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Coat of arms of the viscounts of Béarn.
The viscountcy of Béarn (Gascon: Bearn or Biarn) is a former province of France, located in the Pyreneesmarker mountains and in the plain at their feet, in southwest Francemarker. Along with the three Basque provinces of Soule, Lower Navarre, and Labourd, as well as small parts of Gasconymarker, it forms the current département of Pyrénées-Atlantiquesmarker (64).

Béarn is bordered by Basque provinces Soule and Lower Navarre to the west, by Gascony (Landesmarker and Armagnac) to the north, by Bigorre to the east, and by Spainmarker (Aragonmarker) to the south.

Although Béarn was included in the original borders of France as established by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, its inclusion in the kingdom was controversial. Its first parliamentary body, the Cour Major, was formed in 1080, 185 years before England's parliament. Bearn became a part of the Duchy of Aquitaine, which passed to the Kings of England through Eleanor of Aquitaine, and was thus subject to the Kingdom of England for a little over a century (1242-1347). Béarn passed to the county of Foix in 1290; in 1347 Count Gaston III Fébus paid homage to the king for his own county, but refused to give homage for Béarn, which he claimed as an independent fief, with its chief seat his stronghold at Paumarker, a site that had been fortified by the 11th century, which was made the official capital the seat of Béarn Province in 1464. Later, the territory passed through heiresses to the Kingdom of Navarre (see below), and this inclusion in a foreign state (though ruled by descendants of the French Capetian dynasty) contributed to its doubtful relationship to the Kingdom of France.

Eventually, Béarn fell to Henry III of Navarre, who inherited it from his mother, while at the same time the Kingdom of Navarre was almost entirely annexed by Spain (with only Lower Navarre, north of the Pyreneesmarker, not annexed by Spain). Henry III of Navarre became King Henry IV of France in 1589, but he kept all his estates distinct from France. It was only in 1607 that he conceded to the demands of the Parlement of Paris, and reunited with the French crown his domains of County of Foix, Bigorre, Quatre-Vallées, and Nébouzan, conforming to the tradition that the king of France would have no personal domain. However, he refused to unite Béarn and Lower Navarre with the French crown, since these territories were sovereign countries, not formally under French sovereignty like Foix, Bigorre, and his other estates.

Thus Béarn and Lower Navarre remained only in a personal union with France (i.e. united to France through the person of Henry, both King of France and King of Navarre). It was only in 1620, ten years after his death, that Béarn and Lower Navarre were united to the French crown and entered French sovereignty, but the title of King of Navarre was kept by the kings of France until 1830.

Previously, in 1539, the Edict of Villers-Cotteret had ordained that laws would be enacted in French (to the detriment of Latin and smaller local languages), but Béarn was not yet part of France and the edict did not apply there. Instead, after its incorporation into France, laws continued to be enacted in the langue d'oc until the French Revolution.

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