The Land Of The Franks
It was early in the year 911 when an army of Danish Vikings led by a Norwegian named Hrolf besieged the town of Chartres. This huge viking warrior was known to his own people as Hrolf Ganger, which means of course, Hrolf the Walker. This name was given to him because it was said he was too large to ride a horse, and therefore led his men on foot. The Franks, however, knew him by a different name. They called this fearless warrior Rollo !
Hrolf had attacked the city of Paris first before laying seige to the town of Chartres. The town' s bishop, Joseaume sent riders in all directions asking the neighboring towns for assistance. His appeals for help were answered by Robert, the Marquis of Neustria, Richard, the duke of Burgundy, and Manasses, the count of Dijon. The conflict came to a head on a warm summer day in July, at what would later become known as the Battle of Chartres, where despite the absence of Charles, the king of the Franks, known as ' The Simple ', the Frankish forces were able to defeat Hrolf and his Danish army.
Hrolf marched his tired warriors back to the relative safety of the lower Seine, where since the mid 870' s he had practically plundered the countryside bare. It was here, just outside of Rouen, that Hrolf encamped his men to lick their wounds, and to decide their next move. His vikings had been beaten back, but by no means destroyed. They had escaped with their lives, and Hrolf Ganger was confident that by the next spring he would be ready to once again begin to raid around Paris. In the meantime, however, Hrolf and his men settled into the drudgery of everyday camp life.
On a cold September morning three riders galloped up to the viking's fortification, and shouted over the barricade that King Charles wished to negotiate a treaty with Hrolf. Several of Hrolf' s best warriors advised their leader to kill these Franks, and hang their bodies in the trees as a warning for all to see. Hrolf, however, was still stinging from his defeat at Chartres, and was willing to at least listen to what these Franks had to say.
One of the Frankish messengers, who wore the robes of a clergyman, held a scroll that he unrolled and read. " Charles, king of the West Franks, asks that you attend a meeting to negotiate the end of your hostilities towards his lands." the priest said in a very dignified tone. Hrolf laughed ! " Why would I negotiate for what I want when I can simply take it by force ? " he asked. The man in the robes gave the viking leader a pleasant smile. " My name in Herve ! I am the archbishop of Reims, and I have been authorized by King Charles to give you........ Norsemen........ something much more valuable than gold and silver . " he told Hrolf. Hrolf laughed again ! " And what is more important than gold and silver Christian priest ? ! " the viking asked. The archbishop looked defiantly into the Norseman' s eyes. " Land ! " he told Hrolf with a smile.
Hrolf thought for a moment while he stroked his beard. " When and where will this meeting be ? " Hrolf asked. Herve placed the scroll back into its pouch, and smiled at Hrolf as he answered. " We will meet in one week from today at Saint - Clair - Sur - Epte. " he told the viking. " Do you know where that is ? " the archbishop asked. Hrolf' s smile turned into a sly grin. " I have been that way several times ! " he replied. Herve nodded. " Then we are in agreement ? " he asked as he reached out his hand to the Norseman. Hrolf began to reach out for the man' s forearm in a traditional Norse grasp to agree, but decided to use the Frankish style of shaking hands instead. " I will be there priest ! " he told the archbishop.
As Herve and his men turned to leave a dozen vikings blocked their way. The archbishop turned and looked back at Hrolf. The Norse leader smiled and nodded. " Step aside ! Allow our guests to leave the way that they have come ! " he shouted. The warriors each looked at each other at first as though they did not quite understand, but slowly and grudgingly moved to let the Franks leave. Hrolf's best warrior Jokul gave his chieftain a questioning look. Hrolf placed a hand on his warrior's shoulder. " I am outlawed in Norway my friend, it would be nice to have a land of our own ! " he told him. " At the very least we will go and listen to what they have to say. " he added.
Hrolf, Jokul, and a dozen of their best warriors set off for Saint - Clair - Sur - Epte on a cold autumn morning. Hrolf had told his warriors to be prepared for any and all deceptions. But when they arrived at the Franks stronghold they were greeted by the king as honored guests, and were allowed to keep their weapons, even in his presence. That night a great feast was held in their honor. Hrolf, being cautious as ever, told his men not to drink too much, and to keep their wits about them.
The next day the negotiations began. The archbishop Herve met with Hrolf and his vikings in a chamber within the Frankish fortification. Around a great table the two parties bargained back and forth for hours. Then the hours turned into days, and the days into a week. Hrolf was surprised at how much the Frankish king was willing to offer up for a few small concessions on their part. The vikings continued to push for more even after they had received a settlement that far surpassed their wildest expectations. For Hrolf and his vikings had nothing to lose and everything to gain !
In the end Herve, with the approval of King Charles the Simple, granted Hrolf and his vikings " All the land between the river Epte and the sea in freehold and good money. " as the archbishop described it. Hrolf's pressing of the Franks had paid off handsomely. They also agreed to grant them, " Brittany for their livelihood ! " Hrolf knew that Brittany was an independent kingdom not under the control of King Charles, but this treaty now gave Hrolf a free hand to plunder, or take, any and all of these lands without the Franks interfering.
For his part Hrolf had to swear and oath of loyalty to King Charles, and agree to protect the Frankish kingdom from any and all threats coming from the sea. The viking leader now for all intents and purposes, was the Duke of these lands that afterwards would be called the Duchy of the Norseman, or simply Normandy. Hrolf also allowed himself to be baptized, and agreed to change his name to the Frankish " Rollo " .
As a final condition of the Treaty of Saint - Clair - Sur - Epte, Rollo also agreed to marry King Charles' illegitimate daughter Gisela. Rollo was not happy about this match, but he understood full well that marriages between leaders was a way to ensure that treaties were respected and not broken. Rollo already had a concubine, a woman named Poppa, who was the daughter of Count Berenger. He and his vikings had captured her during a raid on Bayeaux, and the two had become close.
When Rollo returned to his encampment on the outskirts of Rouen he told his warriors that they were now living as free men on their own lands. The man once known to them as Hrolf Ganger was immediately hailed as Rollo the great leader of men. Most protested the conversion to Christianity, but when Rollo began to parcel out fertile farmland within the new borders of their homeland, they soon saw it as a small price to pay. Many became Christians in name only, and still practiced the old ways.
Rollo immediately began to set up defenses throughout his lands, including sending out scouts along the waterways that lead into his lands. In order to protect the Frankish Kingdom, and to honor the treaty he had signed at Saint - Claire - Sur - Epte, he would first have to defend his own lands from all invaders.
Six Months Later
On the horizon the unmistakable square sails of viking long ships appeared . A solitary figure watched carefully from the heights overlooking Le Havre as they gradually rowed up the Seine river. The lone Norman slowly and accurately counted the number of ships as they passed. When he had their numbers committed to memory he mounted his large horse and rode at a fast gallop to Rouen. He became the first of several of Rollo's scouts to warn him of the coming threat.
- End Chapter 6
Next : Chapter 7 : " Then Let There Be War ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.