Duchy of Burgundy

Duchy of Burgundy

Duché de Bourgogne  (French)
Ducatus Burgundiae  (Latin)
Flag of Burgundy
of Burgundy
Coat of arms
Valois-Burgundy territories ruled by Duke Charles the Bold 1467–1477 (Duchy on the lower left, next to the County of Burgundy)
Valois-Burgundy territories ruled by Duke Charles the Bold 1467–1477 (Duchy on the lower left, next to the County of Burgundy)
StatusVassal of the Kingdom of France
Common languages
GovernmentFeudal monarchy
Duke of Burgundy 
• 1032–1076
Robert I
• 1363–1404
Philip the Bold
• 1404–1419
John the Fearless
• 1419–1467
Philip the Good
• 1467–1477
Charles the Bold
LegislatureEstates-General created during the reign of Philip the Good
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Established
• Duchy absorbed into France
Currencygoldgulden, stuiver, gros[1]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of the Burgundians
Early modern France
Habsburg Netherlands
Old Swiss Confederacy
John II, Count of Nevers
Today part of

The Duchy of Burgundy (i/; Latin: Ducatus Burgundiae; French: Duché de Bourgogne, Dutch: Hertogdom Bourgondië) emerged in the 9th century as one of the successors of the ancient Kingdom of the Burgundians, which after its conquest in 532 had formed a constituent part of the Frankish Empire. Upon the 9th-century partitions, the French remnants of the Burgundian kingdom were reduced to a ducal rank by King Robert II of France in 1004. Robert II's son and heir, King Henry I of France, inherited the duchy but ceded it to his younger brother Robert in 1032. Other portions had passed to the Imperial Kingdom of Arles and the County of Burgundy (Franche-Comté).

Robert became the ancestor of the ducal House of Burgundy, a cadet branch of the royal Capet dynasty, ruling over a territory which roughly conformed to the borders and territories of the modern region of Burgundy (Bourgogne). Upon the extinction of the Burgundian male line with the death of Duke Philip I in 1361, the duchy fell back to King John II of France and the royal House of Valois. The Burgundian duchy rose to a territorial complex of a European scale after 1363, when King John II ceded the duchy to his younger son Philip. By his marriage with Countess Margaret III of Flanders, he laid the foundation for a Burgundian realm further north in the Low Countries collectively known as the Burgundian Netherlands. Upon further acquisitions of the County of Burgundy, Holland and Luxemburg, the House of Valois-Burgundy came to own considerable possession of numerous French and imperial fiefs stretching from the western Alps to the North Sea, in some ways reminiscent of the Middle Frankish realm of Lotharingia.

The Burgundian sphere, in its own right, was one of the largest ducal territories that existed at the time of the emergence of Early Modern Europe. Including the thriving regions of Flanders and Brabant, it was a major centre of trade and commerce as well as a focal point of courtly culture which set the standards for European royal houses. After just over one hundred years of Valois-Burgundy rule, however, the last duke, Charles the Bold, rushed to the Burgundian Wars and was killed in the 1477 Battle of Nancy. The extinction of the dynasty led to the absorption of the duchy itself into the French crown lands by King Louis XI, while the bulk of the Burgundian possessions in the Low Countries passed to the Habsburg archduke, Maximilian I of Austria, son of Emperor Frederick III, by his marriage with Charles' daughter, Mary.

The partition of the Burgundian heritage marked the beginning of the centuries-long France–Habsburg rivalry and played a pivotal role in European politics long after it lost its role as an independent political identity, due to marriages and wars over the territories between princes who were related to its former rulers. With the abdication of the Emperor Charles V (also King of Spain) in 1556, the imperial fiefs in the Burgundian Netherlands passed to the Spanish Empire of King Philip II. During the Dutch Revolt or Eighty Years War (1568–1648), the northern provinces of the Low Countries gained their independence from Spanish rule and formed the Dutch Republic (today the Netherlands), while the southern provinces remained under Spanish rule until the 18th century and became known as the Spanish Netherlands or Southern Netherlands (corresponding roughly to present day Belgium, Luxembourg, and the areas in France corresponding to the Nord department and part of the Pas-de-Calais department).


Burgundy as part of the Frankish Empire between 534 and 843

The Duchy of Burgundy was a successor of the earlier Kingdom of the Burgundians, which evolved out of territories ruled by the Burgundians, an East Germanic tribe that arrived in Gaul in the 5th century. The Burgundians settled in the area around Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saône, Mâcon, Autun and Châtillon-sur-Seine, and gave the name to the region. The Kingdom of the Burgundians was annexed by the Merovingian King of the Franks, Childebert I, in 534, following their defeat by the Franks. It was recreated, however, on several occasions when Frankish territories were redivided between the sons on the death of a Frankish king.

As part of the Kingdom of the Franks, Burgundy maintained a semi-autonomous existence, with the Burgundians maintaining their own law code, the Loi Gombette. However, southern Burgundy was pillaged by the Saracen invasion of the 8th century. When Charles Martel drove the invaders out, he divided Burgundy into four commands: Arles-Burgundy, Vienne-Burgundy, Alamanic Burgundy and Frankish Burgundy. He appointed his brother Childebrand governor of Frankish Burgundy. Under the Carolingians, Burgundian separatism lessened and Burgundy became a purely geographical term, referring only to the area of the counties of the former Burgundy.

Both the Duchy of Burgundy and the County of Burgundy emerged from these counties, aided by the collapse of Carolingian centralism and the division of the Frankish domains brought about by the Partition of Verdun in 843. In the midst of this confusion, Guerin of Provence attached himself to Charles the Bald, youngest son of King Louis the Pious of the Franks, and aided him in the Battle of Fontenay against Charles's eldest brother, the Emperor Lothar. When the Frankish kingdom in the west was divided along the boundary of the Saône and Meuse (dividing geographical Burgundy in the process), Guerin was rewarded for his services by the king by being granted the administration of the counties of Chalon and Nevers, in which he was by custom expected to appoint viscounts to rule as his deputies. As a vital military defender of the West Frankish border, Guerin was sometimes known by the Latin term for "leader" – dux or "duke".