Symbols

Wallonia has its own symbols: an emblem and a flag (the bold rooster), an anthem (The Song of the Walloons), a national day (the third Sunday in September), a flower (blanket flower), an award (the Walloon Merit) and a capital city, Namur. All have come about through history, popular ownership and official recognition.

An emblem and a flag: the bold rooster (le coq hardi)

L'aquarelle de Pierre Paulus (1913) © Province de Liège - Musée de la Vie wallonne Watercolour of Pierre Paulus (1913)

Wallonia's emblem is the bold rooster. Adopted in 1913 by the Walloon Assembly, the first, yet unofficial parliament of the Walloons, it was formally recognised by the decree of 23 July 1998.
A symbol of the heralding of the dawn present in many cultures, the rooster was associated with Gaul from the 2nd century by the Roman historian Suetonius, playing on the fact that the Latin word gallus means both rooster and Gallic. It has been one of the symbols of France since the Renaissance, under both the Monarchy and the Republic. With this choice, promoters of the Walloon consciousness emphasised the Gallo-Roman origins of the Walloon people as well as their sense of belonging to the French culture and the values of the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, they show their distinctive character through the emblem. The Gallic rooster is said to be "singing", beak open and both feet on the ground; the Walloon rooster is called "bold", beak closed with its right leg (right hand) raised. At the instigation of the Walloon activists Jules Destrée and Paul Pastur, the design of the Walloon rooster was created in 1913 by the famous Charleroi painter Pierre Paulus. The colours of the flag (red and yellow) reflect those of Liège, as a tribute to its pioneering action for Wallonia.

A national day: Wallonia's festivals

Fêtes de Wallonie - Citadelle de Namur © SPW-SG/J.-L. CarpentierWallonia's official national day

Wallonia's official national day takes place on the third Sunday in September. It honours the Walloon fighters of the September Days in 1830 who drove out the Dutch troops of William of Orange as part of the Belgian Revolution. Wallonia's festivals were started at the very end of the 19th century in Liège by the first movements to assert the Walloon consciousness, making it the symbol of the struggle against "Dutchification". Recognised by the Walloon Assembly in 1913, they were first celebrated in Verviers, that same year. However, it was from 1923 that the Walloon activist and Namur politician François Bovesse ensured the longevity and growth of such festivals, giving them both a political and popular dimension. His aim was to mobilise Walloons to promote their identity and defend their rights. Over the decades, the festivals have retained this dual aspect, both festive and campaigning, reflecting Walloon demands for political autonomy. After the Walloon Region was created in 1980, this symbolic tradition, deeply rooted in several Walloon cities and municipalities were unanimously sanctioned by the decree of 23 July 1998.

An anthem: Le Chant des Wallons (The Song of the Walloons)

When in 1998, the Walloon Parliament recognised "Le Chant des Wallons" as Wallonia's official anthem, it was formalising it almost centenary after its creation. In fact, the song was the first symbol to have been established. It was composed as part of a competition organised in 1900 and 1901 by the Walloon League of Liège, a pioneering organisation of the Walloon movement, with the aim of giving Wallonia a shared anthem, in addition to the traditional songs of its various cities. Originally in Walloon-Liégeois, the words are by Théophile Bovy (1900) and the music by Louis Hillier (1901). On considering the issue alongside those of the flag and national day, the Walloon Assembly recognised this song, which had caught people's imaginations, in 1935. In 1998, the Walloon Parliament decided to retain three of the four original verses in French for the official version of the Walloon anthem (decree of 23 July).

Le Chant des Wallons

The Song of the Walloons

I. 

Nous sommes fiers de notre Wallonie,

Le monde entier admire ses enfants,

Au premier rang brille son industrie,

Et dans les arts on l'apprécie autant.

Bien que petit, notre pays surpasse

Par ses savants, de plus grandes nations,

Et nous voulons des libertés en masse

Voilà pourquoi l'on est fier d'être Wallons ! 

I.

Of our land Wallonia we are proud,

Its children are esteemed the world over

Behold the triumph of her industry

The grandeur of her arts.

Though our land be small, still its science

Surpasses that of many a populous nation,

What we yearn for most is our freedom

That is why we are proud to be Walloons!

Non repris dans la version officielle

Quand on relit les faits de notre histoire,

À chaque page on se sent transporté ;

Et l'on tressaille en pensant à la gloire

De nos aïeux qui n'ont jamais tremblé.

Quand l'ennemi voulu les rendre esclaves,

Il fut vaincu, broyé sous leur talon ;

César les a proclamés les plus braves :

Voilà pourquoi l'on est fier d'être Wallons !

II.

When reading the facts of our history,

Every page transports us;

And shuddering we think of the glory

Of our ancestors who never trembled.

When the enemy wanted to enslave them,

It was defeated, crushed beneath their feet;

Caesar declared them the bravest:

That is why we are proud to be Walloons!

II.

Entre Wallons, toujours on fraternise ;

Dans le malheur, on aime à s'entraider ;

On fait le bien sans jamais qu'on le dise,

En s'efforçant de le tenir caché.

La charité visitant la chaumière

S'y prend le soir avec cent précautions ;

On donne peu, mais c'est d'un cœur sincère ;

Voilà pourquoi l'on est fier d'être Wallons !

III.

We Walloons are brothers to one another;

And comfort one another in distress;

We do good without boasting about it,

And try to keep it secret.

Charity visiting a poor cottage

Goes by night and cautiously;

We may give little, but it comes from the heart;

That is why we are proud to be Walloons !

III.

Petit pays, c'est pour ta grandeur d'âme

Que nous t'aimons, sans trop le proclamer.

Notre œil se voile aussitôt qu'on te blâme

Et notre cœur est prêt à se briser.

Ne crains jamais les coups de l'adversaire,

De tes enfants les bras te défendront

Il ne faut pas braver notre colère :

Voilà pourquoi l'on est fier d'être Wallons !

IV.

O humble land of Wallonia,

Modestly we hail thee, land of our hearts' desire.

We are saddened when men speak ill of thee

It truly breaks the heart.

But fear not attacks from the enemy,

Thy children will defend thy high repute

Who dare affront our anger:

That is why we are proud to be Walloons !

In 1914, at the height of the First World War, the English newspaper 'The Sunday Referee' wrote about it: “Whatever may be the issue of the war, the defence of Liège will be one of its most brilliant and memorable episodes. Few people are familiar with the history and resources of the little kingdom which has so valiantly defended its national rights. A very large section of its population consists of a race known as Walloons, who occupy a position similar to that of the Welsh in England. The Walloon are described as "descendants of the ancient Belge, a race of a mixed Celtic and romantic stock." They number about three millions, speak a dialect which is a kind of old French, and are intensely patriotic. The musical talent among the Belgians largely emanates from the Walloon element. César Franck, the composer, was a Walloon ; so is Mr. Ysaye, the violinist. In 1900 the Walloon League at Liège decided that they should have a national song. For this purpose they offered prizes for appropriate liner, and those of Mr. Théophile Bovey (sic) were accepted. The following year a prize was offered for the best tune, and this prize was won by the wellknown musician, Mr. Louis Hillier. The melody has the verve of a trumpet-call and the spirit of attack. It was sent out to all the schools and military centres, and in the last thirteen years has become exceedingly popular. It bas been sung by thousands during the recent struggle, end there can ho little doubt that its inspiriting strains have contributed considerably to the splendid resistance Belgium has made and to the victory she has won."

A capital : Namur

Namur, capitale de la Wallonie © Daniel Van AckerNamur, Wallonia's capital

Since 1986, Namur has officially been recognised as Wallonia's capital (decree of 11 December). This happened gradually. At the end of the 19th century, Liège, the old capital of a thousand-year-old principality and birthplace of the Walloon Movement, quite naturally enjoyed the status of historical capital. However, in 1912, at the time the Walloon Assembly was founded, the Walloon activists chose to base its sessions in Namur as "Wallonia's most central city", located at the juncture of all its provinces and at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse rivers. The issue became particularly significant with the State Reform and the creation of the federated institutions. In 1978, the Mayors of the large Walloon cities agreed that Namur would claim the status of capital for their future region, while rejecting the centralisation that the Walloons were fighting in the unitary state. They therefore recommended that the political institutions (Parliament and Government) and central administration were established in the capital of Namur, the economic institutions in Liège, the social institutions in Charleroi, the cultural function in Mons and water-related services in Verviers. A decision by the new Walloon Regional Executive formalised this division in 1983. However, it would be 1988 before the Walloon Government, ministerial cabinets and administrations would gradually but definitively move towards Wallonia and its capital. In 2010, this situation was sanctioned when the Walloon Parliament unanimously adopted a decree explicitly instituting Namur as the capital of Wallonia and the seat of its Parliament and Government (Decree of 21 October).

A flower: the blanket flower

La Gaillarde The blanket flower

Like the other symbols, the floral emblem of Wallonia was first adopted within civil society, under the influence of the Walloon Movement in the early 20th century. The issue was set out in 1913, at the time the festival and flag were recognised. Léonie de Waha, the pioneer of women's education and a Walloon activist, founder of the Union of the Women of Wallonia, proposed the blanket flower, a flower that had been used as a rallying sign for the Liège patriots in 1789 and 1830. Its colours, red and yellow, were also those that had just been chosen for Wallonia. The idea quickly gained popularity, so much so that the Walloon Assembly sanctioned it from 1914. Since then, although without achieving the same recognition as the bold rooster, it has represented Wallonia at its events. Thus, since 1928, in Namur, a silver blanket flower has been presented as an award by the Central Committee of Wallonia. In 2015, on the Government's proposal, the Walloon Parliament granted this familiar symbol the recognition by decree that it had been lacking.

An award: the Walloon Merit

La médaille d'officier du Mérite wallon Medal Officer of the Walloon Merit

In 2011, the Walloon Parliament unanimously created the Walloon Merit (decree of 31 March). This bestows the recognition of the Walloon authorities on any individual or entity, whose talent or virtue brings exceptional honour to Wallonia and contributes to its influence. It shines a spotlight on those who, through their life and their actions, are exemplary in their involvement in the Walloon dynamic and thus contribute to the pride and respect of Walloons. The award has four ranks, according to the degree of the merit being recognised: medal, knight, officer and commander. These awards are mainly presented during an annual ceremony organised as part of Wallonia's festivals.