Viking is ‘forefather to British royals’

A joint Norwegian-French investigation hopes to reveal that Norwegian Viking noble Ganger Hrólf was the same person as Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy – and the forefather of the British royal family.

Rollo as depicted in the town of Falaise. PHOTO: Michael Shea / Wikipedia Commons

Rollo, sometimes known as Robert I, is estimated to have lived between 846 and 931 AD, and was the first ruler of a Viking settlement in France that later became Normandy. His direct descendants became the British royal family after the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066, when Rollo’s great-great-great-grandson, William the Conqueror (William I of England), successfully conquered England. William the Conqueror’s direct descendants include current Queen Elizabeth II.

Danish or Norwegian?
Danish and Norwegian historians have long debated whether Rollo came originally from Denmark or Norway. Accounts by Dudo of St. Quentin and others name Rollo as the son of a Danish king, while many Icelandic and Norwegian sagas equate Rollo with Ganger Hrólf (Hrólf the Walker), the son of a Norwegian earl from Sunnmøre in west Norway. Ganger Hrólf (written as Gange-Rolv in Norwegian) is believed to have become an earl of Normandy after conflict with Harald Fairhair, also known as the first king of Norway. A statue of Rollo by a French sculptor was given to the west Norwegian city of Ålesund in 1911, when debate between Norwegian and Danish historians first raged, during celebrations of 1000 years since the founding of Normandy.

Newspaper Aftenposten reports that French and Norwegian researchers now hope to prove that Rollo was indeed Ganger Hrólf. They plan to use DNA samples from Rollo’s grandson and great grandson, Richard I and Richard II respectively, to find out for certain, as no remnants of Rollo himself are available. As Danish and Norwegian Viking kings had separate familial lines, it is hoped that the research will clear up the mystery of Rollo’s origin.

‘Large French-Norwegian collaboration’
The investigation itself has been in doubt over uncertainties as to whether French authorities would allow the opening of Richard I and Richard II’s crypts, which are found at a Benedictine monastery in Fecamp on the north coast of France. The Norwegian consulate in Paris has been involved in negotiations. A researcher with research foundation Explioco, Sturla Ellingvåg, told Aftenposten that “we reckon that the eventual opportunity to find Rollo’s DNA is good” after discussions with French authorities. Ellingvåg, who is working with Professor Per Holck from the Anatomical Institute at the National Hospital in Oslo among others, added that “we had extremely positive meetings with the local authorities in Rouen and Fecamp” and look forward to “a large French-Norwegian collaboration.”

The researchers now await an approval process that could last a month. In anticipation of a positive answer, the Norwegian team is planning to travel to France “in the first half of July,” and hope to finish their work by the end of September, before the marking of Rollo’s 1100-year anniversary and the establishing of Viking settlements in Normandy.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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  • Neal

    Interesting story but the British Royal Family today are of German descent, the Windsors come from the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

    • Aled

      Hi Neal,

      Certainly, the British Royal family has a lot of German blood in it now, as well as numerous other family ties to royal families from across Europe.
      But it is also true that William I (William the Conqueror) is the 22nd great-grandfather of Elizabeth II. There is a direct line of succession that passes from William I to Elizabeth II, and therefore Rollo (William I’s great-great-great-grandfather) is very distantly related to the current Queen.
      Wikipedia has quite a good explanation of this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_descent_from_William_I_to_Elizabeth_II.

      Aled

    • BobInBpt

      Yes, that’s true, but you must remember that the “bloodline” runs through the royal families of not only England, but Scotland, France,Holland, Germany and Spain, not to mention, Russia. The reason that the crown departed from the Scottish line is because the last of the direct line of Stuarts, Queen Anne, died with no living children. Consequently, the crown went to the Hanover line because George I, was the nearest living relative.

      James I of England and VI th of Scotland, fathered Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662), who married Frederick V, King of Bohemia and Elector Palatine. Elizabeth and Frederick bore Sophia (1630-1714) who married Ernst Augustus, Elector of Hanover. Together, they bore a son George, later George I of Hanover who was the great-grandson of James I of England and VI th of Scotland. So, in actuality, the Scottish Stuart bloodline runs through the Hanover’s and down into the present day current Royal Family even more-so in the person of Prince William of Wales who also has Stuart blood from his mother, Diana’s side of the family.

      Yes, the Scottish blood flows equally with the Hanover blood, but it is still there. It’s in all their DNA, just as it is in my family, with my sister-in-law and my nephews being descendants of Rollo, even though the other side of the family is Slavik.

  • Rolf Laugaland

    Napoleon couldn’t do it. Hitler couldn’t do it. But Norwegian Vikings managed to conquer the British Isles. Bloody typical!!

    • Aled

      Well, the interesting thing is that one of the reason’s why the Normans were so successful in their invasion in 1066 was because Harold III of Norway had invaded Britain just beforehand from the north. Harold II of England had to force march his troops, who were much depleted after beating the Vikings at Stamford Bridge in north England, down to Hastings in south England to battle the Normans, where they ultimately lost.

      So you could say that the combination of two invasions – both essentially Norwegian/Viking in origin – led to the last successful conquest of Britain!

      • Alasdair

        Quote ‘led to the last successful conquest of Britain!’

        No last successful conquest of England!!

        • Aled Dilwyn-Fisher

          Quite right. You’d think a Welsh person like me would never make that mistake so easily…

      • Michael Andersen

        All the 4 parties (yes 4) in that war had royal Scandinavian Viking blood in the veins. Wikipedia is your friend.

        Harold Godwinson
        Harold Hardrada
        William the Conqueror
        Sweyn II Estridsson Ulfsson

        All were directly or indirectly part of royal viking families.

        The English royal family of today is actually much closer descendants of the Vikings than the Scandinavian royal families of today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=602183980 John David Massey

    This is a very interesting article and discussion below. Does anyone know when the results are going to surface? Explico sure is taking a long time at this. There are a lot of people anxiously awaiting these results.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=602183980 John David Massey

    Still awaiting the DNA results from Project Rollo.

    • kevin

      Still. No updates on the findings?