Morgane Polanski is Princess Gisla
Princess Gisla is the elegant, self-possessed daughter of Emperor Charles and his most trusted advisor. She is a beautiful, young woman of considerable courage and resolution.
After Charles retires, Count Odo brings up his marriage proposal, which the princess previously refused. He ponders why she has also refused so many other, better, offers of marriage. Gisla informs him that if he is able to keep the city safe, she will forever be in his debt, and offers him her hand to kiss, which he does. However, she does not make any explicit promise to marry him.
On the eve of the Vikings’ attack, Charles and Gisla enter the city cathedral, wearing their royal masks. While Charles keeps his mask and prays before the altar, Gisla removes her and looks upon the people so as to encourage them and maintain hope.
The next day, Ragnar and his warriors lay siege to the gates of Paris. Safely locked away, Charles sits on his throne, wearing his mask, his eyes darting around the room in fear. Elsewhere, Gisla plans a counter-attack of her own and knows that, while the Northmen may have smaller numbers, they strike fear into her people and that is how they defeat and raid cities. She is shown the sacred banner (oriflamme) of Saint Dennis, the patron saint of France, by a monk. She then brings the oriflamme to the cathedral and begs the bishop to bless it, which he does.
Princess Gisla ascends the gates, presenting the oriflamme to the Parisian soldiers, declaring that they should “Show no mercy! Fight on! Fight to the death!” On the gate, she catches a glimpse of Rollo and the pair lock eyes before he is thrown over by a group of Parisians. Ragnar realizes defeat and retreats with his remaining warriors.
When the Vikings stage a subsequent night attack on the city, Gisla distributes daggers to her maids and commands them not to allow themselves to be captured alive by the heathens. The Princess then rushes to the besieged gate, accompanied by the oriflamme. During the battle, she approaches the corridor and observes Rollo in combat, until Roland beckons her to retreat to a safer distance. After the Vikings retreat, she stares with disgust at the captured Sinric and Earl Siegfried.
After Count Odo and Emperor Charles decide to spare Sinric, Gisla asks what is to be done with Siegfried. Count Odo suggests bartering or ransoming the Earl, but Gisla demands that he be executed. However, at his execution, Siegfried botches the beheading and tricks one soldier into losing his hand. Gisla just scowls at this travesty. With the city running out of food and a spreading plague, Count Odo advises the Emperor to come to terms with the Vikings. The Princess vehemently opposes any negotiations with the Northmen, insisting that the Parisians “should never give in to these vile pagans” because doing so would be failure for which they would be judged. Despite her protests, her father permits Count Odo to meet the Northmen to negotiate an end to the siege.
After Ragnar agrees to accept a ransom payment and end the siege, Emperor Charles holds a celebratory mass. Despite everybody else’s high spirits, Gisla is sullen at the fact that her father had to pay the Vikings to leave and does not consider the outcome worth celebrating. She asks the Emperor, “How do you count that a victory, Father?” The Emperor dismisses her objections and promises that they will be better prepared for the next raid, before retiring to rest. Count Odo also approaches Gisla to discuss his prior proposal, but Gisla remains cold and stoic towards him, saying this is “neither the time nor place for earthly things.” Her rebuke enrages the Count, who then seeks the company of another woman eager to show her gratitude.
Later, Ragnar, who is believed to have died, is brought inside Paris in order receive a Christian mass before burial, springs out of his coffin before a shocked court and holds a knife to the Emperor’s neck. Gisla herself attacks Ragnar, trying to pull him from her father. Ragnar then overpowers Gisla and takes her hostage, using her to move past the guards and reach the outermost gate. After reaching the outer gate, Ragnar releases Gisla and gestures for her to run away, which she does after staring at him incredulously. Ragnar’s pallbearers then open the gate and allow the Vikings to enter and raid parts of the city. With winter approaching, however, Ragnar decides to return home until Spring leaving Rollo and a few other warriors behind.
Safe inside the castle, her father reveals his plan to win over the Vikings – with his brothers refusing to help, he must offer something more valuable than gold and silver: a marriage, to his daughter. Gisla refuses, but Emperor Charles says she will not refuse her ruler as an emissary has already been sent to the Viking camp.
In addition to the offer of marriage to Gisla, the Emperor’s delegation offers to grant Rollo lands in the northern part of Frankia and the title of “Duke.” Rollo, intrigued, comes to the castle to meet with the Emperor and his daughter. Before negotiations begin, Gisla stands up and spews her hatred and disdain for Rollo and the proposed marriage, refusing to go along with it. Rollo, apparently oblivious to what she is saying, simply smiles and says “Hello” in French.
Morgane Polanski is a French-born actress who has appeared in multiple films including The Pianist (2002), The Ghost Writer (2010) and Oliver Twist (2005). She can also be seen in Graystone directed by Russell England, and the films Backstage and The Ninth Gate. Most recently she appeared in the 2015 horror-thriller Unhallowed Ground.
Her theatre credits include “Spring Awakening”, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and “Hedda Gabler”. Polanski recently graduated from the Central School of Speech & Drama at the University of London. She also attended the International School of Paris.