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The plain ermines flag

The flag floating at the top of the keep of the keep is the ermine banner adopted in 1316 by John III , Duke of Brittany , who decided to change his coat of arms by strewing it with ermine speckles called "plain ermines" in heraldry. This historic flag of Brittany is still very popular and used during historical events and religious festivals, by certain bagadoù or even town halls and floats on pleasure boats, fortresses, castles and churches in Brittany.



In heraldry , the ermine is a fur represented by a field of silver (white) strewn with speckles of sand (black).

Sometimes, the ermine improperly designates a single speckle , representing the tail of the ermine .


Pierre Mauclerc de dreux.jpg

Why the ermine as a symbol of Brittany? 

Ermine - an erminig -  dressed in her winter dress has symbolized the Duchy of Brittany since the 14th century.  

In medieval times, the wealthiest knights covered their shields with ermine fur to cushion the blows of swords. The crusaders of Brittany will display a white flag adorned with a black cross just like the ermine with its winter coat.

The ermine symbolizes Nobility , Courage , Purity .

Deemed incorruptible, ermine fur also adorns the coats of kings, the togas of magistrates ...

Alix Duchess of Brittany (1201 - 1221) married in 1214 Pierre Mauclerc de Dreux (1187 -1250).

The youngest of the Dreux family, he cannot take the coat of arms of his ancestry and must therefore add a black and white herminée breakage to the coat of arms of the Dreux.

The Breton princes will thus display for more than a hundred years the arms of the Dreux: a checkered gold and azure, broken by a field of plain ermines .

The legend

Kentoc'h mervel eget bezan saotret  *

Rather death than defilement *

During a winter,  John III went on a hunt. He then witnessed a scene that was edifying to say the least. A group of peasants had cornered an ermine with an immaculate white coat at the edge of a troubled stream. She was facing her attackers. John III concludes that the animal preferred to die rather than soil its white fur. The Duke asked for the grace of the beast and associated the emblem of Brittany with this noble motto: Kentoc'h mervel eget bezan saotret *.

This legend,  very often attributed to Anne of Brittany (1477 - 1514) is also sometimes attributed to Alain II - Barbetorte (900 - 952) or even to Conan Mériadec (4th - 5th century).

The Order of L'Hermine

It is to John IV in 1381 then Duke of Brittany that we owe the creation of the Order of the Hermine, part of the  more  former military and honorary orders of Europe.

Gold and silver adornment symbolized by a passing ermine sporting a speckled scarf.

With the motto To my life .

Even today, the Order of the Hermine distinguishes those who work or have worked for the influence of Breton culture .


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