Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte

Last updated
Kingdom of France in the late 10th century; the Duchy of Normandy is marked Duche de Normandie, and the royal domain is blue. France a la fin du Xe siecle.jpeg
Kingdom of France in the late 10th century; the Duchy of Normandy is marked Duché de Normandie, and the royal domain is blue.

The treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911) is the foundational document of the Duchy of Normandy, establishing Rollo, a Norse warlord and Viking leader, as the first Duke of Normandy in exchange for his loyalty to the king of West Francia. The territory of Normandy centered on Rouen, a city in the Marches of Neustria which had been repeatedly raided by Vikings since the 840s, and which had finally been taken by Rollo in 876.


The treaty

Rollo in June 911 unsuccessfully laid siege to Chartres. He was defeated in battle on 20 July 911. [1] In the aftermath of this conflict, Charles the Simple decided to negotiate a treaty with Rollo.

The talks, possibly led by Heriveus, the archbishop of Reims, resulted in the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911. The treaty granted Rollo and his soldiers all the land between the river Epte and the sea "in freehold and good money". [2] In addition, it granted him Brittany "for his livelihood." [2] At the time, Brittany was an independent country which present day France had unsuccessfully tried to conquer. In exchange, Rollo guaranteed the king his loyalty, which involved military assistance for the protection of the kingdom against other Vikings. One of the conditions for the Vikings after their loss was to convert. As a token of his goodwill, Rollo also agreed to be baptized and to marry Gisela, a presumed legitimate daughter of Charles. [3] The traité en forme at Saint Clair-Sur-Epte marked the beginning of Normandy as a state.

Formation of Normandy

With Norse bands of settlers, composed of non-aristocratic lineages, there came multiple communities formed and a new political ethos that was not Frankish. The Norsemen ("Northmen") came to be known as Normans in French. [4] This identity formation was partly possible because the Norse were adapting indigenous culture, speaking French, renouncing paganism and converting to Christianity, [5] and intermarrying with the local population. [6]

The territory covered by the treaty corresponds to the northern part of today's Upper Normandy down to the Seine, but the territory of the Vikings would eventually extend west beyond the Seine to form the Duchy of Normandy, so named because of the Norsemen who ruled it. The treaty allowed these new settlements. But not all Vikings were welcome. And with the death of Alan I, King of Brittany, another group of Vikings occupied Brittany faced their own dispute. Around 937, Alan I's son Alan II returned from England to expel those Vikings from Brittany in a war that was concluded in 939. During this period the Cotentin Peninsula was lost by Brittany and gained by Normandy.

There would be a convergence between Franks and Normans with a few generations. But for now, the treaty involved a marriage between Gisla and Hrólfr (also known Rollo to the Franks). Marriages such as this played an important role in cultivating alliances and cohesion; wives were often called "peace weavers." And later, Charles the Simple created an alliance and a grant of rights to those Vikings seeking to settle in 918.

While the Normans did adapt, adopt, and assimilate to Christianity, they did not necessarily adopt indigenous administration: "The creation of Norman power between first settlement and the mid-eleventh century is not primarily of assimilation to Carolingian forms, as those appear in the capitualaries. [7] Rather, the Normans "adhered longer than the Franks around them--to older forms of social organization," that the Franks were abandoning.

The Normans came close to being absorbed into a lower social strata in Frankish society had not renewed wave of Viking raids occurred in the 960s. Over time, the frontiers of the duchy, based in kinship, expanded to the west. [8] "By the mid-eleventh century the descendants of the settlers formed the most disciplined, cooperative warrior society in Europe, capable of a communal effort--the conquest and subjugation of England--that was not, and could not have been, mounted by any other European political entity." [9]

Succession crisis

There was not a successful duchy until around the time of Richard I control of Normandy. During his reign, he bore daughters who would become peace weavers to forge valuable marriage alliances with powerful neighboring counts and the king of England. His daughter, Emma, underwent two marriages. In 1002, King Æthelred II married Emma, the sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy. [10] After Æthelred the Unready's death in 1016, Emma married her second husband who was an invader, Cnut the Great. Emma and Æthelred the Unready's children included Alfred Aetheling and Edward the Confessor. Emma also bore children with Cnut: Haracnut and a daughter, Gunnhild. That is not to mention Cnut's previous child in his previous marriage: Harold Harafoot. While the complicated woven connections that marriage brought could bring peace, after the alliance of Cnut and Emma had ended was a battle over the throne. Emma's children with Æthelred the Unready give a major connection between Normandy and England that would later add validity to William the Conqueror's claim to the throne of England.

On 12 November 1035, King Cnut died at Shaftsbury in Dorset. He was around 40 years old and was buried at the Winchester Abbey. With his death, a succession crisis was created, and his huge Northern European empire, which contained England, Denmark and Norway fell apart because of strife over which heir would control certain regions. For instance, Harold Harefoot tried to seize the throne of England and was able to rule the "North of the river of Thames" until 1035 when he "failed to prevail over the archbishop." [11] Meanwhile, south of the River Thames, Haracnut reigned "but w deserted by his supporters in 1037." [11] In 1037, Harold Harefoot ascended the throne "as king everywhere," [11] [12] but with his death came the accession of Haracnut. Essentially, all of Cnut's children, whether illegitimate or not, had an interest in the throne of England, the male heirs.

Edward the Confessor was an illegitimate child of Cnut because he came from Emma's first marriage. Not being a direct son of Cnut meant that Edward and his brother spent most of their lives in Normandy as an exile to England. That dynamic led to the establishment of a powerful Norman interest in English politics. Edward drew heavily on his former hosts for support, bringing in Norman courtiers, soldiers and clerics and appointing them to positions of power, particularly in the Church. Edward was childless and embroiled in conflict with the formidable Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and his sons, and he may also have encouraged Duke William of Normandy's ambitions for the English throne. [13] " Therefore, he laid claim to the English throne while Haracnut was ling. Eventually, William would not only stake a claim to the English crown but also take advantage of the fragmented state of England because of the Great Succession Crisis and its aftermath.

Norman Conquest

Before William left for England, he had to gain support and unify Normandy as a consolidated state. However, to maintain that unity in Normandy meant William needed to make sure that his neighbors, such as France, were not a threat. William was able to leave for his invasion with the aid of churches and ducal administration as well as the timely death of France's king. Those circumstances and dynamics secured William's power, and he was able to accomplish the defeat of England by invading and landing his ships in Dives. [14] There, William was met with Harold II on the battlefield, and the Battle of Hastings ensued in the fall of 1066. Bradbury asserts the Battle of Hastings events unfolded at Caldbec Hill, Battle Hill, or the Abbey in three phases. The first phase consisted of confrontation, with the Normans striking the Anglo-Saxons first. The second phase is a counterattack by the English. The third phrase consisted of a Norman breakthrough. [15]

Without the treaty, there never would have been a Normandy formed. In fact, the assimilation of Vikings and their adoption of the French language and customs would have likely occurred in another time or another manner if at all.

The treaty eventually led to future power struggles between Normandy and England, such as the Norman Conquest. William II, Duke of Normandy, became William the I, King of England when he invaded England at the time of Harold II's reign in 1066.

See also

Related Research Articles

Æthelred the Unready 10th and 11th-century King of England

Æthelred II, known as the Unready, was King of the English from 978 to 1013 and again from 1014 until his death. His epithet does not derive from the modern word "unready", but rather from the Old English unræd meaning "poorly advised"; it is a pun on his name, which means "well advised".

William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. He was a descendant of Rollo and was Duke of Normandy from 1035 onward. His hold was secure on Normandy by 1060, following a long struggle to establish his throne, and he launched the Norman conquest of England six years later. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son, Robert Curthose.

The 1010s was a decade of the Julian Calendar which began on January 1, 1010, and ended on December 31, 1019.

Godwin of Wessex became one of the most powerful earls in England under the Danish king Cnut the Great and his successors. Cnut made Godwin the first Earl of Wessex. Godwin was the father of King Harold Godwinson and of Edith of Wessex, who in 1045 married King Edward the Confessor.

Emma of Normandy Queen consort of England

Emma of Normandy was queen of England, Denmark and Norway through her marriages to Æthelred the Unready (1002–1016) and Cnut the Great (1017–1035). She was the daughter of Duke Richard I of Normandy and Gunnor. After her husbands' deaths Emma remained in the public eye, and continued to participate actively in politics during the reigns of her sons by each husband, Edward the Confessor and Harthacnut. She is the central figure within the Encomium Emmae Reginae, a critical source for the history of early 11th-century English politics. As Catherine Karkov notes, Emma is one of the most visually represented early medieval queens.

Edward the Confessor 11th-century Anglo-Saxon King of England and saint

Edward the Confessor, also known as Saint Edward the Confessor, was among the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England. Usually considered the last king of the House of Wessex, he ruled from 1042 to 1066.

Cnut the Great 10th and 11th-century King of Denmark, Norway, and England

Cnut the Great, also known as Canute, was king of Denmark, England and Norway; together often referred to as the North Sea Empire. Yet after the deaths of his heirs within a decade of his own, and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, this legacy was lost. He is popularly invoked in the context of the legend of King Canute and the tide, which often misrepresents him as a deluded monarch believing he has supernatural powers, contrary to the original legend which portrays a wise king who rebuked his courtiers for their fawning behaviour.

Rollo was a Viking who became the first ruler of Normandy, a region in northern France. He is sometimes called the first Duke of Normandy. His son and grandson, William Longsword and Richard I, used the titles "count" and "prince", respectively. His great-grandson Richard II was the first to officially use the title of Duke of Normandy.

Edmund Ironside King of the English

Edmund Ironside was King of England from 23 April to 30 November 1016. He was the son of King Æthelred the Unready and his first wife, Ælfgifu of York. Edmund's reign was marred by a war he had inherited from his father; his cognomen "Ironside" was given to him "because of his valour" in resisting the Danish invasion led by Cnut the Great.

Norman conquest of England 11th-century invasion and conquest of England by Normans

The Norman conquest of England was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army of Norman, Breton, Flemish, and French soldiers led by the Duke of Normandy, later styled William the Conqueror.

Ælfgifu of Northampton was the first wife of Cnut the Great, King of England and Denmark, and mother of Harold Harefoot, King of England. She was regent of Norway from 1030 to 1035.

Duchy of Normandy Medieval duchy in northern France

The Duchy of Normandy grew out of the 911 Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte between King Charles III of West Francia and the Viking leader Rollo. The duchy was named for its inhabitants, the Normans.

Richard II, Duke of Normandy Duke of Normandy

Richard II, called the Good, was the eldest son and heir of Richard I the Fearless and Gunnora. He was a Norman nobleman of the House of Normandy.

Richard I, also known as Richard the Fearless, was the Count of Rouen or Jarl of Rouen from 942 to 996. Dudo of Saint-Quentin, whom Richard commissioned to write the "De moribus et actis primorum Normanniae ducum", called him a dux. However, this use of the word may have been in the context of Richard's renowned leadership in war, and not as a reference to a title of nobility. Richard either introduced feudalism into Normandy or he greatly expanded it. By the end of his reign, the most important Norman landholders held their lands in feudal tenure.

Anglo-Saxon England was early medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th centuries from the end of Roman Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066. It consisted of various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 927 when it was united as the Kingdom of England by King Æthelstan. It became part of the short-lived North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great, a personal union between England, Denmark and Norway in the 11th century.

Eadwig Ætheling was the fifth of the six sons of King Æthelred the Unready and his first wife, Ælfgifu. Eadwig is recorded as a witness to charters from 993.

History of Normandy

Normandy was a province in the North-West of France under the Ancien Régime which lasted until the latter part of the 18th century. Initially populated by Celtic tribes in the West and Belgic tribes in the North East, it was conquered in AD 98 by the Romans and integrated into the province of Gallia Lugdunensis by Augustus. In the 4th century, Gratian divided the province into the civitates that constitute the historical borders. After the fall of Rome in the 5th century, the Franks became the dominant ethnic group in the area, built several monasteries, and replaced the barbarism of the region with the civilization of the Carolingian Empire. Towards the end of the 8th century, Viking raids devastated the region, prompting the establishment of the Duchy of Normandy in 911. After 150 years of expansion, the borders of Normandy reached relative stability. These old borders roughly correspond to the present borders of Lower Normandy, Upper Normandy and the Channel Islands. Mainland Normandy was integrated into the Kingdom of France in 1204. The region was badly damaged during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion, the Normans having more converts to Protestantism than other peoples of France. In the 20th century, D-Day, the 1944 Allied invasion of Western Europe, started in Normandy. In 1956, mainland Normandy was separated into two régions, Lower Normandy and Upper Normandy, and were reunified in 2016.

Anglo-Saxon London London after the Roman Empire withdrew in the 400s until the Norman Conquest of 1066

The history of Anglo-Saxon London relates to the history of the city of London during the Anglo-Saxon period, during the 7th to 11th centuries.

Events from the 1010s in England.

House of Knýtlinga ruling royal house in Middle Age Scandinavia and England

The Danish House of Knýtlinga was a ruling royal house in Middle Age Scandinavia and England. Its most famous king was Cnut the Great, who gave his name to this dynasty. Other notable members were Cnut's father Sweyn Forkbeard, grandfather Harald Bluetooth, and sons Harthacnut, Harold Harefoot, and Svein Knutsson. It has also been called the House of Canute, the House of Denmark, the House of Gorm, or the Jelling dynasty.


  1. Francois Neveux. A Brief History of The Normans. Constable and Robinson Ltd. 2006; p. 62.
  2. 1 2 Bradbury "Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066: Model and evidences" Chapter 1-3
  3. Timothy Baker, The Normans New York: Macmillan, 1966.
  4. Crouch Normans pp. 15–16
  5. Bates Normandy Before 1066 p. 12
  6. Bates Normandy Before 1066 pp. 20–21
  7. Bradbury"Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066: Model and evidences" p.1
  8. Hallam and Everard Capetian France p. 53
  9. Bradbury "Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066: Model and evidences" pp.7-8
  10. Williams Æthelred the Unready p. 54
  11. 1 2 3 Michael Lapidge "The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England" p.516
  12. Unknown "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle"
  13. Stafford Unification and Conquest pp. 86–99
  14. Bradbury The Battle of Hastings p.164
  15. Bradbury The Battle of Hastings p.1-278;Chapter 3