The Duchy of Normandy stems from various Danish, Norwegian, Hiberno-Norse, Orkney Viking and Anglo-Danish (from the Danelaw) invasions of France in the 8th century. A fief, probably as a county, was created by the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911 out of concessions made by King Charles, and granted to Rollo, leader of the Vikings known as Northmen (or in Latin Normanni).

Originally composed of a northern portion of the province of Neustria centered around Rouen on the Seine, it was later expanded by conquest southward to include the areas of Évreux and Alençon and westward into Breton territory, eventually roughly corresponding to the two Regions of Haute-Normandie and Basse-Normandie of the modern French Republic, plus the Channel Islands. All former mainland territory is now part of France, and the Duchy now consists solely of the Channel Island Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, which are Crown Dependencies of the British Monarchy. The British sovereign is the current Duke of Normandy.

See Normandy for this region in modern France and more of the geography and culture of the region.

When the Norse-speaking settlers spread out over the lands of the Duchy, they adopted the Gallo-Romance speech of the existing populations — much as Norman rulers later adopted in England the speech of the administered people. In Normandy, the new Norman language formed by the interaction of peoples inherited vocabulary from Norse. In England the Norman language developed into the Anglo-Norman language. The literature of the Duchy and England during the period of the Anglo-Norman realm is known as Anglo-Norman literature.

Chronology of the DuchyEdit

This statue of Rollo the Viking (founder of the fiefdom of Normandy) stands in Falaise, Calvados, birthplace of his descendant William I the Conqueror (the Duke of Normandy who became King of England).It was formed from Rouen county, the Pays de Caux and Talou (Dieppe county) which the Vikings had colonised. The capital was established at Rouen in 912, and a western capital was later established at Caen as the Duchy expanded.

In 928 Evreux county, Hiémois county and the Bessin were added.

In 931-934, William Longsword, Rollo's son, added the Cotentin Peninsula and the Avranchin. The Channel Islands were added in 933.

Sometime around 950-956, Normandy or its frontier part got the position as a marchio, according to Werner.

Richard II was the first to be styled duke of Normandy (the ducal title became established between 987-1006).

In 1066, Duke William defeated Harold II of England at the Battle of Hastings and was subsequently crowned King of England, through the Norman Conquest of England, which started the consequential Normanisation.

Anglo-Norman and French relations became complicated after the Norman Conquest, as the Norman rulers retained control of their holdings in Normandy as vassals owing fealty to the King of France, but were his equals as King of England. In the 1150s with the creation of the Angevin Empire the Normans controlled half of France and all of England, dwarfing the power of France. Yet the Normans were still technically vassals to France.

One interpretation of the Conquest maintains that England became a cultural and economic backwater for almost 150 years after as kings of England preferred to rule from cities in Normandy such as Rouen and concentrate on their more lucrative continental holdings. Another interpretation has it that the Norman Duke-Kings neglected their continental territories, where they in theory owed fealty to the Kings of France, in favour of consolidating their power in their new sovereign realm of England. The resources poured into the construction of cathedrals, castles and the administration of the new realm arguably diverted energy and concentration away from the need to defend Normandy, alienating the local nobility and weakening Norman control over the borders of the territory, while at the same time the power of the Kings of France grew.

The Duchy was ruled as part of the Anglo-Norman realm until 1204, when Philip II of France conquered the continental lands of the Duchy. It became part of the royal demesne. The English sovereigns continued to claim it until the Treaty of Paris (1259) but in fact kept only the Channel Islands as part of the former duchy.

Having little confidence in the fidelity of the Normans, the King of France installed French administrators in his new possession and built a powerful fortress, the Château de Rouen, as a symbol of royal power. Within the royal demesne, Normandy retained some specificity. Norman law continued to serve as the basis for court decisions. In 1315, faced with the constant encroachments of royal power on the liberties of Normandy, the barons and towns pressed on the king the Norman Charter. This document did not provide autonomy to the province but protected it against arbitrary royal acts. The judgments of the Exchequer, the main court of Normandy, were declared final. This meant that Paris could not reverse a judgement of Rouen. Another important concession was that the King of France could not raise a new tax without the consent of the Normans. However the charter, granted at a time when royal authority was faltering, was violated several times thereafter, when the monarchy had regained its power.

The Duchy of Normandy survived mainly by the intermittent installation of a duke. In practice, the King of France sometimes gave that portion of his kingdom to a close member of his family, who then did homage to the king. Philippe VI made his eldest son Jean, heir to the throne, Duke of Normandy. In turn, Jean II appointed his heir, Charles, who was also known by his title of Dauphin.

In 1465, Louis XI was forced by his nobles to cede the duchy to his eighteen year old brother Charles, as an appanage. This concession was a problem for the king since Charles was the puppet of his enemies. Normandy could thus serve as a basis for rebellion against the royal power. Louis XI therefore agreed with his brother to exchange Normandy for the Duchy of Guyenne (Aquitaine). Finally, to signify that Normandy would not be ceded again, on 9 November 1469 the ducal ring was placed on an anvil and smashed. This was the definitive end of the duchy on the continent.

Nevertheless, the Dauphin Louis Charles, second son of Louis XVI, was also known as Duke of Normandy before the death of his elder brother in 1789. But that title was purely honorary.

The Duchy todayEdit

The Duchy of Normandy survives as the Channel Islands, which for administrative purposes are grouped into the two bailiwicks of Jersey (comprising the island of Jersey and uninhabited islets such as the Minquiers and Écréhous) and Guernsey (comprising the islands of Guernsey, Sark, Alderney, Brecqhou, Herm, Jethou and Lihou). The current Duke is Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. The Duchy is not part of the United Kingdom but is a Crown Dependency of the Monarch.