village built on the site of Ecquevilly was called Fraxinus, later Fresne, lit. "an ash tree" (in modern French, frêne, the circonflex accent recalling the dropped "s"). The region was evangelized in the 4th century by Sts. Nicaise and Quirin, sent by St. Denis; the saints killed a huge dragon (probably a snake) in Vaux and converted several pagans to the Christian religion. They were eventually arrested and beheaded on the bank of the river Epte, which would be later the border between France and Normandy. In the 6th century, the Christian religion was officialized and the persecutions stopped.

In the Frankish times, Fresne was part of the pagus pinciacensis, later called Pincerais, with Poissy as its capital. The pagus pinciacensis was bordered in the north by the pagus velaxanius, later called Vexin; the border between the two pagi was the Seine.
In the 9th century, the feudal system emerged in Île-de-France; the local lords were granted domains by the kings, which they soon transformed into hereditary lordships. Fresne, as a part of the ancient pagus pinciacensis, was incorporated into the domain of of Poissy. Fresne was then mostly a royal hunting domain.

In 1058, Fresne was mentioned in a charter signed by Hug II, Count of Meulan, who granted privileges to the abbey of Jumièges, in Normandy. Hugues granted his uncle Richard de Neauphle a domain located between the rivers Seine and Mauldre and the forest of Yveline, including Aubergenville, Chapet and Fresne. Richard was succeeded by his son Robert, who built in Fresne a castle protected by stone walls and moats.
Robert's daughter, Jacqueline, married Guaszon (aka Guasce) de Poissy and the domain of Fresne was transfered to the family of Poissy. Guaszon was the grandson of Gaston de Chaumont, Constable of France; he expelled the monks from the St. Colombe's priory in Maule and eventually founded the abbey of Abbecourt in the neighbouring forest of Les Alluets, where he died in 1189, in order to show his repentance. The church of Abbecourt was consecrated in 1191 by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, then exiled in France. Guaszon was succeeded by his son Robert II, himself succeeded by his son Robert III in 1231, who died during the expedition led by Saint-Louis against the rebellion of Count of Marche, supported by King of England Henry III. Robert III's grandson, Jehan, had no male heir; his daughter Mathilde married Jehan le Baveux (the Dribbler), a friend of King of France Charles VI. Mathilde shared her domain between her two children; Jeanne la Baveuse was granted Fresne. She married Robert d'O, Seneschal of the County of Eu, while Fresnes was transfered to a third family.

The family of O emerged in Lower-Normandy in the 13th century (there is still a beautiful castle of O near Argentan). Robert d'O, the 6th lord of O, was killed in 1415 in the battle of Ajincourt . His son Robert VII, Cupbearer of the Duke of Bourbon, inherited Fresne. He was one of the four knights who escorted the body of Isabeau of Bavaria, Charles VI's widow, who died on 4 September 1435. Robert VII died in 1447 without male children; his title and coat of arms were transfered to his son-in-law, John I the Seneschal. In 1482, Jean II owned a fortified castle in Fresne and 21 subdomains: Bouafle, Commuel, La Muette, Goncin, Brezolles, Marcault, Val Richer, Romainville, Presle, Vallée Martinet, la Mare Plate, les Roulloirs, Chapet, the islands of Mézy, Orgeval, l'Air, Noisy, Louans, Neullu and Villanes. Some of these places have disappeared and cannot be located accurately, whereas other are today small towns (Bouafle, Orgeval). Fresne had then c. 750 inhabitants and was one of the biggest parishes in the County of Meulan. John II was succeeded by Charles I, Stephen I, John III, Captain of the Scottish guard of the king of France, and eventually Francis I.

Francis d'O, a tricky financier, was appointed Superintendant of the Finances by King Henry III, who counted him as one of his minions. Very corrupted, Francis d'O created new nobility titles and charges in order to retrieve more money, which he used to build a new castle, completed in 1582 and burned during the French Revolution. During the fight between King Henry IV and the Holy League, Francis played a double game: he publicly supported the king but secretely helped the Duke de Mayenne, the leader of the League. The League kept a lot of weapons in the lower yard of the castle of Fresne; when Francis d'O felt that the king was about to win, he "allowed" a commando from Meulan, then besieged by Mayenne, to kill some 30 soldiers of the League and to bring back the weapons to Meulan, which was eventually seized by Henry IV on 27 February 1590. In order to get rid of Francis d'O, Henri IV appointed him Governor of Paris, where Francis carried on his dirty business until his death. However, he had a lot of debts and died in August 1594 a relative poverty. Everybody but his heirs was happy with his death and the Baronny of O was sold.

On 15 September 1607, Lady Jeanne Brulart, Pierre Hennequin's widow, purchased the castle of Fresne. The family kept it until the French Revolution. The Hennequin came to Île-de-France from Flanders, via Champagne. Pierre Hennequin, died in 1577, was a very honest President of the Parliament of Paris. After her death, Jeanne Hennequin was succeeded by Oudart, Pierre II, Nicolas and André. André Hennequin was Captain of the King's Boar Huntings. He fell in love with Marie Élisabeth Girard du Tillet, a descendant of an overthrown Scottish king. He abducted her and the marriage was celebrated by one of André's servants dressed like a priest. Sir Tillet was not pleased with the marriage and there was a negociation between the two families, and a real marriage was celebrated. Marie was beautiful and gallant, whereas André was debauched and extravagant, and the marriage turned wrong. André was always in need of money and got rid of his two brothers. He helped his first brother to cross a ford by presenting him his carabine; the brother died from the "accident" and the place was (and is still) called La Carabine. He scared the horse of the second brother, who died after the "accidental" fall. In order to get rid of his wife, he proposed her a love trip to Italy, hoping to sell her as a slave in Constantinople. In Genoa, Marie understood the trick and convinced her coachman to drive her to Savoy. André joined her but was forced to set up an agreement on 17 March 1673. The story was related in a best-seller entitled Mémoires de la Marquise de Fresne, several times reprinted. Several tales were invented on André Hennequin, who became famous as "the man who sold his wife". In order to escape general reprobation, he asked the king the permission to change his name of Fresne for Ecquevilly, after a domain he owned in Normandy.

André Hennequin was succeeded by Augustin Vincent, his son from a second marriage, Brigadier in the king's army and Knight of the St. Louis' Order. Fifty years after the initial request, Louis XV signed Letters Patented on 23 July 1724 in Chantilly, registered at the Chamber of Account in February 1728, erecting the domain of Fresne, Bouafle and dependencies into the Marquisate of Ecquevilly. The first Marquis d'Ecquevilly was succeeded in 1749 by his son, Augustin Louis Hennequin, who faught in the battles of Fontenoy, Dettingen and Raucoux, was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Armies in 1780, Knight of the King's Orders in 1784 and eventually Governor of Champagne and Brie. He was succeeded in 1794 by his son Armand who emigrated and fought against the French Republic in Condé's army. Marquis Armand Hennequin came back to France during the Restauration. King Louis XVIII confirmed his title of Marquis d'Ecquevilly in 1821 and made him Peer of France.
[Notes historiques sur Ecquevilly]

In 1908, the Marquis d'Ecquevilly built a weird multiplane. After the success of the Wright brothers, some inventers believed than many wings would help to fly better. The multiplane of oval form had a wood structure, with seven planes in average the places setting of fabric, and a motor of three cylinders cooled by air that moved a chain that rotated a metallic helix. The pilot went seated in the middle of the ellipsoidal structure grasped from the wood circles, without controls of flight, rudder, nor brakes. The machine probably never got to fly.
[The Pioneers: An Anthology]

Ivan Sache, 27 July 2005

Flag of Ecquevilly

The new flag of Ecquevilly shall be adopted this year, in order to replace a logotyped flag. The new flag shall be made of a white field with the municipal coat of arms and the name "ECQUEVILLY" written below the flag. The Deputy-Mayor of Ecquevilly said that this writing was prefered to "VILLE D'ECQUEVILLY".

The coat of arms of Ecquevilly, "Per pale, 1. Ermine, 2. Vairy or and azure a chief serrated gules a leopard argent", was designed by Guy Nique, a former Municipal Councillor, and registered with the Departmental Archives in Versailles.
It is made of the arms of the families of O (dexter) and Hennequin d'Ecquevilly (sinister). The arms of O can be seen in the parish church, whereas the arms of Hennequin can be seen on the land register, which was not burned during the French Revolution. The shield is supported by two wheat spikes, which recall that Ecquevilly is a rural municipality and that grain is the main crop in Île-de-France.

Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 27 July 2005