In the Middle Ages, the duke of Normandy was the ruler of the Duchy of Normandy in north-western France. The duchy arose out of a grant of land to the Viking leader Rollo by the French king Charles III in 911. In 924 and again in 933, Normandy was expanded by royal grant. Rollo's male-line descendants continued to rule it until 1135. In 1202 the French king Philip II declared Normandy a forfeited fief and by 1204 his army had conquered it. It remained a French royal province thereafter, still called the Duchy of Normandy, but only occasionally granted to a duke of the royal house as an apanage.
Despite both the 13th century loss of mainland Normandy, and the extinction of the duchy itself in modern-day, republican France, in the Channel Islands the monarch of the United Kingdom is regardless still referred to by the title "Duke of Normandy". This is the title used whether the monarch is a king or a queen.
There is no record of Rollo holding or using any title. His son and grandson, Duke William I and Duke Richard I, used the titles "count" (Latin comes or consul) and "prince" (princeps). Prior to 1066, the most common title of the ruler of Normandy was "Count of Normandy" (comes Normanniae) or "Count of the Normans" (comes Normannorum). The title Count of Rouen (comes Rotomagensis) was never used in any official document, but it was used of William I and his son by the anonymous author of a lament (planctus) on his death. Defying Norman pretensions to the ducal title, Adhemar of Chabannes was still referring to the Norman ruler as "Count of Rouen" as late as the 1020s. In the 12th century, the Icelandic historian Ari Thorgilsson in his Landnámabók referred to Rollo as Ruðu jarl (earl of Rouen), the only attested form in Old Norse, although too late to be evidence for 10th-century practice. The late 11th-century Norman historian William of Poitiers used the title "Count of Rouen" for the Norman rulers down to Richard II. Although references to the Norman rulers as counts of Rouen are relatively sparse and confined to narrative sources, there is a lack of documentary evidence about Norman titles before the late 10th century.
The first recorded use of the title duke (dux) is in an act in favour of the Abbey of Fécamp in 1006 by Richard II, Duke of Normandy. Earlier, the writer Richer of Reims had called Richard I a dux pyratorum, but which only means "leader of pirates" and was not a title. During the reign of Richard II, the French king's chancery began to call the Norman ruler "Duke of the Normans" (dux Normannorum) for the first time. As late as the reign of Duke William II (1035–87), the ruler of Normandy could style himself "prince and duke, count of Normandy" as if unsure what his title should be. The literal Latin equivalent of "Duke of Normandy", dux Normanniae, was in use by 1066, but it did not supplant dux Normannorum until the Angevin period (1144–1204), at a time when Norman identity was fading.
Richard I experimented with the title "marquis" (marchio) as early as 966, when it was also used in a diploma of King Lothair. Richard II occasionally used it, but he seems to have preferred the title duke. It is his preference for the ducal title in his own charters that has led historians to believe that it was the chosen title of the Norman rulers. Certainly it was not granted to them by the French king. In the twelfth century, the Abbey of Fécamp spread the legend that it had been granted to Richard II by Pope Benedict VIII (ruled 1012–24). The French chancery did not regularly employ it until after 1204, when the duchy had been seized by the crown and Normandy lost its autonomy and its native rulers.
The actual reason for the adoption of a higher title than that of count was that the rulers of Normandy began to grant the comital title to members of their own family. The creation of Norman counts subject to the ruler of Normandy necessitated the latter taking a higher title. The same process was at work in other principalities of France in the eleventh century, as the comital title came into wider use and thus depreciated. The Normans nevertheless kept the title of count for the ducal family and no non-family member was granted a county until Helias of Saint-Saens was made Count of Arques by Henry I in 1106.
From 1066, when William II conquered England, becoming King William I, the title Duke of Normandy was often held by the King of England. In 1087, William died and the title passed to his eldest son, Robert Curthose, while his second surviving son, William Rufus, inherited England. In 1096, Robert mortgaged Normandy to William, who was succeeded by another brother, Henry I, in 1100. In 1106, Henry conquered Normandy. It remained with the King of England down to 1144, when, during the civil war known as the Anarchy, it was conquered by Geoffrey Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou. Geoffrey's son, Henry II, inherited Normandy (1150) and then England (1154), reuniting the two titles. In 1202, King Philip II of France, as feudal suzerain, declared Normandy forfeit and by 1204 his armies had conquered it. Henry III finally renounced the English claim in the Treaty of Paris (1259).
Thereafter, the duchy formed an integral part of the French royal demesne. The kings of the House of Valois started a tradition of granting the title to their heirs apparent. The title was granted four times (1332, 1350, 1465, 1785) between the French conquest of Normandy and the dissolution of the French monarchy in 1792. The French Revolution brought an end to the Duchy of Normandy as a political entity, by then a province of France, and it was replaced by several départements.
|Reign||Relation to predecessor(s)|
c. 835/870 – 928/933
|911–928||Granted by the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte|
893 – 17 December 942
|927–17 December 942||Son of Rollo|
28 August 932 – 20 November 996
|17 December 942 – 20 November 996||Son of William I|
|Reign||Marriage(s)||Relationship with predecessor(s)||Other titles|
(R'chard le Bouon)
978 – 28 August 1026
|996–1026||(1) Judith of Brittany
(m.1000; died 1017)
(2) Popia of Envermeu
|Son of Richard I|
997/1001 – 6 August 1027
|28 August 1026 – 6 August 1027||never married||Son of Richard II|
(Robèrt le Magnifique)
22 June 1000 – 1–3 July 1035
Had extramarital relationship to Herleva
one son or one son and one daughter
|Brother of Richard III|
(Gllâome le Contchérant)
3 July 1035 – 9 September 1087
|c. 1028 – 9 September 1087||Matilda of Flanders
(m.1051/2; died 1083)
|Son of Robert I||King of England|
c. 1051 – 3 February 1134
|9 September 1087 – 1106||Sybilla of Conversano
(m. 1100; died 18 March 1103)
|Oldest son of William II|
(Henri I Beauclerc)
c. 1068 – 1 December 1135
|1106 – 1 December 1135||(1) Matilda of Scotland
one son and one daughter
(m. 1100; died 1118)
|Brother of Robert II
Son of William II
|King of England|
25 October 1102 – 28 July 1128
|1106 – 1128||(1) Sibylla of Anjou
(m. 1123; annulled 1124)
(2) Joanna of Montferrat
(m. 1127; died 1128)
|Eldest son of Robert Curthose||Count of Flanders|
|Reign||Marriage(s)||Relationship with predecessor(s)||Other titles|
1092/1096 – 25 October 1154
|1135–1144||Matilda I, Countess of Boulognefive children
(m. 1136; died 1152)
|Grandson of William II through Adela of Normandy
Nephew of Henry I
|King of England|
|Reign||Marriage(s)||Relationship with predecessor(s)||Other titles||Other Details|
(Geffrai le Biau)
24 August 1113 – 7 September 1151
|1144–1150||Matilda of England
|Son-in-law of Henry I||Count of Anjou||Conquered Normandy from Stephen I.|
5 March 1133 – 6 July 1189
|1150 – 6 July 1189||Eleanor of Aquitaine
|Son of Geoffrey I
First cousin, once removed of Stephen I
|King of England|
|Henry II named his son, Henry the Young King (1155–1183), as co-ruler with him but this was a Norman custom of designating an heir, and the younger Henry did not outlive his father and rule in his own right, so he is not counted as a duke on lists of dukes.|
(R'chard le Quor de Lion)
8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199
|3 September 1189 – 6 April 1199||Berengaria of Navarre
|Son of Henry II||King of England|
(Jean sans Terre)
24 December 1166 – 19 October 1216
|1199 – 19 October 1216||(1) Isabella, Countess of Gloucester
(m. 1189; annulled 1199)
|Brother of Richard IV
Son of Henry II
|King of England
Lord of Ireland
|Lost mainland Normandy in 1204|
1 October 1207 – 16 November 1272
|1216 – 4 December 1259||Eleanor of Province
|Son of John I||King of England||Renounced mainland Normandy and the ducal title
by the Treaty of Paris (1259)
In 1204, the King of France confiscated the Duchy of Normandy (with only the Channel Islands remaining under English control) and subsumed it into the crown lands of France. Thereafter, the ducal title was held by several French princes.
In 1332, King Philip VI gave the Duchy in appanage to his son John, who became king John II of France in 1350. He in turn gave the Duchy in appanage to his son Charles, who became king Charles V of France in 1364. In 1465, Louis XI, under constraint, gave the Duchy to his brother Charles de Valois, Duke of Berry. Charles was unable to hold the Duchy and in 1466 it was again subsumed into the crown lands and remained a permanent part of them. The title was conferred on a few junior members of the French royal family before the abolition of the French monarchy in 1792.
In the Channel Islands, the British monarch is known as the "Duke of Normandy", notwithstanding the fact that the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is a woman. The Channel Islands are the last remaining part of the former Duchy of Normandy to remain under the rule of the British monarch. Although the English monarchy relinquished claims to continental Normandy and other French claims in 1259 (in the Treaty of Paris), the Channel Islands (except for Chausey under French sovereignty) remain Crown dependencies of the British throne. The British historian Ben Pimlott noted that while Queen Elizabeth II was on a visit to mainland Normandy in May 1967, French locals began to doff their hats and shout "Vive la Duchesse!", to which the Queen supposedly replied "Well, I am the Duke of Normandy!". Both Channel Islands legislatures refer to Elizabeth II in writing as "The Queen in the right of Jersey" or "The Queen in the right of Guernsey" respectively. However, the Queen is referred to as "The Duke of Normandy", the title used by the islanders, especially during their loyal toast, where they say, "The Duke of Normandy, our Queen", or "The Queen, our Duke" or, in French "La Reine, notre Duc", rather than simply "The Queen", as is the practice in the United Kingdom.
A statue of the first seven dukes was erected in Falaise in Normandy in the 19th century. It depicts William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy and later King of England, on a horse, and is surrounded by statues of his six predecessors.