Duke of Normandy

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Duke of Normandy was the title given to the rulers of the Duchy of Normandy in northern France, a fief created in AD 911 by King Charles III "the Simple" of France for Rollo, a Scandinavian nobleman and leader of Northmen.

In 1066 the reigning duke, William II "the Bastard", conquered Brittany and then England, whereupon he became known as King William I "the Conqueror" of England. From then on, the duke of Normandy and the king of England were usually the same man, until the king of France seized Normandy from King John in 1204. John's son Henry III renounced the ducal claim in the Treaty of Paris (1259). Thereafter, the duchy was given at least four times to members of the French royal family, until the French Revolution and the dissolution of the French monarchy in 1792.


Rollo the Viking[edit]

Statue of Rollo

The fiefdom of Normandy was created in 911 for the Viking leader Rollo (also known as Rolf).

After participating in many Viking incursions along the Seine, culminating in the siege of Paris in 886, Rollo was finally defeated by King Charles the Simple. With the Treaty of St.-Claire-sur-Epte, Rollo swore fealty to the French King, converted to Christianity and was baptized with the name Robert. Charles then granted Rollo territories around Rouen, which came to be called Normandy after the Northmen (Latinised Normanni).

Rollo and his immediate successors were styled as "counts" of Normandy. Some later medieval sources refer to them by the title dux, the Latin word from which the English word "duke" is derived; however, Rollo's great-grandson Richard II was the first to assuredly be styled "Duke of Normandy".

Although certain titles were used interchangeably during this period, the title of "duke" was typically reserved for the highest rank of feudal nobility — either those who owed homage and fealty directly to kings, or who were independent sovereigns (primarily distinguished from kings by not having dukes as vassals).[citation needed]

William the Conqueror[edit]

William I (William the Conqueror)

William the Conqueror added the Kingdom of England to his realm after the Norman Conquest of 1066. This created a problematic situation wherein William and his descendants were king in England but a vassal to the king in France. Much of the contention which later arose around the title "Duke of Normandy" (as well as other French ducal titles during the Angevin period) stemmed from this fundamentally irreconcilable situation.

After the death of William the Conqueror, his eldest son, Robert Curthose, became Duke of Normandy while a younger son, William Rufus, became king of England. William II was succeeded in 1100 as king of England by another brother, William the Conqueror's youngest son, Henry I. When Henry deposed Robert in 1106 he claimed both titles, Duke of Normandy and King of England, uniting them once again.[citation needed]

International contention[edit]

In 1204, King Philip II of France confiscated the Duchy of Normandy, held at that time by King John of England, and subsumed it into the crown lands. Only the Channel Islands [a] and Calais remained under John's control. In 1259, Henry III of England recognised the legality of French possession of mainland Normandy under the Treaty of Paris.

English monarchs made subsequent attempts to reclaim their former continental possessions, particularly during the Hundred Years' War, and even claimed the throne of France itself.

With the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, Henry V of England temporarily regained all territories formerly held by the Plantagenets, including Normandy, and was made regent and heir of France. His son, Henry VI inherited both kingdoms in 1422 and afterwards English monarchs included "King of France" among their list of titles. They also included the Royal Arms of France in their own armorial achievements, even after they had lost their French possessions (with the exception of Calais) after 1450.

British claims to the throne of France and other French claims were not formally abandoned until 1801, when George III and Parliament, in the Act of Union, joined the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland and used the opportunity to drop the obsolete claim on France. By that time, the French monarchy itself had been overthrown in 1792 with the establishment of the French Republic. The French revolution also brought an end to the Duchy of Normandy as a political entity, as it was replaced by several departments.

List of dukes of Normandy[edit]

Family tree of the early dukes of Normandy and Norman kings of England
kings of England indicated by an asterisk (*)

Counts (earls, jarls) of Normandy[edit]

Early dukes of Normandy (996-1204)[edit]

House of Plantagenet

Dukes of Normandy in the kingdom of France (1204-1792)[edit]

In 1204, the king of France confiscated the Duchy of Normandy (with only the Channel Islands remaining under English control) and subsumed it into the crown lands of France. Thereafter, the ducal title was held by several French princes.

In 1332, King Philip VI gave the Duchy in appanage to his son John, who became king as John II in 1350. He in turn gave the Duchy in appanage to his son Charles, who became king as Charles V in 1364. In 1465, Louis XI, under constraint, gave the Duchy to his brother Charles de Valois, Duke of Berry. Charles was unable to hold the Duchy and in 1466 it was again subsumed into the crown lands and remained a permanent part of them. The title was conferred on a few junior members of the French Royal Family before the abolition of the French Monarchy in 1792.

  • John (son of King Philip VI, later King John II of France) 1332-1350.
  • Charles (son of John II of France, later King Charles V of France) 1350-1364
  • Charles (brother of Louis XI of France. Also Duke of Berry.) 1465-1466
  • On 31 December 1660, a few months after the restoration of Charles II to the thrones of England and Scotland, King Louis XIV proclaimed Charles' younger brother James, Duke of York, "Duke of Normandy". This was probably done as a political gesture of support for James.[2]
  • Louis-Charles (son of Louis XVI, later Dauphin 1789-1791 and titular King Louis XVII, 1792-1795.) 1785-1789.

Duke of Normandy (British monarch)[edit]

"La Reine, Notre Duc": title of a Diamond Jubilee exhibition at the Jersey Arts Centre

In the Channel Islands, The Queen is known as the Duke of Normandy. The Channel Islands are the last remaining part of the former Duchy of Normandy to remain under the rule of the British monarch. Although the British monarchy relinquished claims to continental Normandy and other French claims in 1801, the Channel Islands (except for Chausey under French sovereignty) remain Crown dependencies of the British Crown to this day. The British historian Ben Pimlott noted that while Queen Elizabeth II was on a visit to mainland Normandy in May 1967, French peasants began to doff their hats and shout "Vive la Duchesse!", to which the Queen supposedly replied "Well, I am the Duke of Normandy!".[3] Most Channel Island legislature refers to Elizabeth II in writing as "the Queen in the right of Jersey" or the "Queen in the right of Guernsey" respectively. However the traditional and conventional title of Duke of Normandy is used by the islanders, especially during their loyal toast, where they refer to "The Queen, our Duke" or "La Reine, notre Duc" in French (or when the monarch is male, "The King, our Duke"), rather than "Her Majesty The Queen" as it goes in the United Kingdom.[4][5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ When the Cotentin Peninsula was lost to Normandy by Brittany, this newly gained territory included these Channel Islands.

References[edit]

  • Onslow, Richard (Earl of Onslow). The Dukes of Normandy and Their Origin. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1945.

External links[edit]