Robert de Dampierre (1271 - 1291)

NEVERS and the Counts of Nevers

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Nevers dates at least from Roman times when it was known as Noviodunum, and later as Nebirnum. It was a military depot for the Romans and became a bishopric at the end of the 5th century. Poey d'Avant (I:308) notes the early history of Nevers as an independent county is uncertain. "Le Nivernais fut .. detache des biens de la couronne et administre par des comtes dont histoire n'est pas etablie d'une maniere precise." Lavisse (382) notes that Charles the Bald  "recompense les comtes de Nevers et d'Auxerre" for injuries suffered at the hands of the Normands (Vikings), indicating the existence of the territory as a separate entity. Continuing, PdA indicates that at the end of the IX century Nevers passed into the possession of the ducs of Bourgogne. It was at this time the France was experiencing the breakup of the old Carolingian empire, after the death of Charles the Fat. In the north, Eudes, count of Paris was elected king of west Francia. A century later Henri le Grand passed Nevers on to his stepson ("fils adoptif" by PdA) Otto William in 987. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so, this is the year Hugh Capet came to the throne of France.

Otto William, who was also count of Macon, held it only five years before he passed it on to his daughter on her marriage, or actually, to his new son-in-law, Landri, "seigneur de Metz-le-Comte et de Montceaux." It became hereditary in this family, and successor families at this time. This was a period throughout west Francia when counties were shifting from the structure of royal appointment of the count to a hereditary holding. This move matched the decline in the power of the king to control extensive territory and influence affairs much beyond the royal fief. Hugh Capet might have reigned in France, but he really ruled over the small territory of the Ile de France.

The lineage of the counts of Nevers continues with text from an on-line encyclopedia from 1911, which comes with the proviso that new scholarship may have changed our historical understanding since then so use the information judiciously. The chronology it presents is consistent with that of Poey d'Avant, a 19th century (numismatic) source.

"The first house of the hereditary counts of Nevers originated in ... Landri, and was brought to an end in 1192 by the death of Agnes, countess of Nevers, wife of Pierre de Courtenay (d. 1217)." Marrying into a lineage and receiving a title involved obligations. At the turn of the millennium (1002), there was stress between the duc of Burgundy and the royal line, now represented by Robert, son of Hugh Capet. The Burgundians were in revolt against the crown. Says Guizot (224) "le roi Robert entra en Bourgogne a le tete d'une armee formidable, il etait accompagne de Richard, comte de Rouen, qui commandait trente mille Normands. Il venait punir la rebellion des Bourguignons." The army of Landri came to the aid of the Burgundians. "Le venerable Odilon, abbe de Cluny ... proposa d'intervenir entre les deux partis." There was siege, bluster, and finally "le seul de tout Bourgogne que fut declare por le roi" and ultimately there was reconcilation between the parties.

"The county subsequently passed by successive marriages into the houses of Donzy, Chatillon and Bourbon."

One of Landri's heirs, William IV, had the type of experience with the church, the appointment of bishops, that was not uncommon at this time. He willed the Bishop of Bethlehem the town of Pantenor, located near Clamency. When Bethlehem was pressed by muslim forces, the bishop was forced to withdraw and settled at Pantenor. The bishop's successors were subsequently appointed by the counts of Nevers, with the concurrence of the king and pope. (Catholic Encyclopedia - Nevers)

Continuing with the 1911 encyclopedia, "Mahaut de Bourbon brought the county of Nevers, together with those of Auxerre and Tonnerre, to her husband Odo (Eudes), son of Hugh IV., duke of Burgundy, in 1248. "

"Her eldest daughter, Yoland, received the county of Nevers as her dowry when in 1265 she married Jean Tristan, son of King Louis IX. She became a widow in 1270, and in 1272 married Robert de Dampierre, who became count of Flanders. Her descendant by her second marriage, Marguerite, daughter and heiress of Louis II. de Male, count of Flanders, married successively two dukes of Burgundy, Philip I. de Rouvre and Philip II. the Bold. Philip (d. 1415), the third son of Philip the Bold, received the counties of Nevers and of Rethel and the barony of Donzy. His last male descendant, John, died in 1491."

"The house of Cleves then inherited the Nivernais, which was (elevated) into a duchy by King Francis I. for Francis of Cleves in 1539. In 1565 Louis de Gonzaga (d. 1595), son of Frederick II., duke of Mantua, married Henrietta of Cleves, duchess of Nevers, and one of his descendants, Charles (d. 1665), sold the Nivernais to Cardinal Mazarin in 1659. The cardinal devised it to his nephew Philippe Jules Mancini, whose descendants possessed it until the French Revolution. The last duke of Nivernais, Louis Jules Barbon Mancini Mazarini, died in 1798."

 Sources:

Catholic Encyclopedia

Guizot, M, Collection des Memoires Relatifs a l'Histoire de France

Lavisse, E., Histoire de France Illustree

Poey d'Avant

on-line 1911 encyclopedia