Rollo of Normandy (860-932)

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Rollo of Normandy (860–932 ?) was the founder and first ruler of the Viking principality in what soon became known as Normandy in modern-day western France.

Also known as Hrolf the Ganger or Rollon, 1st Duke of Normandy from 911 to 927, called also Rolf the Walker, because, being so tall, he preferred to go afoot rather than ride the little Norwegian horses. Also shown as Rollon, Row, or Robert. Originally a Norse Viking, he was noted for strength and martial prowess. In the reign of Charles II the Bald, he sailed up the Seine River and took Rouen, which he kept as a base of operations. He gained a number of victories over the Franks, and extorted the cession of the province since called Normandy. By the famous treaty which Charles the Bald and Rollo signed the latter agreed to adopt Christianity. He was born in 846 and died in 932, and was buried in the Cathedral at Rouen.

Rollo of Normandy (860-932) was born 860 and died 932 of unspecified causes.

Disputed Origins

The question of Rollo's Danish or Norwegian origins was a matter of heated dispute between Norwegian and Danish historians of the 19th and early 20th century, particularly in the run-up to Normandy's 1000-year-anniversary in 1911. Today, historians still disagree on this question, but most would now agree that a certain conclusion can never be reached.

Danish Theory

Dudo of St. Quentin, in his De moribus et actis primorum Normannorum ducum (Latin), tells of a powerful Danish nobleman at loggerheads with the king of Denmark, who then died and left his two sons, Gurim and Rollo, leaving Rollo to be expelled and Gurim killed. William of Jumièges also mentions Rollo's prehistory in his Gesta Normannorum Ducum however he states that he was from the Danish town of Fakse. Wace, writing some 300 years after the event in his Roman de Rou, also mentions the two brothers (as Rou and Garin), as does the Orkneyinga Saga.

Norwegian Theory

Norwegian and Icelandic historians identified this Rollo with a son of Rognvald Eysteinsson, Earl of Møre, in Western Norway, based on medieval Norwegian and Icelandic sagas that mention a Ganger Hrolf (Hrolf, the Walker). The oldest source of this version is the Latin Historia Norvegiae, written in Norway at the end of the 12th century. This Hrolf fell foul of the Norwegian king Harald Fairhair, and became a Jarl in Normandy. The nickname of that character came from being so big that no horse could carry him.


885 Siege of Paris

In 885, Rollo was one of the lesser leaders of the Viking fleet which besieged Paris under Sigfred. Legend has it that an emissary was sent by the king to find the chieftain and negotiate terms. When he asked for this information, the Vikings replied that they were all chieftains in their own right. In 886, when Sigfred retreated in return for tribute, Rollo stayed behind and was eventually bought off and sent to harry Burgundy.

911 Invasion of Western France

Later, he returned to the Seine with his followers (known as Danes, or Norsemen). He invaded the area of northern France now known as Normandy.

In 911 Rollo's forces were defeated at the Battle of Chartres by the troops of King Charles the Simple.[1] In the aftermath of the battle, rather than pay Rollo to leave, as was customary, Charles the Simple understood that he could no longer hold back their onslaught, and decided to give Rollo the coastal lands they occupied under the condition that he defend against other raiding Vikings. In the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911) with King Charles, Rollo pledged feudal allegiance to the king, changed his name to the Frankish version, and converted to Christianity, probably with the baptismal name Robert.[2] In return, King Charles granted Rollo the lower Seine area (today's upper Normandy) and the titular rulership of Normandy, centred around the city of Rouen. There exists some argument among historians as to whether Rollo was a "duke" (dux) or whether his position was equivalent to that of a "count" under Charlemagne. According to legend, when required to kiss the foot of King Charles, as a condition of the treaty, he refused to perform so great a humiliation, and when Charles extended his foot to Rollo, Rollo ordered one of his warriors to do so in his place. His warrior then lifted Charles' foot up to his mouth causing him to fall to the ground.

Settlement of Normandy

Initially, Rollo stayed true to his word of defending the shores of the Seine river in accordance to the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, but in time he and his followers had very different ideas. Rollo began to divide the land between the Epte and Risle rivers among his chieftains and settled there with a de facto capital in Rouen. With these settlements, Rollo began to further raid other Frankish lands, now from the security of a settled homeland, rather than a mobile fleet. Eventually, however, Rollo's men intermarried with the local women, and became more settled as Frenchmen. At the time of his death, Rollo's expansion of his territory had extended as far west as the Vire River.

Death of Rollo

Sometime around 927, Rollo passed the fief in Normandy to his son, William Longsword. Rollo may have lived for a few years after that, but certainly died before 933. According to the historian Adhemar, 'As Rollo's death drew near, he went mad and had a hundred Christian prisoners beheaded in front of him in honour of the gods whom he had worshipped, and in the end distributed a hundred pounds of gold around the churches in honour of the true God in whose name he had accepted baptism.' Even though Rollo had converted to Christianity, some of his pagan roots surfaced at the end.

Residence at Falaise

In Falaise France, is a series of statues that pays tribute to the six Norman Dukes from Rollo to William Conqueror. The castle here was the principal residence of the Norman Knights.

Château Guillaume-le-Conquérant Place Guillaume le Conquérant / 14700 Falaise / Tel: 02 31 41 61 44

Children of Rollo


Offspring of Rollo of Normandy and Poppa van Bayeux (c870-c910)
Name Birth Death Joined with
William Longsword, 2nd Duke of Normandy (893-942) 893 17 December 942 Sprota (?-?)
Liutgarde de Vermandois (c920-978)

Gerloc de Normandie (?-962) 14 October 962 William III of Aquitaine (c900-963)

Robert of Corbeil (?-?)
Crespina de Normandie (?-?)
Gerletta de Normandie (?-?)
Kathlin de Normandie (?-?)

Dudo ii, 16 (p. 39) makes Poppa the mother of William, but does not give the mother of Gerloc/Adele. Guillaume de Jumièges (GND ii, 6 (v. 1, pp. 64-5)) makes Poppa the mother of both Guillaume and Gerloc.

William I Longsword (893 – 17 December 942) was the second Duke of Normandy from his father's death until his own assassination. Little is known about his early years. He was born in Bayeux or Rouen to Rollo and his wife Poppa. All that is known of Poppa is that she was a Christian, and the daughter to Berengar of Rennes, the previous lord of Brittania Nova, which eventually became western Normandy. According to the William's planctus, he was baptised a Christian.

  • William Longsword, 2nd Duke of Normandy (893-942) - Son and heir to Norman Duchy
  • Gerloc or Adele - Daughter m. Guillaume (William) Tête d'Étoupe, count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine. See Dudo iii, 47 (pp. 69-70, which mentions the marriage but does not give her name), p. 201 (note 256, and sources cited therein, for Adele as the Christian name of Gerloc); GND ii, 13 (v. 1, pp. 68-9). Around 942, monks from Saint-Cyrien de Poitiers arrived at Jumieges. They had been sent by William’s sister Gerloc who had married William III, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitiers.

More children are listed on the Royal Genealogies Website (ROYAL92.GED), online RGW. Hereinafter cited as Royal Genealogies Website.

  • Robert of Corbeil
  • Crespina de Normandie
  • Gerletta de Normandie
  • Kathlin de Normandie

Famous Descendants

Rollo is a direct ancestor of William the Conqueror. Through William, he is a direct ancestor and predecessor of the present-day British royal family.

Sources and notes

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