History Files
 

 

European Kingdoms

Celts of Armorica

 

 

 

MapNantes (Naoned)

The north-western corner of today's France was known during the Roman period as Armorica. The tribe of the Veneti had been the most powerful of Armorica's tribes, and that name gradually changed during the Roman occupation to Vannetais. This was how Armorica was initially known to the Britons who began migrating there in the fourth century AD, during a period in which British town life appears to have declined.

The low-key migration from Britain into Armorica seems to have picked up noticeably in the mid-fourth century, but it became a flood in the unsettled fifth century. Traditional certainly maintains that the British colony in Armorica was founded before the expedition of Constantine III in 407. People arrived mainly from the south-west of Britain, from Dumnonia and Cornubia, and each group retained its ethnic name (ergo the people in each region knew exactly what they were ethnically or tribally, regardless of who was king over them). This new colony of Britons formed in a region that was beginning to drift out of firm Roman control. The colony's traditional first king, Conan Meriadog, ruled Armorica as the kingdom of Vannetais, maintaining the local Gaulish tribal name. The area was permanently 'freed' of Roman control by Magnus Maximus as the first stage of his invasion of Gaul in 383. Conan was placed in command, with a probable capital in Vannes. The usual Celtic practice of dividing territory between sons soon created the smaller principalities out of Vannetais during the course of the fifth and sixth centuries whilst other Britons also popped over from the mainland to found their own principalities.

Formerly a Roman city of the Namnetes tribe - Portus Namnetum - Nantes was not one of the British cities of the Vannetais. Instead it was claimed as part of the easternmost advance of the Vannetais kingdom in its early years and its Gaulish inhabitants were happy to join in rather than be dominated by Germanic tribes. It is known today in Breton as Naoned, and is the sixth-largest city in modern France, but for a greater part of its history, post-Roman empire, it was a Gaulish city of the Bretons. Even today, there are people living in this region who still claim to be from a Gaulish family. Not French or Breton, but Gaulish. These people have a very non-Mediterranean and non-Nordic appearance. Instead they look as though they have more in common with the stockier Irish, and the central Welsh of Powys. They were largely protected from absorption into France because the region fell under the control of the Bretons in the fifth or sixth century, and again from the ninth century, and they retained their Gaulish ethnicity intermingled with a Breton national identity.

Nantes underwent changing fortunes in the early medieval period, with a period of Frankish domination as part of the 'Breton March' or borderland. In the ninth century this failed, with all this territory along with Nantes being reclaimed by the Bretons. The city was laid waste by the Vikings in 913/914, and they held control of it until 937. As the former heart of the principality of Bro Erech, Nantes' sister city of Vannes now became important, and its counts usually also governed Nantes after it was regained by Alain II in 937. That changed upon Alain's death in 952. His eldest son, Drogo, gained the more senior county of Vannes whilst his younger son (by his second marriage), HoŽl, gained Nantes. It seems that, with the death of Drogo and the lack of an heir, it may have been HoŽl who inherited the seat and rejoined it to that of Nantes. Now the previous situation was reversed, with Nantes being the senior of the two seats.

(Additional information by Geoffrey Tobin and Edward Dawson, and from Brittany: Many Kingdoms or One?, Jean-Michel Pognat, from Province and Empire: Brittany and the Carolingians, Julia M H Smith, part of The Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought series (1992), from The Ethnology of Germany Part 3: The Migration of the Saxons, Henry H Howorth (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 7, 1878), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from The History of Normandy and of England, Francis Palgrave (1864), and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and PopulationData.net.)

469 - 475

FeatureIn two major battles, the Visigoths have to fight a combined army consisting of Romans, troops from Soissons under Comes Paulus, Burgundian foederati, and joint federate Britanni (Britons and Armoricans) under Riothamus in 469 (470). Experiencing considerable success on the battlefield, the Visigoths expand to take in more of Gaul and much of Iberia, so that the kingdom stretches from Nantes to Gadir (Cadiz), and Soissons and Armorica are cut off from Rome. In 475, in exchange for Provence, Rome is forced to grant them full independence.

Map of the Visigoth & Suevi kingdoms in AD 470
In AD 469/470 the Visigoths expanded their kingdom to its largest extent, reaching Nantes in the north and Cadiz in the south, but it was not to last - with the accession of Clovis of the Salian Franks, the Visigoths had found an opponent who would wrest Gaul away from their control in stages (click on map to show full sized)

Breton March (Duces Cenomannici)

The fortunes of Nantes fluctuated somewhat following its initial occupation by Britons in the fifth century. To the east, in Gaul, the waning power of Rome and the fluctuating fortunes of the Visigoths were replaced by a new threat - the Franks. They had a new, ambitious king in the form of Clovis. Rather than cooperate with his Roman neighbours in Soissons he conquered them, along with any other Frankish kings who opposed him. He quickly created a single Frankish kingdom which he was able to hand on to his sons.

Nantes was subsumed for a time within Clovis' creation of a 'Breton March' or borderland, which was designed to keep the Bretons contained within Armorica and prevent any further expansion eastwards. A series of military commanders were appointed to control the march and maintain its border, although information on them can often be sketchy, limited often to the mention of a specific campaign and little more. These commanders were often (but not always) known as duces Cenomannici, dukes of the Cenomani, formerly a division of the Gaulish Aulerci confederation of tribes in north-western Gaul, between the Seine and Brittany, and with the later region of Normandy immediately to the north of them. In time the position would become formalised as the county of Maine, taking its name from the already-extant diocese of Le Mans. But until the late ninth century its focus was on preserving the march until much of this territory along with Nantes was reclaimed by the Bretons.

(Additional information by Geoffrey Tobin and Edward Dawson, and from Brittany: Many Kingdoms or One?, Jean-Michel Pognat, from Province and Empire: Brittany and the Carolingians, Julia M H Smith, part of The Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought series (1992), from The Ethnology of Germany Part 3: The Migration of the Saxons, Henry H Howorth (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 7, 1878), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from The History of Normandy and of England, Francis Palgrave (1864), from Les AncÍtres de Charlemagne, Christian Settipani (Paris, 1989), from Addendum to the Ancestors of Charlemagne, Christian Settipani (Paris, 1990), from Vita Karoli Magni (Life of Charles the Great), Einhard, from Atlas historique mondial, Georges Duby (Larousse, 1978), and from Genealogy of the Kings of France, Claude Wenzler (Editions Ouest-France, Rennes, 2008), and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and PopulationData.net, and Le Mans Roman Walls (Spotting History).)

c.486 - 509?

A Minor King of the Franks, Rignomer, gains Le Mans from the fall of Soissons. The city of Le Mans is the former Civitas Cenomanorum, capital of the Gaulish Aulerci Cenomani people. It still retains most of its Roman city walls (in fact even today the walls form one of the most intact Roman city walls still in existence). The name Le Mans is a Frankish Latin corruption of the original Roman Latin name, first appearing as Celmans ('cel'- being the early Frankish form of the modern 'le').

Given the location, Rignomer clearly commands the defence of Frankish territories against incursions from the neighbouring Bretons. As far as the Bretons themselves are concerned, after mentions of Riothamus over twenty years before, the only other historically confirmed fact for early Romano-British Brittany of the fifth century is that the town of Blois is captured in 491 by the Frankish King Clovis, probably the eastern limits of territory occupied by the Britons within Gaul (Chronicles of Anjou). Clovis also captures the city of Nantes which he uses as a headquarters for a 'Breton March', designed to contain the Bretons to its west. Vannetais now largely assumes the more traditional borders of Brittany.

Although not documented, Rignomer may be the first commander under the authority of Clovis. His location at Le Mans would form the seat of most future commanders of the march so it seems logical. However, Rignomer is seen as a rival by Clovis. As such he is swiftly dispatched at some point before 509, along with his two brothers. Le Mans cannot have been a Frankish kingdom until after 486 and the fall of Soissons, placing the murders of the three brothers between these two dates (486-509). Their territories are annexed by Clovis.

Map of Western Europe between AD 481-511
Baptism of Clovis in Reims: http://www.museehistoiredefrance.fr/index.php?option=com_oeuvre&view=detail&cid=205
The baptism of Clovis in Reims in 496 made him the only barbarian Christian king and won him increased support from his former Roman subjects in Gaul. This romantic recreation of the event was by FranÁois-Louis Dejuinne (1786-1844), completed in 1837, while above that is a map showing the expansion of the Frankish kingdom between AD 481-511 (click on map to show full sized)

c.486 - 509?

Rignomer / Rigomer

Minor King of the Franks. Commanded the Breton March?

c.491 - 511

Clovis I / Chlodwig / Chlodovech

King of the Franks. Created the Breton March.

511

MapOn the death of Clovis, the kingdom is divided between his four sons, each ruling Austrasia, Orleans, Paris, and Soissons. Chlothar, king of Soissons is nominally the senior king of the Franks (Chlothar is also credited with establishing the basis of early Frankish monarchy in Gaul). Three other Frankish regions, Bordeaux, Aquitaine and Auvergne lie to the south of Orleans. Bordeaux is held by the king of Paris, while Auvergne is part of the territory of Austrasia. Who holds Aquitaine is not known, but it seems likely that it is Frankish vassals who are contesting with the Visigoths to secure the region. The commander of the Breton March is entirely unknown at this time.

? - 593

Gunthchramn / Guntramn / Gontrand

King of Burgundy. Count of the Breton March?

587 - 590

Gunthchramn of Burgundy compels Waroch of Bro Erech to renew his oath in writing and demands a thousand solidi in compensation for raiding Nantes. The city clearly remains a Frankish possession, still part of the Breton March, although why it is Gunthchramn of distant Burgundy who is doing the demanding is unclear. The possibility exists that he may be fulfilling the role of military governor of the Breton March. That compensation has not been paid by 588, even though Waroch has promised it both to Gunthchramn and Chlothar II of the Franks. In 589 or 590, Gunthchramn sends an expedition against Waroch under the command of Beppolem and Ebrachain. Ebrachain is an enemy of Fredegund, queen consort to the late King Chilperic, and it is she who sends the Saxons of Bayeux to aid Waroch.

Beppolem fights Waroch alone for three days before dying, at which point Waroch attempts to flee to the Channel Islands. Ebrachain destroys his ships and forces him to accept renewed peace, the renewal of his oath, and surrendering a nephew as a hostage. Despite all of this, the Bretons retain their spirit of independence and refuse to be cowed by the powerful Franks.

c.635

Upon the death of Gregory of Tours in 594, no more information on Bro Erech is available. It seems likely that the principality is united with Domnonia under JudicaŽl, whose great-grandmother seems to have been Triphine, daughter of Waroch. Bro Erech is likely to be JudicaŽl's inheritance after the death of Canao II. However, Bro Erech's land seems to be divided at some point, and for a time may not even be under Brittany's control. The Frankish 'Breton March' at Nantes has been designed to contain the Bretons, with Rennes and Vannes included in this borderland. It is only with Brittany's resurgence in the ninth century that these areas are regained fully by the Bretons.

Modern Nantes
Nantes was founded at the head of the River Loire estuary, at the confluence of the Erdre and the SŤvre, although rapid development from the twentieth century onwards has greatly changed it from the medieval town it once was

c.700

At this stage a little more recorded history emerges for the region around Nantes. Chrotgar is duke of Le Mans, the former minor kingdom of Rignomer (see AD 486, above). Given this fact, it is quite likely that he is also the commander of the Frankish defences against potential attacks by the Bretons to the immediate west. He is also the son or grandson of Chrodbert (Robert, sometimes shown as Chrodbert II to distinguish him from his uncle or grandfather of the same name), chancellor to Chlothar III of Neustria and possibly the ancestor of the later Robertians who rule West Francia from AD 888 as the counts of Paris (the later Capetian dynasty).

fl 710s

Chrotgar

Son of Chrodbert, chancellor of Neustria. Duke of Le Mans.

fl 723

Charivius / Hervť

Son. Dux Cenomannici.

fl 723

In 723, Charivius, son of Chrotgar, duke of Le Mans, seizes the revenues of the diocese of Le Mans and, upon the death of Bishop Herlemund, takes control of the see, appointing his own son as bishop. Charivius is also the first-known dux Cenomannici (duke of the Cenomani, formerly a division of the Aulerci confederation of tribes in north-western Gaul), clearly with a broader remit than that of the dukes of Le Mans to hold the Breton March. This new role may be a reflection of the growing power of the Carolingian mayor of the palace, Charles Martel.

748 - 749

Grifo

Son of Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel. Dux Cenomannici.

748 - 749

Grifo, the son of Charles Martel, the late Carolingian mayor of the palace, by his second wife now escapes from imprisonment in a monastery, a punishment organised by his half-brother, Pepin III the Short. Grifo receives support from his maternal great-uncle, Duke Odilo of Bavaria, which seems to see him commanding the Breton March for around a year. Upon Odilo's death late in 748, Grifo briefly seizes command of the Bavarians before being ousted by Pepin. His fight continues until he is killed in battle in 753.

751

With the blessing of Pope Zachary, Pepin III, the Carolingian mayor of the palace deposes King Childeric and the Merovingian royal house and takes control of the empire (Childeric is sent to a monastery and dies in 755). Pepin is crowned at Soissons in 752 and Saint-Denis in 754, and thereafter benefits from the legitimacy acquired by the creator of the Frankish kingdom, Clovis I. Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy are merged permanently within the empire, and the former two names fade from common usage.

? - 778

Roland / Hruodland

Nephew of Charlemagne. Military governor of the 'Breton March'.

778

Charlemagne campaigns against the Umayyad Arabs in Spain. Tradition asserts that Charlemagne grants the Andorran people a charter in return for their help in fighting the Moors of the Islamic empire, possibly following this campaign. However, while the Frankish army is returning northwards, Charlemagne's rearguard is cut off and attacked by rebellious Basques at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.

The Battle of Roncevaux Pass
The Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland) was an eleventh century poem by an anonymous author which covered the events of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, shown here in an illustration from a fourteenth century manuscript

 

The commander of the Frankish forces is Roland, military governor of the Breton March (referred to by Einhard as Brittannici limitis praefectus (prefect of the borders of Brittany)). He and his men stand their ground, falling in such valiant fashion that the example is later incorporated into the knightly code of chivalry (Roland is immortalised in The Song of Roland). Roland's position as military governor is a separate level of command from that of the duces Cenomannici. In this position Roland is replaced by one Guy of Nantes, from a relatively obscure Austrasian noble family. During his tenure, the post switches from a purely military one along the march to that of overseeing the administration of a county. He is able to pass on his new title, count of Nantes, to his son.

c.799 - 814

Guy / Guido / Wido?

An Austrasian. First count of Nantes and the Breton March.

790 - 811

Charles the Younger

Son of Charlemagne of the Franks. Dux Cenomannici. Died.

c.800

Despite the claims of the Frankish Duke Wido (presumably Guido of Nantes) on his expedition through Brittany around the year 800, Brittany is still not a Frankish subject, remaining unconquered by the Carolingians. This is despite the mighty Charlemagne having created a vast European kingdom following his conquest of several hard-fighting German states and tribes. Charles the Younger, king of West Francia under Charlemagne following the latter's assumption of the role of emperor and dux Cenomannici and commander of the Breton March, may be the instigator behind Wido's expedition. It is known that Charles defeats two attempted Breton rebellions during his time in this post.

806 - 814

By the Act of Thionville in 806, Charlemagne announces the division of the vast Frankish empire between his three sons. By 814, Pepin in Italy has already predeceased his father (810), as has Charles the Younger, dux Cenomannici of the Breton March and also king of West Francia under Charlemagne following the latter's assumption of the role of emperor (suffering a stroke in 811), so Louis the Pious is crowned Frankish emperor at Aix-la-Chapelle.

811 - 817

Louis II the German

Son of Louis the Pious of the Franks. King of East Francia (840).

817 - 831

Lothair I

Brother. Dux Cenomannici. King of Francia Media (818).

818

King Louis the Pious (Louis-le-Pieux), of the Frankish empire, sends Abbot Witchar to negotiate with King Morvan of Brittany, which fails. Louis assembles an army in the spring of 818 at Vannes, within the 'Breton March'. With Lambert of Nantes in support, he launches a series of attacks against various Breton fortresses and, after Morvan is killed in battle, resistance collapses. The Chronicle of Moissac records Louis returning with a 'triumph of victory', although the Bretons revolt again in 822 under Wiomarch.

824

From the seventh century onwards the Franks try to force the Bretons to submit to their power. The Bretons steadfastly refused to bend under the yoke and become the vassals of their powerful neighbours. Instead they regularly overcome attempts at domination by the Franks. In order to put a stop to these rebellions, Louis the Pious now appoints NominoŽ as the first duke of Brittany and chief of the Vannetais (824). However, placing NominoŽ as first duke of Brittany in 824 appears to contradict the entries for Wiomarch and Lowenen until 837. Even more importantly here, Wiomarch is killed by Lambert of Nantes.

831 - 838

Pepin I

Brother. Dux Cenomannici. King of Aquitaine (814-838). Died.

838 - 851

Charles the Bald

Brother. Dux Cenomannici. Became Charles II of West Francia.

843

Fighting in support of Charles the Bald during the Frankish succession crisis of 840-843 is Lambert II, presumed heir of the county of Nantes, who feels somewhat aggrieved when Count Renaud of Herbauges is appointed count of Nantes instead of him. Lambert sides with NominoŽ of Brittany, Renaud is killed trying to attack them, and Lambert gains his county as a Breton ally.

Map of the Frankish empire at the Treaty of Verdun AD 843
This map shows the division of the Carolingian empire between Charlemagne's three surviving grandsons according to the Treaty of Verdun in AD 843 (click on map to show full sized)

845

With the accession of Charles the Bald (Charles-le-Chauve) to the throne of West Francia, Duke NominoŽ of Vannes has been acting entirely independently as the rightful king of the Bretons. Charles sends an army to quell this upstart but it is defeated at Ballon, near Redon (845). The ambitious NominoŽ, count of Vannes, does not settle for only one victory. Instead he boldly goes on to conquer Rennes and Nantes (with the help and support of Lambert of Nantes), as well as the provinces of Maine and Anjou, both at the heart of the Breton March.

851/3 - 856

Robert the Strong

Dux & missus dominicus. Rebelled. Count of Nantes (861).

851/3

Robert the Strong is father to Odo who, in 888, is offered the throne of West Francia by the great lords. The ousted king, Charles the Fat, takes refuge in the monastery of Reichenau in Alemannia (Swabia) where he dies the following year. Robert later returns as the count of Nantes (in 861) and is also the ancestor of Hugh the Great, count of Paris, and his own son, Hugh Capet, founder of the Capetian dynasty of French kings.

856 - 858

Louis the Stammerer

Son of Charles the Bald. King of West Francia (877) & Aquitaine.

856 - 858

By now the position of dux Cenomannici has evolved from a frontier post to one of retaining and maintaining a more settled division of counties within the aegis of the Frankish empire. The twelve counties of the march and a court at Le Mans are given to Louis the Stammerer by his father, making him the last of the duces Cenomannici.

However, the county of Maine (Le Man) has already existed since 832, created by Louis the Pious, and from the 860s this seems to fulfil most of the surviving duties in regard to a reorganised Breton March which is now one of the two marches of Neustria (from 861). Robert the Strong returns to act as the first margrave for the new march while the county, governed by a separate line, survives as a recognisable title until the seventeenth century when the title is inherited by the king of France himself, although by that time it has long since ceased to have any concerns about hostile Bretons.

County of Nantes

From the seventh century onwards, as evidenced by Duke Wido's expedition into Brittany around AD 800, the Franks were trying to force the Bretons to submit to their power. The Bretons steadfastly refused to bend under the yoke and become the vassals of their powerful neighbours. Instead they regularly overcame attempts at domination by the Franks. In order to put a stop to these rebellions, in 824 Louis the Pious appointed NominoŽ as the first duke of Brittany and chief of the Vannetais. Although NominoŽ remained a loyal vassal of Louis during his reign, he acted as an independent king as soon as Charles the Bald (Charles-le-Chauve) succeeded in 840.

Placing NominoŽ as first duke of Brittany in 824 appears to contradict the entries for Wiomarch and Lowenen until 837. Could NominoŽ's appointment as duke have been in opposition to the reign of the last two kings? Could it have taken some time to quell their opposition? Unfortunately this seems to be unknown. Even the title of duke of Brittany seems to have been be an artifice of tenth century chroniclers, with the Bretons of this time admitting no such thing. They still saw themselves as an independent people ruled by their own princes, and NominoŽ is recorded under many titles, from 'Master of Brittany' upwards. Even more importantly here, Wiomarch was killed by one Lambert of Nantes, recognising the specific county of Nantes which was soon to be taken from Frankish control.

The county was established by Charlemagne in 799 or thereabouts, when Guy of Nantes, who came from a relatively obscure Austrasian noble family, was appointed military governor of the Breton March to replace Roland who had died at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778. Guy's brother, Frodoald, was similarly positioned in Vannes. During his tenure, the post switched from a purely military one along the march to that of overseeing the administration of a county. He was able to pass on his new title, count of Nantes, to his son. By 852 the country was in the hands of the Bretons, but then ownership swung back and forth between the two regional powers until the tenth century, when Brittany held it for a much longer term.

(Additional information by Geoffrey Tobin and Edward Dawson, and from Brittany: Many Kingdoms or One?, Jean-Michel Pognat, from Province and Empire: Brittany and the Carolingians, Julia M H Smith, part of The Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought series (1992), from The Ethnology of Germany Part 3: The Migration of the Saxons, Henry H Howorth (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 7, 1878), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from The History of Normandy and of England, Francis Palgrave (1864), and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and PopulationData.net.)

c.799 - 814

Guy / Guido / Wido?

An Austrasian. First count of Nantes and the Breton March.

c.800

Despite the claims of the Frankish Duke Wido (presumably Guido of Nantes) on his expedition through Brittany around the year 800, Brittany is still not a Frankish subject, remaining unconquered by the Carolingians. This is despite the mighty Charlemagne having created a vast European kingdom following his conquest of several hard-fighting German states and tribes. Charles the Younger, king of West Francia under Charlemagne following the latter's assumption of the role of emperor and dux Cenomannici and commander of the Breton March, may be the instigator behind Wido's expedition. It is known that Charles defeats two attempted Breton rebellions during his time in this post.

818? - 831

Lambert I

Son. Frankish count of Nantes. Killed Breton King Wiomarch (826).

818

King Louis the Pious (Louis-le-Pieux), of the Frankish empire, sends Abbot Witchar to negotiate with King Morvan of Brittany, which fails. Louis assembles an army in the spring of 818 at Vannes, within the 'Breton March' which at this point is controlled by the Franks. With Lambert of Nantes in support, he launches a series of attacks against various Breton fortresses and, after Morvan is killed in battle, resistance collapses. The Chronicle of Moissac records Louis returning with a 'triumph of victory', although the Bretons revolt again in 822 under Wiomarch.

Tremazan Castle, Finistere

One of the Breton fortresses (although perhaps not involved in the events of AD 818) would have been the medieval Tremazan Castle (its modern ruins are shown here), which later belonged to the Breton du Chastel family and was built near the shore of Nord-Finistere in Brittany

824

From the seventh century onwards the Franks try to force the Bretons to submit to their power. The Bretons steadfastly refused to bend under the yoke and become the vassals of their powerful neighbours. Instead they regularly overcome attempts at domination by the Franks. In order to put a stop to these rebellions, Louis the Pious now appoints NominoŽ as the first duke of Brittany and chief of the Vannetais (824). However, placing NominoŽ as first duke of Brittany in 824 appears to contradict the entries for Wiomarch and Lowenen until 837. Even more importantly here, Wiomarch is killed by Lambert of the newly-emergent county of Nantes.

831 - 841

Ricwin / Ricuin / Richwin / Richovin

Frankish count of Nantes. Killed in battle.

840 - 841

Before his death, Louis, who is also duke of Alemannia, promulgates the Ordinatio Imperii in 817, proclaiming, despite the ancient Frankish custom of dividing territory between surviving sons, that his eldest son, Lothar, will be sole beneficiary of the imperial dignity and sole inheritor of the empire. By means of this he hopes to avoid the fragmentation of territory that so weakened the Merovingians. The new idea proves too much, provoking rebellions and rivalries between all four of Louis' sons which last until after the king's death. (One of the sons, Pepin I of Aquitaine, has already predeceased his father.)

Opposing the others in favour of Charles the Bald are Sunifred, count of Urgel and Cerdanya (and master of the Andorrans), his brother Sunyer I, count of Empķries, their sons (who collectively are sometimes referred to as the Bellonid dynasty or the Bellonids), and Ricwin, count of Nantes, who unfortunately is killed at the Battle of Fontenay-en-Puisaye in 841.

Also fighting in support of Charles is Lambert II, who feels somewhat aggrieved when Count Renaud of Herbauges is appointed count of Nantes instead of him. Lambert sides with NominoŽ of Brittany, Renaud is killed trying to attack them, and Lambert gains his county as a Breton ally.

841 - 843

Renaud / Rainaldus / Ragenold / Reginald

Frankish count of Herbauges, Poitiers, & Nantes. Killed.

843 - 846

Lambert II

Son of Lambert I. Count of Nantes. Breton ally.

845

With the accession of Charles the Bald (Charles-le-Chauve) to the western Frankish throne, Duke NominoŽ of Vannes has been acting entirely independently as the rightful king of the Bretons. Charles sends an army to quell this upstart but it is defeated at Ballon, near Redon (845). The ambitious NominoŽ does not settle for only one victory. Instead he boldly goes on to conquer Rennes and Nantes (with the help and support of Lambert of Nantes), as well as the provinces of Maine and Anjou, both at the heart of the collapsing Breton March.

Breton territory has by now spread into Frankish lands where the Breton language is not spoken. It is from these victories that the history of the dukes of Brittany really begins. In order to gain even more freedom. NominoŽ snatches Brittany from the authority of the archdiocese of Tours. Instead he founds the archdiocese of Dol, in order to establish a self-governing Breton church which can continue and support the traditions of the Bretons.

Map of the Frankish empire at the Treaty of Verdun AD 843
Nominoe's Vow
This fanciful Victorian illustration depicts Nominoe's Vow, part of a ballad about NominoŽ in Barzaz Breiz in which he vows to avenge the Frankish killing of a Breton emissary, while above that is a map showing the division of the Carolingian empire according to the Treaty of Verdun in AD 843 (click on map to show full sized)

846 - 849

Amaury

Frankish count of Nantes in opposition to Lambert II.

849 - 850

Amaury's position as count of Nantes is barely (and hardly) enforceable in the face of relative Frankish weakness and Breton resurgence. Lambert II comes to terms with Charles in 849 and is officially restored as count. Almost immediately Lambert continues to raid on behalf of the Bretons, alongside his brother Warnar and NominoŽ. In 850 Charles reinstates Amaury in Nantes but he is soon captured and the city is in Lambert's hands once again.

849 - 851

Lambert II

Restored and accepted by Charles the Bald. Killed in battle.

851

NominoŽ's successors as duke of Brittany, from ErispoŽ to Alain Barbetorte, vigorously apply themselves to the protection of the duchy's independence from the Franks and Norsemen. Under the control of Duke SalaŁn (857-874), Brittany is even expanded as far as the Cotentin and Laval. It seems to be during this period that full Breton control over Vannes, Rennes, and Nantes is fully restored after a period of being subsumed within the Frankish 'Breton March'.

851 - 852

Lambert III

Son. Never took his seat, having been usurped by Salaun.

852 - 860

Salaun / Solomon / Salomon

Count of Rennes & Nantes. Seized Breton throne. Assassinated.

858

By now the position of dux Cenomannici has evolved from a frontier post along the Breton March to one of retaining and maintaining a more settled division of counties within the aegis of the Frankish empire. The twelve counties of the march and a court at Le Mans are given to Louis the Stammerer by his father, making him the last of the duces Cenomannici of the march.

However, the county of Maine (Le Man) has already existed since 832, created by Louis the Pious, and from the 860s this seems to fulfil most of the surviving duties in regard to a reorganised Breton March which is now one of the two marches of Neustria (from 861). The county, governed by a separate line, survives as a recognisable title until the seventeenth century when the title is inherited by the king of France itself, although by that time it has long since ceased to have any concerns about hostile Brittany. The Frankish appointments of counts of Nantes are often little more than titular holdings, with the city itself largely in Breton hands. In fact Robert the Strong largely has to focus his attention to defending Anjou from Viking attacks.

861 - 866

Robert the Strong

Former Frankish dux & missus dominicus of the Breton March.

863

Brittany's resurgence and power at this time is recognised by Charles the Bald of the Western Franks. He negotiates the Treaty of Entrammes with Salaun, admitting the fact that western Anjou is now part of Brittany and granting lay abbacy of Saint-Aubin in Angers to the Breton king. In return, Salaun pays tribute to the Frankish king. It would seem that it is Charles and his successors who nominate the next batch of counts of Nantes, but they are largely obscure individuals until the arrival of Odo, son of Robert the Strong.

866 - ?

Hugh 'of the Breton March'

Frankish count of Nantes.

?

Henry 'of the Breton March'

Frankish count of Nantes.

874 - 888

Ninth century Brittany is a very civilised place in which peasant property rights are enshrined in law and the powers of the prince (king or duke) are strictly limited. This is all undone when Salaun, count of Rennes and Nantes, is assassinated and the land overrun by Vikings. Now Gurvand rules in Rennes and Pascweten in Vannes, and both are claimants to the throne. Pascweten is Salaun's son-in-law and also one of his assassins, along with Gurvand, and Wigo son of Rivelen of Cornouaille.

Vikings in combat
The wave of Viking attacks which swamped events of the ninth century affected great swathes of north-western Europe, especially the coasts of Britain, Ireland, Brittany, and West Francia

Neither Gurvand or Pascweten are powerful enough to assume complete control so they fight it out amongst themselves for two years, and divide the country until both are dead. Pascweten's brother Alain continues the fight from Vannes against JudicaŽl of Rennes until the latter is killed when both team up to fight the Vikings. Alain now controls Brittany unopposed, although his numbering doesn't seem to account for two earlier Alains.

fl c.880s?

Odo / Eudes

Son of Robert. Marquess of Neustria. King of West Francia (888).

886 - 896

Berengar II / Berenguer of Rennes?

Of Neustria. Margrave of the Breton March. Later count of Rennes.

896 - 911

?

Holder unknown.

907

The death of Alain the Great results in instability in the land. With the succession again disputed, GourmaŽlon, count of Kernev, seizes power and declares himself 'Prince of Brittany'. Ownership of Vannes is unclear at this time but Rudalt seems to be the count until he is forced to flee by the Vikings. Alain's son-in-law, MathuedoÔ, would seem to succeed him as count of Poher at the same time. In Nantes the name of the current count seems to be unknown, although it is likely that he is a Frankish appointee.

911 - 923?

Robert

Odo's brother. Marquis of Neustria. King of West Francia (922).

913/914 - 938

The Loire Vikings invade, slaying King GourmaŽlon in battle and occupying Brittany. They establish their main naval base at the mouth of the Loire (at the southern edge of Brittany's lands), laying waste to Nantes, and then they use Brittany as a springboard for attacks on the Western Franks and the English (possibly in support of their kin in East Anglia). It is possible that the Bretons also lose control of Vannes at this time. It is hard to say whether there is a sitting count of Vannes, although there do seem to be viable candidates for the position. Nantes is similarly overrun.

fl 936

JudicaŽl of Nantes / 'Berenger'

Count. Cousin of Alain II of Brittany. Count of Rennes.

936 - 942

Having already encouraged a failed Breton rebellion against the Vikings, the monk Yann de Landťvennec now calls on Alain to return to Brittany, which he does in 936 with the blessing and support of ∆thelstan of Wessex. Meanwhile, the future Hugh the Great of Aquitaine is organising the return of Louis IV to West Francia. Alain's campaign against the Loire Vikings is successful and he is declared Duke Alain II. Then he allies himself with his cousin, Judicael of Nantes (called 'Berenger' by the Franks) and Count Hugh II of Maine to attack the Seine Vikings (the Normans). The presence of a powerful cousin in Nantes who bears a distinctive Late Romano-British/Breton name would strongly signal that this town is still part of Brittany.

Alain II
The greatest claim to fame for MathuedoÔ, count of Poher and probably count of Vannes, may be as the father of Alain II, duke of Brittany, Vannes, and Nantes, and count of Poher, who returned from exile to lead the Bretons to victory over the Loire Vikings and thereby recover the duchy

938 - 952

Alain II the Fox

Son. Count of Poher. Duke of Vannes & Nantes, and Brittany.

952 - 958

Drogo

Son. Count of Vannes & Nantes. Prince of Brittany.

958 - 990

Brittany appears to be ruled by the counts of Nantes at this time, probably HoŽl or Guerech of Nantes. The numbering for Hoels as dukes would suggest that this particular Hoel is not involved (although this does not help in Guerech's case). After 990 the duchy is certainly ruled by the counts of Rennes upon the accession of Conan I, and until 1066. By this time, West Francia has finally suppressed a weakened Brittany, and the kings assume the title of 'Duke of Brittany' (and already appear to have done so earlier in this century). Even so, they maintain much of their independence until 1532.

The county of Vannes seems to be terminated following the death of Drogo - or at least no longer has its own counts. Given that it still remains within Brittany the answer could be that it is drawn directly under the authority of the duke of Brittany himself, which position is now being fulfilled by the counts of Rennes. The important city of Nantes had until the reign of Alain II been joined to Vannes as a single county, but had been divided when Drogo had gained Vannes. Its counts are shown below, and an alternative possibility is that Vannes and Nantes are reunified following Drogo's death, now under their control.

c.960 - 980

HoŽl

Son of Alain II of Brittany, Vannes, and Poher. Duke of Brittany?

c.980 - 990

Guerech

Brother. Died c.988/990. Duke of Brittany?

981 - 990

Alain III of Nantes

Son. Died aged 9 or so. Not the same as Alain III of Brittany.

990

Conan the Crooked of Rennes allies himself with the count of Blois and attacks Nantes, soon after which the young Count Alain dies. This leaves Conan the undisputed claimant as duke of Brittany, succeeding the governance of the regency that has managed the duchy during the lifetime of Drogo and the somewhat fractured reign(s) of HoŽl and Guerech of Nantes. Conan also has to defeat JudicaŽl (presumably the son of HoŽl rather than the many others of the same name for this overall period) to remove any opposition to his rule.

990 - 1004

JudicaŽl

Son of HoŽl.

c.990

The little-known JudicaŽl is often confused with the JudicaŽl of Nantes of the early tenth century. They are clearly differentiated by their relationship to the current duke of Brittany, the later one clearly being the son of HoŽl. His daughter is Judith of Nantes. She marries Count Alan of Cornouaille, and their daughter, Agnes, marries Eozen or Eudes, the 'regent of Brittany' in 1040-1056 and count of PenthiŤvre.

1008 - 1040

Alain III

Son. Count of Nantes & Rennes. Duke of Brittany.

1008 - c.1018

Hawise of Normandy

Mother and regent. Her brother, Duke Richard, was guardian.

1040 - 1056

Eudes / Eozen / Odo I

Brother. 'Regent of Brittany'. Count of PenthiŤvre.

1056

Alan Rufus is first mentioned as a witness (along with his mother Orguen and brothers Gausfridus, Willelmus, Rotbertus, and Ricardus) to a charter that is dated to 1056/1060. It is issued by his father, Eozen, to the Abbey of Saint-Aubin in Angers.

FeatureEozen (Odo) is one of the sons of Geoffrey, while Count Alan Rufus is Eozen's most famous son. He is later a companion of the Norman duke, William the Conqueror, lord of Cambridge in England, praecepto legum (professor of law), builder of Richmond Castle, developer of the port of Boston, commander of King William's royal household knights, co-founder of St Mary's Abbey in York, co-supervisor (with King William) of the Domesday survey, strategist against Bishop Odo of Bayeux's rebellion of 1088, and both arresting officer and defender of William de St-Calais, bishop of Durham.

St Mary's Abbey in York
St Mary's Abbey stood on the land between Museum Street and Marygate in the city of York, to the north-west of York Minster, founded in 1055 with the support of Eozen, regent of Brittany, and initially dedicated to St Olave

Also descended from Eozen via Count Stephen of Treguier, and Alan, first earl of Richmond, is Conan IV of Brittany (1156-1171), of the House of PenthiŤvre. Unfortunately, Eozen himself effectively usurps control of the duchy from the infant Conan II, and has to be seized and imprisoned in 1056 before Conan can rule in his own right.

1056 - 1066

Conan II

Son of Alain III. Last ruling duke from the House of Rennes.

1066 - 1072

Hawise of Rennes

Sister. 'Duke' of Brittany.

1066 - 1072

Hoel IV / Houel / Huuel

Husband and co-ruler. Prince of Cornouaille.

1072 - 1112

Alain IV Fergant/Iron Glove

Infant son at accession. Count of Nantes & Rennes. Abdicated.

1072 - 1084

Hoel IV / Houel / Huuel

Father and regent (formerly co-ruler with Hawise).

1093

Not to be confused with Duke Alain IV Fergant, who has yet to abdicate and retire to a monastery (which he does in 1112), Count Alan Rufus dies. He is first earl of Richmond under King William the Conqueror of England and Normandy, but he has parentage that links him to PenthiŤvre and Cornouaille (see the entry for 1056, above). His Latin epitaph of 4 August 1093 at Bury St Edmunds describes him as 'praecepto legum, nitet ortus sanguine regum', ie. 'officer/teacher of the law, in whom ran the blood of kings'.

1098 - 1101

Alain departs for the First Crusade, leaving his wife Ermengarde as regent. The crusade finds a divided Islamic empire governed by the Seljuq Turks, and quickly and forcefully carves a large swathe of territory out of it that comes to be known collectively as Outremer.

1098 - 1101

Ermengarde

Wife of Alain IV and regent during his absence.

1112 - 1148

Conan III the Fat

Son. Prince of Cornouaille, count of Nantes & Rennes.

1148

The descendants of Judith of Nantes and Count Alan of Cornouaille have retained the county of Nantes. When HoŽl V is disbarred from becoming duke of Brittany, he is granted the county of Nantes for his lifetime (after which it will return to the ducal incumbent). Ostensibly this 'exile' is due to his bastardy, but possibly also to allow his sister, Bertha, to become heiress and thereby marry her cousin Alan and secure Brittany's future.

1148 - 1156

HoŽl / Hoel V

Son of Duke Conan III of Brittany. Driven out.

1156 - 1158

Supported by Geoffrey VI, count of Anjou and husband of Matilda of England, the people of Nantes rebel against HoŤl and drive him out. Control of Nantes is part of a larger strategy in the ongoing war in England between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. The family of the dukes of Brittany continue to hold the seat at Nantes, although it occasionally drifts outside Breton control, as it does now when Geoffrey of Anjou controls it.

Geoffrey of Anjou dies in 1158, and Conan IV attempts to reclaim Nantes for Brittany. He is opposed by Henry II of Plantagenet England who annexes it to his own domains, but Conan is still able to enforce his will there, effectively reuniting all of Brittany to the greatest extent of its borders. Henry responds by seizing the earldom of Richmond, Conan's inheritance, and also takes over in Nantes.

Henry II Plantagenet
Henry II of England and Normandy, son of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou, died having added half of France to his possessions, making him one of the most powerful rulers in Western Europe

Nantes becomes the principle seat of Duke Peter I (1221-1250), although it is now far removed from the semi-independent seat it had once been. Instead its fortunes generally follow those of Brittany, with John (V) of Montfort setting up his ducal seat here in the mid-1300s. With the signing of the Union Treaty of Vannes (the 'Everlasting Union') in 1532, a permanent personal union is created between the crowns of the duchy and France, although this arrangement is swept away by the French Revolution. Today Nantes is the administrative centre for the Loire-Atlantique dťpartement and the Pays de la Loire region.