Burgundian history

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The Burgundian history includes the development of different areas and communities between the Mediterranean and the North Sea, which from the late antiquity to the early modern period the name Burgundy wore. It all began with the settlement of what is now western Switzerland and south-eastern France by the Germanic Burgundian tribe during the migration period . There were numerous cultural, economic and dynastic connections between the various entities that carried their names on in the following centuries (see the list of rulers of Burgundy ). Because of the “lack of continuity” of a unified political space, Burgundy did not develop into “a collective subject”. Today, with the French region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, only one administrative unit refers by name to this tradition (for its historical development, see the history of the regions of Bourgogne and Franche-Comté ).

Kingdoms of the Early Middle Ages (5th - 9th centuries)

The first empire of the Burgundians (443–532)

The Kingdom of the Burgundians until 534

The people or the tribe of the Burgundians are counted among the East Germans . In late antiquity it came to the Rhine during the migration of peoples and founded an independent empire there in 413 as a Roman federation . The centers were the cities of Borbetomagus ( Worms ) and Noviomagus ( Speyer ). Although this historically barely comprehensible Burgundian empire fell victim to an attack by the Huns in 436 , it was not entirely forgotten. Heroes' songs, especially the Nibelungenlied , which was only written down at the beginning of the 13th century, celebrated his downfall. Politically and for the later formation of identity, this first Burgundy empire remained meaningless.

Following renewed conflicts and defeats to the Romans, the Roman Heermeister moved Flavius Aetius the Burgundians to 443 in the military district Sapaudia in the area of Lake Geneva in today's Western Switzerland and Savoy on. There they founded a kingdom, and again lived as Roman federates in garrisons with the task of the local Alpine passes against the north settled Alemanni hedge and as auxiliaries against Hun attacks to be quickly available. Since the Burgundians were outnumbered by the local Celto-Roman population, they were able to form a ruling class united around their king, but were soon Romanized.

In the course of the 5th century the remnants of the Roman administration that still existed were merged with that of the Kingdom of Burgundy. Around 507 the name Burgundia was first recorded as a designation for the new empire. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Burgundians conquered further areas around their heartland, north to the Troyes area, west to the Loire, south to Orange and in the east to the Alpine ridge, Rhine and Aare. Although this empire did not exist for 100 years, it left clear traces in the collective memory of its inhabitants.

The Franconian part of Burgundy (534–843)

The Franconian part of Burgundia

Around the year 506, the Burgundian king Sigismund accepted the Christian faith. Sigismund had his son Sigerich executed for alleged treason, which his grandfather, the Gothic king Theodoric , saw as a declaration of war. With that, Sigismund lost an important ally against the neighboring, also Germanic Franks , whose position of power continued to grow. In 534 the Franks, led by the sons of the Merovingian king Clovis , subjugated the Burgundians, and the area was added to the Franconian Empire. Nevertheless, the people living there began to refer to the area as Burgundy in order to emphasize their own character towards the Franks. The name Burgundy was firmly linked to the landscape between the Jura and Morvan , the Langres plateau and the Maritime Alps . In the 6th and 7th centuries, a Frankish sub-kingdom of Burgundy was created twice when heirs were divided , but both times it was reunited with the entire kingdom. Within the Franconian Empire, Burgundy continued to exist as part of the empire. With the Carolingians , the part of Burgundy disappeared from the political map again, but the name of the landscape was retained. When the Franconian Empire was divided again in the Treaty of Verdun in 843 , the territorial unity of the old Burgundia came to an end: the areas east of the Saône fell to the empire of Lothar , those to the west, which roughly correspond to the present region, came to the west Franconian empire . This limit persisted in the long term.

Dissolution of the Franconian Kingdom of Burgundy and the Kingdom of Arelat (9th - 14th centuries)

The kingdoms of Upper Burgundy and
Lower Burgundy and the Duchy of Richard the Lord of Justice

After further divisions and border shifts ( division of Prüm , Treaty of Meersen , Treaty of Ribemont , acquisition of Italy by Charles the Bald of West Franconia after the death of Ludwig II ), after the death of Emperor Charles the Bald in 877, Niederburgund was initially separated from under the Buviniden Boso Vienne , who became king in 879, of the Frankish Empire. After the deposition of the East Franconian King and Emperor Karl the Dicken in 888, the Welf Rudolf was elected King of Burgundy . These two dominions, independent of the Carolingians, became 930/951 under Rudolf II. And Conrad III. united by Hochburgund in the Kingdom of Arelat . Arelat passed to the Holy Roman Empire by inheritance in 1033 . On February 2, 1033, the Roman-German Emperor Konrad the Elder was elected and crowned King of Burgundy by his supporters in Peterlingen (Payerne). From then on the kingdom remained formally in personal union with the respective Roman-German king and was ruled by him; Finally, Charles IV was crowned King of Burgundy in Arles in 1365. Despite formally initially uniform administration by the Rectorate of Burgundy , this area of ​​dominion increasingly disintegrated into independent counties, among them the county of Burgundy, which later became a palatinate and a free county . Many of these areas came under the influence of the West Franconian or French crown.

Duchy, Free County and Netherlands (10th – 17th centuries)

The part of Burgundy that remained under the rule of the West Frankish Empire was first called Regnum Burgundiae . As a representative of the Carolingian kingship, Richard the judge founded an initially personal duchy in his family in 918. In 1016 the French King Robert II defeated the heirs of Duke Henry the Great . In 1031 the Duchy of Burgundy was assigned to Robert , the second son of the French King Robert II of the House of Capetians , as an apanage. From 1031 to 1361, the Capetian dukes ruled as a side line of the French royal family in the Duchy of Burgundy; they are also referred to as the older house of Burgundy . They achieved an increasing expansion of their domains; so was Odo IV. 1331 through his marriage to Johanna III. of Burgundy owner of the Palatinate and had to recognize the feudal sovereignty of the Roman-German emperor. The last duke from the older house of Burgundy, Philip I , achieved through his marriage to Margarete von Dampierre in 1357 already an extension of his rule northwards to parts of Flanders and was thus able to lay the "foundation stone" of the later political-dynastic power of the following Burgundian dukes even though with him the line of the Capetian dukes died out in 1361 and the inheritance was initially divided.

Before this dynastic understanding of Burgundy became established in the 14th century in the unification of the rule of the duchy and the palatinate, this region had already grown together culturally in the 11th and 12th centuries and shone far beyond its borders with the construction of castles and monasteries out. The Benedictine monastery of Cluny was founded in 910 , which, as the starting point of the so-called Cluniac reform movement, shaped the spiritual life of Latin Europe in the years that followed. In 1098 the Cîteaux monastery was founded near Dijon , which developed into the mother monastery of the Cistercians after Bernhard von Clairvaux joined .

Empire of the Dukes of Valois-Burgundy (1363–1477)

From 1363 to 1482 the dukes from the House of Valois-Burgundy , a side line of the French royal family, ruled the Burgundian rulership and led it to the greatest extent and economic and cultural prosperity in the Franco-German border area. After the dynasty of the Capetian dukes with Philip I had expired in 1361, the French King John the Good of the Valois family gave the duchy as a French crown fief in 1363 to his youngest son Philip the Bold , who thus founded the House of Burgundy. In 1369 he married the widow of his predecessor Margarete von Male - heir daughter of the Flemish Count Ludwig II - and after the death of his father-in-law (January 30, 1384) came into the possession of the Free County of Burgundy, which belonged to the feudal association of the Holy Roman Empire , and the partly belonging to it County of Flanders. The dukes of Burgundy built an independent country complex between France and the Holy Roman Empire , to which, in addition to the actual Duchy of Burgundy with Dijon as its capital, belonged the Burgundian Netherlands with the economically flourishing cities of Ghent , Bruges , Ypres and Leuven , from which today's Benelux - Countries emerged. The center of the symbolic representation was Dijon as residence and burial place, while the cities of Flanders as economic and trading centers made the Burgundy dukes the richest monarchs in Europe through their taxes. In the pursuit of autonomy and against the high tax demands of the dukes to finance their wars of conquest and costly court rulings, there were repeated uprisings in the cities and provinces of the Burgundian Netherlands.

The dukes of the House of Valois-Burgundy were:

The Duchy of Burgundy achieved de facto the status of an independent middle power in Europe under Charles the Bold (1465–1477)

The dukes Philip the Bold and John Fearless were members of the French royal family and saw themselves primarily as powerful French princes; they determined the policy of France during the reign of the mentally ill King Charles VI. (1380–1422) to a decisive extent with. This changed under the next two Burgundian dukes, who saw themselves as sovereign rulers of an independent empire and whose self-image found expression above all in the foundation of the Knightly Order of the Golden Fleece as a central point of reference for an independent court culture. In his main work, Autumn of the Middle Ages , the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga set his historiographical monument to the glamorous Burgundian knightly and court culture, which was a model for courts throughout Europe, but which also reflected the decline in the military importance of knighthood .

In the Hundred Years War between the ruling houses of England and France, whose economic background from Burgundian point of view was the struggle for Flanders as the center of the European cloth industry, the dukes pursued an independent policy, sometimes with one side and sometimes with the other to their advantage but mostly allied with the English. While Philip the Good had managed to round off and consolidate his territory, especially in the area of ​​the present-day Netherlands, with great political skill and ultimately ruled over a rich and powerful territory in which Brussels grew into the role of the capital, his successor Karl tried the bold to continue expansion by military force. 1474–1477 he waged wars against the Swiss Confederation . In 1475 he let his troops occupy the Duchy of Lorraine , which separated the northern and southern Burgundian possessions. On January 5, 1477, he was defeated in the battle of Nancy by the confederates of the Confederates and Lorraine, and he himself died in the battle.

Mary of Burgundy , 1457–1482

After Charles' defeat, the estates made their recognition of his daughter Maria of Burgundy dependent on political concessions. On February 11, 1477, Maria felt compelled to recognize the great privilege . She had to promise that the estates of the entire duchy, the States General and the estates of the individual territories were allowed to assemble without an appeal by the sovereign. They should also have a say in the declaration of war and peace. The High Court, the Great Council of Mechelen and the General Court of Auditors as institutions of the concentration of ducal rule had to be dissolved.

Burgundy between the Habsburg Empire and France (15th - 17th centuries)

The portrait of Emperor Maximilian and his family illustrates the marriage relationship between Maximilian von Habsburg (left) and Maria von Burgund (right); Genealogical representation by Bernhard Strigel , after 1515

On August 19, 1477, Maria of Burgundy married Maximilian von Habsburg , the son of the Roman-German Emperor Friedrich III. , to whom she was engaged since 1475. This marriage was the starting point for the Habsburg rule over the Burgundian legacy and the centuries-long Habsburg-French conflict . The French King Louis XI. then declared the Duchy of Burgundy and the counties of Mâcon , Auxerre and Charolais to reverted fiefdoms and occupied the areas.

In the Burgundian War of Succession (1477-1493) Maximilian tried to win back these areas militarily. He won a great victory in the Battle of Guinegate in 1479. For the further financing of the war he needed the approval of the estates. These refused, however, and pursued an independent policy in which they negotiated a peace with France. Since Maximilian did not recognize this, the estates under the leadership of Flanders turned against the duke and waged war against him with French support.

When Maria died in 1482, they proclaimed Philip the Fair, who was only four years old, to be duke. This was under the control of the stands. In the Treaty of Arras of December 23, 1482, at the instigation of the estates, the two-year-old daughter of Maria and Maximilian's Margaret of Austria was married to the French Dauphin Karl (later Charles VIII ). The duchy of Burgundy and other areas fell to France as a dowry.

Maximilian opposed this and was therefore at the same time in conflict with France and the estates. In 1488 the citizens of Bruges managed to capture him and keep him prisoner for several months. Emperor Friedrich III. came to his aid with an imperial contingent. As a result, Maximilian became more and more popular. The war with France ended in the Treaty of Senlis of 1493. Maximilian got the Free County and Artois back, but had to forego the Duchy of Burgundy, the County of Rethel and Picardy . He succeeded in subjugating the estates; the great privilege was canceled.

The young Charles V with the chain of the Burgundian Order of Fleece

Philip the Fair was declared of legal age in 1494. However, he died in 1506. The future Charles V became heir at an early age . The rule was exercised by a Regency Council. In 1515, he prematurely declared the duke to be of age. Charles soon came into conflict with the French King Francis I , also because he wanted to regain the Duchy of Burgundy. In the Peace of Cambrai of 1529, Charles had to renounce possession of the Duchy of Burgundy. But he was able to maintain the rich Burgundian Netherlands . Francis I also renounced the feudal sovereignty over the Burgundian Flanders and the Artois. This resolved some issues. In the 1530s, Burgundy was largely spared the military clashes between Charles and Francis I, which mainly took place in Italy . War broke out again in 1542 for the property of the Duchy of Geldern . In the Peace of Crépy , the two rulers made peace again in 1544.

The military conflicts have hampered Charles's intentions to further expand the ducal power. But as early as 1521 he treated Burgundy in the partition treaties with his brother Ferdinand I as if it were a unified national territory, and claimed it for himself and his descendants as the second, “lower” hereditary land in addition to the self-rule in Austria. After the Peace of Crepy, in the Augsburg Treaty of 1548 , Charles released Burgundy more than before from the Holy Roman Empire in order to bring himself into a position as a sovereign ruler. As the Burgundian Imperial Circle , the area belonged to the Imperial Association legally and in matters of security and defense to the outside world, but it was not subject to this in terms of legislation and jurisdiction.

Inside, Karl continued his predecessor's policy of condensing his rule. In 1531 the government was reorganized. A Finance Council, a Foreign Policy Council, and a Legal Council have been established. This ensured continuity of government activity even in the absence of the ruler or his governor. Incidentally, with Margarethe of Austria and Maria of Hungary, Karl relied on women from his house as regents.

The Estates General no longer pursued an independent policy in Charles's time. However, they tried to preserve their rights, for example in the approval of taxes. The city of Ghent in 1536 was an exception to active resistance to ducal tax demands . This refused to comply with a tax claim. Maria of Hungary as governor reacted in 1539 by removing the magistrate. The city government appointed by her was overthrown by a guild uprising. Charles V took military action against the city, had a citadel built and removed the city's privileges.

Burgundy was one of the most important possessions within Charles V's sphere of influence. The country's wealth contributed significantly to the financing of his power politics. In 1549, Charles awarded Burgundy to his son Philip II , who was to be his successor on the Spanish throne. He resided in Brussels for a few years . After Philip II moved his center of power to Spain, the Burgundian Netherlands came to the periphery of his sphere of influence, especially since after the separation from the Duchy of Burgundy "the Burgundian element in the northern provinces should soon recede", so that the emerging Netherlands "only until the middle of the 16th century to the history of Burgundy ”.

The marginal location of the Netherlands in the Spanish Empire from the middle of the 16th century was one reason why the estates gave up their allegiance to the ruler from Madrid. In the Eighty Years War, the northern United Provinces won their independence from the Spanish line of the Habsburgs. The Spanish Netherlands remained , which became Austrian in 1714 . The Burgundian legacy of the Habsburgs in its territorial starting area ended with the cession of the Free County of Burgundy to France in the Dutch War in 1678; however, the Habsburg tradition of the Burgundian court continued - for example by converting the order from the Golden Fleece to the Habsburg house order.

After the confiscation of the French Crown Fief, the previous Duchy of Burgundy, in 1477 it was not re-awarded during the entire Ancien Régime , but belonged to the self-rule of the French crown. However, it did not become part of the Domaine royal , but remained self-governing as a province with its own parliament . The provincial governors appointed by the Crown were (incomplete, terms of office in brackets):


After the French Revolution , France was divided into departments in 1790 . Both the Duchy and the Free County of Burgundy were dissolved as a political unit and replaced by the departments that still exist today.

When France was divided into program regions in 1956, the regions of Burgundy ( Bourgogne ) and Franche Comté were formed, each comprising four departments. In 1972 the regions received the status of an établissement public under the direction of a regional prefect. The decentralization laws of 1982 gave them the status of a collectivité territoriale (local authority), which until then had only been owned by the municipalities and the départements . Since then, the powers of the regions vis-à-vis the central government in Paris have been gradually expanded; the presidents of the regional council have been directly elected since 1986 .

On January 1, 2016, the Burgundy region merged with the neighboring region of Franche-Comté to the east, thus reuniting the historically and culturally closely linked western and eastern parts of the Burgundian core area.



  • Norman Davies : Burgundy. Five, six or seven kingdoms (around 411–1795). In: ders .: Disappeared empires. The history of forgotten Europe. London 2011, ISBN 978-3-8062-2758-1 (eBook: 978-3-8062-2511-2, title of the English original edition: Vanished Kingdoms - The History of Half Forgotten Europe. London 2011, review ).
  • Hermann Kamp : Burgundy. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-406-53614-X .
  • Bart van Loo: Burgundy. The lost empire. A story of 1,111 years and one day . Translated by Andreas Ecke. CH Beck, Munich 2020, ISBN 978-3-406-74927-8 . (Title of the Dutch original edition: De Bourgondiërs. Amsterdam 2017).

Individual aspects

  • Manfred Hollegger: Maximilian I. (1459-1519). Ruler and man of a turning point. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-17-015557-1 , pp. 29–61: “The first test: Expansion of the House of Austria to include Burgundy” and pp. 75–79: “The Breton War 1492/93” (in it for End of the Burgundian War of Succession).
  • Hermann Kamp : Culture and politics at the court of the dukes of Burgundy. In: Klaus Herbers , Florian Schuller (ed.): Europe in the 15th century. Autumn of the Middle Ages - Spring of the Modern Age? Regensburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-7917-2412-6 , pp. 71-90.
  • Holger Kruse: court, office and fees. The daily fee lists of the Burgundian court (1430–1467) and the first court of Charles the Bold (1456) (= Paris Historical Studies. Vol. 44). Bouvier, Bonn 1996, ISBN 3-416-02623-3 (digitized version) .

Web links


  1. ^ Hermann Kamp: Burgundy. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2007, p. 8.
  2. Norman Davies: Vanishing Empires . Theiss, Darmstadt 2015, p. 110.
  3. ^ Hermann Kamp: Burgundy. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2007, p. 14 f.
  4. ^ Hermann Kamp: Burgundy. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2007, p. 15 f.
  5. ^ A b Hermann Kamp: Burgundy. In: Johannes Fried (ed.): The world of the Middle Ages. Places of remembrance from a millennium. Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-62214-4 , p. 26.
  6. ^ Hermann Kamp: Burgundy. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2007, p. 47 f.
  7. ^ Hermann Kamp: Burgundy. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2007, pp. 48-51.
  8. Immo Eberl : The Cistercians. History of a European Order. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2007, p. 11 ff.
  9. ^ Hermann Kamp : Burgundy. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-53614-4 , p. 62 ff.
  10. Martin Wrede : Without fear and blame - For king and fatherland. Early modern high nobility between family honor, knight ideal and prince service. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2012, Chapter VI.3.2: The ideal: Le noble ordre de la Toison d'or - Abundance, beautiful appearance and concrete benefits of the most brilliant order in Christendom , pp. 248–278.
  11. ^ Johan Huizinga: Autumn of the Middle Ages. Based on the last Dutch edition in 1941. Stuttgart 1987.
  12. ^ Werner Paravicini : The Court of the Dukes of Burgundy. A Model for Europe? In: Ronald G. Asch , Adolf Birke (Ed.): Princes, Patronage and the Nobility. The Court at the Beginning of the Modern Age, c. 1450-1650. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1991, pp. 69-102. See also the other (ed.): La cour de Bourgogne et L'Europe. Le rayonnement et les limites d'un modèle culturel. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2012, ISBN 978-3-7995-7464-8 .
  13. On the economic reason for war from the point of view of Flanders see Martin Claus: The wrestling between England and France. The Hundred Years War. In: Klaus Herbers , Florian Schuller (ed.): Europe in the 15th century. Autumn of the Middle Ages - Spring of the Modern Age? Regensburg 2012, pp. 182–203, here p. 189.
  14. Victor von Kraus : Maximilian I. His life and work. Vienna 1877, p. 14 ff. ( Online ).
  15. ^ Esther-Beate Körber: Habsburgs European rule. From Charles V to the end of the 16th century. Darmstadt 2002, pp. 16-18.
  16. Volker Press : The Netherlands and the Empire in the early modern period. In: Wim P. Blockmans, Herman van Nüffel (ed.): État et Religion aux XVe et XVIe siècles. Actes du colloque à Bruxelles du 9 au 12 octobre 1984. Archives Générales du Royaume de Belgique, Brussels 1986, pp. 321-338.
  17. ↑ In detail on this question Felix Rachfahl : The separation of the Netherlands from the German Empire. In: West German magazine for history and art. Vol. 19, 1900, pp. 79–119 ( digitized in the Internet Archive ), and Nicolette Mout: The Netherlands and the Empire in the 16th Century (1512–1609). In: Volker Press (Ed.): Alternatives to the Imperial Constitution in the Early Modern Age? Oldenbourg, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-486-56035-2 , pp. 143-168.
  18. ^ Hermann Kamp: Burgundy. History and culture. Beck, Munich 2007, p. 95.
  19. ^ Esther-Beate Körber: Habsburgs European rule. From Charles V to the end of the 16th century. Darmstadt 2002, pp. 19-22.