Eystein I of Norway
While Sigurd gained fame as the warrior king, Eystein was in contrast portrayed in the sagas as the peace king who stayed home in Norway and improved the country. As Eystein never engaged in warfare, considerably less information is written and known about him than about his brother Sigurd, despite his twenty-year-long reign, Eystein nonetheless gained the affection of his people, and was highly regarded by the saga writers for his deeds. Eystein and Sigurds reign became the longest joint rule in Norwegian history, Eysteins activities were especially centered in Bergen, which became an important international trade hub for fish at the time, helped by his construction projects. His activities in Bergen included moving the seat to a more central location in the city and building a new royal palace, as well as constructing churches. Eystein died of illness in August 1123, and his brother Sigurd thereby became the sole Norwegian king. Eystein was born in 1088 or 1089 as the first son of the future king Magnus Barefoot, born to an otherwise unknown mother who is only recorded to have been of low birth.
Upon the death of his father in 1103 during one of his campaigns in Ireland, Sigurd was about a year younger than Eystein, while Olaf was more than ten years younger than him. Sigurd was the son who had accompanied their father Magnus on his campaign in the West. Many accounts concerning Eystein in sagas are characterized by literary motifs, Snorri Sturluson, the Icelandic author of the early 13th century Heimskringla mastered this literary style particularly well and psychologically. His stories includes a so-called mannjevning between Eystein and Sigurd, in which the two boast about their skills and deeds in an attempt to outdo each other. In a similar fashion, Snorri tells a story about how Eystein managed to cure the melancholy of a friend, on his physical appearance, Snorri wrote that Eystein was the handsomest man that could be seen. He had blue eyes, his hair yellow and curling, his stature not tall. The co-rule between Eystein and Olaf entailed a shared kingship, and the kingdom itself was not divided into fixed borders, during the early years of their reign, Eystein is nonetheless said to have stayed mostly in Western Norway and Trøndelag, while Sigurd was in Viken.
In practice, only Eystein and Sigurd ever ruled as kings, as Olaf was considerably younger and died when he was seventeen years old. The kings became very popular because of this, according to some sources, the main motivation for abolishing the taxes was to gain the support of the population for Sigurds planned crusade. In 1107 or 1108, after years of preparations, Sigurd sailed with a fleet on a crusade to the Holy Land. Sigurd arrived back in Norway in 1111, since Sigurd remained king for nineteen years after his crusade with little controversy, historian Claus Krag has considered that the domestic peace probably could be attributed equally to Sigurd. In order to contrast Eystein with Sigurd, Snorri tells a story that Eystein instead subdued Jämtland to the Norwegian crown peacefully through the use of gifts and diplomacy
Erling Skjalgsson was a Norwegian political leader of the late 10th and early 11th century. He has been seen as this periods foremost defender of the historic Norwegian social system. Erling fought for the small, autonomous kingdoms and the þing system. According to the Norwegian-Icelandic saga tradition Erling Skjalgsson belonged to one of the most prominent clans in western Norway and he lived on the farm Sola in Nord-Jæren. His sister was married to Sigurd Toresson, an important chief in Trondenes, Erling was established as a political front figure by the farmers of Gulaþing. They demanded that he be married to Olav Tryggvasons sister Astrid Tryggvesdatter, Astrid initially refused but agreed only after strong pressure from his brother. Erling Skjalgsson was baptized and was married to Astrid during the summer of year 996, Erling thus became an important ally during the remaining four years of King Olavs reign. Olav awarded Erling all the land between the Sognefjord and Lindesnes to rule, after the Battle of Svolder resulted in the defeat of Olav Tryggvason, the victorious leaders split Norway into three areas of control.
The three-way rule of Norway during these years suited Erling well and his own power base was strong enough that he could maintain his own autonomy. However in 1015, the stability of this arrangement was effected by the arrival of Olav Haraldsson. In 1016 at the Battle of Nesjar, Erling fought against Olav Haraldsson in Svein jarls losing forces, afterward Olav Haraldsson was forced to form an uneasy alliance with Erling Skjalgsson. The settlement was arranged with Erling having to accept lesser terms than had been granted him by either Olav Tryggvason or Svein jarl, Erling kept enforcing his power on the western coast of Norway from Rogaland extending further north, presumably to Sogn. King Olav tried to split his powers by introducing new local nobles, in 1022, the king arrested Erlings sisters son, Asbjørn Selsbane, for murder. Erling replied by raising a 1, 000-man army and circling the king at Avaldsnes, King Olav gave in and released the nephew. However this episode damaged the relationship between the two men, during 1027, Erling traveled to England to seek the support of Canute the Great.
Erling returned during autumn in 1028 and rallied an army with the intention to fight Olav, however as his army was shipborne, Erling was trapped on a single ship by King Olavs fleet in the Battle of Boknafjorden near Bokn in Rogaland. The ship was overwhelmed, Erling was captured and his ship was cleared, just as Olav was set to pardon him, Erling himself was killed by Aslak Fitjaskalle, from Fitjar in Sunnhordland, who cleaved Erlings head with an axe. According to Heimskringla, King Olav said to the killer, You fool, now you hewed Norway off my hands
Haakon Ericsson was Earl of Lade and governor of Norway as a vassal under Knut the Great. Håkon Eiriksson was from a dynasty of Norwegian rulers in the part of Trondheim. He was the son of Eirik Håkonson, ruler of Norway and his mother is commonly believed to have been Gytha, a daughter of Sweyn Forkbeard and Sigrid the Haughty of Denmark and half-sister of King Knut. After the Battle of Svolder, Eirik Håkonson, with his brother Sveinn Hákonarson, in 1014 or 1015 Eirik Håkonson left Norway and joined Knut for his campaign in England. The north English earldom of Northumbria was given by Knut to Eirik after he won control of the north, Eirik remained as earl of Northumbria until his death between 1023 and 1033. After some years absence in England fighting the Danes, Olaf Haraldsson returned to Norway in 1015, in 1016, Olaf defeated Sveinn Hákonarson at the Battle of Nesjar. After the victory of Olaf Haraldsson, Håkon fled to England where he was received by King Knut. After the Battle of the Helgeå, Norwegian nobles rallied behind Knut and he is recorded as being the ruler of the Sudreyar from 1016 until 1030.
In 1028, Håkon Eiriksson returned as Knuts vassal ruler of Norway, Håkon died in a shipwreck in the Pentland Firth, between the Orkney Islands and the Scottish mainland, in either late 1029 or early 1030
Harald Sigurdsson, given the epithet Hardrada in the sagas, was King of Norway from 1046 to 1066. In addition, he claimed the Danish throne until 1064. Prior to becoming king, Harald had spent around fifteen years in exile as a mercenary and military commander in Kievan Rus, when he was fifteen years old, in 1030, Harald fought in the Battle of Stiklestad together with his half-brother Olaf Haraldsson. Olaf sought to reclaim the Norwegian throne, which he had lost to the Danish king Cnut the Great two years prior, in the battle and Harald were defeated by forces loyal to Cnut, and Harald was forced into exile to Kievan Rus. He thereafter spent some time in the army of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, eventually obtaining rank as a captain, Harald amassed considerable wealth during his time in the Byzantine Empire, which he shipped to Yaroslav in Kievan Rus for safekeeping. He finally left the Byzantines in 1042, and arrived back in Kievan Rus in order to prepare his campaign of reclaiming the Norwegian throne, possibly to Haralds knowledge, in his absence the Norwegian throne had been restored from the Danes to Olafs illegitimate son Magnus the Good.
In 1046, Harald joined forces with Magnuss rival in Denmark, the pretender Sweyn II of Denmark, unwilling to fight his uncle, agreed to share the kingship with Harald, since Harald in turn would share his wealth with him. The co-rule ended abruptly the next year as Magnus died, Harald crushed all local and regional opposition, and outlined the territorial unification of Norway under a national governance. Haralds reign was one of relative peace and stability, and he instituted a viable coin economy. Probably seeking to restore Cnuts North Sea Empire, Harald claimed the Danish throne, although the campaigns were successful, he was never able to conquer Denmark. Harald went along and entered Northern England in September 1066, raided the coast, although initially successful, Harald was defeated and killed in an attack by Harold Godwinsons forces in the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Modern historians have often considered Haralds death at Stamford Bridge, which brought an end to his invasion, Harald is commonly held to have been the last great Viking king, or even the last great Viking.
Through his mother Åsta, Harald was the youngest of King Olaf Haraldssons three half-brothers, in his youth, Harald displayed traits of a typical rebel with big ambitions, and admired Olaf as his role model. He thus differed from his two brothers, who were more similar to their father, down-to-earth and mostly concerned with maintaining the farm. The Icelandic sagas, in particular Snorri Sturluson in Heimskringla, claim that Sigurd, following a revolt in 1028, Haralds brother Olaf was forced into exile until he returned to Norway in early 1030. On hearing news of Olafs planned return, Harald gathered 600 men from the Uplands to meet Olaf and his men upon their arrival in the east of Norway. After a friendly welcome, Olaf went on to gather an army and eventually fight in the Battle of Stiklestad on 29 July 1030, the battle was part of an attempt to restore Olaf to the Norwegian throne, which had been captured by the Danish king Cnut the Great. The battle resulted in defeat for the brothers at the hands of those Norwegians who were loyal to Cnut, Harald was nonetheless remarked to have shown considerable military talent during the battle
Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet, the name Heimskringla was first used in the 17th century, derived from the first two words of one of the manuscripts. Snorri had himself visited Norway and Sweden, for events of the mid-12th century, Snorri explicitly names the now lost work Hryggjarstykki as his source. The composition of the sagas is Snorris, the earliest parchment copy of the work is referred to as Kringla. It voyaged from Iceland to Bergen and was moved to Copenhagen, at that time it had lost the first page, but the second starts Kringla heimsins, the Earths circle of the Laing translation. In the 17th century copies were made by Icelanders Jon Eggertson, eggertsons copy went to the Royal Library at Stockholm. The Copenhagen manuscript was among the many destroyed in the Copenhagen Fire of 1728. Only one leaf of the manuscript survived and it is now kept in the National, by the mid-16th century, the Old Norse language was unintelligible to Norwegian, Swedish or Danish readers.
At that time several translations of extracts were made in Norway into the Danish language, the first complete translation was made around 1600 by Peder Claussøn Friis, and printed in 1633. This was based on a known as Jofraskinna. This edition included the first printing of the text in Old Norse, a new Danish translation with the text in Old Norse and a Latin translation came out in 1777-1783. An English translation by Samuel Laing was finally published in 1844, in the 19th century, as Norway was achieving independence after centuries of union with Denmark and Sweden, the stories of the independent Norwegian medieval kingdom won great popularity in Norway. Heimskringla, although written by an Icelander, became an important national symbol for Norway during the period of romantic nationalism, Heimskringla consists of several chapters, each one individually called a saga, which can be literally translated as tale. The subsequent sagas are devoted to individual rulers, starting with Halfdan the Black, the stories are told with a life and freshness, giving a picture of human life in all its reality.
A version of the Óláfs saga helga, which is about the saint Olaf II of Norway, is the main part and his 15-year-long reign takes up about one third of the entire work. This saga is an epic in prose, and is of particular relevance to the history of England. The first part of the Heimskringla is rooted in Norse mythology, as it advances and fact all curiously intermingle, the value of Heimskringla as a historical source has been estimated in different ways during recent times. The historians of mid-19th century put great trust in the truth of Snorris narrative
Olaf III of Norway
It can refer to Olaf Guthfrithson of Dublin and to Olof Skötkonung of Sweden. Also, sometimes Olaf II of Denmark is numbered as III when counting a previous anti-king, for other people of the same name, see Olaf Haraldsson. Olaf Haraldsson, known as Olaf Kyrre, ruled Norway as from 1067 until his death in 1093. He was present at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in England in 1066 where his father, King Harald Hardrada, saw defeat and was killed in action, an event that directly preceded his kingship. During his rule, Olaf made peace with regards to earlier conflicts with the church, strengthened the power of the monarchy. Around 1225, Snorri Sturluson wrote Olav Kyrres saga about King Olaf in the Heimskringla, Olaf was a son of King Harald Hardrada and Tora Torbergsdatter. Olaf joined his father during the invasion of England during 1066, however, he was only 16 years old during the Battle of Stamford Bridge in September 1066. He stayed on a ship and did not participate in the fighting, after the Norwegian defeat, he sailed with the remains of the Norwegian strike force back to Orkney, where they wintered.
The return journey to Norway took place in summer 1067, after the death of his father, Olaf shared the kingdom with his brother Magnus II who had become king the previous year. When King Magnus died during 1069, Olaf became the ruler of Norway. During his reign, the nation of Norway experienced an extended period of peace. He renounced any offensive foreign policy, rather he protected Norway as a kingdom through agreements, domestically he laid emphasis on the churchs organization and modernizing the kingdom. The latter resulted in, among other things, the reorganization of the body-guard and of measures under which key cities, especially Bergen, according to the Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson, Olaf is said to have founded the city of Bergen. The death of Harald Hardrada and the defeat suffered by the Norwegians in 1066 tempted the Danish king, Svend Estridsen. King Svend no longer bound by the ceasefire agreement signed with Harald Hardrada in 1064. However Olaf made peace with King Svend and married the kings daughter Ingerid, Olavs half sister Ingegerd of Norway married King Svends son and heir Olaf I of Denmark, who would become the Danish king.
Although there were attacks on England by Danish forces, peace persisted between Denmark and Norway. Olaf made peace with William the Conqueror of England, King Olaf broke with his fathers line in his relationship to the church
Cnut the Great
King Cnut the Great, known as Canute, was King of Denmark and Norway, together often referred to as the Anglo-Scandinavian or North Sea Empire. After his death, the deaths of his heirs within a decade, the medieval historian Norman Cantor said he was the most effective king in Anglo-Saxon history, though he was Danish and not a Briton or Anglo-Saxon. Cnuts father was Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, the identity of his mother is uncertain, although medieval tradition makes her a daughter of Mieszko I. As a Danish prince, Cnut won the throne of England in 1016 in the wake of centuries of Viking activity in northwestern Europe and his accession to the Danish throne in 1018 brought the crowns of England and Denmark together. Cnut maintained his power by uniting Danes and English under cultural bonds of wealth and custom, after a decade of conflict with opponents in Scandinavia, Cnut claimed the crown of Norway in Trondheim in 1028. The Swedish city Sigtuna was held by Cnut and he had coins struck there that called him king, but there is no narrative record of his occupation.
Cnut attempted to gain concessions on the tolls his people had to pay on the way to Rome from other magnates of medieval Christendom, the Anglo-Saxon kings used the title king of the English. Cnut was ealles Engla landes cyning—king of all England, Cnut was a son of the Danish Prince Sweyn Forkbeard, who was the son and heir to King Harald Bluetooth from a line of Scandinavian rulers central to the unification of Denmark. Neither the place nor the date of his birth are known, Harthacnut was the semi-legendary founder of the Danish royal house at the beginning of the 10th century, and his son, Gorm the Old, was the first in the official line. Harald Bluetooth, Gorms son and Cnuts grandfather, was the Danish king at the time of the Christianization of Denmark, Cnut was two years old when his grandfather, Harald Bluetooth and his father, Sweyn Forkbeard, assumed the throne. The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg and the Encomium Emmae report Cnuts mother as having been a daughter of Mieszko I of Poland, since in the Norse sagas the king of Vindland is always Burislav, this is reconcilable with the assumption that her father was Mieszko.
Different theories regarding the number and ancestry of Sweyns wives have been brought forward, Cnuts brother Harald was the first born and crown prince. His date of birth, like his mothers name, is unknown, contemporary works such as the Chronicon and the Encomium Emmae, do not mention this. Even so, in a Knútsdrápa by the skald Óttarr svarti and it mentions a battle identifiable with Sweyn Forkbeards invasion of England and attack on the city of Norwich, in 1003/04, after the St. Brices Day massacre of Danes by the English, in 1002. If it is the case that Cnut was part of this, his birthdate may be near 990, if not, and the skalds poetic verse envisages another assault, such as Forkbeards conquest of England in 1013/14, it may even suggest a birth date nearer 1000. There is a passage of the Encomiast with a reference to the force Cnut led in his English conquest of 1015/16, here it says all the Vikings were of mature age under Cnut the king. He had a fair complexion none-the-less, and a fine, thick head of hair and his eyes were better than those of other men, both the handsomer and the keener of their sight.
Hardly anything is known for sure of Cnuts life until the year he was part of a Scandinavian force under his father, King Sweyn and it was the climax to a succession of Viking raids spread over a number of decades
Harald Gille was king of Norway from 1130 until his death. His byname Gille is probably from Middle Irish Gilla Críst servant of Christ, Harald was born ca.1102 in Ireland or the Hebrides, more likely the former. According to the sagas, he became familiar with Norway through an acquaintance with Norwegian merchants including Rögnvald Kali Kolsson, who would become Earl of Orkney. Around 1127, Harald went to Norway and declared he was a son of the former king, Magnus Barefoot. In fact this is not implausible because other descendants of Magnus are reported in Irish sources, Harald consequently claimed to be a half-brother of the reigning king, Sigurd the Crusader. Harald appears to have submitted successfully to the ordeal by fire, the alleged relationship was acknowledged by Sigurd on condition that Harald did not claim any share in the government of the kingdom during his lifetime or that of his son Magnus. Living on friendly terms with the king, Harald kept this agreement until Sigurd’s death in 1130, Harald was in Tønsberg when he heard of King Sigurds death.
He called together a meeting at the Haugating, at this Thing, Harald was chosen king over half the country. King Magnus was obliged to divide the kingdom with Harald into two parts, the kingdom accordingly was so divided that each of them should have the half part of the kingdom which King Sigurd had possessed. They ruled the country for some time in peace, after four years of uneasy peace, Magnus began to openly prepare for war on Harald. On August 9,1134, he defeated Harald in a decisive Battle at Färlev in Bohuslän, subsequently Magnus disbanded his army and traveled to Bergen to spend the winter there. Harald returned to Norway with a new army and meeting little opposition, since Magnus had few men, the city fell easily to Haralds army on January 7,1135. His eyes were put out, and he was thrown into prison, Harald now ruled the country until 1136, when he was murdered by Sigurd Slembe, another alleged illegitimate son of Magnus Barefoot. Harald was married to Ingrid Ragnvaldsdotter, daughter of Ragnvald Ingesson, Harald had a son, Inge I of Norway, with her.
According to the sagas, Harald had previously married to Bjaðǫk, mother of his son. Among Haralds concubines was Tora Guttorm, the daughter of Guttorm Gråbarde and he had a son, Magnus Haraldsson of Norway, who died in 1145 at 10 years of age. All four sons were kings of Norway, approximately from his accession to the throne, the civil wars period of Norwegian history started, that lasted from 1130 to 1217. During this period there were several interlocked conflicts of varying scale, the background for these conflicts were the unclear Norwegian succession laws, social conditions and the struggle between Church and King
Magnus IV of Norway
Magnus IV Sigurdsson, known as Magnus the Blind, was King of Norway from 1130 to 1135 and again from 1137 to 1139. His period as king marked the beginning of the war era in Norway. Magnus was the son of King Sigurd I of Norway and Borghild Olavsdotter, when King Sigurd died in 1130, Magnus became king of Norway together with his uncle Harald Gille. After four years of peace, Magnus began to openly prepare for war on Harald. On August 9,1134, he defeated Harald in the decisive Battle at Färlev near Färlev in Stångenäs herred in Båhuslen, against the advice of his councilors, Magnus disbanded his army and traveled to Bergen to spend the winter there. Harald returned to Norway with a new army and the support of the Danish King Erik Emune, meeting little opposition, he reached Bergen before Christmas. Magnus had few men, and the city fell easily to Haralds army on January 7,1135 and he was blinded and had one leg cut off. After this he was known as Magnus the Blind, Magnus was put in Nidarholm Abbey on the island of Munkholmen in Trondheim Fjord, where he spent some time as a monk.
Harald Gille was killed in 1136 by Sigurd Slembe, another royal pretender who had himself proclaimed king in 1135, to back his claim, Sigurd Slembe brought Magnus back from the abbey and made him co-king. They decided to split up their forces, and Magnus headed for eastern Norway, there, he was defeated at the Battle of Minne by the forces of King Inge I. He fled to Götaland and subsequently to Denmark, where he tried to get support for his cause, an attempted invasion of Norway by King Erik Emune of Denmark failed miserably. Magnus rejoined Sigurd Slembes men, but they continued to have support in Norway. After some time spent more like bandits than kings, they met the forces of King Inge I, Magnus fell during the naval Battle of Holmengrå south of Hvaler in the Oslofjord. The loyal guard Reidar Grjotgardsson lifted his king at the final battle, Magnus was buried in the Church of St. Hallvard in Oslo. There is a monument erected in memory of King Magnus the Blind at the Storedal farm in Skjeberg in Østfold county, during the civil wars period of Norwegian history there were several interlocked conflicts of varying scale and intensity.
The background for these conflicts were the unclear Norwegian succession laws, social conditions, there were two main parties, firstly known by varying names or no names at all, but finally condensed into parties of Bagler and Birkebeiner. The rallying point regularly was a son, who was set up as the head figure of the party in question. The saga of Magnus the Blinde and Harald Gille The saga of the sons of Harald Gille
Earls of Lade
The Earls of Lade were a dynasty of rulers of Earldom of Lade, present day Trøndelag and Hålogaland in Norway from the 9th century to the 11th century. The seat of the Earls of Lade was the farm known as Lade gård. Today this site is located in the parts of the city of Trondheim. The site is near the seaside of the Trondheimsfjord, an important waterway dating in the Viking Age, according to Snorre, King Harald I of Norway was a great commander but lacked a fleet. For that he was assisted by Håkon Grjotgardsson, in gratitude Harald made him the first Earl of Lade