Lordship in the Holy Roman Empire, and later a Duchy in the borderlands between France and the southern Netherlands. The town of Bouillon is at the present time near the French frontier and northeast of Sedan. It stands on the River Semois in the Ardennes in the Belgian province of Luxembourg.
The lordship was held by the great Ardennes family that held the Duchy of Lower Lorraine in the 11th century, and was inherited in 1076 by Godfrey, the son of Count Eustace II of Boulogne and Ida, the sister of Godfrey the Hunchback, last Duke of his House. Godfrey of Bouillon proved so loyal to the Emperor Henry IV that in 1088 he was granted the Duchy of Lower Lorraine, that had been withheld from him in 1076. He was one of the princes who responded to the call to the First Crusade – he died in 1100 as Keeper of the Holy Sepulchre – and he sold Bouillon to the Bishop of Liège in 1096.
In 1482 the brother of the Lord of Sedan, Robert de la Marck, murdered the Bishop and next year obliged the chapter to grant the lordship of Bouillon to him and his brother. Because it had once been held by the Duke of Lower Lorraine, Bouillon counted as a Duchy, even though its size was puny. Although Bouillon was restored to the Bishop of Liège in 1559 as part of the peace settlement between France and Spain, the La Marck lords of Sedan continued to use the title of Duke of Bouillon. Sedan and the titular Dukedom passed to the family of La Tour d’Auvergne in 1594. In 1641 Duke Frederick Maurice was obliged to surrender Sedan to France. His son recovered Bouillon in 1678, but under the protection of King Louis XIV, whose troops had taken the Duchy from a Bishop too sympathetic to Spain.
Bouillon was thus more or less added to France, the rights of the Duke being abolished with the Revolution. Bouillon remained in France in 1814, but after Napoleon’s Hundred Days it was added to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, whose ruler was the King of the united Netherlands. In 1830 Bouillon was held by the new Belgian Kingdom, though it was not until 1839 that Luxembourg was divided into a Grand Duchy and a Belgian province by international agreement. Bouillon lies in the southwest of the province.