The Oriflamme Valoise royal standard.

The flag of the Kingdom of Valois dates back to a standard carried by Valoise kings in the medieval period. Known as the Oriflamme, from the Latin aurea flamma or “golden flame,” this standard was carried before the king in battle when the rules of chivalry were in play. A similar banner in black, called the Morsflamme from the Latin mors flamma or “death flame,” was used when no quarter would be given nor prisoners taken. The Oriflamme was famously flying when the Vaoloise captured King John III of Albion, while the Morsflamme notably flew during the Edessan Crusade when the Dauphin Robert, later Robert III, sacked Gargar and put all its inhabitants to the sword.

The medieval Oriflamme and Morsflamme both featured a stylized yellow sun, while the Oriflamme featured green edging and a red background and the Morsflamme was flat black with yellow edging. The origins of these symbols are obscure, but the use of yellow and green as courtly colors in Lothardy is attested from the mid-800s, and the sun was used as a symbol as far back as the Roman province of Lugdunensia in the early 1st century AD. Regardless of their origin, contemporary illustrations show Valoise kings riding under a long, thin Oriflamme banner from at least the late Viking era.

Rare Morsflamme variant standard.

Over time, the unwieldy banner evolved into a more modern ensign, with the green edging reduced to two decorative stripes on a rectangle. The Morsflamme was rarely used during this period, but is attested–generally used against peasant rebellions, heretics, and others the Vaoloise wished to terrify into surrender. The Oriflamme remained the royal standard through the Wars of Religion, the troubled reign of Charles XII, and into the Revolution. Indeed, rumors that the then-king was due to raise the Morsflamme against “enemies of the kingdom” helped usher in the monarchy’s overthrow. In the chaos following the end of the thousand years of monarchy in Valois, the royal banner persisted in use for a short time, often with the sun cut out or the flag truncated into a square, before an official replacement was created.

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