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Lorraine (duchy)

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Lorraine (duchy)

Duchy of (Upper) Lorraine
Duché de (Haute-)Lorraine (fr)
Herzogtum (Ober-)Lothringen (de)
Vassal of East Francia and Holy Roman Empire

Flag Coat of arms
Duchy of Lorraine (blue) within the Holy Roman Empire (c. 1400)
Capital Nancy
Government Feudal monarchy
 -  959–978 Frederick I of Bar
 -  1737–1766 Stanisław Leszczyński
 -  Lotharingia divided 959
 -  Joined
    Upper Rhenish Circle
 -  Annexed by France 1766

The Duchy of Lorraine (French: Lorraine, IPA: ; German: Lothringen), was a duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day region of Lorraine in northeastern France, its capital was Nancy.

It was founded in 959 as a result of the division of the kingdom of Lotharingia in two separate duchies: Lower Lorraine and Upper Lorraine, both duchies forming the western part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Lower duchy was quickly dismantled, while Upper Lorraine came to be known as simply the Duchy of Lorraine. The Duchy of Lorraine lost many territories, like the Three Bishoprics or the county of Bar and was coveted and briefly occupied by the Dukes of Burgundy and the Kings of France.

In 1737, the Duchy was given to province.



Lorraine's predecessor Lotharingia was an independent Carolingian kingdom under the rule of King Lothair II (855–869). Its territory had originally been a part of Middle Francia, created in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun, when the Carolingian empire was divided between the three sons of Louis the Pious. Middle Francia was allotted to Emperor Lothair I, therefore called Lotharii Regnum. Upon his death in 855, it was further divided into three parts, of which his son Lothair II took the northern one. His realm then comprised a larger territory stretching from the County of Burgundy in the south to the North Sea. In French, this area became known as Lorraine, while in German, it was eventually known as Lothringen. In the Alemannic language once spoken in Lorraine, the -ingen suffix signified a property; thus, in a figurative sense, "Lotharingen" can be translated as "Land belonging to Lothair".

As Lothair II had died without heirs, his territory was divided by the 870 Treaty of Meerssen between East and West Francia and finally came under East Frankish rule as a whole by the 880 Treaty of Ribemont. After the East Frankish Carolingians became extinct with the death of Louis the Child in 911, Lotharingia once again attached itself to West Francia, but was conquered by the German king Henry the Fowler in 925. Stuck in the conflict with his rival Hugh the Great, King Louis IV of France in 942 renounced all claims to Lotharingia.

Duchy of Upper Lorraine

Cross of Lorraine, symbol of Lorraine since the 15th century

In 953 the German king Otto I had appointed his brother Bruno the Great Duke of Lotharingia. In 959, Bruno divided the duchy into Upper and Lower Lorraine which became permanent following his death in 965. The Upper Duchy was further "up" the river system, that is, it was inland and to the south. Upper Lorraine was first denominated as the Duchy of the Moselle, both in charters and narrative sources, and its duke was the dux Mosellanorum. The usage of Lotharingia Superioris and Lorraine in official documents begins later, around the fifteenth century. The first duke and deputy of Bruno was Frederick I of Bar, son-in-law of Bruno's sister Hedwig of Saxony.

Lotharingia divided, around 1000
Blue: Alsace 925 ceded to Suebia
Orange: Upper Lorraine after 928
Green: Lower Lorraine after 977

Lower Lorraine disintegrated into several smaller territories and only the title of a "Duke of Lothier" remained, held by Brabant. After the duchy of the Moselle came into the possession of René of Anjou the name "Duchy of Lorraine" was adopted again, only retrospectively called "Upper Lorraine". At that time several territories had already split off, like the County of Luxembourg and the Electorate of Trier, or the County of Bar and the "Three Bishoprics" of Verdun, Metz and Toul.

The border between the Empire and the Kingdom of France remained relatively stable throughout the Middle Ages. In 1301 Count Henry III of Bar had to receive the western part of his lands (Barrois mouvant) as a fief by King Philip IV of France. The Burgundian duke Charles the Bold in 1475 campaigned for the Duchy of Lorraine, but finally was defeated and killed at the 1477 Battle of Nancy. In 1552 a number of insurgent Protestant Imperial princes around Elector Maurice of Saxony by the Treaty of Chambord ceded the Three Bishoprics to King Henry II of France in turn for his support.

In the 17th century, the French kings began to covet Lorraine. While the central Imperial authority decayed in the course of the Thirty Years' War, Chief Minister Cardinal Richelieu urged the occupation of the duchy in 1641. France again had to vacate it after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which however won France several positions in Alsace, east of Lorraine. In 1670, the French invaded again, forcing Duke Charles V to flee to a Viennese exile, where he formed strong ties to the Imperial House of Habsburg. France occupied the Duchy for almost thirty years, only giving it up in the Treaty of Ryswick which ended the Nine Years' War in 1697. During the War of the Spanish Succession, parts of Lorraine, including the capital Nancy, were again occupied by France, but Duke Leopold Joseph continued to reign at the Château de Lunéville.

Full coat of arms of the Duchy, Siebmachers Wappenbuch, 1703[1]
Coat of arms of the Duchy (1697)

In 1737, after the province by the French government.

Between France and Germany

Lorraine remained a part of France, but its northern part known as Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen under a governor directly appointed by the German Emperor. Alsace-Lorraine remained a part of Germany until after the end of World War I, when France occupied the area and annexed it. Policies forbidding the use of German and requiring that of French were then begun, as well as expulsions of Germans who had moved to the region after 1871.

In 1940, Nazi Germany re-annexed Alsace-Lorraine during World War II combining Moselle with the Saarland and Alsace with Baden. The French language was again proscribed and education at German schools made compulsory. The war-torn area returned to France in November 1944. Because of the fighting in the area, Lorraine is home to the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial, the largest American war cemetery in France.


Two regional languages survive in the region.

Lorraine Franconian, known as francique or platt (lorrain) in French, is a Germanic dialect spoken by a minority in the northern part of the region. This is distinct from the neighbouring Alsatian language, although the two are often confused. Neither has any form of official recognition.

Lorrain is a Romance dialect spoken by a minority in the southern part of the region.

Like most of France's regional languages (such as Breton, Provençal, Alsatian and Basque) Lorrain and Lorraine Franconian were largely replaced by French with the advent of mandatory public schooling in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Foodstuffs and dishes associated with Lorraine include quiche lorraine, Mirabelle plum, baba au rhum, bergamotes, macarons, and madeleines.

See also


  1. ^ Siebmacher, Johann (1703). Erneuertes und vermehrtes Wappenbuch... Nürnberg: Adolph Johann Helmers. pp. Part I Table 6. 

Further reading

Publications in English

  • Herrick, Linda & Wendy Uncapher. Alsace-Lorraine: The Atlantic Bridge to Germany. Janesville, WI: 2003.
  • Hughes, S. P. (2005) "Bilingualism in North-East France with specific reference to Rhenish Franconian spoken by Moselle Cross-border (or frontier) workers."[1]
  • Putnam, Ruth. Alsace and Lorraine: From Cæsar to Kaiser, 58 B.C.-1871 A.D. New York: 1915.

External links

  • Lotharingia

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