AUVERGNE, formerly a province of France, corresponding to the departments of Cantal and Puy-de-Dôme, with the arrondissement of Brioude in Haute-Loire. It contains many mountains volcanic in origin (Plomb du Cantal, Puy de Dôme, Mont Dore), fertile valleys such as that of Limagne, vast pasture-lands, and numerous medicinal springs. Up to the present day the population retains strongly-marked Celtic characteristics. In the time of Caesar the Arverni were a powerful confederation, the Arvernian Vercingetorix being the most famous of the Gallic chieftains who fought against the Romans. Under the empire Arvernia formed part of Prima Aquitania, and the district shared in the fortunes of Aquitaine during the Merovingian and Carolingian periods. Auvergne was the seat of a separate countship before the end of the 8th century; the first hereditary count was William the Pious (886). By the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine with Henry Plantagenet, the countship passed under the suzerainty of the kings of England, but at the same time it was divided, William VII., called the Young (1145-1168), having been despoiled of a portion of his domain by his uncle William VIII., called the Old, who was supported by Henry II. of England, so that he only retained the region bounded by the Allier and the Coux. It is this district that from the end of the 13th century was called the Dauphiné d'Auvergne. This family quarrel occasioned the intervention of Philip Augustus, king of France, who succeeded in possessing himself of a large part of the country, which was annexed to the royal domains under the name of Terre d'Auvergne. As the price of his concurrence with the king in this matter, the bishop of Clermont, Robert I. (1195-1227), was granted the lordship of the town of Clermont, which subsequently became a countship. Such was the origin of the four great historic lordships of Auvergne. The Terre d'Auvergne was first an appanage of Count Alphonse of Poitiers (1241-1271), and in 1360 was erected into a duchy in the peerage of France (duché-pairie) by King John II. in favour of his son John, through whose daughter the new title passed in 1416 to the house of Bourbon. The last duke, the celebrated constable Charles of Bourbon, united the domains of the Dauphiné to those of the duchy, but all were confiscated by the crown in consequence of the sentence which punished the constable's treason in 1527. The countship, however, had passed in 1422 to the house of La Tour, and was not annexed to the domain until 1615. The administration of the royal province of Auvergne was organized under Louis XIV. At the time of the revolution it formed what was called a "government," with two divisions: Upper Auvergne (Aurillac), and Lower Auvergne (Clermont).
Bibliography. - Baluze, Histoire généalogique de la maison d'Auvergne (1708); André Imberdis, Histoire générale de l'Auvergne (1867); J. B. M. Bielawski, Histoire de la comté d'Auvergne et de sa capitale Vic-le-Comte (1868); B. Gonot, Catalogue des ouvrages imprimés et manuscrits concernant l'Auvergne (1849). See further Chevalier, Répertoire des sources hist., Topobibliographie, s.v.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)