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European Kingdoms

Western Europe


Duchy of Normandy
AD 911 - 1202

The name Normandy was derived from 'North Man', a common name at the time for Vikings. The duchy was founded by Vikings from territory granted by the French crown under the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911. The Vikings, under their leader, Rollo, were authorised to settle in the valley of the Seine, thereby putting an end to their constant raiding, and engaging them to protect northern France from raiding by anyone else.

Although the origins of Rollo are disputed between Denmark and Norway, it seems more likely that he was a Danish Viking who was the son of a powerful nobleman. This nobleman had been in conflict with the Danish king and when he died, his two sons, Gurim and Rollo, were left to take over his role. Gurim was killed and Rollo expelled from his homeland. He took to raiding the Seine valley in France, causing huge problems for the weakening French crown, until they were forced to enter into negotiations with him to secure peace.

An alternative claim for Rollo's origins places him as the son of Ragnvald Eysteinsson 'the Wise', jarl of Møre in Norway. The Norse original form of Rollo's name there was Hrolf ('Rollo') Gangr. With Norway having been forcibly unified across the span of one very turbulent decade of fighting, and Thorir, Hrolf's brother, already having succeeded his father as jarl, Hrolf's only chance of fame and glory would have been an adventure in one of the rich lands to the south-west.

As newly-settled Norse overlords on the territory which would become Normandy, the Normans proved hugely enthusiastic defenders of northern France. They adopted French methods of government, political behaviour, and support for the church. They became powerful supporters of Christianity, securing Mont St Michel (formerly in Brittany) and building an impressive abbey church there. They also adopted horseback warfare, becoming highly proficient, and very ferocious knights.

(Additional information by Geoffrey Tobin, from the World Heritage Encyclopaedia, from The History of Normandy and of England, Francis Palgrave (1864), from Roger II of Sicily: Ruler between East and West, Hubert Houben (Graham A Loud & Diane Milburn, Trans, 2002), from The Normans, Marjorie Chibnall (Wiley & Sons, 2006), from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), from Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, and from External Links: Visit Norway, and The Rouen Chronicles (View from the Left Bank).)

911 - 927

Rollo / Rolf / Rollon

Viking leader. Died 932.

911 - 912

Rollo receives Upper Normandy from Charles III the Simple of France. As Duke Rollo, the following year he converts his Vikings to Christianity as agreed with Charles. He is baptised by the archbishop of Rouen, most of his men are also baptised, and Rollo shares out his lands to his warriors, applying the rule of (adapted) Danish law. Normandy becomes one of France's most prosperous provinces, and Rollo is a loyal vassal.

Viking village
The Vikings who settled in Normandy would have seemed a rough and ready lot to the relatively sophisticated French court, but they proved their worth as loyal vassals and renowned fighters


The Loire Vikings invade Brittany, slaying King Gourmaëlon in battle and occupying the kingdom. 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.


A Norseman named Hiallt is credited with founding the village of Hialtus Villa (Hauteville) in the Cherbourg peninsula (otherwise known as the Cotentin of Normandy). His most important descendant (supposedly, although unconfirmed) is Tancred of the village of Hauteville. Tancred's sons become famous for founding several Norman possessions in southern Italy of the eleventh century, especially Apulia and Sicily. The location of the village of Hauteville is hard to identify with certainty, but Hauteville-la-Guichard seems to be a favourite.


Middle Normandy is added to the duchy.

927 - 942

William I Longsword



William I gains the Cherbourg peninsula for Normandy, along with the Channel Islands which include Jersey, Guernsey and Sark. Norman territory has doubled within two generations.

936 - 942

Having already encouraged a failed Breton rebellion against the Vikings, the monk Yann de Landévennec now calls on Alan to return to Brittany, which he does with the blessing and support of Æthelstan of Wessex. Meanwhile, the future Hugh 'the Great' of Aquitaine is organising the return of Louis to France. Alan's campaign against the Loire Vikings is successful and he is declared Duke Alan 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). Louis also takes the opportunity to attack Normandy.


A desperate William Longsword seeks reconciliation with the Flemish, but is assassinated at a peace conference. The Norman state collapses as Louis of France seizes its lands and captures William's infant heir, Richard.

942 - 996

Richard I the Fearless

996 - 1026

Richard II the Good



In order to strengthen his position against a belligerent Blois, the sixteen year-old (or thereabouts) Duke Geoffrey of Brittany enters into a dynastic alliance with Richard II. At a ceremony that is held at Mont Saint-Michel, on the Breton-Norman border, Geoffrey marries Hawise of Normandy, Richard's sister, whilst Richard marries Judith of Brittany, Geoffrey's sister.

1026 - 1027

Richard III

1027 - 1035

Robert I the Devil

Brother of Richard II.

1027 - 1030

In Italy, Pandulf IV of Capua defeats and deposes Duke Sergius of Naples, but his victory is short-lived. A Norman army under Rainulf Drengot, former ally of Pandulf, arrives in 1029 to dislodge him. Rainulf is granted the county of Aversa in reward.


Sons of Tancred de Hauteville of the Cherbourg peninsula, the Hauteville brothers arrive in southern Italy from Normandy. They have been enticed there after receiving requests for help from fellow Norman, Rainulf Drengot, count of Aversa. Soon after becoming involved with them, Guaimar IV of Salerno is required to send troops to support an Eastern Roman expedition under General Giorgio Maniace. Guaimar sends a cohort of Lombards and Normans, prominent amongst whom is William de Hauteville who, in Apulia, wins the epithet 'Iron Arm'.

1035 - 1087

William 'the Bastard' / 'the Conqueror'

First Norman king of England (1066-1087).


With the Normans under William Iron Arm now in full command of Apulia, they recognise Guaimar IV of Salerno as their overlord by acclaiming him as the duke of Apulia and Calabria. Guaimar, in accordance with good feudal theory, grants them Melfi and the republican model on which it is set up.


FeatureA grant is given by William for six churches to be built on Guernsey, including St Peter's in the capital, St Peter Port.


Despite reigning for nearly thirty years, Henry I of France is unable to achieve anything more than the preservation of the Capetian dynasty after facing incessant conflict with rebel lords. Many of them have shown pretensions for independence, including William, duke of Normandy.


Now secure in Normandy as 'ruler 'of his whole land', a feat few medieval rulers of the time could truly claim, William invades the county of Maine to the south. He crushes the fierce resistance he encounters and adds Maine to his domains.

1064 - 1066

The Breton-Norman War is fought between Brittany and Normandy after years of sparring and raiding. William 'the Bastard' (soon to be 'the Conqueror') has been supporting the rebellion by Rivallon I of Dol against Conan. The Battle of Dinan takes place in 1065, with Harold Godwinson of England fighting on William's side. Conan's forces are chased from Dol-de-Bretagne to Rennes and he finally surrenders at Château de Dinan in Brittany.

During Conan's campaign of 1066 against Anjou, he captures Pouancé and Segré, and arrives at Château-Gontier. There he is found dead on 11 December after donning poisoned riding gloves. Duke William is widely suspected as the culprit. Conan is succeeded by his sister, Hawise, whose marriage to Hoel of Cornouaille may have been a political move to consolidate and stabilise the duchy's eastern and western regions.


Harold II of England is narrowly defeated by William at the Battle of Hastings (actually Senlac Hill, on 14 October). The English Prince Edgar contests William's claim, but is ultimately unsuccessful.

FeatureThe last native British earl of Corniu (Cornwall) is deposed by William in 1066 as he tightens his grip on the newly-conquered country. At first, only the south can be considered as being securely held, and even then only after rebellions have been quelled, with castles being built in places like Okehampton (see feature link).

William also invites the Jews of Rouen to enter the country so that feudal dues can efficiently be collected - this is England's first large-scale influx of members of the Jewish Diaspora. Initial Jewish settlement is in London alone, although Oxford sees settlement from about 1075. Given Rouen's long history of Jewish habitation since the Roman period, these are likely to be Ashkenazi Jews.

Battle of Hastings section of the Bayeux Tapestry
The Battle of Hastings section of the Bayeux Tapestry shows King Harold being struck in the eye by an arrow (centre). For some time many thought this to be one of his bodyguard but it is now generally accepted to be the king himself


Roger Guiscard captures Palermo on Sicily in 1072, supported by a formidable uprising of the island's Christian population. The Kalbid emirate is quashed, paving the way for the creation of the Norman county of Sicily. Only a pocket of Islamic resistance remains.

1087 - 1106

Robert II Curthose

Eldest son (d.1134).

1106 - 1135

Henry I

Third son. King Henry I of England (1100-1135).


Henry I defeats an invasion of his Norman lands by Louis VI of France at the Battle of Brémule.


Pope Anacletus is elected by a select number of cardinals the day following the death of Honorius II. His election is disputed and Innocent is selected instead. However, the latter is forced to flee north of the Alps, and for a time Anacletus is accepted as the official pope, supported by the Norman Roger II de Hauteville, duke of Apulia and Calabria and count of Sicily. Innocent eventually gains popular support in Europe but is only able to claim his office when Anacletus dies in 1138. By this time Roger has already been crowned king of Sicily, uniting Apulia and Calabria with the county of Sicily to form a single Norman kingdom.

1135 - 1145


Son of Adela, dau of William II. King of England (1135-1154).

1145 - 1150

Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou

Husband of Matilda, legitimate heir to the English throne.

1150 - 1189

Henry II

Son of Matilda & Geoffrey. King of England (1154-1189).


The Norman kingdom of Sicily at this time is one of Europe's most vibrant and most powerful. As well as gathering a court of distinguished notables, King Roger II also commissions the world atlas by the Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi.

Muhammad al-Idrisi's world map
Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi's world atlas, as commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily, carries important contemporary notes for each of the regions it displays

1164 - 1166

Having faced several revolts by his own nobles, possibly with support from England, Duke Conan IV of Brittany is forced to appeal to Henry II for help. In return, Henry demands that Conan's only daughter and heiress, Constance, marries Henry's son, Geoffrey. In 1164 Henry moves from subtle control of the duchy to overt control by intervening to seize lands along Brittany's border and also that of Normandy. In 1166 Henry invades Brittany outright in order to punish the local barons. Conan is eventually forced to abdicate in favour of his daughter (who of course is married to Henry's son).


Richard de Clare, earl of Pembroke, or Strongbow, becomes king of Laigin far quicker than expected. This development of Norman lords taking control of Irish kingdoms without being under the authority of the king concerns Henry II of England so much that he arrives to take personal control of what is becoming the invasion of Ireland. He is the first king of England to set foot on Irish shores, arriving with a huge army of 400 ships, 4,000 soldiers, and 5,000 knights. In the event it is a bloodless invasion.

The coming of the Normans to Ireland was a blow for the Irish - the newcomers were tactically and militarily far more powerful than anything seen before by the native kings

The Irish kings know that it is pointless to resist such a vast force. Strongbow also capitulates and his short-lived independence as a Norman king of Laigin is ended. Henry leaves a representative in Ireland to ensure his control and a new colonial mentality is born amongst the Normans. Gerald of Wales subsequently portrays the Irish as being backward and barbaric, ignorant of Christ and of civilisation, thereby justifying the colonisation of Ireland. Strongbow's Laigin effectively becomes the core Anglo-Norman territory in Ireland, later being known as 'The Pale'.

1189 - 1199

Richard I Coeur de Lion

King of England.

1199 - 1214

John Lackland

King of England.

1202 - 1214

In a conflict which is vital to the French monarchy, the 'War' of Bouvines involves John Lackland, HRE Otto IV, and also Thiébaut of Lorraine on the one side, and Philip II of France on the other supported by Otto III of Burgundy. The culmination is the Battle of Bouvines on 27 July 1214. The French are victorious, while John loses the duchy of Normandy and his other French possessions to the French crown.

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