14 November 2010

Rolf aka Rollo aka Robert I, Duke of Normandy

One from the Dark Ages this time: Rolf, also known by the latined Roolo, later baptised as Robert.  This chap was a Viking warleader who started life as a mischievous pillager and ended up founding the Normans. Good job.  He also earned the nickname "Rolf the Walker" for being so big that no horse could carry him and thus he had to walk everywhere.

Leading a few cantankerous lads ashore when the mood took him, he was one of the lesser chieftains who took part in the siege and capture of Paris in 885AD.  Enjoying themselves there to the consternation of the locals, he accepted a massive bribe from the Frankish King and then went off to enjoy himself annoying the Burgundians (and in his spare time no doubt spent his new wealth on ale and wenches).  Like most, he eventually tired of this so invaded northern France again but got a rude shock when King Charles of France defeated him in 911.

Tired of Vikings pillaging Northern France (the coastal areas were almost depopulated by this point), Charles needed a more permanent solution.  Tired of sodding about, Rollo wanted somewhere to stay, so it was agreed he would become the leader of the City of Rouen and the area later known as Normandy (literally, land of the North Men).  So he and the lads settled down, were baptised Christians (one of the conditions) and intermarried with locals to found the Norman society.
Interesting side-note: before he eventually died of old age (rare for a Viking Chieftain I would have thought) in 932, he donated 100 pounds of gold to the Church as well as sacrificing 100 slaves to Odin - thus hedging his bets for the afterlife.

He was succeed by William "the Longsword" and was the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror who was another boisterous chap who wouldn't stay at home. 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. His descendants in Scotland, the Clan Rollo, were also involved in some uprisings and so forth so naughtiness seems to have run in the family.

All in all, a pretty decent outcome for a lesser noble going raiding, but not a chap you'd want to move in next door.

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