Wars of the Normans

Normans — versus — French, Saxons, Italians, Germans

Rise of the Normans, 885-911         Normans in Italy, 1033-1091         Normans in Britain, 1047-1106

The Normans arose as an important civilization rather suddenly in the 9th century, when Viking invaders, who had been savaging the coasts of Northern France for a generation were granted title to a large region of Northern France on condition that they become Christian and pay homage to the King of France. Under Rollo and his descendents, the Duchy of Normandy quickly became one of the most industrious and prosperous regions of France. The mixture of the vigorous and energetic Vikings with the indigenous Gallic-Roman residents of the region produced a unique Norman culture that was less tied to the Ancient Frankish aristocracy of France, and more to industry and commerce.

For the first hundred years, the Normans thrived primarily in France, but in the 11th century, they branched out in two major regions. In 1053 a group of Norman mercenaries led a Christian assault on Malta and Sicily, and recaptured both islands from the Saracens. Soon after, William the Conqueror, who had already established himself as the greatest warrior in Western Europe invaded England and won all of Britain for the Normans. In the long term, the Normans influence faded as its leaders intermarried and integrated with the local populations, but the great energy and organizational abilities of the Normans left a strong impression on all of the regions of Europe that were once under their sway.

Rise of the Normans : 885-911

Vikings in France
The founder of the Norman kingdom in France was Rollo, a Viking warlord who had a long history of marauding all along the coast of Northern France and Germany. He participated in the great siege of Paris in 885-887, and by 900 was the leader of a large band of Vikings. When Charles the Simple realized that he could not drive the bandit away, he agreed to give him title to the land along the North Shore of France, on the condition that he become Christian, and help protect the shore from other invaders. These conditions he accepted and although he continued to lead some further raids into French territory, his men all married French women and within a generation, were settled in the land.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Montfaucon (Invasion of France ) French victory
Fought 887, between the French, under Eudes, and the Norman invaders. The latter were totally defeated, losing 19,000 men in the battle, and were forced to retire from before the walls of Paris, which they were besieging.
Battle of Dyle (Invasion of Italy ) Germans victory
Fought 896, between the Norman invaders, and the Germans under Arnulph, Emperor of Germany, The Normans were totally routed with enormous loss.

Short Biography
Hasting the Viking Viking leader whose fleet raided Paris and Rome. Later converted to Christianity and became a subject of France.
Rollo the Viking Viking Leader who was granted the Dukedom of Normandy if he became Christian.
Odo of Paris Ruled briefly as king of France after Charles the Fat was deposed. Gained renown for fighting vikings, but died without issue.
Charles the Simple French King who conceded the Dukedom of Normandy to Rollo the Viking.

Story Links
Book Links
Normandy  in  William the Conqueror  by  Jacob Abbott
How Normandy Came By its Name  in  Old Time Tales  by  Lawton B. Evans
Rollo the Viking  in  Famous Men of the Middle Ages  by  John H. Haaren
Deeds of the Northmen  in  The Story of the Middle Ages  by  Samuel B. Harding
Rollo the Viking  in  Barbarian and Noble  by  Marion Florence Lansing
Vikings  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Arnulf of Carinthia  in  The History of Germany  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Raids of the Sea-Rovers  in  Historical Tales: German  by  Charles Morris
Rollo the Viking Makes Settlements in France  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Hastings  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

The Normans in Italy : 1033-1091

Viking ships
The Normans gained a reputation as great soldiers, and in the early 11th century a group of Norman Mercenaries led by Robert Guiscard helped various factions in Italy in order to gain territories for themselves. The Normans first fought against the Pope, but later joined forces with him, and helped to recapture large regions of Southern Italy. Finally, Robert and his brother Roger recaptured Sicily from the Saracens, and their descendents eventually recaptured Malta. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily was eventually integrated by marriage into the Hapsburg empire.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Civitella (Invasion of Italy ) Normans victory
Fought Jun 18, 1053, when 3,000 Normans under Robert Guiscard assailed and totally routed a miscellaneous force of Germans and Italians under Pope Leo IX. Only the Germans offered any serious resistance, but they were cut down to a man, and the Pope was overtaken in his flight and captured.
Siege of Durazzo (Invasion of Italy ) Normans victory
This fortress, which was defended by a garrison of Greeks and Macedonians under George Palaeologus, was besieged by the Normans, under Robert Guiscard, July 17, 1081. On October 18, the besiegers, now reduced to 18,000, were attacked by a force of about 75,000 Greeks, under Alexius Cornnenus, and after a terrible struggle, in which the Normans were almost overpowered, the victory rested with Guiscard. The Greeks lost about 6,000. On the Norman side, the Italian auxiliaries suffered heavily, but only 20 Norman knights were killed. Notwithstanding this disaster, the city still held out, and it was not till February 8, 1082, that a night surprise rendered the Normans masters of the place.
Siege of Rome (Second Rebellion ) Normans victory
In the course of dispute with Pope Gregory VII, who had refused to recognize him as emperor, Henry III of Germany laid siege to Rome in 1082. After two interruptions to the siege, the city was finally surrendered to him by the Roman nobles, March, 1084. Gregory was deposed, and the anti-Pope Clement III set upon the pontifical throne, Henry at the same time assuming the Imperial purple. Gregory had employed a Norman mercenary, Robert Guiscard, to expel the Germans, but instead he sacked the city.

Short Biography
Robert Guiscard Norman mercenary who conquered Southern Italy and Sicily from the Greeks and Saracens.
Roger of Sicily Formed the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, a great sea power of southern Italy for 7 centuries.

Story Links
Book Links

William the Conqueror: the Normans in Britain : 1047-1106

Norman Conquest
The Descendents of Rollo the Viking were the Dukes of Normandy. William the Conqueror was the fifth Duke of Normandy, but he was not accepted as the legitimate heir by many of the Norman nobles, due to the fact that his mother was a commoner. As a very young man he therefore spent much time putting down rebellions, and also battled against the King of France. He never lost a battle and soon gained a reputation as the greatest general in Western Europe. When the King of England died without an heir, William made a claim to the throne, and got the Pope's blessing for an invasion. At the battle of Hastings he defeated the Saxon King and in a short time had put down all rebellions. He governed Britain in a far more efficient and centralized fashion than the Saxons ever had, and brought a great deal of order to the kingdom.

The worst rebellion during the age of William the Conqueror was within his own family. His son Robert, who was intended to inherit his French kingdom, rose against him, and later against his brother who was then king of England. Eventually Robert lost his claim to Normandy, and the northern region of France was annexed to the crown of England. The possession of Normandy was disputed for several generations, but eventually lost entirely under early Plantagenets.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Val-ès-Dunes (First Rebellion ) Normans victory
Fought 1047, between the Normans, under William of Normandy, with aid from Henri I of France, and the rebel Norman Barons. The rebels were totally defeated.
Battle of Varaville (Invasion of England ) Normans victory
Fought 1058, between the Normans, under William of Normandy, and the French and Angevins, under Henri I of France. The Normans gained a complete victory, and the French king shortly afterwards made peace.
Battle of Hastings (Invasion of France ) Normans victory
Fought October 14, 1066, a fortnight after the landing of William the Conqueror. The English, under Harold, fought entirely on the defensive, at first with success, but were at last lured from their position by a feigned flight of the Normans, and were then totally routed. Harold was among the fallen. This battle is also known as the Battle of Senlac.
Battle of Gerberoi (Third Rebellion ) Normans victory
Fought in 1080, between the troops of William the Conqueror, and those of his son Robert, who claimed the Dukedom of Normandy, and was receiving aid from Philip I of France. Robert was defeated and made prisoner, and, obtaining his father's forgiveness, resigned his claim to the Dukedom.
Battle of Tenchebrai (Maori War ) English Normans victory
Fought September 28, 1106, between the English, under Henry I, and the Normans, under Robert of Normandy, Henry's brother. Robert was totally defeated and made prisoner, and Henry annexed Normandy to the crown of England.

Short Biography
William the Conqueror Claimed the crown of England and won it at the Battle of Hastings. Ruled forcefully but justly.
Harold Godwinson Son of Godwin. Ascended to the Saxon throne when Edward the Confessor died childless.
Henry I Son of William the conqueror. Competent king who reigned for 35 years. Left throne to Matilda.
Robert of Normandy Eldest son of William the conqueror who tried to assume control of Normandy while his father was still living

Story Links
Book Links
William's Reign in Normandy  in  William the Conqueror  by  Jacob Abbott
Crossing the Channel  in  William the Conqueror  by  Jacob Abbott
Battle of Hastings  in  William the Conqueror  by  Jacob Abbott
Prince Robert's Rebellion  in  William the Conqueror  by  Jacob Abbott
William of Normandy  in  Historic Boys  by  E. S. Brooks
Harold the King (continued)  in  Stories from English History  by  Alfred J. Church
William, Duke of Normandy  in  Stories from English History  by  Alfred J. Church
William the Conqueror  in  Famous Men of the Middle Ages  by  John H. Haaren
Normans Conquer England  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Hereward the Saxon  in  Patriots and Tyrants  by  Marion Florence Lansing
Battle of Hastings  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
End of Saxon England  in  Historical Tales: English  by  Charles Morris
Hereward the Wake  in  Historical Tales: English  by  Charles Morris
How the Northmen Conquered England  in  The Discovery of New Worlds  by  M. B. Synge
Harold  in  Great Englishmen  by  M. B. Synge
William the Conqueror Conquers England  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Book Links
William the Conqueror  by  Jacob Abbott
In the Days of William the Conqueror  by  E. M. Tappan

Image Links

Siege of Paris
 in The Story of Old France

Marauding expedition of northmen
 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Harold receiving news of the Norman invasion
 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Count Odo bringing aid to Paris
 in The Story of the Middle Ages

William of Normandy Landing in England
 in The Story of the Middle Ages
Wiliam at Hastings
Wiliam at Hastings
 in Back Matter

Vikings sailing up the River to Paris
 in Barbarian and Noble

These vessels be not laden with merchandize, but manned with cruel foes
 in The Story of France

It seemed as if he rode alone to defy the whole English army.
 in Our Island Story

The death of Harold
 in Stories from English History

The Death of Harold
 in Great Englishmen

The Wounding of Harold at the Battle of Hastings
 in European Hero Stories

Battle of Hastings (From the Bayeux Tapestry)
 in European Hero Stories

William sets out for battle
 in In the Days of William the Conqueror

Still swept over them the terrible storm of arrows.
 in In the Days of William the Conqueror

Heavy stones were rolled from the walls.
 in In the Days of William the Conqueror