Was a Fat Viking Thug My Ancestor?
A 10th-century Viking thug named Rollo was one of the power brokers of the so-called Dark Ages. He was known as Rollo the Ganger (Walker), because he was so gigantic and heavy that no horse could carry him. Having ravaged much of Northern France, Rollo forced the French King Charles the Simple to make him Duke of Normandy. According to my cousin Malcolm Lukey who has done a lot of genealogical research into the matter, we are descended from Rollo on my mother’s side. I had a nice surprise recently when an unexpected package arrived—a long cardboard tube containing a copy of a family tree with Rollo at the top and my mother near the bottom. I can’t spot any gaps, so it may possibly be true that Rollo is my ancestor.
There is quite a lot about Rollo at the start of this pedigree, written in a rather archaic style (probably about 250 years ago):
911., Rollo, 1st Duke of Normandy, given unto him by Charles the Simple, King of France, with his Daughter in Marriage , as is recorded in an old manuscript belonging to the monastery of Angiers. When Rollo was baptised, Charles receiving him at the font, he was required to do homage for the Dukedom, and enjoined to kiss the King’s foot—which he did; but with some disgrace to Charles—for he overset him, and bound it with an oath that he did not receive it from courtesy.
I find the meaning of this passage more than a little obscure. For instance, what does “overset” mean? It’s not in the Concise Oxford Dictionary. So I did a little research on my own behalf and found the following in Wikipedia:
According to legend, when required to kiss the foot of King Charles, as a condition of the Treaty, he [Rollo] refused too perform so great a humiliation., and when Charles extended his foot to Rollo, Rollo ordered one of his warriors to do so in his place. His warrior then lifted Charles’s foot up to his mouth, causing the king to fall to the ground.
Rollo was the great, great, great grandfather of William the Conqueror, seventh Duke of Normandy who became King of England in 1066. I can’t claim royal descent because (if the pedigree is accurate), our ancestry goes down through the female side. The third Duke, Richard, had a daughter named Rowisa who married Geoffrey Earl of Bretaigne (presumably Brittany) and so the line continues. I haven’t studied the rest of it really closely, but if I discover anything that I think might interest you (obviously it’s all quite fascinating to me) I’ll tell you about it.