Sedan gave its name to the horse drawn carriages or "sedan chairs", whose inner upholstery was fitted with material from Sedan. The tradition has remained with the motorcar. Even today, Sedan refers to a range of cars.
The Sedan region was first populated during the Palaeolithic era. The name Sedan appears for the first time in a text from 997. An Othon certificate dates artefacts from the Abbey of Mouzon to 1023. A priory was installed on the rocky spur that gives its name to the town.
Until the 15th century, the town was controlled by the Monks of Mouzon and the Bishops of Liège. It then passed into the hands of the LaMarcks in 1424 and Sedan became a principality.
Although the first castle's origins from 1424 were from Evrard de LaMarck, the sovereignty of the Prince of Sedan was only recognised until the middle of the 16th century.
The independent princes became Protestants after the marriage of Françoise de Bourbon and Henri Robert de LaMarck. The town then became a refuge for protestant artisans, such as the printer Jean Jannon or the inventor of enamels, Bernard Palissy, who made the town famous.
In 1591, the last descendant of the LaMarcks, Charlotte, who was then only 15, married Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, the loyal comrade-in-arms of Henri de Navarre and the future Henri IV. In 1594, Charlotte died while giving birth. Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne was given the title of Prince of Sedan, Duke of Bouillon and inherited all of Charlotte's estate. He made firm his social rising by then marrying Elisabeth de Nassau-Orange.
Regarded as the master-builder Prince of Sedan, Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne adorned the town with large public, civil and religious buildings, including a Protestant church, a town hall and a military school (the Académie des Exercices). He converted the Arms Square, reinforced the fortifications and provided Sedan with rectilinear town planning.
In 1641, the collaboration of Frédéric-Maurice de la Tour d'Auvergne, heir of Henri, with the Cinq-Mars conspiracy against the king, led to the end of the principality's independence; the Prince preferring to save his head and his freedom.
His brother, Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, better known as Turenne, remained loyal to the King of France and was named Marshal of France by Mazarin in 1643.
Abraham Fabert then became governor of Sedan in 1642. He preserved the town's privileges and liberties, but encouraged the Protestants to convert to Catholicism.
It was at the time when Sedan was linked to the Kingdom of France that the town saw its industrial development.
After becoming part of France, in 1646 Fabert granted three Parisian merchants the privilege of manufacturing black linen, like that of Holland. The Dijonval factory, the only royal manufacturer of fine linen in France, was then established.
After the troubled period of the Revolution, Sedan drapery was resumed under the Consulate and the Empire. Two industrialists played a vital role: Abraham Poupart and Guillaume Ternaux, whose success coincides with the mechanisation of the working of wool.
The war of 1870 ended this wonderful development. The end of the 19th century saw the mechanisation of weaving, which was found mostly in the town. "Modern" factories replaced the small hand weavers' workshops of the surrounding villages. Textiles nevertheless remained on top until the 1st World War.
During the Wars, the Sedan factories were emptied of their material. After the two Wars, it was a slow and difficult process for them to "get back on their feet". The history of the Sedan textile industry ended at the end of the 20th century.
Continuing with the textile industry tradition, Sedan woven carpets became the pride of the town. Originally, the Sedan weave was a lace produced in the 16th and 17th century.
At the end of the 19th century, a great Parisian industrialist, Adrien Duquesne, fascinated by handmade carpets in oriental countries, was convinced that it was possible to recreate this craft mechanically. After the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1889, Adrien Duquesne went into partnership with Henri Gosselin, an engineer from Sedan, to create a complex device that would allow double fixing of an end of wool in the shape of a figure 8 on a chain and weft to form a linen tapestry. The Sedan woven carpet was born and became internationally renowned until it ceased production in 2006.
In order to engrave the memories of this unique craft in the world, the Town of Sedan has become a buyer of spinning trades and factory buildings, which have not changed since the 19th century.
The War of 1870 between France and Prussia was the catalyst that changed the balance of the world in 75 years.
In August 1870, an army that was put together in mad panic in Châlons (Champagne) took route in the Ardennes to stop the enemy troops from advancing. After a month and a half, Napoleon III was defeated and declared prisoner in the Sous-préfecture of Sedan, before signing the Surrender in Donchery. It has become known as the Débâcle de Sedan (the Collapse of Sedan).
To find out more about the War of 1870, visit the Museum of the Last Cartridge at Bazeilles: www.maisondeladernierecartouche.com
The battle of Noyers-Sedan took place between 25 and 27 August 1914. In Sedan, the battles were very short compared with the four years of fighting, but the town was occupied throughout the War and the castle fortifications were converted into a prison camp.
On a line of attack towards Meuse on 10 May 1940, the Wehrmacht executed the "Sichelschnitt" plan which means "hammer cut". In a few days, the German army advanced and occupied several parts of the town and in particular, the Place Alsace-Lorraine.
From this sometimes sumptuous, yet sometimes painful past, Sedan rose from the ashes like the sculpture by the architect Jean de Mailly fixed to one of the post-war constructed buildings.
Today, the town is undertaking its fourth town-planning transformation. A Programme of Urban Renovation was launched in the districts of Torcy-Cités, Le Lac and Faubourg du Ménil for a better living and social environment. Sedan was selected for the National Programme for the Rehabilitation of Degraded Old Towns to revive the area and bring life back to the town centre. For several years, great investment has been made, for example in a football stadium to seat 21,000, a new water leisure centre, a brand new cultural centre, new sports facilities in the districts, town-planning etc.