So French France

The origin and history of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic

It is the symbol of the Republic. She is represented in majesty on the square of the same name in Paris and she is obligatorily present in each of the thousands of town halls in France. Marianne also appears on our stamps. She is the embodiment of the French Republic, which originated in the French Revolution...



La France coiffée d'un bonnet Phrygien / 1790 / Musée Carnavalet Paris
France wearing a Phrygian cap / 1790 / Carnavalet Museum Paris

"Marie Anne" or "Marianne" was the name most often used by female servants in 18th century France. A name associated, for the aristocrats, with the poor, with women who were not spoken to except to give orders. So when the French Revolution refused the birthright that allowed the nobles to have privileges by the simple fact of being born and ended up imposing the Republic, and therefore equal rights, the aristocrats, shocked to be considered as equals by those who had been their inferiors for centuries, ended up calling the Republic like those who had served them, as something poor, old-fashioned and they called it "la gueuse" or even... Marianne.

The idea is taken up by the republicans who see with a good eye that this popular name symbolizes a regime born from the will of the People. "Marie Anne" becomes Marianne to be less associated with the first names of the virgin and the grandmother of Christ, and Marianne even becomes a code word of the republicans who fight for the return of the Republic at the time of the Empire or the Restoration of the monarchies. In short, Marianne is the name of a woman of the People. It is the common idea of the monarchists and the republicans.  


When Marianne and Liberty end up merging...


Le bonnet phrygien symbole des révolutionnaires en 1792. Gravure d'époque.
The Phrygian cap symbol of the revolutionaries in 1792. Engraving of the time. 

When the Republic is founded in France in 1792, a symbol is needed to represent it. Liberty was chosen. Its representation is inspired by Greek and Roman representations. She is represented in different ways: with a mace to crush evil, with a scepter too, but what comes back most often is the Phrygian cap that covers her. This cap is the symbol of the freed slaves under the Roman Empire. The Phrygian cap is what the revolutionaries wear to mark their commitment to the Republic. It is red and can be seen on many heads in Paris. Gradually, the Liberty is confused with the Republic, is topped with a Phrygian cap and becomes "Marianne". 


She always returns with the Republic. 

Marianne offert à Victor Hugo par le sculpteur Jacques Paul LECREUX / Buste en ronde-bosse sur socle carré, représentant la République. Cette Marianne porte une écharpe lui barrant le buste depuis l'épaule droite jusqu'à la poitrine. Cette écharpe est rythmée par trois couronnes de chêne portant la 1ère : 1789, la 2ème : 1848, la 3ème : 1870. Hauteville House Guernesey.

Marianne offered to Victor Hugo by the sculptor Jacques Paul LECREUX / Bust in the round on a square base, representing the Republic. This Marianne wears a scarf crossing her bust from the right shoulder to the chest. This scarf is punctuated by three oak wreaths bearing the 1st: 1789, the 2nd: 1848, the 3rd: 1870. Hauteville House Guernsey.

With the final fall of the July Monarchy and the advent of the Second Republic in 1848, Marianne returned in force, even if her appearance was the subject of much debate. Some people want to represent her as a fighter, with her hair loose and the Phrygian cap on her head, others prefer her to be calmer, more industrious, with her hair tied back and her breasts covered... In fact, everyone would like to see his conception of the Republic. The Empire, back, will put an end to the discussions. 


Disappeared under the 2d Empire, it returns definitively in 1871

It was out of the question to have Marianne, and therefore the Republic, as a symbol when one was an empire. With the establishment of the 2nd Empire, and the installation in power of Napoleon III, Marianne disappeared again, even if her name became a coded word of the republicans to speak about the Republic during their meetings. It comes back in force in 1871 with the fall of Napoleon III and the establishment of the Third Republic. It is at this time that it definitively imposed itself to the French people who made it one of their favorite symbols.

Victor Hugo, républicain convaincu, représenté avec Marianne "qu'il a aidé à grandir" puisqu'il a combattu Napoléon III qui l'a exilé et qu'il était présent au moment de l'instauration de la IIIe république en 1871. Gravure de Adolphe Léon Willette Estampe de 1899. 

Victor Hugo, convinced republican, represented with Marianne "that he helped to grow" since he fought Napoleon III who exiled him and that he was present at the time of the establishment of the Third Republic in 1871. Engraving of Adolphe Léon Willette Print of 1899. 

She made her entry in all the town halls in 1877 and her bust or her presence are always obligatory since. It appears very quickly on the coins, in particular on the franc, then on the French euros. The same goes for stamps, on which she has been featured since 1871. Since 1999, it appears on all official documents of the ministries with the three colors and the motto "Liberty, equality, fraternity". 


Several looks over time

Armed in 1792, topless in 1848, wise and well-coiffed in 1871, Marianne changes her look according to the political colors of the Republic. If the government is conservative, she is wise, if it is more progressive, she takes on new politics colors. About color, to ask for the abolition of slavery, in 1848, the Freemasons of Toulouse represented her under the features of a freed black slave. A version that has lived through many ups and downs, damaged, buried, and even forgotten before being rediscovered in the 20th century.

La liberté pour la France... Les libertés pour les Français (FD/120) / Bureau d'information Anglo-Américain , Editeur En 1944 / Musée de la Libération de Paris - 

Freedom for France... Freedom for the French (FD/120) / Anglo-American Information Office, Publisher In 1944 / Museum of the Liberation of Paris - 


Many artists have represented Marianne.

In 1899, Jules Dadou sculpted the "Triumph of the Republic" that can be seen on the Place de la Nation in Paris. Also in Paris, place de la République, the "Monument to the Republic" by Léopold and François-Charles Morice was completed in 1883. Marianne is 9 meters high, on a base of 15 meters, and is accompanied by the allegories of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. It is often there that the French end a demonstration. It is there that they met at the time of the attacks of Charlie Hebdo. 

French women have also been chosen to represent Marianne. Brigitte Bardot in 1970, Mireille Mathieu in 1978, Laetitia Casta in 2000.

Marianne is the embodiment of the Republic, a heritage, a woman who fights for Freedom, a woman who is committed to Equality, to Democracy, who also protects the children of the Republic. This woman is all of us. Marianne is the French People. 

La Marianne de la Place de la République à Paris réalisée par les frères MORICE en 1883/ Photo de Mathias Reding sur Unsplash

The Marianne of the Place de la République in Paris made by the MORICE brothers in 1883/ Photo by Mathias Reding on Unsplash

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.