Lorraine (duchy)

Lorraine (duchy)
Duchy of (Upper) Lorraine
Duché de (Haute-)Lorraine (fr)
Herzogtum (Ober-)Lothringen (de)
State of the Holy Roman Empire

Flag Coat of arms
Duchy of Lorraine in the year 1000
Capital Nancy
Government Principality
 - 959–978 Frederick I of Bar
 - 1737–1766 Stanisław Leszczyński
 - Lotharingia divided 959
 - Joined
    Upper Rhenish Circle
 - Annexed by France 1766

The Duchy of Upper Lorraine (French: Lorraine, IPA: [lɔʁɛn]; German: Lothringen) was an historical duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day northeastern Lorraine region of France, including parts of modern Luxembourg and Germany. The main cities were Metz, Verdun, and the historic capital Nancy.




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.

Lorraine (blue) about 1400

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 coures 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 War of the Polish Succession, Lorraine was part of an agreement between France, the House of Habsburg and the Lorraine House of Vaudémont: The Duchy was given to Stanisław Leszczyński, the former king of Poland and father-in-law to King Louis XV of France, who despite French support had lost out to a candidate backed by Russia and Austria in the War of the Polish Succession. The Lorraine duke Francis Stephen, betrothed to the Emperor's daughter Archduchess Maria Theresa, was compensated with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, where the last Medici ruler had recently died without issue. France also promised to support Maria Theresa as heir to the Habsburg possessions under the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. Leszczyński received Lorraine with the understanding that it would fall to the French crown upon his death. When Stanisław died on 23 February 1766, Lorraine was annexed by France and reorganized as a province by the French government.

Between France and Germany

The Lorraine region remained a contested territory between France and Germany.

Lorraine remained a part of the Holy Roman Empire until over repeated wars more and more was ceded to France. It was part of France until the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871, when northern parts of Lorraine around Metz, along with Alsace, were annexed by the newly-founded German Empire, causing a large number of French people to emigrate into France (including Algeria). The territories were not annexed by any state of the Empire or organised into a separate state, but were governed as the Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen under a governor directly appointed by the German Emperor, without any parliamentary representation. Only in 1911 was some degree of autonomy granted. Alsace-Lorraine remained a part of Germany until after the end of World War I, when the Kaiser abdicated and the Republic of Alsace-Lorraine declared itself independent, with support of the United States. France occupied the area after a few days and annexed it. Policies forbidding the use of German and requiring that of French were then begun.

In 1940, Nazi Germany re-annexed Alsace-Lorraine during World War II combining Lorraine 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.


The local Germanic dialect still survives in the northern part of the region. It is known as Lorraine Franconian in English, francique or platt (lorrain) in French (not to be confused with Lorrain, the Romance dialect spoken in the region). This is distinct from the neighbouring Alsatian language, although the two are often confused. Neither has any form of official recognition.

Like most of France's regional languages (such as Breton, Provençal and Alsatian) Lorraine Franconian was 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

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