Rolf Ragnvaldsson also know as Rolf 'The Ganger', Rolf 'Wend-a-foot, Rolf the Viking and Rollo 0f Normandy. He was given the name Robert when he was baptized. He was also called Rollo which is French and Latin.
Encyclopeadia Britannica states that Rolf was a "Scandinavian rover who founded the duchy of Normandy. Making himself independent of King Harald I of Norway, Rolf sailed off to raid Scotland, England, Flanders, and France on pirating expeditions and, about 911, established himself in an area along the Seine River. Charles III the Simple of France held off his siege of Paris, battled him near Chartres, and negotiated the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, giving him the part of Neustria that came to be called Normandy; Rolf in return agreed to end his brigandage. He gave his son, William (I) Longsword, governance of the dukedom (927) before his death. Rolf was baptized as 'Robert' in 912 but is said to have died a pagan."
Rolf was the son of Ragnvald or Rognwald. He was lord of three little islets far north, near the Fjord of Folden, called the Three Vigten Islands. His main means of making a living was that of sea robbery or piracy. King Harold did not approve of Rolf's conduct while conducting this robbery. During Harold's reign, piracy was forbidden within his own countries, but was perfectly acceptable against foreign countries and was a profession held by many nobles.Harold's own son, Eric was employed this way as early as age twelve.
The thing that caused Rolf to be outlawed was taking from his own countrymen. Coming home from one of his pirate expeditions, his crew ran short of supplies. Rolf landed with them on the shore of Norway, and out of desperation, drove some cattle and proceeded to kill and eat them. Cattle theft was a crime. Somehow King Harold 'Harfager' got word of this and was on his way to investigate and punish the perpetrators.
Rolf and his men left hurriedly in their ships and went to the coast of France. At some point he was enfeoffed to the King of France and given the desolate coast of Normandy, which took it's name from 'the Northmen' or 'Norsemen' as they were called by the French.
The Heimskringla says that when Harold outlawed Rolf, his mother went to him and begged for mercy for him. And he was very angry and refused to listen to her. At which time an evidently very proud mother made this statement:
The name of Nevja is torn;
Now driven in flight from the land.
Is the warrior's bold kinsman.
Why be so hard, my lord/
Evil it is by such a wolf,
Noble prince, to be bitten;
He will not spate the flock
If he is driven to the woods.
A rough translation would be that if the king persisted in being so harsh and driving her son from the land, he would become as a wolf and would not spare the flock. She undoubtedly felt that he owed her son the son of his most valiant nobles a little more consideration. Rollo's father had been given the great honor of being the one to cut Harold's hair. Harold had sworn not to cut it until he had become king and won his bride.
Over the next two centuries, Rolf and his descendants made Normandy into a prosperous country and became a force to be reckoned with.
Alternate origins for Rollo are given by Dudo of St, Quentin who says that he was the son of Danish noble who was at odds with King Harold of Denmark, who upon his death left Rollo and a brother Gurim who was killed. William of Jumieges says in his Gesta Normannorum Ducum that Rollo was from the Danish town of Fakse. The Roman de Rou and the Orkneyinga Saga both also refer to two brothers named Rou and Garin.
The Norwegian and Icelandic historians (historia Norvegiae) say that Rollo was a son of Rognvald Eysteinsson, the Earl of More in Western Norway, and call him Ranger Hrolf (Rolf the Walker). This nickname was given to him because he was so big that he couldn't ride a horse, because none of the small Norwegian horses were big enough.
When Rollo and his men were exiled, they first made their way to the Hebrides, where other noblemen of Viking descent were living. They welcomed him, but the land must not have been sufficient to sustain them. These chieftains all banded together as equals and travelled first to Holland, but it had been ravaged and was too poor to benefit them, so they left from there toward the coast of northern France and headed up the Seine.
In 885, Rollo was with a Viking fleet that laid siege to Paris. He was one of the lesser leaders under Sigfried. The legend that comes down from this time is that the French sent an emissary to negotiate. This emissary asked who was their chieftain. They told him that they were all chieftains in their own right. In 886, the French paid off Sigfried who left, but Rollo stayed behind and continued to raid. He was eventually bought off too and he left to raid Burgundy.
He later returned to the area of northern France now known as Normandy and began raiding again. Tradition says that when the people of Rouen saw that Rollo was going to lay siege to their town, they sent their archbishop to him to try and negotiate. They were very surprised when he returned unharmed and told them that he had been treated with kindness and courtesy. The message he brought back was that if they admitted the Vikings to their town they would be unharmed. They opened their gates to him and Rouen became Rollo's citadel.
Sometime during this period, around 886-887, he attacked Bayeaux. According to Oderic Vitalis, the Count of Bayeaux was killed and his daughter was taken by Rollo as a captive bride. The History of the Norman People by Wace says that when Rollo decided to attack Bayeaux, he sent spies, who determined that it would be easy to take. When Berengar the lord of Bayeaux discovered that they were coming. He placed his men outside the wall and they went to battle with the Normans. They managed to capture one of the Norman chiefs. In return for giving him back, they received a year's peace from the Normans. But the next year they returned. They attacked Bayeaux and damaged it heavily. They destroyed the farms and the people as well. Eventually the barons of the land went over to the side of the Normans. It also says that when he took Poppa, she was just a girl and had not even developed breasts yet. But Rollo loved her and made her his wife anyway. Poppa means something like little doll.
In 911 Rollo's men were defeated at the Battle of Chartres by Charles II 'the Simple' Charlles realized that the custom of paying them to leave was no longer effective. They made an agreement that they could stay in the northern territory they were occupying as long as they defended it against any other Viking raiders. A treaty was signed in 911, in which Rollo was enfeoffed to King Charles. The area that Rollo was given was in the lower Seine or the northern part of Normandy and the area around Rouen. Some historians differ as to whether Rollo was a duke or a count under Charles the Simple. Legend says that Charles required Rollo to kiss his foot in a show of subservience as a condition of the treaty. Rollo refused to humble himself in so degrading a manner and ordered one of his men to do it in his place. This man raised Charles foot up to his mouth causing Charles to fall down rather than to stoop and do it.
In the beginning Rollo honored the treaty and defended the shores of Normandy for Charles, but after a time, he decided to divide up Normandy among his men as if it were his own sovereignty. His capital was Rouen. As he began these settlements, he and his men began raiding other French lands. Now they had a secure base of operations from which to conduct these raids, His men eventually began to intermarry with the local women and to assimilate into their new home.
About 927 Rollo began to pass the control of Normandy into the hands of his son William Longsword. The territory that he was relinquishing control of now extended as far west as the Vire River. He died sometime between then and 933.
The historian Adhemar, 'As Rollo's death drew near, he went mad and had a hundred Christian prisoners beheaded in front of him in honour of the gods whom he had worshipped, and in the end distributed a hundred pounds of gold around the churches in honour of the true God in whose name he had accepted baptism.' With his mind slipping, he must have at times returned to an earlier time before he had converted to Christianity.
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