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Notes for Hrólf ROGNVALDSSON


Rollo (c. 870 – c. 932), baptised Robert and so sometimes numbered Robert I to distinguish him from his descendants, the son of the Earl of Mřre was the founder and first ruler of the Viking principality in what soon became known as Normandy. The name "Rollo" is a Frankish-Latin name probably taken from the Old Norse name Hrólfr, modern Scandinavian name Rolf (cf. the latinization of Hrólfr into the similar Roluo in the Gesta Danorum).
Rollo was a Viking leader of contested origin. 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 had two sons, Gurim and Rollo; upon his death, Rollo was expelled and Gurim killed. William of Jumičges also mentions Rollo's prehistory in his Gesta Normannorum Ducum, but 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 and Icelandic historians identified this Rollo with a son of Rognvald Eysteinsson, Earl of Mřre, in Western Norway, based on medieval Norwegian and Icelandic sagas that mention a Ganger Hrólf (Hrólf, the Walker). The oldest source of this version is the Latin Historia Norvegiae, written in Norway at the end of the 12th century. This Hrólf 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.
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.
In 885, Rollo was one of the lesser leaders of the Viking fleet which besieged Paris under Sigfred second official king of the Danes. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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 prior religious roots surfaced at the end.
Source: Wikipedia

Viking Leader 911-927. "Rolf the Ganger" of Norway, "Marching Rolf" or "Rollo the Dane". Defeated Normandy in 911. After invading northwest France, Rollon (Rollo) seized Rouen and the land surrounding it and Charles the Simple granted him part of Neustria. Rollo then embraced Christianity and became ruler of Normandy. He was known as "The Dane", 1st Duke of Normandy. Yielded homage for his Dukedom to Charles the Simple, King of France.
Rollo the Viking was granted land in Northwestern France in 911 AD by Charles the Simple, King of France. Charles hoped that Rollo would defend his new land, barring the length of the Seine River to other Viking groups. Rollo remained faithful to Charles and he and his son quickly expanded the original land grant at the expense of neighboring French lords and guarded it well against Viking rivals. Even before Rollo's grandson Richard took over the domain in 942, the descendants of the Vikings had accepted Christianity, intermarried with the local population and adopted the French language. Already they were being called Normans, a contraction of North men, and there territory became known as Normandy. Richard's great-grandson was King William I, conqueror of England. Rollo was also known as "Rolf" and later in life, Robert; also Hrólfr.
The central fact of Norman history is the grant of Normandy and his northern followers in the year 911. For the actual occurrences of that year, we have only the account of a romancing historian of a hundred years later, reinforced here and there by the exceedingly scanty records of the time. The main fact is clear, namely that the Frankish king, Charles the Simple, granted Rollo as a fief a considerable part, the eastern part, of later Normandy. Apparently Rollo did homage for his fief in feudal fashion by placing his hands between the hands of the king, something, we are told, which "neither his father, nor his grandfather, nor his great- grandfather before him had ever done for any man." Legend goes on to relate, however, that Rollo refused to kneel and kiss the king's foot, crying out in his own speech, "No, by God!" and that the companion to whom he delegated the unwelcome obligation performed it so clumsily that he overturned the king, to the great merriment of the assembled Northmen. As to Rollo's personality, we have only the evidence of later Norman historians of doubtful authority and the Norse saga of Harold Fair hair. If, as seems likely, their accounts relate to the same person, he was known in the north as Hrolf the Ganger, because he was so huge that no horse could carry him and he must needs gang afoot. A pirate at home, he was driven into exile by the anger of King Harold, whereupon he followed his trade in the Western Isles and in Gaul, and rose to be a great Jarl among his people. The saga makes him a Norwegian, but Danish scholars have sought to prove him a Dane, and more recently the cudgels have been taken up for his Swedish origin. To me the Norwegian theory seems on the whole the most probable, being based on a trustworthy saga and corroborated by other incidental evidence. The important fact is that Norway, Denmark, and even more distant Sweden, all contributed to the colonists who settled in Normandy under Rollo and his successors, and the achievements of the Normans thus become the common heritage of the Scandinavian race. The colonization of Normandy was, of course, only a small part of the work of this heroic age of Scandinavian expansion. The great emigration from the North in the ninth and tenth centuries has been explained in part by the growth of centralized government and the consequent departure of the independent, the turbulent, and the untamed for new fields of adventure; but its chief cause was doubtless that which lies back of colonizing movements in all ages, the growth of population and the need of more room. Five centuries earlier this land-hunger had pushed the Germanic tribes across the Rhine and Danube and produced the great wandering of the peoples which destroyed the Roman empire; and the Viking raids were simply a later aspect of this same Völkerwanderung, retarded by the outlying position of the Scandinavian lands and by the greater difficulty of migration by sea. For, unlike the Goths who swept across the map of Europe in vast curves of marching men, or the Franks who moved forward by slow stages of gradual settlement in their occupation of Roman Gaul, the Scandinavian invaders were men of the sea and emigrated in ships.

Charles Homer Haskins, The Normans in European History, Boston & NY, 1915, p 26-30 passim. From p 48 & 50: At this point the fundamental question forces itself upon us, how far was Normandy affected by Scandinavian influences? What in race and language, in law and custom, was the contribution of the north to Normandy? And the answer must be that in most respects the tangible contribution was slight. Whatever may have been the state of affairs in the age of colonization and settlement, by the century which followed the Normans had become to a surprising degree absorbed by their environment. What, then, was the Scandinavian contribution to the making of Normandy if it was neither law nor speech nor race? First and foremost, it was Normandy itself, created as a distinct entity by the Norman occupation and the grant to Rollo and his followers, without whom it would have remained an undifferentiated part of northern France. Next, a new element in the population, numerically small in proportion to the ass, but a leaven to the whole -- quick to absorb Frankish law and Christian culture but retaining its northern qualities of enterprise, of daring, and of leadership. It is no accident that the names of the leaders in early Norman movements are largely Norse. And finally a race of princes, high-handed and masterful but with a talent for political organization, state-builders at home and abroad, who made Normandy the strongest and most centralized principality in France and joined to it a kingdom beyond the seas which became the strongest state in western Europe.

"Ganger Rolf, "The Viking" (or Rollo), was banished from Norway to the Hebrides ca. 876; 890 participated in Viking attack on Bayeux, where Count Berenger of Bayeux was killed, and his daughter Poppa captured and taken by Rollo (now called the Count of Rouen) as his "Danish" wife. Under Treaty of Saint Claire (911) he received the Duchy of Normandy from Charles III, "The Simple"; d. ca. 927 (Isenburg says 931), buried Notre Dame, Rouen. Note: Isenburg inserts a Robert between Rollo and William I, and makes Robert the conqueror of Bayeux, husband. of Poppa, and 1st Duke. Chronology favors the descent given by Moriarty and Onslow. It seems probable that Robert was another name for Rollo. If there really was a Robert as 1st Duke, then [Robert I] would be Robert II, which is not the case. For additional data on William II of Normandy and I of England the reader may consult David C. Douglas, William the Conqueror (1964). Besides a daughter Gerloc (or Adela) who m. 935 William I, Count of Poitou, Ganger Rolf had William I "Longsword".

Weis & Sheppard, Ancestral Roots, 7th Edition, 1992, p 110: Rollo (Rollon, Ranger Rolf [sic], 1st Duke of Normandy, Count of Rouen; conquered Normandy; b. c870, Maer, Norway, d. 927-932; m. (2) 891 Poppa de Bayeux, Duchess of Norway; b. c872, Bayeux, France; dau Berenger de Bayeux, Count of Bayeux; d. Bef. 930; and N.N. of Rennes.

Roderick W Stuart, Royalty for Commoners, 2nd Ed, 1992, p 123-124: The definitive establishment of the Normans, to whom Normandy owes its name, took place in 911, when by the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, concluded between King Charles the Simple of France and Rolf or Rollo, chief of the Normans, the territory comprising the town of Rouen and a few 'pagi' situated on the sea-coast was ceded to the latter; but the terms of the treaty are ill-defined, and it is consequently almost impossible to find out the exact extent of this territory or to know whether Brittany was at this time made a feudal dependency of Normandy. But the statement of the chronicler Dudo of Saint-Quentin that Rollo married Gisela, daughter of Charles the Simple, must be considered to be legendary work of Dudo, who is practically our only authority. Rollo died in 927 and was succeeded by his son William.

From an unknown source: Charles "The Simple", the son-in-law of Eward, constrained thereto by Rollo, through a succession of calamities, conceded to him that part of Gaul which at present is called Normandy. It would be tedious to relate for how many years, and with what audacity, the Normans disquieted every place from the British ocean, as I have said, to the Tuscan sea. First Hasten, and then Rollo; who, born of noble lineage among the Norwegians, though obsolete from its extreme antiquity, was banished, by the king's command, from his own country, and brought over with multitudes, who were in danger, either from debt or consciousness of guilt, and whom he had allured by great expectations of advantage. Betaking himself therefore to piracy, after his cruelty had raged on every side at pleasure, he experienced a check at Chartres. For the townspeople, relying neither on arms nor fortifications, piously implored the assistance of the blessed Virgin Mary. The shift too of the virgin, which Charles the Bald displayed to the winds on the ramparts, thronged by the garrison, after the fashion of a banner. The enemy on seeing it began to laugh, and to direct their arrows at it. This, however, was not done with impunity; for presently their eyes became dim, and they could neither retreat nor advance. The townsmen, with joy perceiving this, indulged themselves in a plentiful slaughter of them, as far as fortune permitted. Rollo, however, whom God reserved for the true faith, escaped, and soon after gained Rouen and the neighboring cities by force of arms, in the year of our Lord 876, and one year before the death of Charles the Bald, whose grandson Lewis, as is before mentioned, vanquished the Normans, but did not expel them; but Charles, the brother of that Lewis, grandson of Charles the Bald, by his son Lewis, as I have said above, repeatedly experiencing, from unsuccessful conflicts, that fortune gave him nothing which she took from others, resolved, after consulting his nobility, that it was advisable to make a show of royal munificence, when he was unable to repel injury; and, in a friendly manner, sent for Rollo. He was at this time far advanced in years; and, consequently, easily inclined to pacific measures. It was therefore determined by treaty, that he should be baptized, and hold that country of the king as his lord. The inbred and untamable ferocity of the man may well be imagined, for, on receiving this gift, as the by standers suggested to him, that he ought to kiss the foot of his benefactor, disdaining to kneel down, he seized the king's foot and dragged it to his mouth as he stood erect. The king falling on his back, the Normans began to laugh, and the Franks to be indignant; but Rollo apologized for his shameful conduct, by saying that it was the custom of his country. Thus the affair being settled, Rollo returned to Rouen, and there died.

William of Malmesbury, Chronicle of the Kings of England, c 1135, tr John Allen Giles, London (Henry G Bohn) 1847, p 125-126: It is not known when Rollo arrived in the Viking kingdom [of Normandy]. Dudo says that he took Rouen in 877, but most historians are agreed that Rollo probably did not appear in Francia until the early tenth century. The possibility exists however, that Dudo is preserving a belief that Vikings had been established in the Rouen area from about this time. Rollo is thought to have been Norwegian rather than Danish, and later Icelandic sources identify him with Hrolf the Ganger (walker), son of Ragnvald earl of Moer, who had a career as a Viking before settling in Francia. He married a Christian woman and his son William, according to the Lament of William Longsword, was born overseas. Nothing more in known about the 'Treaty of St Clair-sur-Epte' concluded in a personal interview between Charles the Simple and Rollo than Dudo tells us, and he has been accused of inventing the meeting. That a cession of territory in the Seine, extending as far west as the mouth of the Seine on the coast and near the source of the Eure inland is affirmed by a charter of Charles the Simple dated 14 March 918.

Flodoard adds the information that Rollo received baptism and the Frankish name Robert with the cession of this territory. Rollo seems to have been made a count in 911, with the traditional duties assigned to a Carolingian count, namely, protection and the administration of justice. He was certainly subordinate to the Frankish king. With the proliferation of titles accorded the leader of the Normandy Vikings in later sources, some historians have suggested that Rollo was made a duke, but Werner has argued that there was no Norman "marchio" before 950-6, and no duke before 987-1006, that is, after Hugh Capet had gained the throne of France. Rollo appears to have received his territory on similar terms as the Bretons had received the Cotentin, except that the bishoprics were also ceded. In exchange, Rollo was to defend the Seine from other Vikings, accept baptism and become the "fidelis" of the Frankish king. That there were other groups of Vikings in the region, particularly in the western part of Normandy, is clear. The west stayed pagan longer; it was a century before a bishop was appointed to the Cotentin. The arrangement made in 911 proved successful. The area of Normandy by 933 corresponded to the area of the archdiocese of Rouen, with the seven "civitates" of Rouen, Bayeux, Avranches, Evreux, See's, Lisieux and Coutances. The fortunes of the bishops of Rouen and of the "principles" of Normandy were in fact closely associated from the very beginning.

Rosamond McKitterick, The Frankish Kingdom under the Carolingians, 751-987, London & NY (Longman) 1983, p 237-238: A.D. 917. Rollo, first duke of Normandy, died, and was succeeded by his son William.

The following quotes from Starcke V., Denmark in World History, relate to the origin of Rollo, 1st Duke of Normandy (or Count of Rouen):
p226: William Jumieges, who wrote in the time of William the Conqueror, states that Rollo came from 'Danamarcha'. Starcke goes on to show that this account is independent of Dudo.
p.227: Dudo states that Rollo was born of the proud blood of dukes and kings, and that his father was a mighty man in Denmark whose sons Rollo (Hrolf) and Gurim (Gorm) inherited his lands after him. As the King of Denmark at that time wanted to evict a portion of the youth of the country owing to overpopulation, many sought refuge with Rollo and Gurim. The King marched against them with an army and killed Gurim, while Rollo fled to Skaane. From there he sailed to England to King Athelstan, by whom is meant the Danish King Guthrum (Gorm) in East Anglia who, at his baptism, had been christened Athelstan. He supported Rollo and it is not unlikely that kinship existed between them. Later Rollo sailed to Walcheren and fought for many years in the great army in Friesland and northern France until he subdued Normandy in 911. That Rollo was the head of this undertaking also supports the theory that he was a man of noble birth.
p 227: Benoit de Saint More states that Rollo was born in a town in his native country called 'Fasge'. This is presumably Fakse in Stevns in eastern Zealand, which agrees very well with Dudo's account that Rollo fled to Skane, just on the other side of the Sound.
p 227: Dudo does not specifically mention the names of Rollo's father or of the King of Denmark (Richer of Rheims calls Rollo "Filius Catilli", Ketils son).
p 223: Dudo, the Canon of St. Quenton, who was born about 960, wrote the history of the Norman dukes at the direct invitation of Rollo's own grandson, Duke Richard I".
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