views updated May 18 2018


BURGUNDY. The early modern state of Burgundy was the product of a historical accident. When Charles the Bold (14331477), the last Valois duke of Burgundy (14671477), was murdered in 1477, his various and sundry lands and estates were divided up between the king of France and the Holy Roman emperor. While the large duchy of Burgundy was soon incorporated into the kingdom of France, the free county of Burgundy just across the Saône River (Franche-Comté) was quickly absorbed into the empire. Moreover, all the territories that made up the Burgundian Netherlandsthe counties of Flanders, Holland, Zeeland, Hainaut, and Namur as well as the duchies of Brabant, Limburg, and Luxembourgalso swore allegiance to the emperor. Thus what had once been a politically powerful buffer state that separated France and the empire and stretched from the North Sea to the Franco-Swiss border was now divided between these two European powers. With its twin courts at Brussels and Dijon permanently separated, Burgundy's political influence was no longer as significant as it had once been, when it held the balance of power between England and France in the Hundred Years' War (13371453).

These Franco-Habsburg tensions intensified less than two decades after Charles the Bold's death, when the French king Charles VIII (ruled 14831498) invaded Italy in a dispute over the emperor's claim to the vacant duchy of Milan, starting the Habsburg-Valois Wars (14941559). Charles V (15191556), the grandson and heir of Maximilian I (ruled 14931519), later tried to reunite the duchy to the rest of the Burgundian state under Habsburg control. Having captured King Francis I of France (15151547) on the battlefield at Pavia in Italy in 1525, Charles succeeded in getting him to renounce the duchy of Burgundy as part of the deal to release him. Francis reneged on his promise once he acquired his freedom, however, and the duchy remained in French hands. Moreover the Burgundian political elites of the duchy made it known to all that they were loyal Frenchmen and had no desire to be transferred to the sovereignty of the emperor to reunite with the other former Burgundian territories in the empire. Although neither Francis I nor Charles V managed to gain any permanent territorial advantage in Italy from the Habsburg-Valois Wars, this conflict served as a backdrop to the foreign policies of both states for the rest of the early modern period. Indeed even after the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis formally ended the wars in 1559, Habsburg-Valois tensions continued to ferment, a situation not helped by the advent of Protestantism in both states.

With the coming of the Reformation in France, the duchy of Burgundy became a bastion for the traditional religion and a bulwark against the new Calvinist faith, which most Burgundians, like most French Catholics, tended to see as heresy. The royal governor of Burgundy from the 1530s to the 1590s was a member of the militantly Catholic Guise family, so the many patronage networks of the Guises worked long and hard in the province to prevent the spread of heresy. Calvinism nevertheless managed to gain a foothold in some of the principal Burgundian towns by 1560, and tensions between the two faiths broke out in violence, as it did in many towns throughout the kingdom in the early 1560s. Most Burgundians had supported the attempts of Kings Henry II (ruled 15471559) and Francis II (ruled 15591560) to suppress Protestantism, by force if necessary. But they were explicitly hostile to the edict of January 1562, since it gave legal recognition to the French Protestants for the first time. When the French Wars of Religion officially broke out in 1562, Burgundy fought against both the Protestants and the crown's continuous attempts to make peace with them over the next four decades. Burgundy remained a bastion of Catholicism and became a stronghold of the Catholic League after the death of the last Valois heir in 1584 made Henry of Navarre (Henry IV; ruled 15891610), the leader of the French Protestants, presumptive heir to the throne.

The battles with the crown over religion in the sixteenth century turned to politics in the seventeenth century. First Henry IV began to intervene in local elections for mayor in several Burgundian towns in 1609, altering a process of independence that had originated under the Valois dukes. Then in the 1630s his son and successor, Louis XIII (ruled 16101643), attempted to take away the province's traditional right to assess and collect its own taxes through its provincial Estates. When Louis tried to suppress the Estates and replace them with royal tax officials, many in the province fought back. A band of citizens in Dijonmainly winegrowers and artisansactually burned down the houses of several members of Dijon's parlement (sovereign court) who spoke out in favor of the king's plan. Louis went in person to Dijon to punish the culprits as well as to chide the elites for not fully supporting his venture. By the time of the Fronde in 1648, Burgundy's elites had been won over to the crown's wishes on virtually all political matters, as the king continued to reward them handsomely for their cooperation. As a result there was no opposition to the crown in Burgundy when parlements in other regions revolted in 1648. And for the most part Burgundy's elites continued to support French kings right up to the Revolution of 1789.

Louis XIV (ruled 16431715) managed to reunite the free county of Burgundy with the duchy in 1674, when his troops occupied Franche-Comté and brought the county under French control. Thus the two Burgundies, as contemporaries were still referring to the duchy and the county, were both under the authority of one prince for the first time since 1477. Like their fellow subjects in the duchy, the elites of Franche-Comté tended for the most part to be willing, loyal subjects of the king of France in return for largesse, rewards, and perquisites. From one-time enemies of France during the Hundred Years' War, Burgundians by the late seventeenth century had become some of the most ardent defenders of the Catholic Church and the French crown.

See also Charles the Bold (Burgundy) ; Habsburg-Valois Wars ; Holy Roman Empire ; Valois Dynasty (France).


Drouot, Henri. Mayenne et la Bourgogne: Étude sur la Ligue, 15871596. 2 vols. Dijon and Paris, 1937.

Farr, James R. Hands of Honor: Artisans and Their World in Dijon, 15501650. Ithaca, N.Y., 1988.

Holt, Mack P. "Wine, Community and Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Burgundy," Past and Present 138 (February 1993): 5893.

Vaughan, Richard. Valois Burgundy. London, 1975.

Mack P. Holt


views updated May 29 2018


The Renaissance state of Burgundy was a patchwork of territories that extended from the Netherlands to present-day Switzerland. Formed as a result of several historical accidents, the state survived for little more than 100 years. Nonetheless, it played an important role in the distribution of power in western Europe and left a legacy of great political, military, and artistic achievements.

The French crown acquired the duchy* of Burgundy in 1361 when its duke, Philip of Rouvres, died without an heir. The king of France named his youngest son, Philip the Bold (1363–1404), the first duke of Burgundy in the Valois line. Philip added to his realm when he married Margaret of Flanders, the heir to a wealthy county along the North Sea. Philip the Bold's grandson, Philip the Good (1419–1467), expanded the territory again. Through marital alliances, he gained various regions and duchies, including Holland, Zeeland, Brabant, and Luxembourg.

Both Philip the Good and his successor, Charles the Bold, worked to centralize rule in Burgundy, but the region lacked a sense of political unity. The various counties, duchies, and lordships that made up Burgundy were distinct parts of a larger whole. The regions had different languages, cultures, economies, and political systems. Geographically, however, the state of Burgundy served as a useful buffer* between France and the Holy Roman Empire*.

During the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) between England and France, the dukes of Burgundy took advantage of the conflicts between those two countries to promote their own interests. In 1415 John the Fearless sided with England against France, contributing to the French defeat at the famous battle of Agincourt in that year. John's son, Philip the Good, switched sides and supported France. The result was a French victory that largely expelled the English from France. Through such actions, the dukes of Burgundy turned their patchwork state into a significant European power.

Culturally, the Burgundian court came to rival the courts of Renaissance Italy in splendor and artistic display. The dukes of Burgundy actually maintained two courts: a Flemish* one in Brussels (now part of Belgium) and a French one in Dijon (in eastern France). Both cities became centers of artistic achievement, promoting the works of such artists as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden. In 1430 Philip the Good founded the Order of the Golden Fleece, a select group of nobles who served as great patrons* of the arts. The Burgundian court became the greatest source of artistic patronage in northern Europe.

Burgundy came to a sudden end in the same way as it was founded. In January 1477, Charles the Bold, the last Valois duke of Burgundy, died in battle. His only heir was his daughter Mary. Louis XI of France, who had been at war with Burgundy, took the opportunity to seize control of Dijon. Mary sought support from the ruler of Austria, who later became Holy Roman Emperor as Maximilian I. The two powers became involved in a tug of war over the fate of Burgundy and eventually divided the state between them.

(See alsoDynastic Rivalry; England; France; Holy Roman Empire; Patronage. )

* duchy

territory ruled by a duke or duchess

* buffer

neutral area between two rival powers

* Holy Roman Empire

political body in central Europe composed of several states; existed until 1806

* Flemish

referring to Flanders, a region along the coasts of present-day Belgium, France, and the Netherlands

* patron

supporter or financial sponsor of an artist or writer


views updated Jun 27 2018


BURGUNDY , former French duchy (to be distinguished from the county of Burgundy; see *Franche-Comté). Jews were living in Burgundy at least from the first half of the ninth century, primarily in *Chalon-sur-Saône and *Macon. From the tenth century, Jews cultivated fields and vineyards in the neighborhood of these two towns. The Jewish population of Burgundy reached its maximum in the 13th century. The presence of Jews is attested to in about 50 additional towns in the duchy, including *Auxerre, Auxonne, Avallon, *Baigneuxles-Juifs, Beaune, *Bourg, and *Dijon. The Jews of the duchy were under the jurisdiction of the duke, except in Dijon where both the municipality and the duke claimed them. In addition to the regular taille, or poll tax, the Jews were required to pay extraordinary taxes, known as the "rançon" (ransom). The amounts paid in taxes increased constantly. For the fiscal year 1277, the Jews in the duchy paid a total of almost 1,500 livres, while between 1297 and 1302 those in the bailiwick of Auxerre alone paid almost the same amount. The position of the Jews deteriorated at the beginning of the 14th century. Although ducal protection was specifically recommended by Duke Robert ii who declared in his testament in 1302, "I desire that the Jews shall live on my land," in 1306 they received the same treatment as the Jews in the kingdom of France and were expelled. Most of them took refuge in the county of Burgundy. The debts and securities seized in Chalon and Buxy alone amounted to 33,295 livres. A few Jews apparently returned to Burgundy after 1311, and a general permission to return was given in 1315, when they mainly settled in the same localities as previously. The Jews in Burgundy continued to share the fate of the Jews in the kingdom of France, both expulsion in 1322 and read-mission in 1359. In 1374 Duke Philip the Bold granted privileges to the Jews in Burgundy, but limited the number of families with authorized residence to 12, increased in 1380 to 20. Despite popular requests for their expulsion, the duke made them a new grant of privileges in 1384; he also increased the number of families to 52, although in fact fewer were willing to take advantage of this. In this period, Jews were only living in Dijon, Chalon, and Beaune. In 1394, before the end of their 12-year term, they were all expelled. Numerous medieval Jewish scholars were natives of Burgundy. The liturgy used by the Burgundian communities had some special features.


G. Duby, in: Société … maconnaise (1953), 28–30, 119–21; B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et chrétiens… (1960), 27–30; J. Richard, Ducs de Bourgogne (1954), 342, 360f., 379f.; Gauthier, in: Mémoires … de la société d'émulation du Jura (1914), 57ff.; Gross, Gal Jud, 108ff.; Schwab, in: rej, 53 (1907), 114ff.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]


views updated May 18 2018

Burgundy (Bourgogne) Historical region and former duchy of e central France; it now includes the departments of Yonne, Côte-d'Or, Saône et Loire, Ain and Nièvre. Dijon is the historical capital. Burgundy's golden age began in 1364 when John II of France made his son, Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. The succeeding dukes created a state that extended across the Rhine and included the Low Countries. The last Duke, Charles the Bold (r.1467–77), failed to have himself crowned king by the Holy Roman Emperor, and Burgundy was divided up after his death, France annexing the largest part. The region has many Romanesque churches. It is a rich agricultural region renowned for its wine. Pop. (1999) 1,610,407.


views updated Jun 11 2018

bur·gun·dy / ˈbərgəndē/ (also Bur·gun·dy) • n. (pl. -dies) a wine from Burgundy (usually taken to be red unless otherwise specified): a glass of Burgundy. ∎  a deep red color like that of burgundy wine: warm shades of brown and burgundy.


views updated May 23 2018

Burgundy a region and former duchy of east central France, centred on Dijon. Under a series of strong dukes Burgundy achieved considerable independence from imperial control in the later Middle Ages, before being absorbed by France when King Louis XI claimed the duchy in 1477.


views updated May 14 2018

Burgundy Red and white wines produced in the Burgundy region of France (Bourgogne).