Where to go?
Events in italics indicate milestones in history.
6C BC — The Celts arrive in the peninsula and name it Armor (country of the sea). A little-known people who set up many megaliths were there before them.
56 AD — Caesar destroys the fleet of the Veneti, the most powerful tribe in Armor, and conquers the whole country.
For four centuries Roman civilisation does its work. Then the Barbarian invasions wreck Armor, which returns almost to savagery.
Armor becomes Brittany
460 — Arrival of the Celts from Britain, driven out by the Angles and Saxons. Immigration continues for two centuries. These colonists revive and convert Armor and give it a new name, Little Britain, later shortened to Brittany. The Breton people make saints of their religious leaders, who become the patrons of many towns in the peninsula.
The political state, made up of innumerable parishes, remains anarchic.
799 — Charlemagne subjugates all of Brittany.
The Duchy of Brittany
826 — Louis the Pious makes Nominoé, a noble of Vannes, Duke of Brittany.
845 — Nominoé throws off Frankish suzerainty by defeating Charles the Bald, near Redon. He brings all of Brittany under his authority and founds an independent ducal dynasty which lasts for more than a century.
851 — Erispoë, son of Nominoé, takes the title, King of Brittany. He is later assassinated by his cousin Salomon who reigns from 857.
874 — Salomon (the Great, or St Salomon) assassinated. During his reign, the Kingdom of Brittany reached its zenith, embracing Anjou and Cotentin.
919 — Great invasion of Norsemen. Violent robbery and pillage.
939 — King Alain Barbe-Torte drives out the last Norsemen.
952 — Death of Alain, the last King of Brittany. In the fortresses built all over the country to resist the Norsemen, the nobles defy the successors of Barbe-Torte. There follows a period of disorder and poverty which lasts until nearly the end of the 14C.
1066 — William the Conqueror lands in England.
1215 — The Magna Carta.
1337 — Start of the Hundred Years‘ War (ending in 1453). This well-documented conflict between France and England lasted for 116 years, interspersed with several periods of peace. The Plantagenet Kings of England, with French ancestry, also lay claim to the French throne. After much early success, the English are finally overcome by the French, who are boosted by the passion of Joan of Arc.
1341 — The Breton War of Succession begins on the death of Duke Jean III. His niece, Jeanne de Penthièvre, wife of Charles of Blois, supported by the French, fights her brother Jean of Montfort, ally of the English, for the duchy. Vannes changes hands several times.
1351 — Battle of the Thirty. In a fight for succession to the Duchy of Brittany, both Jean de Beaumanoir of France and Robert Bramborough of England enlist the services of 30 champions, knights and squires who enter into a bloody fight resulting in many deaths. The episode is regarded as one of great chivalry and was remembered in song and art.
1364 — Charles of Blois, though aided by Du Guesclin, is defeated and killed at Auray. Brittany emerges ruined from this war.
1364-1468 — The dukes of the House of Montfort restore the country. This is the most brilliant period of its history. The arts reach their highest development. The dukes are the real sovereigns and pay homage only in theory to the king of France. Constable de Richemont, the companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc, succeeds his brother in 1457 as Duke of Brittany.
1488 — Duke François II, who has entered into the federal coalition against the Regent of France, Anne of Beaujeu, is defeated at St-Aubin-du-Cormier and dies. His daughter, Anne of Brittany, succeeds him.
Reunion of Brittany with France
1491 — Anne of Brittany marries Charles VIII but remains Duchess and sovereign of Brittany.
1492 — Christopher Columbus discovers America on 12 October.
1498 — Charles VIII dies accidentally. Anne returns to her duchy.
1499 — Anne again becomes Queen of France by marrying Louis XII, who had hastily repudiated his first wife. The duchy remains distinct from the Crown.
1514 — Anne of Brittany dies. Her daughter, Claude of France, inherits the duchy. She marries François of Angoulême, the future François I.
1532 — Claude cedes her duchy to the Crown. François I has this permanent reunion of Brittany with France ratified by the Parliament at Vannes.
1534 — Jacques Cartier discovers the St Lawrence estuary and is the man who named Canada.
1588 — Brittany rebels against its governor, the Duke of Mercœur, who wants to profit from the troubles of the League to seize the province. Bandits like the famous La Fontenelle ravage the country.
1598 — By the Edict of Nantes, Henri IV puts an end to religious strife.
1675 — The “Stamped Paper” Revolt develops into a peasants’ uprising. The Bretons were not happy with the royal taxation (to raise money for war with Holland) on tobacco, pewter and all legal documents. Starting with riots in Nantes, Rennes and Guingamp, the unrest quickly spread. The aristocracy won, with violent and brutal consequences for the rioters.
1711 — Duguay-Trouin, the St-Malo-born corsair (legal pirate), takes Rio de Janeiro during an 11-day battle with 17 ships and 6 000 men.
1764 — The Rennes Parliament and its Public Prosecutor, La Chalotais, oppose Governor Aiguillon. The authority of the Crown is much weakened. The Revolution is near.
1765 — Arrival on Belle-Île of many Acadian families of French origin from Nova Scotia.
1773 — Birth of Surcouf, the Breton corsair, in St-Malo. Known as the King of Pirates, he took 47 ships during his career.
1776 — American Declaration of Independence.
1789 — The Bretons welcome the Revolution with enthusiasm.
1793 — Jean-Baptiste Carrier, a violent French Revolutionary, is responsible for the brutal drowning of more than 2000 people, inlcuding clergy, in the Loire near Nantes.
1793-1804 — The laws against the priests and the mass levies give rise to the Chouannerie (revolt of Breton Royalists).
1795 — A landing by Royalist exiles is defeated at Quiberon.
1804 — Cadoudal, who tried to revive the Chouannerie, is executed.
1805 — Creation of the first Celtic Academy.
1826 — René Laënnec, the great physician, dies. Born in Quimper, he invented the stethoscope and gave the name to ’cirrhosis’.
1832 — Another attempted revolt, organised by the Duchess of Berry, fails. This is the last uprising.
1861 — Start of the American Civil War.
1870 — Trade Unions spring up in the main towns and cities following industrialisation and strikes increase.
1871 — More than 500 000 Bretons emigrate over a period of 30 years due to over-population and the decline of traditional industries.
1909 — Strikes and riots among the Concarneau cannery workers.
1914–18 — Brittany pays a heavy toll in loss of life during World War I. More than 150 000 Bretons between the ages of 18 and 35 lose their lives.
1927-8 —The Morbihan aviator Le Brix, accompanied by Costes, is the first to fly round the world. They cover 36 000 miles in 338 hours.
1932 — A monument representing the Treaty of Everlasting Union between Brittany and France in Rennes is blown up by clandestne nationalist group Gwenn-ha-Du (’white and black’ – the colour of the Breton Flag).
1940 — The islanders of Sein are the first to rally to General de Gaulle’s call.
1942 — An Anglo-Canadian commando raids the St-Nazaire submarine base.
1944-5 — The end of the German Occupation leaves in its wake a trail of destruction, especially at Brest, Lorient and St-Nazaire.
1951 — Formation of the organisation Comité d’Études et de Liaison des Intérêts Bretons (CELIB), to safeguard Breton interests, is an initial step towards the rejuvenation of the local economy.
1956 — Detachment of Nantes, which becomes part of the Loire region.
1962 — First transatlantic transmission by satellite of a television programme by the station at Pleumeur-Bodou.
1966 — The opening of the Rance tidal power scheme and the Monts d’Arrée nuclear station near Brennilis.
1967 — The Torrey Canyon disaster off the English coast causes great oil slicks to contaminate the beaches of Brittany.
1969 — Creation of the Parc Naturel Régional d’Armorique.
1970 — Creation of the Parc Naturel Régional de Brière.
1975 — First search for oil in the Iroise Sea off the Finistère coast.
1978 — Establishment of a charter and council to safeguard the Breton cultural heritage. Amoco Cadiz oil spill on Brittany beaches. This was the fifth-largest oil-spill in world history and affected 76 beaches along 322km/200mi of coastline.
1982 — Political devolution: Brittany obtains limited autonomy over regional economy, infrastructure, environment, education and culture.
1985 — Introduction of bilingual road signs in French and Breton.
1994 — The Law Courts at Rennes, home to the Breton Parliament, are burned to the ground by rioting French farmers.
The opening of the Pont de l’Iroise spanning the Eloen.
1996 — Inauguration of the La Roche-Bernard bridge.
2000 — The Erica founders in a storm, once again, “black tides” damage the shore and wildlife.
St Nazaire receives a commission to build the Queen Mary 2, the world’s largest ocean liner. “Brest 2000” Inter- national Maritime Festival
2002 — Rennes becomes the smallest city in the world to have a subway system
2003 — Launch of the Queen Mary 2 at St-Nazaire.
2006 — Tall Ships at St-Malo.
2007 — Nicolas Sarkozy elected President of France.
2008 — “Brest 2008“ International Maritime Festival
The Nantes Noyades
In 1793 some of the cruellest and most violent killings of the French Revolution took place in Nantes.
Jean-Baptiste Carrier, a deputy of the National Convention (Assembly) in Paris, was charged with setting up a Revolutionary Tribunal (to try political offenders) in Nantes.
This being the Reign of Terror (12-month period when violent means were employed to dispose of enemies of the Revolution), Carrier soon disposed of the fair trials and invented torturous and inhumane ways of disposing of the prisoners.
As well as rounding up prisoners to be shot, he crammed clergy into boats, with trap doors for bottoms, on the River Loire. When the signal was given, the doors were opened… He also invented ‘underwater marriages’ or ‘republican baptisms’, where naked priests and nuns were tied together before being drowned.