The Dukes of Normandy (4): Richard II the Good

The Principate of the Duke Richard II marks a turning point in thehistory of Normandy : the descendants of the Vikings are finally freeing themselves from their roots and are definitely turning to the Frankish world, both in government structures and in their religious beliefs but also with regard to trade.

Genealogy of Richard II

Richard II is the fourth Duke of Normandy. Son of Gunnor, the concubine of Duke Richard I, he was born around 960 and succeeded his father in 996. He died on August 23, 1026. He married in first marriage, Judith, daughter of Conan of Brittany, who gave him several children:

- Richard, future Duke Richard III of Normandy;
- Robert, future Duke Robert the Magnificent;
- Guillaume de Fécamp, abbot of the abbey of Fécamp;
- Adélaïde, wife of Count Renaud I of Burgundy;
- Aliénior, wife of Count Baudouin IV of Flanders;
- Mathilde, wife of Count Eudes II of Blois.

Judith died in 1017; she is buried in the abbey of Bernay, a monastery which she founded thanks to the dower received from her husband. The Duke takes Papia as a concubine, from a wealthy Talou family. She gives him for children:
- Mauger of Rouen, Archbishop of Rouen:
- Guillaume, count of Arques.

The beginnings of the principate under the tutelage of Raoul d'Ivry

Richard was around fifteen when his father died and it was his uncle Raoul d'Ivry and his mother Gunnor who took over the government of the duchy. Raoul d'Ivry is a powerful lord, one of the first without doubt to officially bear the title of count within the duchy. Son of Asperleng de Pîtres and Sprota, he is largely in possession of the Hiemois. At his request, Dudon de Saint-Quentin resumed the work commissioned by Duke Richard I and therefore continued to write his work “De moribus et actis primorum Normanniae ducum” Around 950, Count Raoul had the Château d'Ivry (Ivry -la-Bataille) which stands in front of the possessions of the Count of Eudes de Blois. The story goes that it is his wife Éremburge who would have supervised the construction carried out by the architect Lanfred (who built the keep of Pithiviers) and that she would then have had it assassinated so that it took to the tomb. its technical secrets. Count Raoul is said to have later killed his wife to keep control of the fortress.

The beginning of the principate of Richard, between 996 and 997, is marked by a revolt which raises all of Normandy. Guillaume de Jumièges speaks of a rebellion of the peasants, exasperated by the demands of the lords concerning the management of rivers, fisheries, mills and forests, but it is also possible that, as for the previous successions, the minority of the new duke incites some of the Norman lords to challenge his authority. Count Raoul suppresses the revolt with cruelty: the deputies of the peasants in revolt are seized; we put out their eyes, cut hands and feet.

Raoul executing his orders without delay, immediately seized all the deputies and a few other men, and having them cut off their feet and hands, he sent them back to theirs, thus put out of service, so that the sight of what was happened to some would turn away others from such enterprises, and making the latter more prudent guaranteed them greater evils. When they saw these things, the peasants left their assemblies and returned to their plows. (Guillaume de Jumièges, History of the Normans, book III, chapter I, translation

Shortly after, Guillaume comte d'Hiémois, natural son of Richard I, rebelled against his half-brother and contested his title of duke. Count Raoul captures the felon and locks him in guard in a prison in the castle of Rouen. The rest of the adventure is perhaps legendary. Thanks to the complicity of Lesceline, the daughter of his jailer Tourquetil d'Harcourt, he manages, after five years of captivity, to escape - with the help of a very long rope tied to a very high window. . (Guillaume de Jumièges, Histoire des Normands, book III, chapter I, translation - and remains alone, wandering in the woods. One day of hunting in the forest of Vernon, his brother Richard II meets him by chance and discovers what a miserable man he has become. - Immediately, rolling on the ground at his feet, he asked with pain the forgiveness of his faults. The duke, touched with compassion, and in the opinion of Count Raoul, raised him from the ground, and when he had learned from his account the details of his escape, not only did he remit his faults, but also, and from at that moment he loved her with great kindness, and like a dear brother. (Guillaume de Jumièges, Histoire des Normands, book III, chapter I, translation - Guillaume receives the county of Eu and marries Lesceline. This gives him three sons, Robert heir of the county who will participate for 60 ships in the expedition of Duke William the Conqueror to England, William and Hugues, bishop of Lisieux.

A duke with a reputation equal to that of the king

Duke Richard II is a very great lord, at the head of a duchy whose economic life and influence are developing rapidly. He is the equal of the greatest lords of the Frankish kingdom, the friend of King Robert I the Pious, whose piety he shares in particular. The Duke combines all the powers: he collects taxes, beats money, watches over the church, appoints bishops and abbots, raises men to ensure the defense of his lands without the King of France, his suzerain, intervening.

A developing duchy

Richard II reorganized the counties of his duchy and placed at the head of these members of his family, from legitimate unions or not, in particular for those who placed themselves in the border areas of his land. The Counts are delegated all of the Duke's powers over the territory entrusted to them, but they are revocable at any time. This ruling minority of Scandinavian origin rubs shoulders with large Frankish families who remained on Norman territory.

The Duke usually resides in his castle at Fécamp, but he owns other residences including those of Rouen and Bayeux and he willingly moves from one to the other. It undoubtedly has an administration, made up at least of a chancellor, and clerics to write the acts and diplomas, with perhaps in addition a chaplain and a bottler.

He maintains relations with the Great of the Kingdom and in particular Robert the Pious whom he receives twice, the first time in Fécamp in 1006 and a second time in Rouen in 1024. He is in contact with England, the Scandinavian Kingdoms. For the first time, relations are established with the Pope. Economic life is developing. Rouen is the capital of the Duchy and a major commercial port, a hub for the traffic of slaves and spoils from raids by Viking armies with which the Duchy remains in contact. In this port where tanneries and cloth industries are developing, Scandinavians, French, English and Flemings come together. The taxes levied on goods - the tonlieux - enrich the duke.

The living conditions are relatively good and the Norman peasants do not know serfdom. They are not overwhelmed by chores. They cultivate cereals, wheat and barley as well as vines. The breeding of pigs and cattle as well as the exploitation of sea salt complete these activities.

Richard also watches over the development of religious and monastic life within his duchy, thus continuing his father's work. He finished restoring the bishoprics and chose bishops from among the members of his family. Robert, archbishop of Rouen, is the duke's brother; his successor will be Mauger, natural son of Richard II. Hugues and Jean, son of Raoul d'Ivry, are respectively bishop of Bayeux and bishop of Avranches. Note that these bishops are great lords who lead a life in accordance with their social status. They hunt and wage war. At the same time, Richard II wishes to support the monasticism of the monks of Cluny who wish to return all its value to the rule of Saint Benedict, by promoting prayer and intellectual work. In 1001, he asked Guillaume de Volpiano, prayer of the abbey of Cluny, to come and settle in the abbey of Fécamp in order to reform it. After some hesitation due to the troubled past of the Duke's ancestors, Guillaume de Volpiano accepts. He moved with 12 companions in the abbey which quickly gained considerable influence. Subsequently, the Duke entrusted the latter with the abbeys of Jumièges, Saint-Ouen and Mont-Saint-Michel. In addition charters return to the Norman abbeys the goods of which they were plundered and new monasteries are created. The duke finances the constructions; he sponsors the journey of a hundred pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Relations with King Robert the Pious

Robert the Pious succeeded his father Hugues Capet in 996. He found in the person of Duke Richard II a faithful ally. As such, Richard intervenes militarily on several occasions alongside the king. According to Orderic Vital or Guillaume de Jumièges, in 999, Count Eudes de Blois, jealous of the prestige that Count Bouchard II de Vendôme († 1007) still called Bouchard the Venerable has with the king, seizes the stronghold of Melun which once belonged to his ancestor Thibault le Tricheur. The king orders him to return it, but the count replies that as long as he is alive, he will not return it to anyone. Then begins the siege of the city. The count of Anjou Foulques Nerra (970, † 1040) and the king's army camp on the left bank while the Normans of Richard II invest the right bank.

Likewise, Richard II engages with the king in the ten-year struggle that the latter leads to bring the Duchy of Burgundy to the crown, following the death of Duke Henry (848, † 1002), son of Hugues the Great. In 1006, he also committed his troops to his suzerain and Emperor Henry II against the Duke of Flanders, who seized the city of Valenciennes, in the land of the Holy Roman Empire.

But the king also ensures that the interests of his ally are not violated. Count Eudes II of Blois married Mathilde, sister of Richard II, with half of the chatellenie of Dreux as dower. The young woman dies quickly and Duke Richard claims the restitution of the totality of the dower, which the Count of Blois refuses. Richard then built the fortress of Tilières to face that of Dreux. Then, after Count Eudes tried to seize this fortress, the Duke asked for help from Kings Olaf of Norway (995, † 1030) and Lacman of Sweden. These unload in Brittany, besiege and take the castle of Dol which they deliver to the flames. Then, they set out for Rouen where the Duke welcomes them eagerly. King Robert the Pious, worried by these movements of Viking troops, provokes an assembly of lords in Coudres in 1013 and summons the two enemies there. Each exposes his grievances; the king imposes an agreement: the count of Blois keeps Dreux and Richard the right to keep the castle of Tilières. He also undertakes to return the two Scandinavian leaders to their kingdom. But before returning to Norway, King Olaf converted to the Christian faith and was baptized in Rouen by Archbishop Robert the Danish, brother of Duke Richard II of Normandy.

Relations with the English King Ethelred

In 991, Duke Richard I and King of England Ethelred II (966, † 1016) had under the aegis of Pope John XV an agreement stipulating that they should not bring aid to their respective enemies. The Norman Duke undertakes in particular not to help the Viking troops who attack the English kingdom.

At the beginning of the principate of Richard II, King Ethelred considers that the agreement is violated and accuses Duke Richard of bringing assistance to the troops of the Danish king Sven à la Barbe Fourchue (985, † 1014) who never cease to assail his kingdom . In 1000 and 1001, he organized a reprisal raid on the coast of Cotentin. The troops of the English king are decimated. However, Richard, supported by Raoul d'Ivry, negotiates. A new deal is sealed; Richard promises his neutrality; Ethelred marries Emma, ​​the duke's sister.
On November 13, 1002, Saint-Brice day, King Ethelred ordered the massacre of all the Scandinavians in his kingdom. The sister of King Sven with the Forked Beard is among the victims. The latter immediately launched retaliatory raids in 1003, 1006 and 1009. In 1013, Sven seized the English kingdom; Ethelred fled and he found refuge in Normandy with his wife Emma and his two sons, Edouard and Alfred.

Duke Richard Welcomes Emma and Her Two Sons, The Story of Saint King Edward Translated from Latin, c. 1250, Cambridge University Library.

In 1014, Sven died. Immediately, Ethelred leaves for England with Emma to fight against Cnut who succeeded his father. But Ethelred is defeated and dies. Cnut marries Emma in order to legitimize his position. Edouard and Alfred stayed with the duke and were brought up at his court, thus forging very strong ties with the Norman princes.

The end

Richard II died in August 1026 in Fécamp. His eldest son Richard is designated as heir to the duchy while Robert, his younger son, is made Count d'Hiémois.

Duke Richard, (...). Honored by these virtues and others like them, he began to be violently overwhelmed with a physical illness. Having therefore summoned the Archbishop and all the Norman princes to Fécamp Robert, he announced to them that it was already completely destroyed. Immediately, in all the rooms of the house, all were seized with an intolerable pain. The monks and clerics mourned sadly, on the verge of becoming orphans of such a dear father; in the crossroads of the city, bands of beggars gave themselves up to desolation, losing their comforter and their pastor. Finally, having called his son Richard, he put him at the head of his duchy, after consulting wise men, and gave his brother Robert the county of Hiesmes, so that he might be in a position to return to his brother the service he owed him. Having then made with a firm heart all his arrangements for things which might relate to the service of God, in the year 1026 of the Incarnation of the Lord, he stripped the envelope of man, and entered the way of all flesh, reigning Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the divinity of the majesty of the Father, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen! (Guillaume de Jumièges, History of the Normans, book III, chapter I, translation


- Jean Renaud, the Vikings and Normandy, Ouest France editions
- Annie Fettu, The first dukes of Normandy, Orep Editions
- François Neveux, The adventure of the Normans, Perrin editions
- Jean Renaud, The Vikings in France, Editions Ouest France
- Pierre Bauduin, The first Normandy (10th-11th century) Caen, University presses of Caen, 2nd edition, 2006.


- Guillaume de Jumièges, Gesta Normannorum Ducum, Histoire des Normans, translation
- Dudon de Saint-Quentin, De moribus et actis primorum Normanniae ducum, Ed. Jules Lair, Caen, F. Le Blanc-Hardel, 1865
- Richer, Histoire en quatre livres, published by the Imperial Academy of Reims, translation by A.M. Poinsignon, source Gallica.

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