The Viking Siege Of Paris (885-886) And Its Historical Aftermath

The Siege of Paris of 885-886 was conducted by a numerous army of possibly tens of thousands of Norwegian and Danish warriors embarked on hundreds of longships (and other Viking Age vessels) along the course of the river Seine. The siege was the second of its kind on behalf of the Norsemen after a Danish fleet previously sacked Paris in 845 under the leadership of ‘Reginherus’ (a Norse chieftain often associated by many historians with the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok of the sagas).

At that particular time, the city of Paris pertained to the early medieval Kingdom of West Francia (also known as the Kingdom of the West Franks or, simply, as West Francia) after the territorial division that took place within the realms of the Frankish Empire in 843 (according to the Treaty of Verdun which aimed to put an end to the three-year Carolingian Civil War that broke out after Louis the Pious’ death between the lands owned by his three heirs).

A 19th century depiction of a Norse fleet sieging the city of Paris. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

The siege lasted from November, 885 to October, 886, although it was not continuous, with the initial goal of the assailants being a consistent economic tribute. The frequency of the attacks against the walls of Paris gradually diminished, in part because of the intention of other Norsemen to raid southward as well as because of the inefficiency of their siege weapons.

Nonetheless, this siege represented a historical turning point of both the Viking Age in general and of the Kingdom of West Francia in particular (as it did for that matter with respect to the Norse presence on the territory of present-day France).

A few hundred West Frankish guardsmen of Paris, guided on the battleground by Count Odo of Paris, successfully defended their capital city (which was also one of the most populous and largest urban centres of early medieval France at the time) until the arrival of King Charles III’s army, which ultimately managed to obliterate much of the Norse opposition.

Count Eudes (Odo) of Paris on horseback fighting off the Norse invaders, as imagined by Jean-Pierre Franque. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Thus, after managing to score a decisive tactical victory over the invading Norsemen, to the own scandal and revolt of the inhabitants of Paris, the survivors of the defeated Dano-Norwegian Viking fleet were granted passage further south along the Seine to Burgundy by King Charles III (also known as Charles the Fat), where they conducted additional raids.

Furthermore, after allowing the Norsemen to pillage Burgundy, Charles III also gave them a large tribute of 700 livres (pounds) of silver. This eventually contributed to the election of Odo (Eudes) as the first non-Merovingian King of the West Franks in 888, shortly after King Charles III’s death.

Map of the city of Paris at the round of the 9th century (designed by Sven Rosborn). Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Documentation sources and external links:


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