Viking is ‘forefather to British royals’

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

    • 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


      • Tom Just Olsen says:

        The European population in year 1066 was ‘about 50 million people’. We are ‘all’ in family with Rollo, – who ever he was. Pure math!

    • 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.

      • Tom Just Olsen says:

        The European population in year 1066 was ‘about 50 million people’. We are ‘all’ in family with Rollo, – who ever he was.

      • Well Actually that’s not True about Queen Anne being the last Stuart. Charles and Henry Stuart were the blood relatives by the male line, but they were catholic, so they Hanovers were put in place.

  2. Rolf Laugaland says:

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

    • 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!

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

        No last successful conquest of England!!

      • Michael Andersen says:

        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.

        • Tom Just Olsen says:

          A very important point! So, ‘England’ had already been conquered by the vikings – long before year 1066. What we see happen in 1066 is an internal fight between vikings about who shall rule England, to my opinion. Harold Godwinson is called England’s last Saxon king. But was he? Harold Godwinson was ‘half viking’ himself. He would not have been near any crown had he not been. The battles of 1066 was an internal viking affair.

  3. 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.

  4. Still awaiting the DNA results from Project Rollo.

  5. mothergoddess says:

    Ha ha! Speaking of 33 lines down, just recently found out my grandmother, Daisy Chamberlain is a very distant American relative of Rollo through the English Chamberlains when they came from Normandy with Wm the Conqueror, as their chamberlains and later adopted the title as their last name. Wm was the bastard son of the 3rd Duke of Normandy.

  6. It’s very likely(if not 98 percent certain) that Rollo was a DANE.

  7. have the results f the DNA study been released and published?

  8. Lilyrose says:

    your forgot, Italian and Spanish.(plus Russian and Eastern Europeans see the Rus) The Leone family, as in their most famous member, Juan Ponce de Leone, is in the Denmark project. He discovered Florida. He was also on the 2nd Voyage of Columbus. He was a basque on his mom’s side, but on the male line he was a Dane. He goes back to Ponce de Minerve in Minerve France. They were Cathars and fled to the Spanish Basque country. Ponce has descendants and relatives on the island of Sicily, and the island of Puerto Rico. Juan Ponce de Leone’s brother was Viceroy of Naples Italy.

  9. Martin Christensen says:

    The result of the DNA test was that he was very likely Danish.
    Since the chronicles that describe him as Danish is older than the Norwegian and Icelandic ones that describe him as Norwegian, I guess him being Danish was also the result to be expected.

  10. Lynda Rolfe says:

    Just read this . My Rolfe family tree is in Shipton -Bellinger and Asserton farm Wiltshire . I have traced it to the 1500s . The record of this family was done by a Rolfe who sat on the board of genealogy in London . If I had your Rolfe ancestor name I could look it up

  11. Alex Hicks says:

    Our current royal family are Germans and Dutch the real descendants now are normal people or gone. I thought we lost all the Viking when the scots took over with James the first of England

    • Sam Harris says:

      The current royal family is from English stock, majority of royal houses are related to each other. Rollo is ancestor to practically every royal house and nobles that can trace their blood to these ancestors.

  12. Sam Harris says:

    The only DNA testing they are doing is to determine Rollo’s origins and this was in Nov. of 2017.

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