In the Palaeolithic age at the beginning of pre-history, Homo Sapiens was walking by that time in the forests of Normandy, discovering streams of sparkling water. We can find evidence of this in the Neolithic shelters embedded in the 5000 year old rock formations. The inhabitants of the country domesticated goats, pigs, horses and more
importantly they began to erect enormous stones known as the `Standing Stones' or `Gargantua's Stones' which have always been surrounded by such mystery that we have a tendency to think of them as burial places.
In the Bronze Age, they became experts at the fusion of copper and tin.
The story starts to become Gallic only after the passing of the Celts, who came mainly from Central Europe. The Gauls formed tribes: The Véliocasses at Vexin, the Lexiviens at Lisieux, the Eburovices at Evreux, etc...
The Gauls, both good workers and soldiers, were by nature undisciplined and turbulent and tended not to fight in a cohesive way, it wasn't too difficult for Caesar's Legionaries to soon become the masters of the region.
Our amateurs in the Art of making good barley beer and charcuterie allowed themselves to become civilised by the Romans for more than 4 centuries; no more now the winding paths trodden by the Gauls and mapped out on a whim, the roads were cut in a straight line of paved tree-lined streets; temples and public baths were built, Roman organisation was put in place, and the Gauls began to change, even learning Latin.
Next came a whole bunch of invaders, the Franks, the Saxons, the Alains and many others all took their turn at invading Roman Gaul.
Until the day when in 820 peasants living in coves along the Seine saw in the distance ten or so curious war ships called Snekkar by the men from the North, Drakkar because of the animal sculpted into the prow or the stern, which was actually a dragon. These enormous boats moved swiftly whether rowed or under sail contained sometimes as many as fifty men along with their animals; the men from the North didn't travel with their women as they could easily find them on the spot ! Swearing by the names of Thor and Odin, our merry Vikings plundered, pillaged, raped and slaughtered up until 911 when the famous treaty of Saint Clair sur Epte was signed between the Frank king Charles the Simple and Rollon or Rolf, chief of the men from the North; it's true that there were a few forays into Paris which gave king Charles something to think about.
Soon it was the time for William the Conqueror who,
on October14th, 1066 won the battle of Hastings. William's heirs were
known as the Plantagenets, and they reigned over Normandy and England.
From 1530 religious reform spread throughout Normandy, Luther and Calvin made their mark and the Civil War in the name of the father divided the province, creating two different parliaments, Protestant in Caen and ultra-Catholic in Rouen. It's because of this that Henry IV, an infamous warrior, facing the `Duc de Guise could win the famous battle at Ivry on march 14th 1590.
In April 1608, Champlain and Dupont-Gravé left
Honfleur along with some settlers, arriving in June at Tadoussac but
nevertheless the Normans were to play a part in the colonisation of
the New France at Quebec.
In 1685, after Louis XIV revocation of the Edict of
Nantes, many Protestant Normans went into exile in Holland, England
and Prussia (around 80,000 of them), at the same time bringing with
them their possessions and their knowledge.
`Napoleon Bonaparte' didn't spare Normandy from his
call-up for all young men of twenty or more to join the army, commandeering
horses and cattle to feed his `Grognards' thus sapping the life from
Not to be outdone, literature also flourished throughout
the region with Alphonse Allais, a humorist from Honfleur.
In June 1944, after four years of Nazi occupation it was on the beaches of Normandy that the combined Allied Forces landed to liberate Europe from the clutches of the Fascists. The Normans were to pay a high price however, with towns being flattened and the countryside devastated by the Royal Air Force and the American bomber command. More than three thousand civilians were sacrificed in the name of military strategy.
The Memorial Of Caen This is a powerful call for peace
at a time of War in Normandy.
The War diary of Dr Soubiran