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Red, white and blue ... and a star too!

For the week of Monday August 12, 2013

On August 16, 1884, the Acadian flag was raised for the first time in front of the church in Miscouche, Prince Edward Island. After 129 years, it is still flying there!

The first Acadian flag
© Collection of the Acadian museum of the University of Moncton

The tricolour flag was adopted on August 15, 1884, at the second Acadian national congress. It was at the first such congress in 1881 (Memramcook, N.B.) that the Acadian people had set the date of their patronal feast day (August 15). In 1884, the congress confirmed their national anthem (Ave Maris Stella) and flag. Father Marcel-François Richard (1847-1915), a priest, teacher and leading figure in the Acadian movement, was involved in choosing these symbols.

For several decades, the flag displaying the colours of revolutionary France failed to achieve unanimity among the Acadians. Another flag, this one bearing the fleur-de-lys, was proposed to symbolize France of the Ancien Régime. Nonetheless, the red, white, and blue with a star prevailed, a distinctive emblem of the Acadian nation, as Father Richard would have wished.

Statue of Évangéline in Grand-Pré
© Parks Canada / C. Reardon / 2003

The red, white, and blue recalls the flag of France, thus defining the Acadians as children of that country, but with one small difference: a gold star in the top left corner. This symbolizes the distinction between the Acadians and the French and honours the Blessed Virgin, the patron of the Acadian people. Indeed, it is the star of Mary, the Stella Maris. The star’s papal colour emphasizes the Acadians’ attachment to the Roman Catholic Church.

The national holiday, flag and anthem have greatly contributed to the emergence and expression of the Acadian national spirit, as has Longfellow’s poem Évangéline (1847).

Monsignor Marcel-François Richard was designated a person of national significance in 2004. A plaque installed in his village of St. Louis de Kent commemorates the 40 years he devoted to cultivating the national pride of the Acadian people. He is also remembered for the educational institutions he founded and his determination to stem the Acadian exodus to the United States.

To learn more about the Acadians, go to The Return of the Acadians and National Acadian Day in the archives of This Week in History.

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