The Marianne: great symbol of the French Republic

Used in turn by its defenders, then by its opponents, the symbol of Marianne is in all cases a popular icon of the Republic.

Through it, it is in fact the attachment of an entire people to the motto of their government which is expressed.

“Liberty, equality, fraternity”: for many French people, these words are not in vain…

Thus, around common values ​​and symbols, the Republic was able to unite and build a new nation.

As such, few things represent republican ideals as well as Marianne.

Sometimes seen as an intrepid warrior fighting for freedom, sometimes as a pacifist nurturing mother, this great lady was in any case able to mark the history of France forever.

Contents :

Analysis of each element of this republican symbol

Marianne and the French Revolution

Marianne under the Restoration and the various Republics

A symbol that is not unanimous

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Painting by Eugène Delacroix "Liberty leading the people to the barricades"

Analysis of each element of this republican symbol

The elements that characterize the Marianne are numerous. We will therefore only cite here the main ones or, in any case, those which come up most often.

The Phrygian cap

We clearly couldn't miss the Phrygian cap.

A symbol of freedom used for millennia now, it was actually freed slaves who began to wear it under Rome and ancient Greece.

Through this element, the symbol of Marianne is therefore marked by ideas of liberation and emancipation.

Another less romantic hypothesis, it seems that the republican revolutionaries (in particular those from the South of France) may have chosen the Phrygian cap in reference to sailors and convicts who paddled on the galleys of yesteryear.

The bundle of lictors

In her left arm, Marianne also often holds a strange bundle of wood to which a small ax is attached.

Known as the lictors' beam, this is in fact a symbol dating from the Roman Republic.

Indeed, the magistrates of the time used what they then called the “fasces lictoriae” to represent their ability to enforce the law: if a citizen broke it, he could be beaten with sticks or executed by the axe.

The lictors' fasces is thus a symbol of the necessary power granted to certain judges to enforce justice by force.

To learn more about this, here is what the official Élysée website says about this symbol.

Athena's helmet, spear and shield

Certain busts and statues also show us our young idol adorned with a strange, particularly long helmet, and sometimes even weapons, notably a spear or shield.

This is undoubtedly a reference to the Greek goddess Athena who wore the same type of equipment.

We can therefore provide two distinct interpretations here.

On the one hand, Marianne is a warrior, capable of defending the Republic, of protecting its citizens and its values ​​from the attacks of their numerous enemies.

On the other hand, we can see there an allusion to Athena, and therefore to wisdom, but also to the importance of craftsmanship and that of art.

The figure of the young woman

Another element that we have not mentioned is Marianne's feminine character.

It's true... After all, why choose a woman rather than a man to represent such ideas of freedom?

Well in fact, you should know that the concepts of democracy and emancipation have long been associated with female characters in Europe.

The ancient Greeks, for example, represented democracy through a magnificent young woman full of hope and life.

An ancient Frank with the figure of Marianne, a signet ring with the cross of Lorraine and a flag of medieval France

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Marianne and the French Revolution

Before being the symbol of the entire Republic, Marianne only served to personify one of its values: freedom.

Long before the French Revolution, artists already represented the allegory of Liberty in the form of a young woman wearing a spear and a red Phrygian cap. Clearly, this figure was in some way the beginnings of the one who would become the Marianne we know.

In short, when the Revolution broke out in 1789, the French people quickly turned to this woman, a symbol if any were needed of the values ​​they wanted to see applied in their country.

Yes, the French have long been attached to some of the noblest and greatest principles. It is not for nothing that this people knew how to shine throughout history... and it is not for nothing that we have dedicated an entire collection of symbols and lucky charms to them that you will find here.

In short, it was during this period that, for the first time in history, a large number of representations of this allegory were produced.

Sculptures, statues, paintings: the one that everyone then soberly called “ Liberty ” appeared in the guise of a young woman in a short dress and with a rather warlike character.

A few years later, in 1792 to be precise, the first Republic was established, and a seal and symbol had to be found for it.

Without much debate, it was the figure of Liberty who was chosen.

Because the Revolution had passed (at least that was what the Republicans of the time thought), it would no longer be embodied in the guise of the fiery young girl of the past, but rather in those of a more mature woman. ripe, more stable.

Without historians being able to really explain why, this woman gradually came to be known under the name of Marianne.

Marianne was a very popular first name in France in the 18th century, so it is likely that it came from the people themselves, who thus decided to take over the emblem of their nation.

Painting showing the coronation of Napoleon.

Marianne under the Restoration and the various Republics

The First Republic lasted only twelve years.

This is how in 1804, the revolutionary epic saw the end of its first act with the creation by Napoleon Bonaparte of the First Empire.

As there was no longer a republic at the head of France, Marianne naturally ceased to be one of its emblems.

However, this does not prevent many artists from representing it as a great symbol of freedom and the emancipation of peoples.

The very famous Eugène Delacroix, for example, was able to paint it in 1830 in his painting “ Liberty Leading the People to the Barricades ”.

In short, as history teaches us, the revolution of 1789 was not the only one. Thus in 1848, an umpteenth popular revolt led to the formation of the Second Republic.

The figure of Marianne as a republican symbol was thus restored and, more than simply that of Liberty, the ideas of Republic and Revolution as a whole were attributed to her.

When Napoleon III proclaimed the Second Empire in 1852, he in turn replaced our young woman with other, more imperial emblems, such as the famous Roman eagle.

During the Paris Commune, the rebellious citizens took pleasure in creating the cult of an emancipated woman, a representation of absolute freedom, fighting with bare breasts and her head wearing a Phrygian cap.

Even if it was no longer explicitly said that it was Marianne, historians do not have too many doubts on this subject...

In 1871, after the fall of the Commune, the founders of the Third Republic sought a way to revive its symbols without encouraging the revolutionary desires of the population.

They thus renounced the Phrygian cap in favor of a crown made of ears of wheat. However, this did not prevent many patrons, artists, and even certain communities from preferring the original Marianne.

Journalistic caricature of Marianne who oppresses workers.

A symbol that is not unanimous

We could tell ourselves that, since then, our national lady has known nothing but glory and honor... but that would not be entirely true.

Indeed, many enemies of the Republic have mocked it, or even outright spit on it.

Socialists and communists often derided her, making an insult of the name Marianne in their ranks.

The royalists and monarchists have held it in horror since its creation.

Indeed, how on earth could they have appreciated a symbol of the Republic which took time from them and their ancestors?

This is how Marianne was also nicknamed “ the beggar ”.

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Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.