Kingdom of Brittany 778–939


Map Code: Ax00648

The Roman emperor Maximus (r. 385–88) governed Britain before seizing power. When he moved on Rome, many of his veterans were demobbed in the Armorican peninsula, to be followed by more Britons fleeing Saxon invaders when the Roman Empire disintegrated. Hence the region became known as ‘Brittany’ to emphasize the connection; its western provinces were called Cornouaille (‘Cornwall’) and Domnonee (‘Devon’). In the post-Roman power vacuum, these principalities enjoyed autonomy until a new empire-builder, Charlemagne, sought to extend over-lordship. In 778, the hero of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, the Frankish military leader Roland, was ‘prefect of Brittany’ – perhaps warden of the Breton Marches. The Bretons then allied with Viking raiders and, when the Franks descended into civil war, the Breton leader, Nominoe, declared himself Duke of Brittany (846). His son, Erispoe, defeated the Franks at Jengland (851) and proclaimed himself king. The Franks ceded the Cotentin Peninsula and Maine regions to Brittany between 863–867 but the fledgling realm was eventually eroded by civil war and Norman attacks. In 937, Alan Twistedbeard finally repulsed the Normans with Frankish help: the price was French suzerainty.

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