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Living in the Languedoc:   Central Government:   French National Symbols:   The Cockerel (rooster)

The Cock (US Rooster), a Christian symbol of vigilance since the New Testament story of the Passion, had long been part of French national culture, largely because the Latin words for cock and inhabitant of Gaul are similar (Gallus v gallicus). 

In the Middle Ages it was widely depicted in French churches and is recorded in 14th century Germany in references to France.  Chaucer's vain, foolish and boastful character Chantecleer in the Canterbury Tales may have been recognised by his readership as refering to the French national character Please click here to e-mail the webmaster if you can confirm or refute this, and in either case cite a reliable source.  From the 16th century onwards representations of a cockerel occasionally accompanied the King of France on coins - it appears on the coins struck under both the Valois and Bourbon kings.

The French CockThe French Revolution gave wider currency to the emblem: it appeared on the Seal of the Premier Consul, and surmounted the staff carried by the allegorical figure of Fraternité.  It was an official emblem under the July Monarchy and the Second Republic when it was used on the poles of regimental flags. Napolean was not so keen it.  When a commission of Councillors of State proposed it as an emblem of France, the Emperor rejected it on the grounds that: "the cockerel has no strength; in no way can it stand as the image of an empire such as France."  He replaced it by a more appropriate eagle. It returned to favour from 1830 onwards.  Under an an ordinance of July 30, 1830, the Gallic cock figured on the buttons of the uniforms of the National Guard and surmounted their colours.  It replaced the fleur-de-lis as the national emblem. In 1848 it featured on the the Great Seal of France (The Official Seal of the French Republic) - as it still does - depicted on a ship's rudder next to the figure of Liberty. 

1898 French Gold Coin featuring a cockeral.1904 French Gold Coin featuring a cockeral as well as the French MottoNapoleon III viewed the cockerel with disfavour, but it virtually became an official symbol of the Third Republic: the gates of the Elysée Palace, erected at the end of the 19th century, feature a cockerel.  So did the 20 frank gold coin struck in 1898, and one appears more prominently on another 20 franc coin minted in 1904.

During word war I, the French cockerel was often represented standing in opposition to the German Imperial eagle.  The cockerel still features on the Seal of State, which dates back to the Second Republic: a cockerel stands on the helm held by the seated figure of Liberty.  The Cockerel is now used mainly in two specialised contexts: national sports teams and to denote military valour (for example on memorials to those who died in the Great War).

The cockerel is one of the gererally recognised symbols of sovereignty not mentioned in article 2 of the French Constitution of 1958, which refers only to le drapeau tricolore, bleu, blanc, rouge: The French Flag , L'hymne national, the national anthem, The Marseillaise and La devise de la République; the motto . "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité".


For another take on the French Cockerel see Beyond the French Riviera


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The French Cock
French National Symbols: The Cockerel (rooster)