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Bourbonnais (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2016-11-13 by ivan sache
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Flag of Bourbonnais - Image by Pierre Gay, 19 December 2002

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History of Bourbonnais

Bourbonnais was initially called Borbonensis ager. The Latin word ager, the root of "agricultur" and "agronomy", designated a cultivated field.

In the 10th century, Adhémar (or Aymard), a lieutnant of the Duke of Aquitaine, founded the first house of Bourbon, which extincted in 1218. Adhémar ceded his own land in Souvigny to the monks of the abbey of Cluny. The tombs of the saint abbeys Mayeul and Odilon attracted a lot of pilgrims in Souvigny, which became the heart of a wealthy state.

The second house of Bourbon lasted until 1272, when Béatrix, the last Bourbon heir, brought Bourbonnais as her dowry to Robert, Count of Clermont, the sixth son of King of France Louis IX (St. Louis).

Robert, founder of the third house of Bourbon, was recognized lord of Bourbon in 1283. In 1327, Louis I the Great, Robert's son, was given the Duchy of Bourbon as his apanage. In the 14 century, Duke Louis II made of Souvigny the princely necropolis.

Charles (1490-1527) was the ninth and last Duke of Bourbon. Bourbonnais was then the last feudal state able to challenge the royal power. Charles fought bravely in the battles of Agnadel (1509) and Marignan (1515) and was appointed Constable by King François I. When Queen Mother Louise of Savoy demanded Bourbonnais as her legacy, the constable signed a secrete treaty with Emperor Charles V. When the treaty was revealed, the Constable fled to Franche-Comté and later to Italy, where he was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Imperial army. He contributed to the victory of Pavia (1525), during which François I was captured, and attempted to conquer Milanais. He died in 1527 during the seizure of Rome. Bourbonnais, along with Auvergne and all the other possessions of the constable, was confiscated and incorporated to the royal domain in 1531.

The Bourbon youngest branch (Marche) received the title of Vendôme. Anton of Bourbon was crowned King of Navarre in 1555, and Henry IV King of France (and Navarre) in 1589. Henry IV's son was Louis XIII, who had himself two sons. The elder son, Louis XIV, was the root of the French branch, which extincted with the Count of Chambord in 1883; of the Spanish branch, divided in several smaller branches, among which the royal branches of Spain and of the Two-Sicilies and the ducal branch of Parma. The younger branch, from the younger son, Philip, Duke of Orléans, reached the throne of France with Louis-Philippe in 1830, and was the root of the branches of Orléans, Orléans-Braganza (the Brazilian imperial house), and Montpensier (whose members are Infantes of Spain).

Charles of Bourbon (1523-1590), Cardinal and Archbishop of Rouen, was proclaimed King of France as Charles X by the Holy League (Sainte Ligue) in 1589. The League fought against the royal power from 1576 to 1594. Led in Paris by Henry I, Duke of Guise, the League grouped ultra-catholic princes. The assassination of Guise in Blois in 1588 caused a widespread rebellion against King Henry III. The League could not remained united after Henry III's assassination in 1589. Paris accepted Henry IV as king in 1594 and most provincial leaders of the League rallied the king between 1594 and 1598.

Ironically, the National Assembly of the French Republic gathers in the Palais-Bourbon in Paris. The palace, located on the left bank of the Seine and facing the Concorde Square, was built in 1722 for the Duchess of Bourbon, and was modified and increased in the 18th-19th centuries.

Ivan Sache, 19 December 2002

Flag of Bourbonnais

The flag of Bourbonnais is the banner of the arms D'azur semé de fleurs de lis d'or au bâton de gueules brochant sur le tout (Azure semy de lis or a bend gules), assigned to the province by Jacques Meurgey in his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941).

These arms were those of the Count of Clermont, subsequently used by his son Louis I, the first duke of the third house of Bourbon.
Meurgey adds that the ancient lords of Bourbon bore Un lion à l'orle de coquilles (A lion orled with scallops).

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009