|The making of the Duchy of Normandy|
From the Vikings to the Normans
The pillaging of Portland in c. 789/802 and the sack of Lindisfarne in the north of the British Isles in 793 have traditionally marked the entry of the Vikings into Western Europe. The coast of what was to become Normandy was soon breached by these maritime raids. A number of pirate vessels were recorded in the lower Seine around 820, but from 841, Rouen was torched and the rich abbeys of the Seine, Jumièges and Saint-Wandrille, were pillaged or held to ransom. In 845 a Viking fleet sailed up the Seine to Paris and King Charles I (the Bald) agreed to pay a ransom.
The Vikings quickly had the measure of the inability of the Frankish kingdom to organise its own defence. From the middle of the 11th century they established permanent camps on the islands of the Loire and the Seine to over-winter so that they could conduct their campaigns in the better weather, ever deeper into the heart of the Frankish kingdom.
These attacks were repeated in this way almost every year during the second half of the 11th century. New contingents increased the number bases that had already been established. They arrived directly from Scandinavia, but also included men from the Danish settlements in the north of England, or Norwegians from the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.
In order to face the invader, the Carolingian kings drew up major military positions which they delegated to their entourage of lords, known by the title of marquis. The territories of the future Normandy were derived from the Marquisate of Neustria which was allocated to a powerful aristocratic Frankish family, the Robertiens, a branch of the dynasty of the Capetian kings.
However, the regions on the banks of the Seine and to the west of the river evaded the control of Carolingian government. In 867 Cotentin and Avranchin were abandoned to Breton chiefs under the pretext that they would ensure the defence of this land in the service of the king. The position of Count of Rouen, as a representative of the king, still existed in 906, but this was not something that would be of concern to the Normans in control of the Seine. The king had to resign himself to entering into a treaty with one of them; this was to be the Norwegian Rollo.