Saturday 27 May 2017

Duchy of Normandy

Normans were those descendants of Vikings or Norsemen who settled in Northern France(Frankish Kingdom), who under their leader Rollo, agreed to swear fealty to King Charles III of West Francia in 911 CE. The Normans founded the duchy of Normandy and sent out expeditions of conquest and colonization to southern Italy and Sicily and to England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

Rollo's grave at the Cathedral of Rouen

The Duchy of Normandy, which began in 911 as a fiefdom, was established by the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte between King Charles III of West Francia and the famed Viking ruler Rollo, and was situated in the former Frankish kingdom of Neustria. The treaty offered Rollo and his men the French lands between the river Epte and the Atlantic coast in exchange for their protection against further Viking incursions.

A castle in Normandy

William Longsword(c.893 – 17 December 942) was the son of Rollo and second ruler of Normandy, from 927 until his assassination in 942. Early in his reign, he faced a rebellion from Normans who felt he had become too Gallicised and too soft. In 933 Longsword recognized Raoul as King of Western Francia, who was struggling to assert his authority in Northern France. In turn Raoul gave him lordship over much of the lands of the Bretons including Avranches, the Cotentin Peninsula and the Channel Islands.

Statue of William Longsword

Richard I (28 August 933 – 20 November 996) was the son of William Longsword and third ruler of Normandy from 942 to 996. Richard either introduced feudalism into Normandy or he greatly expanded it. In 962, Theobald I, Count of Blois, attempted an invasion of Rouen, Richard's stronghold, but his troops were summarily routed by Normans under Richard's command, and forced to retreat before ever having crossed the Seine river. Richard was succeeded in November 996 by his 33-year-old son, Richard II, Duke of Normandy.

Statue of Richard I of Normandy

Richard II succeeded his father as fourth Duke of Normandy in 996 and reined till 1026. In 1000-1001, Richard repelled an English attack on the Cotentin Peninsula that was led by Ethelred II of England. Richard attempted to improve relations with England through his sister Emma of Normandy's marriage to King Ethelred. This marriage was significant in that it later gave his grandson, William the Conqueror, the basis of his claim to the throne of England. Richard II died on 28 Aug 1026 and his eldest son, Richard becoming the new Duke.

Statue of Richard II of Normandy

Richard III's short reign as fifth duke of Normandy lasted less than a year. It opened with a revolt by his brother and finished in his death by unknown causes. His brother laid siege to the town of Falaise, but was soon brought to heel by Richard who captured him, then released him on his oath of fealty. No sooner had Richard disbanded his army and returned to Rouen, when he died and the duchy passed to his younger brother Robert I.

Statue of Richard III of Normandy

Robert the Magnificent(1000–1035), was the sixth Duke of Normandy from 1027 until his death in 1035. Soon after assuming the dukedom,  Robert I assembled an army against his uncle, Robert, Archbishop of Rouen and Count of Évreux. His uncle left Normandy in exile but this resulted in an edict excommunicating all of Normandy, which was only lifted when Archbishop Robert was allowed to return and his countship was restored. Robert, by way of Constantinople, reached Jerusalem, fell seriously ill and died on the return journey at Nicaea on 2 July 1035. His son William, aged about eight, succeeded him.

Robert I of Normandy

William II also known as William the Conqueror became seventh duke of Normandy in 1035. He enjoyed the support of his great-uncle, Archbishop Robert, as well as the king of France, Henry I, enabling him to succeed to his father's duchy. But Archbishop Robert's death in March 1037 removed one of William's main supporters, and conditions in Normandy quickly descended into chaos. King Henry continued to support the young duke, but in late 1046 opponents of William came together in a rebellion centred in lower Normandy, led by Guy of Burgundy.

Château de Falaise, birthplace of William II

William built a large fleet and invaded England in September 1066, decisively defeating and killing Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. By 1075, William's hold on England was mostly secure, allowing him to spend the majority of the rest of his reign on the continent.

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