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3 unusual anecdotes you did not know about Cognac

Elegant facade of the former salt dealers district - Cognac, France

I bet you didn't know that the Cognac city kept these few secrets among many others.

Today I offer you 3 anecdotes about Cognac city as it is not only the city that gave its name to one of the most famous brandies in the world!

A King Made in Cognac... And Not Just Any French King!

King François I, the quintessential French Renaissance king, was born in Cognac. Even five centuries after his reign, François I (1494-1547) remains one of the most beloved French kings, renowned as a patron of the arts, a knightly prince, and a builder of the monarchy. He is, quite literally, the only king "made in Cognac!"

He is the only king MADE IN COGNAC!


François I was born here in 1494 in the medieval castle of Cognac that is now home to Cognac Otard. He spent part of his childhood in Cognac before leaving at the age of 4 to be raised at the court of Louis XII. Despite his early departure, he never forgot his hometown, bestowing many privileges and funds upon the city of Cognac.

Interestingly, young François, son of Charles of Angoulême and Louise of Savoy, was never expected to wear the French crown. It was a series of unforeseen events that led him to become the first prince of the blood and heir to the throne in 1498 at the age of four. From then on, he left Cognac with his mother, asked by King Louis XII to settle in Amboise with the royal court.
Francis Ist lived only a short time in his native town, but he never forgot it. As soon as he came to power in 1515, he established the county of Angoulême as a duchy. He granted the cities of Angoulême and Cognac many exemptions, franchises and privileges. Today, I guess we would call it a "tax haven"!
Until 1530, Francis Ist often came back home.

In 1520, he hosted an amazing banquet there for cardinals, ambassadors and great personalities which cost a fortune! In 1526, after his captivity in Madrid, he stopped and rested in Cognac. It was here, probably on the initiative of the Regent Louise of Savoy (his mother), that the emissaries of the King of England, the Pope, the Venetians and the Florentines united with him against the Emperor Charles V. This alliance is known in French history as : "the League of Cognac".


Salamander mosaics along the Charente river docks in Cognac

Do you know why Francis I chose the salamander as his emblem? 

 In the Middle Ages, the salamander was part of the magical and legendary animal bestiary. In addition to living both on land and in water, it was also given the ability to resist fire! Imagine, the salamander somehow mastering the elements and taking on a mythical, even mystical character.

And so it is because of him, you can see salamanders everywhere in Cognac! Even on the pavements!  


Cognac, an air base and the headquarters of France's only military drone regiment


Cognac Châteaubernard Air Base 709 (BA 709) is hard to miss when you arrive in Cognac from the south!
The base has an aerodrome and is home to the Air Force Flying School (EPAA). In this Air Force school, future fighter or transport pilots of the French Air Force learn to fly after their initial training in Salon de Provence.

On 1 August 1993, the 33rd Reconnaissance Wing, including the reconnaissance squadrons 1/33 "Belfort", 2/33 "Savoie" and 3/33 "Moselle" , equipped with Mirage F1-CR was disbanded at the former airbase 124 of Strasbourg-Entzheim. 26 years later, this wing was officially reactivated by the French Air Force at air base 709 in Cognac!
It is now known as the Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Attack Wing (ESRA). The 1/33 Belfort UAV squadron, created in 2010, is the French Army's first military UAV squadron. It has inherited the traditions of the 1/33 Belfort Reconnaissance Squadron. The 33 Wing has swapped its reconnaissance aircraft for MALE MQ-9 Reaper UAVs. 

To be honest, I am unable to let you know exactly how many military drones France, but it's currently around six.  2 are based in Cognac for the training site and 4 are used in surveillance operations (Such as in Niger in 2018-2019 for Operation Barkhane).


Reaper Drone above French countryside - ©French air Force - ©Armee de l'Air

It is clear that things will change rapidly since 6 Reaper drones will be ordered for 2020/2021.

Significant changes are expected with the order of six more Reaper drones for 2020/2021. For your information, an MQ-9 Reaper drone is quite impressive: it stands tall on its "legs" with a wingspan of about 20 meters, a 900-horsepower engine, and weighs just over four tons. It is recognizable by its "ball," a concentration of optical and electronic sensors—some say it looks like a whale.

Thanks to their autonomy, 3 Reapers can monitor the entire Sahelo-Saharan strip, collecting valuable information on the presence and activities of terrorist groups. A Reaper drone is piloted from the ground by 4 crew members, completing an eight-hour mission with crew rotations every two hours.


"white gold" dealers: Cognac was a a big salt storehouse ! 

In Cognac, one of the oldest streets in the town is called "Saulnier": "saulnier "as salt, an old french word for "salt merchants", that's the origin of the word! This name reflects the city's long history as a trading hub for what was once known as "white gold."

Due to its geographical location on the Charente, sea salt collected from the Aunis coast and distributed throughout central France (The Inland population) necessarily transited through Cognac. Here, merchants paid a tax (the quint, or 20%) and then had complete freedom of trade. It was quite a godsend for the merchants who set up vast warehouses and created a salt trading port.

Cognac - Information panel about the former salt trading port on the river Charente


The salt trade fostered a commercial mindset that later facilitated the development of the wine trade when legislative reforms in the 16th century caused Cognac to lose its former advantages.

In the 16th century, the salt trade in Cognac declined, and the "Saulnier" port transformed from a district of granaries and storage into one of elegant residences. The district maintained its commercial vocation by exporting wine and then brandies.
The first merchants set up their premises there, constructing them on the back of urban plots to better display the decoration on the main street facades.


Elegant facades of the private mansions of rue saulnier - Cognac



Thank you for reading until the end ! 

If you have any question about Cognac city, feel free to leave a coment below ! 

If you plan to come soon to Cognac, do not hesitate to ask a free quote for your Cognac tasting tour ! 

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South of France, Cognac, Bordeaux river cruise trips, French history, Licensed Tour Guide

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