"Poppa"

Wife or mistress of Rollo "of Normandy", fl. 10th century

A wife or mistress of Rollo of Normandy, and mother of Rollo's son and successor William "Longsword", her name is reported only by the often unreliable Dudo [ii, 16 (pp. 38-9); iii, 36 (p. 57)] and by sources depending on him (hence the quotes around her name). The only certain fact that is known about her comes from the contemporary (or nearly so) Planctus of her son William, which states (without naming her) that she was a Christian, and that her son William was born overseas.

Date of Birth: Unknown.
Place of Birth: Unknown.

Date of Death: Unknown.
Place of Death: Unknown.

Father: Uncertain.
Mother: Unknown.
See the Commentary section below for more details.

Spouse or partner:

Rollo "of Normandy", d. 928×933.

Child:

MALE Guillaume (William) I "Longsword" of Normandy, d. 942.



Commentary

Possible child:

FEMALE Gerloc or Adele, m. Guillaume (William) Tête d'Étoupe, count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine.
[Dudo ii, 16 (p. 39) makes Poppa the mother of William, but does not explicitly state the mother of Gerloc/Adele. Writing more than a century after the fact, Guillaume de Jumièges ii, 6 (v. 1, pp. 64-5) makes Poppa the mother of both William and Gerloc, but it is not clear whether he had additional information or was just jumping to conclusions by assuming that William and Gerloc were full siblings. See the page on Rollo for more.]

The origin of Poppa

Poppa was said by Dudo [ii, 16 (pp. 38-9); iii, 36 (p. 57)] to be of Frankish origin, daughter of a certain count Bérenger. The Planctus, which does not provide her name, states that she was a Christian, and mother by a pagan father (i.e., Rollo, whose name is also not given) of William, who was born overseas. The accounts given by Dudo and the Planctus are not necessarily contradictory (since Dudo places Rollo overseas in England not long after mentioning the marriage), but there is also nothing in the Planctus that could be seen as confirming Dudo's account. Some authors have gone even further than Dudo's vague account, by attempting to identify the father of Poppa more specifically, and even to provide her with a mother. Two recent such suggestions are mentioned here, with some comments.

Settipani:
Proposed father:
Gui, count of Senlis.
Proposed mother:
NN (Cunegundis?), daughter of count Pepin, and sister of Heribert I, count of Vermandois.
See Settipani (1993), 217-221. An eleventh century Norman Chronicle (Annales Rouennaises) is cited as making Poppa "... filiam Wydonis comitis Sylvanectensis, sororem Bernardi..." [see Settipani (1993), 218, Keats-Rohan (1997), 198]. This Gui is apparently not known from any other source. The proposed mother comes from the statement of Flodoard that Bernard of Senlis was a consobrinus of Heribert II of Vermandois (see below).

Keats-Rohan:
Proposed father:
Bérenger, d. 896 (?), "marquis of Neustria".
Proposed mother ("Hypothesis I"): NN (Adalind?), daughter of Henry of Thuringia.
Proposed mother ("Hypothesis II"): NN (Adela?) of Vermandois.
See Keats-Rohan (1997), 196-7. While accepting Dudo's statment that the father of Poppa was a count Bérenger, and then attempting to identify him with a specific Bérenger, the alleged connection to Bernard of Senlis is also accepted, by making Bernard either a second cousin ("Hypothesis I") or uterine brother ("Hypothesis II") of Poppa.

Neither of these hypotheses is supported by good contemporary evidence, and both have problems that go beyond the lack of good supporting evidence. Settipani's reconstruction uses a later source to give Poppa a father whose existence is not verified in other sources, and the two Keats-Rohan alternatives are hypothetical, depending to a significant extent on reconstructions of other families which are themselves hypothetical. Both hypotheses use a supposed relationship of Poppa with Bernard of Senlis which has a simpler explanation that involves no connection between Bernard and Poppa. Dudo contradicts himself by referring to Bernard as William's uncle [iii, 45 (p.67)] or to William's son Richard as Bernard's nephew [iv, 76 (pp. 106-7)]. However, it seems likely that if the often proposed identification of Bernard of Senlis with the Bernard who appears as a "consobrinus" of Herbert of Vermandois in Flodoard's annals [s.a. 923: MGH SS 3, 372] is correct, then there is an obvious explanation of the alleged relationship, i.e., that Bernard was "related" to the Norman dukes only as a relative of Liutgard of Vermandois, wife of William and stepmother of Richard I. (See the remarks of Eric Christiansen, in his recent translation of Dudo's History [Dudo 200, note 248]). The fact that Dudo contradicts himself on the matter of Bernard's exact relationship suggests that he was carelessly describing (or perhaps embellishing) a connection that was poorly understood by him. If the suggestion is correct, then Bernard would have nothing to do with the origin or ancestry of Poppa, further undermining these hypotheses. Given the uncertain nature of the evidence, it seems best to say only that the parentage of William's mother (whether her name was Poppa or something else) is uncertain. She may have been a daughter of a count named Bérenger, as Dudo states, but even if her father's name is correctly reported by Dudo, the attempts to identify him with a specific Bérenger are weak. Se the page on Bérenger (of Maine?) for more.


Bibliography

Dudo = Eric Christiansen, ed. & trans., Dudo of St. Quentin, History of the Normans (The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1998). Citation is by book and chapter of Dudo's work, with the page number in parentheses.

Flodoard's Annals = See MGH SS 3, 363-408 (Latin), and van Houts (2000), 42-51 (English translation of excerpts relating to the Normans).

GND = Guillaume de Jumièges, Gesta Normannorum Ducum, as edited in Elisabeth van Houts, ed. & trans., The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis and Robert of Torigni, 2 vols., (Oxford, 1992). Citation is by book and chapter of Guillaume's work, with the volume and page number of the edition by van Houts in parentheses.

Keats-Rohan (1997) = K. S. B. Keats-Rohan, "Poppa of Bayeux and her Family", The American Genealogist 72 (1997), 187-204.

MGH SS = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores series.

PL = P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, series Latina, 221 vols. (Paris, 1844-1859).

Planctus = The Planctus of William Longsword, a poem written shortly after the death of William Longsword. See Jules Lair, "Complainte sur l'assassinat de Guillaume Longue-épée duc de Normandie", Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes 31 (1870), 388-406; P. A. Becker, "Der Planctus auf den Normannenherzog Wilhelm Langschwert", Zeitschrift für franzõsische Sprache und Literatur 63 (1940), 190-7. For a more detailed bibliography on this important source, plus scans of facsimiles of the two known manuscripts and other discussion, see Robert Helmerich's Planctus website.

Settipani (1993) = Christian Settipani, La préhistoire des Capétiens 481-987 (Première partie - Mérovingiens, Carolingiens et Robertiens) (Villeneuve d'Ascq, 1993).

van Houts (2000) = Elisabeth van Houts, ed. & trans., The Normans in Europe (Manchester & New York, 2000) [gives English translations of many of the primary sources relevant to early Norman history]


Compiled by Stewart Baldwin
(with thanks to Peter Stewart for some detailed discussions on Poppa on the soc.genealogy.medieval newsgroup)

First uploaded 8 February 2004.

Note about cross reference to Bérenger's page added 17 December 2005.

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