Vikings: The importance of Rollo!

Ragnar and Rollo legacy

Before we begin, I do want to give credit and thanks to two people who helped me with research and information! A huge thanks to Diane Duggan of our Vikings Aftermath group on facebook, and to Starfishlady, one of my followers here. I could not have put this all together without your help and input!  I also want to warn ahead of time that this article is lengthy and involves a great deal of historical information! It is a historical look at the people and events, as well as a look at how Michael Hirst has incorporated those events into the show.


Most of  my Vikings Saga followers are probably well aware that my heart and my allegiance is with Rollo. While I understand the  significance of  Ragnar Lodbrok’s story,  I feel that Rollo should be given his own well deserved credit in the overall history of the Vikings. Yes, Ragnar’s story and legacy is one of great glory, reputation, and fame as well as importance in the beginning of the Vikings era. I agree with Michael Hirst’s reasonings in using him as a starting point in this grand saga.

If we look at Ragnar in history, we see that he was at the beginning of the Viking conqests over other lands. His fame and his story is well known by everyone with any interest in this time period or in the Vikings. But, as our Rollo has stated, it’s always about Ragnar! Why does Ragnar always get the fame and the glory, the favor of the Gods? Well, today I am going to share with you the fame, the glory, the reputation of Rollo in history. I am also going to share my thoughts and reasons why I think that Rollo’s story and his connection to Ragnar in Hirst’s version of this epic saga is so important and actually makes some sense!

first of all, my thoughts on how Rollo’s connection to Ragnar in our Viking world makes sense in a way. After that, we will look at the history, the legacy of Rollo in history. You will then understand the importance of Rollo!  As I mentioned, Ragnar Lodbrok was the beginning of the Vikings conquests. Rollo appeared much later in history but was just as important to the Viking legacy. I am quite sure that as a historian, Mr. Hirst is well aware of Rollo’s significance and chose to introduce and present him as Ragnar’s brother for ease of storyline purposes and timelines. By connecting the two as brothers, Hirst has  provided for an interesting parallel between the two men and their very different paths to fame.  In my personal opinion, he has also provided another interesting long term story arc of their separate legacies one day coming full circle. I can only hope and pray that he gets the chance to show us this future! The full circle I am referencing is that in history, the descendants of Ragnar Lodbrok merge with descendants of Rollo to one day rule England.   I did touch on this in my previous post about the Seer’s prophecies. For now, I can only hope that Mr. Hirst devotes time and attention to Rollo’s destiny, his fame, his contributions and does not just gloss over it to once again reserve the attention for Ragnar!

Rollo pours his heart, his resentment and frustration out to the Seer. He speaks of how his brother Ragnar has always been favored by the Gods and has had all of the fame, the glory and favor of their people as well.

I love him he is my brother. He has forgiven me, taken me back and still I am filled with bitterness and resentment of him

I love him he is my brother. He has forgiven me, taken me back and still I am filled with bitterness and resentment of him

I did not travel all this way back in time and remain here for so long just to be a part of Ragnar’s  story. That was never my true intent or reason.  His story and his legacy are interesting but, as I’ve pointed out, he has already received his fair due of fame and reputation…and besides, in the end his story does not end well, at least for him personally. No, I came back to help ensure that Rollo achieves his greatness and receives his own due share of credit, reputation and fame! There was some doubt in the beginning whether this Rollo being presented to us was actually the same Rollo of history. Realistically, who could blame some time travelers who witnessed his early behaviors for their concern and their doubt as to this man’s ability to achieve such greatness. I admit that even I had my doubts in the beginning.

I have been with him since the beginning, watched him fall to his lowest depths of drunkness and betrayals, watched him continuously make mistakes along the way, and wondered to myself how this man could be the one who would go so far in the future? I have seen him at his very worst, and yet again at his very best… and those time at his best, I could see that glimmer of greatness within him. It is what kept me holding on to my faith in him, it is what Siggy saw in him as well and why she tried so hard to push him to his limits. Without Siggy pushing him, he probably would not be where he is today, standing at the gates of Paris waiting to meet his destiny and his new path!

Some of Rollo’s more difficult moments…

rollo barely alive

rollo barely alive

Rollo does not trust knut and confronts him

Rollo does not trust knut and confronts him

rollos strikes a blow rollo in chains siggy bluntly revives a drunken rollo floki calling the gods to rollo

Rollo and Bjorn fight for life and for death

Rollo and Bjorn fight for life and for death

rollo tries to drink away his anguish

rollo tries to drink away his anguish

the deepest pain and grief within rollo comes out as he pleads with bjorn to end his suffering

Some better moments that show the man Rollo really is

Rollo offers drink to dying old saxon man

Rollo offers drink to dying old saxon man

The early days of Rollo

rollo watches the others leave

rollo watches the others leave

rollo understands the need for friends and alliances in this new world

rollo understands the need for friends and alliances in this new world

rollo and torstein bjorn and rollo3

rollo is left with the task of attempting to help bjorn through this

rollo is left with the task of attempting to help bjorn through this

lagertha to rollo you've looked after him as if he was your own

lagertha to rollo about Bjorn… you’ve looked after him as if he was your own

All of Rollo’s difficulties and struggles have made him the man he is now. Now, he is a man ready to embark on a new life. The time will soon come for him choose this new path that will separate him from his past, from his family and his friends. Do I think he is ready now to embrace this destiny that lies ahead for him? Yes, I believe he is. Will it be easy, no of course it will not be an easy road. It will still be filled with obstacles to overcome but I think he is strong enough now to face those hurdles and make the most of his future.  The time is coming when we will all face choices on who to follow, what path to take… I have made my decision, I will remain with Rollo. I will swear my allegiance to him and to his new alliance because I believe in his destiny, and ummm ohhh yeah, I want to be comfortable for awhile! I also do not want to be in Saxon England during the next few years and I really have no ties to Kattegat now that Siggy is gone.  I hate to say this, but if any of you have the choice, you might want to stay clear of England for a while too… it gets pretty messy over there on both the Saxon and the Vikings side! There are after all so many other places you could choose to go with Vikings during this long time period. And, as I’ve mentioned, many members of this group will most likely soon head out towards their own destinies. Yes, some of them such as Bjorn and his brothers will eventually return to England to revenge their Father but will return to their homelands rich and famous. I believe that one of the group, Floki, might just head out towards his own destiny? We all know he is having some difficulties right now and perhaps needs some time to rethink his life’s purpose… As we know, Floki is not really a warrior, first and foremost he is a ship builder, a dreamer and perhaps an explorer?

floki and iceland

floki flies Floki sit down remember you can't swim floki beserker as usual floki being sarcastic about going back to england to work for a christian king

floki's floating towers  unfortunately they burn quite easily

floki’s floating towers unfortunately they burn quite easily

I only mention this because I did recently find an interesting small side note about an explorer named Floki! Mr. Hirst has already played so much with our timeline of events, that there is really no reason he could not incorporate this  fact into the story! We know that our Floki is not happy right now. He is devoted and dedicated to the old Gods and the old ways and Iceland would be a perfect place for him to head to!

In the year 815, Floki of Rogaland set out from the Faergoe Isles and discovered Iceland.

The recorded history of Iceland began with the settlement by Viking explorers and their slaves from the east, particularly Norway and the British Isles, in the late 9th century, since Iceland was uninhabited long after the rest of western Europe was settled. Recorded settlement has conventionally been dated back to 874 CE, although archaeological evidence indicates Gaelic monks had settled Iceland previously. The land was settled quickly, mainly by Norwegians who may have been fleeing conflict or seeking new land to farm. By 930, the chieftains had established a form of governance (Althing), making it one of the world’s oldest parliaments. Also towards the end of the tenth century Christianity came to Iceland due to the influence of the Norwegian king, Olaf Tryggvason. During this time Iceland remained independent, a period known as the Old Commonwealth and Icelandic historians began to document the nation’s history in books referred to as Sagas (Icelandic for story or history). In the early thirteenth century internal conflict (Age of the Sturlungs) weakened Iceland which eventually became subjugated to Norway through the Old Covenant (1262–4), effectively ending the Commonwealth. Norway in turn was united with Sweden (1319) and then Denmark (1376). Eventually, all of the Nordic states were united in one alliance, the Kalmar Union (1397–1523), but on its dissolution Iceland fell under Danish rule. Denmark then imposed a strict trade monopoly in the 17th and 18th centuries, much to the detriment of the Icelandic economy. Iceland’s subsequent poverty was aggravated by natural disasters. During this time the population declined.



Now that my decision is made, I need to make some preparations. One of those preparations is forcing myself to commit to the Christian religion… well, at least on the surface anyway! Rollo is not yet ready for this conversion but he will eventually see the benefit and advantage of it for himself and his new kingdom. Yes, you heard me correctly, Rollo will soon be ruling his own little kingdom… Perhaps you’ve heard of it, it’s called Normandy! Normandy translates into land of Northmen!

Here is why Rollo will be swayed to convert, at least as I’ve mentioned, on the surface.  According to historical accounts, he converted enough to be acceptable but still held on to his old beliefs… shortly before his death, he was hedging his bets as to the after life.  He donated 100 lbs. of gold to the church for God, and he sacrificed 100 prisoners to Odin!

Before we look closer at Rollo’s real history, let’s look quickly at the attack on Paris that brings Rollo to his future.  For this we need to look at two different versions of the attack because Michael Hirst has combined the lives of Ragnar and Rollo. Both Ragnar Lodbrok and Rollo were involved in attacks on Paris so it’s difficult to surmise which version will be played out, or possibly it will be some combination of both events.

First of all a quick refresher on Paris!

paris at night2 the walls of paris

The Romans occupied what would become known as Paris (after its first settlers) from AD 212 to the late 5th century. It was at this time that a second wave of Franks and other Germanic groups under Merovius from the north and northeast overran the territory. Merovius’ grandson, Clovis I, converted to Christianity, making Paris his seat in 508. Childeric II, Clovis’ son and successor, founded the Abbey of St-Germain des Prés a half-century later, and the dynasty’s most productive ruler, Dagobert, established an abbey at St-Denis. This abbey soon became the richest, most important monastery in France and became the final resting place of its kings.

The militaristic rulers of the Carolingian dynasty, beginning with Charles ‘the Hammer’ Martel (688–741) were almost permanently away fighting wars in the east, and Paris languished, controlled mostly by the counts of Paris. When Charles Martel’s grandson, Charlemagne (768–814), moved his capital to Aix-la-Chapelle (today’s Aachen in Germany), Paris’ fate was sealed. Basically a group of separate villages with its centre on the island, Paris was badly defended throughout the second half of the 9th century and suffered a succession of raids by the ‘Norsemen’ (Vikings).

In the 9th century, the city was repeatedly attacked by the Vikings, who sailed up the Seine on great fleets of ships. They demanded a ransom and ravaged the fields. In 885-886, they laid siege to Paris for a year, and tried again in 887 and 889, but they were unable to conquer the city, protected by the Seine and the walls on the Île de la Cité.  The two bridges, vital to the city, were additionally protected by two massive stone fortresses, the Grand Châtelet on the right bank, and the Petit Châtelet on the left bank, which were built on the initiative of Gauzlin, the bishop of Paris. The Grand Châtelet gave its name to the modern Place du Châtelet, on the same site.

At the end of the 10th century, a new dynasty of kings, the Capetians, begun by Hugh Capet in 987, came to power. Though they spent little time in the city, they restored the royal palace on the Île de la Cité, and built a church where the Sainte-Chapelle stands today. Prosperity returned gradually to the city, and the right bank began to be populated. On the left bank, they founded an important monastery, the Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The Kings of the Merovingian dynasty were buried inside the church of Saint-Germain-des Prés, which was rebuilt in the 11th century. The monastery next to it became famous for its scholarship and illuminated manuscripts.

arrows rain down on the boats



Ragnar Lodbrok’s attack on Paris

Here is a basic version of Ragnar’s attack on the city.  Just so you are not too confused, Ragnar’s attack involved King Charles the Bald, while Rollo’s later attacks would involve Charles the Fat and Charles the Simple! Also remember that this the historical account of Ragnar’s activities not Hirst’s version of it.

In March 845,  a fleet of 120 Danish Viking ships containing more than 5,000 men entered the Seine under the command of a Danish chieftain named “Reginherus”, or Ragnar. This Ragnar has often been tentatively identified with the legendary saga figure Ragnar Lodbrok, but the historicity of the latter remains a disputed issue among historians.  In or around 841, Ragnar had been awarded land in Turholt, Frisia by Charles the Bald, but he eventually lost the land as well as the favour of the king. Ragnar’s Vikings raided Rouen on their way up the Seine in 845,  and in response to the invasion, determined not to let the royal Abbey of Saint-Denis (near Paris) be destroyed,  Charles assembled an army which he divided into two parts, one for each side of the river. Ragnar attacked and defeated one of the divisions of the smaller Frankish army, and took 111 of their men as prisoners and hanged them on an island on the Seine.  This was done to honor the Norse god Odin, as well as to incite terror in the remaining Frankish forces.

Map of Paris in the 9th century. The city was concentrated on Île de la Cité, an island on the Seine.

The Vikings finally arrived in Paris on either Easter Sunday, 28 March, or Easter Day, 29 March, entered the city and plundered it. During the siege, a plague broke out in their camp. The Norse had been exposed to the Christian religion, and after first praying to the Norse gods, they undertook a fast, acting on the advice of one of their Christian prisoners, and the plague subsided. The Franks could not assemble any effective defence against the invaders, and the Vikings withdrew only after being paid a ransom of 7,000 livres (French pounds) of silver and gold by Charles the Bald, amounting to approximately 2,570 kilograms (5,670 lb). Considering Ragnar’s earlier loss of land by Charles, the substantial payment may also have been regarded as some form of compensation for Ragnar’s loss, and the invasion itself as an attack of revenge. In any case, this would be the first of a total of thirteen payments of so-called Danegeld to Viking raiders by the Franks (although the term itself is not expressly known to have been used at this particular point). While agreeing to withdraw from Paris, Ragnar pillaged several sites along the coast on the return voyage, including the Abbey of Saint Bertin.

What is interesting to note with Ragnar’s attack is the aftermath and how it could relate to our version of the events? Ragnar supposedly admitted that he saw a vision or appearance of a dead Saint or Christian? Just a thought, but could a vision of Athelstan possibly play a part in all of this… and not the living but the dead conquer Paris? Hmmm might Floki see this apparition as well and be scared out of his senses?

Although many Vikings had died in the plague during the siege of Paris, Ragnar lived to return home to King Horik. According to a story originating from a member of Cobbo’s embassy, Ragnar, having attacked the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, then in the outskirts of medieval Paris, and which Cobbo later visited, attributed the plague to the power of Saint Germain of Paris. While Ragnar showed the gold and silver he had acquired to Horik and boasted about how easy he thought the conquest of Paris had been, he reportedly collapsed crying while relating that the only resistance he had met was by the long deceased saint. As Ragnar and several of his men died not long after, the king was so frightened that he ordered the execution of all the survivors, and the release of all his Christian captives. This event, in part, led Horik to receive Archbishop Ansgar, “Apostle of the North”, on friendly terms in his own kingdom.

floki conducts the symphony of the towers

floki conducts the symphony of the towers

a sheer wall topped by well trained archers

Rollo’s attack on Paris

Rollo’s involvement in an attack on Paris came some 40 years later than Ragnar’s. His attack does however include the history that Hirst is presenting us with as far as the attack and Rollo’s future outcome from the attack. This attack involved Charles the Simple, Count Odo, and ultimately the Princess Gisela. Another thing to keep in mind here is that this attack was the first of two that Rollo would be involved in. This attack took place in 885-886 with King Charles the Fat. Charles the Fat died in 888 and Count Odo was elected King…

The Siege of Paris of 885–86 was part of a Viking raid on the Seine, in the Kingdom of the West Franks. The siege was the most important event of the reign of Charles the Fat, and a turning point in the fortunes of the Carolingian dynasty and the history of France. It also proved to the Franks the strategic importance of Paris, at the time only a small island town. The siege is the subject of an eyewitness account in the Latin poem Bella Parisiacae urbis of Abbo Cernuus.

With hundreds of ships, and possibly tens of thousands of men, the Vikings arrived outside Paris in late November 885, at first demanding tribute. This was denied by Odo, Count of Paris, despite the fact that he only could assemble a couple of hundred soldiers to defend the city. The Vikings attacked with a variety of siege engines, but failed to break through the city walls after some days of intense attacks. The siege was upheld after the initial attacks, but without any significant offence for months thereafter. As the siege went on, most of the Vikings left Paris to pillage further upriver. The Vikings made a final unsuccessful attempt to take the city during the summer, and in October, Charles the Fat arrived with his army.

To the frustration of the Parisians who had fought for a long time to defend the city, Charles stopped short of attacking the Viking besiegers, and instead allowed them to sail further up the Seine to raid Burgundy (which was in revolt), as well as promising a payment of 700 livres (pounds; 257 kg). Odo, highly critical of this, tried his best to defy the promises of Charles, and when Charles died in 888, Odo was elected the first non-Carolingian king of the Franks.

Later on in 911, Rollo decided to make another attempt at the city… he was determined and possibly felt he had learned from earlier mistakes. By this time, Charles the Simple had taken control of the throne.

In 911, a group of Vikings led by Rollo besieged Paris and Chartres. After a victory near Chartres on 26 August, Charles decided to negotiate with Rollo, resulting in the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. For the Vikings’ loyalty, they were granted all the land between the river Epte and the sea, as well as Brittany, which at the time was an independent country which France had unsuccessfully tried to conquer. Rollo also agreed to be baptised and to marry Charles’ daughter, Gisela.

One last bit of clarification on Hirst’s version of history as opposed to actual history… This concerns our fellow, Count Odo.

In Hirst’s version he appears as counselor and defender of Paris, as well as hopeful would be suitor to the Princess Gisela. In our world, Odo is dealing with King Charles the Simple as his ruler…

Charles III (17 September 879 – 7 October 929), called the Simple or the Straightforward (from the Latin Carolus Simplex), was the King of Western Francia from 898 until 922 and the King of Lotharingia from 911 until 919–23. He was a member of the Carolingian dynasty.

Charles was the third and posthumous son of Louis the Stammerer by his second wife, Adelaide of Paris.  As a child, Charles was prevented from succeeding to the throne at the time of the death in 884 of his half-brother Carloman. The nobles of the realm instead asked his cousin, Charles the Fat, to rule them.  He was also prevented from succeeding the unpopular Charles, who was deposed in November 887 and died in January 888, although it is unknown if his deposition was accepted or even made known in West Francia before his death. The nobility elected as king Odo, the hero of the Siege of Paris, though there was a faction that supported Guy III of Spoleto. Charles was put under the protection of Ranulf II, the Duke of Aquitaine, who may have tried to claim the throne for him and in the end used the royal title himself until making peace with Odo.

In 911, a group of Vikings led by Rollo besieged Paris and Chartres. After a victory near Chartres on 26 August, Charles decided to negotiate with Rollo, resulting in the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. For the Vikings’ loyalty, they were granted all the land between the river Epte and the sea, as well as Brittany, which at the time was an independent country which France had unsuccessfully tried to conquer. Rollo also agreed to be baptised and to marry Charles’ daughter, Gisela.

Also in 911, Louis the Child, the King of Germany, died, and the nobles of Lotharingia, who had been loyal to him, under the leadership of Reginar Longneck declared Charles their new king, breaking from Germans who had elected Conrad of Franconia king.  Charles had tried to win their support for years, for instance by marrying in April 907 a Lotharingian woman named Frederuna, and in 909, his niece Cunigunda married Wigeric of Lotharingia. He also defended the country against two attacks by Conrad, King of the Germans. Queen Frederuna died on 10 February 917 leaving six daughters and no sons.  so the succession was uncertain. On 7 October 919 Charles married again to Eadgifu, the daughter of Edward the Elder, King of England, who bore his son, the future King Louis IV of France.

A quirky side note to the history and marriage of Charles the Simple. He married Eadgifu, the daughter of Edward the Elder King of England…Edward the Elder was the son of our baby Alfred who is still in the arms of his Grandfather Ecbert! It just shows what happens when one plays with the timeline of history!

Odo places the blame on others

Odo places the blame on others

you once refused my offer of marriage  my hope is that once I have successfully managed this defense of Paris you will reconsider

you once refused my offer of marriage my hope is that once I have successfully managed this defense of Paris you will reconsider.

if you save paris I will forever be in your debt

In actual history, Odo of France dealt with the earlier King, Charles the Fat and was eventually elected King for a time.

For his skill and bravery in resisting the attacks of the Vikings at the Siege of Paris, Odo was chosen by the western Franks to be their king following the removal of emperor Charles the Fat. He was crowned at Compiègne in February 888 by Walter, Archbishop of Sens.


Denier of Odo of France

Odo continued to battle against the Vikings and defeated them at Montfaucon, but he was soon involved in a struggle with powerful nobles who supported the claim of Charles the Simple to the Frankish throne.

In 889 and 890 Odo granted special privileges to the County of Manresa in Osona. Because of its position on the front line against Moorish aggression, Manresa was given the right to build towers of defence known as manresanas or manresanes. This privilege was responsible for giving Manresa its unique character, distinct from the rest of Osona, for the next two centuries.

To gain prestige and support, Odo paid homage to the Eastern Frankish King Arnulf of Carinthia. But in 894 Arnulf declared his support for Charles, and after a conflict which lasted three years, Odo was compelled to come to terms with his rival and surrender a district north of the Seine to him.



Odo did play a part in one of Rollo’s earlier attempts to conquer Paris.

With hundreds of ships, and possibly tens of thousands of men, the Vikings arrived outside Paris in late November 885, at first demanding tribute. This was denied by Odo, Count of Paris, despite the fact that he only could assemble a couple of hundred soldiers to defend the city. The Vikings attacked with a variety of siege engines, but failed to break through the city walls after some days of intense attacks. The siege was upheld after the initial attacks, but without any significant offence for months thereafter. As the siege went on, most of the Vikings left Paris to pillage further upriver. The Vikings made a final unsuccessful attempt to take the city during the summer, and in October, Charles the Fat arrived with his army.

To the frustration of the Parisians who had fought for a long time to defend the city, Charles stopped short of attacking the Viking besiegers, and instead allowed them to sail further up the Seine to raid Burgundy (which was in revolt), as well as promising a payment of 700 livres (pounds; 257 kg). Odo, highly critical of this, tried his best to defy the promises of Charles, and when Charles died in 888, Odo was elected the first non-Carolingian king of the Franks.

What Hirst has done is combine Charles the Fat and Charles the Simple into one character and put Count Odo in a position of  villain type against Charles the Simple. Odo seems to be in disagreement with Charles over the handling of this attack and he wants Gisela’s hand in marriage. How it all plays out remains to be seen. In our world, Charles does not look well and perhaps in the version that Hirst presents to us, Odo will become King now rather than at the earlier point of after Charles the Fat.


Are you totally confused yet? Yes, you are… I can see your eyes crossing now! Well, we’re finished with that confusion for now!  We will just content ourselves with the fact that Rollo has arrived in Paris and will play out his destiny. And, just what is his real history, his destiny, his future? Now we will find this out.

NORMANDY-MAP Normandy-map2 william_possessions



Portrait of Rollo's destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art.

Portrait of Rollo’s destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art.


For our purposes, I am going to go with the more traditional and accepted version of his history because there are a number of variations and versions of his early beginnings. According to the many versions, our Rollo has been everywhere from Norway, Scotland, France and Iceland!

History and Legacy of Rollo

Rollo (c. 846 – c. 932), baptised Robert and so sometimes numbered Robert I to distinguish him from his descendants, was a Norse Viking who was founder and first ruler of the Viking principality which soon became known as Normandy. His descendants were the Dukes of Normandy, and following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, kings of England.

Rollo was a powerful Viking leader of contested origin. Dudo of Saint-Quentin, in his De moribus et actis primorum Normannorum ducum,[4] tells of a powerful Danish nobleman at loggerheads with the king of Denmark, who had two sons, Gurim and Rollo; upon his death, Rollo was expelled and Gurim killed. Dudo’s chronicle, commissioned for Richard I, was finished, sometime after 1015,  for Richard II, whose sister, Emma, married the Danish King Cnut, in 1017. William of Jumièges also mentions Rollo’s prehistory in his continuation of Dudo’s work, Gesta Normannorum Ducum, but states that he came from the Danish town of Fakse.

What we know is that after the attack of Paris in 911, which he again failed at… he decided instead to try his luck with Chartres.

The following is an excerpt from   The Normans From Raiders to Kings by Lars Brownworth. Rollo’s destiny actually begins here with his success at Chartres.

Rollo at chartres in history of Normandy


rollo at chartres 2

In the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911) with King Charles, Rollo pledged feudal allegiance to the king, changed his name to the Frankish version, and converted to Christianity, probably with the baptismal name Robert.  In return, King Charles granted Rollo land between the Epte and the sea as well as parts of Brittany  and according to Dudo of St. Quentin, the hand of the King’s daughter, Gisela, although this marriage and Gisela herself are unknown to Frankish sources. He was also the titular ruler of Normandy, centered around the city of Rouen. There exists some argument among historians as to whether Rollo was a “duke” (dux) or whether his position was equivalent to that of a “count” under Charles.

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

According to legend, when required to kiss the foot of King Charles, as a condition of the treaty, he refused to perform so great a humiliation, and when Charles extended his foot to Rollo, Rollo ordered one of his warriors to do so in his place. His warrior then lifted Charles’ foot up to his mouth causing the king to fall to the ground.

After 911, Rollo stayed true to his word of defending the shores of the Seine river in accordance to the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. However, he also continued attacks on Flanders.

After Charles was deposed by Robert I in 922, Rollo considered his oath to the King of France at an end. It started a period of expansion westwards. Negotiations with French barons ended with Rollo being given Le Mans and Bayeux and continued with the seizure of Bessin in 924. The following year the Normans attacked Picardy.

Rollo began to divide the land between the Epte and Risle rivers among his chieftains and settled there with a de facto capital in Rouen. Over time, Rollo’s men intermarried with the local women, and became more settled into French Catholic culture as Normans.


rollo understands the need for friends and alliances in this new world

rollo understands the need for friends and alliances in this new world

rollo comes to better understanding of Ragnar's thoughts

rollo comes to better understanding of Ragnar’s thoughts

In our world, our version of Rollo’s history, we’ve seen Rollo as he comes to understand the things that will prove to be his genius later on in building his new legacy.


rollo's genius at realizing what he had

As I’ve mentioned before, the relationship between Rollo and Gisela is debatable and doubtful but for the story purpose it does provide for his entrance and adaption to French society. In the other histories I’ve read of him, his wife is not mentioned , or she is referred to as Poppa who was a concubine or Dane-wife. Some history cites Poppa as a captured wife, so she might not have provided him with the connections or respect that he needed in order to navigate this Frankish domain.  Given his accomplishments in building this new empire, I think that someone such as this Gisla or Gisela must have had some hand in guiding him and easing his way in this new and unfamiliar to him new world. In history, because  Gisela did not remain a part of the Royal dynasty in any way, and she did not bear any children to Rollo, she would most likely have been easy to forget and overlook in future tellings of both histories.

I did speak in my previous post about Gisela, her doubtful history and some possible reasons why she might have chosen to marry Rollo. I do just want to add here that in history, she would never have been in line for the crown of her Father. All monarchs in Frankish history were required by law and tradition to be male. So, even if she were an only child of Charles, she would not have succeeded him on the throne.

Rollo meets his destiny. Photo credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group on facebook

Rollo meets his destiny. Photo credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group on facebook

The princess will crown the Bear

In this excerpt from The Normans from Raiders to Kings, it only mentions that he took a local wife and he along with his fellow Northmen that followed him all adapted to the French culture.

rollo retains old ways but carves new ones


rollo founded an impressive legacy for his son

Rollo had two children who would continue his legacy far into the future.

His son, William Longsword would eventually put the newfound empire in jeapordy by rubbing everyone around him the wrong way! Fortunately, his son Richard the fearless did much better!

William I Longsword (French: Guillaume Longue-Épée, Latin: Willermus Longa Spata, Old Norse: Vilhjálmr Langaspjót), (c. 893 – 17 December 942) was the second ruler of Normandy, from 927 until his assassination.

He is sometimes anachronistically dubbed “Duke of Normandy“, even though the title duke (dux) did not come into common usage until the 11th century.[2] William was known at the time by the title count (Latin comes) of Rouen. Flodoard—always detailed about titles—consistently referred to both Rollo and his son William as principes (chieftains) of the Norse.,_Duke_of_Normandy

When his father died, Louis IV of France seized Normandy, installed the boy Richard in his father’s office, then placed him in the care of the count of Ponthieu. The king then split the lands, giving lands in lower Normandy to Hugh the Great. Louis kept Richard in confinement at Lâon, but he escaped with the assistance of Osmond de Centville, Bernard de Senlis (who had been a companion of Rollo of Normandy), Ivo de Bellèsme, and Bernard the Dane (ancestor of families of Harcourt and Beaumont).

In 946, Richard agreed to “commend” himself to Hugh, Count of Paris. He then allied himself with the Norman and Viking leaders, drove Louis out of Rouen, and took back Normandy by 947.

In 962 Theobald I, Count of Blois, attacked Rouen, Richard’s stronghold, but his army was defeated by the Normans and retreated never having crossed the Seine.[12][13] Lothair king of the West Franks stepped in to prevent any further war between the two.

Afterwards, and until his death in 996, Richard concentrated on Normandy itself, and participated less in Frankish politics and petty wars. In lieu of building up the Norman Empire by expansion, he stabilized the realm, and united his followers into a cohesive and formidable principality.

Richard used marriage to build strong alliances . His marriage to Emma connected him to the Capet family. His wife Gunnor, from a rival Viking group in the Cotentin, formed an alliance to that group, while her sisters form the core group that was to provide loyal followers to him and his successors. His daughters provided valuable marriage alliances with powerful neighboring counts as well as to the king of England.

He also built on his relationship with the church, restoring their lands and ensured the great monasteries flourished. His reign was marked by an extended period of peace and tranquility.


Rollo’s daughter, Gerloc (Norse name) or Adele did well for herself and the House of Normandy. Any Father would be proud of her.

Gerloc (or Geirlaug), baptised in Rouen as Adela (or Adèle) in 912, was the daughter of Rollo, first duke of Normandy, and his wife, Poppa. She was the sister of Duke William Longsword.

In 935, she married William Towhead, the future count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine. They had two children together before she died on 14 October 962:

Gerloc’s daughter went on to be a Queen of France!

Adbelahide or Adele or Adelaide of Aquitaine (or Adelaide of Poitiers) (c. 945 or 952 – 1004)  was the daughter of William III, Duke of Aquitaine and Adele of Normandy, daughter of Rollo of Normandy.

Her father used her as security for a truce with Hugh Capet, whom she married in 969. In 987, after the death of Louis V, the last Carolingian king of France, Hugh was elected the new king with Adelaide as queen. They were proclaimed at Senlis and blessed at Noyon. They were the founders of the Capetian dynasty of France.

This is just the very beginning of the dynasty that our Rollo would be the founder of. Eventually, his descendants would be found in Royal houses stretching from France, England, and Spain on to the Holy Roman Empire!


I know that this has been rather a massive overload of historical information at one time and I do apologize for that! I do hope though that if you have stuck it out and read it all, you have come to realize just how important Rollo was.  Perhaps you now agree with me in that he deserves his share of recognition and credit! I believe I have stated my case and proved my point that Rollo deserves just as much credit, recognition and story time as Ragnar Lodbrok does!

For a better understanding of Normandy, I would highly suggest you read the book, The Normans From Raiders to Kings by Lars Brownworth. It gives a detailed account how those earliest founders of Normandy carved out a dynasty that spanned the continent!

Normans from raiders to kings

There is much more to the Norman story than the Battle of Hastings. These descendants of the Vikings who settled in France, England, and Italy – but were not strictly French, English, or Italian – played a large role in creating the modern world. They were the success story of the Middle Ages; a footloose band of individual adventurers who transformed the face of medieval Europe. During the course of two centuries they launched a series of extraordinary conquests, carving out kingdoms from the North Sea to the North African coast.

In The Normans, author Lars Brownworth follows their story, from the first shock of a Viking raid on an Irish monastery to the exile of the last Norman Prince of Antioch. In the process he brings to vivid life the Norman tapestry’s rich cast of characters: figures like Rollo the Walker, William Iron-Arm, Tancred the Monkey King, and Robert Guiscard. It presents a fascinating glimpse of a time when a group of restless adventurers had the world at their fingertips.







portrait of Rollo in history

portrait of Rollo in history

My last thoughts on all of this is on the views and comments that many have made regarding the possible eventual demise of Ragnar Lothbrok. A great number of people insist that if Ragnar dies, they would no longer be interested in the continuation of the show. Their belief is that Ragnar/Travis Fimmel is the heart of the story and the show, that his death would be an end of the saga.  My personal thought… In any long running series, as in history, people will leave, rulers will die or be replaced. It is up to the creator, the writers, the performers and the followers to ensure a continuation of such an epic saga. I stated in the beginning of this article that Ragnar is just the beginning of a long line of Vikings that contributed so much to overall history. I think that given the opportunity and the story time, many others are fully capable of grabbing our attention, our hearts and our loyalties to continue following their adventures through time.  Eventually, Ragnar must die and Travis Fimmel must depart but I firmly believe that others such as Bjorn/Alexander Ludwig, Rollo/Clive Standen, Floki/Gustaf Skarsgard, Lagertha/Katheryn Winnick have already proven that they can give excellent performances and hold our interest in their character’s futures.  This is an ensemble series full of a variety of stories that goes much further than just the story of Ragnar Lodbrok.  If and when Ragnar meets his death, do you still not want to know what becomes of all those others in the story and in history? For me, I want to know what does happen to Floki, what his destiny is, I want to see Lagertha’s future play out, I want to see Ragnar’s sons grow up and carve their own legacies. I even want to see baby Alfred grow up into the greatness that Ecbert envisions for him. And, yes most of all I want to see Rollo’s path to fame and his own future power!















11 thoughts on “Vikings: The importance of Rollo!

  1. What I really like, about this series is how people buy into the sort of “sick” role the characters play. I think it’s why this I think about this series a lot when it runs. Ragnar is the golden boy, and Rollo is the black sheep. That time when he rapes the woman, she never sees him. He is simply not seen EVER and he’s pissed. Slaves in their world aren’t really people. Even the slaves don’t see him. It was a heinous scene. I read some of the blogs when this first started, Rollo is a whiner, but they actually never see the constant whining and ungratefulness of Ragnar, and all the Sh*t Rollo does for him. IN that cut scene with Lagertha, he’s like ha poor Bjorn. Rollo doesn’t think Bjorn is poor! Bjorn’s wife survived and he had a healthy baby. So what Porun has got a damn scar that’s all! Think at bottom, Ragnar is a good man, he’s just run by his ambitions to the extent that he is cruel. He’s pretty mean to Floki, Aslaug, BJorn and Lagertha. Ragnar doesn’t even try to understand WHY Aslaug cheated on him. He at least tries to pay attention to the kids after Aslaug takes him to task about it.

    I think I might know what the Dead means. (I think you are right about the Romans) I saw a clip yesterday. It looks like Gisla has put on her finest imperial regalia. I can’t tell if she’s wearing the crown. I think she’s going out to the battle field to die. Their eyes lock. These actors are so good, ROLLO is shocked! What the hell is she doing out there with the blood and the gore!?She shouldn’t be there. Then he realizes she’s come to die on the field with the soldiers. She looks at him and thinks, He’s going to kill me. I am going to die, but I will die a Queen. That’s when he sees the greatness of Charelmagne, I think. (she’s his great grand daughter) She’s a good actress. She takes the mask off in the church and she looks at the people and you can see, she’s going to stay with them no matter WHAT!

    Remember the scene where Rollo has to defend Kattegat against Yarl Borg? Aslaug is only too quick to high tail it out of there. He thinks about staying, but then takes off. Siggy could have taken the children away. The Old man convinces him to leave, but he shouldn’t have. That’s when he sees her greatness.

    There’s one scene that totally pissed me off. Siggy’s daughter likes Rollo and he likes her. She’s young enough and might have some kids with him. The Earl promises her to Rollo. Rollo gives her up for Ragnar. Ragnar barely give him a thanks. In fact, when Siggy dies, saving Ragnar’s kids, it’s Bjorn that goes looking for Rollo. Aslaug and Ragnar are too busy fighting.

    I think Rollo did sincerely convert. AT the end of his life, he slaughtered the prisoners to Odin because he also wanted to see his family in Valhalla. When Ragnar buries AThelstan, he tells Athelstan, I don’t think your god will let me see you in heaven. That’s why Rollo slaughtered the prisoners and then offered the gold to the church. He knew the Christian god would forgive him, but Odin never would! I hope Ragnar makes up with Aslaug. She’s not such a bad girl.


  2. There’s a lot of weird Pope allusions around Floki. He calls himself, the fisherman, the boat builder, and the father. Those are names for the pope. In the scene with Athelstan he appears to walk on the water, the dock is flooded. (st. Peter walked on water) He puts the blood on his head and lips, but stops short of his heart. That’s the motion of a priest when he reads the Bible. He also drank out of the chalice. I think he told Rollo, I drank of the poison cup. (the chalice)

    Some of what we know about Rollo was written by Godfrey Malaterra i the book: Count Roger de Hauteville and Duke Robert and the conquest of sicily. Roger was the source of the information and he was Rollo’s great great grandson. He has Godfrey write about the coming of Rollo to Normandy.

    Roger’s father married the grand daughter of Rollo. Nobody knows the origin of the Hauteville family. They history’s most famous mercenary soldiers. They took over Southern Italy and built a system of floating docks to capture Sicily from the Muslims. They also helped Duke William take over England. They were master Builders. See the Palazzo Normanni. The Hautevilles would marry into the Papal families.

    This is monreale cathedral… I think it looks like a Viking boat. Does Floki’s kids end up here after Iceland?

    That picture of Jesus, that’s called the CHristo Pancrator. The Christ of the end of the World. In the viking religion, they believed that Baldur would return. (the god of goodness) The Gods would all be doomed and die, and then a new world would come with new gods and Baldur would be there.

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  3. Okay in Episode 8, the Oriflame of St. Denis shows up. That was also in the poem about Roland (nephew of Charlemagne) The Oriflame was carried on the Holy Lance (spear of Destiny) Whoever had the spear ruled the world. Geoffrey de Charney was in possession of the Oriflame and died defending it. Geoffrey de Charney was given the Shroud of Turin, the relic of the Knights Templar. He and his wife gave the Shroud to the Savoy family. The Savoy family gave the shroud to the church in Turin where it is located today. Rollo’s daughter Gerloc was the mother of William of Aquitaine and he married the daughter of the founder of the Knights Templar. The great stronghold of the Templars was Spain and Portugal.

    The real Rollo came to Normandy alone. Perhaps his Viking wife and family did die. He kidnapped a teenage girl during a raid. Her name was Poppa of Bayeux. Some people think that she was the grand daughter of Bernard of Italy the grandson of Charlemagne. You don’t hear anything about Poppa for a while. Perhaps Rollo waited for her to grow up. Some time latter, she had a baby boy named William and after perhaps two girls. By this time, Rollo would have been old enough to be a grandfather. For his time, he was pretty old to be a first time father. Under catholic law one must give consent to be married, so I think that’s why he could not marry Poppa in the church. He could marry her by Viking law as abduction was recognized as being legitimate. Historians dispute the existence of Giselle, Rollo’s second wife. Probably Michael Hirst combined the two people to make Gisla.

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  4. The thing that makes me laugh the most is how Ragnar goes on about having BOYS! In that little speech when Gida dies, he’s like men are never jealous of the fame of their daughters. Ha he hasn’t met Rollo’s daughter, but maybe he will!! I have a feeling that Gisla’s mom ran the Kingdom, and now Gisla runs the Kingdom. If Michael Hirst gets that far, I hope he makes Gerloc smart like her mom, and she might have the determination of Rollo.

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    • The other thing that historians think is that Giselle was mistaken for another Viking’s wife whose name was Giselle (I forget who it was, but I did read that). Or that Giselle was just a small child who died very young – hence no children. There is more information on Poppa (and a statue that honors her as Rollo’s “wife”) than on Giselle, so I do think that is all a red herring. I do not think that Rolla needed anyone to hold onto his land – he seems to have been a very smart and independent man (based on what I have read), had fooled the French King into thinking he had converted to Christianity when he was still just an old pagan at heart.


      • I think he was smart because he got his Viking men to marry the frankish women, which made a new people, the Normans. That’s why the English colony failed because they evicted the old people. I mean, hey is the king going to attack his grandchildren.? I think no. I can’t say what is in someone’s mind so I don’t know what he truly believed. After slaughtering the prisoners to Odin. The real Rollo took the vows of a monk and died in a monastery wearing a monks habit. He gave away his possessions to his son. He’s buried in a Christian church. see picture of grave site not sure where in Normandy this is located. I think it’s laugh out loud funny when he wants to kill Athelstan the monk in season one, and then himself dies wearing the same habit.

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      • Starfish, where did you find the info on Rollo taking vows of a monk and that he died wearing a monk’s habit? I’m curious because I have not come across that information yet in my search of his history?


  5. Excuse me for my poor english. I’m french and a fan of the TV show. I made few reseach about Rollo (Robert) too. And it looks like he’s a direct ancestor of “Guillaume the conqueror duc de normandie”. In other words one of the most famous King of England. Or at least one of the first “french/nothman related” rulers of England.

    As the TV Show is about angles and saxons kings that do want that tittle. It’s in fact ironic that the one who will get it, and unite the country is one of Rollo’s descendant.

    Who would have bet on him at start ?

    Crazy to think too. That that link between France and England with Bretagne, Normandie (and Aquitaine with Alienor’s weding) will lead in fact later to the “Guerre de cent ans” with Henry plantagenet (king of england normandie and aquitaine) ‘s dinasty trying to fight to keep his french territories in the England realm. And a long rivality between French and England rulers. And may i say people too. ^^

    And all of that started by a lonely Viking Jarl from Norway …

    If Normandie wasnt given to him. All these events wouldnt have occured for sure. History would have been SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO diffrent if that man wouldnt have existed.

    It’s almost disturbing to see how one’s man fate can affect so many others.

    So yes indeed Rollo is a very very important character. Probably one of the most underated in french history. Maybe because of his pagan background and the fact that we know so few about him.

    For the “fun” (not realy fun for those who lived it) fact my research lead me to discover that my hometown, Dax was probably raided by Bjorn ironside (ragnar’s son futur king of sweden) in the past.

    I probably ride sometimes on a few Vikings bones …

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