Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy (1032–1477), was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories
A duchy is a territory, fief, or domain ruled by a duke or duchess.Some duchies were sovereign in areas that would become unified realms only during the Modern era . In contrast, others were subordinate districts of those kingdoms that unified either partially or completely during the Medieval era...

 in the emergence of Early Modern Europe
Early modern Europe
Early modern Europe is the term used by historians to refer to a period in the history of Europe which spanned the centuries between the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, roughly the late 15th century to the late 18th century...

 from Medieval Europe.

Even in that diminished size, the duchy played a pivotal role in Europe's politics (of marriages and wars over territories between princes under Right of Conquest
Right of conquest
The right of conquest is the right of a conqueror to territory taken by force of arms. It was traditionally a principle of international law which has in modern times gradually given way until its proscription after the Second World War when the crime of war of aggression was first codified in the...

 and inheritance practices) long after it lost its role as an independent political identity in the Battle of Nancy
Battle of Nancy
The Battle of Nancy was the final and decisive battle of the Burgundian Wars, fought outside the walls of Nancy on 5 January 1477 between Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and René II, Duke of Lorraine...

 in 1477. It was demoted to a ducal rank from the inheritance and settlements in 1363 by a cadet branch inheritance via salic law
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

 divided between two heirs as a territorial remnant or rump of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy other portions passing to another cadet branch as well as the Free County of Burgundy. The duchy roughly conforms to the borders and territories of today's modern Bourgogne
Burgundy is one of the 27 regions of France.The name comes from the Burgundians, an ancient Germanic people who settled in the area in early Middle-age. The region of Burgundy is both larger than the old Duchy of Burgundy and smaller than the area ruled by the Dukes of Burgundy, from the modern...

, but its dukes came to own considerable possessions in the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

, the so-called Burgundian Netherlands
Burgundian Netherlands
In the history of the Low Countries, the Burgundian Netherlands refers to a number of Imperial and French fiefs ruled in personal union by the House of Valois-Burgundy and their Habsburg heirs in the period from 1384 to 1482...

, which were caught up in the sixteenth-seventeenth century's Eighty Years' War and later and became free territories in the Dutch Revolt
Dutch Revolt
The Dutch Revolt or the Revolt of the Netherlands This article adopts 1568 as the starting date of the war, as this was the year of the first battles between armies. However, since there is a long period of Protestant vs...

 of the during the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....


During 13631477, the Duchy was ruled by a succession of dukes
Duke of Burgundy
Duke of Burgundy was a title borne by the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy, a small portion of traditional lands of Burgundians west of river Saône which in 843 was allotted to Charles the Bald's kingdom of West Franks...

, whose extinction with the death of Charles the Bold (or 'the Brash') in 1477 led to the Duchy being absorbed into the French crown by King Louis XI
Louis XI of France
Louis XI , called the Prudent , was the King of France from 1461 to 1483. He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou, a member of the House of Valois....

, while the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

 fell under Habsburg
The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

 control, passing with the abdication of Charles I of Spain to the Spanish Empire
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

 of Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

. Under Philips' intolerant hand, the Netherlands broke out in the first of the religious wars of the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...



The origins of the Duchy lie in the far older Kingdom of Burgundy. The kingdom had evolved from the territory ruled over by the Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

, an East Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 tribe who arrived in Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 in the 5th century; they lived in the area around Dijon
Dijon is a city in eastern France, the capital of the Côte-d'Or département and of the Burgundy region.Dijon is the historical capital of the region of Burgundy. Population : 151,576 within the city limits; 250,516 for the greater Dijon area....

, Chalon-sur-Saône
Chalon-sur-Saône is a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Bourgogne in eastern France.It is a sub-prefecture of the department. It is the largest city in the department; however, the department capital is the smaller city of Mâcon....

, Mâcon
Mâcon is a small city in central France. It is prefecture of the Saône-et-Loire department, in the region of Bourgogne, and the capital of the Mâconnais district. Mâcon is home to over 35,000 residents, called Mâconnais.-Geography:...

, Autun
Autun is a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in Burgundy in eastern France. It was founded during the early Roman Empire as Augustodunum. Autun marks the easternmost extent of the Umayyad campaign in Europe.-Early history:...

, and Châtillon-sur-Seine
Châtillon-sur-Seine is a commune of the Côte-d'Or department in eastern France.-Population:-Personalities:Châtillon-sur-Seine was the birthplace of:* Auguste Marmont, duke of Ragusa , Marshal of France...

, and their name was applied to the region. This first Kingdom of Burgundy would be annexed to the dominions of the Merovingian Kings of the Franks in the era of Clovis
Clovis I
Clovis Leuthwig was the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the leadership from a group of royal chieftains, to rule by kings, ensuring that the kingship was held by his heirs. He was also the first Catholic King to rule over Gaul . He was the son...

 and his sons; it would, however, be recreated on several occasions whenever it was necessary to divide the Frankish territories between the sons of a deceased Frankish King.

Although the Kingdom of Burgundy did not always exist as an independent entity during this time, it continued a semi-autonomous existence as a part of the Kingdom of the Franks: the Burgundians maintained their own law codes, the Loi Gombette, whilst the people developed the agricultural and viticultural wealth of the territory. But southern Burgundy was pillaged by the Saracen invasion of the eighth century; and when Charles Martel
Charles Martel
Charles Martel , also known as Charles the Hammer, was a Frankish military and political leader, who served as Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian kings and ruled de facto during an interregnum at the end of his life, using the title Duke and Prince of the Franks. In 739 he was offered the...

 had driven the invaders out, he divided Burgundy into four commands: Arles-Burgundy, Vienne-Burgundy, Alamanic Burgundy, and Frankish Burgundy, appointing his brother Childebrand as governor of this last. Under the Carolingians, Burgundian separatism lessened; Burgundy became a purely geographical term, applicable only to describe the territory the counties replacing it governed.

From these counties would emerge both the Duchy of Burgundy and the County of Burgundy
County of Burgundy
The Free County of Burgundy , was a medieval county , within the traditional province and modern French region Franche-Comté, whose very French name is still reminiscent of the unusual title of its count: Freigraf...

, 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
Guerin of Provence
Guerin, Garin, Warin, or Werner was the Count of Auvergne, Chalon, Mâcon, Autun, Arles and Duke of Provence, Burgundy, and Toulouse. Guerin stabilised the region against the Saracens from a base of Marseille and fortified Chalon-sur-Saône...

 attached himself to Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

, youngest son of Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

, and aided him in the Battle of Fontenay
Battle of Fontenay (841)
The three year Carolingian Civil War culminated in the decisive Battle of Fontenay-en-Puisaye, also called the Battle of Fontenoy, fought at Fontenoy, near Auxerre, on the 25 June 841...

 against Charles' eldest brother, Emperor Lothar
Lothair I
Lothair I or Lothar I was the Emperor of the Romans , co-ruling with his father until 840, and the King of Bavaria , Italy and Middle Francia...

. When the Frankish kingdom in the west was divided along the boundary of the Saône and Meuse (neatly dividing geographical Burgundy in the process), Guerin was rewarded for his services by the King (a move as much a recognition of the circumstances in Burgundy) 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.

The Beneficiary Dukes

By the time of Richard the Justiciar, the Duchy of Burgundy was beginning to emerge. Richard was officially recognised by the King as a Dux; he also stood as individual count of each county he held (if it was not held on his behalf by a viscount); as Duke, he was able to wield an increasing amount of power over his territory; and to the collective body of his territory there came to be applied the term Ducatus, meaning in this case not only Richard's status as Duke, but the status of his territory. Included in the ducatus of Richard were the regions of Autunais, Beaunois, Avalois, Lassois, Dijonais, Memontois, Attuyer, Oscheret, Auxois, Duesmois, Auxerrois, Nivernais, Chaunois and Massois. Under Richard, his territory was also given law and order, was protected from the Normans, and acted as a haven for persecuted monks.

Under Ralph
Rudolph of France
Rudolph was the Duke of Burgundy between 921 and 923 and King of Western Francia from thereafter to his death. Rudolph inherited the duchy of Burgundy from his father, Richard the Justiciar...

 (also Raoul or Rudolph), the son of Richard, Burgundy was briefly catapulted to a prime stance in France; for Ralph, acceding to the Burgundian territories in 921, became King of France in 923, and it was from his territories in Burgundy that he drew the resources needed to fight those who challenged his right to rule.

Under Hugh the Black came the beginning of what would, for Burgundy, be a long and troubled saga. His neighbours were the Robertian family, who held the title of Duke of Francia; this family, wanting to improve their standing in France and against the Carolingian kings, attempted to subject the Duchy to the suzerainty of their own Duchy. They failed; eventually, when they appeared close to success, they were forced to scrap the scheme, and instead maintain Burgundy as a separate Duchy. Two brothers of Hugh Capet, the first Capetian King of France, took up the rule of Burgundy as Duke; first Otto and then Henry the Venerable maintained the Duchy's independence, and the death of the latter without children proved a defining moment in the history of the Duchy.

The First Succession Crisis

Henry the Venerable's death, at Pouilly-sur-Saône in 1002, left two potential heirs: his nephew, Robert the Pious
Robert II of France
Robert II , called the Pious or the Wise , was King of France from 996 until his death. The second reigning member of the House of Capet, he was born in Orléans to Hugh Capet and Adelaide of Aquitaine....

, King of France; and his stepson, Otto-William, Count of Burgundy, a vassal of the Emperor, whom Henry had adopted and named his heir some time before. Robert claimed the Duchy by his dual rights as feudal overlord and nearest blood-relative of the deceased; Otto-William disagreed, and sent soldiers into the Duchy, and war broke out.

Had the two Burgundys been united, history would undoubtedly have taken a different course; a Burgundy united under the German Otto-William would have been within the sphere of influence of the Empire, and would have affected the balance of power between the French and the Germans. However, it was not to be; although it took him thirteen years of bitter and prolonged battle, Robert eventually secured the Duchy for the French crown by gaining control of all the Burgundian counties west of the Saône, including Dijon; prospects of a united Burgundy evaporated, and the Duchy became irreversibly French in outlook.

For a time, the Duchy formed part of the royal domain
Crown lands of France
The crown lands, crown estate, royal domain or domaine royal of France refers to the lands, fiefs and rights directly possessed by the kings of France...

; but the French crown could not hope, at this time, to administer such a volatile piece of territory. The realities of power combined with Capetian family feuding: Robert the Pious gave the territory to his younger son and namesake, Robert; and when Henry I, acceding in difficult circumstances, found it necessary to secure the loyalty of Robert of Burgundy, his brother, he further heightened the rights given to his brother. Robert was to be Duke of Burgundy; as ruler of the Duchy, he would "enjoy the freehold thereof", and have the right "to pass it on to his heirs"; the Dukes would owe allegiance only to the crown of France, and be overlords of the Duchy beneath the ultimate authority of the Kings. Robert gladly agreed to this arrangement; and the era of the Capetian Dukes began.

The Capetian Dukes

It was, Robert found, a largely theoretical power that he had been granted. Between the reign of Richard the Justiciar and Henry the Venerable, the Duchy had fallen into anarchy, a condition heightened by the war of succession between Robert the Pious
Robert II of France
Robert II , called the Pious or the Wise , was King of France from 996 until his death. The second reigning member of the House of Capet, he was born in Orléans to Hugh Capet and Adelaide of Aquitaine....

 and Count Otto-William. The Dukes had given away most of their lands to secure the loyalty of their vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

s; consequently, they lacked power in the Duchy; consequently, they lacked the support and obedience of their vassals; consequently, the Duchy was an anarchic mess.

Robert and his heirs were faced with the task of restoring the ducal demesne and strengthening ducal power. In this, it would be seen, the Dukes were well-suited to the task: none were remarkable or outstanding men who swept all opposition away before them; rather, they were persevering, methodical, realistic, able and willing to seize any opportunity presented to them. They used the Law of Escheat
Escheat is a common law doctrine which transfers the property of a person who dies without heirs to the crown or state. It serves to ensure that property is not left in limbo without recognised ownership...

 to their advantage: Auxois and Duesmois fell into ducal hands through reversion, these feudatories having no heir able to administer them. They purchased both land and vassalage, which built up both the ducal demesne
In the feudal system the demesne was all the land, not necessarily all contiguous to the manor house, which was retained by a lord of the manor for his own use and support, under his own management, as distinguished from land sub-enfeoffed by him to others as sub-tenants...

 and the number of vassals dependent upon the dukes. They made an income for themselves by demanding cash payments in exchange for recognition of a lord's feudal rights within the Duchy, by skillful management of loans from the Jewish and Lombard
Lombard banking
Lombard banking refers to the historical use of the term 'Lombard' for a pawn shop in the Middle Ages, a type of banking that originated with the prosperous northern Italian region of Lombardy. The term was sometimes used in a derogatory sense and some were accused of usury.-History:A Christian...

 bankers, by the careful administration of feudal dues and the ready sale of immunities and justice.

The Duchy itself benefited from the rule of the Capetians
Capetian dynasty
The Capetian dynasty , also known as the House of France, is the largest and oldest European royal house, consisting of the descendants of King Hugh Capet of France in the male line. Hugh Capet himself was a cognatic descendant of the Carolingians and the Merovingians, earlier rulers of France...

. As time passed, the state was built up and stabilised; around the Dukes grew up a court in miniature of the royal court at Paris; at Beaune
Beaune is the wine capital of Burgundy in the Cote d'Or department in eastern France. It is located between Paris and Geneva.Beaune is one of the key wine centers in France and the annual wine auction of the Hospices de Beaune is the primary wine auction in France...

 sat the Jours Generaux, a replica of the Parlement
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

 of Paris; over the provosts
Provost (civil)
A provost is the ceremonial head of many Scottish local authorities, and under the name prévôt was a governmental position of varying importance in Ancien Regime France.-History:...

 and lords of the manor responsible for local government were imposed bailiff
A bailiff is a governor or custodian ; a legal officer to whom some degree of authority, care or jurisdiction is committed...

s, whilst the Duchy was divided into five Bailiages.

Under the competent leadership of Robert II
Robert II, Duke of Burgundy
Robert II of Burgundy was duke of Burgundy between 1271 and 1306, inheriting the title from his brother Eudes of Burgundy, who had no male heirs. Robert was the third son of duke Hugh IV and Yolande of Dreux...

, one of the more notable Dukes of the Capetian period, Burgundy reached new levels. Previously, the development of the duchy had been impeded by the bestowal of minor lands and titles on younger sons and daughters, diminishing the ducal fisc
Under the Merovingians and Carolingians, the fisc applied to the royal demesne which paid taxes, entirely in kind, from which the royal household was meant to be supported, though it rarely was...

; Robert firmly ended this practice, stating in his will that he left to his eldest son and heir, Hugh
Hugh V, Duke of Burgundy
Hugh V of Burgundy was Duke of Burgundy between 1306 and 1315.Hugh was the eldest son of Robert II, Duke of Burgundy and Agnes of France. His maternal grandparents were Louis IX of France and Marguerite Berenger of Provence....

, and after Hugh to his heir, "all the fiefs, former fiefs, seigneuries and revenue…belonging to the Duchy". The younger children of Robert would receive only annuities; since these annuities derived from property held by Hugh, these younger children would need to owe liege homage to ensure their income.

Hugh V
Hugh V, Duke of Burgundy
Hugh V of Burgundy was Duke of Burgundy between 1306 and 1315.Hugh was the eldest son of Robert II, Duke of Burgundy and Agnes of France. His maternal grandparents were Louis IX of France and Marguerite Berenger of Provence....

 died; his brother Odo IV succeeded. Himself the grandson of Saint Louis
Louis IX of France
Louis IX , commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237. Born at Poissy, near Paris, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Hugh Capet, and thus a member of the House of Capet, and the son of Louis VIII and...

 by his mother, Agnes of France
Agnes of France, Duchess of Burgundy
Agnes of France , Daughter of France by birth, was the youngest daughter of Louis IX of France and Margaret of Provence. She served as regent of Burgundy during the minority of her son.- Family :...

, he would also be the brother-in-law of two French Kings – Louis X
Louis X of France
Louis X of France, , called the Quarreler, the Headstrong, or the Stubborn was the King of Navarre from 1305 and King of France from 1314 until his death...

, married to his sister Marguerite, and Philip VI
Philip VI of France
Philip VI , known as the Fortunate and of Valois, was the King of France from 1328 to his death. He was also Count of Anjou, Maine, and Valois from 1325 to 1328...

, married to his sister Joan – and the son-in-law of a third, Philip V
Philip V of France
Philip the Tall was King of France as Philip V and, as Philip II, King of Navarre and Count of Champagne. He reigned from 1316 to his death and was the penultimate monarch of the House of Capet. Considered a wise and politically astute ruler, Philip took the throne under questionable...

, whose daughter Joan III, Countess of Burgundy, he married. Previous attempts to gain territory through marriage – Hugh III and the Dauphiné
The Dauphiné or Dauphiné Viennois is a former province in southeastern France, whose area roughly corresponded to that of the present departments of :Isère, :Drôme, and :Hautes-Alpes....

, Odo III and Nivernais
Nivernais is former province of France, around the city of Nevers and the département of Nièvre.The raw climate and soils cause the area to be heavily wooded.- References :* Chamber's Encyclopedia Volume 10 page 50...

, Hugh IV
Hugh IV, Duke of Burgundy
Hugh IV of Burgundy was duke of Burgundy between 1218 and 1271. Hugh was the only son of duke Odo III and Alice of Vergy...

 and the Bourbonnais
Bourbonnais was a historic province in the centre of France that corresponded to the modern département of Allier, along with part of the département of Cher. Its capital was Moulins.-History:...

 – had failed; Odo IV's wife Joan, however, was sovereign Countess of Burgundy and Artois, and the marriage reunited the Burgundys again.

They were not, however, reunited for long. The marriage of Duke Odo and Countess Joan produced only one surviving child, Philip; he married another Joan, the heiress of Auvergne
Auvergne (province)
Auvergne was a historic province in south central France. It was originally the feudal domain of the Counts of Auvergne. It is now the geographical and cultural area that corresponds to the former province....

 and Boulogne
Count of Boulogne
The county of Boulogne was a historical region in the Low Countries. It consisted of a part of the present-day French département of the Pas-de-Calais , in parts of which there is still a Dutch-speaking minority....

, but they again only produced a single surviving child, Philip I, Duke of Burgundy
Philip I, Duke of Burgundy
Philip I of Burgundy, also Philip II of Palatine Burgundy, Philip III of Artois, Philip III of Boulogne and Auvergne, nicknamed Philip of Rouvres was Duke of Burgundy from 1350 until his death. Philip was the only son of Philip of Burgundy, heir to the Duchy of Burgundy, and Joanna I, Countess of...

, also known as Philip of Rouvres. The elder Philip predeceased both of his parents in an accident with a horse in 1346; Countess Joan III followed him to the grave a year later, and the death of Odo IV in 1349 left the survival of the Duchy dependent upon the survival of the young Duke, a young child of two and a half, and the last of the direct line of descent from Duke Robert I.

By inheritance, Philip of Rouvres was Duke of Burgundy from 1349. He had already been Count of Burgundy and Artois since the death of his grandmother, the Countess, in 1347; in practice, though, the Duke his grandfather had continued to rule over these counties as he had done since his marriage to Countess Joan, Philip of Rouvres being only a baby. With the old Duke's death, the Duchy and its associated territories were governed by the young Duke's mother, Joan I
Joanna I, Countess of Auvergne
Joan I of Auvergne was the daughter of William XII, Count of Auvergne and Boulogne, by his wife Marguerite d'Évreux...

, Countess of Auvergne and Boulogne, and by her second husband, King John the Good
John II of France
John II , called John the Good , was the King of France from 1350 until his death. He was the second sovereign of the House of Valois and is perhaps best remembered as the king who was vanquished at the Battle of Poitiers and taken as a captive to England.The son of Philip VI and Joan the Lame,...

 of France.

Richer promises were made to the young Duke. He could expect to inherit Auvergne and Boulogne on his mother's death; and a marriage was arranged between himself and the young heiress of Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, Margaret of Dampierre
Margaret III, Countess of Flanders
Margaret of Dampierre was Countess of Flanders , Countess of Artois and Countess Palatine of Burgundy and twice Duchess consort of Burgundy...

, who could promise to eventually bring Flanders and Brabant
Province of Brabant
Brabant was a province of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1815 until 1830 and a province of Belgium from 1830 until 1995, when it was split into the Dutch-speaking Flemish Brabant, the French-speaking Walloon Brabant and the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.-United Kingdom of the...

 to her husband. By 1361, aged 17, he appeared to be on track to continue the Duchy's steady rise to greatness.

It was not to be, however. He became ill with the plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

, a disease that all but inevitably promised a swift and agonising death; fully expecting to die, the young Duke made his last will and testament on 11 November; ten days later, he was dead, and with him, his dynasty.

The Second Succession Crisis

Even before his death, France and Burgundy had begun considering the knotty problem of the succession. By the terms of his will, the Duke had stated that he directed and appointed as heirs to his "county, and to our possessions whatever they may be, those, male and female, who by law or local custom ought or may inherit." Since his domains all practiced succession by primogeniture, there was no question of his dominions passing en bloc to any one man or woman – they had come to Philip of Rouvres by different paths of inheritance, and so by the customs of the territories, they were required to pass to the next in line to inherit in each respective territory.

The Counties of Auvergne and Boulogne – inherited by Philip upon his mother's death a year earlier – passed to the next heir, Jean de Boulogne, the brother of Philip's grandfather William XII of Auvergne. The Counties of Burgundy and Artois passed to the sister of Philip's grandmother Countess Joan, Margaret of France, herself the grandmother of Philip's young bride Margaret of Dampierre.

The Duchy of Burgundy, however, proved a greater challenge to jurists. In the Duchy, as in much of Europe at this time, two principles of inheritance were held valid: that of primogeniture – as in the case of the English crown in 1377, which at the death of Edward III was inherited by his grandson Richard of Bordeaux, the eldest son of his deceased eldest son Edward, rather than by his son John of Gaunt, the eldest of Edward III's sons still living; and that of proximity of blood – as in the case of Artois, which had on the death of the Count in 1302 had been inherited by Mahaut, his eldest living daughter, rather than by his grandson, Robert, the eldest son of the Count's already deceased son. In some cases, the two principles were able to mesh together: in the case of Boulogne and Auvergne, for example, John was the second son of Robert of Auvergne, Philip's great-grandfather, and the nearest ancestor to Philip to have surviving lines of descent following Philip's death; John was therefore both the most senior heir to Robert following Philip's death, and also the closest to Robert by descent. In the same manner, Margaret of France was the closest heir by both primogeniture and proximity to her mother, Joan of Châlons, Countess of Burgundy and Artois, Philip's great-grandmother and, again, the nearest ancestor of Philip to have lines of descent surviving the Duke's death.

The Duchy, however, was nothing like as simple. In terms of inheritance, the nearest ancestor to Philip of Rouvres to have lines of descent surviving Philip's death was his great-grandfather, Duke Robert II, the father of Odo IV. Unlike Joan of Châlons and Robert of Auvergne, however, both of whom had left only two lines of descent (allowing the cadet line to inherit without controversy following the termination of the main branch with Philip), Robert II had left three lines of descent: the main line, through Odo IV, which had ended with Philip; and two cadet lines through his daughters, Margaret and Joan. Both women were long dead; Margaret of Burgundy, the elder daughter, and the wife of Louis X of France, had died in 1315, leaving only a daughter, Joan II of Navarre; Joan of Burgundy, the younger daughter, and the wife of Philip VI of France, had died in 1348, leaving two sons, John II of France – who would go on to become stepfather of Philip of Rouvres by his marriage to Joan of Boulogne – and Philip of Orléans. Out of these three, Joan of Burgundy's sons were still alive; Joan II, however, had died in 1349, leaving three sons, the eldest of whom was Charles II of Navarre.

To the jurists of the Duchy, this presented something of a difficult legal problem, for the two claims stood more or less equally in terms of justification: Charles II, as the great-grandson of Robert II by his elder daughter, had a superior claim to John II in terms of primogeniture; John II, as the grandson of Robert II by his younger daughter, had a superior claim to Charles II in terms of proximity of blood.

Were it simply a legal issue, the King of Navarre would certainly have had as good a chance of inheritance as the King of France, and perhaps better: proximity of blood was beginning to lose force in Europe, and, as events would subsequently prove, Burgundy had no intention of being absorbed into the French royal domain. But there was more in play than a simple legal issue: the Hundred Years War was in full flow, and the King of Navarre, as an ally of England and an enemy of France, was distasteful to the Burgundians, who in meetings of the Estates during John II's English captivity had been consistently loyal to John and his son the Dauphin, and opposed to the King of Navarre.

Furthermore, John II had the support of John of Boulogne and Margaret of France. The former was a staunch ally of the King – this alliance having been strengthened by the marriage between the King and Joan of Boulogne, John of Boulogne's niece. The latter was, as the daughter of a former king of France, and one of the last living members of the House of Capet, all French in her sympathies; besides which, Charles II had offended her by laying claim to lands in Champagne which had formed part of her sister Joan of France's dowry in marrying Odo IV, and which were deemed now to pass to Joan's sister – the lands had derived from Joan I of Navarre, Countess of Champagne, grandmother of Margaret and Joan, and as the senior heir by primogeniture of Joan I, Charles was now laying claim to them. (Wrongly. His argument was that his mother, Joan II of Navarre, had been rightful Countess of Champagne from the death in 1316 of her brother, John I of France, who had inherited the County of Champagne from Louis X, who had inherited it from his mother Joan I. If Joan II had been Countess from 1316, Philip V of France – who had been judged heir of Louis X and John I and accordingly had inherited Champagne, as well as France and Navarre, in 1316 – would not legally have had the right to bestow part of the County's fisc upon his own daughter as a dowry. But, disregarding the legality of Philip V's inheritance, Joan II had by treaty with Philip VI signed her rights in Champagne away to the French crown in 1330, making the King of France – rather than the heirs of Joan II – the beneficiary if Philip V's actions were declared invalid.) With this triple compact between the three heirs, Charles II was shut out: the support of a co-heir carried weight in deciding inheritance, and John II had the support of both, whilst Charles II had the support of neither. The nobility of the Duchy, in the face of this, decided in favour of John II, who took immediate possession of the Duchy. He had, indeed, already mobilised soldiers in Nivernais, to do so by force if it proved necessary; but in fact, the nobility willingly swore homage to him as their new Duke, and the Duchy saw only a few isolated and half-hearted acts of rebellion in favour of Charles II.

John the Good and the establishment of Valois Burgundy

The accession of John the Good is, unfortunately, frequently misunderstood. It is not uncommon to read that, upon the death of Philip of Rouvres, "the Duchy of Burgundy, lying within France, therefore escheated to the French crown." This claim is simply untrue: the Duchy had been granted to the heirs simple of Robert I – by the terms of the original grant, it could be inherited by or through women – and were it not for the manner in which the descendants of Duke Robert II married, and the circumstances of the time at which Philip of Rouvres died, John II – who, history makes clear, made his claim to the Duchy as the son of Joan of Burgundy
Joan the Lame
Joan of Burgundy , also known as Joan the Lame , was Queen consort of France as the first wife of Philip VI...

 and the grandson of Robert II, rather than as the feudal overlord of all France – would never have inherited it.

The claim, however, that upon his inheritance of the Duchy it was merged with the crown is more difficult to refute: for whilst this in itself certainly was not the case, he immediately attempted to merge the Duchy into the crown by means of letters patent: establishing in the relevant document that he was taking possession by virtue of his descent from the Dukes, he continued that as the Duke, he immediately gave the Duchy to the French crown, with which it was to be inseparably united (much the same as would be followed in the case of Brittany in 1532). Had this come into effect, Burgundy as an independent Duchy would have ceased to exist, and John would no longer have been the Duke; a definitive break in the Duchy's history would have occurred.

John, however, had failed to grasp the realities of the Duchy. He had already been smoothly accepted as Duke; he had on 28 December 1361 received the homage of the Burgundian nobility, before he returned to France, leaving the Count of Tancarville as his deputy; but the Burgundian Estates had, in their meeting around the time of the homage-swearing of 28 December, firmly given several pronouncements – that the Duchy intended to remain a Duchy, that it had no intention of becoming a province of the royal domain, that there would be no administrative changes, that it was joined to France by virtue of one man's rights and would never be absorbed into it. Most importantly of all, it was firmly stated that there had not been, and never would be, annexation of Burgundy by France, merely juxtaposition – the King was also the Duke, but there would be no deeper link than that.

Set against these declarations of Burgundian autonomy was the decree of John II that Burgundy was absorbed into the French crown. The latter proved of no avail: the Burgundians refused to countenance the terms of the letters patent; the king proved unequal to the task, far beyond his political capabilities; in the face of a non-violent but firm refusal by the Burgundians to allow the independence of their Duchy to be threatened, the King quietly scrapped the Letters Patent, and instead turned to other possibilities.

His youngest son, Philip (called the Bold), was also his favourite, and his most prestigious; Philip had distinguished himself in 1356, at the Battle of Poitiers, when at the age of fourteen he had fought alongside his father to the bitter end; and he showed not only the valour, amiability and charm he shared with his father, but the common-sense the latter sadly lacked, and consequently admired. It occurred to him to both honour his son, and sooth the ruffled feelings of the Burgundians, by investing him as Duke of Burgundy (and more: he received promises from his brother-in-law Emperor Charles IV for the investiture of Philip as Count of Burgundy, and attempts were made to arrange a marriage between Philip and Joanna I of Naples – who was also Countess of Provence, a territory once included in the old Kingdom of Burgundy). Accordingly, the King appointed Philip governor of Burgundy in late June 1363, following which the Estates of Burgundy – who had consistently opposed the previous governor, Tancarville – loyally granted him subsidies. Finally, in the final months of John the Good's reign, Philip the Bold was established as Duke of Burgundy: the King secretly created his son as Duke on 6 September 1363 (in his dual role as Duke giving his own title to his child and as King sanctioning this change in leadership), without making the fact public, and, on 2 June 1364, following the death of King John, King Charles V issued a letters patent to publicly establish the fact of Philip's title.

Valois Burgundy

Under the Valois Dukes of Burgundy, the Duchy flourished. A match between Philip the Bold
Philip the Bold
Philip the Bold , also Philip II, Duke of Burgundy , was the fourth and youngest son of King John II of France and his wife, Bonne of Luxembourg. By his marriage to Margaret III, Countess of Flanders, he also became Count Philip II of Flanders, Count Philip IV of Artois and Count-Palatine Philip IV...

 and Margaret of Dampierre – the widow of Philip of Rouvres – not only reunited the Duchy with the County of Burgundy once more, as well as with the County of Artois
County of Artois
The County of Artois was an historic province of the Kingdom of France, held by the Dukes of Burgundy from 1384 until 1477/82, and a state of the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 until 1659....

, but also served to bring the wealthy Counties of Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, Nevers
Nevers is a commune in – and the administrative capital of – the Nièvre department in the Bourgogne region in central France...

 and Rethel under the control of the Dukes. By 1405, following the deaths of Philip the Bold and Margaret of Dampierre, and the inheritance of the Duchy and most of their other possessions by their son John the Fearless, Burgundy – to follow the custom of giving the name of the Duchy to the much wider agglomeration assembled by the Dukes – stood less as a French fief, more as an independent state, and a major political player in European politics.

Philip the Bold had been, in politics, a cautious man. His son, however, was not, and under John the Fearless, Burgundy and Orléans clashed as the two sides squabbled for power. The result was an increase of Burgundy's power; but the Duchy came to be regarded as an enemy of the French crown, and from the death of John the Fearless in 1419, the Dukes were treated with caution or outright hostility by Charles VII and his successor, Louis XI
Louis XI of France
Louis XI , called the Prudent , was the King of France from 1461 to 1483. He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou, a member of the House of Valois....


The last two Dukes to directly rule the Duchy, Philip the Good and Charles the Bold, attempted to secure the independence of their Duchy from the French crown. The endeavour failed however; when Charles the Bold died in battle without sons, Louis XI of France declared the Duchy to have become extinct, and absorbed the territory into the French crown. The daughter of Charles the Bold, Mary of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy ruled the Burgundian territories in Low Countries and was suo jure Duchess of Burgundy from 1477 until her death...

, used the title of Duchess of Burgundy, and her heirs described themselves as Dukes of Burgundy, refusing to accept the loss of the Duchy. In 1525, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 – Mary's grandson – was restored the title and territory by the French King Francis I, as part of the Treaty of Madrid. But Francis I repudiated the Treaty as soon as he was able to, and Charles V never managed to secure the Duchy.

The territory of Burgundy remained part of France from then onwards. The title was occasionally resurrected for French princes, for example the grandson of Louis XIV and the grandson of Louis XV.

The present king of Spain, Juan Carlos, has the title of 'duke of Burgundy', and his coat of arms includes the cross of Burgundy as a supporter.
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