Richard I of Normandy

Richard I of Normandy (c.935 - November 20, 996) was the Duke of Normandy from 942 to 996; he is considered the first to actually have held that title. He was called Richard the Fearless (French, Sans Peur).


He was born to William I of Normandy, ruler of Normandy, and Sprota of Senlis. He was born probably between 932 and 935; he was still a boy when his father died in 942. His mother was a Breton concubine captured in war and bound to William by a Danish marriage.After William died, Sprota became the wife of Esperleng, a wealthy miller.


Richard was still a boy when his father died, and so he was powerless to stop Louis IV of France when he seized Normandy. Louis kept him in confinement in his youth at Lâon, but he escaped with the assistance of Osmund de Centeville, Bernard de Senlis (who had been a companion of Hrolf), Ivo de Bellèsme, and Bernard the Dane (ancestor of families of Harcourt and Beaumont). In 968, Richard agreed to "commend" himself to Hugh, Count of Paris. He then allied himself with the Norman and Viking leaders, drove Louis out of Rouen, and took back Normandy by 947. He later quarrelled with Ethelred II of England regarding viking invasions of England because Normandy had been buying up much of the stolen booty.

Richard was bilingual, having been well educated at Bayeux. He was more partial to his Norse and Danish subjects than to the French. During his reign, Normandy became completely Gallicized and Christianized. He introduced the feudal system and Normandy became one of the most thoroughly feudalized states on the continent. He carried out a major reorganization of the Norman military system, based on heavy cavalry. He also became guardian of the young Hugh, Count of Paris, on the elder Hugh's death in 956.

The Little Duke, a Victorian Juvenile novel by Charlotte Mary Yonge is a fictionalized account of Richard's boyhood and early struggles.


He married 1st ( 960 ) Emma of Paris , daughter of Hugh the Great , Duke of the Franks and Count of Paris. They were betrothed when both were very young. She died after 966, with no issue.

According to Robert of Torigni , not long after Emma's death, Duke Richard went out hunting and stopped at the house of a local forester. He became enamoured of the forester's wife, Seinfreda, but she being a virtuous woman, suggested he court her unmarried sister, Gunnor de Crepon , instead. Gunnor became his bride, and her family rose to prominence. Her brother, Herefast de Crepon , was involved in a controversial trial involving the Cathars . Gunnor was, like Richard, of Norse descent, being a Dane by blood. Richard finally married her to legitimate their children:

  • Richard II "the Good", Duke of Normandy (966)
  • Robert , Archbishop of Rouen , Count of Evreux , died 1037.
  • Mauger, Earl of Corbeil , died after 1033; his alleged grandson (or perhaps great-grandson) was Robert Fitzhamon , an important Anglo-Norman baron.
  • Robert Danus, died between 985 and 989
  • Emma of Normandy (c.985-1052) wife of two kings of England.
  • Hawise of Normandy , wife of Geoffrey I, Duke of Brittany
  • Maud of Normandy, wife of Odo II of Blois , Count of Blois, Champagne and Chartres


Richard was known to have had several mistresses and produced childen with many of them. Known children are:

  • Geoffrey, Count of Brionne, (b. ca. 970)
  • Hawise (b. ca. 978), d. 21 Feb 1034. m. Geoffrey of Brittany, Duke of Brittany, (ca. 997), son of Conan I of Brittany, Duke of Brittany, "le Tort", and Ermengarde of Anjou.
  • William d'Eu, Count d'Eu, (b. ca. 985).


He died in Fecamp, France on November 20, 996 of natural causes.




  • McKitterick, Rosamund. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987, 1993.
  • Searle, Eleanor. Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066, 1998.
Preceded by:
William I of Normandy
Duke of Normandy Succeeded by:
Richard II

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