Rollo the Viking
Rollo was a Viking leader who became the first ruler of Normandy in the early 10th century.
He led his group of fierce Vikings and operated along coasts of Ireland, Scotland, England, Flanders and France. Rollo was particularly active along the Seine River in France. In doing so, he made himself independent of Norwegian ruler, Harald Fairhair.
His reputation as an able Viking leader grew with time and his military prowess forced West Frankish King, Charles the Simple to cede lands between Seine and city of Rouen to Rollo. That is how the Duchy of Normandy came into being.
In exchange, Rollo agreed to stop his raids in Frankish areas and promised to defend Francia against other Norse brigands. Rollo’s descendents later conquered England, Sicily and principality of Antioch. Norman Conquest of England particularly helped in leaving behind a lasting legacy of Rollo and his clan.
Early Life: Rollo was born in a noble warrior family of Scandinavia in mid or late ninth century AD (846 according to some historians). While some historians believe that he was of Danish origin, many more contend that he was a Norwegian.
This assertion is supported by the 12th century English historian, William of Malmesbury. Not much is really known about his early life and his family. It is generally accepted that he was born in 846 in More Og Romsdal County in Norway.
Sea Faring Days: Rollo started to operate independently of Norwegian King Harald Fairhair and proceeded to the areas around Ireland, Scotland, England and France. In 876, he invaded city of Rouen and proceeded to besiege city of Paris. In 885 and 887 he attacked cities of Bayeux and Evreux, respectively. During this time, Rollo became a nuisance for Frankish ruler, Charles the Simple. Charles and his forces held off Rollo’s siege of Paris and defeated him at Chartres.
Vikings led by Rollo struck a treaty (Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte) with Charles. According to this treaty, Vikings were handed control of lands between Seine and city of Rouen. In exchange, Rollo’s Vikings promised to stop their raids inside Frankish territory and defend it against other Norse raiders. Rollo and his group also converted from Norse Paganism to Christianity and married the local Christian women. He married a woman named Popa, who was the daughter of Count of Rennes. Together they had a son William who later succeeded Rollo after his death.
Reign: According to available records, Rollo started to rule Normandy around 918 AD, after an act of Charles the Simple granted him these lands. In 923, Charles was overthrown after a revolt. He was succeeded by Robert of Neustria. Robert’s reign was short and he was killed by Vikings in 924.
His successor, Ralph ceded Bessin and Maine to Rollo and allowed him to strengthen his settlements from Seine Valley to coast and from City of Rouen to Dieppe.
In later years, Rollo’s son, William and grandson Richard the Fearless made Duchy of Normandy, the most powerful and influential principality of West Francia. Rollo was also the great-great-great grandfather of William of Normandy or William the Conqueror, who conquered England.
Through William of Normandy, Rollo is also an ancestor of the present British Royal family.
Later Life and Death: Owing to frail health, Rollo appointed his son and heir, William I as the Duke of Normandy in 927. According to certain accounts, Rollo died in 932. He was buried in Cathedral of Rouen where he was also baptized in 915.
While Rollo did not control and rule a vast empire like some of his descendants, his contribution in establishing a powerful dynasty cannot be overlooked. He is believed to be an ancestor of almost all the current European monarchs.