Rollo, first duke of Normandy

Rollo († um 931) is the Central European name of a Viking, who was called Ganger Hrôlf in Scandinavia. “Ganger Hrôlf” means Rolf the pedestrian. The French call him “Rollon” or even “Raoul”. Anglophones often call him “Robert”. He became the first duke of Normandy.

It is said, that he gained his sobriquet because he was too tall to ride on a horse. This nickname might be given to him posthumously, to indicate, that he was special among the Vikings. It reminded me though of the film Útlaginn in which tall men ride small horses. I guess it would be possible to be too tall for an Icelandic horse.

icelandic horses, islandpferde

Icelandic horses with riders. photo by Dagur Brynjólfsson, licence:Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Rollo was the son of the jarl (earl) Ragnwald of Ålesund, who was sent by Harald Hårfagre (Fairhair) to conquer the Orkney- and Shetland-isles. Rollo himself was not only plundering abroad but even in his home country Norway. Therefore he was exiled. The Norvegians didn’t like kings much at that time and other men followed Rollo, his group of Vikings increased. Soon he became leader of a small fleet and his goal was not only plundering anymore, he searched land to settle. Rollo and his Vikings stayed one winter in England and went afterwards to the Dutch peninsula Walcheren. Count Reginar I. Longneck of Hainaut in Belgium tried to chase the Vikings out of his countries, but Rollo and his men advanced more and more and finally plundered Condé-sur-l’Escaut (Département Nord, France). Afterwards they ascended the Seine.

14th century illustration depicting the negotiation of the bishop of Rouen and Rollo. Online library of Toulouse, licence:public domain

The inhabitants of Rouen asked Rollo to protect them from other Vikings. The bishop Witton (892-910) was negotiating with Rollo and the latter accepted. The vikings called Rouen “Rudhaborg”. King Charles Le Simple (Charles the Simple, 879-929) sent his duke to fight against Rollo. In 885 they met on the battlefield at Pont de l’Arche. Rollo won, he and his men plundered Melun afterwards. More and more Norvegians and Danish were settling in the region around Rouen and this region got the name Normandy, region of Normans. Rollo expanded his dominion along the Risle, along the Orne and in 900 his forces besieged Bayeux and took it. Rollo married Poppa, the daughter of Bérenger II., count of Bayeux, who had died on defending his city.

taufe rollos

14th century illustration, depicting the baptism of Rollo. Online library of Toulouse, licence:public domain

In 911 Rollo and Charles le Simple concluded the contract of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. The contract warranted Rollo the reign over Neustria. Neustria was situated in the northwest of France between Loire and Schelde. Above that, the contract allowed Rollo to plunder Brittany. Rollo promised in return to protect France from other Vikings. At the time of this contract, Rollo was over 50 years old. Rollo converted to Christianity and allocated land to his loyal followers. Soon there was peace in Normandy and Rouen became it’s capital. Rollo was buried in Rouen after his death in 931.

rollos grave, rollos grab

Gisant (recumbent effigy) of Rollo in the cathedral of Rouen. Photo by Urban, licence:Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0


Jean Mabire: Les Ducs de Normandie pages 8-17, published by Charles Lavauzelle, Paris 1987, ISBN: 9782702501511

12 thoughts on “Rollo, first duke of Normandy

  1. John Alldis

    Alldis is an ancient name on English soil.

    Dating back to the wave of immigration that followed the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
    The name comes from the Old English given name ALDUS. Ald, the first part of the name, means old. Research of the Chronicles of England indicates the name Alldis be of Norman Origin, ranking amongst the oldest. The history of the name is an intricate cross weave within the fabric of ancient Britain.
    Detailed research by skilled analysts examining such ancient manuscripts as the Doomsday Book (compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror), the Ragman Rolls, the Inquisitors’ the Wace poem, the Honour Roll of the Battel Abby, The Curia Regis, Pipe Rolls, the Falaise Roll, tax records, baptismal, family genealogies, local parish and church records, show the very first record of the name of ALLDIS was found in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire. In the South East of England; where they held a family seat from very ancient times. Soon after Rudolphous Alldis was recorded in Yorkshire in 1068 as holding considerable estates and lands, and Robert Aldous was recorded in Norfolk in 1230 A.D.
    Alternative spellings were traced in the archives, linked to a common root, typically one of the Norman Nobles or warriors at the Battle of Hastings. Although your name, ALLDIS occurred in many references, from time to time, included amongst the spellings were Aldis, Aldous, Aldhouse, Aldus, Aldiss, Oldis, Oldhouse and these changes in spelling occurred between father and son.
    Scribes recorded the name phonetically, as it sounded. Many people were born with one spelling, married with another, and buried with another. All three spellings were one and the same person. Sometimes Kinsmen and kinswomen spelled their names as they liked, indicating a different branch of the family, a religious preference, or sometimes to proclaim a national heritage.
    The name ALLDIS is believed to have arrived in England from Normandy, a race frequently but mistakenly assumed to be of French origin. More accurately they were of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the Orkneys and Northern Scotland in the year 870 A.D; under their King Stigud the Stout.
    Thorfinn Rollo, his descendent landed in Northern France about the year 911 A.D. The French King, Charles the Simple, after Rollo laid siege to Paris, who finally conceded defeat and granted Northern France to Rollo. Rollo was the first Duke of the newly created land of Normandy, the territory of the North Men. Rollo married Charles daughter and became a covert to Christianity.
    Duke William who invaded and defeated England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, was descended from the first the Duke Rollo of Normandy.
    Duke William compiled a census of most of England in 1086 A.D, a census which became known a century later as the doomsday book. It became the authority; the point of departure, for the ownership of land in England.
    The surname ALLDIS emerged as a distinguished English family name in Norfolk and Suffolk (North folk and South folk) where they flourished, when in1284 John D. Aldus, son of Roger renounced his title in favour of his wife. About the same year the family also branched to Eastwood in Renfrewshire, Scotland Notable amongst the family at this time was John Aldhouse.
    The surname ALLDIS added much influence to the local social and political life and affairs of England. During the 12th century many of these Norman families moved north to Scotland in the train of the Earl of Huntingdon, later to become King David of Scotland.
    The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries brought many religious and political injustices. The Monarchy, the church and Parliament fought for supremacy. Religion was divided by the church of State, the Roman Church and the reform Church. Each faction in its time imposed its penalties on rich and poor alike. Loyalties were engineered, marriages were arranged to acquire greater possessions, estates and influence at court.
    Many families were freely “encouraged” to migrate to Ireland, or to the “colonies.” Nonbelievers or dissidents were banished, sometimes even hanged.
    The settlers in Ireland became known as the Adventurers for land in Ireland. They contracted to keep the Protestant faith, both for their families and also for those that worked for them. The name ALLDIS may well have arrived in Ireland with “The Cromwellian Adventures for Land,” in the 17th century. At that time 1,000 acres of land was available to settles in Ulster for £200, in Connaught for €300, and in Leinster for £600. The rumours of the attractions of the New World spread like wildfire. Many sailed aboard the fleet of ships known as the “White Sails.” The stormy Atlantic, small pox, dysentery, cholera and typhoid took its toll of the settlers and many of the overcrowded ships arrived with only 60 or 70% of their passenger list. The migration or banishment to the New World continued, some went voluntary from Ireland, but in most, directly from England or Scotland, their home territories. Some clans and families even moved to the European continent. In North America, immigrants bearing the name of ALLDIS, or one of its spelling variations included Nathan ALDIS who settled in Massachusetts, 1640 A.D; he was made freeman 1640 A.D and was a Deacon of the Town. He died March 15; had at least two sons from which of the North American name descended. From the port of their arrival many settlers joined the wagon trains westward. During the American War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the crown and moved northward into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists. Many of the earliest settlers to Australia were convicts, transported from Britain to live and work in penal colonies; others were offered incentives and financial assistance.
    From recent history, notable bearers of the ALLDIS surname include: John Aldhouse of Suffolk, family physician; John gray Aldous, Ph.D. Canadian Pharmacologist and Educator, Dalhousie University, Halifax Nova Scotia; and Brian Wilson Aldiss, English author, anthologist and critic, primarily involved with science fiction. The coat of arms for a bearer of the ALLDIS name did not include a motto. Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and many families have chosen not to display a motto.
    As for myself John Dennis ALLDIS, I migrated to Australia in September 1974 A.D; Studied at La Trobe University 1975 A.D, Melbourne, Vitoria, for a degree in Geophysics. I was a Senior Deacon at the Seventh Day Adventist Church at Dee Why Sydney, Australia for 15 years. I started my own business in Hard rock drilling and diamond drilling exploration also Rock removal, using explosives; was forced out of operation by poor misinformed governmental policy decisions. I.E. Ban on Uranium mining. Currently residing in the Tweed Valley area of NSW. Australia

  2. Okay. Question is why do you tell me this? Maybe you should post it on your own website/blog or on a genealogy forum. 🙂 My surname is not Norman it is German.

  3. John ALLDIS

    “Okay. Question is why do you tell me this?” What exactly is your problem! Huh! I was just sharing MY family origins; as others with the same surname might find the information of interest to their OWN background; it is of a ‘personal nature!’ How does this info affect YOU? With a name like “stanzebla !”.Guess you have your own problems!!!.. I fail to see the connection or how it can affect you to reply in such an obnoxious way! it defies all logic… How Old YOU??? Do your OWN research on your OWN name PLEASE! Or SEEK HELP from a “shrink!’ Perhaps you are in need of treatment? Or been on the wacky baccy!!! What is it to YOU ANYWAY? WHO are YOU to post such a comment?

  4. Well, it’s my blog and I can delete comments or not. So yes, what is it to me? Why would I care about your family origins? I told you you should consider posting them on your own webpage. It is not related to the article in any way. We all have a family. And a lot of those old family roots of famous noble families I know are invented. Everybody can invent family roots. Not saying yours are invented. Just saying why I generally do not care much about people that claim to have had a very important family many centuries ago. Even if someone had a very important family many centuries ago, it does not make a person better.

  5. Thanks for the valuable geneological insight.

    • You mean thanks to John Alldis? 🙂

      • I totally agree…that the above comment needs to be on its own blog post…however it is interesting. My family name has both Norman and British origins. The family castle lies in ruins near Leeds.

  6. Awesome history lesson Constanze!

  7. I remain a direct antecedent to William the Conquer. DNA plus blood tests confirm my Nordic origins its Historic FACT over which I have absolutely NO CONTROL over what so ever! The past has been and gone I am unable to CHANGE FACTS in any way at all! I am now Lord John Alldis it is Official plus a genuine happening I have the documentation to PROVE IT

  8. Pets to Go

    I too have been doing genealogy research and have visited some places associated with Rollon; Maere and Alesund, Norway, and Rouen and Fecamp, France, and other places. For video visit Mary Ann

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