Béarn (bāärnˈ) [key], former province, SW France, in the Pyrenees. It is now the inland part of Pyrénées-Atlantiques dept. Its valleys are well cultivated, and cattle are bred. Pau replaced Orthez as the capital in the 15th cent. The Bearnese are related to the Basques but speak French. Béarn was part of Roman Aquitania. It came (6th cent.) under the control of Gascony and was made (9th cent.) a county. In 1290 it passed to the counts of Foix, who later became kings of Navarre, and in 1484 to the house of Albret. Protestantism was imposed by Jeanne d'Albret. When her son became Henry IV of France, Béarn passed to the crown. However, it remained autonomous until 1620, when Louis XIII annexed it as an anti-Protestant measure. With the Basque districts of French or Lower Navarre, it became a French province under the jurisdiction of the parlement of Navarre, which sat at Pau.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: French Political Geography