Duchy of Burgundy - Origins


The origins of the Duchy lie in the far older Kingdom of Burgundy. The kingdom evolved out of territories ruled by the Burgundians, an East Germanic tribe that arrived in Gaul in the 5th century; they lived in the area around Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saône, Mâcon, Autun, and Châtillon-sur-Seine, and their name was applied to the region. This first Kingdom of Burgundy would be annexed to the territories of the Merovingian Kings of the Franks in the era of Clovis and his sons (the late 5th and early 6th centuries); it would be recreated, however, on several occasions when 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 the Early Middle Ages, it continued a semi-autonomous existence as a part of the Kingdom of the Franks: the Burgundians maintained their own law code (the "Loi Gombette"), while the people developed the agricultural and viticultural wealth of the territory. But southern Burgundy was pillaged by the Saracen invasion of the 8th century, and when Charles Martel had driven the invaders out, he divided Burgundy into four commands: Arles-Burgundy, Vienne-Burgundy, Alamanic Burgundy, and Frankish Burgundy. He appointed his brother Childebrand as governor of the last of these. Under the Carolingians, Burgundian separatism lessened. Burgundy became a purely geographical term, applicable only to describe the territory governed by the counties replacing it.

Both the Duchy of Burgundy and the County of Burgundy emerged from these counties, 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 attached himself to Charles the Bald, youngest son of King Louis the Pious of the Franks, and aided him in the Battle of Fontenay against Charles's eldest brother, the Emperor Lothar. 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 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.

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