French Flanders

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Map showing the location of French Flanders within Nord-Pas de Calais, bisected by the Lys River. To its north is the French Westhoek and to the south is Lille.
Romance (green) and Germanic (orange) dialects in French Flanders circa 1789.
Territorial changes due to the Treaty of the Pyrenees, including French Flanders.
The Dutch-language Taalgebied (Sprachraum), including northern French Flanders.

French Flanders (French: La Flandre française; Dutch: Frans-Vlaanderen) is a part of the historical County of Flanders in present-day France. The region today lies in the modern-day region of Nord-Pas de Calais and roughly corresponds to the arrondissements of Lille, Douai and Dunkirk on the Belgian border. Together with French Hainaut it makes up the department of Nord.


French Flanders is mostly flat marshlands in the coal-rich area just south of the North Sea. French Flanders consists of two regions:

  1. French Westhoek to the northwest, lying between the Lys River and the North Sea, roughly the same area as the Arrondissement of Dunkirk
  2. Lilloise Flanders (French: La Flandre Lilloise; Dutch: Rijsels-Vlaanderen), historically also called Walloon Flanders, to the southeast, south of the Lys and now the arrondissements of Lille and Douai


Once a part of ancient Frankia since the inception of the Frankish kingdom under the Merovingian monarchs such as Clovis, who was crowned at Tournai, Flanders gradually fell under the control of the English and then Spanish. When French power returned under Louis XIV, a part of historically French Flanders was returned.

The region now called French Flanders was originally part of the feudal Countship of Flanders, then part of the Southern Netherlands, in present-day Belgium. It was separated from the countship (part of Habsburg's Burgundian inheritance) in 1659 due to the Peace of the Pyrenees, which ended the French-Spanish conflict in the Thirty Years War, and other parts of the region were added in successive treaties in 1668 and 1678. The region was ceded to the Kingdom of France, and became part of the province of Flanders and Hainaut. The bulk became part of the modern French administrative Department of Nord, although some western parts of the region, which separated in 1237 and became the Countship of Artois before the cession to the French, are now part of Pas-de-Calais.

During World War II, French Flanders referred to all of Nord-Pas de Calais which was first attached to military administration of German-occupied Belgium, then part of Belgien-Nordfrankreich under a Reichskommissar, and finally part of a theoretical Reichsgau of Flanders.

Rich in coal, and bordering the North Sea, French Flanders was fought over numerous times between the Middle Ages and World War II.


The traditional language of northern French Flanders (Westhoek) is a dialect of the Dutch language known as West Flemish, specifically, a subdialect known as French Flemish, spoken by around 20,000 daily speakers and 40,000 occasional speakers.[1]
The traditional language of Lilloise Flanders (part of Romance Flanders), is Picard (and its dialects, such as Ch'ti or Rouchi).

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This article incorporates information from the revision as of 2007-07-25 of the equivalent article on the French Wikipedia.

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