History Files


European Kingdoms

Celts of Armorica




MapCounty of Rennes

The kingdom of Vannetais had been founded in Armorica by British ťmigrťs during the fourth and fifth centuries AD. As the kingdom became better known as Brittany ('Little Britain') thanks to its British dominance, the name Vannetais seems to have remained attached to the land itself, or at least areas of it. The name still seems to have been in use for the more nebulous eastern territories that bordered the Franks, but was eventually changed or evolved into Bro Erech. This remained a petty kingdom within Brittany until the seventh century, when it was seemingly inherited by the king of Brittany itself.

At some point after that Bro Erech's territory appears to have been divided. Its southern part around Vannes and its northern part around Rennes both had their own separate lines of counts by the ninth century. The two sections were anyway divided by heavily forested highlands and were sparsely populated. The division appears to be due to the Frankish creation of a 'Breton March' or borderland, which was designed to keep the Bretons contained within Armorica and prevent their expansion eastwards. In the ninth century this failed, with all this territory along with Nantes being reclaimed by the Bretons. As the former heart of Bro Erech, Vannes is shown on that page as a diminished eventual continuance, whilst Rennes - arguably the more powerful of the two in later years - is shown separately here.

According to an Angevin genealogy of the eleventh century, the House of Rennes was descended in the male line from the House of Vannes, showing a likelihood that Rennes was a division of Vannes, and not the other way around. The name Rennes is descended from the tribe that counted this town as one of its settlements, the Celtic tribe of the Redones. This was not their main settlement, however. That was at Condate which was located between the rivers Ille and Vilaine (the modern Redon).

(Additional information by Geoffrey Tobin and Edward Dawson.)


Paris is sacked by the army of the Danish Viking king, Ragnarr Lothbrok (father of Ivarr the Boneless and Halfdan, rulers in succession of the Viking kingdom of Dublin).

In the same year conflict with Brittany also rears its head. With the accession of Charles the Bald, Duke NominoŽ of the Bretons has been acting entirely independently. Charles now sends an army to quell this upstart but it is defeated at Ballon, near Redon, and the ambitious NominoŽ, not settling for only one victory, 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.

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

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.


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 restored after a period of being subsumed within the Frankish 'Breton March'.

852 - 874

Salaun / Solomon / Salomon

Count of Rennes & Nantes. Seized Breton throne.

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 is assassinated and the land overrun by Vikings. Breton rule is eventually restored under Alain the Great, but in the meantime, 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 Cornouialle. 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 until he reunites the entire country.

874 - 877

Gurvand of Rennes / Wrhwant

m daughter of NominoŽ of the Bretons (837-851).

877 - 888

JudicaŽl / Judicael



Although JudicaŽl  has been the opponent of Alain of Vannes in the struggle for domination of Brittany, the two unite to fight off the Vikings. The raiders are defeated at the Battle of Questembert in 888 or 889, but JudicaŽl is killed during the action. Alain's son, Pascweten, is given as the father of Berenguer of Rennes, which raises the possibility that Alain gifts the now leaderless county to him.

888? - c.903

Pascweten / Pasquitan (the Younger)

Son of Alain I of Vannes. Possibly count of Rennes.


Great-grandson of Gurvand. Count?


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'.

Sigisbert IV of Frankish Austrasia is supposed to have sought refuge at Ch‚teau Hautpoul in Rennes-le-Ch‚teau after the assassination of his father

c.931 - c.971

JudicaŽl / Judicael Berenguer

Son or grandson of Berenguer. 'JudicaŽl of Nantes'.

958 - 970

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, France 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.

970 - 992

Conan I the Crooked

Son. Duke of Brittany (990-992). Killed in battle.


Conan the Crooked 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.

992 - 1008

Geoffrey Berengar / Godfrey I

Son. Duke of Brittany. Killed.


FeatureOne of Geoffrey's sons is Odo (Eozen) I. Eozen's most famous son is Count Alan Rufus, companion of the Norman duke, William the Conqueror, lord of Cambridge, 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. 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.

1008 - 1040

Alain III

Son. Duke of Brittany.

1040 - 1066

Conan II

Son Duke of Brittany. Last ruling duke of the House of Rennes.

1066 - 1156

The ruling dukes of Brittany, who are drawn from Cornouaille, are also counts of Nantes and Rennes during this period, In 1156 the House of Rennes rules Brittany again as the House of PenthiŤvre under Conan IV, great-great-grandson of Geoffrey I (992-1008).

1156 - 1171

Conan IV the Black

House of PenthiŤvre (Vannes). Duke of Brittany.