Vanished Kingdoms – Burgundia

This was an interesting chapter, because this kingdom is a pretty plastic concept that has moved around over the centuries in the ‘seam’ between France and Germany, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. When these areas were strong, they were absorbed, but in other periods some pretty significant districts and kingdoms appeared.

In the end Norman Davies comes up with fifteen distinct “Burgundy”s:

  1. The First Burgundian Kingdom in Gaul (410-436).  Destroyed by Attila the Hun at Aetius‘ bidding which has been preserved in Germanic Nibelung saga.
  2. The Second Burgundian Kingdom (451-534).  Set up by Aetius after defeating Attila in Gaul.  A player in the fall of the West, conquered by the Franks.
  3. Frankish Burgundy (590-734)
  4. The French Duchy of Burgundy (843-1384)
  5. The Kingdom of Lower Burgundy (879-933)
  6. The Kingdom of Upper Burgundy (888-933)
  7. The united Kingdom of the Two Burgundies (933-1032)
  8. The County-Palatinate of Burgundy (1000-1678)
  9. The Imperial Kingdom of Burgundy (1032-?)
  10. The Imperial Duchy of Lesser Burgundy (1127-1218)
  11. The Imperial Landgravate of Burgundy (1127+)
  12. The united “States of Burgundy” (1384-1477)
  13. The French Province of Burgundy – Bourgogne (1477-1791)
  14. The Imperial Burgundian Circle (1548-1795)
  15. The French Region of Bourgogne (1982-present)

Some of these were major historical players.  In the Hundred Years War, the Duchy and County were unified and joined the English, nearly breaking France entirely.  When Joan of Arc brought a French resurgence, the moment was gone.

While the political fortunes of these states waxed and finally waned, it is interesting how for fifteen hundred years the concept of “Burgundy” has risen again when given the chance.


The Frankish Empire – Thomas Hodgkin

Finished the final book in Hodgkin’s Folio Society series on The Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire.  This takes the situation in the West up to the death of Charlemagne.

The earlier alignment of the Papacy with the Byzantine Empire has been replaced by one with the Franks, who were strong enough to remove the Lombard threat for good.  The Pope received land in central Italy that would become the Papal States, which formalized the dual nature of the Papacy as both a religious leader and a secular one for the next thousand years or so, tempting Popes to muddle church matters with political ones.  Although the Franks rule supreme, already the signs are there of the future struggle between the Papacy and the German Holy Roman Emperors that would pop up in the future.

Meanwhile, the political exclusion of the Byzantines fueled the future religious separation into the Eastern Orthodox church that would be finalized in a few hundred years.

I always like reading this series even more so as I become more familiar with the period.  The breakup of Rome has become increasingly interesting to me in recent years.  I wonder if there is a similar overview of the next five hundred years available.

The Frankish Invasion – Thomas Hodgkin

Its Volume VII in the “Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire” from the Folio Society, and the balance of power between the Byzantines, the Pope, and the Lombards is fatally broken by the fall of Ravenna to the Lombards.  Now there is no Exarch to be the Pope’s political superior, even nominally.

Under a series of strong Popes at this time (720-760 AD) the Papacy realigned itself to find a new counterbalance to the Lombards – the Franks.  Its king, Pippin, the father of Charlemagne, wasn’t hugely interested in intervening in Italy at first, but as a good Christian was influenced by the Pope’s cries for aid.

The point of contention was the Pope’s demand to get back part of the area around Ravenna.  However, this time the towns would be under the rule of the Pope and not Constantinople.  The King of the Lombards agreed under pressure, but then found reasons to delay turning over the cities.  Pippin even defeated the Lombards in a few small wars but once the Franks returned home the king returned to his foot-dragging.

Then a new king, Charlemagne, took over the Franks.  He soon had enough of the situation, and conquered the entire Lombard Kingdom and decided to rule it himself. Now the three-way split was the Pope, the Franks, and the Byzantines.  And the Papacy was aligned firmly with the West and the Franks.  But while the rift between East and West would continue to grow, the current happy relations between the Papacy and the Franks would not.  However the breakdown would only happen outside the scope of these books.