Looking at the France flag will bring to mind the rich depths of French culture, language, and history; however, until the late 1700s, the flag did not exist in its current form. Before the French Revolution with its rejection of royal tradition, the flag existed in several different forms. One of these during the Middle Ages was the flag of St. Denis which used a red background with yellow spikes to represent the nation. Later in the 1300s, the ruling House of Valois used a blue background with a gold and red fleur-de-lis on its flag. During the 100 Years War with England, the French army carried a flag with a white cross against a blue background. Although the flag continued to change through different periods, the colors blue, red, and white appeared prominently throughout history.
During the French Revolution, revolutionaries wore cockades, red and blue rosettes, representing liberty and the colors of their capital city, Paris. When the French Republic was founded, they adopted the French flag as we know it today, with three stripes of red, blue, and white, representing the Revolution and the traditional French colors. Lafayette who supported French liberty from the monarchy helped to design the new flag. The stripes on the flag at this time, in 1790, were not the same size as they are now. They had the ratio 30:33:37 and were not made equal until Napoleon’s reign. After Napoleon was deposed, the nation changed their flag briefly to a blank white background, but soon returned to tricolor pattern. Several movements to change the flag were met with public resistance as the flag had become a cherished patriotic symbol. The constitutions in 1946 and 1958 officially installed this flag as the national emblem of the Republic.
The French Navy has made an exception to the uniform flag by sticking to the original ratio of 30:33:37 for visibility reasons. When the flag flaps it makes sections of the flag seem smaller from the halyard of the ship. All other French flags have evenly sized stripes. Many French colonies throughout history have used the tricolor flag or their flag of origin with the tricolor flag depicted in the left-hand corner.