Alan I "the Great", king of Brittany

Count of Brittany

Alan I "the Great", king of Brittany's Geni Profile

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French: Alain
Also Known As: "Alain de Nantes", "Alain de Bretagne"
Birthplace: Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France
Death: November 10, 907
Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays DE La Loire, France
Place of Burial: Nantes, France
Immediate Family:

Son of Ridoredh de Bretagne, Comte de Nantes et Vannes and Aremburge d'Ancenis (concubine)
Husband of Oreguen, Queen of Britanny
Father of Rudalt, comte de Vannes; Pascweten de Rennes; Guerec de Bretagne; Budic de Bretagne and N.N.
Brother of Pascwethen de Vannes, duc de Bretagne

Occupation: The Last King of Brittany, Duke of Brittany, Count of Vannes
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Alan I "the Great", king of Brittany

Article: fr.Wikipédia Translation

  • This well-studied/sourced webpage shows Alain « le Grand » had a first marriage—not mentioned by Medlands—to an unknown wife whereby two children sons born— Hervé and Guerech.
    • Citing as its source is: Le Boulicaut, « La famille de Pascuueten dans le regnum breton », Bulletin et mémoires de la Société polymathique du Morbihan, vol. 149,‎ 2023, p.113 (ISSN 1969-4237).
      • Note: Whether this new book's passage cites a primary source is not known at this time.
  • The article's author opens by stating: "Authors specializing in the history of Brittany disagree on Alain's parentage."
    • “According to many historians (Edmond Durtelle de Saint-Sauveur, Arthur de la Borderie, Noël-Yves Tonnerre, André Chédeville & Hubert Guillotel, Philippe Tourault), he would be the brother of Pascweten (died in 876) and his successor in the county of Vannes and in the struggle for power against the Counts of Rennes. This information appears in a charter from the Redon cartulary dated May 3, 878. Pascweten is described as Alain's germanus which means "brother".[1] This is also confirmed by Réginon de Prüm in his chronicle,[2] as well as in the Chronicle of Nantes dated from the 11th century.[3] Furthermore, a late genealogy established at the Saint-Aubin abbey in Angers in the 11th century[4] indicates that they were the sons of a certain Ridoredh of Vannes. However, this document is not reliable because it was written five centuries after the death of Alain.[5]
    • “More recently, Jean-Christophe Cassard puts forward the hypothesis that he would not be the brother but the son and successor of Pascweten, himself the son-in-law and successor of King Solomon (died in 874). This statement appears more coherent on a chronological and generational level: If he is the grandson of Solomon, his rights to the royal succession are at the same level as those of his rival Judicaël, putative son of Gurwant and grandson of Erispoë.[6]”
      • 1. (la) Aurélien de Courson, Cartulaire de l'Abbaye de Redon en Bretagne (832-1124) , Paris, Imprimerie impériale, 1863, p.186
      • 2. (de) Regino Prumiensis Kurze, Fridericis, Regionis abbatis Prumiensis Chronicon cum continuatione Treverensi, 1890 (OCLC 1140549266, lire en ligne [archive]), p. 110.
      • 3. MERLET, René, of Chartres., La Chronique de Nantes, 570 environ-1049. Publiée avec une introduction et des notes par R. Merlet., 1896. p. 69.
      • 4. Généalogie de Saint Aubin d'Angers.
      • 5. Le Boulicaut, « La famille de Pascuueten dans le regnum breton », Bulletin et mémoires de la Société polymathique du Morbihan, vol. 149, 2023, p.108-118 (ISSN 1969-4237)
      • 6. Jean-Christophe Cassard, Le siècle des Vikings en Bretagne, Editions Jean-Paul Gisserot, 12 avril 1996, 120 p. (ISBN 2-87747-214-0. page 43.

As of 2020, Medlands says of Pascwaethen, Alain, and a possible child of unknown name: "[Three] siblings, parents not known:...

Alain (Alan) I, King of Brittany

Alan I (French: Alain; died 907), called the Great, was the Count of Vannes and Duke of Brittany (dux Brittonium) from 876 until his death. He was probably also the only King of Brittany (rex Brittaniæ) to hold that title by legitimate grant of the Emperor.

Alan was the second son of Count Ridoredh of Vannes. He succeeded his brother Pascweten in Vannes and Brittany when the latter died, probably in the middle of 876. He represented the power bloc of southeastern Brittany and had to fight, initially, against Judicael of Poher, representative of western Breton interests, for the ducal throne. Eventually he and Judicael made peace in order to fight the Vikings. Judicael died in the Battle of Questembert in 888 or 889. In 890, Alan defeated the Vikings at Saint-Lô, chasing them into a river where many drowned.

After the death of Judicael, Alan ruled all of Brittany as it had been during the time of Salomon. He ruled not only the Breton territories of Léon, Domnonée, Cornouaille, and the Vannetais, but also the Frankish counties of Rennes, Nantes, Coutances, and Avranches, as well as the western parts of Poitou (the so-called pays de Retz) and Anjou. In the east his rule extended as far as the river Vire. He was the first Breton ruler to rule this entire territory without great opposition within the west and the last to rule the whole bloc of Franco-Celtic countries. His strongest opponent was Fulk I of Anjou, who disputed control of the Nantais with him, though Alan seems to have had the upper hand in his lifetime. His power base remained in the southeast and he was powerful and wealthy in land in around Vannes and Nantes.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, after the death of Carloman II in 884, Charles the Fat succeeded to all of West Francia save Brittany, thus making Brittany an independent kingdom; but this does not seem to have been true. A charter datable to between 897 and 900 makes reference to the soul of Karolus on whose behalf Alan had ordered prayers to be said in the monastery of Redon. This was probably Charles the Fat, who, as emperor, probably granted Alan the right to be titled rex. As emperor he would have had that prerogative and he is known to have had contacts with Nantes in 886, making it not improbable that he came into communication with Alan. Charles also made a concerted effort to rule effectively in the entirety of his empire and to make former enemies, with dubious ties to the empire, like the Viking Godfrid, men of standing in return for their loyalty. Throughout his reign, Alan used Carolingian symbols of regalia and Carolingian forms in his charters.

Alan augmented his power during the weak reigns of Odo and Charles III. He died in 907 and Brittany was overrun by Vikings, who held the region until 936, when Alan's grandson, Alan II, succeeded in reestablishing Christian rule, but Brittany was never thenceforth as extended as in Alan's time and no future Breton rulers were called kings.

Children by his wife Oreguen, Alan left the following issue:

  1. Pascweten (died c. 903)
  2. Guerec
  3. Budic
  4. Rudalt, Count of Vannes, fled the Viking invasion c. 919
  5. Unnamed daughter, who married Mathuedoi, Count of Poher, and was the mother of Alan II
  6. Unnamed daughter, who married Tangui, Count of Vannes, died before 913

Medlands: Brittany: Dukes of Brittany

2. ALAIN (-907). Regino records that "Alanus frater Pasquitani" succeeded his brother, jointly with "Iudicheil, ex filia Herispoii regis natus"[73]. The Annales Mettenses names "Judicheil ex filia Heriospoii regis natus" when recording that he ruled jointly with "Alanus frater Pasquitani"[74]. He succeeded his brother in [876] as ALAIN I "le Grand" joint Duke of Brittany, ruling jointly with Judicaël son of Duke Gurwent. Regino records disputes between "Alanum et Iudicheil duces Brittonium" in 890[75] and, in an earlier passage, that Duke Alain ruled solely after Judicaël died fighting the Vikings[76]. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that the Bretons defeated the Vikings at St Lo in 890 and "drove them into a river and drowned many"[77]. It appears that, after the death of Alain, power in Brittany was shared between the counts of Poher (Alain´s son-in-law), Vannes (Alain´s possible eldest son) and Cornouaïlle, and that none of them was acknowledged as overall ruler. It is likely that this situation persisted until the Viking invasion in 919 as no reference has been found to any overall Breton duke during that time in any of the primary sources so far consulted in the preparation of the present document. m [firstly] OREGUEN, daughter of ---. "Alanus…rex Brittaniæ" donated property "abbatial sancti Sergii in pago Andecavensi" to "Raino Andacavensis episcopus" to "episcopo Adalaldo archiepiscopo simulque Rainoni episcopo, fratri eiusdem" by charter dated [5 Feb 897/26 Nov 903], subscribed by "Orgaim uxoris suæ…Vuereche filii Alani, Pascuiten fratris sui"[78]. [m secondly as her first husband, ---. "Tanchi comes…cum…filiolum suum Derian, filium Alani" shared property which they donated to the abbey of Redon by charter dated 27 Nov 910, "Gurmahilon regnante Britanniam"[79]. This charter indicates that Tanguy was closely related to the family of Duke Alain. The use of the word "filiolus" suggests that Derien may have been Tanguy´s stepson. As Duke Alain´s other known children were adult by the late 9th century as shown by the various documents in which they are named, it is unlikely that their mother would have remarried after her husband´s death. The most likely explanation therefore is that Alain remarried after the death of his wife Oreguen, had a son by this second marriage, and that his widow married secondly Tanguy after her first husband died. This would explain the joint holding of property in which the other sons of Duke Alain are not stated to have held any interest.] Duke Alain I & his [first] wife had [six] children.


Alain le Grand et la Bataille de Questembert, "Did the Battle of Questembert exist?" – translated:—

  • Information regarding Alain the Great is fragile. The facts, the affiliations, the dates vary with the authors. In Questembert, the cemetery column felled in 1793, raised in 1848, indicates 878 as the date of the battle, while the monument erected in 1907 displays 890. For Arthur de La Borderie it would be 888.
  • For modern historians it would rather be 890. In addition, according to some of them, the great battle of Alan the Great would not have taken place in the region of Questembert!
  • Below are some extracts from documents which clearly illustrate this difficulty. Pierre Le Baud and Arthur de La Borderie are the great reference authors on the subject, even if their work does not escape current criticism. The arguments of Chédeville and Guillotel which ruin the legend are not lacking in interest.
  • See also opposite the Bulletin de l'Union Régionaliste Bretonne on the inauguration of the Questembert monument in April 1907.
    • Cronicques et Ystoires des Bretons (Pierre Le Baud) — Présentation du Livre de Pierre Le Baud
    • Cronicques et Ystoires des Bretons (annotation Ch de Calan)
    • “L'Art de vérifier les dates des faits historiques”, Annales de Nantes. F-C Meuret 1857
    • Ex. Chronol. des Chartres du Cartulaire de Redon (A. de la Borderie)
    • Les Origines Bretonnes ( la Borderie)
    • Histoire de la Bretagne ( la Borderie)
    • Alain le Grand et les Anciennes Chroniques (C.A.Picquenard)
    • Deux évènements du règne D'Alain le Grand (C. de Calan)
    • Nouvelles Recherches sur le règne d'Alain le Grand (C.A.Picquenard)
    • La Bretagne des Saints et des Rois (Chédeville,Guillotel)
    • Vikings en Bretagne (J-C. Cassard)
    • Les Rois de Bretagne (P.Tourault)
    • Bulletin de l'URB avril 1907

Henry Project:


  • Smith, Julia M. H. 1992. Province and Empire: Brittany and the Carolingians. Cambridge, England, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Quaghebeur, Joëlle. 2001. La Cornouaille Du IXe Au XIIe Siècle : Mémoire, Pouvoirs, Noblesse. Quimper, France: Société archéologique du Finistère.

Journal Abstract
"The prevailing view of the period of Viking rule in Brittany is that Scandinavians came from outside, attempted to subjugate the inhabitants and were eventually driven out by Bretons. On the basis of an examination of political language in Brittany during the ninth century, this paper instead argues that the period of Northman rule in the peninsula was the result of vicious factional politics. The development of regalian, Carolingian-influenced languages of legitimacy in the late ninth century is discussed and compared with alternatives to determine why Northman ideologies emerged as salient. The ‘Viking occupation’ is thus reinterpreted as arising out of the internal dynamics of the peninsula rather than being an alien intrusion." –
"Vikings and Bretons? The Language of Factional Politics in Late Carolingian Brittany" (pp. 183-202) by Fraser McNair

Alain le Grand, dernier grand Roi de Bretagne @Votre Média Breton (tr):—

In 874, after the death of Solomon, his assassins competed for hegemony of the Kingdom of Brittany.
A civil war ensued. So as a reminder, on one side was Paskweten, son-in-law of Salomon, who became Count of Vannes / Gwened. Then on the other side Gurwant who was the son-in-law of Erispoë and who became Count of Rennes / Roazhon. They argued until 876 when Paskweten died, leaving Gurvant alone in charge.

Issue! This is because in 877 Gurvant died.
Note: Alain the Great was Alain I of Brittany or Alan ar C’Hentañ in Breton.

Their successors would be wiser.
Alain was Paskweten’s brother, and Judikaël was the son of Gurvant. They would continue the civil war for a little while but would very quickly understand in 879 that they must rally together to fight a danger: the Vikings. They therefore decided in 890 to mount an expedition against the men from the north who had besieged Saint Lô. After going up the Vire and surrounding the city, the Vikings diverted the course of the rivers to thirst the population. The population would go with their bishop. Yet the citizens were massacred. So the Bretons, in retaliation, decide to attack the Vikings.

It is Judicaël, younger, more fiery than Alain, who first attacked the Vikings and gained the upper hand. But by pursuing them, he would be killed in turn. Alain arrived and finished the job, accomplishing his first feats of arms. But his real feat of arms was the famous battle of Questembert / Kistreberzh after which he was named Alain the Great. — (Jérôme Nedelec, in his historical novels, places this battle elsewhere.)

So let's pause here.
Questembert / Kistreberzh the battle celebrated as a victory for Alan the Great. But there is another theory which would place this battle elsewhere.

The year is 890. It’s a battle called the Battle of Questembert / Kistreberzh. In fact we have no idea where exactly it took place. It was Peter the Beautiful who spoke about it for the first time. Pierre le Beau is the historian of Anne of Brittany. So we are at the end of the 15th century and he just mentions this word, “the Battle of Questembert” without further details. You should know that between the Battle of Questembert / Kiztreberzh and Peter the Beautiful the distance is the same as between Peter the Beautiful and us.

Why Rieux / Reoz?
Firstly because it was much easier to park long-ships in Rieux / Reoz on the banks of the Vilaine than in Questembert / Kiztreberzh where there was no waterway. Furthermore, the castle of Rieux / Reoz wwas attested in the Redon cartulary, as well as in the Lives of the Saints of Redon as being the main residence of Alain the Great. And this battle would be decisive for the years to come, since from 890 until the years 915, we no longer find anything about the Scandinavians among the Bretons. They disappeared completely. It isn't until almost a generation later finding their return to Brittany.

In front of the home of a very famous Breton character.
Yes, it was Alain the Great, King of Brittany, who would be the last of the Breton kings. In fact, there is relatively little information on the residences of kings in Brittany. For Nominoë, we are talking about Renac / Ranneg for Salomon a little further north but all these are only indications. In fact, there isn't really a specific location. Whereas with regard to Alain the Great, we known about this residence.

Both in the Cartulary of Redon and in the Lives of the Saints of Redon where one can specify that Alain the Great, after having driven the Vikings out of Brittany, rested in his main residence of Rieux / Ranneg. Rieux Castle (Reus Castellum). It is therefore indicated as such in these writings. Behind were the ruins of a more recent castle, in fact from the late Middle Ages. But in any case this is the only time where we have a precise indication of a place, of a residence of a Breton king.

And the advantage of this castle was also its position near a body of water.
Indeed, an ancient crossroads are indicated on the Puisinger Table—a map from the end of the Gallo-Roman period on which is indicated a vitus between Nantes / Naoned and Vannes / Gwened which was called Durethie. It was this place which was called Reus Castellum, the Château de Rieux /Reoz. In fact, this place was at the crossroads of several roads. The first route was the river which here is the Vilaine, which is a waterway which goes up to Rennes / Roazhon. Then the Roman road was between Nantes and Vannes, Portum Namnetum and Darioritum and which passed there. The ford is here right in front of the castle. Also another Roman road, a north-south axis, which went from Guérande / Gwenrann to Rennes / Roazhon and which always passed close by.

Another important crossroad explains the fortification. The area was a marsh which extremely flat. It's elevation almost at sea level and where, and there were few places at higher elevations.

Very friendly playground for the Vikings.
Probably. In any case, what is attested is that they came to Redon in the 850s, that they then went to Rennes / Roazhon, etc... Obviously they passed there. But whether they stopped at this castle or had an interaction with this castle, we have no idea, no trace, either written or archaeological.

Afterwards, there are speculations which mean that given that it is a strategic place and a place of crossroads, and given their appetite to keep and dominate such places of power in a sector, it would be surprising if they were not stopped there.

So I, who am a novelist...
This is inevitably the door open to lots of speculation. I placed this famous Battle of Questembert rather here, because this strategic location lent itself to it. The place of arrival by the Vilaine of these Scandinavian ships. This too is something that seems logical, and which is no more stupid than anything else. But here again there is no historical proof, nor any source that could confirm this to us. So we are at the crossroads of several roads on a site which will be highly strategic and disputed throughout Breton history.

Because this river will become a border several times in the history of Brittany.
We are here on a ground level which is quite high. Indeed, the ground was much lower than that. There we are in fact on the ruins of the castle, which in reality actually collapsed inside the building. So what we find today are only the walls of the second ruin of the castle from the Richelieu era. So here we arrive at one of the last remaining vestiges of the castle. Today it is a large wall next to the postern.

We are on a level that is much higher today than it was at the time. Because all of this actually dates from the last ruins of the castle under Richelieu. Richelieu will in fact request that several fortresses in France be destroyed. Thus the fortress of Rieux / Reoz will be part of it and will be ruined, brought down. The dungeon will be undermined, etc.

It must be said that it was an important fortress since the Rieux family held almost seventeen parishes.
So it was still something very important. And Jean IV de Rieux who was the godfather of Anne of Brittany was himself a marshal during the battle of Saint Aubin du Cormier / Sant-Albin-an-Hiliber in 1488. So yes, it was an important family who had to know, under Richelieu in any case, and like everyone else, who was boss. Obviously, therefore, he had this fortress destroyed, of which not much remains here. A wall that is truncated, towers that have disappeared and which must have been much higher than the tops of the trees. Here it was easy to be very, very above the marshes to be able to supervise the entire region.

Indeed, here there is a horizon.
All around you can have an almost 360 degree view, which is quite rare in Brittany where we have a fairly wooded area and where we don't necessarily have very good visibility like here. There we are really on a high point in a marsh area which is almost at sea level in fact.

The river here was navigable as far as Redon.
Or even as far as Rennes / Roazhon. But in any case the notable fact is that it is an interesting waterway because it works with the tide. The tide is felt all the way here, all the way to Redon. So in fact the ships moved with the tide several times a day, and left the same way. And this up to the Vilaine estuary. So we have an advanced post before Redon. Redon which will become a very important monastery in the early Middle Ages and which will owe its wealth in particular to the salt trade. Also to its location on the banks of this river which is a very important communication route.

A royal residence.
Furthermore, what is remarkable about this castle is above all that it is one of the rare places, if not the only place, which is attested to the period of the early Middle Ages as being a residence aristocratic, a king's residence. So if we have the definition of a capital, the place of power over a territory, then this means that here the Château de Rieux/Reoz was therefore the capital of Brittany at the end of the 9th century under the reign of Alan the Great.

It is the last episode dedicated to Alain the Great which should logically end this series, since it is called Nominoë and the Kings of Brittany.

But before closing this saga, we are not going to leave the Bretons like this. Because the Bretons still have a problem to solve. This problem is that of the Vikings, and the Bretons will take care of them.

view all 13

Alan I "the Great", king of Brittany's Timeline

December 11, 857
Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France
- 907
Age 19
Count of Brittany
Rennes, Ille-et-Vilaine, Bretagne, France
Penthiève, Bretagne, France
November 10, 907
Age 49
Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays DE La Loire, France
Age 49
Nantes, France
Penthiève, Bretagne, France
Penthiève, Bretagne, France