- An Ancien Régime gouvernement in northern France.
Originally the district around the city of Arras, it later included the Ternois to the west and northwest and the districts around Bethune and St Omer.
In the later 9th century Artois and Ternois formed a marcher region in the Kingdom of the West Franks under the command of Raoul, a Carolingian through his mother, and Abbot of the great monastery of St Vaast, in Arras. After his death in 892, Baldwin II of Flanders got control, and except that it was twice temporarily lost to the King of France in the 10th century, it remained with Flanders until the marriage of Isabella of Hainault, niece of Count Philip of Flanders, to Philip Augustus, King of France. Artois was her dowry.
Their son, King Louis VIII, left Artois as an appanage to his second son, Robert, in 1226 (effective from 1237). When Count Robert II was killed in battle in 1302, his son having died before him, the County passed to his daughter, Matilda, rather than his infant grandson, Robert of Artois, who consequently became one of the biggest troublemakers of the 14th century. Matilda was married to the Count of Burgundy; Jeanne, her daughter and successor, was wife of King Philip V of France. On Jeanne’s death in 1330 Artois passed to her elder daughter, also called Jeanne, whose line ended in 1361 with the death of her grandson Philip le Rouvre, last of the Capetian Dukes of Burgundy. Artois then passed to the elder Jeanne’s second daughter, Margaret. After the death of Margaret’s son and heir, Count Louis II of Flanders, in 1384, his lands passed to his daughter, the widow of Philip le Rouvre, and to her second husband, Philip the Bold, the first Valois Duke of Burgundy. Thus, with Flanders, Artois was the foundation for the Burgundian state in the Netherlands later built by the Valois Dukes.
When the last of them, Charles the Rash, was killed in 1477, King Louis XI seized Artois and in 1482 an elaborate diplomatic arrangement was made to give due legality to the coup. The heir of France, the future Charles VIII, was betrothed to Margaret, infant daughter of Maximilian of Austria and Mary of Burgundy, the heiress of Charles the Rash. Pending the marriage, Artois was to be held by France as dowry. The arrangement fell through in 1491. Maximilian, a widower, had become betrothed to Anne, heiress of Brittany. France had no wish to see the future Emperor as ruler of this northwestern part of the Kingdom, and Anne was obliged to marry Charles VIII.
Artois had perforce to be returned to Philip, brother of the jilted Margaret and son of the frustrated Maximilian. In 1525, after his capture at Pavia, King Francis I was forced to acknowledge that neither Flanders nor Artois belonged to, nor any longer owed any allegiance to, the Kingdom of France.
Not until 1659 did Arras and the Ternois return to France and it was 1679 before St Omer and northern Artois did. Artois became part of the gouvernement of Picardy, though it kept its Estates unlike the rest of Picardy. In 1754 Artois left the généralité of Amiens, which was responsible for Picardy, and became part of the intendancy for Flanders & Artois. In 1765 it became a separate gouvernement, and remained as such until the Revolution, when it became the greater part of the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, of which Arras is capital.