10 Interesting Facts You Should Know About The Normans And Normandy

Below is a list of 10 interesting facts you should know about the Normans (a people of renowned warriors, conquerors, and kings) as well as about Normandy, their region in present day northwestern France.

10. Northern origins

The Normans did indeed come from the north. Under the leadership of a reputed Norse warlord by the name Hrólfr Ragnvaldsson (also known as Rollo or Robert), who was born in Scandinavia and was of Danish/Norwegian origin,  a group of Norse colonists were given land and permission to settle in the north of Western Frankia in the early 10th century by King Charles III the Simple so as to avoid further incursions on their behalf and of other Norse warbands in his kingdom along the River Seine. So it is that Rollo became the first Count of Rouen and his descendants rose to the throne of the Duchy of Normandy in the decades and centuries to come.

Illustration depicting Normans and their costumes in Norman England. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

9. Rollo the Ganger and his debated origins

Rollo was born in a noble Norse family of jarls in the earldom of Møre og Romsdal, western present-day Norway, at some point during the mid-late 9th century. In his youth, he was nicknamed ‘(the) Ganger’ because he was that tall no horse could had carried him. Nowadays, his origins are debated amongst some historians, with several considering he was either Danish or Norwegian. In this respect, a DNA test on his descendants’ tomb was also taken in consideration.

Statue of Rollon in the city of Rouen, France. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

8. The rise of Normandy

Normandy as a duchy was first recorded after the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911), being thus constituted as an early medieval state under the rulership of Count Rollo of Rouen. Legend has it that upon pledging allegiance to King Charles III of Western Frankia Rollo refused to bow to kiss the king’s feet; instead, he turned him upside down and kissed his feet this way (although it’s been also speculated that he chose one of his men to do this). Last but not least, the very word Normandy stems from the origins of its Nordic settlers, ‘Nordmanni’ in Latin.

16th century map of Brittany and Normandy situated in northern present-day France. Image source: Wikimedia Commons 

7. Rollo’s descendants

The descendants of Rollo did not solely rose to the throne of the Duchy of Normandy; many prominent Norman noblemen became monarchs in other medieval polities across Europe. One such tremendous example is William the Conqueror, William II, and Henry in in England, Robert Guiscard (the conqueror of southern Italy and Sicily during the 11th and 12th centuries), and William Clito, Count of Flanders.

Rollo’s family tree. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

6. The Norman language

Normandy’s Scandinavian settlers gradually assimilated into the local culture by adopting the language spoken there and the afferent customs of the region. So it is that the Old Norman language was created as a mix of inherited Old Norse vocabulary and of Old French loanwords, resulting in a new Romance language. Subsequently, in England Old Norman diverged into Anglo-Norman, a relative of Old French, after the Battle of Hastings (1066).

5. Norman castles

The once Old Norse-speaking settlers of Normandy went on little by little to be remarked as noteworthy castle builders in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages. So it is that the Normans built impressive strongholds throughout Britain and Ireland as well as in northern France and southern Italy. As an example, an imposing Norman citadel that passed the test of time is Trim Castle in Ireland.

Clifford’s Tower, the main keep of the York Castle built at the orders of William I. Image source: www.pixabay.com

4. The Norman conquest of England

Following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, one of the clashes that largely marked the end of the Viking Age, England was going to be subdued by the Normans and fall under Norman royal authority up until 1154, when the Norman dynasty was followed by the Plantagenets.

19th century painting detailing the Battle of Hastings (1066). Image source: Wikimedia Commons

3. The Norman conquest of Sicily

Very much unlike the case of England, the Norman conquest of Sicily was not decided through the aftermath of a sole battle but was rather the result of many decades of skirmishes between the Normans and the Emirate of Sicily. In the end two Norman leaders managed to control Sicily and defeat the Saracens, namely Robert Guiscard and Roger I, Count of Sicily.

Detailed map highlighting major battles in the context of the Norman conquest of Sicily. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

2. William the Conqueror’s village in Normandy

In the small commune of Dives-sur-mer there lies a medieval-themed market village dedicated to William the Conqueror who set sail along with his army from the harbour of this village to Hastings in 1066 in order to conquer England.

Wooden depiction of William the Conqueror on horseback in the commune of Dives-sur-mer, Calvados department, Normandy, northern France. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

1. A museum for the Vikings in Normandy?

Relatively recently, it has been suggested that a museum dedicated to the Norsemen, to the Viking Age, and the Norman heritage might be opened in Normandy. As of 2015, the project was still discussed within the Regional Council of Haute-Normandie.

Documentation sources and external links:

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5 Responses to 10 Interesting Facts You Should Know About The Normans And Normandy

  1. Lisafer says:

    Thank you for this, it’s of particular interest as our family research has led to our roots being Norman though I’m equally fascinated by the Norse as a whole.

  2. Fascinating. I love such DETAILED historical information. Thank you.

  3. Romulus Lothair says:

    I’m at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College studying Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and inDesign on Apple desktop computer from 1998-1999-2000 to 2001, I want to be a self-employed graphic designer when I graduate at the Digital Age. According to Census data, 18% of households used the internet in 1997 and this usage increased to 62% in 2007 and 73% in 2015. Digital access has risen steadily over the past decade, increasing by 11 percent since 2009, though the digital divide exists between varying demographics based on region, age, race, disability, etc.
    I was born in Beska-SYRMIA (Northern Yugoslavia), to the north, FRANKISH MOUNTAIN is bordered by the Danube river, was a frontier march of the Carolingian Empire, named after the former Roman province of Pannonia. Sirmium was an important city in the Roman Empire. It was the ECONOMIC CAPITAL of Roman Pannonia and one of four capital cities of the Empire. Ten Roman Emperors were born in this city or in its surroundings: Herennius Etruscus (227-251), Hostilian (230?-251), Decius Traian (249-251), Claudius II (268-270), Quintillus (270), Aurelian (270-275), Probus (276-282), Maximianus Herculius (285-310), Constantius II (337-361) and Gratian (367-383). THE CRISIS OF THE THIRD CENTURY, also known as Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis, (AD 235–284) was a period in which THE ROMAN EMPIRE nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression. In any event, both Non-Frankish-Germanic and Slavic pagans ultimately became the LINGUA FRANCA in the Avar Khaganate. The breakdown of the Carolingian Empire in Western Europe created a warriors caste who now had little to do but fight among themselves.
    A classic example of Norman design was advertised as being in my perfect condition with my blue blood and aristocracy.
    I am very proud of my ancestry of Norman-French Crusader, after the collapse of the Charlemagne (Carolingian) Empire caused by the Vikings romped to victory to be called the blend of Viking and Frank by the name of my surname SAVATE and then during the First Crusade, Crusaders burn Zemun and kill 8.000 Zemuners because they were routed at first, they call Zemun, MALEVILLE (Evil Town). The Seljuk sultans bore the brunt of the Crusades and eventually succumbed to the Mongol invasion at the 1243 Battle of Köse Dağ.
    Continental Europe detached itself from the old order and developed an ethos of its own, while the Arabs created a new culture for the Near East and North African littoral. What survived of the Mediterranean polity—Spain, southern Italy, the Balkans, and Anatolia—became a battleground between these two. The theme of the medieval centuries is not the decline and fall of the Roman Empire but the emergence of Islam and western Christendom for the Crusades.
    It is a better theme than Gibbons. For a westerner it is the supreme story of defeat turned into Crusader’s victory. But it is also much richer than that. It is a marvelous catalog of vices and follies, cunning and credulity, greed, ambition and achievement. Plus a cast of thousands. Don’t miss it.

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