Richard II, Duke of Normandy
Duke of Normandy
Name: Richard II, The Good
Place of Birth: Normandy
Father: Richard I, Duke of Normandy
Judith of Brittany
possibly Poppa of Envermeu
He married firstly, c.1000, Judith (982–1017), daughter of Conan I of Brittany,
by whom he had the following issue:
Richard (c. 997/1001), duke of Normandy
Robert (1000), duke of Normandy
Alice of Normandy (c. 1003/5), married Renaud I, Count of Burgundy
William (c. 1007/9), monk at Fécamp, d. 1025, buried at Fécamp Abbey
Eleanor (c. 1011/3), married to Baldwin IV, Count of Flanders
Matilda (c. 1013/5), nun at Fecamp, d. 1033. She died young and unmarried.
Secondly he married Poppa of Envermeu, by whom he had the following issue:
Mauger (c. 1019), Archbishop of Rouen
William (c. 1020/5), count of Arques
Duke of Normandy
Death: 28 August 1026
Place of Death: Normandy
House: House of Normandy
Heraldry: Blason du duché de Normandie
My Family Connection: 31st Great-Grandfather
Life and times of Richard II, Duke of Normandy (963 – 1026)
Who is Richard II?
Richard II or Richard the Good, is the fourth Duke of Normandy. He ruled the French region for 30 years from the year 996 up to 1026.
Born on August 23, 963 in Lot-et-Garonne, Aquitaine, France, Richard II is the eldest among the five sons of Richard the Fearless, who was the third Duke of Normandy, and Gunnor de Crepon, Duchess of Normandy. He has also fathered several children from two marriages, notably some of which are Robert the Magnificent who was the sixth Duke of Normandy, Richard III, the fifth Duke of Normandy, Adeliza who was the Countess of Burgundy, among others.
Taking the duke throne
Richard the Good succeeded his father, Richard I as Duke of Normandy in 996. He assigned his uncle, Count Ralph of Ivrea, who is the half-brother of his father, to be his regent during the first five years of his reign. Count Ralph was instrumental in taking down a peasant rebellion which commenced alongside Duke Richard II’s ascendency. At around this time, Richard II helped Robert II, King of France fight his battle against the Duchy of Burgundy.
At the start of his reign, the Vikings were invading northern European territories. Richard II was placed in a situation where he had to choose between resisting their attacks or, aiding them in their plunderous raids, yet risk his image of being a pirate like them. He then chose to be on their side, rocking the boat between France and England.
Richard II was responsible with the changes in Norman monasteries and did his best to improve the ties with England. Even if her sister Emma disliked the English, she became betrothed to King Ethelred the Unready in 1002, who was twenty years her senior. The marriage bore two sons, Edward the Confessor and Alfred.
For his part, King Ethelred needed the money from the dowry, and also wanted to stop the Vikings from attacking the south of England, who were using Normandy as their homebase. The marriage, which connects France and England, helped pave the way for his grandson William the Conqueror, who would later become the first King of England from Normandy. This came after William invaded England and won the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Meanwhile, Emma remarried after the death of Ethelred. His second husband was Cnut who forced the marriage after he became King of England. This marriage further legalized his reign of England, yet the Queen’s role had been more important than ever, becoming a symbolic peacemaker. As such, Richard II had to recognize the new leadership considering his sister was a queen again. However, his nephews Edward and Alfred sought refuge in Normandy during King Cnut’s British reign, and stayed there for many years.
While he was technically the fourth Duke of Normandy, Richard II was the first one to assume the duke title with a court that resembles a king’s own.
Richard II prevented an attack led by Ethelred, King of England on the Cotentin Peninsula which forms part of the northwest coast of France. Despite his orders to capture Richard II, they were defeated by the quick response of the Norman defenders. Ethelred learned from this experience and used it to his advantage when Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, invaded England.
As early as the 830s, Vikings from Denmark began raiding France and England much later. They would plunder markets, towns and monasteries, but were defeated by kings led by Alfred the Great. After several years, Vikings raids have been coming about once again, putting pressure particularly on England, especially when the Vikings settled almost permanently in France.
Richard I, who is Richard II’s father was not in favor of them, being British enemies and having raided Wessex multiple times. However, many of these Vikings have close relations with Richard II, some of which he employed as mercenaries. He offered Normandy as a safe haven for them, which caused problems with the Roman pope and the British. A treaty was made in 990 between Normandy and England as orchestrated by the Pope’s representatives.
Meanwhile, Richard II’s affiliation with the Scandinavian vikings did not sit well with his father, and caused his relations with the English King, breaking the treaty between them. As a result, England launched an attack in the Cotentin peninsula in 1000.
Preserving the Norman nobility
Apparently, Richard II wants to maintain a positive image not only for himself, but for all of his Duke forefathers and Normandy noblemen. He then ordered his clerk Dudo of Saint Quentin to paint a nice picture of his ducal ancestors as leaders with the highest morals. As good Christian rulers who have been betrayed by their constituents and neighboring regions, they have nonetheless helped build Normandy to what it was.
Dudo never presented the stories he was commissioned to do as facts. He came out with De moribus et actis primorum normanniae ducum or Customs and Deeds of the First Dukes of the Normans, written between 994-1015, as his way of telling the noble destiny in the most noble way he knew how. Some even called it propaganda work given the number of fantastic stories and legends it contained.
Numerous grants have been given by Richard II to several monasteries where he had control such as Rouen, Caen, the Everecin, Cotentin, and Pays de Caux. He also confirmed the gifts of Rollo, his great grandfather, to Rouen and Saint-Ouen from 1025 to 1026.
Richard II married twice. His first wife was Judith and they had six children (three daughters and three sons) which include Richard III and Robert I who would become the fifth and sixth Duke of Normandy, respectively. His daughter Alice married Renaud I, who was Count of Burgundy. His son William was a monk at Fecamp while daughter Matilda was a nun. However, both died at a young age. Eleanor was married to Baldwin IV, who was Count of Flanders.
On the other hand, he had two sons with his second wife named Popa. Mauger was Archbishop of Rouen while William was Count of Arques. It
was believed that he also had a third wife Astrid, who is the daughter of Sweyn, King of Denmark. However, with the tension between the King and Richard II, it was unlikely that this was true. Richard I had an illegitimate daughter who was referred to as Papia, who would become the wife of Gulbert, Advocate of Saint Valery-en-Caux, that was also attributed to Richard II as being her father.
Richard II has also forged personal alliances with Brittany. First was his sister’s marriage to Geoffrey I, Duke of Brittany. His own marriage to Judith in 1000 was part of this two-way interest as well. He also supported Robert II, who was a French overlord by giving him military aid in his fight against the duchy of Burgundy.
Among his sons from his first wife, he already favored Richard III to inherit the throne, with Robert I being the Count.
On August 28, 1026, Richard II died of natural causes in Fecamp France. He was about 63 years old, and was succeeded by his son Richard III.
A full-size image of Richard II stands in the Falaise town square, together with Robert the Magnificent, Richard III, Richard the Fearless, William I Longsword, and Rollo, the founder of Normandy, which comprise the six dukes of Normandy.
Stephen Robert Kuta