Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte
In the 840s, Viking Norsemen were entering the Frankish territories as raiders and, gradually, became settlers. The conception of Normandy as a nationhood was not yet founded; there was no unified duchy. Rather there was northwest Neustria, or Annals of St Bertain, which was commonly referred to as March of Brittany, the region between Seine and Loire, and no man's land. There are territories where various Vikings prevailed.
The Battle of Chartres
In the late Ninth Century the Vikings began raiding what is now known as northern France. The raid was made possible by navigating ships down the River Seine to Paris and Chartres. As they sailed, the Vikings would stop along their route to rape, pillage, and raid towns and churches. One such town that suffered a disastrous fate was the village of Saint Clair-Sur-Epte; when it was burned by the Vikings in 885 A.D. In 911, a group of Vikings led by the Norwegian Rollo launched a surprise attack on Paris before laying siege to Chartres. Appeals for help from the Bishop of Chartres, Joseaume, were answered by Robert, Marquis of Neustria, Richard, Duke of Burgundy and Manasses, Count of Dijon. On 20 July 911, at the Battle of Chartres, they defeated Rollo despite the absence of many French barons and of Charles the Simple . After the Frankish victory near Chartres on 26 August, Charles decided to negotiate with Rollo.[clarification needed]
The Negotiation and Treaty Itself
The talks, led by Hervé, the Archbishop of Reims, resulted in the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911. The treaty granted Rollo and his soldiers all the land between the river Epte and the sea "in freehold and good money". In addition, it granted him Brittany "for his livelihood." At the time, Brittany was an independent country which present day France had unsuccessfully tried to conquer. In exchange, Rollo guaranteed the king his loyalty, which involved military assistance for the protection of the kingdom against other Vikings. One of the conditions for the Vikings after their loss was to convert. As a token of his goodwill, Rollo also agreed to be baptized and to marry Gisela, a presumed legitimate daughter of Charles.
With Viking bands of settlers, composed of non-aristocratic lineages, there came multiple communities formed and a new political ethos that was not Frankish. The Vikings slowly became known as "Northmen," from which "Normandy" and "Normans" are derived. This identity formation was partly possible because Vikings were adapting indigenous culture, speaking French, renouncing paganism and converting to Christianity, and intermarrying with the local population. Though, conversion and assimilation was taking place, it is important to remember that the process for cultivating a Christian end-product society was slow. The culture was, at this time, a hybrid. But the traité en forme at Saint Clair-Sur-Epte marked the beginning of Normandy as a state.
Bretons and Vikings
The territory covered by the treaty corresponds to the northern part of today's Upper Normandy down to the Seine, but the territory of the Vikings would eventually extend west beyond the Seine to form the Duchy of Normandy, so named because of the Norsemen who ruled it. The treaty allowed these new settlements. But not all Vikings were welcome. And with the death of Alan I, King of Brittany, another group of Vikings occupied Brittany faced their own dispute. Around 937, Alan I's son Alan II returned from England to expel those Vikings from Brittany in a war that was concluded in 939. During this period the Cotentin Peninsula was lost by Brittany and gained by Normandy.
There would be a convergence between Franks and Normans with a few generations. But for now, the treaty involved a marriage between Gisla and Hrólfr (also known Rollo to the Franks). Marriages such as this played an important role in cultivating alliances and cohesion; wives were often called "peace weavers." And later, Charles the Simple created an alliance and a grant of rights to those Vikings seeking to settle in 918.
While Vikings did adapt, adopt, and assimilate to Christianity, they did not necessarily adopt indigenous administration: "The creation of Norman power between first settlement and the mid-eleventh century is not primarily of assimilation to Carolingian forms, as those appear in the capitualaries. Rather, the Vikings "adhered longer than the Franks around them--to older forms of social organization," that the Franks were abandoning.
The Vikings came close to being absorbed into a lower social strata in Frankish society had not a wave of invading Vikings occurred in the 960s. Over time, the frontiers of the duchy, based in kinship, expanded to the west. "By the mid-eleventh century the descendants of the settlers formed the most disciplined, cooperative warrior society in Europe, capable of a communal effort--the conquest and subjugation of England--that was not, and could not have been, mounted by any other European political entity."
There was not a successful duchy until around the time of Richard I control of Normandy. During his reign he bore daughters who would become peace weavers to forge valuable marriage alliances with powerful neighboring counts and the king of England. His daughter, Emma, underwent two marriages. In 1002, King Æthelred II married Emma, the sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy. After Æthelred the Unready's death in 1016, Emma marriage her second husband who was an invader: Cnut the Great. Emma and Æthelred the Unready's children included Alfred Aetheling and Edward the Confessor. Emma also bore children with Cnut: Haracnut and a daughter, Gunnhild. This is not to mention Cnut's previous child in his previous marriage: Harold Harafoot. While the complicated woven connections that marriage brought could bring peace, the alliances, and stability, once the alliance of Cnut and Emma ended, there was a battle over the throne. Emma's children with Æthelred the Unready give a major connection between Normandy and England that would add validity to William the Conqueror's claim to the throne of England later on.
On 12 November 1035, King Cnut, died at Shaftsbury in Dorset. He was around 40 years old and was buried at the Winchester Abbey. With his death, a succession Crisis was created, and his huge Northern European Empire, which contained England, Denmark and Norway, fell apart because of strife over which heir would control certain regions. For instance, Harold Harefoot tried to seize the throne of England; he is able to rule the "North of the river of Thames" until 1035 when he "failed to prevail over the archbishop." Meanwhile, South of the River Thames, Haracnut reigned, "but was deserted by his supporters in 1037." In 1037, Harold Harefoot ascended the throne "as king everywhere"  But with his death came the accession of Haracnut. Essentially, all of Cnut's children, whether illegitimate or not, there was interest in the throne of England; that is, the male heirs.
How this relates to Normandy is with Edward the Confessor's claim to the throne. He was an illegitimate child of Cnut because he came from Emma's first marriage. The result of not being a direct son of Cnut, meant Edward and his brother spent most of their lives in Normandy as an exile to England. This dynamic led to the establishment of a powerful Norman interest in English politics. Edward drew heavily on his former hosts for support, bringing in Norman courtiers, soldiers, and clerics and appointing them to positions of power, particularly in the Church. Edward was childless and embroiled in conflict with the formidable Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and his sons, and he may also have encouraged Duke William of Normandy's ambitions for the English throne." And so, he laid claim to the English throne while Haracnut was King. Eventually, William would not only stake a claim to the English crown, but take advantage of the fragmented state of England due to the Great Succession Crisis and its aftermath.
Before William left for England, he had to gained support and unify Normandy as a consolidated state. But to maintain this unity in Normandy meant William needed to make sure that his neighbors, such as France, were not a threat. William was able to leave for his invasion with the aid of churches and ducal administration, as well as the timely death of France's King; all of these circumstances and dynamics secured William's power. William was able to accomplished the defeat of England by invading and landing his ships in Dives. There, William was met with Harold II on the battle field, and the Battle of Hastings ensued in the fall of 1066. Bradbury asserts the Battle of Hastings events unfolded at either Caldbec Hill, Battle Hill, or the Abbey in three phases: The first phase consisted of confrontation, with the Normans striking the Anglo-Saxons first; the second phase is a counter-attack by the English; while the last phrase consisted with a Norman breakthrough. Without the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, there never would have been a Normandy and their duchy formation. In fact, the assimilation of Vikings and their adoption of the French language and customs would have likely occurred in another time, or another manner; if not at all. Nevertheless, these events did happen, and the treaty eventually led to future power struggles between Normandy and England, such as the Norman Conquest. William II, duke of Normandy, became William the I, King of England, when he invaded England at the time of Harold II's reign in 1066. And the Norman Conquest would cause native Anglo-Saxons, Danes, and the like to adopt French into their language which would eventually develop into Middle English.
- Francois Neveux. A Brief History of The Normans. Constable and Robinson Ltd. 2006; p. 62.
- Bradbury "Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066: Model and evidences" Chapter 1-3
- Timothy Baker, The Normans New York: Macmillan, 1966.
- Crouch Normans pp. 15–16
- Bates Normandy Before 1066 p. 12
- Bates Normandy Before 1066 pp. 20–21
- Bradbury"Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066: Model and evidences" p.1
- Hallam and Everard Capetian France p. 53
- Bradbury "Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066: Model and evidences" pp.7-8
- Williams Æthelred the Unready p. 54
- Michael Lapidge "The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England" p.516
- Unknown "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle"
- Stafford Unification and Conquest pp. 86–99
- Bradbury The Battle of Hastings p.164
- Bradbury The Battle of Hastings p.1-278;Chapter 3