BERRY, or Berri, a former province of France, absorbed in 1790 in the departments of Cher, corresponding roughly with Haut-Berry, and Indre, representing Bas-Berry. George Sand, the most famous of “berrichon” writers, has described the quiet scenery and rural life of the province in the rustic novels of her later life. Berry is the civitas or pagus Bituricensis of Gregory of Tours. The Bituriges were said by Livy (v. 34) to have been the dominating tribe in Gaul in the 7th century, one of their kings, Ambigat, having ruled over all Gaul. In Caesar’s time they were dependent on the Aedui. The tribes inhabiting the districts of Berry and Bourbonnais were distinguished as Bituriges Cubi. The numerous menhirs and dolmens to be found in the district, to which local superstitions still cling, are probably monuments of still earlier inhabitants. In 52 B.C. the Bituriges, at the order of Vercingetorix, set fire to their towns, but spared Bourges (Avaricum) their capital, which was taken and sacked by the Romans. The province was amalgamated under Augustus with Aquitaine, and Bourges became the capital of Aquitania Prima. In 475 Berry came into the possession of the west Goths, from whom it was taken (c. 507) by Clovis. The first count of Berry, Chunibert (d. 763), was created by Waifer, duke of Aquitaine, from whom the county was wrested by Pippin the Short, who made it his residence and left it to his son Carloman, on whose death it fell to his brother Charlemagne. The countship of Berry was suppressed (926) by Rudolph, king of the Franks (fl. 923–936). Berry was for some time a group of lordships dependent directly on the crown, but the chief authority eventually passed to the viscounts of Bourges, who, while owning the royal suzerainty, preserved a certain independence until 1101, when the viscount Odo Arpin de Dun sold his fief to the crown. Berry was part of the dowry of Eleanor, wife of Louis VII., and on her divorce and remarriage with Henry II. of England it passed to the English king. Its possession remained, however, a matter of dispute until 1200, when Berry reverted by treaty with John of England to Philip Augustus, and the various fiefs of Berry were given as a dowry to John’s niece, Blanche of Castile, on her marriage with Philip’s son Louis (afterwards Louis VIII.). Philip Augustus established an effective control over the administration of the province by the appointment of a royal bailli. Berry suffered during the Hundred Years’ War, and more severely during the wars of religion in the 16th century. It had been made a duchy in 1360, and its first duke, John [Jean] (1340–1416), son of the French king John II., encouraged the arts and beautified the province with money wrung from his government of Languedoc. Thenceforward it was held as an apanage of the French crown, usually by a member of the royal family closely related to the king. Charles of France (1447–1472), brother of Louis XI, was duke of Berry, but was deprived of this province, as subsequently of the duchies of Normandy and Guienne, for intrigues against his brother. The duchy was also governed by Jeanne de Valois (d. 1505), the repudiated wife of Louis XII.; by Marguerite d’Angoulême, afterwards queen of Navarre; by Marguerite de Valois, afterwards duchess of Savoy; and by Louise of Lorraine, widow of Henry III., after whose death (1601) the province was finally reabsorbed in the royal domain. The title of duke of Berry, divested of territorial significance, was held by princes of the royal house. Charles (1686–1714), duke of Berry, grandson of Louis XIV., and third son of the dauphin Louis (d. 1711), married Marie Louise Elisabeth (1686–1714), eldest daughter of the duke of Orleans, whose intrigues made her notorious. The last to bear the title of duke of Berry was the ill-fated Charles Ferdinand, grandson and heir of Charles X.
- See R. le Maulde, Jeanne de France, duchesse d’Orléans et de Berry (Paris, 1883).