Last Updated 29 January 2018.
The famous Northerner Rollo has a wide range of aliases in Norse, French and English: Hrólfr, Hrolf Ganger (Hrolf the Walker), Robert I, Rou, Radulf, Raoul. He lived from 846 until 932 and was Duke of Normandy from 911 until 932. He married twice, first to Poppa and later to Gisela, the daughter of the king of France, Charles III.1
Life & Viking Times
The biography above sums up all we know about Rollo. Lack of evidence and conflicting sources make it tricky to confirm his ancestry. Medieval Norse manuscripts try to ensure he is of Norwegian descent, whilst the Danish version claims he belongs to Danish royalty. If the genealogy is correct, then despite his own descent, he is a direct ancestor of William the Conqueror.2
Most of Rollo’s life is part myth, part historical. The tv series Vikings3 claims to follow the life of Rollo Lodbrok, brother of the legendary king of the Danes, Ragnar Lodbrok. Ragnar’s deeds are mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,4 the Gesta Danorum5 and various Icelandic sagas. None of these sources confirms, however, that his brother Rollo will become the Duke of Normandy.
In 2011 Norse and Danish researchers announced they would start DNA testing to finally confirm Rollo’s lineage.6 There are many more and similar projects ongoing. The results and analyses will have to be supported by academic debate and continued research. Until that time, Rollo’s ancestry will remain in the dark.
The rest of his life is summed up rather quickly. He attacks and perhaps even leads the attacks on Paris. As he is engaged in more attacks he must have stayed in the area and in time become a warrior of consequence. When the king of France, Charles III ‘the Simple’ defeats him in 911 he offers Rollo the duchy of Normandy and his daughter’s hand in marriage. The condition is that Rollo supports the king again the rebellious Frankish nobles and other raiding Vikings.7
History.com – Vikings
- The Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Rollo.’ Last Accessed 26 November 2015. ↩
- Charles Cawley, ‘Normandy Dukes.’ Foundation for Medieval Genealogy. Last Accessed 26 November 2015. ↩
- History.com, ‘Vikings Full Episodes, Video and More.’ Last Accessed 26 November 2015. ↩
- Anonymous, ‘‘The Anglo–Saxon Chronicle.’ The Avalon Project | Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. Last Accessed 26 November 2015. ↩
- Saxo Grammaticus, The Danish History, Book I–IX. The Online Medieval and Classical Library. Last Accessed 26 November 2015. ↩
- M.R. Maglio, ‘Exploring Rollo’s Roots: DNA Leads the Way.’ OriginsDNA. Last Updated 29 April 2014. ↩
- Durham World Heritage Site, ‘The Founding of Normandy.’ Last Accessed 26 November 2015. ↩
- Tapisserie de Rollon, ‘The Rollo Tapestry – The Embroidered Tale of Rollo, Viking Chief and Founder of Normandy.’ Last Accessed 26 November 2015. ↩