The Burgundians were one of the Germanic peoples who filled the power vacuum left by the collapse of the western half of the Roman empire. In 411, they crossed the Rhine and established a kingdom at Worms. Amidst repeated clashes between the Romans and Huns, the Burgundian kingdom eventually occupied what is today the borderlands between Switzerland, France, and Italy. In 534, the Franks defeated Godomar, the last Burgundian king, and absorbed the territory into their growing empire.
Its modern existence is rooted in the dissolution of the Frankish empire. When the dynastic dust had settled in 880s, there were three Burgundies: the kingdom of Upper Burgundy around Lake Geneva, the kingdom of Lower Burgundy in Provence, and the duchy of Burgundy in France. The two kingdoms of Burgundy were reunited in 937 and absorbed into the Holy Roman Empire under Conrad II in 1032, while the duchy of Burgundy was annexed by the French throne in 1004.
During the Middle Ages, Burgundy was the seat of some of the most important Western churches and monasteries, among them Cluny, Citeaux, and Vézelay.
During the Hundred Years’ War, King Jean II of France gave the duchy to his younger son, rather than leaving it to his successor on the throne. The duchy soon became a major rival to the French throne, because the Dukes of Burgundy succeeded in assembling an empire stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea, mostly by marriage. The Burgundian Empire consisted of a number of fiefdoms on both sides of the (then largely symbolical) border between the French kingdom and the German Empire. Its economic heartland was in the Low Countries, particularly Flanders and Brabant. The court in Dijon outshone the French court by far both economically and culturally.
In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Burgundy provided a power base for the rise of the Habsburgs, after Maximilian of Austria had married into the ducal family. In 1477 the last duke Charles the Bold was killed in battle and Burgundy itself taken back by France. His daughter Mary and her husband Maximillian moved the court to Brussels and ruled the remnants of the empire (the Low Countries and Franche-Comté, then still a German fief) from there.