BOULOGNE Boulonnais (pays).
- A medieval county in northern France;
- A petit gouvernement in the Ancien Régime;
- A Bishopric.
The town of Boulogne-sur-Mer stands on the English Channel as it becomes the Straits of Dover.
1. The County was an old Carolingian one and in the 10th century was held either by the Count of Flanders or a member of his family. In the 1030s it was held by the Count of Ponthieu (which is to the south of the Boulonnais) and from the 1040s until 1125 by three Counts called Eustace. Eustace II’s first wife was the sister of Edward the Confessor. He also held land in Kent, notably at Dover, where he and his men were the cause of a crisis in 1051. Eustace II later took part in the Conquest, but the Conqueror was more difficult to influence than the Confessor. His two younger sons were prominent in the First Crusade. Godfrey of Bouillon became the Keeper of the Holy Sepulchre in 1099, and was succeeded in 1100 by his brother Baldwin, who did not share Godfrey’s scruples and so did not hesitate to become King of Jerusalem.
Their brother, Eustace III, left Boulogne to his daughter, Matilda, who was married to Stephen of Blois, King of England 1135-54. Their two sons died childless; Mary, the heiress, was taken from a nunnery and married to the brother of the Count of Flanders. She left an heiress, Ida, who carried the County to four husbands in succession. In her turn she left an heiress, Matilda, who married a brother of the King of France and then Alfonso, brother of the King of Portugal. When Alfonso succeeded to the Kingdom in 1245, he ditched the Countess Matilda, and Boulogne later passed to her cousin, the Duke of Brabant, who gave it to his aunt, the wife of the Count of Auvergne. For more than a century and a half these two small counties, miles apart, were jointly held, until in 1419 Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, grabbed Boulogne to round off his territories in Artois. The King of France recognised the acquisition in 1435, but on the death of Charles the Rash in 1477, King Louis XI united Boulogne to France.
The town was temporarily lost in 1544 when Henry VIII seized it for England, though it was returned in 1550.
2. The Boulonnais remained a separate petit gouvernement, and as such a military command, though small in size. Boulogne’s neighbour, Artois, was a Spanish possession until the reign of Louis XIV. As far as much of the civil and fiscal admistration was concerned, the Boulonnais was joined to Picardy in the généralité of Amiens.
In 1790 the Boulonnais and Artois were joined to form the Department of the Pas-de-Calais.
3. There was a diocese of Boulogne in the late Roman era, but it was soon absorbed into that of Thérouanne. The town of Thérouanne was sacked in 1553 during the war between France and Spain, and the diocese was eventually replaced by three new ones, including Boulogne, which was created in the province of Reims in 1567. It was suppressed in 1790, when Arras became the diocese for the Pas-de-Calais.