Guyenne and Gascogne
Forming the southwest frontier of France, Guyenne and Gascogne are bordered by Saintonge, Angumois, and Marche to the north, Auvergne and Languedoc to the east, the Pyrénées and the kingdom of Spain to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It is the largest government in France.
The Romans called the original inhabitants of the region Aquitani after the large number of springs and mineral baths in the area; the Aquitani spoke an Iberian language different from their Celtic neighbors to the east. The Roman province of Aquitania stretched from the Loire River to the Pyrenees. During the collapse of the Roman empire, Aquitania was ceded to the Visigoths, who were in turn conquered by the Franks. The remote and fractious province, made a duchy by the Franks, shared more in common with the peoples to the south than the Franks in the north, and while the dukes of Aquitaine paid nominal fealty to the Merovigian kings, the duchy was for all intents and purposes independent in governance. In the eighth century Charlemagne elevated the duchy to a kingdom within his Carolingian Empire, naming his son Louis king of the realm; Charlemagne’s death touched off centuries of strife between his successors who claimed the kingdom and the local lords who refused their sovereignty. This state of affairs continued until the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Louis VII, king of France; Louis, however, later divorced Eleanor, who in turn married Henry II of England, and Aquitaine passed to the English crown until the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453, when it was annexed by France.
Guyenne is one of the most important wine-producing regions of France, exporting huge quantities to the rest of Europe through the ports of Bordeaux. Wheat, flax, prunes, saffron and silk are produced in those areas less suitable for viticulture, and the province includes copper and iron mines and marble and coal quarries. A brisk trade in Spanish wool also flows through the provincial ports.
The province is home to a large congregation of the Reformed Church; Bordeaux is also home to the largest community of Jews remaining in France, under the king’s suffrage.
The government of Guyenne includes the governor and two lieutenants-general, one for Guyenne and one for Gascogne and Bigorre; numerous royal lieutenants serve in the fortified towns and frontier fortresses of this strategically important province.
Cities, Towns, and Fortresses
- Bordeaux – the provincial capital
- Saint Sever
- La Garonne