Franche-Comté (fräNsh-kôNtā´) or Free County of Burgundy, region and former province, E France. It is coextensive with Haute-Saône, Doubs, and Jura depts. Dôle was the capital until 1676; Besançon was the later capital and remains the chief city. Other important towns are Montbéliard, Lons-le-Saunier, and Saint-Claude. The Jura Mts. form the region's eastern border with Switzerland; the Vosges Mts. are in the north. The chief rivers are the Doubs and the upper Saône. Franche-Comté is largely an agricultural region and has a large dairy industry. Livestock is raised in the Jura district, where there are dense pine forests and extensive grazing lands. The Peugot automobile company has two factories there. Other manufactures include clocks, watches, machines, and plastics. The region was occupied by the Celtic tribe of the Sequani (4th cent. BC) and was conquered by Julius Caesar (52 BC). Overrun by the Burgundians (5th cent.), it was included in the First Kingdom of Burgundy and was annexed by the Franks in 534. The territory was united in the 9th cent. as the Free County of Burgundy, or Franche-Comté, a fief held from the kings of Transjurane Burgundy, who were later (933–1032) kings of Arles. Franche-Comté passed to the Holy Roman Empire in 1034; but the allegiance was tenuous, and for six and a half centuries Franche-Comté was perpetually invaded and contested by France, Germany, Burgundy, Switzerland, and Spain. Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, acquired Franche-Comté through his marriage to Margaret of Flanders in 1369. After the defeat and death of Charles the Bold (1477), the region passed to Archduke Maximilian of Austria (later Emperor Maximilian I), who in turn gave it to his son Philip I of Spain. Governed by native officials and its parlement at Dôle, Franche-Comté enjoyed relative autonomy under the Spanish crown. At the end of Charles V's reign (1556), Franche-Comté became a possession of the Spanish Hapsburgs. Although some of the region's fortified towns were occupied by France during the Wars of Religion (16th cent.), peace and prosperity continued until the Thirty Years War (1618–48), when the region was ravaged by both Catholics and Protestants. Louis XIV conquered Franche-Comté in 1668 and again in 1674 and finally obtained its cession from Spain. Although the parlement continued to function after its transfer to Besançon (1676), the provincial assembly was abolished, and Franche-Comté became an integral part of France.
FRANCHE-COMTÉ , region and former province in E. France, comprising the present departments of Haute-Saône, Doubs, and Jura. Since a document of 1220 mentions a Jewish quarter (vicus Judaeorum) in *Lons-le-Saunier, the Jews must first have come to Franche-Comté at a much earlier date, probably after the expulsion from the kingdom of France in 1182. From the middle of the 13th century, there is increased evidence of the presence of the Jews and the 40 or more places they had settled, including Baume-les-Dames, *Besançon, Lons-le-Saunier, and *Vesoul. Because they were a valuable source of income, the Jews were eagerly welcomed by various local lords, who granted them advantageous privileges, but they were not admitted to the Church domains. From a detailed list of the fiscal contributions of the Jews drawn up in 1296, it is apparent that by then several localities no longer permitted Jewish residence; those remaining paid an annual tax of 975 livres. Though Franche-Comté was temporarily under the control of the French kingdom at the time, the Jews were not affected by the expulsion order of 1306; however, they were included in that of 1322, though possibly it was not rigorously enforced. From 1332–33 at the latest, new immigrants joined those who had been able to remain in their homes; in a census of 86 Jewish families, 32 are described as recent arrivals. As during the 13th century, their principal occupation was moneylending.
During the *Black Death persecutions in 1348, the count appointed two commissioners, who promptly arrested the Jews and seized their belongings. They were imprisoned for many months (those of Vesoul for nearly ten months), some of them in Gray and the others in Vesoul. In spite of confessions extracted under torture, none was condemned to death but all were banished, and the regent, Jeanne de Boulogne, promised that Jews would no longer be tolerated in Franche-Comté. However, from 1355, there were Jews in the province once more, especially in Bracon and Salins-les-Bains, where a Christian loan bank was set up in 1363 so that there need be no recourse to Jewish moneylenders; the Jews were subsequently expelled from the town in 1374. In 1384, shortly after Franche-Comté was reunited with Burgundy, the duke authorized many Jewish families to settle there, but they did not escape the general expulsion from Burgundy ten years later. Many of them found refuge in Besançon, from where one Jew returned to settle in Champlitte. Driven out in 1409, he was the last Jew to live in Franche-Comté before the French Revolution.
J. Morey, in: rej, 7 (1883), 1–36; L. Gauthier, in: Mémoires de la Société pour l'Emulation du Jura (1914), 90ff.; J. Fohlen, in: Archives Juives, 5 (1968–69), 12–13.