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Normaundie (also Normandy) is a Duchy of Normandy on the coast of France, south of the English Channel between Brittany (to the west) and Picardy (to the east). The geopolitical region of Normandy is a part of the Normandy Tribunal, but should be understood to be distinct from it.


The region is bordered along the northern coasts by the English Channel. There are granite cliffs in the west and limestone cliffs in the east. There are also long stretches of beach in the central region. There are meanders of the Seine as it approaches its estuary which form a notable feature of the landscape. The highest point is the Signal d'Écouves (427m) in the Suisse Normande.

Early History[]

Belgian Celts, known as Gauls, invaded Normandy in successive waves from the 4th century BC to the 3rd century BC. Much of our knowledge about this group comes from Julius Caesar’s de Bello Gallico. Caesar identified several different groups among the Belgian Celts, who occupied separate regions and lived in enclosed agrarian towns. In 57 BC the Gauls united under Vercingetorix in an attempt to resist the onslaught of Caesar’s army. After their defeat at Alesia, the people of Normandy continued to fight until 51 BC, the year Caesar completed his conquest of Gaul.

In the late 3rd century, barbarian raids devastated Normandy. Coastal settlements risked raids by Saxon pirates. The situation was so severe that an entire legion was garrisoned at Constantia. As a result of Diocletian’s reforms, Normandy was detached from Brittany, while remaining within Gallia Lugdunensis. Christianity began to enter the area during this period: Saint Mellonius was supposedly ordained Bishop of Rouen in the mid-3rd century. In 406, Germanic tribes began invading from the West, while the Saxons subjugated the Norman coast. The Roman Emperor withdrew from most of Normandy and gave it back its ancient name: Armorica. Rural villages were abandoned and the remaining Romans confined themselves to within urban fortifications.

As early as 486, the area between the Somme and the Loire came under the control of the Frankish lord Clovis. Frankish colonization did not occur on a massive scale, and is evidenced chiefly by cemeteries in Envermeu, Londinieres, Herouvillette, and Douvrend. Eventually the eastern region of Normandy became a residence for Merovingian royalty.

The Christianization of the area continued with the construction of cathedrals in the principal cities and churches in minor localities. This establishment of the parishes would continues for a long time. The smaller parishes tended to be located in the plains around Caen while the rural parished took up more space. Villagers would be buried around the local parish church up until the Carolingian era.

The Norman Monarchy developed in the 6th century in the isolated western regions. In the 7th century the Norman aristocrats founded several abbeys in the valley of the Seine: Fontenelle in 649, Jumièges about 654, Pavilly, Montivilliers. These Norman abbeys rapidly adopted the Benedictine Rule. They came to possess great quantities of land throughout France, from which they drew considerable income. They therefore became involved in political and dynastic rivalries.

The Coming of the Normans[]

Normandy takes its name from the Viking invaders who menaced large parts of Europe towards the end of the 1st millennium in two phases (790-930, then 980-1030). They were called Northmanorum, which means ‘men of the North.’ This name provides the basis for the term ‘Norman.’ After 911, this name replaced the term Neustria, which had formerly been used to describe Normandy.

The first Viking raids began between 790 and 800 on the coasts of western France. Several coastal areas were lost during the reign of Louis the Pious (814 - 840). The incursions in 841 caused severe damage to Rouen and Jumièges. The Viking attackers sought to capture the treasures stored at monasteries, easy prey considering the helplessness of the monks to defend themselves. An expedition in 845 went up the Seine and reached Paris. The raids were carried out primarily in the summer, the Northmen wintering in Scandinavia.

After 851 they began to stay in the lower Seine valley for the winter. In January 852 they burned the Abbey of Fontenelle. The monks who were still alive fled to Boulogne-sur-Mer in 858 and to Chartres in 885. The relics of Saint Honorine of Graville were transported from Graville to Conflans, safer by virtue of its southerly location. The monks of Normandy also attempted to move their archives and monastic libraries to the South, but several were burned by the Vikings.

The Carolingian kings in power at the time tended to have contradictory politics, which had severe consequences. In 867, Charles the Bald signed the Treaty of Compiègne, by which he agreed to yield the Cotentin Peninsula to the Breton king Salomon, on condition that Salomon would take an oath of fidelity and fight as an ally against the Vikings. Nevertheless, in 911 the Viking leader Rollo, who was a son of Rognvald Eysteinsson, forced Charles the Simple to sign the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, under which Charles gave Rouen and the area of modern Haute-Normandie to Rollo, establishing the Duchy of Normandy. In exchange Rollo pledged vassalage to Charles in 940 and agreed to be baptized. Rollo vowed to guard the estuaries of the Seine from further Viking attacks. With a series of conquests, the territory of Normandy gradually expanded: l’Hiémois and Bessin were taken in 924, the Cotentin and the Avranchin followed in 933. That year, King Raoul de Bourgogne of France was forced to give large parts of coastal Brittany to William I of Normandy, essentially all lands north of the Sélune River. Between 1009 and 1020 the Normans continued their westward expansion, taking all the land between the Sélune and Couesnon rivers, including Mont Saint-Michel. William the Conqueror completed these campaigns in 1050 by taking Passais.

While many buildings were pillaged, burned, or destroyed by the Viking raids, the activities of Rollo and his successors had the effect of bringing about rapid recovery.

The Scandinavian colonisation was principally Danish, with a strong Norwegian element and a few Swedes. The Viking colonisation was not a mass phenomenon. Nevertheless, in some areas the Scandinavians established themselves rather densely, particularly in Pays de Caux and the northern part of the Cotentin. Toponymic and linguistic evidence has been found to support this theory.

The merging of the Scandinavian and native elements contributed to the creation of one of the most powerful feudal states of Western Europe. The naval ability of the Normans would allow them to conquer England, and participate in the Crusades.

The Duchy of Normandy[]

Rollo of Normandy was the chief - the jarl - of the Viking population. After 911, he was also Count of Rouen. His successors gained the title Duke of Normandy from Richard II. After the rise of the Capetian dynasty, they were forced to vacate the title, for there could be only one duke in Neustria, and the Robertians carried the title. These dukes increased the strength of Normandy, although they had to observe the superiority of the king of France. The dukes of Normandy did not resist the general trend of monopolizing authority over their territory: the dukes struck their own money, rendered justice, and leveled taxes. They raised their own armies and named the bulk of prelates of their archdiocese. They were therefore practically independent of the French king, although they paid homage to each new monarch.

The dukes maintained relations with foreign monarchs, especially the king of England: Emma, sister of Richard II married King Ethelred II of England. They appointed family members to positions as counts and viscounts, which came about around the year 1000. They held on to some territory in Scandinavia and the right to enter those lands by sea. The Norman dukes also ensured that their vassal lords did not get too powerful, lest they become a threat to the ducal authority. The Norman dukes thus had more authority over their own domains than other territorial princes in Northern France. Their wealth thus enabled them to give large tracts of land to the abbeys and to ensure the loyalty of their vassals with gifts of fiefdoms. William’s conquest of England opened up more land to the dukes, allowing them to continue these practices whilst preserving sufficient land holdings to serve as their powerbase.

The course of the 11th century did not have any strict organizations and was somewhat chaotic. The great lords made oaths of fidelity to the heir of the duchy, and were in return granted public and ecclesiastical authority. The justice system lacked a central governing body and written laws were uncommon.

The aristocracy was composed of a small group of Scandinavian men, while the majority of the Norman political leaders were of Frankish descent. At the start of the 11th century the region was attacked by the Bretons from the West, the Germans from the East, and the people of Anjou from the South. All of the aristocrats’ fidelity oaths to the Norman dukes were attributed to defending their important domains. As early as 1040, the term ‘baron’ indicated the elite knights and soldiers of the duke. On the other hand, the term ‘vassal’ does not appear in the documents from 1057 onwards. It was also in the middle of the 11th century that fiefdoms came to exist. Richard the First designated fiefdoms to counts from the dynasty and the cities so as to prevent them from getting too powerful.