Brusi Sigurdsson

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Brusi Sigurdsson
Died before 1035[1]
Title Earl of Orkney
Spouse(s) Unknown
Children Rögnvald
Parents Sigurd Hlodvirsson and unknown

Brusi Sigurdsson (died between 1030 and 1035) was one of Sigurd Hlodvirsson's four sons (together with Thorfinn, Einar and Sumarlidi ). He was jointly Earl of Orkney from 1014. His life is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.

Family background[edit]

The Orkneyinga Saga reports that when their father Earl Sigurd was killed at the Battle of Clontarf, the earldom was divided between his three oldest sons, Brusi, Sumarlidi, and Einar "Wry-Mouth". The youngest son Thorfinn was only five years old and being fostered by his maternal grandfather Malcolm II of Scotland on the Scottish mainland[2] who gave him the earldom of Caithness,[3] which Sigurd had held from the Scottish crown.

Joint rule[edit]

Sumarlidi died soon after this, and Einar, called, took his share, ruling two-thirds of the Earldom and leaving a third for Brusi. Einar soon became unpopular, demanding heavy taxes and frequent military service from the farmers, and gaining little booty on his raids. He was, the saga says, "a great bully", whereas Brusi was "gentle, restrained, unassuming and a fine speaker" and "well liked by everyone".[4]

Brusi had to make peace between Einar and Thorfinn when the youngest brother grew to manhood, not once but twice. In the end, Einar plotted Thorfinn's death but was found out and killed by Thorfinn.[5] The agreement made with Einar meant that Brusi inherited another third of the earldom on Einar's death, leaving Thorfinn with one part of the earldom, Brusi with two. Thorfinn was not pleased with this arrangement, and asked Brusi for a half share. This Brusi refused. However, while Thorfinn could count on the aid of his maternal grandfather, Máel Coluim mac Cináeda, Brusi could rely only on his own resources.[6]

To find support Brusi went to Norway, to the court of King Olaf Haraldsson, to have the sharing out of the Earldom settled, and Thorfinn followed him there. Olaf kept Einar's share for himself, appointing Brusi to administer it, and kept Brusi's son Rögnvald at his court.[7] Brusi later gave Thorfinn the disputed third of the islands in return for Thorfinn seeing to the defence of Orkney and Shetland.[8]

Brusi died before 1035 as the saga says he had died before his son Rögnvald accompanied Magnus the Good back to Norway.[9]

Preceded by
Sigurd Hlodvisson
Earl of Orkney
with Einar Sigurdsson 1014–1020
with Sumarlidi Sigurdsson 1014–1015
Succeeded by
Thorfinn Sigurdsson


  1. ^ Muir (2005) p. 47 "Earl Brusi died in the early 1030s".
  2. ^ Orkneyinga Saga c. 12-13 p. 38
  3. ^ St Olaf's Saga c. 99.
  4. ^ Orkneyinga Saga, c. 13; St Olaf's Saga, c. 97.
  5. ^ Orkneyinga Saga, cc. 14–16; St Olaf's Saga, cc. 98–99.
  6. ^ Orkneyinga Saga, cc. 16–17; St Olaf's Saga, c. 100.
  7. ^ Orkneyinga Saga, cc. 17–19; Saint Olaf's Saga, cc. 100–102.
  8. ^ Orkneyinga Saga, c. 19.
  9. ^ Orkneyinga Saga, c. 21.


  • Anderson, Alan Orr, Early Sources of Scottish History A.D 500–1286, volume 1. Reprinted with corrections. Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1990. ISBN 1-871615-03-8
  • Muir, Tom (2005) Orkney in the Sagas: The Story of the Earldom of Orkney as told in the Icelandic Sagas. The Orcadian. Kirkwall. ISBN 0954886232.
  • Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney, tr. Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Penguin, London, 1978. ISBN 0-14-044383-5
  • Sturluson, Snorri, Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway, tr. Lee M. Hollander. Reprinted University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992. ISBN 0-292-73061-6