County of Burgundy

The County of Burgundy was a medieval county, within the traditional province and modern French region Franche-Comté, whose very name is reminiscent of the unusual title of its count : Freigraf ('free count', or franc comte in french, hence the term franc(he) comté for his feudal principiality). It should not be confused with the Duchy of Burgundy.

The region has been inhabited since the palaeolithic age and was occupied by the Gauls. Little touched by the Germanic migrations, it was part of the territory of the Alamanni in the 5th century, then the Kingdom of Burgundy from 457 to 534. It was Christianized after the development of monasticism and through the influence of St. Columbanus. In 534, it became part of the Frankish kingdom, before being set apart to provide a crown for Guntrum, the third son of Clotaire I in 561, as a Merovingian Kingdom of Burgundy. In 613 Clotaire II ordered the assassination of Sigebert II of Burgundy and Austrasia, and the kingdom was directly controlled therafter by Merovingians and Carolingians.

The Kingdom of Burgundy was refounded as an independent entity in 888, at the time of the collapse of the Carolingian Empire. The kingdom itself collapsed among feudal anarchy in the 11th century, and the Duchy of Burgundy was founded by a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. The county passed under the control of the Holy Roman Empire, with its capital at Dôle.

The development of commercial routes across the Jura and the development of salt mines assured the prosperity of the county, and its towns preserved their freedom and neutrality in feudal conflicts.

The comital family was a collateral family of the Burgundian dynasty, descended from Hugh the Black, a 10th century brother of king Raoul, and from Hugh's son-in-law Gilbert. The first count, Otto-William (died 1027), was the son of Adalbert of Lombardy and Gerberge of Dijon.

Imperial influence began at the end of the 11th century, when emperor Henry III elevated the archbishop of Besançon to the dignity of archchancellor and conferred upon Besançon the rank of imperial city under the Emperor's direct patronage. Guy of Burgundy, brother of Renaud II, later became pope and imposed the Concordat of Worms on emperor Henry V.

In the 12th century, imperial protection allowed for the development of Besançon, but in 1127, after the assassination of William III, his cousin Renaud III shook off the imperial yoke. Burgundy was from then on called "Franche-Comté," the "free county."

Emperor Frederick Barbarossa re-established imperial influence, took prisoner the brother of count William IV. He extended his influence by marrying William IV's niece and heir, Beatrice, the daughter of Renaud III, when William IV died. When Frederick died, his younger son Otto I, received the county of Burgundy and took the title archcount. He was succeeded by his son-in-law Otto II, duke of Méranie, then Otto II's children, and finally his daughter Alice of Méranie, wife of Hugh of Chalon, great-grandson of William IV.

The counts for many years had to share power with the greater feudal families of the county, notably with the family of Chalon, which was descended from the Stephen III, count of Auxonne, grandson of William IV and Beatrice of Thiern, the heir of the county of Chalon. The authority of the counts was re-established only by the marriage of Hugh of Chalon with Alice, daughter and heir of Otto II. However, this did not prevent a younger son, John of Chalon-Arlay, from taking control of the vassal states.

Otto IV, son of Hugh and Alice, was the last of the feudal counts of Burgundy. He married first the daughter of the Count of Bar, then the grandniece of Louis IX of France, countess Matilda of Artois. This marriage brought the county under French influence. The daughters of Otto IV and Matilda, Jeanne and Blanche, married respectively Philip V of France and Charles IV of France, sons of Philip IV. Jeanne became queen of France after having been one of the heroines in the affair of the "daughters-in-law of the king" . In that same affair Blanche was found guilty of adultery and was imprisoned for the rest of her life.

After quarelling with his barons, and after a new revolt against the French carried out by John of Chalon-Arlay, Otto IV ceded the county to his daughter as a dowry and designated the king of France as administrator of the dowry in 1295. By marrying their daughter and heir Jeanne, Eudes IV, Duke of Burgundy finally reunited Burgundy.

This union was broken only on the death of Charles the Bold in 1477, when Louis XI seized the county. Wishing to be free of the county in order to intervene in Italy, Charles VIII finally ceded it to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1493.

External link

  • Kingdoms of France ( frankish Kingdom of Burgundy

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