Gunnora

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Gonnora confirming a charter of the abbey of Mont Saint Michel, 12th century (from archive of the abbey). Here she signed using her actual title of countess

Gunnora (or Gunnor) (c. 950c. 1031), "Duchess" of Normandy,[a] was the wife of Richard I, Duke of Normandy. She was an important figure in his reign and those of her sons.

Career[change | edit source]

Gunnora belonged to a family from the Pays de Caux area in Normandy.[5] Gunnora was probably born c. 950.[6] Her family was very influential in western Normandy and Gunnora was said to be very wealthy.[7] Her marriage to Richard I was of great political importance.[8] It allied him with a powerful rival family in the Cotentin.[9] Her brother, Herfast de Crepon, was the progenitor of a great Norman family.[7] Her sisters and nieces married some of the most important nobles in Normandy.[10]

At the time the Normans were used to more than one kind of marriage. Richard I wanted his son Robert to become the Archbishop of Rouen.[11] He was told the church would not allow it because he and Gunnora were not married in a Christian ceremony.[11] So he married Gunnora "according to the Christian custom", making their children legitimate in the eyes of the church.[11]

Gunnora signed many ducal charters up into the 1020s. She was skilled in languages and had an excellent memory.[12] She was a source of information on Norman history for Dudo of St. Quentin.[13] Her husband depended on her as is shown in the couple's charters where she held several important positions. She was at times regent of Normandy, a mediator and a judge. In a typical roll for a medieval aristocratic mother, she was an arbitrator between her husband and their oldest son Richard II.[12] As Richard I's widow she is mentioned as being active in her sons' careers.[12]

Gunnora was a founder and supporter of Coutances Cathedral and laid its first stone.[14] In one of her own charters after Richard's death she gave two pieces of land (called allods) to the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. These were Britavilla and Domjean which were part of her dowry. She gave them for the soul of her husband, for her own soul and that of her sons "count Richard, archbishop Robert, and others..."[15] She also signed a charter, c. 1024–26, to that same abbey as Gonnor matris comitis (Gunnor, mother of the count).[3] Gunnora, as wife and countess, was able to use her influence to see her kin favored, and several of the most prominent Anglo-Norman families on both sides of the English Channel are descended from her, her sisters and her nieces.[12] Gunnora died c. 1031.[6]

Family[change | edit source]

Richard and Gunnora were parents to several children:

Notes[change | edit source]

  1. At the time Gunnora lived, there were no dukes or duchesses of Normandy. Her husband Richard I, used the title of count of Rouen. He later used the title of "count and consul".[1] In the 960s Richard I used the title of marquis, a common title of the time for counts who were overlords to other counts.[2] Gunnora would have not used the title of duchess as her husband did not use the title of duke. Her title was countess and she is so styled in a charter to Mont Saint-Michel (1024-26).[3] Calling her husband a duke (or her a duchess) remains a title of convenience used by historians.[4]

References[change | edit source]

  1. David C. Douglas, 'The Earliest Norman Counts', The English Historical Review, Vol. 61, No. 240 (May, 1946), p. 130.
  2. David Crouch, The Normans: The History of a Dynasty (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), p. 19
  3. 3.0 3.1 Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, ed. J. Horace Round (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1899), p. 249
  4. François Neveux, The Normans; The Conquests that Changed the Face of Europe, trans. Howard Curtis (London: Constable & Robinson Ltd., 2008), p. 69
  5. Francois Neveux, A Brief History of the Normans (London: Constable and Robinson, Ltd., 2008), p. 73
  6. 6.0 6.1 Elisabeth Van Houts, The Normans in Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), p. 40 n.56
  7. 7.0 7.1 David Crouch, The Normans; the History of a Dynasty (London, New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), p. 26
  8. K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, 'Poppa of Bayeux and Her Family', The American Genealogist, Poppa of Bayeux and Her Family, Vol. 74, No. 2 (July/October 1997), pp. 203-04
  9. David Crouch, The Normans; the History of a Dynasty (London; New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), pp. 26 & 42
  10. David Crouch, The Normans; the History of a Dynasty (London, New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), pp. 26-27
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Elisabeth Van Houts, The Normans in Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), p. 96
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Elisabeth Van Houts, The Normans in Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), p. 59
  13. Elisabeth M. C. Van Houts, Memory and Gender in Medieval Europe: 900–1200 (Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1999), p. 72
  14. Elisabeth Van Houts, The Normans in Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), pp. 22, 40 n. 56
  15. Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, ed. J. Horace Round (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1899), p. 250
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 Detlev Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Neue Folge, Band II (Marburg, Germany: J. A. Stargardt, 1984), Tafel 79