Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Je Me Souviens

'Je Me Souviens' (I remember) was carved onto the coat of arms on the Parliament Building in 1883 by architect Eugene-Etienne Tache. It was adopted as the official motto of Quebec in 1939.

Unfortunately, Tache never recorded where he was inspired to find the words, or what meaning he placed behind them, which has led to years of speculation.

For the best part of the 20th Century it was believed that 'Je Me Souviens' was honouring the past battles and fallen heroes. Referred to in a speach in 1895 as 'We remember. We remember the past and its lessons, the past and its misfortunes, the past and its glories'.

However, in 1978 the Quebec Provincial Government decided, quite controversially at the time, to place 'Je Me Souviens' on the licence-plates of cars which ignited a new debate as to the history of the Motto. A reader wrote an open-letter to the Montreal Star newspaper claiming that the full Motto was actually:

Je Me Souviens
Que né sous le lys
Je croîs sous la rose
I Remember
That Born Under The Lily
I Grow Under The Rose

The letter was written by the granddaughter of Tache. The lily and the rose were referring to the floral emblems of France and England and spun a whole new potential set of theories behind the Motto.

While there still doesn't seem to be any concrete evidence as to whether the motto should have been 3-words or 3-lines and how to interpret it, the debate lives on.

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