Monday, December 17, 2012

The Rise of Normandy and the Barons of Caus or Caux

Haute Normandie is the eastern portion of what we call Normandy today.  Probably anyone who knows Normandy will think immediately of the allied landings, Le Mont St Michel and the great peninsula reaching north toward England.  In this case we need to think about the less well known area to the east that includes Dieppe, Rouen, Etretat(famous for it's paintings of a great chalk arch reaching out into the English channel), Giverny(just barely in the area) and Le Havre. 
More specifically, our region of interest is what was once called the Pays de Caux, which is the northern two thirds of the area.

Photo of Etretat from Wikipedia

This area is distinct because of it's chalk soil(one of the possible sources of the name, Chaux which means lime or chalk)  The area is famous for it's towering cliffs of chalk facing a similar region in southern England, famous as the White cliffs of Dover.
Normandy in general was an administrative region of the Romans and the habitat of the Caletes, a tribe of Gauls(also a possible source of the name) which predated them.
In the 900s, the Vikings were in a late stage of their raids on this area of France.  They began raiding outside of their native Denmark, Norway and Sweden about 793.  This is, at least, one of the earliest recorded raids.  In this case it was at Lindisfarne on the north east coast of England.  They expanded their attacks to include all of the British Isles, and eventually ended up taking over much of the northern half of the island known as the Danelaw, and eventually became dominant players in Saxon England.
Their raids on continental Europe began just as the century was ending.  As the next century progressed they raided, raped and killed all along the coasts and along the rivers of the two countries.  Eventually they began to settle in the areas they were raiding.    By the first decade of the 900s, they became so entrenched in Normandy that Charles the Simple, king of the emergent nation of France, gave much of Normandy to the Viking leader, Rollo(Hro'lfr) in 911. After Charles' death, Rollo and his sons warred their way to the west, taking over what would become pretty much all of what is now Normandy, most of which may already have been promised to them.

Photo of Rollo from Wikipedia.
 Sorry this is not very clear, the original was quite small.

Evidently, Rollo was a wild man, too wild for even his native Norway.  He was pushed out, or fled to Scotland, went on to Ireland, where he married a Christian, and then moved on to France.  There were all sorts of "Vik" or "Creek" people already there in France or arrived later, but it seems that the majority of his own followers at the time of this grant were Danes, or Black Vikings as opposed to White Vikings from the north.  I have read in some accounts that the Danes that accompanied Rollo into Normandy had already settled in England, and this was a further adventure that would eventually return them to Britain again as conquerors.
In accepting the grant from the king, he was in essence becoming the king's vassal.  To do that, he was required to kiss the foot of the king.  He refused flatly, and a subordinate was elected to do the honors in his place.  The legend is that the subordinate too, refused to bend over to kiss his foot, and instead jerked the king's foot up to his mouth and toppled the king onto his ass!
The Vikings became victims of their conquests quite quickly.  They merged into the local culture, adopted their institutions and customs, till their identities were less Viking and more French than the French were themselves.  However, a local Norman dialect known as Cauchois still remains in the Pays de Caux today.
This Frenching of the Vikings in Normandy was one of the main issues in the succession in England.  Edward the Confessor clearly wanted Normans to succeed him, and he tried to surround himself with Normans while he lived.  Much of the country was Danish or at least Scandinavian in origin, and despite the fact that they were closely related to the Norman French, their culture had become very different and did not follow many of the Scandinavian traditions. 

Photo of Harold Godwinson from Wikipedia

Harold Godwinson(The king) was a member of an upstart Scandinavian family who were only related by marriage to Edward.  Harold did not have a drop of Royal(Wessex) blood, but he was a good warrior and was chosen king as the best hope of the Scandinavian people to maintain the sovereignty of England.  The only better candidate for the throne(Edgar the Aethling, was a child and would not be likely to defend the country effectively.(He was proclaimed king after Harold was killed but was never crowned.)

Photo of William the Conqueror
 also the bastard and the Tanner's son from Wikipedia. 

The strange thing about this whole situation was that despite Edward being a rather mediocre king, his choice of Norman succession would have saved everyone a lot of trouble, bloodshed and upheaval.  Certainly, there would not have been such a complete change in the fortunes of the old Saxon nobility and their complete replacement by Norman nobles.

The map above courtesy of Wikipedia
The Pays de Caux is the area generally to the right of the river Seine

The granted, and war won area eventually covered all of present day Normandy and the Channel Islands, but the original grant's largest identifiable geographic area was the Pays de Caux.  This leads me to suspect that our ancestor Hugh or Hugo's grand daddy or great grand daddy must have been fairly important to Rollo and his successors to have been given this large and important area so early on,
The Vikings were incredibly successful in the following century, eventually ruling much of southern Italy, Sicily, parts of the Levant around Antioch, northern France, England, Ireland, Russia, Iceland and many other areas.  They were so successful that they really became the authors of Medieval society and feudalism as we know it in the history books. 
They imposed a more institutionalized version of the traditional fealty owed to lords, on England when the conquest was complete.   This in turn influenced all of Feudalism when it filtered back into Normandy.
Prior to this time, barons and earls etc., owed fealty or support to the sovereign or their immediate overlord, but it was not exactly institutionalized.  As the Norman invasion became a Norman government over the kingdom of England, lands were granted to the earls and barons in return for very specific terms of support for the overlord.  The king was due an exact number of knights, soldiers etc. rather than a vague expectation of support.  Custom became institutionalized, and this spurred the development of Feudalism throughout Europe.  Just so my Italian relatives can have a bit of recognition here, they really never developed the rigid systems that the rest of the continent did. They chose what they liked about the system and ignored the rest.
In Feudalism, a lord holding lands granted by the king(France was not yet France, but was marching toward cohesion after the passing of Charlemagne) agreed to provide troops or money or both in times of threat. (The French were notorious for not falling into line with this arrangement, and fought against the king as often as for him, despite their oaths.  This eventually led to the end of Carolingian rule and to the rise of the Capet family in the person of Hugh Capet.  This penchant for disloyalty is obvious in the Hundred Years War.)  As Feudalism developed, the Lord, Baron or Count, then granted portions of the land granted to him to a lower order of nobles or warlords that offered the same support to him and then to the king in turn.  This also allowed the overlord to govern his territory effectively by breaking it up into manageable chunks.  Below this were various lower orders of knights, sheriffs, minor lords, and then below this were the people or serfs that were often forced to stay on the land like hereditary pseudo-slaves that provided their higher-ups with a portion of their produce and possibly labor or military service.

Photo from Wikipedia 11th century costume in the Norman world.

Some of the following early names may or may not be reliable:

Tradition says that the Corbeau/Corbet/le Corbeau/ Fitz Corbet... family descended from a  Roman Valerius who is said to have had a raven land on his helmet at a critical point in a battle.  Corvus, Corbeau refer to Raven.
 It is also a Danish tradition that the standard of a Raven(Reafan) was carried into battle.  There is some argument that the originator of the family line was the standard bearer under Rollo.

Roger de Corbeau(Fitz Corbet)(b. c.988) and Giovanna Carnaghi (c. 995 or 1001-1070)  Their child was:

Hugo or Hugh le Corbeau, born c. 1020, possibly in Caux, Allier, Auverne, France, married Isabella de Pays. died in the Pays Dauge, Calvados Normandy.  Alternate information has him dying in Shropshire at Moreton Corbet, if I remember correctly

Their children were:

 Baron Robert Corbet - received 15 manors from William the Conqueror.

 Roger FitzCorbet, 1st. Baron of Caus - received 25 manors from William the Conqueror. Also Earl of Cornwall(I cannot find this to confirm it.).

Caus Castle in Shropshire

 Isabel CORBET

 Hugo Corbeau Corbet Lord Caux(stayed in France)

 Renauld Corbeau Corbet Lord Fecamp(see the city on the map.  He too stayed in France, though he was in Palestine at the end of the century.)

Hugo joined William the Bastard in his invasion of England in 1066,  along with his second and fourth sons, Robert and Roger.  They owed fealty to Roger de Montgomery or spelled: Montgomeri.  They settled in Shropshire while his other sons stayed behind in Caux.

Each of the sons who fought for William were granted manors in Shropshire on the wild, Welsh border where they aided and advised the king in his struggles with the Welsh over the centuries.

Montgomery was granted a large area of land in the northwest of England, and he became the Earl of Shrewsbury which surrounds the town of the same name.  Montgomery was also granted lands dotted all over the map of England, from Kent to Shropshire.  He in turn granted the manors to the Corbet family, though certainly at the behest of the king in return to services rendered to the invasion force.

Montgomery himself was more a player in Normandy during the invasion, arriving in England later.  He was one of the great men who cared for the government of Normandy while the Duke was busy with the invasion force and the unrest that followed Hastings.  William was forced to march back and forth all over England cleaning up small rebellions in order to firm up his control of the country, and to ward off potential rival claimants to the throne from Scandinavian countries