The national emblem of the Fifth Republic, the tricolour flag, came about during the French Revolution, by combining the colour of the king (white) with those of Paris (blue and red). Today, the French tricolour can be seen on all public buildings. It is used for most official ceremonies, both civilian and military.

Léon Cogniet, Pièce allégorique sur les différents drapeaux de la France : [estampe] © Bibliothèque nationale de France

But the tricolour was threatened several times.  Its blue and red were removed when the monarchy was restored from 1814 to 1830, with only the royal white remaining. The tricolour was proudly restored during the “Three Glorious Days” of 27, 28 and 29 July 1830, heralded as a sign of Republican unity against Charles X. Louis-Philippe agreed to bring back the blue, white and red flag, proclaiming that “the nation has restored its colours”. 

On 25 February 1848, during the proclamation of the Republic, the rebels wanted a completely red flag. It was Lamartine who, as a poet, was able to find the words, and as a politician, was able to galvanize the crowd in order to save the national flag.

... the tricolour has toured the world with the Republic and the Empire with your freedoms and your glory. [...] If you take away the tricolour, understand that you will remove half the external force of France, because Europe knows the flag of its defeats and of our victories in the flag of the Republic and the Empire. By seeing the red flag, they'll see the flag of a party! This is the flag of France, it is the flag of our victorious armies, it is the flag of our triumphs that must be raised before Europe.  France and the tricolour is the same thought, the same prestige, even terror, if necessary, for our enemies!

Alphonse de Lamartine

Its turbulent history, marked by both major historical events and fascinating stories, its many depictions in fictional and factual works and its deeply symbolic colours combining hot and cold have placed it at the heart of the French identity. Today, it is the only national emblem defined in Article 2 of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic.

See the other symbols of the Republic

Updated : 14 December 2022