The Duchy of Lorraine, originally Upper Lorraine Haute-Lorraine; Oberlothringen), was a duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day region of Lorraine in northeastern France. Parts of the former duchy are now also in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. The historic capital was Nancy. Other important centres were Metz, Verdun and Épinal.
Lorraine's predecessor Lotharingia was an independent Carolingian kingdom under the rule of King Lothair II (855–869). Its territory had originally been a part of Middle Francia, created in 843 by the Treaty of Verdun, when the Carolingian empire was divided between the three sons of Louis the Pious. Middle Francia was allotted to Emperor Lothair I, therefore called Lotharii Regnum. Upon his death in 855, it was further divided into three parts, of which his son Lothair II took the northern one. His realm then comprised a larger territory stretching from the County of Burgundy in the south to the North Sea. In French, this area became known as Lorraine, while in German, it was eventually known as Lothringen. In the Alemannic language once spoken in Lorraine, the -ingen suffix signified a property; thus, in a figurative sense, "Lotharingen" can be translated as "Land belonging to Lothair".
As Lothair II had died without heirs, his territory was divided by the 870 Treaty of Meerssen between East and West Francia and finally came under East Frankish rule as a whole by the 880 Treaty of Ribemont. After the East Frankish Carolingians became extinct with the death of Louis the Child in 911, Lotharingia once again attached itself to West Francia, but was conquered by the German king Henry the Fowler in 925. Stuck in the conflict with his rival Hugh the Great, King Louis IV of France in 942 renounced all claims to Lotharingia.
Duchy of Upper Lorraine
In 953 the German king Otto I had appointed his brother Bruno the Great Duke of Lotharingia. In 959, Bruno divided the duchy into Upper and Lower Lorraine which became permanent following his death in 965. The Upper Duchy was further "up" the river system, that is, it was inland and to the south. Upper Lorraine was first denominated as the Duchy of the Moselle, both in charters and narrative sources, and its duke was the dux Mosellanorum. The usage of Lotharingia Superioris and Lorraine in official documents begins later, around the fifteenth century. The first duke and deputy of Bruno was Frederick I of Bar, son-in-law of Bruno's sister Hedwig of Saxony.
The border between the Empire and the Kingdom of France remained relatively stable throughout the Middle Ages. In 1301 Count Henry III of Bar had to receive the western part of his lands (Barrois mouvant) as a fief by King Philip IV of France. The Burgundian duke Charles the Bold in 1475 campaigned for the Duchy of Lorraine, but finally was defeated and killed at the 1477 Battle of Nancy. In 1552 a number of insurgent Protestant Imperial princes around Elector Maurice of Saxony by the Treaty of Chambord ceded the Three Bishoprics to King Henry II of France in turn for his support.
In the 17th century, the French kings began to covet Lorraine. While the central Imperial authority decayed in the course of the Thirty Years' War, Chief Minister Cardinal Richelieu urged the occupation of the duchy in 1641. France again had to vacate it after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which however won France several positions in Alsace, east of Lorraine. In 1670, the French invaded again, forcing Duke Charles V to flee to a Viennese exile, where he formed strong ties to the Imperial House of Habsburg. France occupied the Duchy for almost thirty years, only giving it up in the Treaty of Ryswick which ended the Nine Years' War in 1697. During the War of the Spanish Succession, parts of Lorraine, including the capital Nancy, were again occupied by France, but Duke Leopold Joseph continued to reign at the Château de Lunéville.
Between France and Germany
Lorraine remained a part of France, but its northern part known as Moselle, along with Alsace, largely German-speaking regions, were annexed by the newly founded German Empire, following the Franco-Prussian War, and French language was forbidden. The territories were not annexed by any state of the Empire or organised into a separate state, but were governed as the Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen under a governor directly appointed by the German Emperor. Alsace-Lorraine remained a part of Germany until after the end of World War I, when France occupied the area and annexed it. Policies forbidding the use of German and requiring that of French were then begun, as well as expulsions of Germans who had moved to the region after 1871.
In 1940, Nazi Germany re-annexed Alsace-Lorraine during World War II combining Moselle with the Saarland and Alsace with Baden. The French language was again proscribed and education at German schools made compulsory. The war-torn area returned to France in November 1944. Because of the fighting in the area, Lorraine is home to the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial, the largest American war cemetery in France.