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Nivernais (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2004-07-03 by
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[Nivernais]by Arnaud Leroy


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History of Nivernais

The city of Nevers, built on the confluency of the rivers Loire and Allier, was most probably the fortified city of Noviodunum Aeduorum. In 52 BP, Caesar seized the city and made of it a depot of food and ammunition for his army. When they were aware of Caesar's defeat in Gergovie, the Aeduans attacked the city, slaughtered the Roman garrison and burned down the depot.

In the Vth century, the pagus Nivernensis was part of the first kingdom of Burgundy and then of the kingdom of the Franks. In 534, Nevers was given to Theodebert I (Thibert), king of Austrasia after the death of Clovis and the first share of the kingdom of the Franks (511). In 561, Nevers was transfered to Gontran, king of Orléans and Burgundy after the second share of the kingdom (561).

Nivernais became a county at the end of the IXth century. The first hereditary count of Nivernais was Otton-Guillaume (d. 1027), from the first house of Burgundy. In 1184, king of France Philippe-Auguste married Agnès de Nevers, the last heir of Nivernais, to Pierre II de Courtenay. In 1199, Pierre's daughter married Hervé de Donzy, so that Nivernais and Donziais merged together. In 1272, the house of Dampierre recieved Nivernais by marriage, and was succeded by the house of Flanders in 1384. Nivernais was later dominated by the second house of Burgundy, which incorporated the domain of Château-Chinon to Nivernais. In 1491. the house of Clèves received Nivernais by marriage.

Nivernais became a duchy in 1538, granted to François d'Eu, and was given by marriage to the Gonzague family, from Mantua, which kept it from 1565 to 1659. Louis de Gonzague, third son of the duke of Mantua, called in Nevers several Italian craftmen and artists. He developed glassmaking and enamels. Nevers specialized in spun glass used for representation of religious stories. The local production were shipped to Orléans and Angers via the river Loire. Gonzague also introduced art earthenware in 1575. The brothers Conrade, of Italian origin, taught their art to local craftmen, who progressively developed the specific Nevers style.

In 1659, cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661), main minister of Louis XIII (1641-1643), regent Ann of Austria (1643-1651) and young Louis XIV (1651-1661), bought the duchy and transfered it to the Mancini family, whose members were related to Mazarin and had followed him to France. Louis XIV fell in love with Marie Mancini (1640-1715), Mazarin's niece, and planned to marry her, but Mazarin decided Louis XIV should better marry the Spanish infante in order to establish the peace with Spain.

Ivan Sache, 1 June 2003


Description of the flag of Nivernais

The banner of arms of Nivernais is blazoned as (GASO):

Bandé d'or et d'azur de six pièces à la bordure engrêlée de gueules

In English (Brian Timms):

Bendy of six or and azure, within a bordure engrailed gules

The engrailed bordure is a brisure added to the arms of the first house of Burgundy, founded in 1032 by Robert le Vieux, grandson of king Hugues Capet and brother of king Henri I. These arms are shown on the second and third quarters of the arms of Burgundy.

Ivan Sache, 1 June 2003

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