Upper Normandy History

Formerly a French province, Normandy [Normandie], with its old capital at Rouen, is now divided into two regions bordering on the English Channel: Upper Normandy [Haute-Normandie] and Lower Normandy [Basse-Normandie]. During the Roman period, the region formed part of Gallia Lugdunensis (Celtic Gaul). With the Frankish invasions it was made a constituent part of the kingdom of Neustria.

Ten centuries have passed since the Vikings invaded the province of Normandy. The early Scandinavians might have come to ravish the land, but they stayed to cultivate it. It came to be known as Normandy about 911, when Charles III, king of France, turned it over to Rollo, the leader of a menacing band of Viking raiders.

The Normans produced great soldiers, none more famous than William the Conqueror, who defeated the forces of King Harold at Battle Abbey in 1066. In 1066,William II, duke of Normandy (a descendant of Rollo), led an invasion of England and established himself there as William I, king of England. Consequently, Normandy remained an English possession until conquered in 1204 by Philip II Augustus, king of France. During the Hundred Years’ War, the region was held at various times by both French and English forces; it was finally recovered by the French in 1450. The Channel Islands, which were once a part of Normandy, remained in the possession of England. The English and the French continued to do battle, on and off for 700 years, from 1066 to the decisive Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

From Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon, Normandy remained at peace until June 6, 1944 when it was ravaged in the 1944 invasion that began early in the morning when airborne troops parachuted down into Ste-Mère-Eglise and Bénouville-sur-Orne. The largest armada ever assembled was responsible for the beginning of the reconquest of continental Europe from the Nazis. Today many come to Normandy just to see the D-Day beachheads.

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