Episode 1: Rollo and the Viking Age
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They were the great success story of the Middle Ages, a footloose band of individual adventurers who appeared out of nowhere to blaze across the face of Dark Age Europe. In the course of two centuries the Normans launched a series of extraordinary conquests, transforming Anglo-Saxon England into Great Britain, setting up a powerful Crusader state in Antioch, and turning Palermo into the dazzling cultural and economic capital of the western Mediterranean. Their story, however, begins rather humbly in the fierce Viking Age, when a group of Scandinavian raiders came crashing into Charlemagne's empire. Join Lars Brownworth as he follows the ferocious warrior Rollo, the first Norman, who began life as a simple raider and ended it as a great lord of the West.
Episode 2: Richard the Fearless
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With the death of Rollo and his son, Normandy seemed poised on the brink of disaster. Its nobles were in open revolt and the King of France had seized the capital of Rouen. The legitimate heir, Richard I, was only nine years old- and a captive of the crown- yet against all expectations he grew into one of early Normandy's most formidable Dukes. Along the way he acquired the nickname of Richard the Fearless, and is remembered chiefly as the man who put Normandy on the map. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the dramatic career of the first Norman Duke.
Episode 3: Richard the Good
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At the start of Richard II's reign northern Europe was once again subjected to a wave of Viking attacks. The young Duke was faced with the question of what to do with his distant Norse brethren. Assist these pagans in their plunder and be labeled a pirate himself- or resist and become their next victim. His solution would intertwine the fate of Normandy with the kingdom of England, and lay the groundwork for the great conquest to come. In the process he would commission the first court historian and create a new identity for the Normans. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at both England and Normandy in the time of Richard the Good.
Episode 4: Magnificent Devil
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The reign of Robert I began under the dark suspicion of murder and descended into chaos as the young Duke struggled for control. Dogged by rumors of fratricide and a papal excommunication, he carried on a whirlwind romance with the beautiful Herleve and attempted the first invasion of England. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the tempestuous career of Robert I whose own subjects could never quite decide if he was Robert the Magnificent- or Robert the Devil.
Episode 5: William the Conqueror
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The young Duke William seemed destined not to survive his childhood. Orphaned before he was ten, he became a plaything of powerful nobles as one by one his guardians were killed off. Normandy descended into chaos as central authority disappeared and ambitious knights began to carve out their own independent kingdoms. The king of France, looking to exploit the situation, invaded the Duchy seizing castles and encouraging a general revolt. But against all these odds, William somehow triumphed, defying both king and nobility and stamping his authority over his Duchy as few others would. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the early career of Normandy's most famous Duke.
Episode 6: The Two Harolds
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England on the eve of the Conquest was torn between the old King Edward the Confessor and the powerful house of Godwin. With no clear heir apparent chosen, a predatory Normandy and the terrifying Harald Hardrada of Norway waited for their chance to seize the throne, while Harold of England tried desperately to keep the peace. As the year 1065 drew to it's close a royal death started a chain of events that would drastically alter the political landscape. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the most famous date in English history and the three would-be kings who struggled for the crown.
Episode 7: After Hastings
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King Harold wanted nothing more than a peaceful reign, but was destined to spend his time on the throne preparing for war. He had been crowned under the threat of a foreign invasion and had to fend of a major Viking attack in his first summer as king. Now as 1066 drew to a close he got word of the long-awaited Norman landing. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the Battle of Hastings and its aftermath.
Episode 8: William Iron-Arm
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In Duke Richard II's Normandy an impoverished knight named Tancred de Hauteville struggled to provide for his twelve sons. The eldest of them - William - declined his inheritance and headed to southern Italy to seek his trade as a mercenary. He was the first of the Normans to set foot in Sicily and, under the service of a Byzantine general, he found fame and fortune beyond his wildest hopes. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at William Iron-Arm, the man who set the foundations of a family legacy that would one day outshine even the Duke of Normandy.
Episode 9: The Rise of Robert Guiscard
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Robert Guiscard arrived in Italy as a simple knight, hoping to benefit from his brother's wealth and power. Instead he found his path blocked at every turn by petty jealousy and was sent off to rot in the most inhospitable place his sibling could think of. From these difficult beginnings, against the odds, Robert would build a base of power so formidable that not even the combined strength of a Pope and two Emperors could prevail against it. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the early career of the most brilliant general the Normans ever produced.
Episode 10: The Byzantine Wars
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By 1071 Robert Guiscard had risen to the height of power in Italy. The grumbling Lombards had been forced to grovel before him, the proud Norman barons recognized him as their unquestioned lord, and one of the greatest medieval popes depended on him for protection. But Robert was still restless and his eyes turned across the seas to the greatest prize of all- Byzantium: Queen of Cities and the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at Guiscard's final campaign to seize the imperial throne.
Episode 11: The Great Count
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Roger de Hauteville was a strange conqueror. The youngest of twelve sons he was the last to come to Italy and treated as the least capable of the siblings by a jealous Guiscard. His first raid in Sicily was a disaster that seemed to confirm the worst suspicions about him. But Roger persevered and over three decades he managed to carve out a kingdom that rivaled that of William the Conqueror's. Along the way he won one of the most spectacular battles in medieval history and managed to die with all of his vast conquests at peace. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the surprising life of the last Hauteville brother.
Episode 12: Rise of a King
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Roger II was never supposed to inherit his father's possessions. He was the youngest of 18 children, and only five when the Great Count died. The nobility dutifully pledged their allegiance but there seemed little chance that his mother - an Italian foreigner in the Norman court - could hold the regency until he matured. And yet, against the odds Roger II emerged from his uncertain childhood as the most forceful personality on the Mediterranean stage. Under him Norman rule in southern Italy blossomed into its most brilliant flower. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the rise of Roger II, Sicily's first and greatest king.
Episode 13: Rogerios Rex
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In the Spring of 1133 the new Norman Kingdom of Sicily seemed about to be shattered. Roger II, its creator and first king had backed the anti-Pope Anacletus II to gain his crown and in the process earned the hostility of most of Europe. Ranged against him were the emperors of both East and West, the most powerful cleric in Christendom - Bernard of Clairvaux, and the rightful Pope. Secular and papal armies were already on the march and Sicily's very survival was at stake. Through a mixture of Norman daring and southern cunning, Roger managed to stay one step ahead of his enemies, triumphing to become the equal of any of his ancestors. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the conclusion of the career of Sicily's greatest king.
Episode 14: William the Bad
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If Roger II had been the 'baptized Sultan', his son William forgot the water. Despised by his legendary father and never intended for the throne, William the Bad dedicated his life to the comforts of the palace, stirring only to lead his armies on the battlefield, the one area in which he excelled. Though he could at times be energetic and even brilliant as a general, his reign was stained by internal rebellions and the loss of international prestige. But however much his reputation was blackened by subsequent historians, William I was hardly the failure that he was made out to be. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the life of William the Bad, the Norman Kingdom's most maligned king.
Episode 15: William the Good
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William II presided over a golden age of internal peace and prosperity, and when he died suddenly in the flower of his youth, he was mourned as no other king of Sicily. Yet, while he may have been outwardly splendid, he wasn't a good ruler. If there was peace it was accidental; he committed the kingdom to ruinous foreign adventures, and squandered its resources. Worst of all he promised the throne to Sicily's greatest enemy in exchange for a temporary peace. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the reign of William II, the irresponsible and foolish king remembered by history as William the Good.
Episode 16: Tancred of Lecce
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Tancred of Lecce came to the throne of Sicily in its darkest hour. Mocked by his critics as the 'Monkey King', he was weakened by civil and religious unrest, and faced invasion by the mighty German Empire. But he never gave up, and through a mixture of energy and courage he fought his enemies at every step. His struggle against impossible odds illuminates the final gloomy days of the Kingdom of Sicily. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the tragic life of Norman Sicily's last Hauteville King.
Episode 17: Stupor Mundi
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Frederick II was the most polarizing figure to rule as king of Sicily. To some he was the antichrist - a heretical monster whose harem and open contempt of Christianity was the scandal of civilized Europe. To others, however, he was Stupor Mundi - the 'wonder of the world'. He was in many ways a walking contradiction. A German Emperor who was raised on the streets of Palermo, a cynical Teutonic politician in love with the pomp and legends of the south, and a Renaissance monarch in the High Middle Ages. Join Lars Brownworth as he looks at the life of Frederick II, the grandson of both Norman Sicily's greatest king and its deadliest enemy.
Episode 18: Bohemond - Part 1
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A great father can be both a blessing and a curse, and no one was more aware of that than Bohemond de Hauteville. The first-born son of the adventurer Robert Guiscard, Bohemond spent most of his formative years trying to both prove himself worthy and escape his father's formidable shadow. At every turn, however, fate seemed to conspire against him. Disinherited before he reached the age of five, he was raised by a step-mother who was determined to keep him from an inheritance, and actively held back by more powerful members of his family. But Bohemond had Guiscard's blood flowing in his veins and an unwavering belief in his eventual triumph. Join Lars Brownworth as he traces Bohemond's struggle to claim a place in the sun.
Episode 19: Bohemond - Part 2 - Bohemond in the East
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The First Crusade fell like a present into Bohemond's lap. Italy wasn't big enough for his ambitions (especially with his uncle blocking him at every turn) and now here was an opportunity to win fame and wealth in the east, and to look pious while doing it. What better way to prove himself worthy of his father than by accomplishing Guiscard's glittering eastern dream? Join Lars Brownworth as he follows Bohemond on Crusade, where he again matched wits with his old nemesis Alexius, and carved out a kingdom around one of the Near East's most famous cities.
More to Come...
A message from Lars:
This podcast is currently in production. We are working on the next episode right now and will post it here when it is ready. You can find out more about when episodes are released by following @NormanCenturies on Twitter or adding your email to the form at the top of this page.
Lars Brownworth (@LarsBrownworth) researches, writes and performs each episode while his brother Anders Brownworth (@Anders94) records, edits and posts them. They usually come out every 1-2 months due to high quality goals conspiring with time constraints. But have no fear, we have a 5 year track record of releasing podcast episodes. We will release the next one, please be patient.
We continue to be blown away by the number of devoted fans that take the time to listen to the 12 Byzantine Rulers and Norman Centuries podcasts. We greatly appreciate you telling your friends and posting about all of Lars Brownworth's projects as well.
Thanks for listening.