Duke of Normandy

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The 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 the Bastard, conquered 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 formed an integral part of the French royal demesne. The Valois kings of France started a tradition of granting the title to their heirs apparent, until this was supplanted by the title Dauphin. The title was granted four times between the French conquest of Normandy by Philip Augustus and the dissolution of the French monarchy in 1792.

Rollo the Viking[edit]

Statue of Rollo in Falaise, Calvados

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]

First Duke of Normandy, Viking HRÓLFR[edit]

HRÓLFR; ROLLO the DANE; KONING der NOORMANNEN or KING of the NORTHMEN; Also called ROLF the WALKER because being so tall he preferred to go afoot rather than ride the little Norwegian horses; Originally a Norse Viking Chief, he was noted for strength and martial prowess; Baptized ROBERT.

[c. 782 A.D. During all this period the war with the Saxons continued: Pepin had compelled them to pay tribute, and besides forced them to receive missionaries, but they could neither bear to pay the one nor embrace the religion of the other, the pacific spirit of which was so contradictory to the human passions. Having massacred several of the missionaries, and committed several other outrages, they provoked Charlemagne to wage war against them, and so strenuously were they attached to liberty, that they held out against his power for thirty years. In one of these battles Witikind, the Saxon General, inflicted a severe defeat on the French, which Charlemagne cruelly revenged by the massacre of Verden, where four thousand five hundred of the principal Saxons were beheaded. At length Witikind, after being defeated with great slaughter in several battles, made his submission, and embraced Christianity. His followers were not equally tractable; they often revolted, and were not completely subdued until Charlemagne removed many thousand families of them, which he dispersed through Flanders and other countries. Some of the most resolute tribes retired into Scandinavia, carrying with them an implacable hatred of the dominion and religion of the French.]

The severe persecution of the Saxons by Charlemagne induced many of their bravest warriors to fly into Scandinavia. Their representation of the cruelties practiced on the worshippers of the God ÓÐINN stimulated their brethren of the north to prepare for revenge; and we have already seen that even in the reign of Charlemagne the northern shores of France were devastated by Scandinavian pirates. 911 A.D. IN 911 A.D., Duke Ebalus of Aquitaine aligned in opposition to the Viking HRÓLFR of Normandy. A part of Viking Chief HRÓLFR'S army was camped on a hill called Mont-Levis, north of the city of Chartes, with his other soldiers located on the plains surrounding Chartes. On July 20, 911 A.D. the French allies commenced the Battle against the Danes. The legend tells that the Danes were struck blind with panic, a condition assigned to heroic commander HRÓLFR’S descendants. On the basis of the contagious terror, the Danes fled the combat and were unpursued. By end of day 6,800 Danes lay dead on the field of battle. Duke Ebalus was overdue in arriving at Chartes, and as a result was mocked by his victorious allies. As a way to redeem himself, Ebalus accepted a challenge to confront the last of the Danes encamped atop of Mont-Levis. The challenge was completely lost when the Danes defeated Duke Ebalus in the darkness of the night. The Northmen sounded their horns and created earth-shattering noises when rushing down from the mount and stormed the camp of Duke Ebalus. Duke Ebalus then fled and hid inside a drum of the Fuller’s workshop. In a popular French ballad of the Plantagenet era, Ebalus was scorned for his cowardice. HRÓLFR besieges Paris and Chartes. Following a victory near Chartes on August 26, 911 A.D., King Charles of France decided to negotiate with HRÓLFR. 923 A.D. After an absolute blank of some years, we meet with an account of the appearance of HRÓLFR, the most celebrated of the Norman Chieftans. He every where defeated the French forces, seized on Rouen, which he converted into a place of arms, and struck King Charles of France with so much terror that he resolved to purchase peace on any conditions. The invasion of HRÓLFR, in the reign of King Charles the Simple (Straightforward) was the last of their plundering expeditions by an agreement with that Monarch, who was anxious to save his country from devastation, and to secure for himself an active body of partisans. King Charles sent a Bishop as an Ambassador to HRÓLFR, offering to give him his daughter Gisela in marriage, and cede the Province of Neustria to HRÓLFR and his followers, provided that HRÓLFR should become a Christian, acknowledge the King of France as his feudal sovereign, and aid in repelling any future invasions of the King’s country. This agreement is called the Treaty of Saint-Clair-Sur-Epte. In exchange for the Viking's loyalty they were granted all the land between the river Epte and the Sea, and the territory of Bretagne. HRÓLFR, to whom religion was a matter of perfect indifference converted to Christianity and was baptized with the name Robert; he assented to all the conditions, stipulated only that Bretagne should be ceded to him until the other province was cultivated. This was granted, the marriage soon afterwards took place, and HRÓLFR paid homage to the Crown . . . more like a conqueror than a vassal. King Charles invested HRÓLFR with the defense of the lands that came to be called Normandy from ‘Nomanni’ or Northmen. The province of Neustria, and the hand of the King’s daughter were given to HRÓLFR, who thenceforward took the title of Duke Robert I of Normandy. The remains of the Celtic Gaul's, who had been cruelly oppressed by the Franks, gladly submitted to the equitable administration of HRÓLFR, and the number of his subjects was continually increased by parties of the aboriginal natives, who sought, under a new master, relief from the oppression of their former conquerors. But the Normans were not so successful in obtaining the affections of the inhabitants of Bretagne, whom King Charles, unable to subdue himself, had transferred to his new allies. The weakness and incapacity of King Charles became ‘every day more apparent’; he allowed himself to be entirely governed by Haganon, a man of low birth, hated by the nobility, and despised by the people. Robert of Neustria, brother of King Odo, appeared in arms against him; and King Charles, instead of levying an army, assembled a council, where he procured the excommunication of his opponents. 929 A.D. After a slight struggle, Robert of Neustria was killed in battle, and his son, Hugh ‘the Great’, or ‘the Abbot’, though he might have obtained the Crown himself, chose rather to bestow it on Rodolph, Duke of Burgundy. Rodolph gained over the nobles by lavish donations of the land which still belonged to the Crown; King Charles was made a prisoner, and his Queen Elgiva fled to the Court of her brother Athelstan, King of England, accompanied by her son, a boy about nine years old. The heroic Count Herbert of Vermandois (who was the first to exercise power over the territory that is now the Province of Champagne; married to Hildebrande, daughter of King Robert I of France; Count of Vermandois, Count of Meaux et Soissons, and Lay Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Médard, Soissons) in order to procure good terms from Rodolph by threatening him with the liberation of his rival, obtained possession of the person of the unhappy King Charles, under the pretense of undertaking his defense; but he detained him a prisoner at Saint-Quentin, and then at Château-Thierry, and at Péronne, where King Charles died in 929 A.D. poisoned as it is said, by the Count of Vermandois. By this means the Count procured the County of Laon from the new Sovereign. Count Herbert of Vermandois was hanged by order of King Louis IV d’Outremer, who battled him for re-allocation of the Counts titular holdings, on 22 February 943 A.D. at Saint-Quentin, Aisne, capital of the county of Vermandois.

935 A.D. Rodolph did not long enjoy the Crown, he survived the unhappy King Charles about six years, leaving no children. HRÓLFR, the Conqueror of Normandy, died about three years before, leaving his son William, surnamed Longue Epee or Longsword, the heir both of his principality and his virtues. Duke Ebalus died in 935 A.D., the same year his son and heir William III Towhead marries Lady Gerloc, daughter of Viking HRÓLFR, Duke Robert I of Normandy.



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.[4]
  • 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 informally as the "Duke of Normandy", notwithstanding the fact that she is a woman. 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 apparently relinquished claims to continental Normandy and other French claims in 1259 (Treaty of Paris), the Channel Islands (except for Chausey under French sovereignty) remain Crown dependencies of the British Crown. The British historian Ben Pimlott noted that while Queen Elizabeth II was on a visit to mainland Normandy in May 1967, French locals began to doff their hats and shout "Vive la Duchesse!", to which the Queen supposedly replied "Well, I am The Duke of Normandy!".[5] Both Channel Islands legislatures refer to Elizabeth II in writing as "The Queen in the right of Jersey" or "The Queen in the right of Guernsey" respectively. However, the Queen is informally referred to as "The Duke of Normandy"; this title is used by the islanders, especially during their loyal toast, where they informally[6] say "The Queen, our Duke" or, in French "La Reine, notre Duc", rather than simply "The Queen", as is the practice in the United Kingdom.[7]


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


  1. ^ Pinnock’s School Series: History of France and Normandy from the Earliest Times to the Revolution of 1848, with questions for examination at the end of each section. By W. C. Taylor L.L.D. Illustrated with numerous engravings. First American, from the Third English Edition. Philadelphia: CHARLES DESILVER, No. 714 Chestnut Street, 1859. Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1858, by CHARLES DESILVER, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States...District of Pennsylvania.
  2. ^ Wikipedia.org
  3. ^ Cawley, Charles (2008-10-28), England Kings: Henry King died 1183, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, retrieved August 2012 ,[better source needed]
  4. ^ Weir, Alison (1996). 258. Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy. Revised Edition. Random House, London. ISBN 0-7126-7448-9.
  5. ^ The Queen: Elizabeth II and the Monarchy, p. 314, at Google Books
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ The Channel Islands, p. 11, at Google Books

External links[edit]