Duchy of Burgundy - The Beneficiary Dukes

The Beneficiary Dukes

By the time of Richard the Justiciar (d. 921), the Duchy of Burgundy was beginning to emerge. Richard was officially recognised by the king as a duke; he also stood as individual count of each county he held (if it was not held on his behalf by a viscount). As Duke of Burgundy, he was able to wield an increasing amount of power over his territory. To the collective body of his territory there came to be applied the term "ducatus" (the territories ruled by a duke). Included in the ducatus of Richard were the regions of Autunais, Beaunois, Avalois, Lassois, Dijonais, Memontois, Attuyer, Oscheret, Auxois, Duesmois, Auxerrois, Nivernais, Chaunois and Massois. Under Richard, these territories were given law and order, protected from the Normans, and served as a haven for persecuted monks.

Under Rudolph of France (also Raoul or Ralph), the son of Richard, Burgundy was briefly catapulted to a position of prominence in France, since he became king of France in 923 after acceding to the Burgundian territories in 921. It was from his territories in Burgundy that he drew the resources needed to fight those who challenged his right to rule.

Under Hugh the Black (d. 952) came the beginning of what would be a long and troubled saga for Burgundy. His neighbours were the Robertian family, who held the title of Duke of Francia. This family, wanting to improve their standing in France and against the Carolingian kings, attempted to subject the duchy to the suzerainty of their own duchy. They failed; eventually, when they appeared close to success, they were forced to scrap the scheme and instead maintain Burgundy as a separate duchy. Two brothers of Hugh Capet, the first Capetian King of France, took up the rule of Burgundy as duke. First Otto and then Henry the Venerable maintained the duchy's independence, but the death of the latter without children proved a defining moment in the history of the duchy.

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