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Normandy

History

The Vikings invaded present-day Normandy in the 9th century. Many of the Scandinavian raiders established settlements in the area and adopted Christianity. In 911 French king Charles the Simple and Viking chief Hrölfr agreed that the area around Rouen should be handed over to these Norsemen – or Normans, as they came to be known.

In 1066 the duke of Normandy crossed the English Channel with 6000 soldiers. His forces crushed the English in the Battle of Hastings, and the duke – henceforth known as William the Conqueror – was crowned king of England. The Channel Islands (Îles Anglo-Normandes), just off the Norman coast, came under English rule in the same year and remain so to this day. During the 11th and 12th centuries many churches were built in Normandy in the Romanesque style.

Throughout the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) the duchy seesawed between French and English rule. England dominated Normandy for some 30 years until France gained permanent control in 1450. In the 16th century, Normandy, a Protestant stronghold, was the scene of much fighting between Catholics and Huguenots.

On 6 June 1944 – better known as D-Day – some 45, 000 Allied troops landed on beaches near Bayeux, heralding the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, the decisive campaign that led to the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe. Freedom came at a terrible price, however – over 425, 000 Allied and German casualties, and more than 15, 000 civilian deaths. Eventually, the German resistance was broken and Paris was liberated on 25 August.