Rollo' s ancestry is in doubt, but I am more interested in the man who lived, rather than the real or supposed ancestry of his family. Although I would rather use the Old Norse name Hrolfr, or the modern Scandinavian name Rolf for him, I will use the better known Latin name Rollo in this article. The name I will not use is his baptised name Robert. Most of those who wrote of Rollo did so centuries after his death, and are therefore unreliable at best. It does appear that he was the son of a minor king or chieftain, and that at some point was banished from Denmark. There is also a tradition that he came from Norway, and was the son of a Jarl. His name in that version of his history is Ganger Hrolf. As I said earlier I do not want to get too wrapped up in the confusing accounts of his parentage. I only mention it to give a little background into his possible early life.
Now for what is known ! Rollo sailed under the Viking chieftain Sigfred in 885, and surrounded and held seige over Paris. This came to an end in 886 when the Frankish king Charles the Simple paid him Danegeld to get him to leave. Rollo, however, remained in the Frankish kingdom, and harrassed the countryside until he too was paid to leave. After attacking the Duchy of Burgundy, Rollo went back up the Seine river , a favorite raiding route of Viking warriors, and invaded the lower Seine Valley. In the year 911 Rollo attacked Paris, and layed seige to Chartres. The bishop of Chartres sent out messengers to ask for assistance, and soon the Frankish forces arrived on the field. Rollo was defeated at the Battle of Chartres in July of 911, despite the Frankish having less men than their Viking opponents. King Charles, instead of continuing to battle with Rollo, and his band of Vikings, signed a treaty, known as the Saint Clair Sur - Epte, in which Rollo was granted the territory about the lower Seine and the city of Rouen. In his book, ' The Normans', R. Allen Brown describes Normandy as such: " Normandy thus begins as a kind of French ' Danelaw ' . As with everything in life there was a price to pay for this generous gift from the king ! Rollo would have to agree to defend the frankish lands from Viking invaders, and he would have to convert to Christianity. There is a legend that says that King Charles stipulated that Rollo must kiss the king' s foot as a show of respect, and to seal the treaty. Rollo ,however, would have none of this, and told one of his subordinate warriors to perform the act. The warrior, who I am sure was none to happy about this dubious honor, lifted the king's foot up to his mouth which knocked the king over on his ass !
Whether Rollo was a count or a duke is of little importance to me. He was the ruler of Normandy, and from that point on defended the Frankish kingdom from all outside invaders, and also continued his Viking raids, mainly in Flanders. When King Charles was overthrown by Rudolf, Rollo felt that his pledge and oath to the kings of the Franks was null and void, and began raiding in the west to expand his territory. The French Barons caved in and gave Rollo the territories of Le Mans and Bayeux, where a century and a half later the famous Bayeux Tapestry would be made to commemorate the Battle of Hastings. In 924 Rollo attacked and seized Bessin, and then went after Picardy.
When his territory became too large he divided it amongst his best warrior chieftains. The seat for Rollo's throne wound up being in the city of Rouen. Rollo ruled until 927 when he passed the throne of Normandy to his son William Longsword. Towards the end of his life it is said that he reverted back to his Pagan ways, and at one point had 100 Christian prisoners killed. Personally I think he never really took his Christian baptism seriously, and simply went along with the baptism ceremony to gain control of land in the Frankish kingdom. Rollo died before 933 and his remains are buried in the cathedral of Rouen.
Rollo the Viking - Norman, or Norman - Viking if you prefer, will always be remembered as the first duke of Normandy, and the great, great, great, grandfather of William the Conqueror, but to me he will always embody that wonderful Viking trait of never giving up, and getting what you want in the end . Rollo, even in defeat, carved out a kingdom ( Duchy ) for himself, and his people, that changed the history of both France. Great Britain, and some might even say the rest of the world. All Hail Rollo ! All hail his Norman descendants !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !