Rollo the Viking, William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, Philippe Auguste… Everything you always wanted to know about medieval Normandy is told in the wonderful new documentary series by Juliette Desbois.
Fictional scenes, reconstructions of battles, specialist insights bring this film to life in three episodes of 52 minutes each.
Normandy, land of warriors
clearly retraces the complex history - made up of passion, violence and hope - of a region that is the object of all desires.
Rollo stands out for his intelligence
First the epic of the Vikings.
Breaking in hordes on the coasts aboard their drakkars, they plunder and go up the Seine thanks to their flat-bottomed ships.
From the middle of the 9th century, their raids grew in scale and eventually reached Paris.
Among the leaders of these pirates, Rollo stands out for his intelligence.
He made an agreement with the Frankish King Charles the Simple in 911 and founded the first Duchy of Normandy.
“It is the birth certificate of Normandy”,
underlines the historian Pierre Bouet.
Rollon the pagan is then baptized and now bears the first name Robert.
A very clever conversion politically.
Especially since the new master of Normandy requires his men to also become Christians.
Enough to allow these Vikings, who numbered only 2,000 to 3,000, to integrate perfectly into an indigenous population of 350,000 souls.
Under these conditions, the region, which is finally living in peace, is experiencing exceptional economic development.
So much so that Rollo, who died in 932, became a mythical figure during his lifetime.
The landing in England of William the Conqueror
And his great-great-great-grandson is none other than William the Conqueror.
This one is essential vis-a-vis the greeds of its vassals, then vis-a-vis those of king Henri Ier of France.
The fate of this Duke of Normandy is told with precision in the second part of the film.
In particular his incredible expedition across the Channel with a thousand ships carrying some 15,000 men and 5,000 horses.
This epic landing allows William, after his victory at the famous Battle of Hastings, October 14, 1066, to be crowned King of England.
The way in which Rollo's descendant feigns defeat to finally trap the English soldiers is a masterstroke.
And, after seven hours of fierce fighting, King Harold, William's great rival, is killed by a Norman commando.
The Battle of Bouvines
Finally, the opposition between Richard the Lionheart and Philippe Auguste illustrates the height of the confrontation between the kings of France and England for control of Normandy.
“Richard is almost 2 meters tall, he embodies the pinnacle of chivalry.
He is a brave, fierce and efficient warrior.
Philippe has slightly different qualities.
He is above all an excellent sovereign, a born administrator who wants to centralize his kingdom
,” explains historian Levi Roach.
The struggle between these two giants ends with the unexpected death of Richard.
Then the King of France conquered Normandy, after his victory at the battle of Bouvines, on July 27, 1214
. in great peace a great time.
Thus an anonymous chronicler, quoted by the late Georges Duby, describes the way in which the sovereign became a
great gatherer of land
, to the detriment of the Normans.