Rollo as Historical Figure
Robert Helmerichs

©2002 Robert Helmerichs. Additions and changes made since this page was first posted are in rust-colored type.

To paraphrase Jacques Le Goff, did the Rollo of our documents exist? And since that’s all we have, did Rollo exist? (1) An underlying thesis of this session is that the Rollo of our documents is best understood primarily not as an historical figure, but rather as a literary figure created to suit the ideological needs of, and conform to the political realities of, later generations. To that end, I will begin by examining the historicity of Rollo, exploring the little genuine information about him that can be teased from contemporary sources. Then, Emily Albu will consider the development of Rollo’s “myth” from Dudo to Wace and Benoît, and what their treatment of Rollo reveals about how Norman identity was constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Because of the extravagant biography of Rollo written a century later by Dudo of Saint-Quentin, (2) it sometimes seems that we know him fairly well. In fact, although in Dudo’s time Rollo was remembered as the great founder of the Norman dynasty, during his own lifetime he was a virtual non-entity. Although Dudo says much about his career prior to 911, virtually every story he tells is an obvious borrowing from the adventures of other Northmannic (3) leaders told in tenth-century Frankish chronicles, and the rest are obvious legends. Dudo’s account contains not a single verifiable fact about Rollo. The “Founder of Normandy” also is never mentioned in any contemporary source before 911, and in fact the “Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte,” made so famous by Dudo’s story of the Northman upending Charles the Simple instead of stooping to kiss his foot, also made no impact whatsoever on the writers of the time. Only three brief mentions of Rollo occur in contemporary sources, and it is upon these mentions that we must build what little image of him we can manage.

The first contemporary mention of Rollo is in a charter of King Charles Simplex in 918. (4) Here, Charles grants the lands of an abbey “except for the part that we have given to the Northmen of the Seine, namely to Rollo and his companions.” At roughly the same time, the Frankish historian Flodoard of Reims wrote: “After the war that Count Robert waged against the Northmen at Chartres, certain maritime pagi, along with the city of Rouen (which they had nearly destroyed) and other pagi which were subjected to it, were conceded to them, and they agreed to take up the faith of Christ.” (5) (Note, no mention of Rollo.) At some point before 928, the archbishop of Rouen wrote to Herveus, archbishop of Reims, asking for advice on how to handle lapsed pagan converts. Herveus in turn wrote to Pope John X, asking “What should be done when they have been baptized and rebaptized, and after their baptism continue to live in pagan fashion, and in the manner of pagans kill Christians, massacre priests, and, offering sacrifices to idols, eat what has been offered?” (6) It is also perhaps significant that in a poem mourning the death of Rollo’s son, William Longsword, William is called the Christian son of a pagan father, although this might have been a rhetorical reference to Rollo’s earlier life. (7)

So it seems that after the Battle of Chartres, which most historians date to 911 and at which a large Northman force was soundly defeated, King Charles granted some land around Rouen and to the sea to Rollo and his companions, who converted to Christianity but, at least in some cases, quickly reverted to paganism in a fairly definitive manner. A number of important points should be made. First, there is no indication that Rollo was involved with the Battle of Chartres. (8) Dudo later says that he in fact led the Northmannic army there, but then Dudo says that Rollo led every major Northman force in France, and some in England; it seems to be his way of making somebody important out of a man who left virtually no trace in the historical record. Charles’ motivation seems to have been to cut off future attacks on the Seine and its tributaries by giving those Northmen who already controlled Rouen, the first major city on the Seine, royal recognition in exchange for their blocking access to other Northmannic forces. If Rollo in fact were not at Chartres, it would eliminate the contortions that historians have traditionally gone through to explain why Charles rewarded a man who had just suffered a great defeat.

Second, it is not clear exactly which lands Rollo and his companions received, but it would seem to have been roughly the Roumois and the Pays de Caux. Some historians, believing that the concession of Charles Simplex and two further royal “grants” in 924 and 933 comprised a formal concession of the future Normandy, have drawn neat maps dividing Normandy into three parts, and thus made the first concession cover all of Normandy east of the Risle, plus the entire Pays d’Ouche west of Évreux, but there is no evidence that Charles had such a great extent in mind.

Third, the territory controlled by Rollo by no means contained the only Northmannic settlements in the future Normandy; we know from place-names that the Northmannic presence was especially strong not only in the Pays de Caux and Roumois, but also in the Bessin and the entire Cotentin peninsula. (9) These Northmen of western Northmanland, at least to begin with, had no connection with the Northmen of Rouen.

And fourth, such arrangements as “Saint-Clair-sur-Epte” were no doubt never intended to be permanent. (10) Previous Frankish grants to Northmen had always proven ephemeral, either because the Franks managed to recover their losses or because the Northmen themselves couldn’t hold it together. (11) By 911, extensive Frankish experience told Charles that the loss of Rouen would only be a temporary setback; “Saint-Clair-sur-Epte” is unique not because it happened, but because against all odds --- and precedent --- the Rollonids managed to make their new principality stick.

So far we have a group of Northmen, led by Rollo, occupying Rouen and its environs with the permission of King Charles, and at least nominally Christianized but subject to spectacular reversions. In the following years, while the sources are silent on events within the newborn Rollonid Principality, the Carolingian political landscape was changing dramatically. During the 910s, Charles managed to alienate many of his nobles through various actions, especially in Lotharingia; these events inspired Henry I, king of the East Franks, to renew East Frankish claims to Lotharingia, and Robert of Neustria, brother of the former King Odo, to lead a revolt against Charles. For several years the struggle continued, culminating in 922 when Charles fled his kingdom and Robert was crowned king. (12) In the following year, Charles returned with an army; in the ensuing battle Robert was killed, but his son Hugh the Great and Herbert II of Vermandois defeated Charles. The events that followed are somewhat fuzzy, but apparently neither Hugh nor Herbert would allow the other to become king, so they settled on Ralph, the son-in-law of King Robert and the duke of Burgundy. Possibly they believed that as a relative outsider to the West Frankish world, he would be easier to control. Herbert then arranged a meeting with Charles, arrested him, and threw him into captivity almost until the end of his life in 929. His possession of the Carolingian claimant to the throne only enhanced Herbert’s power, as did his arrangement in 925 for his five-year-old son Hugh to be made archbishop of Reims, at the time the spiritual capital of the West Frankish realm. One may assume that the new archbishop was somewhat subject to Herbert’s influence. (13)

To pick up the scanty narrative of events in the Rollonid Principality from contemporary sources, in 924 Flodoard reports: “The Northmen entered peace with the Franks through the oaths of Counts Hugh [the Great] and Herbert [of Vermandois] and also Archbishop Seulf [of Reims], in the absence of King Ralph; but with Ralph’s consent the lands of Maine and the Bessin were conceded to them in the peace-treaty.” (14) The neat, three-part maps of Normandy make this concession cover all the lands between the Vire and the Risle, and usually claim that Maine was a mistake, since it does not lie within Normandy and was never claimed by the Rollonids until well into the eleventh century. But seen in the light of previous “grants” by Frankish kings to Northmen, this should be seen not as a transfer of clearly-defined territory from one party to the other, but rather as permission by the king for Rollo and his companions to take whatever control they can over lands that have slipped completely out of the king’s power; in other words, trying to replace “bad” Northmen (i.e, ones with whom the king has no relationship) with “good” ones (with whom he does). We can tell from the very existence of this treaty that the Northmen of Rouen had fallen out with the king since the initial concession, and now were being reconciled. But the reconciliation did not last, for Flodoard informs us in 925 that an army of Northmen of Rouen moved east, plundering Beauvais, Amiens and Noyons. At the same time, the Frankish natives of the Bessin rose against the Northmen there, and a Frankish army led by Hugh the Great’s men ravaged the Roumois. The Rouennais army quickly returned home, just in time to face a new invasion of Herbert of Vermandois and Arnulf of Flanders, along with the count of Ponthieu. They besieged the Northman stronghold of Eu, and despite a large relief force from Rouen led by Rollo (this is the second time he is mentioned by a contemporary source), they succeeded in capturing and destroying it. But the hostilities seemed to end there, for the moment. (15)

The final years of Rollo are very shadowy, although he seems to have played some role in Frankish politics. In 927, a war broke out between King Ralph and Herbert of Vermandois; when Ralph had returned to Burgundy to see to his duties there, Herbert apparently began to float the idea of a restoration of Charles Simplex. He brought Charles to meet with the Northmen (presumably led by Rollo) at Eu, where “the son of Rollo [William Longsword] committed himself to Charles and confirmed friendship with Herbert.” Apparently at this time, Herbert’s son Odo was left with Rollo as a hostage. This was a normal component of peace treaties during this period; the hostages were treated honorably, and in addition to serving as incentive for the parties to behave (in extreme cases, hostages could be executed for bad behavior on the other side’s part), they also served to create a closer relationship between the sides. Flodoard does not explain why this meeting took place, or what the participants expected to accomplish. In the following year, however, Herbert and Ralph were reconciled; but Rollo did not return Odo to his father until Herbert committed himself to Charles Simplex. (16) (Flodoard’s account of this is the third and final time Rollo is mentioned in contemporary accounts.) It would seem that Rollo, once he had allied himself with Charles, refused to accept Herbert’s change of heart, and forced Herbert to renew his own alliance with Charles. It should also be noted that Rollo owed his original entré into Frankish politics to Charles, and that he had never met Ralph (the “grant” of 924 was made on Ralph’s behalf, but in his absence). In the event, however, nothing came of this uneasy alliance among Rollo, Herbert, and Charles, since Charles died in 929.

We do not know when Rollo died, but it must have been sometime between 927, when Flodoard last mentions him, and 933, when William Longsword makes his first recorded appearance as the Rollonid ruler. (17) We may suspect, however, that Rollo played a greater part in the Frankish world than this bare narrative of his career has shown; for instance, a later source calls him a friend of William of Aquitaine, and the fact that William married Rollo’s daughter lends credence to this story. (18) But overall, Rollo died in much the same obscurity in which he lived; although in retrospect his achievement as founder of Normandy seems considerable, in his own day he was simply a Northman leader who got some territorial concessions from the Frankish king. The Rollonid Principality on the death of its founder was a small area centered upon Rouen, surrounded by neighbors hungry to reclaim what had been lost to the foreigners, and allied with the king who was losing the Frankish civil war; its future was still very much in doubt, and in fact it barely survived its founder’s death.

That is, more or less, what we know about Rollo and his career. I would like to conclude with some things that we do not know about Rollo. We do not know with any certainty what his name was. We call him Rollo, because that’s what the sources generally call him, although some more distant writers referred to him as Ruinus, Roso, and possibly Rotlo. (19) It is generally assumed that his “real” name was Hrólfr; this is his name in the later Norse stories, and if those stories were based on the historical Rollo, then some weight can be put on this theory. If, however, the historical Rollo was simply grafted on to pre-existing Norse stories, then Hrólfr may simply have been considered a reasonably good fit. Although most historians seem to have accepted the identification of Rollo as Hrólfr, some have dissented, suggesting that Hrólfr is not a logical origin for the Latinization Rollo. Without considering at all the implications, I point out that Göngu-Hrólfr’s brother in the Heimskringla, a historical figure who settled in Iceland, is named Hrollaugr, a name which much more easily lends itself to the Latinization Rollo. (20)

We do not know his age, where he came from, or when he arrived at Rouen. Dudo places his arrival in 872, but that seems to be in order for him to be in place to lead the siege of Paris, which of course he did not. It is often suggested that he arrived shortly before his agreement with King Charles in 911, although I suspect he would have to have been there longer in order to have the level of control that would have made him worth dealing with. The earliest report of his origin, Dudo, makes him a Dane; 12th-century Norse texts make him Norwegian. The Danes themselves never seem to have claimed him, and Dudo knows nothing about Denmark that he didn’t read in Strabo. Furthermore, his daughter had an unambiguously Norwegian name, Gerloc, although this could reflect the origin of her mother, not Rollo. The evidence thus points generally, but not conclusively, to Rollo being Norwegian. There were Norse settlements on the lower Seine as early as the 840s, so it is not impossible, whatever his ethnicity, that he was in fact born in Normandy, but the reference to William Longsword in the Planctus as born overseas implies otherwise (unless Rollo traveled in his youth and returned to make his fortune at Rouen). Most likely, he was born either in Norway or in a Norwegian colony elsewhere, perhaps in the British Isles, where some later traditions have him in his pre-Norman career. (21)

As for his age, all we can say is that he was probably old enough in 911 to be a force to be reckoned with --- perhaps 30 --- and young enough to remain active until the late 920s --- say in his early 70s, the age of Henry I of England when he died. That would place his birth between around 855 and 880. The age of his son, William Longsword, doesn’t help, because we don’t know when he was born either. He was young enough to rule by as early as 927 --- maybe 25 --- and given his lack of concern for the succession at the time of his murder in 942, he must have expected he would still have children, so let’s say less than 60. I won’t rehearse my argument on this here, but William does not seem to have considered Richard I, whom William probably never even met, to have been his heir; it was only upon William’s sudden and unexpected death that Richard was put forward as William’s successor, and since William was married at the time to Leutgarde of Vermandois, he probably expected that a legitimate heir would be forthcoming. Anyway, this would place William’s birth between roughly 880 and 905, which doesn’t narrow the range for Rollo.

This largely expends our knowledge of the historical Rollo. In his own day, he was a shadowy figure who does not seem to have made much of an impression on his contemporaries, or had much of an impact on his time. But his descendents over the course of the tenth century transformed his pirate chiefdom into the duchy of Normandy, and when Dudo in the 11th century, and the Norse saga-tellers of the 12th and 13th, looked back at Rollo, they could not accept the birth of such a great nation from such an insignificant figure. So they transformed the historical Rollo into what they felt was a more fitting founder for Normandy, a literary Rollo, the Rollo we know. The process by which that happened is the subject of Emily Albu’s paper.

Appendix 1:
Chronicon de Gestis Normannorum in Francia (22)

According to Eleanor Searle, “The compilation known as the ‘Chronicle of the Deeds of the Norsemen in Francia’ (early but of questionable reliability) refers to a Norse leader ‘Rodo’ leading a warband in 895 from the Seine into the area around Choisy.” (23) In her note she adds “The editor identifies this person as Rollo. The earliest authoritative reference to Rollo is in Charles the Simple’s charter of 918.” (24) Searle was working from the 1826 MGH edition of the Chronicon, which reads: “Northmanni iterum cum duce eorum, qui Rodo dictus est nomine, rursus Sequanam ingressi, iam multiplicati, ante nativitatem Domini Hisam intrantes, Cauciaco sibi sedem nullo resistente firmaverunt, etc.” (25) This text is largely comprised of the excerpts from the Annals of Saint-Bertin and the Annals of Saint-Vaast that concern Viking activity in France; the portion quoted is from Saint-Bertin, and the sentence is completed with another excerpt from Saint-Vaast. The original Saint-Bertin text for this passage is: “Ac per idem tempus iterum Northmanni cum duce Hundeo nomine et quinque barchis iterum Sequanam ingressi.. Nortmanni vero iam multiplicati pauci ante nativitatem Domini diebus Hisam ingressi Cauciaco sedem sibi nullo resistente firmant.” (26)

Several points need to be made. First, contrary to Searle’s implication the identification with Rollo is not in question, since a few lines later in the Chronicon we find “Postea Karolus Simplex Rotloni Neustriam tradidit, quam Northmanniam Northmanni vocaverunt, eo quod de Nortwegia egressi sunt”; this is clearly our man. But the original entry from Saint-Bertin names Hundeus as the Northman leader; the Chronicon author has changed it to Rollo. This seems to be yet another attempt by a later author to create an origin worthy for the “founder of Normandy,” in this case, as in Dudo, at the expense of more illustrious Northmen. (27)

The question remains, how much later was this author? Searle implies that, although “of questionable reliability,” the Chronicon is perhaps earlier than 918. Our manuscript of the Chronicon is found within the Liber Floridus of Lambert of Saint-Omer. (28) On the one hand, Lambert lived in the late 11th and early 12th century, and thus is a very late witness indeed. It is possible either that he himself did the work of extracting the Viking entries from the Carolingian annals (making the Chronicon an entirely 12th-century production), or that he used an existing chronicle (which could have been written any time after 911, when the Chronicon ends).

The matter is complicated somewhat by the fact that both references to “Rotlo” are in places where the text of the Liber Floridus was erased and rewritten. This implies that the references to Rollo were added during the compilation of the Liber Floridus in the 12th century. Such a late date is supported by the use of “Northmannia” in the sense of Normandy in one of the new passages; I doubt that anyone much earlier than the late 10th century would use this word. Note that as late as c. 1030 (i.e, during the lifetime of William the Conqueror) Adémar of Chabannes uses Northmannia generically to refer to places where Vikings live: “trans Egidorum fluvium in terra Normannorum vocabulo Silentis” (Denmark); “de Normannia tredecim piratice naves egresse a Flandransibus fugate sunt que in Aquitanico littore irrumpentes cum ingenti preda reversi sunt” (uncertain location, but probably Scandinavia); “venit Eroldus de Normannia auxilium petens contra Godefridi filios..ibi adfuerunt filiorum Godefridi de Normannia legati” (Denmark); “Danorum reges filii Godefridi Eroldum de regno ejecerunt et de Normannie finibus” (Denmark); and “in ea Normannia quae antea vocabatur marcha Franciae et Britanniae” (Normandy, but note the “ea..quae” which implies that there are other Normandies). (29)

The use of “Rotlo” is, however, somewhat odd. By the 12th century, Rollo’s name had been firmly established, and in fact elsewhere in the Liber Florida he is named “correctly.” (30) It is conceivable that the 12th-century scribe who added Rotlo to the Chronicon was looking at some other source, now lost, that used this form of Rollo’s name. It is also conceivable, if unlikely, that this source was early; if such a source existed, why wouldn’t Lambert have added it to the Liber, which after all is a grab-bag of seemingly everything at hand? Ultimately, it is impossible to determine the provenance of “Rotlo,” and thus the Liber cannot be used as clear evidence for early forms of Rollo’s name.

I suggest that the compiler of the Liber Floridus either found the Chronicon, or created it himself, either way using it as a “pre-history” of Normandy. Upon further reflection, he altered the material to add explicitly the reference to the foundation of Normandy in 911, and also to change Hundeus to Rollo, apparently in order to create some continuity between the Northmannic adventures that fill the Frankish annals and the origin of Normandy. The references to Rollo are a 12th-century creation, and reflect neither 10th-century attitudes towards the Normans and Normandy, nor unequivocally a 10th-century variation of Rollo’s name (which was, after all, the original point of this excursus).

Appendix 2:
The Planctus for William Longsword (31)

A very problematical and usually ignored source for early Norman history is the Planctus for William Longsword, composed shortly after William’s death (942). This poem survives only in two corrupt, later copies, which do not agree with each other in the number, order, or even sometimes the content of the verses. Nevertheless, some important historical information can be gleaned from the Planctus, and the second and third verses have some tantalizing hints about Rollo’s early career. Here are the verses from both manuscripts (I have broken them down into lines; in each manuscript the poem is presented as running text). Verse 2:

Bibliothèque de Clermont-Ferrand
MS 240, folio 45.

Hic in orbe transmarino natus patre
in errore paganorum permanente
matre quoque consignata alma fidem
sacra fuit lotus unda

Bibliotheca Mediceo-Laurenziana of Florence
MS Libri 30, folio 21v.

Hic in orbe transmarino natus patre
in errore paganorum permanente
matrem quoque consignata alma fide
sacra fuit lutus unda

In Verse 2, for the relevant portion, the two manuscripts are identical: they say William was “born in the overseas world to a father remaining in the error of the pagans.” The minor variations in the second half do not obscure its meaning; William’s mother was a Christian. And Verse 3:

Bibliothèque de Clermont-Ferrand
MS 240, folio 45.

Moriente infidele suo patre
surrexerunt contra eum belliquosae
quo confisus deo ualde sibi ipse
subiugauit dextra forte

Bibliotheca Mediceo-Laurenziana of Florence
MS Libri 30, folio 21v.

Moriente infidelis suo patre
sureserunt contra eum bellicause
quos confisus deo ualde sibi ipse
suiugaui dextra fortis

This verse is somewhat more problematical; the reading in Florence Libri suggests that Rollo died “an infidel,” whereas Clermont-Ferrand (with “infidelis” corrected to “infideles”) makes the rebels “unfaithful.” The overall significance of these verses for Rollo’s life has long been debated; the battle lines were drawn early, when Gustav Storm took a literalist intepretation, preserving the reading of the manuscripts, (32) while Johannes Steenstrup adopted a revisionist position, altering Verse 2 to conform to Dudo’s account of William Longsword’s birth at Rouen. (33) Since then, scholars have mostly divided along partisan lines; the decision over whether to accept Lair’s emendation seems to be made according to whether or not the author in question wishes to accept Dudo against the plain text of the Planctus.

To be fair, Steenstrup’s argument was not based solely on his obvious desire to portray Dudo as an entirely accurate historian; he posed the problem in linguistic terms. He presents a list of occasions when the Planctus poet (or the scribes who copied it) confused o and u, suggesting that this is what happened with orbe-urbe. (34) Nevertheless, this theory seems weak to me; while com and cum (three of Steenstrup’s nine examples involve this pair) would be reasonable variants whose use would not obscure meaning, orbe and urbe are distinct and very common words. I suppose it is conceivable that a scribe’s Latin would be poor enough to confuse the two words --- but would such a poor Latinist then know to “correct” hic into hac, to preserve the grammar of the now-corrupt sentence? Ockham’s Razor would suggest that the phrasing as it survives is correct. It is grammatically sound, and its meaning is clear; there is no need to presume the scribal chain of events necessary to produce the proposed emendation. (35)

As for Verse 3, Leblond points out: “[Lair] refuse la leçon de la str. 3: ‘infidele suo patre,’ mais la str. 2 dit nettement de Guill. Longue-Epée: ‘natus patre in errore paganorum permanente, né d’un père qui persistait dans l’erreur païenne.’” (36)


1. The middle section of Jacques Le Goff, Saint Louis (Paris: Gallimard, 1996), is entitled “Le production de la mémoire royale: Saint Louis a-t-il existé?” See p. 314: “Le Saint Louis de nos documents a-t-il existé? Et comme c’est le seul qui s’offre à nous, Saint Louis a-t-il existé?” I have also been influenced by Steven L. McKenzie, King David: A Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), who also faces the challenge of recovering a “biography” from a literary source fraught with legend.

2. Dudo of Saint-Quentin, De moribus et actis primorum Normanniæ ducum, edited by Jules Lair, Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie 23 (Caen: F. Le Blanc-Hardel, 1865), now translated as Dudo of Saint-Quentin, History of the Normans, translated by Eric Christiansen (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1998). A new edition and translation into French by Pierre Bouet is promised. Dudo’s biography of Rollo can be found in Dudo, Book 2. Dudo’s historicity was savaged in Henry Howorth, “A Criticism of the Life of Rollo as Told by Dudo of St Quentin,” Archaeologia 45 (1880): 235-50, and Henri Prentout, Étude critique sur Dudon de Saint-Quentin et son histoire des premiers ducs normands (Paris: Picard, 1916); despite defenses such as Lair’s introduction to his edition of Dudo and Johannes Steenstrup, Normandiets Historie under de syv første Hertuger, 911-1066, Mémoires de l’Académie royale des sciences et des lettres de Danemark, 7me série, Section des Lettres 5.1 (Copenhagen: Andr. Fred. Høst & Søn, 1925), Dudo’s critics have largely held the field, in word if not in deed (for even his harshest critics seem to hold to a largely Dudoesque early Normandy). In recent years, however, Dudo has enjoyed a resurgence. At Caen, a “neo-Dudonist” school is emerging, seeking to rehabilitate Dudo as historian, led by Pierre Bouet and François Neveux; see François Neveux, La Normandie des ducs aux rois (Xe-XIIx siècle) (Rennes: Ouest-France, 1998). Further, some historians have come to appreciate Dudo as a source not for the history of the 10th century, but for the intellectual climate of Normandy and the Carolingian world in the 11th century. See, e.g, Eleanor Searle, “Fact and Pattern in Heroic History: Dudo of Saint-Quentin,” Viator 15 (1984): 119-37; Leah Shopkow, “The Carolingian World of Dudo of Saint-Quentin,” Journal of Medieval History 15 (1989): 19-37; Pierre Bouet, “Dudon de Saint-Quentin et Virgile: L’Enéide au service de la cause normande,” in Recueil d’études en hommage à Lucien Musset, Cahier des Annales de Normandie 23 (Caen: Musée de Normandie, 1990), 215-36; Victoria B. Jordan, “The Role of Kingship in Tenth-Century Normandy: Hagiography of Dudo of Saint-Quentin,” Haskins Society Journal 3 (1991): 53-62; Emily Albu (Hanawalt), “Dudo of Saint-Quentin: The Heroic Past Imagined,” Haskins Society Journal 6 (1994): 111-18; Felice Lifshitz, “Dudo’s Historical Narrative and the Norman Succession of 996,” Journal of Medieval History 20 (1994): 101-20; and the articles in Dudone di San Quintino: Sono qui raccolte le relazioni tenute dagli intervenuti al Convegno su Dudone di San Quintino, organizzato a Trento dal Dipartimento di scienze filologiche e storiche dell’Universita atesina il 5 e 6 maggio 1994, edited by Paolo Gatti and Antonella Degl’Innocenti, Labirinti 16 (Trent: Universita degli studi di Trento, 1995).

3. Northmannus and its variants were initially the Latin words for Viking; over time, Northmannus came to mean Norman. During the tenth century, the word still clearly had its Viking connotation. Since, during this period, the words Viking and Norman create a false dichotomy between groups who were, to the medieval mind, identical, I will use Northman and Northmannic to refer to both Vikings and Normans. Please bear in mind that any confusion this may cause is entirely appropriate.

4. Recueil des actes de Charles III le Simple, edited by Ferdinand Lot and Philippe Lauer (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1949), no. 92: “. . . praeter partem ipsius abbati quam annuimus Normannis Sequanensibus videlicet Rolloni suisque comitibus pro tutela regni.” The settlement of Rollo and the Northmen of Rouen is discussed in Auguste Eckel, Charles le Simple: Annales de l’histoire de France à l’époque carolingienne, Bibliothèque de l’École des hautes études 124 (Paris: Émile Bouillon, 1899), 60-90; Prentout, Étude critique, 196-250; Steenstrup, Normandiets Historie, 50-55; David C. Douglas, “Rollo of Normandy,” English Historical Review 57 (1942): 426-30; David Bates, Normandy before 1066 (London: Longman, 1982), 8-9; Eleanor Searle, Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 40-47; Neveux, La Normandie, 29-31. Cf. Dudo 2.24-29. The only full-scale study of Charles the Simple remains Eckel, Charles le Simple; although dated and marred by excessive reliance on Dudo, it remains useful as a general narrative of events in the Frankish world during Charles’ reign. For a brief but current overview of the 10th-century Frankish world, see Jean Dunbabin, “West Francia: The Kingdom,” in The New Cambridge Medieval History, Volume 3, ed. Timothy Reuter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 372-97. For the interesting argument that Rollo was first officially settled in Neustria by Robert the Strong c. 889, and that the agreement of 911 was simply a confirmation of the earlier settlement, see Felice Lifshitz, “La Normandie carolingienne: Essai sur la continuité, avec utilisation de sources négligées,” Annales de Normandie 48 (1998): 505-24; in this case, Dudo’s King Charles is Charles the Fat.

5. Flodoard of Reims, Historia Remensis ecclesiae, edited by Martina Stratmann, MGH, Scriptores 36 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1998), 4.14: “Post bellum quod Robertus comes contra [Nortmannos] Carnotenus gessit fidem Christi suscipere receperunt concessis sibi maritimis quibusdam pagis cum Rothomagensis quam pene deleverant urbe et aliis eidem subjectis.” On Flodoard, see the exhaustive study of Michel Sot, Un historien et son Église au Xe siècle: Flodoard de Reims (Paris: Fayard, 1993). Douglas, “Rollo of Normandy”, interprets this as meaning Rollo was at Chartres. Cf. Dudo 2.22-23. Richer has a garbled account of Rollo’s dealings with the Franks, in which the adventures of Robert of Neustria on the Loire are conflated with Rollo; Richer of Reims, Historiae, edited by Hartmut Hoffmann, MGH, Scriptores 38 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 2000). For a thorough discussion of Richer, his work, and its context, see Jason Glenn, “Political History: The Work of Richer of Saint-Remigius” (Ph. D. diss, University of California, Berkeley, 1997). Of the four chapters of this dissertation, 1 was published as Jason Glenn, “The Composition of Richer’s Autograph Manuscript,” Revue d’histoire des textes 27 (1997): 151-89, 2 as Jason Glenn, “The Lost Works of Richer: The Gesta Adalberonis and Vita Gerberti,” Filologia Mediolatina 4 (1997): 153-90, and 4 is forthcoming as Jason Glenn, “Two Views of a Frankish Civil War,” Journal of Medieval History (forthcoming). A revised version of the dissertation is promised as Political History: The Work and World of Richer of Reim. On the “Battle of Chartres,” see Prentout, Étude critique, 191-6, who surprisingly does not overtly question Rollo’s participation at Chartres, although he gives no reason to accept it; Steenstrup, Normandiets Historie, 40-45; Searle, Predatory Kinship, 42-43, who accepts the involvement at Chartres of the Northmen of Rouen and, seemingly, Rollo.

6. Bibliothèque nationale, ms. lat. 4280, fol. 102r (letter of Herveus of Reims) and fol. 106v (letter of Pope John X); the conversion of Rollo and the Northmen of Rouen is discussed in Olivier Guillot, “La conversion des Normands peu après 911: Des reflets contemporains à l’historiographie ultérieure (Xe-XIe siècles),” Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale 24 (1981): 101-16, 181-219, with relevant excerpts printed at p. 102, note 8; Prentout, Étude critique, 250-60; Steenstrup, Normandiets Historie, 79-82; Douglas, “Rollo of Normandy,” 432-4; Bates, Normandy before 1066, 11-12. Cf. Dudo 2.30-31. It should be noted that Dudo records absolutely no historical information about Rollo’s reign; after the “treaty” and his “conversion,” there remains in Dudo only a fable about Rollo’s justice, and his death.

7. Planctus for William Longsword, Verse 2. For bibliographical references and a discussion of the Planctus as a source for Rollo, see Appendix 2 below.

8. Several late chronicles recount the siege of Chartres; none of them associate it with Rollo or the “foundation of Normandy.” Annales Sanctae Columbae Senonensis, edited by Georg Heinrich Pertz, MGH Scriptores 1 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1826), s.a. 911; John of Bèze, “Chronicle of Saint-Pierre de Bèze,” in Chronique de l’Abbaye de Saint-Bénigne de Dijon, suivie de la Chronique de Saint-Pierre de Bèze, ed. E. Bougaud and Joseph Garnier, Analecta Divionensia 9 (Dijon: Darantière, 1875), 280; “Chronicle of Saint-Bénigne de Dijon,” ibidem, 115.

9. For good reviews of Norman toponymic studies, see Gillian Fellows-Jensen, “Scandinavian Place-Names and Viking Settlement in Normandy: A Review,” Namn och Bygd 76 (1988): 113-37, updated and translated into French as Gillian Fellows-Jensen, “Les noms de lieux d’origine scandinave et la colonisation viking en Normandie: Examen critique de la question,” Proxima Thulé 1 (1994): 63-103; Jean Renaud, Les Vikings et la Normandie (Rennes: Ouest-France, 1989), 153-98. The definitive studies remain the numerous articles of Adigard des Gauries, mainly in the Annales de Normandie 1951-1959, soon to be collected in Jean Adigard des Gautries, Onomastica minora Normanniae: Recueil d’études sur les noms de lieux et les noms de personnes d’origine scandinave en Normandie, Studia nordica (Paris: Société des études nordiques, forthcoming).

10. The point is made succintly by Searle, Predatory Kinship, 44: “[Frankish rulers dealing with Northmen] meant as little as possible, we may plausibly guess.” Bates, Normandy before 1066, 8,concurs: “The grant of lands to Rollo and his followers must therefore be seen as a typical response of the harassed western European ruling classes to the Viking menace. The ‘Treaty of St-Clair-sur-Epte’ was made between a Frankish king whose successors might easily seek to overthrow it and a Northman chief who could not guarantee to control the new settlers.”

11. A dozen years before Raoul’s “grant” to Guillaume, Robert of Neustria conceded “Brittany with the pagus of Nantes” to the Northmen of the Loire, on condition that they accept Christianity. Flodoard of Reims, Les Annales de Flodoard, edited by Philippe Lauer, Collection des textes pour servir à l’étude et à l’enseignement de l’histoire 39 (Paris: Picard, 1905), s.a. 921: “Rotbertus . . . Britanniam ipsis [i.e, Normannis qui Ligerim fluvium occupaverunt] quam vastaverant cum Namnetico pago concessit quique fidem isti coeperunt suscipere.” But by this time, the practice of conceding territory to the Northmen, often on condition of conversion, was a century-old tradition in the other major theater of Northman operations, the Low Countries. Louis the Pious gave Rüstringen, at the mouth of the Wissen, to Haraldr, recently-deposed king of the Danes, after the conversion of Haraldr and his family before Louis. Annales regni Francorum inde ab a. 741 usque ad a. 829, qui dicuntur Annales Laurissenses maiores et Einhardi, edited by Friedrich Kurze, MGH Scriptores in usum scholarumcis 6 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1895), s.a. 826: “Herioldus cum uxore et magna Danorum multitudine veniens Mogontiaci apud sanctum Albanum cum his quos secum adduxit baptizatus est; multisque muneribus ab imperatore donatus per Frisiam qua venerat via revesus est. In qua provincia unus comitatus qui Hriustri vocatur eidem datus est ut in eum se cum rebus suis si necessitas exigeret recipere potuisset.” Lothair I conceded the island of Walcheren, off the mouth of the Meuse, to Haraldr. Annales de Saint-Bertin, edited by Félix Grat, Jeanne Vielliard and Suzanne Clémencet, Société de l’histoire de France. Publications, série anterieure à 1789 470 (Paris: Klincksieck, 1964), s.a. 841: “Herioldo . . . Gualacras aliaque uicina loca huius meriti gratia in benificium contulit [Hlotharius].” At about the same time, Ragnarr received from Charles the Bald Turnhout, near the mouth of the Scheldt, from which Charles subsequently expelled him. Rimbert, Vita Anskarii auctore Rimberto accedit vita Rimberti, edited by Georg Waitz, MGH Scriptores in usum scholarumcis 55 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1884), c. 21: “Nam cum cella supradicta Turholt in partem cessisset venerandi regis Karoli ipse eam a servitio quod pater suus disposuerat amovit et vobis bene cognito dedit Raginario.” Lothair gave the area around Dorestadt, on the Rhine near its mouth, to Haraldr’s brother Hrórekr, and in a story with suspicious parallels to the “Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte,” Charles the Fat later granted the same territory to Goðfreðr, “king of the Northmen,” along with Lothair’s daughter, on condition of conversion to Christianity. Annales de Saint-Bertin, s.a. 850: “[Roricum] Hlotharius cum comprimere nequiret in fidem recipit eique Dorestadum et alios comitatus largitur”; Annales Fuldenses, edited by Friedrich Kurze, MGH Scriptores in usum scholarumcis 7 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1891), s.a. 882: “Imperator . . . Gotafridum de fonte baptismatis levavit, et quem maximum inimicum et desertorem regni sui habuerat, consortem regni constituit. Nam comitatus et beneficia quae Rorich Nordmannus Francorum regibus fidelis in Kinnin tenuerat eidem hosti suisque hominibus ad inhabitandum delegavit”; Regino of Prüm, Chronicon cum continuatione Treverenski, edited by Friedrich Kurze, MGH Scriptores in usum scholarumcis 50 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1890), s.a. 882: “Novissime rex Godofridus Nordmannorum ea conditione christianum se fieri pollicetur si ei munere regis Fresia provincia concederetur et Gisla filia Hlotharii in uxorem daretur. Quae ut optaverat adeptus baptizatus est et ex sacro fonte ab imperatore susceptus”; “Annales Vedastini,” in Annales Vedastini et Xantenses, ed. Bernhard von Simson, MGH Scriptores in usum scholarumcis 12 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1909), s.a. 882: “Godefridus vero rex ad eum [Karolum] exiit: cui imperator regnum Frisonum quod olim Roricus Danus tenuerat dedit coniugemque ei dedit Gislam filiam Hlotharii regis Nortmannosque e suo regno abire fecit.”

12. For Charles’ reign before his deposition, see Eckel, Charles le Simple, 60-115.

13. For the conflict between Charles and the Robertines, see Eckel, Charles le Simple, 116-35, and Philippe Lauer, Robert Ier et Raoul de Bourgogne, rois de France, 923-936: Annales de l’histoire de France à l’époque carolingienne, Bibliothèque de l’École des hautes études 188 (Paris: Émile Bouillon, 1910).

14. Flodoard of Reims, Annales, s.a. 924: “Nordmanni cum Francis pacem ineunt sacramentis per Hugonem et Heribertum comites Seulfum quoque archiepiscopum absente rege Rodulfo: ejus tamen consensu terra illis aucta Cinomannis et Baiocae pacto pacis eis concessae.” Discussed in Douglas, “Rollo of Normandy,” 429-30; Neveux, La Normandie, 31. Dudo’s suggestion that Rollo received all of Normandy (plus his choice of Flanders or Britanny!) from Charles in 911 has long been replaced by what I call the three-stage model, in which Normandy, through the “grants” of 911, 924, and 933, more or less achieved the duchy’s final form by 933. The three-stage model is accepted by Prentout, Étude critique, 180-87; Jean-François Lemarignier, Recherches sur l’hommage en marche et les frontières féodales, Travaux et mémoires de l’Université de Lille, Nouvelle Série, Droit et Lettres 24 (Lille: Bibliothèque Universitaire, 1945), 9-10, (although he spends much of the book discussing give and take on the Norman frontiers, these are presented as adjustments of a stable border existing from 933: “Dès lors, la Normandie est fixée dans ses traits, peut-on dire, définitifs,” 11); Douglas, “Rollo of Normandy,” 128-30; Michel de Boüard, “Le duché de Normandie,” in Institutions seigneuriales (Les droits du Roi exercés par les grands vassaux), ed. Ferdinand Lot and Robert Fawtier, Histoire des institutions françaises au Moyen Age 1 (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1957), 2-6; Lucien Musset, “Considerations sur la genèse et la trace des frontières de la Normandie,” in Nordica et Normannica: Recueil d’études sur la Scandinavie ancienne et médiévale, les expéditions des Vikings et la fondation de la Normandie, Studia nordica 1 (Paris: Société des études nordiques, 1997 [1989]), passim; Jean Yver, “Les premières institutions du duché de Normandie,” in I Normanni e la loro espansione in Europa nell’alto medioevo, Settimane di studio del Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo 16 (Spoleto: Presso la Sede del Centro, 1969), 312; Bates, Normandy before 1066, 8-9 and 265, map 2. John Le Patourel, The Norman Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 3-14, argues for a loosening of the three-stage theory, although he follows Lemarignier in seeing a relatively precocious development of a well-defined territorial principality. Searle first proposes a more radical break from the three-stage theory in Searle, “Fact and Pattern.”; Eleanor Searle, “Frankish Rivalries and Norse Warriors,” Anglo-Norman Studies 8 (1985): 198-213, and develops the argument further in Searle, Predatory Kinship, esp. 40-54 and 100-05.

15. Flodoard of Reims, Annales, s.a. 925. Discussed in Prentout, Étude critique, 275-6; Douglas, “Rollo of Normandy,” 434.

16. Flodoard of Reims, Annales, s.a. 927: “Karolus igitur cum Heriberto colloquium petit Nordmannorum ad castellum quod Auga vocatur ibique se filius Rollonis Karolo committit et amicitiam firmat cum Heriberto.” Discussed in Douglas, “Rollo of Normandy,” 435; Eckel, Charles le Simple, 131-34.

17. Rollo’s death is discussed in Prentout, Étude critique, 272-78. Cf. Richer of Reims, Historiae, 1.50.

18. Adémar is the first to mention the marriage: “Acceptamque in conjugium Adelam, filiam Rosi Rotomagensis, genuit ex ea Willelmum Caput stupe.” Adémar de Chabannes, Chronique, edited by Jules Chavanon, Collection de textes pour servir à l’étude et à l’enseignement de l’histoire 20 (Paris: Picard, 1897), 143-42. Dudo expands on the story. Dudo of Saint-Quentin, De moribus, 3.47. William of Jumièges’ adaptation of Dudo contains additional information, including the name Gerloc and her missionary activity. William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis, and Robert of Torigni, The Gesta Normannorum Ducum, 2 volumes, edited and translated by Elisabeth M. C. van Houts, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992-1995), 3.3.

19. Ruinus: Adémar de Chabannes, Chronique, 198, 202; Roso: Adémar de Chabannes, Chronique, 139, 140, 144, 148. Ruinus is from an earlier draft of the Chronique (Landes’ ), and Roso from a later draft (Landes’ ). Is it a coincidence that Richer has a chapter heading “Rollonis pyratae interitus suorumque ruina”? Probably. Richer of Reims, Historiae, 1.50. On Adémar’s work, see Richard Landes, Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History: Ademar of Chabannes, 989-1034, Harvard Historical Studies 117 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), especially Chapter 6 on and Chapter 7 on . Rotlo: “Chronicon de Gestis Normannorum in Francia,” in Lamberti S. Audomari Canonici Liber Floridus: Codex authographus bibliothecae universitatis Gandavensis, ed. Albert Derolez (Ghent: J. Story-Scientia, 1968), s.a. 895; although this is probably a much later source. See Appendix 1 below for a discussion of the Chronicon. Flodoard, Richer, Dudo, and the scribe of Charles’ 918 charter all call him Rollo, and we can safely assume that Rollo is what he was known by in the Latin Frankish community of the tenth century.

20. Is it possible that in seeking an origin for Rollo/Hrollaugr, the bards found the Hrollaugr of the Heimskringla, but upon realizing that it was historically impossible for him to be our Rollo, they invented a brother for him, based upon the Göngu-Hrólfssaga and named Hrólfr? Stewart Baldwin thinks not (the following was posted to soc.history.medieval on 4/29/02): “I think that something close to what you state probably occurred, but I don't think that the name Hrólfr was invented for that purpose. The reason is that Hrollaugr’s brother Hrólfr is mentioned is a poem which, if genuine, was written by their brother Einarr. Even if the poem is not genuine, I think that it is very likely that the appearance of Hrólfr in the family (as an indistinct entity) predates the (probably false) identification of this Hrólfr with Rollo of Normandy. A variation of your suggestion which I have proposed before in s.g.m can be outlined as follows:

“In the part of Flodoard’s annals that mention Rollo of Normandy, another viking named Ragenold (equivalent to Old Norse Rognvaldr) is also mentioned in nearby passages (but not with any implication of a connection to Rollo). To an Icelandic scholar who happened to get a hold of a copy of Flodoard's annals (or something else based on them), the names Ragenold and Rollo occuring so close together might very well have reminded him about the Rognvaldr and his son Hrollaugr in the Icelandic sources. If he noticed that it was not reasonable to identify Hrollaugr (an Icelandic settler) and Rollo, he might have taken the opportunity to identify Rollo instead with Hrollaugr's obscure brother Hrólfr. (Or, as an alternate scenario, maybe it occurred in two stages, with Rollo being identified with Hrollaugr in an unknown earlier manuscript, and the identification later being switched to Hrólfr by a later writer who noticed the problem.)” For more on Rollo and the sagas, see Stewart's Rollo page.

21. Steenstrup, radical Dane theory, 37-40. Saint-Pierre, radical Norse theory, passim. Prentout 1916: 111-160. Renaud 47-55.

22. The Chronicon has been edited as Chronicon de Gestis Normannorum in Francia, edited by Georg Heinrich Pertz, MGH Scriptores 1 (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Hahniani, 1826), 532-36; “Chronicon de Gestis Normannorum in Francia,” in Lamberti S. Audomari Canonici Liber Floridus: Codex authographus bibliothecae universitatis Gandavensis, ed. Albert Derolez (Ghent: J. Story-Scientia, 1968). Unless otherwise noted, citations in this article are to the Derolez edition. To my knowledge, no scholarly work has been done on this odd but interesting source.

23. Searle, Predatory Kinship, 40.

24. Searle, Predatory Kinship, 277.

25. Pertz, ed, Chronicon de Gestis Normannorum in Francia, 536. Here “Rodo” is a misreading by Pertz for “Rotlo”; see below. If you squint at “Rotlo” the mistake becomes understandable.

26. “Annales Vedastini,” s.a. 896.

27. For Dudo’s hijacking of other Northmen’s deeds for Rollo, see Howorth, “A Criticism of the Life of Rollo,” and Prentout, Étude critique.

28. Published as Lambert of Saint-Omer, Lamberti S. Audomari Canonici Liber Floridus: Codex authographus bibliothecae universitatis Gandavensis, ed. Albert Derolez (Ghent: J. Story-Scientia, 1968); the Chronicon is at 423-430.

29. Adémar de Chabannes, Chronique, 3.1, 3.6, 3.10, 3.12, 3.27.

30. E.g, in two genealogies of the Normans; “Chronicon de Gestis,” 155, 477-78.

31. The Planctus for William Longsword, printed as Jules Lair, Étude sur la vie et la mort de Guillaume Longue-épée, duc de Normandie (Paris: Picard, 1893); “Complainte sur la mort de Guillaume Longue-épée,” in Le règne de Louis IV, ed. Philippe Lauer, Bibliothèque de l’École des hautes études 127 (Paris: Émile Bouillon, 1900), 319-23; “Der Planctus auf den Normannenherzog Wilhelm Langschwert (942),” editor Phillipp August Becker, Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur 63 (1939): 190-97. Due to the corrupt quality of the two manuscripts, any reconstruction of the Planctus is necessarily somewhat speculative, and none of these editions can be considered definitive. Both manuscripts and all editions of the Planctus, along with a brief discussion of the problems, can be found on-line at Robert Helmerichs, “The Planctus for William Longsword.”

32. Gustav Storm, Kritiske Bidrag til Vikingetidens Historie, I: Ragnar Lodbrak og Gange-Rolv (Kristiania: Den Norske Forlagsforening, 1878), 139-42.

33. Johannes Steenstrup, “Dissertation sur la Complainte de Guillaume Longue-Épée et les critiques dont elle a été l’objet,” in Étude sur la vie et la mort de Guillaume Longue-épée, duc de Normandie, By Jules Lair (Paris: Picard, 1893), 71-77. Here, he is following the emendation of Lair, who read “hac in urbe” for “hic in orbe.” Dudo’s account of William’s origin is at 3.36.

34. Steenstrup, Normandiets Historie, 83-84.

35. Then again, I don’t believe in Dudo’s historicity; thus, my conclusion, no matter how logical, fits the pattern I have detected in earlier historians.

36. Bernard Leblond, L’accession des Normands de Neustrie à la culture occidentale (Xème-XIème siècles) (Paris: A. G. Nizet, 1966), 173.

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