Count of Rouen
Name: Richard I, The Fearless
Birth: 28 August 932
Place of Birth: Fecamp, Normandy
Father: William I, Duke of Normandy
Emma of Paris
His first marriage in 960 was to Emma, daughter of Hugh “The Great” of France, and Hedwig von Sachsen. They were betrothed when both were very young. She died after 19 March 968, 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 enamored with the forester’s wife, Seinfreda, but she was a virtuous woman and suggested he court her unmarried sister, Gunnor, instead. Gunnor became his mistress and her family rose to prominence. Her brother, Herfast de Crepon, may have been involved in a controversial heresy trial. Gunnor was, like Richard, of Viking descent, being a Dane by blood. Richard finally married her to legitimize their children:
- Richard II “the Good”, Duke of Normandy
- Robert, Archbishop of Rouen, Count of Evreux
- Mauger, Count of Corbeil
- Emma of Normandy, wife of two kings of England
- Maud of Normandy, wife of Odo II of Blois, Count of Blois, Champagne and Chartres
- Hawise of Normandy m. Geoffrey I, Duke of Brittany
- Papia of Normandy
- Orielda (963-1031) wife of Fulk Seigneur de Guernanville, Dean of Evreax
Richard was known to have had several other mistresses and had children with many of them. Known children are:
- Geoffrey, Count of Eu
- William, Count of Eu (ca. 972-26 January 1057/58), m. Lasceline de Turqueville (d. 26 January 1057/58).
- Beatrice of Normandy, Abbess of Montvilliers d.1034 m. Ebles of Turenne (d.1030 (divorced)
- Muriella, married Tancred de Hauteville
- Fressenda or Fredesenda (ca. 995-ca. 1057), second wife of Tancred de Hauteville.
- Guimara (Wimarc(a)) (b. circa 986), died Abbey of Montivilliers, Seine-Inferieure, Normandy, wife of Ansfred (Ansfroi) II “le Dane” le Goz, vicomte of Exmes and Falaise, mother of Robert FitzWimarc
Count of Rouen
Death: 20 November 996 (aged about 64)
Place of Death: Fecamp, Normandy
House: House of Normandy
Heraldry: Blason du duché de Normandie
My Family Connection: 32nd Great-Grandfather
Life and Times of Richard I, the fearless (933 – 996)
Who is Richard I?
Richard Fitzwilliam, also known as Richard I, and Richard the Fearless, is the third ruler of Normandy. His reign spans for a period of more than 50 years, starting at a very young age from 942 up until his death in 996. This long time led to the conversion of the Duchy of Normandy from a pirate principality into a feudal state.
Born on August 28, 933 in Upper Normandy, Fécamp, Seine-Maritime, Normandy, France, Richard I is the eldest son of William I Longsword, Duke of Normandy, and Sprota, Countess of Normandy. He has sired many children from his second marriage, including Richard the Good, who succeeded his throne, Robert, Archbishop of Rouen, to name a few. There were several illegitimate children from his mistresses as well.
Before his reign
At about 9 years old, Richard I was a minor when his father was murdered in 942. He succeeded in his throne when he was 10 under the guardianship of Bernard le Danois. This was taken advantage of Louis IV, who seized Normandy and confined Richard I at Laon. He then split up the Duchy by awarding the lower lands to Hugh the Great. Young as he is, Richard I escaped with the help of Osmond de Centville, Bernard de Senlis, Ivo de Bellesme, and Bernard the Dane.
Richard I found allies in Norman and Viking leaders when he was around the age of 14. He also got the support of King Harold of Denmark and fought in a battle again Louis IV to reclaim Normandy. He succeeded when Louis IV finally accepted Richard I as the rightful duke. Richard I formed an alliance with Hugh, Count of Paris, who promised him his daughter to be his bride.
With Rouen as his stronghold, Richard I faced another battle with Theobald I, Count of Blois’ invasion. But with the strong command of Richard I, they defeated the Count’s troops with them retreating just before they reached the Seine river. It was then inevitable for Richard I to take revenge so Lothair, King of the West Franks mitigated the situation, fearing war will break out between their territories. Hugh Capet was then given the title King of Franks in 987.
Retaliation from Louis IV
With the help of Arnulf I, Count of Flanders, Louis IV convinced Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor to fight Richard I and Hugh. They were successful in their endeavor, with the defeat of Richard I, driving them away from Rouen towards Amiens. For several years, there was peace in the region. Louis IV then died in 954, and was succeeded by his 13 year-old son Lothair as King. At this point, Richard I was assigned by Hugh as the guardian of his young son Hugh Capet who was 15 years old.
Alliances born out of marriage
Richard I knew that marriages can solidify alliances among principalities. With his betrothal to Emma, an alliance was created between Paris and Normandy versus the French royal house. This was even fortified, with Emma’s brother Hugh Capet becoming the king in 987.
Gunnora, his second wife was affiliated with the Vikings from Cotentin, with her sisters lending support to Richard I and the succeeding rulers of Normandy. Even the marriage of his daughters proved useful in strengthening allies with Counts from nearby towns and more importantly to the King of England. Emma wed King Ethelred the Unready, followed by Cnut the Great, who also became the King of England. Maud was married to Odo II, Count of Blois, but died young and childless.
Richard I had an excellent relationship with the Church. He engaged in prayer and supported the building of monasteries in Normandy. He rebuilt an ancient abbey at Fecamp, where his palace was near. Most of the churches were said to be beautifully designed in and out. His reign then went on to become relatively peaceful until his death in 996.
Taking back Normandy
He was about 27 years when he finally came to full power. He was able to subdue Rodulf Torta, who tried to lead an uprising in the principality. Rodulf was then banished, and went to Paris. His troops defeated the Otto army when it planned to invade Rouen as revenge for Richard I’s escape from captivity during Louis IV’s seizure of the region. Richard I won over the French army after King Lothair invaded Evreux.
William, an Italian abbot from Saint Benigne in Dijon went to reform the abbeys in Normandy by placing monks at Mont Saint Michel and Fecamp upon the invitation of Richard I. Richard I also entered into an agreement with King Ethelred to deny shelter to the plunderous Vikings.
During his reign, Richard I overcame the challenges of being a ruler of Normandy and was able to secure his position by surrounding himself with the Norman elite. In the last 30 years of his life, Richard I focused on Normandy affairs instead of participating in Frankish politics and battles.
Given his education at Bayeux, Richard I was bilingual, being fluent in Danish aside from French. Normandy became Gallic and Christian under his rule. The region became a feudal state, with a new Norman military program that is primarily based on cavalry. Richard I then stabilized the Duchy, particularly the ones ruled by his father and grandfather. He formed a unity among the Normans, making the principality the most formidable at the time.
Emma, who was the daughter of Hugh the Great from France and Hedwig von Sachsen from the Otto dynasty, was Richard I’s first wife. According to historical accounts, Richard I did not love her and only married her for political advantage given Emma’s father who was Count of Paris, Orleans, and Vexin. She lived in solitude and died very young at 19 without children.
Not long after since his wife’s demise, Richard I fell for Seinfreda who he saw at a forester’s house when he went out to hunt. Seinfreda was married, however, and was morally upright, so she did not want to be his mistress. Instead, she suggested her own sister Gunnor of Crepon, who was unmarried, to be a potential lover for Richard I.
Gunnor went on to become his mistress and together, they bore many children. Being both of Viking descent, Richard decided to eventually marry her, which have turned their illegitimate children into legitimate heirs.
Richard I sired many children out of wedlock as well, given his mistresses. They are Geoffrey, Count of Eu, William, Count of Eu, and Beatrice of Normandy. There are some that might well be his children, but there is no definitive evidence to prove it. They include Muriella, who was married to Tancred de Hauteville, a Norman petty lord. Tancred de Hauteville took her sister as his second wife, who is possibly Richard I’s illegitimate daughter as well. And Guimara, who was the wife of Ansfred le Goz, Viscount of Exmes and Falaise.
The third Duke of Normandy died on November 20, 996 at the age of 63 in 996 in Fecamp, Normandy. There was a story that tells of a large hollow stone located along a path that led to a doorway. It resembled a big chest, which was what Richard I wanted to be his final coffin. But prior to his death, it became a container of doled out money and the finest grain contributed by the poor.
Richard I was succeeded by his son Richard II as the fourth Duke of Normandy.
Stephen Robert Kuta