The Kingdom of Brittany emerged from the combination of the three earlier kingdoms of Armorica: Vannetais, Domnonee and Broerec. It is one of the six predecessors to what are now known as the six Celtic nations. The question of whether the kingdom was truly independent figures prominently in the history of its succcessor state, the sovereign Duchy of Brittany. The Kingdom of Brittany preceded the Duchy which remained an independent sovereign state until its merger into the Kingdom of France in the 1500s.
The area governed by the kingdom represents one of the largest contiguous areas of the Breton people and is largely represented by Armorica, the northwestern peninsula of continental Europe. It was occupied by the Romans, who are understood to have used today's Carhaix as a trading center and possibly also an administrative center.
Three peoples contributed to the establishment of the kingdom. The Romans documented many Celtic tribes in Armorica. The Kingdom of Vannetais centered around the town of Vannes represented the largest of the three precursors, forming a core component of the Kingdom of Brittany.
The geographical area of Brittany was populated by several sets of immigrants from Cornwall and Wales as well as from other parts of the Britain and Ireland. The kingdom of Domnonee was thought to have been founded by settlers from Dumnonia in south western Britain, and developed along separate lines after the western portion of the British Isles fell to Anglo-Saxon invaders. The early kingdom of Broerec was the smallest of the three Breton precursor kingdoms and was founded by the Breton warlord Waroch.
The less definitive eastern and southeastern boundaries of the kingdom reflected attempts by various invaders to control Armorica. The Frankish kings, the Duke of Normandy and finally the Kings of France continued these attempts until the Duchy of Brittany eventually became part of France. At one point the Frankish emperors documented Vannes as the western most Breton city over which they held influence. The Breton March was often managed from the city of Nantes. The medieval kings of France, notably, Charles V of France, were not able penetrate Brittany, not even Carhaix.
The Kingdom of Brittany resulted from the merger of the kingdoms of Vannetais, Domnonee and Broerec.
Establishment of the kingdom
The region crystallized as a kingdom when Erispoe was appointed King of Brittany in 851. Erispoe was the son of Nomenoe, the missus imperatoris to Brittany from the Kingdom of France since 831. Nominoe had however rebelled against Charles the Bald in 845 following a dispute over the County of Nantes. Breton independence from the Emperor was attained through victories at the Battle of Ballon (845) and the Battle of Jengland-Besl (851), after which King Charles granted Erispoe the status of a vassal king.
Brittany sank into a period of unrest brought about by succession quarrels following the death of Salomon in 874 as well as by Viking invasions. As a result the title of king lapsed. The successors of Alain Barbetorte ruled as sovereign dukes rather than kings. However their independence was shown by their relationships with the kingdoms of France and England. Louis IV of France stated that Brittany was not a part of his kingdom while it was fighting and overcoming the Viking invaders. Once peace had been established, the Viking leader Rollo was named Duke of Normandy, a vassal of the King of France. In regard to England, at various times the Dukes of Brittany were named heirs presumptive to the King of England. On other occasions, the King of England invaded Brittany in order to gain control over it. In the last such English invasion, Conan II won peace from the English and made Henry II of England the Count of Nantes, a vassalage to the Duchy of Brittany.
The Kingdom of Brittany as precursor to the Duchy of Brittany
In the early 10th century, the Viking occupations permanently altered the nature of the Kingdom of Brittany. When the Vikings were eventually expelled, the new rulers of Brittany were generally entitled dukes rather than kings, although their independence from foreign crowns was largely maintained, with varying degrees of success.
The Kings of Brittany
Judicael ap Hoel (ca 590-657) - Breton High King, King of Domnonee; united the Breton kingdoms of Domnonee and Broerec; recognized Dagobert I and Eligius
Morman (reigned 814 818)- first ruler named King of Brittany by the Breton nobles upon the death of Charlemagne in 814, whom he had served as a vassus
- Period of Frankish rule under Louis the Pious (819-822) - Morman rebelled against Frankish rule but was defeated by Louis the Pious. During this period Brittany was also threatened by the Breton March.
Wihomarc (reigned 822 825) - led a successful rebellion against Frankish rule to re-establish Breton rule; killed by Lambert I, Count of Nantes of the Breton March
Nominoe (or Nevenoe) (ruled 841 851), a Count of Vannes, first Duke of Brittany
Erispoe (ruled 851 857), a Count of Vannes, son of Nominoe; ruled as Duke, then as King
- assassinated at a Church Altar, at the time a place of asylum, by Salomon, his cousin
- his daughter married Gurvand
Salomon (or Salaun) (reigned 857 874), a Count of Rennes and a Count of Nantes
- led a revolt against Erispoe;
- ruled as Duke, then as King based upon the Coronet and Purple Robes bestowed upon him by the Emperor; the last ruler of unified Brittany until Alan I;
- attempted to have the Pope award the pallium to the Bishopric of Dol in an effort to obtain its independence from the Metropolitan of Tours;
- assassinated in a revolt led in part by Pasquitan, Count of Vannes, his son-in-law and Gurvand, the son-in-law of Erispoe;
- canonized a saint and raised to the level of matyr
- Period of Divided Rule during a Civil War and the First Viking Invasion (874 - 888)
- Southern Brittany
- Northern Brittany
Alan I, or Alan the Great,
- (reigned 877 - 888) succeeded Pasquitan, and reigned from 877 to 888 with Judicael, then,
- (reigned 888 - 907) ruled alone as a duke upon Judica l's death,
- granted the title of King or 'rex Brittani ' by the Emperor Charles the Fat;
- the last King of Brittany
- The second Viking invasion and occupation (907-937)
- Alan I's son Mathuedoi, Count of Poher, and his son (who would become Alan II) fled Brittany and lived in exile with the King of England. Mathuedoi was a king in exile but never crowned.
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