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Rollo on the Six Dukes statue in Falaise town square.
Duke of Normandy
Reign 911–927
Predecessor None
Successor William I
Spouse Poppa of Bayeux
Gisela of France
William I
House House of Normandy
Born c. 846
Died c. 932
Burial Rouen Cathedral

Rollo (c. 846 – c. 932), baptised Robert[1] and so sometimes numbered Robert I to distinguish him from his descendants, was a Norse Viking who was founder and first ruler of the Viking principality which soon became known as Normandy. His descendants were the Dukes of Normandy, and following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, kings of England.


  • Name 1
  • Historical evidence 2
    • Claimed Yngling lineage leading to Rollo 2.1
  • Raids along the Seine 3
  • The Principality of Normandy 4
  • Family 5
  • Death 6
  • Legacy 7
  • Genealogy 8
  • Depictions in fiction 9
  • See also 10
  • Footnotes 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • Sources 14


The name "Rollo" is a Latin translation from the Old Norse name Hrólfr, modern Icelandic name Hrólfur and Scandinavian name Rolf (cf. the latinization of Hrólfr into the similar Roluo in the Gesta Danorum), but Norman people called him by his popular name Rou(f) (see Wace's Roman de Rou).[2] Sometimes his name is turned into the Frankish name Rodolf(us) or Radulf(us) or the French Raoul, that are derived from it.[Note 1]

Historical evidence

Started in the late 9th century, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is the earliest record of Rollo. However, it does not mention his origins.

A.D. 876. This year Rolla penetrated Normandy with his army; and he reigned fifty winters.[3]

Rollo was a powerful Viking leader of contested origin. Dudo of Saint-Quentin, in his De moribus et actis primorum Normannorum ducum,[4] tells of a powerful Danish nobleman at loggerheads with the king of Denmark, who had two sons, Gurim and Rollo; upon his death, Rollo was expelled and Gurim killed. Dudo's chronicle, commissioned for Richard I, was finished, sometime after 1015,[5] for Richard II, whose sister, Emma, married the Danish King Cnut, in 1017. William of Jumièges also mentions Rollo's prehistory in his continuation of Dudo's work, Gesta Normannorum Ducum, but states that he came from the Danish town of Fakse.

Norwegian and Icelandic historians, basing their research on medieval Norwegian and Icelandic sagas, identified Rollo instead with Ganger Hrolf (Hrolf, the Walker), a son of Rognvald Eysteinsson (fl. 865), Earl of Møre in Western Norway. The Latin Historia Norvegiae, written in Norway at the end of the 12th century, offers the oldest source of this version. This Hrolf fell foul of the Norwegian king Harald Fairhair (c. 850 – c. 932, reigned c. 872 – 930), and became a Jarl in Normandy. The nickname "the Walker", "Ganger" in Norse, came from being so big that no horse could carry him.[6][7][8]

Geoffrey of Malaterra, in his The Deeds of Count Roger of Calabria & Sicily & of Duke Robert Guiscard his brother claims Rollo "sailed boldly from Norway".[9]

The question of Rollo's origins became a matter of heated dispute between Norwegian and Danish historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the run-up to Normandy's millennium anniversary in 1911. Today, the debate continues.

Claimed Yngling lineage leading to Rollo

The Yngling "Fairhair dynasty" lineage introduced in Hversu Noregr byggðist ("How Norway was settled") and the Orkneyinga and Heimskringla sagas suggests a line of Rollo going back to Fornjót, the primeval "king" who "reigned over" Finland and Kvenland. The claimed line leading to Rollo includes Rognvald Eysteinsson, the founder of the Earldom of Orkney.

Raids along the Seine

In 885, Rollo was one of the lesser leaders of the Viking fleet which besieged Paris under Sigfred. Legend has it that an emissary was sent by the king to find the chieftain and negotiate terms. When he asked for this information, the Vikings replied that they were all chieftains in their own right. In 886, when Sigfred retreated in return for tribute, Rollo stayed behind and was eventually bought off and sent to harry Burgundy.[1]

Later, he returned to the Seine with his followers (known as Danes, or Norsemen). He invaded the area of northern France now known as Normandy. In 911 the Vikings under Rollo again launched an attack on Paris before laying siege to Chartres. The Bishop of Chartres, Joseaume, made an appeal for help which was answered by Robert, Marquis of Neustria, Richard, Duke of Burgundy and Manasses, Count of Dijon. On 20 July 911, at the Battle of Chartres, Frankish forces defeated Rollo despite the absence of many French barons and also the absence of the French King Charles the Simple.[10]

The Principality of Normandy

Statue of Rollo in Rouen. There are two bronze replicas of this statue: one at Ålesund (Norway) and the other one at Fargo, North Dakota

In the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911) with King Charles, Rollo pledged feudal allegiance to the king, changed his name to the Frankish version, and converted to Christianity, probably with the baptismal name Robert.[11] In return, King Charles granted Rollo land between the Epte and the sea as well as parts of Brittany [2] and according to Dudo of St. Quentin, the hand of the King's daughter, Gisela, although this marriage and Gisela herself are unknown to Frankish sources. He was also the titular ruler of Normandy, centered around the city of Rouen. There exists some argument among historians as to whether Rollo was a "duke" (dux) or whether his position was equivalent to that of a "count" under Charles.

According to legend, when required to kiss the foot of King Charles, as a condition of the treaty, he refused to perform so great a humiliation, and when Charles extended his foot to Rollo, Rollo ordered one of his warriors to do so in his place. His warrior then lifted Charles' foot up to his mouth causing the king to fall to the ground.[12]

After 911, Rollo stayed true to his word of defending the shores of the Seine river in accordance to the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. However, he also continued attacks on Flanders.

After Charles was deposed by Robert I in 922, Rollo considered his oath to the King of France at an end. It started a period of expansion westwards. Negotiations with French barons ended with Rollo being given Le Mans and Bayeux and continued with the seizure of Bessin in 924. The following year the Normans attacked Picardy.

Rollo began to divide the land between the Epte and Risle rivers among his chieftains and settled there with a de facto capital in Rouen. Over time, Rollo's men intermarried with the local women, and became more settled into French Catholic culture as Normans.


14th century depiction of the marriage of Rollo and Gisela

Two spouses are reported for Rollo:

1. Poppa, said by chronicler Dudo of Saint-Quentin to have been a daughter of Count Berenger, captured during a raid at Bayeux. She was his concubine or wife,[13] perhaps by more danico.[14] They had issue:

  • William Longsword, born "overseas".
  • Gerloc, wife of William III, Duke of Aquitaine. Dudo fails to identify her mother, but later chronicler William of Jumieges makes this explicit.
  • (perhaps) Kadlin, said by Ari the Historian to have been daughter of Ganger Hrolf, traditionally identified with Rollo. She married a Scottish King called Bjolan, and had at least a daughter called Midbjorg, she was taken captive by and married Helgi Ottarson.

2. (traditionally) Gisela of France (d. 919), the daughter of Charles III of France


Rollo's grave at the cathedral of Rouen

Sometime around 927, Rollo passed the fief in Normandy to his son, William Longsword. Rollo may have lived for a few years after that, but certainly died before 933. Even though Rollo had converted to Christianity, some of his prior religious roots surfaced at the end.[16]


Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror. Through William, he is an ancestor of the present-day British royal family, as well as an ancestor of all current European monarchs and a great many pretenders to abolished European thrones. A genetic investigation into the remains of Rollo's grandson Richard I and great-grandson Richard II has been announced, with the intention of discerning the origins of the famous Viking warrior.[17]

The "Clameur de Haro" in the Channel Islands is, supposedly, an appeal to Rollo.


Depictions in fiction

Rollo is the subject of the seventeenth century play George Chapman.

A character based on the historical Rollo, played by Clive Standen, is Ragnar Lodbrok's brother in the 2013 television series Vikings.[18]

See also


  1. ^ This is the traditional account; the presence of Rollo at the siege of Paris is uncertain. Douglas (1942) makes the case that Rollo did not arrive in France until at least 905.
  2. ^ The precise identity of Breton lands ceded to Rollo is not certain. Charles did not control Brittany, and there was a March, or buffer zone, to protect Neustria (Western Francia) from the Bretons and the Vikings who occupied the Breton territories from 907 to 939. From 907 Brittany was itself subject to a separate series of Viking invasions, and their Ducal heir, Alan II, fled to England for a time. Alan II returned to expel the Vikings and re-established his line's rule over Brittany by 939. In 907 the Breton lands included the Cotentin Peninsula, and by 939 the peninsula appeared to have become part of Normandy.


  1. ^ Rou is the result of a series of French regular phonetic changes from Hrólfr > Rolf > Rouf to Rou (see Lepelley 15–16) and Norman names in -ouf and -ou(t) : I(n)gouf and Ygout < Old Norse Ingulfr / Ingólfr (Old Danish Ingulf). The variant form Rollo is just a latinization of the root Rol(l)- + Latin suffix -o / -one-, after the Latin names in -o. cf. Cicero / Cicerone and the latinized Germanic short names in -o > -o / -on, instead of -an in Germanic cf. Bero / Beran (see Lepelley 15–16). That is the reason why his name is Rollon in Standard French. Rollo is also known in the documents as Radulf(us) (Old Low Franconian) (or sometimes Rodulf(us)) > French Raoul, that is the French translation of Hróðulfr > Hrólfr, according to the Low Franconian variant form Radulf of Germanic Rodulf / Rudolf.


  1. ^ David Crouch, The Normans:The History of a Dynasty, (Hambledon Continuum, 2002), 8.
  2. ^ René Lepelley, Guillaume le duc, Guillaume le roi : extraits du Roman de Rou de Wace, Centre de publications de l'Université de Caen, Caen, 1987, p. 15 and 16.
  3. ^ The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
  4. ^ Dudo of Saint-Quentin (1015–1030). "De moribus et actis primorum Normannorum ducum". Historia Normannorum (in Latin). Wiksource. 
  5. ^ Introduction to Dudo of St. Quentin's Gesta NormannorumFelice Lifshitz,
  6. ^ HeimskringlaSnorri Sturlson's,
  7. ^ The Orkneyingers' Saga
  8. ^ Historia NorwegiaeTranslated by Devra Kunin,
  9. ^ The Deeds of Count Roger of Calabria & Sicily & of Duke Robert Guiscard his brotherGaufredo Malaterra,
  10. ^ Francois Neveux. A Brief History of The Normans. Constable and Robinson Ltd. 2006; p. 62.
  11. ^ Roman de Rou, Wace.
  12. ^ Holden, A.J. (1970). Le Roman de Rou de Wace. Paris: Éditions A.J. Picard. p.54. Lines 1147–1156.
  13. ^ Stewart Baldwin, F.A.S.G., Henry Project:"Poppa".
  14. ^ Philip Lyndon Reynolds: Marriage in the Western Church: the Christianization of marriage during the Patristic and Early Medieval Periods (2001).
  15. ^
  16. ^ van Houts, Elisabeth (2000). The Normans in Europe. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press. pp. 41
  17. ^ "'"Viking is 'forefather to British Royals. Views and News from Norway. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  18. ^ Turnbow, Tina (18 March 2013). "Reflections of a Viking by Clive Standen".  


  • D.C. Douglas, "Rollo of Normandy", English Historical Review, Vol. 57 (1942), pp. 414–436
  • Robert Helmerichs, [Rollo as Historical Figure]
  • Rosamond McKitterick, The Frankish Kingdom under the Carolingians, 751–987, (Longman) 1983
  • Dudonis gesta Normannorum – Dudo of St. Quentin Gesta Normannorum Latin version at Bibliotheca Augustana
  • Dudo of St. Quentin's Gesta Normannorum – An English Translation
  • Gwyn Jones. Second edition: A History of the Vikings. Oxford University Press. (1984).
  • William W. Fitzhugh and Elizabeth Ward. Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. Smithsonian Institution Press. (2000)
  • Eric Christiansen. The Norsemen in the Viking Age. Blackwell Publishers Ltd. (2002)
  • Agnus Konstam. Historical Atlas of the Viking World. Checkmark Books. (2002)
  • Holgar Arbman. Ancient People and Places: The Vikings. Thames and Hudson. (1961)
  • Eric Oxenstierna. The Norsemen, New York Graphics Society Publishers, Ltd. (1965)
  • Cawley, Charles, on Ragnvald the Wise, the father of Ganger Hrolf, traditionally identified with Rollo, but see the following link belowMedieval Lands , Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, retrieved August 2012 ,
  • Stewart Baldwin Henry Project: "Rollo "of Normandy", on disputed parentage of Rollo
  • Descendants of Rollo
  • Sturluson, Snorri. Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway, translated Lee M. Hollander. Reprinted University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992. ISBN 0-292-73061-6
  • (previously Saganet): Orkneyinga saga
  • English translation:
  • Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney. Trans. Pálsson, Hermann and Edwards, Paul. Hogarth Press, London, 1978. ISBN 0-7012-0431-1. Republished 1981, Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044383-5.
  • Orkneyinga Saga. Trans A.B. Taylor. London, 1937.
  • The Orkneyingers Saga (Icelandic Sagas, and other historical documents relating to the settlements and descents of the Northmen on the British Isles, Volume III). Translated by The Orkneyingers' Saga. Trans. Chappell, Gavin (2004) Northvegr: The Discovery of Norway.
  • Thaler, David (8 December 2008). "Section P: Descendants of Halfdan the Old". 
  • "Frá Fornjóti ok hans ættmönnum" in the Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda, Old Norse text of Hversu Noregr byggdisk (including the Ættartolur) and Fundinn Noregr at Snerpa: Netúgáfan: Fornrit and University of Oregon: Norse: Fornaldarsögur norðurlanda.
  • van Houts, Elisabeth (2000). The Normans in Europe. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press. p. 41. 
French nobility
Preceded by
New title
Duke of Normandy
Succeeded by
William I
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