Former duchy of northwest France now divided into two regions: Haute-Normandie and Basse-Normandie; area 29,900 sq km/11,544 sq mi; population (both parts, 1999 est) 3,202,400. Normandy was named after the Viking Norsemen (Normans) who conquered and settled in the area in the 9th century. As a French duchy it reached its peak under William the Conqueror and was renowned for its centres of learning established by Lanfranc and St Anselm. Normandy was united with England from 1100 to 1135. England and France fought over it during the Hundred Years' War, England finally losing it in 1449 to Charles VII. In World War II the Normandy beaches were the site of the Allied invasion on D-day, 6 June 1944.
The main towns are Alençon, Bayeux, Caen, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Deauville, Lisieux, Le Havre, and Rouen. Features of Normandy include the painter Monet's restored home and garden at Giverny; Mont St Michel; Château Miromesnil, the birthplace of de Maupassant; Victor Hugo's house at Villequier; and Calvados apple brandy.
In the time of the Romans the region became part of the province of Gallia Lugdunensis II. It was conquered by the Franks in the 5th century, becoming part of Neustria (the western Frankish kingdom), and was first called Normandy after Charles the Simple, in 911, had given it to Rollo, the leader of the Norsemen who had repeatedly devastated the region during the 9th century, to be held by him and his heirs as a fief of the French crown. Rollo thus became the first duke of Normandy, and the Norsemen (or Normans) soon accepted Christianity.
Rollo's descendant, William II, son of Robert II, became Duke of Normandy in 1036, and in 1066 established a Norman dynasty on the throne of England, as William the Conqueror. In 1077 his eldest son, Robert, wrested Normandy from him, but it was again united to England under Henry I in 1105. Henry II, the son of Henry I's daughter Matilda, after the death of Stephen of Blois, obtained in 1154 the government of England and Normandy; but in the reign of his son, John Lackland (John I of England), it was conquered by Philip Augustus (1203-04).
It remained a part of the French monarchy for more than 200 years, but after the Battle of Agincourt (1415) it was reconquered by the English, who held it till 1449, when it was finally wrested from them by Charles VII.
In 1870 Normandy was partly occupied by the Germans. In World War I it was the principal supply base of the British Army. Normandy suffered severely during World War II, particularly in the campaign of 1944, and many famous towns, such as Le Havre, Caen, and Lisieux, were almost destroyed, and had to be rebuilt.
This region of lowland, gentle hills, and farmland is particularly suited to livestock raising (and the production of milk and cheese). Most of the industry is located along the lower course of the Seine; oil refineries, textile mills, and metal and chemical plants are located within the urban belt between Rouen and Le Havre, one of France's chief seaports. Along the coast there are three nuclear power plants, and a nuclear reprocessing centre is in operation at La Hague, near Cherbourg. Tourism has also become an important industry.
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