Saintonge săNtôNzh´ [key], region of W France, on the Bay of Biscay. It is now part of the Charente-Maritime dept. Cattle and sheep raising, dairying, and the manufacture of cognac from grapes grown along the Charente River are the major occupations; oysters are harvested along the coast. Known as the country of Santones, the region was conquered by the Romans and was occupied (419) by the Visigoths and by Clovis I (507). As a fief of Aquitaine, it became part of England (1154) following the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry of Anjou (later Henry II of England). During the Wars of Religion (1562–98), Saintonge was a Protestant stronghold, especially at the city of La Rochelle. The region was incorporated (1372) into the French crown lands, and was a French province until the Revolution (1789).
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