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The Normandy American Heroes Blog

World War Two, Normandy and More

The Most Famous Historical Figures of Normandy, France

Posted by Rodolphe Passera on Jul 3, 2018 10:00:00 AM

Have you always wondered which historical figures from Normandy had a historical or cultural impact around the world? Look no further— we've collected some of the people from our heritage who made their mark!



William the Conqueror and Mathilda of Flanders: 1027 / 1087 (Caen - Normandy)

William I, nicknamed "The Bastard," undoubtedly preferred to be called "The Conqueror." His victory at the battle of Hastings in 1066 over the army of King Harold gained him that title and the crown of England. The Duke of Normandy, whose favorite city was Caen, took Mathilda of Flanders as his beloved spouse. Even though the Tapestry of Bayeux—World Heritage— is wrongly attributed to her, Mathilda was instrumental in founding the famous Women's Abbey in Caen.



Joan of Arc: 1412 / 1431 (Rouen - Normandy)

On the 30th of May 1431, Joan of Arc, the "Maid of Orleans," was burned at the stake in the Old Marketplace of Rouen by the English. The girl, first to incarnate the sense of belonging to the French nation against the English invaders, lived her last months in the city of Rouen. Close to the spot she was executed, you can still see many half-timbered houses dating back to the Hundred Years War which ended near Omaha beach, at Formigny the 14th of April 1450!



Jean Ango: 1480 / 1551 (Dieppe - Normandy)

The crew of the Dauphine, a ship commissioned by the celebrated ship-owner from Dieppe Jean Ango (WWII Operation Jubilee 19 August 1942!) discovered the bay of New York in 1524. The famous Verrazano Bridge in the Big Apple is named after the ship's captain. During the 16th century, Dieppe was mostly known for commerce raiding, like Saint Malo in Brittany. Ango's corsairs, authorized by the King of France, captured up to 300 Portuguese ships in retaliation for a ban on navigation along the African coast of iconic towns such as Essaouira, Morocco. Jean Ango, a man who made kings tremble, is now resting in Saint Jacques church.



Augustin Fresnel: 1788 / 1827 (Broglie - Normandy)

Born in Chambrais, renamed Broglie, Augustin Fresnel was a physicist renowned internationally. After years of research on light, in 1821 he invented crystal optics; two years later, Fresnel designed the compact lens still used in lighthouses. Fresnel lenses greatly helped improve the luminosity of lighthouses. By doing so, he increased the safety of navigation along coastlines.



Eugène Boudin: 1824 / 1898 (Honfleur - Normandy)

Eugène Boudin immortalized a way of life thru his paintings. The Honfleur-born painter, nicknamed "Master of the Skyscape" by his peers, remained faithful to his Norman homeland despite having travelled abroad. Thanks to Eugène, Honfleur has become an attraction for painters worldwide. Honfleur owes a lot to him, from his famous paintings to the museum near the estuary.


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Claude Monet: 1840 / 1926 (Le Havre - Normandy)

Claude Monet and Impressionism are closely linked to Le Havre city. The painter stated that it was in Rouelles (one of the largest parks of Le Havre) that he had his "revelation" as he was on his way to paint with Eugène Boudin! It was there, on the outer harbor, that he painted "Impression, Sunrise," giving birth to the revolutionary artistic movement of impressionism.



Guy de Maupassant: 1850 / 1893 (Fécamp - Normandy)

Maupassant, considered one of the fathers of the modern short story, regularly came to Fécamp to visit his grandmother, near the famous cliffs of L'Etretat. The writer cultivated his links with the home port to the "Terre-Neuvas" (Canada), the fishermen who used to sail for cod off Newfoundland, in one of his novels "La Maison Tellier" (1881) which intrigue he set in the Cauchois port.



Maurice Leblanc: 1864 / 1941 (Etretat - Normandy)

The famous writer, creator of the Gentleman Thief and Master of Disguise, "Arsène Lupin", knew Etretat very well. The arch of the "Porte d'Aval" and needle inspired one of his thief's adventures entitled "The Hollow Needle". One of my favorite writer as a teenager!



Marcel Proust: 1872 / 1922 (Cabourg - Normandy)

Marcel Proust immortalized Cabourg in his novel "Within a Budding Grove". Proust first went to the seaside resort staying at the famous Grand Hotel de Cabourg to treat his asthma in 1881, he was then 10 years old. As an adult, he lived for many years in the Grand Hotel near the boardwalk that now bears his name.



"Sainte Thérèse": 1873 / 1897 (Lisieux - Normandy)

More than a million pilgrims from all over the world come each year to Lisieux, on the trail of Thérèse Martin, known today as Saint Thérèse. She spent most of her so short life in Carmel, fasting and praying to be as close as possible to her "divine husband," Jesus Christ.



George Braque: 1882 / 1963 (Varengeville sur Mer - Normandy)

Today George Braque is buried in the tiny sailors' graveyard of Varengeville. The painter's work is still visible in one of the church windows: "The Tree of Jesse" is located in the south aisle. The village, with its stunning seascape views, is well worth the visit, and also figures in one of George Braque's painting: "Rowboats in Varengeville."



Coco Chanel: 1883 / 1971 (Deauville - Normandy)

Coco Chanel in 1914 established her reputation in the highborn seaside resort town of Deauville, by redesigning the wardrobes of the elegant aristocratic ladies who were forced to take refuge on the coast of Normandy during WWI. Since then, Chanel N°5 has been a figure to wear and number to play in Deauville.


 Are you eager to learn more about the beautiful and historic region of Normandy? Contact us to get more information today.  




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Normandy American Heroes provides custom World War II tours of Normandy and beyond. On our blog, we write about World War II, things to do in Normandy and much more.

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