Did the aggressor of Emmanuel Macron have the references in mind when he said these words before slapping the President of the Republic on Tuesday, in the Drôme? This has not yet been established. But the expression “Montjoie Saint-Denis” used by this man placed in police custody for his gesture, refers well to a war cry of the royal armies in the Middle Ages, which became a royalist rallying slogan.
This cry of the French royal armies dates back to the time of the Capetians. It would have been shouted during the battle of Bouvines in 1214, by the forces of Philip II Augustus against those of Otto IV, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
“The cry refers to the royal banner”
“Montjoie” designates the banner behind which the medieval army gathers, when it goes up in combat. And “the cry refers to the royal banner, preserved in Saint-Denis, where the kings are also buried”, underlines Florian Besson, doctor in medieval history and host on Twitter of the account @Middle age.
A legend quoted by the Encyclopédie Universalis also reports that King Clovis would have been victorious at “Montjoye”, near Saint-Denis, thanks to a shield bearing three golden lilies on an azure background. A miracle that would have been commemorated by the war cry “Montjoie Saint-Denis! “. This banner then became the standard of the kingdom.
As for the origin of the word “mont-joie”, it is linked, according to the Encyclopédie Universalis, to the mont-joies, these small piles of stone that we still find today at the neck of a mountain. In the Middle Ages, this word also designated a hill, an oratory or a territory to be protected.
A nationalist cry
The cry is abandoned from the 16th century. Then “it becomes a political rallying word with the birth of royalism in 1789”, written on Twitter Paul chopelin, lecturer in modern history at the Jean Moulin University in Lyon.
In the 19th century, it was rediscovered and reinvented. The historian Jules Michelet, great inventor of the “national novel” thus makes it “the cry of France”. This is “an obviously anachronistic vision which greatly overestimates the importance of this cry, but often like the nationalist ideals of the time”, considers Florian Besson.
“When the knights used this cry, they weren’t thinking in terms of France, but in terms of kingdom. But for Michelet it is very important to find a “cry of France” from the 12th century “, he says.
Heard in “The Visitors”
More recently, this scream had taken on a folk hue after being popularized by the movie. Visitors (1993). The knight Godefroy de Montmirail, played by Jean Reno, launches “Montjoie Saint-Denis, that passes away if I weaken”, by charging gendarmes.
LFI deputy Eric Coquerel (La France Insoumise) was entarté in April 2018 by three students, then members of Action Française, to the cry of “Montjoie Saint-Denis! “. The Ile-de-France federation of Action Française then claimed action on social networks.
In addition, the “Montjoie Saint-Denis” choir, made up of men costumed as musketeers or soldiers, was one of the pillars of the National Front celebrations.