Beatrice of Burgundy and Robert of Clermont, Armorial from Guillaume Revel, XVth c.

In total, twelve lords, four dames, nine dukes and three duchesses succeeded as the head of the duchy in nearly six hundred years, from the birth of the fiefdom, in around 950 A.D. to 1532. It is at that date that the duchy returned to the crown when the male line became extinct.

The name of the first known Bourbon ancestor, Aimard, appears in 909 in a famous charter, the donation deed by which William of Aquitaine founded the well-known Cluny abbey in Southern Burgundy for a Benedictine congregation.

In 915, Aimard, holder of a public office in Deneuvre (today Châtel-de-Neuvre, by the Allier River) for the Duke of Aquitaine, imitated his overlord in founding what would become the first of the five Cluniac priories: Souvigny.

Mayeul and Odilon of Mercœur, two famous Cluniac abbots met their death in Souvigny in 994 and 1049. Venerated as saints in their lifetime, the pilgrimage which started in Souvigny at their grave in the XIth c. brought fame and legitimacy to the Archambauds of Bourbon (along with substantial revenues).

Aimard’s son, Aimon I, can be considered the first lord of Bourbon in around 950. He signed two deeds confirming the Souvigny donation to Cluny from the castle. His descendants, the Archambauds, gave birth to a powerful dynasty for the next three hundred years in Bourbon. They continuously and forcefully looked after their territorial expansion whilst handling tactfully the susceptibilities of the French kings. This diplomacy, combining loyalty to the crown and will of independence, led the lords of Bourbon closer and closer to the royal power.

In a blaze of glory, the heir to the fiefdom, Beatrice of Burgundy married Robert of Clermont, Saint Louis’ sixth son, in 1276. The Bourbons thus became the youngest branch of the Capetians, and the seigneury was elevated to the status of a duchy in 1327 for their son Louis.

© March 2023

Le Bourbonnais au Xe s., entre Bourgogne et Aquitaine