J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Flags of L’Hermione

As we continue our coverage of the North American visit of L’Hermione, here’s a dispatch from Peter Ansoff, who visited the French ship during its stop in Alxandria, Virginia. Boston 1775 readers may recall that Peter is one of our vexillological advisors.

Naturally, I was interested to see what sort of flags she displayed. As you can see, the display was slightly unorthodox—the modern French national ensign on the staff and a U.S. 13-star ensign at the gaff. (Normally a visiting ship flies the courtesy flag of the host nation on the fore or main masts.) The choice of the modern ensign instead of the old Royal ensign may have been drive by legal considerations.

I was intrigued to see that they decided on a U.S. ensign with red, white and blue stripes. There are a handful of descriptions and contemporary images of red/white/blue striped flags, and I believe just about all of them involve American ships that were outfitted in France, or descriptions from the US representatives in France. It looks like somebody in the Hermione organization may have made the connection.
The French tricolor is anachronistic for 1780, but it may be appropriate for Lafayette’s ship since he gets credit for turning that combination of colors into the French national emblem.

Thanks, Peter!

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