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Brittany was originally called Armorica, a name coined by the local Gallo-Roman tribes for this maritime peninsula. It describe its location perfectly, for 'Ar Mor' or 'Ar Muir' means "Of the Sea". The British first settled the area in the late AD 380s when the Roman-British general, Magnus Maximus, invaded Gaul in order to press his claims to the Imperial throne. As a reward for his help in this matter, Maximus gave Armorica to his wife's cousin, Conan Meriadoc.

Conan supposedly populated his new kingdom with his armed followers but, of course, they were woefully short of female companions. Conan sent back to Britain for wives, not only for his men, but for himself also. A storm prevented the ladies from reaching Brittany, so Conan's men were forced to undertake mixed marriages with the local inhabitants. However, to ensure that their children only spoke the British language, the soldier's cut out their wives' tongues!

Later waves of newcomers from Britain bolstered the population, and the immigrant leaders often set up their own petty kingdoms or principalities, such as Poher: a minor principaility that appears to have changed hands rather a lot, particularly between the Franks & British Kings still ruling on the mainland. Conan ruled across Brittany, but the centre of his power appears to have been in the Vannetais. In later generations, his Kingdom was divided amongst his descendants: the elder branch became Princes of Cornouaille, while what appears to have been a younger dynasty ruled in Domnonée. The origins of Broërec (Vannetais) are unclear, though it was named after a 5th century prince called Waroc. 

Later times brought several periods of civil war, as the succession became unclear and different lords vied for the upper hand. This was particularly true after the death of Alain II Hir (the Tall) in AD 690. Short-lived stability returned with the House of Dremrud, but soon evaporated again before being finally restored with Frankish help at the beginning of the 9th century. Around a hundred years later, the Kingdom was reduced to a Duchy, though it didn't finally lose its independence until after Anne, the last Duchess of Brittany, married King Charles VIII of France and the Union Treaty of Vannes was signed in 1532.

The various dynasties have very confused pedigrees with, at times, little basis in fact:

  • Brittany & Cornouaille (House of Meriadoc)
  • Brittany (House of Dremrud)
  • Rennes & Brittany (House of Gurwant)
  • Domnonée
  • Vannetais & Broërec
  • Poher & Nantes


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