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European Kingdoms

Germanic Tribes


MapBurgundians (Burgundiones) (Germanic)

The Germanic tribes seem to have originated in a homeland in southern Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, with the Jutland area of northern Denmark, along with a very narrow strip of Baltic coastline). They had been settled here for over two thousand years following the Indo-European migrations. The Germanic ethnic group began as a division of the western edge of late proto-Indo-European dialects around 3300 BC, splitting away from a general westwards migration to head towards the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea. By the time the Germanic tribes were becoming key players in the politics of Western Europe in the last two centuries BC, the previously dominant Celts were on the verge of being conquered and dominated by Rome. They had already been pushed out of northern and Central Europe by a mass of Germanic tribes which were steadily carving out a new homeland.

When first noted by contemporary scholars, the Burgundians (or Burgundiones) were located in eastern Central Europe (within modern Poland and probably Moravia) - by Tacitus in AD 98. In the third and fourth centuries they, like the Franks, did not play a great role in undermining the Western Roman empire - indeed the Burgundians were a relatively minor people. They crossed the Rhine with the Vandali in 406 and settled along the west bank, making their capital at Geneva. Once there, they found groups of other Germanic people who had been settled on vacant lands by the Romans in the third century, including the Chamavi and other constituent elements of the Franks.

(Additional information from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway.)

AD 98

In his work on Greater Germania, the Roman writer Tacitus locates the Germanic Burgundiones in eastern Central Europe, immediately south of the Gepids and Gutones, with the Venedi on their eastern flank and the Vandali to their south.


Vandali and Burgundians who had crossed the Rhine to invade the Roman empire are defeated by Emperor Probus and are resettled in Britain.

406 - 409

With Roman authority gradually fading the former Celtic tribe of the Sequani are so ingrained into Roman civilisation that they are unable to reform their tribal status and protect themselves. Instead, when the Burgundiones cross the Rhine en masse they occupy the Sequani territory as their own, with recognition by a helpless Rome that they are an allied state.

410 - 411

Along with the Franks, the Burgundians support the rebellion of Roman usurper Jovinus.

? - c.411

Gebicca / Gifica / Gibica / Gibich / Giuki

Last tribal leader east of the Rhine. Semi-mythical.

Named as Gifica in the Old English poem Widsith, this Burgundian warrior hero is regarded as being at least partially mythical. He is mentioned as one of a long list of famous Germanic tribal rulers and leaders in the poem.

c.411 - 413

Gundahar / Gunther

Tribal leader, became king of the Burgundians in 413.

411 - 413

Gundahar and Goar of the Alani set up Jovinus as their puppet Roman usurper and establish a kingdom on the left bank of the Rhine.

Kingdom of the Burgundians
AD 413 - 534

Between 411-413, the new leader of the Burgundians, Gundahar, joined Goar of the Alani in setting up Jovinus as their puppet Roman usurper. Under the pretext of Jovinus' imperial authority, the Burgundians were able to establish themselves on the west bank of the Rhine (the Roman side) between the River Lauter and the Nahe. Here they founded a kingdom based upon the Romano-Gallic settlement of Borbetomagus (Worms).

Subjugated by the Huns in 437, they accepted Roman federate status and essentially moved into the vacuum of dwindling Roman power, being ceded Roman lands in 443 and 458. Towards the end of the fifth century, King Gundobad was briefly a player in the last stages of Western Roman politics, holding power as the commander of the army from 472 to 473. By 534, however, Frankish power could no longer be resisted, and Burgundy became another piece in the Frankish kingdom.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, from The Ethnology of Germany Part 3: The Migration of the Saxons, Henry H Howorth (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 7, 1878), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from Chronicon, Marius, from the Chronicle of Fredegar / Latin Chronicle (author unknown but the work has been attributed to Fredegar since the sixteenth century thanks to his name being written in the margin), from the 'Passio' of St Killian, from Atlas historique mondial, Georges Duby (Larousse, 1978), and from Genealogy of the Kings of France, Claude Wenzler (Editions Ouest-France, Rennes, 2008).)

413 - 436

Gundahar / Gunther

First Burgundian king west of the Rhine. Killed by Huns & Aëtius.

437 - 473


443 - 458

As part of a settlement with Rome, the Burgundians expand into Sapaduia (Cisjurane), or Savoy, in 443. The magister militum, Aëtius, had apparently been pursuing a policy of extending the settlement of friendly (or defeated) barbarians within Gaul under treaty, rather than Roman reconquest. The former is certainly easier given the lack of resources. However, the barbarians are rarely content to remain with what Rome can 'gift' them, and the Burgundians add Switzerland in 450 and further expand into Sequania (Transjurane, the former tribal lands of the Sequani tribe) in 458.


Rechiar of the Suevi is responsible for a large number of raids on the Roman Iberian province of Hispania Tarraconensis over the past seven years, with tacit approval by the Visigoths. Now the Visigoth king, Theodoric II, changes his policy and turns on the Suevi. He leads a large army which is bolstered by Burgundians under Gundioc and Chilperic, crossing the Pyrenees and defeating Rechiar at a site close to the modern town of Astorga in north-western Iberia.


The Visigoths have to fight a combined imperial army consisting of Romans, troops from Soissons under Comes Paulus, Burgundian foederati, and joint federate Britanni.

472 - 473

Gundobad, son of Gundioc, is the nephew of Ricimer. When the latter dies, Gundobad claims his position as commander of the Western Roman empire. When his father dies in 473, the Burgundian kingdom is left to the four sons, but Gundobad ensures it falls to him alone.

Map of Western Europe between AD 481-511
With the accession of Clovis, son of Childeric I of the Salian Franks, the Germanic occupiers of north-eastern Gaul had found a king who would change their fortunes out of all recognition, and it would soon have repercussions for the Burgundians (click or tap on map to view full sized)

473 - 474


Son. Killed by Gundobad.

473 - 486


Brother. Killed by Gundobad.

473 - 500


Brother. Killed by Gundobad.

473 - 516

Gundobad / Gontebaud

Brother. Western Roman Commander (472-473).


Gundobad is defeated in battle near Dijon by Clovis of the Franks.


The new king of the Visigoths is tentatively accepted by his nobles, but is unable to hold Narbonne against the Burgundians.

509 - 510

The Ostrogoths intervene at Narbonne, driving out both Visigoths and Burgundians. This forces the Franks and Burgundians to withdraw from the Mediterranean coast.


Clovis, the powerful founder of the Frankish kingdom, dies and his domain is divided between his four sons. The kingdom of Austrasia is created in the north-east of France, bordering the Burgundians, while that of Orleans borders it on the west.

Map of Western Europe at the death of Clovis in AD 511
The death of Clovis in 511 saw his realm chopped up into several smaller kingdoms, creating Austrasia, Paris, Orleans, and Soissons (although the latter had already existed as a separate domain until its conquest by Clovis in 486 - click or tap on map to view full sized)

516 - 524


Captured by Franks and assassinated.

516 - 534

Gudomar / Godomar



Sigismund had earlier assassinated the cousin of the four ruling Frankish kings. Now all of them join in an expedition against him and he is captured. The victorious Franks return home, leaving a garrison behind, but Sigismund's brother, Gudomar, arrives with troops supplied by his ally, the Ostrogoths, and the garrison is massacred. Chlodomer of Orleans has Sigismund and his sons, Gisald and Gondebaud, assassinated on 1 May 524 and leads a second expedition against the Burgundians. He is killed at the Battle of Vézeronce, although the Franks are victorious.


The kingdom is overthrown by the Franks and is relegated to a Frankish sub-kingdom. At some point around this date, the Burgundians take Provence from the Ostrogoths, but then it is almost immediately transferred to the Franks.

Merovingian Kingdom of Burgundy
AD 534 - 843

The great empire-builder of the Franks, Clovis, succeeded his father in AD 481 as the Frankish ruler or Camaracum (Cambrai) and Tournai in north-eastern Gaul (now in Belgium). He went on to consolidate a single Frankish kingdom which he was able to hand on to his sons, converting the Franks to Christianity in 497 and ruthlessly eliminating his rivals. All the time he was expanding his influence southwards from the Tournai region. He took the Western Roman province of Belgica Secunda in 486 (better known by this time as the enlargened domain of Soissons), the territories of the Alemanni in 496, the Burgundians in 500, and the Visigoths in 507. The Franks quickly became the dominant Germanic tribe not only in Gaul but throughout central and Western Europe. The territory that forms modern France and Germany, and south to central Italy, soon became known as Francia.

The Pactus Legis Salicae (Law of the Salian Franks) was a written code which combined customary law, Roman written law, Christian ideals, and royal edicts, and this most likely originated during the reign of Clovis. It had a strong influence on what would happen to the Frankish kingdom over the next few centuries. When Clovis died in 511, tradition and his own codified Salic Law demanded that his holdings be divided equally among his sons. One of them, Childebert I, inherited the kingdom of Paris (otherwise known as Neustria and now northern France), while Orleans went to Chlodomer (upper central France), Austrasia went to Theuderich (the modern Netherlands, Austria, and northern Germany), and Soissons to Chlothar, the youngest of the brothers.

Despite their defeat in AD 500 at the hands of the Franks, the Burgundians were only truly conquered in stages. Theudebert I of Austrasia (son of Theuderich) captured the northern regions, Childebert I took the central regions for Neustria, and Chlothar seized the southern area for Soissons. The latter swiftly consolidated his rule over all of the Burgundian lands, annexing them directly to his kingdom. It wasn't until Chlothar's death, when the Frankish kingdom was again partitioned, that his third son, Guntrumn, became Burgundy's first independent ruler.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Ethnology of Germany Part 3: The Migration of the Saxons, Henry H Howorth (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 7, 1878), and from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967).)

534 - 561

Clotaire / Chlothar I

King of the Franks of Soissons.


When Chlothar dies in 561, his third son, Gunthchramn or Guntramn - by his Thuringian wife Ingunda, daughter of King Baderich - gains Burgundy during the division of the Frankish kingdom (not to be confused with another of Clothar's sons - Chramn of Aquitaine - who had been killed in 560). Of the rest of Chlothar's domains, Charibert gains Paris and Orleans as Neustria, Sigisbert I gains Austrasia, and Chilperic I gains Soissons.

Gunthchramn and Childebert II
Gunthchramn of Burgundy is shown here (with dark hair) seated next to Childebert II of Austrasia, in a beautifully-coloured plate from the Grandes Chroniques de France

Gunthchramn's name is a slightly odd one. The first half is the familiar 'gunther' (also Gundahari) which means 'war army' with 'man' implied instead of stated, as in Guntherman (shortened to Guzman in Spanish use). This probably comes from his mother, Ingunda, who has the same ending in her name, 'gund', plus a feminine suffix, '-a' (the 'Ing' first part of her name comes from an ancient Indo-Iranian word, meaning 'life, the world, the people of the world' or, in Avestan, 'angha' - the Old Iranian initial letter 'a' becomes an 'i' in Germanic languages).

The second part of Gunthchramn's name, 'chramn', means 'raven'. That combination, war-army-raven, makes one suspect that he has dark hair (the coloured plate from Grandes Chroniques de France, below, would seem to support this), perhaps from his mother's side? Raven is code for dark hair, as are most colours when used as names in Germanic and Celtic languages in the tribal and early kingdom days. The 'Gunth-' is probably dropped in familiar daily use, with people calling him Raven.

561 - 593

Gunthchramn / Guntramn / Gontrand

Son. Signed Treaty of Andelot (588). Count of Breton March?


When Sigisbert of Austrasia is assassinated, his widow and son put themselves under the protection of Childebert's uncle, Guntramn, and he adopts the boy as his own son.


The Lombards invade the Merovingian Frankish region of Provence. In return, the Frankish king of Austrasia, Childebert II, and Guntramn invade Lombard Italy. They capture Trent and open negotiations with the Eastern Roman emperor via Ravenna, perhaps with the view of carving up Italy between them. The Lombards, fearing Frankish domination, elect a king to end their disunity. He is successful in throwing out the invaders and restoring the strength of the kingdom.

587 - 590

Gunthchramn of Burgundy compels Waroch of Bro Erech to renew his oath in writing and demands a thousand solidi in compensation for raiding Nantes. The city clearly remains a Frankish possession, still part of the Breton March, although why it is Gunthchramn of distant Burgundy who is doing the demanding is unclear. The possibility exists that he may be fulfilling the role of military governor of the Breton March. That compensation has not been paid by 588, even though Waroch has promised it both to Gunthchramn and Chlothar II of the Franks. In 589 or 590, Gunthchramn sends an expedition against Waroch under the command of Beppolem and Ebrachain. Ebrachain is an enemy of Fredegund, queen consort to the late King Chilperic, and it is she who sends the Saxons of Bayeux to aid Waroch.

Beppolem fights Waroch alone for three days before dying, at which point Waroch attempts to flee to the Channel Islands. Ebrachain destroys his ships and forces him to accept renewed peace, the renewal of his oath, and surrendering a nephew as a hostage. Despite all of this, the Bretons retain their spirit of independence and refuse to be cowed by the powerful Franks.

593 - 595

On the death of Guntramn, his adopted son, Childebert of Austrasia annexes the kingdom. When Childebert himself dies just two years later, his second son, Theuderich receives the Burgundian kingdom. His eldest son, Theudebert, receives Austrasia.

595 - 613

Theuderich / Thierry II

Son of Childebert II of Austrasia.

605 - 606

Upon the death of Childebert of Austrasia in 595, the Thurgau, Kembsgau, and Alsace had all passed to Burgundy under Theuderich II. Now in 605 Theuderich goes to war with his brother, Theudebert II of Austrasia. His army, which does not want to fight its Austrasian countrymen, he places under the command of Protadius with instructions to induce the soldiers to fight.

In 606 at Quierzy-sur-Oise, Theuderich re-assembles the army, but the men once again refuse to fight their countrymen. The king orders Uncilen, duke of Alemannia, to coerce them. Uncilen, however, declares that the king has ordered the death of Protadius. The despised general is promptly killed by his troops and the king is forced to sign a treaty with Austrasia. Queen Brunhilda, who had induced Theuderich to war, has Uncilen's foot removed. According to the Lex Alamannorum, a duke is only eligible for office if he can mount a horse. Being unable to continue to exercise his office, Uncilen is removed.


Sigisbert / Sigebert (II)

Son. 'False' king of Burgundy & Austrasia. Killed by Clothar II.



Great-grandmother and regent.

613 - 751

Chlothar II manoeuvres the nobles of Austrasia into abandoning Brunhilda and Sigisbert, the illegitimate son of Theuderich. They are both captured and put to death (painfully and prolonged in the case of Brunhilda). The Frankish empire is reunited under Chlothar II, and it seems likely that Gunzo, duke of Alemannia and father of Sigisbert's fiancé, is removed from his office. Clothar's son, Dagobert I, continues to hold the empire together, but after he dies, Burgundy is ruled by his son, Clovis II, as king of the Franks & Neustria in 638-656. Burgundy remains united to Neustria, but with its own administration.

Map of the Frankish Empire in AD 800
The death of Brunhilda
Brunhilda, long a bitter enemy of Clothar II, was tied to the feet of wild horses and torn apart. After this, the Liber Historiae Francorum states that 'finally she died', while above is a map of Frankish-dominated Europe around AD 800 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

751 - 840

With the Pope's blessing, the Carolingian mayors of the palace depose the Merovingians and take control of the empire. Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy are controlled directly.

840 - 843

Louis I wills the Frankish empire to his sons, but tries to ensure that the eldest gains the biggest share, in order to avoid the fragmentation of territory which so weakened the Merovingians. Lothar receives Middle Francia (the Rhine corridor, the kingdom of Burgundy, and Italy), while Charles 'the Bald' receives Western Francia (France and the duchy of Burgundy).

Frankish Kingdom of (Upper) Burgundy
AD 843 - 1032

Subjugated by the Huns in 437, the Burgundians had accepted Roman federate status and essentially moved into the vacuum of dwindling Roman power, being ceded Roman lands in 443 and 458. They were conquered in stages by the growing power of the Merovingian Frankish kingdom, but upon the death of Chlothar I the kingdom was partitioned and his son, Guntrumn, became Burgundy's first independent ruler. Eventually that independence was whittled away by various dynastic alliances before the Carolingians usurped command and united the Frankish lands as a single empire.

The partition of the Frankish empire that was agreed by the Treaty of Verdun in 843 also resulted in the division of the Burgundian territories. The larger part of the kingdom lay on the east bank of the River Saône. This fell to Lothar, king of Middle Francia, to rule directly, and it continued to be known as the kingdom of Burgundy. Its capital was at Arles, thanks to which it is occasionally known as the Burgundian kingdom of Arles. The lesser division, on the west bank of the Saône, formed the duchy of Burgundy. However, it should be noted that this southern duchy was distinct from Lower Burgundy itself, on the eastern side of the Saône, which remained part of the kingdom of Burgundy.

(Additional information from Sword, Miter, and Cloister: Nobility and the Church in Burgundy, 980-1198, Constance Brittain Bouchard (New York 1987), and from Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Neue Folge, Band II, Detlev Schwennicke (Marburg, 1984).)

843 - 855

Lothar I of Middle Francia rules the kingdom directly. On his death, the kingdom of Burgundy is further divided between his sons. Lothar II receives Lotharingia and northern (Upper) Burgundy, while Charles receives southern (Lower) Burgundy, which includes Lyon, Provence, and Vienne (former city of the Allobroges tribe), and which comes to be known as the kingdom of Provence.

Map of the Frankish empire at the Treaty of Verdun AD 843
King Louis 'the Pious' of the Frankish empire attempted to leave the empire intact for his eldest son, Lothar, but the others rebelled at the idea. The treaty of Verdun in AD 843 confirmed the official division of the empire between Charlemagne's three surviving grandsons (click or tap on map to view full sized)

855 - 869

Upper Burgundy is ruled directly by Lothar II, king of Lotharingia.

863 - 875

Louis II

King of France.


The death of Louis the German, king of East Francia, results in his territory being divided between his three sons. This is something that he had already foreseen, and portions of territory had been appointed to each of them in 865. Now in a peaceful succession, Carloman inherits Bavaria and the Ostmark, Louis the Younger gains Franconia (which includes the Hessi lands), Saxony, and Thuringia, while Charles 'the Fat' succeeds to Rhaetia and Alemannia (Swabia). As the oldest son, Carloman also retains de facto dominance over the Eastern Franks as a whole.

879 - 880

Boso of the House of Ardennes declares himself king in 879. His brother, Richard the Justicier, splits with him and seizes his county of Autin. Their sister is Richildis, second wife of Charles 'the Bald'. Richard's support of Charles' successor, Carolman II, earns him the position of margrave of Burgundy in 880, and he later becomes its first duke (by 890). Carloman II, still holds the duchy as his own possession but now desires to install a local 'manager'.

879 - 887

Boso of Lower Burgundy & Provence

Brother of Richard, first duke of Burgundy.

887 - 928

Louis III of Lower Burgundy & Provence

Emperor of Eastern Franks. King of Provence & Italy.


Burgundy regains control of the Swiss territories.

928 - 933

Hugh of Arles of Lower Burgundy

King of Italy (926-947) & Emperor (933).


Provence ceases to be a separate kingdom when Hugh exchanges it with Rudolph II of Upper Burgundy for the crown of Lombardy, otherwise known as the kingdom of Italy.

888 - 912

Rudolf I of Upper Burgundy

Supported by Richard the Justicier of Burgundy.

912 - 937

Rudolf II of Upper Burgundy

King of Italy (922-926), Lower Burgundy (933) & Emperor (922).

921 - 923

Segments of the Italian nobility are unhappy with Berengar of Friuli, so they invite Rudolph to take the throne. At the same time, Berengar's own grandson, Berengar of Ivrea, is encouraged by Rudolph to rise against him. Berengar retreats to Verona and watches helpless as Italy is ravished by invading Magyars, their attacks being the trigger for a change of leadership in Italy in the first place. Rudolph's forces unite with the men of Berengar of Ivrea and defeat those of Berengar of Friuli at the Battle of Fiorenzuola on 29 July 923. Rudolf rules Italy and also holds the title of Germanic Roman Emperor, only to find a rival in Hugh of Arles.

936 - 937

Rudolf, the son-in-law of and successor to Robert I of West Francia, and still the duke of Burgundy, has ruled with the agreement of Robert's son, Hugh the White (referred to as Hugh 'the Great' by the time he becomes duke of Aquitaine in 955). Rudolf has been fighting the Magyars, the Germans, and the Normans, but he dies without an heir.

Hugh the White, expecting to become king in his place, is forced to lead a coalition against the rightful heir, Louis IV d'Outremer. Louis allies himself to Otto I of Saxony and Conrad the Peaceful, king of Burgundy, and takes possession of Reims, whereas Hugh is excommunicated by the Pope. Hugh and Louis are reconciled, but Hugh the Black of the duchy of Burgundy has also been opposing Louis, so the latter sends Hugh the White against him. Auxerre and Sens are captured, and the duchy is divided between the two Hughs.

937 - 993

Conrad the Peaceful


With the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I the Elder is restored in Flanders, and the March of Austria is formed from territory which has already been captured from early Hungary (around 960).

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern those territories which are shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

993 - 1032

Rudolf III


Savoy becomes a county in its own right when Rudolf grants the title of count to Humbert White Hands, a great-grandson of Louis III of Burgundy.

1002 - 1004

Yet again a ruling duke of Burgundy fails to produce an heir. However, Duke Otto-Henry does have a stepson by his first wife, Gerberga of Mâcon, widow of Adalbert II of Italy. It is this man, Otto William, who succeeds him, but the supporters of Robert II of Capetian France see an opportunity to oppose him. A two year war of succession results, with the duchy being permanently divided in 1004.

The Free County of Burgundy largely incorporates territory from the kingdom of Burgundy on the east bank of the Saône, but a small portion of the duchy of Burgundy in the north - on the western bank of the Saône - is also incorporated into it, with ultimate control being vested in the kings of Germany and their successors (following the death of its current holder, Otto William, count of Mâcon and Nevers and the new duke of Burgundy). The remainder of the duchy is annexed to France by Robert the Pious.


Following the death of Robert the Pious of France, he is succeeded as king of France by his son, Henry. The duchy of Burgundy on the west bank of the Saône, however, is granted to another son, Robert I of Burgundy, founder of the House of Burgundy.


As agreed by Rudolf III in 1006, following his death and with no heir to succeed him, the kingdom (including its Swiss territories) is inherited by Franconian Emperor Conrad II the Salian. Although the kingdom continues to operate with a fair degree of autonomy, from this point onwards, the emperors also count themselves as kings of Arles. In 1038, Burgundy is handed by Conrad to his son, Henry the Black, along with the neighbouring duchy of Swabia.

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