Like his father Rollo, he is often given the anachronistic title of "duke of Normandy". Although no contemporary source gives him the title of count, his son Richard is called count of Rouen in the Planctus, written very soon after William's death. William first appears as the leader of the Normans in the year 933 ["Willelmus, princeps Nordmannorum, eidem regi se committit; cui etiam rex dat terram Brittonum in ora maritima sitam." Flodoard, Annales, s.a. 933, 55; van Houts (2000), 45], having succeeded his father Rollo sometime in or after 928 [Rollo's last known appearance in the records, see Flodoard, Annales, s.a. 928, 41; van Houts (2000), 45]. In (probably) 942, he was treacherously killed at the instigation of Arnulf I of Flanders ["Arnulfus comes Willelmum, Nordmannorum principem, ad colloquium evocatum dolo perimi fecit." Flodoard, Annales, s.a. 943, 86; van Houts (2000), 47]. Shortly thereafter, an anonymous poet wrote the Planctus, a poem lamenting his death [see Robert Helmerichs's Planctus website].
Date of Birth: Unknown.
Place of Birth: Overseas.
[Planctus], i.e., not on the European mainland, and therefore possibly in Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, or one of the islands held by Vikings (Orkneys, Hebrides, Man, etc.), all plausible places for the son of a Viking to be born.
Date of Death: (probably) 17 December 942.
Dudo iii, 64 (p. 84) gives 17 December 943, as does Guillaume de Jumièges [GND iii, 12 (vol. 1, pp. 94-5)], and the death is the first event listed under the year 943 in Flodoard's annals [MGH SS 3, 389, van Houts (2000), 47], but a literal reading of both known manuscripts of the Planctus suggests that the event occurred on a Saturday (dies sexta or die sexto), which fits 942 but not 943, so the evidence of the Planctus would suggest that the year given by Dudo is wrong. The fact that Flodoard recorded an event in December as his first event of the year 943 also suggests 942 as the correct date. Perhaps Flodoard did not hear about the event until sometime in 943, and did not realize that it had occurred late in the previous year. [See GND vol. 1, p. 95n]. However, the Obituaries of Jumièges give 16 December as the date of death, which was a Saturday in 943 [Ex Obituario Gemmeticensi, RHF 23, 422]. Nevertheless, the balance of the evidence seems to favor 17 December 942 [See also GND, vol. 1, p. 95, n. 2, citing also discussions of Prentout and Lauer (to which I do not have access).]
Place of Death: Picquigny-sur-Somme.
[GND iii, 11 (vol. 1 , pp. 92-3)]
Father: Rollo "of Normandy", d. 928×933.
(1) Sprota, who m. (2) Esperleng.
(2) Liègard (Liutgard), d.
985, daughter of Heribert II,
count of Vermandois. [Dudo iii, 32 (p. 70)]; she m. (2) Thibaut,
count of Blois.
This marriage has sometimes been disputed, but it is verified by a charter [See Searle, 279, n. 48].
Richard I of
Normandy, d. 996.
[Flodoard's Annals, s.a. 960, MGH SS 3, 405, van Houts (2000), 51]
See Commentary for alleged additional child.
Falsely attributed daughter:
Searle 54-5, 94, 287 mentions Emma as a possible daughter of William and Liègard, but the charter cited by Searle only makes Emma a daughter of Liègard, so Emma can be identified as the daughter of that name from Liègard's second marriage to Thibaud of Blois. See the remark by Elisabeth van Houts in GND 1, 81, n. 7.
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, Annales = Ph. Lauer, ed., Les Annales de Flodoard (Paris, 1905). [See also van Houts (2000), 42-51, for an 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.
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. For a detailed bibliography on this important source, plus scans of facsimiles of the two known manuscripts and other discussion, see the website The Planctus for William Longsword, by Robert Helmerichs.
RHF = Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France.
Richer = Richer of Rheims (see PL 138 for the text, in Latin). Citation is by book and chapter of Richer's work, with the page number in parentheses.
Searle (1988) = Eleanor Searle, Predatory Kinship and the Creation of Norman Power, 840-1066 (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1988).
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
First uploaded 8 February 2004.
Return to Henry Project home page
Go to Henry Project index page
Go to Henry II ancestor table