Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Duchy of Normandy - region of northern France that came under Viking rule in the 10th century, the name of which is derived from Nordmannia (Northmans Land). The origins of Normandy can be traced to the arrival of a large Viking army on the Seine in 885. In 890 most of the force had moved on to Flanders, and eventually to England, but some Vikings remained behind and continued to raid the area. After the seine Vikings unsuccessfully besieged Chatres in 911, thier leader Rollo reached a peace agreement with the Frankish king Charles the Simple at St-Claire-Sur-Epte. In return for his homage, conversion to Christianity and an undertaking to defend the Seine against other Viking raiders, Rollo was made count of Rouen (the title of duke was adopted by Norman rulers only in 1006). Though the establishment of Normandy would certainly cause some major problems for future kings of France, the treaty achieved its immediate objective: permanently ending the threat to the Seine. Rollo was granted further lands around Bayeux in 924, and his son William Longsword gained the Cotentin peninsula in 933, but the powerful counts of Flanders defeated their attempts to expand eastwards. A political crisis followed the murder of William Longsword in 942 and the subsequent accession of his ten year-old son Richard the Fearless, but by 946 the threat to the survival of Normandy had been averted. Under Richard and his successor Richard the Good, Normandy became progressively assimilated into the political life of the West Frankish kingdom (France).

Normandy may owe its creation and name to the Vikings but they had very little influence on the region in the long term. Place-name evidence suggests that Scandinavian settlement was fairly dense around Fecamp, Rouen, Caen and the Cotentin peninsula, but elsewhere it was sparse: the Scandinavian settlers were certainly a minority in Normandy as a whole. Place-names indicate that most of settlers were Danish, though many may have previously settled in the Danelaw in England, and others in the Cotentin were Irish-Norse. There is almost no archaeological evidence of Scandinavian settlement, indicating that the settlers quickly adopted Frankish material culture and burial customs. One of the most important finds is a richly furnished female grave from Pitres. Finds of several swords of Anglo-Saxon pattern strengthen the case for immigration via England. A new wave of pagan settlers arrived c942 and, led by one Turmod, started a brief pagan revival, but most of the original settlers had become at least nominally Christian by this time, and monasteries such as Jumieges, abandoned in the previous century, were being reoccupied. A final influx of pagan Viking warriors created a brief stir in the early 960s. Trade links with Scandinavia were never important and had been abandoned by the early 11th century, by which time Norman coins cease to appear in Scandinavian hoards. Scandinavian speech probably survived until the early 11th century, as the presence of a Norwegian poet at the ducal court in 1025 suggests that there were still people there who could understand him. By the time William the Conqueror led his invasion of England in 1066, however, the Normans had become completely assimilated to French culture and language.

Notes from Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age by John Haywood. Thames & Hudson 2000. pp 134 - 135.

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