Kingdom of Brittany

Kingdom of Brittany
The growth of the Kingdom of Brittany 845–67
Capital Not specified
Languages Breton, Gallo, Latin, French, Norman, Poitevin
Government Not specified
   Battle of Jengland 22 August 851
   Battle of Trans-la-Forêt 1 August 939
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Marches of Neustria
Duchy of Brittany
County of Rouen

The Kingdom of Brittany was a short-lived vassal-state of the Frankish Empire that emerged during the Norman invasions. Its history begins in 851 with Erispoe's claim to kingship. In 856, Erispoe was murdered and succeeded by his cousin Salomon. The kingdom fell into a period of turmoil caused by Norman invasions and a succession dispute between Solomon's murderers: Gurvand and Pascweten. Pascweten's brother, Alan, called the Great, was the third and last to be recognized as king of Brittany.[1] After his death, Brittany fell under Norman occupation. When Alan Twistedbeard, Alan the Great's grandson, reconquered Brittany in 939, Brittany became a duchy until its union with France in 1532.



At the end of the Antiquity period, Celtic Britons, fleeing the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain (5th-7th centuries), settled the western part of Armorican peninsula and the region was renamed Brittany ("little Britain"). As a result, Celtic culture was revived in the Gallo-Roman Armorica and independent petty kingdoms arose in this region, namely Cornouaille, Domnonée and Broërec.

From 801 to 837, the adjacent Frankish Empire tried several times to subdue the Briton tribes without success. In order to bring Brittany into the Empire's sphere of influence, Louis the Pious appointed Nominoe, a noble Briton, head of the region. Titled missus imperatoris ("Imperial emissary") by the Emperor, he was in charge of the administration of the province on his behalf.

Kingdom of Brittany

Viking invasions in the 9th and 10th centuries in Brittany.

Following the death of Louis the Pious and taking advantage of the Norman invasions destabilizing the Frankish Empire, Nominoe defeated Frankish troops at the Battle of Ballon (845). The peace treaty that followed allowed Nominoe to increase his autonomy towards Charles the Bald, the successor of Louis the Pious on the Imperial throne. In 850, the Britons briefly occupied the Frankish Breton March, but following Nominoe's untimely death they retreated to their historical lands.

Seeking revenge, Charles the Bald attacked Erispoe, Nominoe's son and successor, at the Battle of Jengland (851). As the Britons decisively defeated the Franks, Brittany became a vassal kingdom of the Frankish Empire, making Erispoe the first king of Brittany. In 856, the Kingdom of Brittany and the Frankish Empire allied themselves to counter the Norman invasions. But Erispoe was murdered the same year by his cousin Salomon who took the throne of Brittany and allied himself with the Normans to capture the Frankish city of Le Mans. Charles the Bald bought peace with the Britons by giving away the provinces of Cotentin (863) and Maine (867). In 874, Salomon was murdered in a conspiracy involving Pascweten and Gurvand, but a civil war ensued between them. Both claimants died in 876, but war continued between their respective successors Alan (Pascweten's brother) and Judicael (Gurvand's son). In a momentary truce, Alan and Judicael allied themselves to counter Norman attacks. In one of those attacks in Questembert in 888, Judicael died and Alan became king of Brittany as Alan I.

End of the Kingdom

Alan died in 907 and was succeeded, after a disputed succession, by Gourmaëlon who did not claim the title of king. Little is known about his reign as Norman raids increased dramatically, destabilizing the region further. It was probably during one of these attacks that Gourmaëlon died in 913. From 919, Brittany was completely occupied by the Normans, monasteries and cities were looted and many Britons fled to neighbouring countries. In 935, Alan Twistedbeard (Alan I's grandson), who had fled to England a few years earlier, disembarked on the shores of Brittany in order to reconquer his domain. By 937, he had reconquered most of Brittany and the Normans retreated to their stronghold of Trans-la-Forêt. In 939, a combined army of Frankish and Briton soldiers attacked the forteress and eliminate the Norman threat in Brittany. With his domain ruined by decades of occupation and war, Alan Twistedbeard was not in a position to restore the kingship of Brittany and paid tribute as duke of Brittany to king Louis IV of France in 942.[2][3]

The kings of Brittany


  1. Les rois de Bretagne IVe-Xe siècle, de Tourault
  2. John T. Koch. Celtic culture : a historical encyclopedia. ABC Clio Eds (2006) p34.
  3. Joëlle Quaghebeur. La Cornouaille du IXe au XIIe siècle : Mémoire, pouvoirs, noblesse. Société archéologique du Finistère (2001) p83.

Ashley, Michael (1998). The Mammoth Book of British Kings & Queens: The Complete Biographical Encyclopedia of the Kings and Queens of Britain. Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7867-0405-7. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 

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