Statue of Richard I at Fecamp By Giogo -Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts about Richard I of Normandy


Richard I was born in August 932 and was also known as Richard the Fearless. He was son to Sprota and William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy.

He became the count of Rouen between 942 to 966 before becoming a Duke of Normandy. Richard I of Normandy worn the hearts of his people after he led them in the longest peaceful reign.

He was famous for his leadership in war and this earned him the name “fearless”. He is credited to introducing military social structure in Normandy.

After his reign, most of Norman landowners continued with the military structure of land ownership. There is much more about Richard I of Normandy that may not be known.

Here are the top 10 facts about Richard I of Normandy.

1. Richard I grandfather was the first Ruler of Normandy

Richard I of Normandy was the grandson to Rollo, a Viking, who became the first ruler of Normandy in northern France. Rollo was known as the first Duke of Normandy, his son, William Longsword was the count while Richard I had the title of a prince.

Richard I was the first in his generation to officially use the title Duke of Normandy. Rollo was a remarkable warrior among the Norsemen he consequently led his army to secure the land in the valley of the lower Seine.

His grandfather led the Viking settlers from 918 to 928 in the Normandy region. William the Conqueror took over leadership and together with his followers they were known as Normans.

2. Richard I of Normandy was a captive at 10 years old

Richard I’s father died when he was only 10 years old. Seeing that there was no reigning leader in Normandy, King Louis IV of France decided to take charge of Normandy.

He took Richard I and placed him under the custody of Count of Ponthieu as a prisoner. Louis IV then gave part of Norman’s land to Hugh the Great.

Richard was kept in Laon where he met an old companion of his grandfather, Bernard de Senlis and three other kind men Osmond de Centville, Ivo de Bellèsme, and Bernard the Dane.

These four men feared that King Louis IV would eventually harm Richard and they agreed to free him.

Luck was on Richard I side because sooner, in 945, Louis was captured by the Normans and Richard was reunited with his people.

3. While in captivity, Richard I of Normandy faked illness

Hush Naidoo-Unsplash

While in captivity, Richard was handled by a nobleman called Osmond de Centeville who turned to be a guardian. The two became close and Osmond swore to take the best care of Richard.

Osmond found out that King Louis words to protect Rischard was lies and planned to move Richard to safety. The relocation made Richard homesick, he missed the apple and cherry orchards and its comfortable farms, from his Danes and his Normans.

As time went by, his guardian noticed that Richard was turning pale and dull. The people at the castle in Rouen feared that he would die.

What they did not know was that Richard faked the illness by refusing to eat or sleep. Interestingly, people at the castle threw a banquet to celebrate his ‘oncoming death’. This was an opportunity for his caregiver to sneak him out of the castle by hiding him in straws.

4. Richard I of Normandy was bilingual

Richard I was bilingual, having been well educated at Bayeux. He did well in his French subjects than his Danish subjects. This came in handy during his reign in the Normandy region.

He introduced Christianity to his land and for the time that he ruled Normandy as a result, the region was completely Christianised and Gallicized.

Richard further introduced the feudal system in Normandy thereby making it one of the most feudalized regions.  He made reforms in the Norman military and became the guardian of the young Hugh, Count of Paris, after the death of elder Hugh in 956.

5. Richard I of Normandy became a Duke in 946

After taking up a new role as the young Hugh, Count of Paris, Richard allied with Normans and the Viking leaders.

This new alliance enabled him to drive out Louis from Rouen and they took back Normandy in 947. Another attack came their way in 962, when Theobald I, the Count of Blois attacked Rouen. Richard and his army defeated Theobald.

Theobald I retaliated with more attacks and Lothair, King of West Francias, mediated to end the war between the two Counts.

In 987, Richard I became the Duke of Normandy. Richard, however, did not secure more land for Normandy as would be the case for reigning Dukes.

6. Richard I of Normandy was married twice

Denny Muller-Unsplash

Richard I got married to his first wife Emma of Paris in 960. She was the daughter of Hugh the Great, Duke of the Franks and Count of Paris.

The two were engaged when they were very young. She, unfortunately, did not live long and died after 966, from natural causes.

Soon after her death, Duke Richard heard of his foresters’ beautiful wife who lived in Equiqueville. He, therefore, sought to go and find out for himself during a hunting expedition.

He was hosted by the forester and confirmed that she was a true beauty. Unfortunately, the lady known as Seinfreda turned him down and offered her sister Gunnor, instead.

Duke Richard and Gunnor continued with their affair and had four children together. To legitimize their children, Richard married Gunnor.

7. Richard I of Normandy used marriages to foster alliances

Richard used marriages to build strong alliances. His marriage to Emma connected him to the Capet family in France. He was later married to Gunnor who came from a rival Viking group in the Cotentin. Their union strengthen his relationship with the Vikings.

He also encouraged his followers to marry from his wife’s family for stronger bonds and alliances.

This trend continued to his children whereby his daughters provided respected marriage alliances with powerful counts and kings.

Richard not only focused on land alliance but also the church. He funded the church and monasteries in his region. It was during his reign that Normandy experienced the longest peaceful reign.

8. Richard the Fearless rebuilt an ancient ruined abbey at Fécamp

Statue of Richard I at Fecamp By Giogo -Wikimedia

It was during the reign of Duke Richard that he built a church in the place of his previous palace. The ornate abbey was one of the most expensive to be constructed in the region.

The features of the church include lofty towers and an attractive nave and the chambers. One specific feature that was the most attractive was a large block of stone placed right across the path which led to the doorway.

This stone was designed and placed by the doorway following orders of the Duke. The rock was dug to form a hole-like feature resembling a coffin.

The locals filled the hole with farm produce and money where the poor would go and receive free food. Before he died, Duke Richard ordered that the chest be used to bury him.

9. Richard II becomes the new Duke after his father’s death

Portrait of Richard I on his death bed By Anonymous – Wikimedia

After the death of his father, Richard II who was the eldest son and heir of Richard I the Fearless succeeded him. Richard I of Normandy died in 996 in Fecamp, Normandy, France, at age 63 years.

Richard II reigned for five years. During his reign, he served together with Count Rodulf of Ivry, his uncle.

Like his father, Richard the II formed alliances through marriages and religion. His sister Hawise was married to Geoffrey I who was a Duke of Brittany. Richard also married Geoffrey’s sister Judith of Brittany.

10. Both Richard I Of Normandy and his Father valued the church

Richard I was a very religious Duke and took care of the monasteries and churches. He also funded the construction of the most expensive churches of his time.

Richard I provided a hiding place for the Vikings who were not religious. This angered the Pope and they negotiated for a treaty between England and Normandy.

His father, William the conqueror, funded the construction of Mont Saint-Michel after the monks supported him in war.