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Friday, April 25th, 2008, 07:24 AM
Vikings in Normandy

During the Middle Ages Danish and Norwegian Vikings created the Duchy of Normandy and used its territory as a launching base for the conquest of England

What and where is Normandy?

Normandy was a Duchy of western Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, the lands of the historical Duchy of Normandy are split between two countries: on one side the regions of Normandie, which belong to France, and on the other side the Anglo-Norman isles, which belong to the United Kingdom.

Nowadays, we call Normandy to a territory in northern France which is divided in two administrative regions - upper or Haute-Normandie and lower or Basse-Normandie. These two regions add up to 3.2 million inhabitants and their main cities are Rouen, Le Havre, Caen and Cherbourg. The Anglo-Norman isles are better known by the name of Channel Islands and count with about 149,000 inhabitants living on the islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Lihou.

The Duchy of Normandy was the land of the Norman people. The Normans or Northmen were Scandinavian vikings who settled in this area of western Europe and intermarried with the local people, creating a new culture that was called Norman. From the lands of the Duchy of Normandy, the Normans conquered England and invaded many other territories throughout Europe.

The Scandinavian settlement of Normandy

As early as the 9th century the Scandinavians discovered that the territories of the future Normandy, called Neustria at the time, were very poorly defended. The Vikings took advantage of this and started raiding those lands from AD 820, coming back over the following years and setting up permanent camps along the river Seine.

The territory of Neustria proved to be strategically important for the Vikings as it stood half way between their homelands in Scandinavia and their pillaging grounds in England, the Frankish Kingdom, the Duchy of Brittany, and southern Europe. From their bases on the Neustrian shores, the Vikings sailed upstream the river Seine, raiding the cities of Rouen and Chartres, and besieging Paris many times. The Frankish kings had often to pay heavy ransoms to the Vikings in order to be spared from attack.

One of those many Scandinavian attacks to Paris was leaded by a Norwegian Viking called Hrolf "Rollo" Ganger in AD 911. As a result of that attack, the King of the Franks Charles the Simple offered Rollo sovereignty over Neustria in exchange of protection from future Northmen attacks. Rollo accepted and he became the Jarl of a new country called Normandy.

The Norman Empire

With a new country of their own to rule, those Danish and Norwegian Northmen began to intermarry with the local population of Neustria and to adopt their culture. As the years passed the Normans converted to Christianity and learned to speak the romance language of the old Neustria, which was related to today's French. Eventhough this new Normandy was not Scandinavian anymore there remained a strong bond between the Normans and their Danish and Norwegian relatives.

Normandy continued to be a Viking base for expeditions to England and to southern Europe, and the Normans themselves were usually happy going viking together with their Scandinavian cousins. By the 11th century the Duchy of Normandy had become a trading and military power in Europe, with Norman armies found in southern Italy, Sicily, Byzantium, the Holy Land, and, most particularly, in England.

Hastings 1066: the Normans conquer England

After the king of England Edward the Confessor died in 1066 with no heir to the throne, several nobles claimed a dynastic right to the Kingdom of England: the Norwegian king Harald III, the Anglo-Saxon earl Harold Godwinson, and the Norman duke William the Bastard. King Harald of Norway was defeated by Anglo-Saxon Harold Godwinson at Stamford Bridge in northern England, and some weeks later, on October 14th 1066, Duke William of Normandy defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings. William of Normandy was crowned King of England at the Westminster Abbey and became known as William the Conqueror.

After the conquest of England, the Norman royalty kept their court in Normandy and ruled their possessions from there. Many Norman lords now had property both in Normandy and in England. In 1204 the French King Philip II annexed the Duchy of Normandy to his territories, thus separating mainland Normandy from Norman-England. Years later, the Anglo-Norman kings would try to reunite England and Normandy, provoking the Hundred Years War between England and France.

The Norman conquest of England had a tremendous historical importance. The Normans replaced the Anglo-Saxons as the ruling class of England, they ended the Danish-Norwegian influence in the country, and created a very well organised government: the political power was centralised, the legal system was reformed, the military was reorganised, many castles were built (among them the famous Tower of London), and the economy of the Kingdom was controlled by an accounting office called the exchequer. Norman became the language of the ruling classes for nearly three centuries, changing the Anglo-Saxon language away from its old German structure and making it evolve to what we call today as 'English'.

Scandinavian contribution to the Norman Language

The Scandinavian Vikings who created Normandy ended up adopting the Gallic-Frankish culture and language, but in turn they also left their mark on many Norman placenames and on the Norman language.

The Norman language belongs to the family of oïl languages together with French, Gallo, Walloon, Picard, Swiss-French, and many other minority languages which are spoken in northern France, Belgium and Switzerland. Norman is still spoken in some parts of Normandie and in the Channel Islands. The Norman dialects spoken in the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey have been recognised as Regional Languages by the UK. In France, Norman has no official status.

There are many words of Scandinavian origin in the Norman language and a number of those words have been borrowed from Norman into English and sometimes also into French. An example of a Norse » Norman » English word is the old Norse Kanna (cup), which passed on to Norman as Canne, and was later borrowed into English as Can. Other examples of Norse-Norman » English words are the word Cabbage, borrowed from Caboche; Fashion, borrowed from Faichon; Mug, borrowed from Mogue; Catch, borrowed from Cachi; Cater, borrowed from Acater, and many others.

Hundreds of Scandinavian place names can be found today in Normandy, specially in the regions of Pays de Caux, Cotentin, Caen and Bessin. Old Norse worlds like Torp (hamlet) have survived in Norman placenames like Clitourps, and so did as well other names such us as Gata (lane) in Houlgate, Thorn (thorn) in Tournebu, Kirkja (church) in Cricqueville, Dal (valley) in Dieppedale, Holmi (island) in Le Houlme, Bekk (brook) in Drubec, Bû (village) in Carquebu, Le Bû-sur-Rouvres, and so on.

Many of Normandy's placenames have actually originated from Scandinavian personal names that can also be found in Scandinavia and in England, for example, the Scandinavian name Biarni, which created Bjarnstad in Norway, Bjarnastaðir in Iceland, Bannerup in Denmark, Barneville in Normandy and Barnby in England; the name Úlf, which originated Uvdal in Norway, Ulvedal in Denmark, Oudalle in Normandy or Ullesthorpe in England; or the name Thorgils, which exists in Torgelstad in Norway, Torgistorp in Normandy or Thirkleby in England, and so on. Many of those Scandinavian names are also found in modern Norman surnames such as Turgis, Toustain, Thouroude, Ingouf, Burnouf, etc.


Friday, April 25th, 2008, 10:54 PM
Most of the French folks in the US are of Norman stock. Many of the most common surnames of Acadians trace to Scandinavian origins; for example Hebert was originally Haribrecht and Melancon was originally Mellansson.

One of those many Scandinavian attacks to Paris was leaded by a Norwegian Viking called Hrolf "Rollo" Ganger in AD 911.

I take a great interest in Rollo, since several of my genealogical lines trace back to him. We do not know for sure whether or not Rollo was Norwegian or Danish. Norwegian and Icelandic scholars believe his ancestry to be Norwegian, which Danish scholars believe his origin to be in Denmark. No consensus has been reached.

Source (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008, 02:06 PM
Komiši sęl.

I do not believe the Danes and Norse who colonised Normandy used it as a base to conquer England.

The Danes and Norse had been in Neustria for quite some time and had started to colonise that land that became Normandy for some time before it was officialy granted in 911.

William the Conqueror was not a Viking he was of Norwegian and Danish origins as he was of Frankish, Gaulish and Breton origins(His father Robert being half Breton via his mother Judith of Brittany) and by that time the Danish and Norse settlers had all mixed with the population. A population that was mostly above all of romanised Gaulish stock (from the Lexovii, Aulercii and other Celtic tribes) with strong Frankish and Saxon elements.

So the Conquest of England had nothing to do with Danish and Norse preparations to conquer England. Haraldur Haršrįši from Norway is another affair.

That said the Normans were about one third in the invading army in 1066 the rest being mostly Bretons, men from Flandern, Maine, Anjou and France (Paris region of today) And the Normans were harsh to the Anglo-Danish nobilty in Anglo-Saxon (Or should we say Anglo-Danish) England. They would hardly have done so if they had been with a sense of strong kinship.

Still the Normans had strong ties with the Scandinavian world until the reign of Duke Richard III. And many placenames in Normandy of today are of Norse origins or hybrid Norse origins but we must not over exagerate the Scandinavian importance nor deminish it. There is in The Icelandic sagas no name for Normandy in ancient Norse altough Rouen was given a norse name Rśšuborg.

The Nordic placenames in Normandy show an important Scandinavian heritage in what is now Normandy but they do not dominate the Gaulish (Celtic) Gallo-Roman and Frankish placenames.

Normandy was a new creation a mixture of diverse ellements that created a unique culture distinct from it“s neighbours in Frankish Gaul and of Scandinavia.

The Conquest of England was thuss not a Scandinavian affair.

Best regards,


Friday, August 15th, 2008, 09:35 PM
Hrolf was nicknamed "the Walker" due to his immense size. He was a non-thyroidal giant, and could not comfortably ride a horse (his discomfort, or the horses?). Hence, he had to walk where others rode.

Monday, October 27th, 2008, 02:27 AM
The conquest of Normandy was unusual in the way the Vikings quickly became "French." They realized the political advantages of converting to Christianity early on. It took them three or four generations to completely abandon the old gods and become "true" Christians. They also changed the way they fought and went on to become some of the best cavalry in Europe.

Monday, June 24th, 2019, 07:15 PM

Monday, June 24th, 2019, 08:42 PM
His tomb was desecrated during the Wars of Religion, and again during the French Revolution. Only William's left femur remains in the tomb.:tombstone