Written in the Norman city of Rouen


Sightseeing in England we often heard of Normans, who once invaded the country. As Normandy is located in the traditionally francophone territory we associate it with the French, or as referred to earlier in the history – the Francs. But who were the Normans according to historical facts?

There is probably no better place in Europe to answer this question than Rouen, located in the present-day French Normandy that in the past was the birthplace of the Norman traditions and culture.


In the late I millennium (AD) the influence of the Roman Empire (>>>) over the Western Europe was lost to the Carolingian Empire. The Empire was established in times of Charlemagne (>>>), the great king of Francs. One of his descendants however divided the Empire in three parts. The South, the East and the West. The kings of the Western part of the realm of Francs became with time the French kings.

The Northern parts of the Western realm were for years raided by the Vikings (warriors or pirates from the present-day Scandinavia, in particular Norway and Denmark, that time referred to as Norsemen >>>).

JMA_Normans_Rollo

Rollo’s grave at the Cathedral of Rouen in Normandy, France.

To buy peace, Charles the Simple, the King of Francs, signed a peace accord with Ganger-Hrólf, otherwise called Rollo, the leader of the Viking raiders. In exchange for the autonomy (the Vikings were given the lands around the lower Seine that is Normandy in the present-day France), the Vikings accepted the Christianity and ceased raids and piracy. With time they mixed with the local francophone population and became the Normans.


One of the Rollo’s descendants (however not a legal one, as his king father did not marry his mother) was William the Conqueror, who was also a relative of the English kings. As Vikings already for centuries raided Britannia, its kings and other nobility were that time of Danish roots. Even Rollo in his first years pirated in Britain.

Once promised the English throne, after the English king who made the promise (Edward the Confessor) died childless, William (that time called William the Bastard) did not accept that instead of him the Britain’s nobility chose a king from among themselves. He invaded Britain in the XIth century, took the crown and started to introduce the Norman order. The noblemen, who did not undergo the Norman superiority were gradually replaced by the new Norman nobility. Because of Norman influences of that time there are many French influences in the English language.

Ultimately, the Normandy was seized back by the French kings. Today, it is a region in the French Republic.