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Nivernais (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2010-11-12 by ivan sache
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[Nivernais]

Flag of Nivernais - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 1 June 2003


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History of Nivernais

The town 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 it 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 5th 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 Theudebert I, 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 Guntram, King of Orléans and Burgundy, after the second share of the kingdom (561).

Nivernais became a County at the end of the 9th century. The first hereditary Count of Nivernais was Otto William (d. 1027), from the first house of Burgundy. In 1184, King of France Philip II Augustus married Agnes of Nevers, the last heir of Nivernais, to Peter II of Courtenay. In 1199, Peter's daughter married Hervé of Donzy, so that Nivernais and Donziais merged together. In 1272, the house of Dampierre recieved Nivernais by marriage, and was succeeded 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 Cleves received Nivernais by marriage.

Nivernais became a Duchy in 1538, granted to François of Eu, and subsequently transferred by marriage to the Gonzaga family, from Mantua, which kept it from 1565 to 1659. Louis Gonzaga, third son of the Duke of Mantua, called in Nevers several Italian craftmen and artists, developing glassmaking and enamels. Nevers specialized in spun glass used for representation of religious stories. The local production was shipped to Orléans and Angers via the river Loire. Gonzaga 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), of Regent Ann of Austria (1643-1651) and of young Louis XIV (1651-1661), purchased 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


Flag of Nivernais

The flag of Nivernais is a banner of the arms Bandé d'or et d'azur de six pièces à la bordure engrêlée de gueules (Bendy of six or and azure, within a border engrailed gules), ssigned 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).

The engrailed bordure is a brisure added to the arms of the first house of Burgundy, founded in 1032 by Robert the Strong, grandson of King Hugh Capet and brother of King Henry I. These arms are shown on the second and third quarters of the arms of Burgundy.

Meurgey presents two variants of the arms of the province:
- D'azur à trois fleurs de lis d'or à la bordure componée d'argent et de gueules qui est de Bourgogne moderne (Azure three fleurs-de-lis or a border compony argent and gules, that is Burgundy modern);
- D'azur semé de billettes d'or au lion du même brochant sur le tout armé et lampassé de gueules (Azure semy of billets or a lion of the same armed and langued gules, that is the arms of Franche-Comté, also used by the towns of Auxerre and Clamecy).

Ivan Sache, 14 June 2009