William I Longsword

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William I "Longsword"
William longsword statue in falaise.JPG
Statue of William Longsword, part of the "Six Dukes of Normandy" series in Falaise
Duke of Normandy
Reign 927–942
Predecessor Rollo
Successor Richard I
Born c. 893
Bayeux or Rouen
Died 17 December 942
Picquigny on the Somme
Burial Rouen Cathedral
Spouse Luitgarde of Vermandois
Issue Richard I of Normandy
House House of Normandy
Father Rollo
Mother Poppa

William I Longsword (French: Guillaume Longue-Épée, Latin: Willermus Longa Spata, Old Norse: Vilhjálmr Langaspjót), (c. 893 – 17 December 942) was the second ruler of Normandy, from 927 until his assassination.[1]

He is sometimes anachronistically dubbed "Duke of Normandy", even though the title duke (dux) did not come into common usage until the 11th century.[2] Longsword was known at the time by the title Count (Latin comes) of Rouen.[3][4] Flodoard—always detailed about titles—consistently referred to both Rollo and his son William as principes (chieftains) of the Norse.[5]


William Longsword was born "overseas"[lower-alpha 1][6] to the Viking Rollo, while he was still a pagan, and his Christian wife Poppa of Bayeux.[7][8] Dudo of Saint-Quentin in his panegyric of the Norman dukes describes Poppa as the daughter of a Count Beranger, the dominant prince of that region.[9] In the 11th century Annales Rouennaises (Annals of Rouen), she is called the daughter of Guy, Count of Senlis,[10] otherwise unknown to history.[lower-alpha 2] Despite the uncertainty of her parentage she was undoubtedly a member of the Frankish aristocracy.[11] According to the Longsword's planctus, he was baptized a Christian probably at the same time as his father,[12] which Orderic Vitalis stated was in 912 and by Franco, Archbishop of Rouen[13]


Longsword succeeded Rollo (who was still alive) in 927[14] and, early in his reign, faced a rebellion from Normans[15] who felt he had become too Gallicised and too soft.[16] According to Orderic Vitalis, the leader was Riouf of Evreux.[16][17][18] At the time of this rebellion Longsword sent his pregnant wife by custom, Sprota, to Fécamp where their son Richard was born.[19]

In 933, Longsword recognized Raoul as King of Western Francia, who was struggling to assert his authority in Northern France. In turn Raoul gave him lordship over much of the lands of the Bretons including Avranches and the Cotentin Peninsula.[20][21] Resistance to the Normans was led by Alan Wrybeard, Duke of Brittany and Count Berenger of Rennes but ended shortly with Alan fleeing to England and Beranger seeking reconciliation.[22]

In 935, Longsword contracted a marriage between his sister Adela (Gerloc was her Norse name) and William, Count of Poitou with the approval of Hugh the Great.[23] At the same time Longsword married Luitgarde,[1] daughter of Count Herbert II of Vermandois whose dowry gave him the lands of Longueville, Coudres and Illiers l'Eveque.[18] In addition to supporting King Raoul, he was now a loyal ally of his father-in-law, Herbert II, both of whom his father Rollo had opposed.[24]

The funerary monument of William Longsword in the cathedral of Rouen, France. The monument is from the 14th century.

After Longsword attacked Flanders in 939, Arnulf I, Count of Flanders, and Louis IV, King of France, retaliated by attacking Normandy. Arnulf captured the castle of Montreuil-sur-Mer expelling Herluin, Count of Ponthieu. Herluin and Longsword cooperated to retake the castle.[25][26] Longsword was excommunicated for his actions in attacking and destroying several estates belonging to Arnulf.[27]

Longsword pledged his loyalty to King Louis IV when they met in 940 and, in return, he was confirmed in lands that had been given to his father, Rollo.[28] Almost three years later, on 17 December 942 at Picquigny on the Somme, Longsword was ambushed and killed by followers of Arnulf while at a peace conference to settle their differences.[18][26]


He had no children with his wife Luitgarde.[29] Longsword fathered his son, Richard the Fearless, with Sprota[lower-alpha 3] who was a Breton captive and his concubine.[30] Richard succeeded him.[29]


  1. Neveux and other authorities believe this may have been in England, as Rollo left Neustria for several years, probably for England. See: Neveux, P. 62; Complainte sur l'assassinat de Guillaume Longue-Ėpée, duc de Normandie, poème inédit du Xe siècle, Gaston Paris; Jules Lair, Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes (1870), Volume 31, Issue 31, p. 397; Complainte de la mort de Guillaume Longue Ėpėe; and Prentout, Etude critique sur Dudon de Saint-Quentin, 178-9 [ns].
  2. See Commentary: The origin of Poppa at: Stewart Baldwin, The Henry Project: "Poppa" for more detailed discussion and opinions.
  3. After Longsword’s death, Sprota married Esperling, a rich miller in the Pont-de-l’Arche-Louviers region. By her, he had a son, Count Rodulf of Ivry, who was one of the most trusted advisers of his half-brother, Richard I of Normandy. See Searle, p. 108 and The Normans in Europe, p. 57


  1. 1.0 1.1 Detlev Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Neue Folge, Band III Teilband 1 (Marburg, Germany: J. A. Stargardt, 1984), Tafel 79
  2. David C. Douglas, 'The Earliest Norman Counts', The English Historical Review, Vol. 61, No. 240 (May, 1946), p. 130
  3. David Crouch, The Normans: The History of a Dynasty, (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), p. 14.
  4. The Normans in Europe, ed. & trans. Elisabeth van Houts (Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press, 2000),pp. 31, 41, 182
  5. Eleanor Searle, Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 45
  6. François Neveux, A Brief History of the Normans, trans. Howard Curtis (London: Constable & Robbinson, Ltd, 2008), p. 62 & n. 111
  7. David C. Douglas, 'Rollo of Normandy', The English Historical Review, Vol. 57, No. 228 (Oct., 1942), p. 422
  8. Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. Marjorie Chibnall, Vol. II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), P. 7
  9. Douglas, 'Rollo of Normandy', p. 417
  10. K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, 'Poppa of Bayeux and Her Family', The American Genealogist, vol. 72, no. 4 (July–October 1997), p. 198
  11. Neveux, pp. 60-1
  12. Crouch, p. 9
  13. Vitalis, p. 67 (Citing William of Jumièges, Book II, ch. 12[18])
  14. Douglas, 'Rollo of Normandy', p. 435
  15. The Normans in Europe, p. 41 (Citing the Planctus for William Longsword composed shortly after his murder in 942)
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World, ed. Christopher Harper-Bill; Elisabeth Van Houts (Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press, 2007), p. 25
  17. Crouch, p. 11
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Neveux, p. 72
  19. Searle, p. 95
  20. Pierre Riché, The Carolingians; A Family who Forged Europe, trans. Michael Idomir Allen (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), pp. 252-3
  21. The Annals of Flodoard of Reims; 916-966, eds. & trans. Steven Fanning and Bernard S. Bachrach (New York; Ontario Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2011), p. xvii & notes 15b, 85
  22. The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumieges, Orderic Vitalis, and Robert of Torigni, ed. & trans. Elizabeth M.C. Van Houts, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 79
  23. The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumieges, Orderic Vitalis, and Robert of Torigni, p. 81
  24. The Annals of Flodoard of Reims, 916-966, p. xxi
  25. Searle, p. 56
  26. 26.0 26.1 David Nicholas, Medieval Flanders (London: Longman Group UK Limited, 1992), p. 40
  27. The Annals of Flodoard of Reims; 916-966, p. 31
  28. The Annals of Flodoard of Reims; 916-966, p. 32
  29. 29.0 29.1 Neveux, p. 90
  30. The Normans in Europe, p. 47

External links

French nobility
Preceded by
Duke of Normandy
c. 927–942
Succeeded by
Richard I