Normans were descendants of the Vikings who settled in northern France in the 10th century. After establishing a stronghold in Normandy, Normans began ranging into different parts of Europe by using their military strength for which they were famous.
Initially serving as mercenaries for various European monarchs, the Normans carved out many kingdoms of their own in time. They founded the Kingdom of Sicily, conquered England in 1066, extended their control and influence to Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and founded the Principality of Antioch in the Levant.
Their military exploits permanently changed the political and social outlook of medieval Europe. Following are some of the most famous Norman people.
William Iron Arm
William Iron Arm was a son of the famed Norman leader, Tancred of Hauteville. In the first half of the 11th century, William earned fame as a skilled and valorous mercenary when fighting in Sicily alongside the Lombards in the Byzantine campaign against the Saracens.
It was here that in recognition of his battlefield valour, he was given the epithet ‘Iron Arm’. Once taking Sicily from the Saracens, a major revolt under the Normans forced Byzantines to give up the island. William, as one of the chief Norman leaders of rebellion, was instrumental in the success of the Norman cause.
William subsequently became the lord of Ascoli and attempted the conquest of Calabria in 1044. His successful military exploits laid the basis of the fortunes of the Hauteville family which would remain in power in different parts of Europe for more than a century.
Robert of Jumieges
Robert of Jumieges was the first Archbishop of Canterbury who came from Norman descent. He was appointed as the archbishop in 1051 as the Anglo-Saxon England started to become Normanised under the rule of Edward the Confessor.
His appointment was a major cause of resentment between Edward and his Anglo-Saxon barons, eventually culminating in the exile of the Earl of Wessex, Godwin. After Godwin returned from exile in 1052 and forced Edward to a compromise, Robert fled England sensing his life was in danger.
His treatment at the hands of the Anglo-Saxon nobility was a famous excuse that William The Conqueror used for his 1066 conquest of England.
Odo, Earl of Kent
Odo was one of the most famous personalities involved in the Norman invasion of England in 1066. A Norman nobleman, Odo was half-brother to William the Conqueror who made him the bishop of Bayeux in 1049.
Odo was one of the most important advisers of William during the conquest of England and actively participated alongside William in the military exploits on British Isles. He was subsequently appointed Earl of Kent in 1067 and became the most powerful man in England after the King himself.
In 1076, he was tried for misappropriation from royal treasury and had to relinquish many properties. In 1082, William imprisoned Odo over the latter’s plans to travel to Italy with a military expedition. After William’s death in 1087, Odo became politically active once again.
In 1097, he decided to participate in the First Crusade and died on the journey. Odo was considered one of the most ambitious Normans of his time.