Burgundian Imperial Circle


Description Locator Map of the Burgundian Circle of Holy Roman Empire. Date 28 March 2010 Source PERTHES ATLAS Geschichte Author Sir Iain Permission Attribution ShareAlike 3.0

The Circle was formed in 1512 and most of the lands within it were those inherited by the Habsburgs through the marriage of the (future) Emperor Maximilian with the heiress of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1477.   These consisted of the Netherlands territories of the Dukes of Burgundy (to which the Emperor Charles V added Utrecht and Gelderland) and also, though it was separated from them by the lands of Lorraine, the Free County of Burgundy (the Franche-Comté).   A number of lesser lordships in the Netherlands, including the possessions acquired by the House of Nassau, also belonged to the Circle, but the ecclesiastical principalities did not.   Since the Habsburg rulers of the Netherlands could determine policy for most of the lands within their own institutions the Circle was virtually a dead letter from the beginning.

In 1548 Charles V exempted the lands of the Circle from many of the responsibilities of belonging to the Empire.   The Habsburg lands passed to his son, Philip II of Spain and his heirs.     As a result of the Dutch revolt in the 16th century the northern lands of the Circle virtually seceded;  their independence was recognised in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.   In the second half of the 17th century the Spanish Habsburgs also lost the Franche-Comté and the southern fringes of the southern Netherlands to France.

The name of the Circle did not derive from the old Kingdom of Burgundy even though the Free County of Burgundy lay in the north of that Kingdom.   Rather it came from the Duchy of Burgundy, whose Dukes of the House of Valois had gathered together much of the Netherlands in their possession.    The Habsburgs had inherited the Free County and the Netherlands territories from them, but not the French Duchy.    They claimed it however and used the title of Duke of Burgundy.

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