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1679 - The Royal city of France

CPA vue des toits053"The strongest will win", declared Dr. Volmar who was working for Austria when the Treaty of Munster was being negotiated. The ambiguity of the treaty of Westphalia meant that only force could resolve the situation. The Décapole had for a long time tried to use cunning, with Colmar showing itself to be especially intransigent. In 1651 and 1659, the city tried to get its imperial privileges restored. It had continued to contribute to the Holy Roman Empire´s war against Turkey, through the famous Turkenhilfe. In 1666, the city minted a thaler showing a view of the city, its arms and the imperial eagle, a visible sign that it still belonged to the Empire. The city refused to recognize the competence of the sovereign Council, which was set up in Ensisheim in 1658. Colmar resisted, sure that it would be able to argue its way out.

The political situation grew darker in 1670, with the Dutch War. The Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Brandenburg and Holland formed a coalition against Louis XIV. The Eastern border was threatened and imperial troop formations moved to Swabia and nearby Breisgau. The French King decided to try to nip a coalition offensive in the bud and in 1673, the Marquis of Vaubrun was ordered by Louvois to take over Colmar. Vaubrun sent the Marquis of Coulanges with 500 cavalrymen to take the city. At the same time, the King was making his way to Brisach and the inhabitants of Colmar, eager not to incur His Majesty´s displeasure, removed all their cannons.

On Monday 28 August, Louvois arrived at Colmar, to be met by the civic authorities. It was at this moment that Coulanges and his cavalrymen charged into the city through the Deinheim gate. Shortly afterwards, Louvois rode in through the Rouffach gate. Colmar was caught in a trap and lost everything. The next day, the city was disarmed and the fortifications, the pride of the city, were demolished by a group of 4,000 men. As a contemporary subtly observed, "the old city is now as open as a village".

The city was now under French occupation. Troops kept walking up and down to go to the theatre of operations in the Franche-Comté, the Rhine, in Germany. In Autumn 1674, it was the Empire´s turn to invade Alsace. The Grand Elector of Brandenburg moved into Colmar, with his wife and some 1,200 men. The city glimpsed a thin flicker of hope, rapidly extinguished by Turenne´s victory over the Empire in Turckheim on 5 January 1675. There were now real reasons to be worried about how Turenne would react to the city´s headlong dash into the Elector´s arms. Fortunately for them, Turenne spared the city, which, closely watched by the French, hastily decided to keep a low profile. Little happened for the next four years, until 5 January 1679, five months after the Franche-Comté became part of France, when the Treaty of Nijmegen brought the whole of Alsace under French sovereignty. Colmar was no longer a member of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1680, the baron de Montclar, the Grand Bailiff of Alsace, ordered the old coats of arms to be removed from the city´s gates and public buildings. The lys, or lily, replaced the eagle and Colmar had become a Royal City of France.