Marianne is the embodiment of the French Republic. Marianne represents the permanent values that found her citizens’ attachment to the Republic: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity".

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The earliest representations of a woman wearing a Phrygian cap, an allegorical figure of Liberty and the Republic, made their appearance at the time of the French Revolution.

The origins of the name Marianne are uncertain. Marie-Anne was a very common first name in the 18th century, and she thus came to represent the people; the counter-revolutionaries used the name derisively when referring to the Republic.

The Phrygian cap, the symbol of liberty, used to be worn by freed slaves in Greece and Rome. Mediterranean seamen and convicts manning the galleys also wore a similar type of cap, and revolutionaries from the South of France are believed to have adopted the headgear.

Under the Third Republic, statues, and especially busts, of Marianne began to proliferate, particularly in town halls. She was represented in several different manners, depending on whether the aim was to emphasize her revolutionary nature or her "wisdom." Occasionally, the Phrygian cap was felt to be too seditious, and was replaced by a diadem or a crown.

In recent times, Marianne has taken on the aspect of famous actresses. She is also a feature of everyday articles such as postage stamps and coins.

Source: Website of the Elysée (in French)