Vendée

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Vendée

Vendée (väNdā´), department (1990 pop. 509,356), W France, on the Bay of Biscay, in Poitou. The offshore islands of Noirmoutier and Yeu are included in the department. Largely an agricultural (dairying, cattle raising) and forested region, the Vendée has many beach resorts and fishing ports. Canned fish, leather, textiles, fishing boats, cider apples, and uranium are the chief products. La Roche-sur-Yon (the capital) and Les Sables d'Olonne are the main towns. The department gave its name to the insurrection of 1793 to 1796, which began there. The peasants of the Vendée, who had lived amiably with the local nobility, began violently to oppose the French Revolution when it turned against the Roman Catholic Church. Under Henri La Rochejaquelein and others, an army of more than 50,000 men was raised to clear the region of Revolutionary authorities. The army occupied Saumur and planned to continue through Brittany, Maine, and Normandy to join the Chouans, the anti-Revolutionary peasants of those regions. However, the important city of Nantes held out against the Vendeans, who marched as far north as Granville but were then forced by lack of discipline to return south late in 1793. Overtaken at Le Mans and Savenay by the republican army, they were totally defeated and suffered terrible reprisals. Robespierre's overthrow led to the peace of La Jaunaie (1795), by which the government granted an amnesty and freedom of worship to the Vendeans. Renewed conflict began in 1796, when royalist émigrés, backed by Great Britain, tried to land at Quiberon in Brittany; they were routed by government forces under Gen. Lazare Hoche. The comte d'Artois (later Charles X), who had landed on the isle of Yeu, took fright and abandoned the Vendean leaders to capture and execution. Smaller royalist uprisings occurred in 1799, in 1815 (against Napoleon I), and in 1832, when the duchess de Berry tried to stir up the Vendée for the Bourbon cause against Louis Philippe.

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