So simple, the Tricolore – but why the stripes and why the famous Bleu, Blanc, Rouge? Here, briefly, is a highly abridged summary of the history of the French flag.
Prior to the French revolution, the royal flag of France was white with a gold fleur-de-lis pattern. However, the French Revolution brought with it the new flag.
The Paris militia wore the colours of Paris (blue and red) in a cockade (circular ribbon). The Paris militia played a prominent role during the storming of the Bastille and this heightened the fame of the blue and red colours.
It is believed, as recounted by Lafayette, that white was added in the middle to represent the ancient colour of France. As a result, the tricolour of France was born.
Initially, this was only used in the cockade and was later adapted into the flag in 1790. At first this was red, white and blue before being ‘reversed’ to the design we know today in 1794 by Jacques-Louis David.
To conclude the summary of the history of the French flag: some newer developments
Today, the colours are those adopted by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. These are slightly brighter than the original flag. In RBG, for example, the colours are Blue (0, 85, 164), White (255, 255, 255) and Red (239, 65, 53). Also, the flag is in the proportion 2:3 with the height two-thirds the length and all three stripes are the same width. However, this is different in the navy. The navy uses the proportions originally adopted by Napoleon I with a 30:33:37 ratio from blue to red because the flapping of the flag makes the stripes farther from the pole seem thinner.
Sometimes, the blue, white and red of the flag are linked to the revolutionary motto, liberté – blue- freedom, égalité – white – equality and fraternité – red – fraternity.
So the next time you see the French flag flying, you will know that these simple three stripes were born in the Revolution and its struggles, and that they represent a profound moment in the history of France. Vive la France!