Godred Olafsson

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Not to be confused with Gofraid mac Amlaíb meic Ragnaill.
Godred Olafsson
King of the Isles
Rex Insularum)
UigChessKing rightfront (rotated, cropped).jpg
A replica of a king from the Lewis 'chessmen'. The pieces may date to about the time of Godred's reign.[note 1]
Predecessor Olaf Godredsson (d. 1153) (father)
Successor Ragnvald (d. 1229) (son)
Consort Fingola, granddaughter of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, High King of Ireland, King of Cenél nEógain
Issue three sons: Ragnvald (d. 1229), Olaf (d. 1237), Ivar; one daughter: Affreca
Gaelic Gofraid mac Amlaíb
Old Norse Guðrøðr Óláfsson
Dynasty Crovan dynasty
Father Olaf Godredsson (d. 1153)
Mother Affreca, daughter of Fergus, Lord of Galloway
Died 10 November 1187
St Patrick's Isle
Burial summer of 1188

Godred Olafsson (Gaelic: Gofraid mac Amlaíb; Old Norse: Guðrøðr Óláfsson),[note 2] also known as Godred II, was a 12th-century King of Mann and the Isles. His father, Olaf Godredsson (d. 1153), ruled the island-kingdom before him as did Godred's paternal-grandfather, Godred Crovan (d. 1095), who was also the King of Dublin. Some secondary sources style Godred Olafsson and his predecessors "King of Mann", or "King of Mann and the Isles". However these terms are anachronistic with Godred styling himself "King of the Isles". During his father's reign, Godred was sent to Norway to render homage to Inge Haraldsson, King of Norway. In 1153, while Godred was still in Norway, Olaf was assassinated by three of his brother's sons, who then took control of Mann. The following autumn, Godred returned from Norway and regained the kingdom, putting one of his treacherous cousins to death and blinding the other two.

Godred's sister was married to Somerled, Lord of Argyll. In 1154, Godred and Somerled fought an inconclusive naval battle, and the Kingdom of the Isles was divided between the two. This division lasted for over a century until the death of Godred's grandson, the last of the Crovan dynasty of kings. Somerled attacked again in 1158 and drove Godred from the kingdom. Godred appears to have fled to England and later spent time in Scotland before sailing for Norway. He is recorded as taking part in the ongoing dynastic strife in Norway and playing a significant part in the downfall of Inge. According to saga accounts of the Battle of Oslo, Godred betrayed Inge during the battle, which ended in Inge's defeat and death in 1161. Some years later, on the death of Somerled in 1164, the Chronicle of Mann records that Mann was invaded by Godred's younger brother, Ragnvald who was defeated less than a week later when Godred once more took control. About twenty years later, Godred and the Manxmen successfully fought off another invasion led by yet another man named Ragnvald.

According to the Chronicle of Mann, at one point during his reign Godred was invited by the citizens of Dublin to rule as their king. Following his proclamation, the chronicle records that he and the Dubliners fought off an attack by the Irish forces of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, before leaving Dublin for home and disbanding his army. The Annals of Ulster may confirm these events, although it dates them to 1162. In the last half of the 12th century, Anglo-Norman adventurers began settling and conquering lands in Ireland. At first, Godred used his powerful fleet of galleys to assist the Dubliners against these invaders. Later he formed an alliance through the dynastic marriage of his daughter, Affreca to John de Courcy, one of the most powerful of the newly established Anglo-Norman lords in Ireland. De Courcy's rise to power in the last quarter of the 12th century was breathtakingly swift, although he was eventually ground down by his rivals and John, King of England, in the early 13th century. Both de Courcy and his wife are recorded as being great benefactors of the Church in Ireland. Affreca is known to have founded Grey Abbey, the ruins of which can be seen today in County Down.

Ancestry and family connections[edit]

Ancestry and children of Godred (Gofraid). Also shown is his relation with Somerled (Somairle), and Somerled's sons Dugald (Dubgall) and Ragnvald (Ragnall).

Godred was the son of Olaf Godredsson, King of Mann and the Isles (d. 1153), who was a younger son of Godred Crovan, King of Mann and the Isles and King of Dublin (d. 1095). Like his predecessors, Godred (Olafsson) is sometimes styled "King of Mann" in secondary sources, however, this is anachronistic.[4] Godred, his sons, and his father, styled themselves in Latin as Rex Insularum ("King of the Isles"). It is unknown how Godred's grandfather, Godred Crovan, styled himself. It was not until the reigns of Godred's grandsons, that the leading members of the dynasty adopted the Latin title Rex Mannie et Insularum ("King of Mann and the Isles").[5]

The ancestry of Godred's paternal grandfather, founder of the Crovan dynasty, is uncertain. The Chronicle of Mann describes Godred Crovan in Latin as filius Haraldi nigri de ysland,[6] and it is possible that "ysland" may refer to Iceland.[note 3] Within the Annals of Tigernach, he is given the Gaelic patronymic mac mic Arailt, which may mean that he was a son or nephew of Ivar Haraldsson, King of Dublin (d. 1054).[8] Ivar was a grandson of the celebrated Olaf Cuaran, King of Dublin, King of Northumbria (d. 981),[9] a second generation Uí Ímair dynast.[10] Godred Crovan died in 1095, after ruling the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles for over 15 years. A period of confusion followed his death before his younger son Olaf then became king for more than 40 years. Godred Olafsson's mother was one of Olaf's wives, Affreca, daughter of Fergus, Lord of Galloway,[11] and his wife, an illegitimate daughter of Henry I, King of England.[12][note 4]

The Chronicle of Mann states that Olaf had several concubines who bore him three sons and many daughters.[13] One of these daughters, Ragnhild, married Somerled, Lord of Argyll (d. 1164).[14] This marriage played a major part in Godred's life with the chronicle stating that Ragnhild was the cause of the downfall of the Kingdom of the Isles[13] while it appears that her ancestry was the source of the claim to the kingship of the Hebrides by the descendants of Somerled.[15] Godred is known to have married Fingola, granddaughter of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, King of Cenél nEógain, High King of Ireland and to have had at least one son by this marriage.[11] According to a praise poem of another son, Godred had at least one son by a woman named Sadb, whom historians suspect to have been an Irishwoman.[9] A charter that Godred granted to St Bees Priory appears to show that Godred was a foster-brother of a man named Gilla Críst.[16]

Son of the King of the Isles[edit]

The Kings of the Isles of the Crovan dynasty are thought to have paid tribute to the Kings of Norway in recognition of the latter's nominal overlordship.[17][note 5] The Chronicle of Mann states that during the reign of his father, Godred sailed to Norway and rendered homage to Inge Haraldsson, King of Norway. The chronicle also records that in the same year, three Dublin-raised sons of Olaf's brother Harald invaded Mann and demanded half of the kingdom for themselves. A meeting between Olaf and the nephews was arranged during which Olaf was axed to death by the second nephew Ragnvald. Not long after Olaf's assassination, the chronicle notes that the nephews undertook an unsuccessful invasion of Galloway.[19] Modern historians have dated these events to the years 1152–1153,[19][20] as the chronicle also notes that Olaf died the same year as David I, King of Scots.[19] The chronicle continues by detailing that, in the autumn following Olaf's death, Godred returned from Norway in five ships and took control of the kingdom. He seized the three cousins responsible for his father's death, with the chronicle recording that "it was said" he put out the eyes of two and killed the third.[19][note 6] One interpretation of Godred's journey to Norway is that it was an attempt to gain Norwegian aid against the rival faction of his cousins,[22] although recent analysis of his stay in Norway has noted that it coincided with that of papal legate Nicholas Breakspeare, who was working to establish the Archbishopric of Nidaros, which would eventually incorporate the domain of the Kingdom of the Isles. Godred may therefore have travelled to Norway because of Breakspeare's presence there, to not only strengthen links with Norway but also to attempt to prevent the spread of influence of the newly established Archbishopric of Dublin into the domain of his island-kingdom.[20] If this was the case, then Olaf's death at the hands of his Dublin-based nephews may be directly related to Godred's journey.[23]

King of Dublin?[edit]

Locations mentioned in the article.

Dublin's 12th century population was a Norse-Gaelic hybrid, neither Scandinavian or Irish in character. Although the descendants of Scandinavians had lived in the region for hundreds of years, they were still considered cultural "foreigners" by the native Irish. According to Gerald of Wales, the Dubliners were known as "Ostmen", a term most likely derived from an Old Norse word meaning "easterner".[24] Dublin was by far the wealthiest city in Ireland, and had at its disposal a powerful military force. Control of the military might and wealth of Dublin was thus hotly contested by numerous 12th-century Irish and Norse-Gaelic kings as well as local warlords.[25]

According to the Chronicle of Mann, early in Godred's reign, the citizens of Dublin requested that Godred become their king. The chronicle relates how he then assembled a large force of men and ships and sailed to the port-city. He was openly welcomed by the citizens, then after some deliberation, proclaimed King of Dublin. However, the chronicle notes that when Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, King of Cenél nEógain, High King of Ireland, learned of these events, he assembled a large army and hastened to Dublin with the intent of driving Godred out. Muirchertach is said to have arrived at a town called Cortcelis, where he halted and pitched camp. The identity of this town is uncertain, one suggestion is that it may refer to Kells (located in what is today County Meath).[26] The chronicle goes on to record that Muirchertach selected 3,000 horsemen under the command of his uterine brother, "Osiblen",[note 7] and sent them forward towards the city to parley with the Dubliners. However, on the approach of the Irish cavalry, Godred's forces, together with those of the Dubliners, are said to have let loose a shower of arrows that drove back Osiblen's men. The chronicle states that Osiblen was surrounded and slain alongside many of his followers, and when Muirchertach heard of his death, he ordered his army to return home. The chronicle notes that a short while later Godred also returned home, and disbanded his forces by allowing his chiefs to depart for their own islands.[19]

Prima facie, Godred's activities in Dublin are not confirmed by Irish sources. However, the chronicle is known to be suspect in many its dates and scholars have noted that certain events recorded in Irish sources for the year 1162 are similar to the chronicle's version of events. For example, the Annals of Ulster state that an army of Muirchertach's went to Mag Fitharta, and spent a week there burning the corn and townlands of the "foreigners".[29] The identity of Mag Fitharta is uncertain, although one suggestion places it in what is today the north of County Meath or County Louth, and thus not far from Kells as mentioned above. The annals continue by stating that the "foreigners" then defeated Muirchertach's horsemen, killing six or seven of them, such that the objectives of Muirchertach's army were not met. The events depicted in the chronicle and the Annals of Ulster appear to record a single attempt by Godred to annex the Kingdom of Dublin, and also of Muirchertach's feeble attempt to prevent such a takeover.[30]

Furthermore, the Annals of the Four Masters appear to confirm events depicted in the chronicle.[31] This source records that Muircheartach led an army, accompanied by men from the north of Ireland, from Meath and from Connaught, to Dublin where they laid siege to the city. Muircheartach is said to departed without fighting whereupon the Leinstermen and Meathmen were left to battle the "foreigners". The annals record that a truce was afterwards concluded between the "foreigners" and the Irishmen, with six score ounces of gold given by the "foreigners" to Muircheartach.[32] This source appears to show that in the end, an agreement was negotiated between the Irish and the Dubliners, and that the latter decided to pay off the powerful Muircheartach, rather than insist on Godred's rule.[31]

Godred is known to have later married Fingola, a granddaughter of Muirchertach, and it has been suggested that this marriage was an attempt to restore relations between the two kings.[33] Another Irish source, the Annals of Tigernach, records that in 1162 an army of the son of Mac Lochlainn, together with the men of Ireland, engaged the "foreigners of Dublin" in order to take vengeance upon them for the violation of his wife, although the armies separated without peace and without having battled.[34] The only certainty surrounding Godred and Fingola's marriage is that it was formally sanctioned in 1177, although the possibility of an earlier liaison between the two has been suggested.[35]

Conflict with Somerled[edit]

Detail from the Hedin Cross, which dates from about the time of Godred Crovan's dynasty. The strength of the Manx and Hebridean sea-kings was the power of their fleets.[36] The galley was the symbol of Godred's family before the triskelion.[37]

The Chronicle of Mann states that when Godred felt sufficiently secure in Mann he began to act tyrannically towards his chiefs. It relates that one of the more powerful chiefs, Thorfinn Ottarsson, fled to Somerled, Lord of Argyll and begged that Somerled's son, Dugald, be made "king over the isles"[19] —possibly meaning king of all of the isles.[38] The chronicle states that a pleased Somerled agreed to Thorfinn's proposal and placed Dugald under Thorfinn's protection.[19] Thorfinn is regarded by scholars to have been somehow related to Ottar, King of Dublin, an Islesman with Manx connections, who seized Dublin in 1142 and held it until his death in 1148.[39] It may be that Thorfinn had intended to restore his family's position in the area, possibly with Somerled's assistance.[40] There is also a possibility that Thorfinn was distantly related to Dugald, through a proposed maternal-ancestry of Ragnhild, and this relationship may have also played a part in Thorfinn's involvement.[41][note 8] In any event, the chronicle's statement that Thorfinn was simply reacting to Godred's tyranny cannot be taken strictly at face value.[40]

Modern scholars have noted that the intended coup does not appear to have had unanimous support amongst the Hebridean chiefs.[42] For example, the chronicle notes that when Dugald was sent throughout the isles, the island-chiefs not only rendered him pledges but surrendered hostages to Dugald as well.[19] Furthermore, the chronicle states that a certain island-chief named Paul remained loyal to Godred, and fled in secret to Mann, where he informed Godred of the treachery brewing in the isles.[note 9] According to the chronicle, Godred immediately assembled a large fleet to counter Somerled whose forces had meanwhile risen to 80 ships.[19]

Dugald's claim to the kingship appears to stem from his mother Ragnhild being the daughter of Olaf Godredsson (thereby making Dugald a nephew of Godred).[15] It is not clear why Somerled's son was selected in his place, although it has been suggested that Somerled was somehow an unacceptable choice to the Hebrideans, and that Ragnhild's ancestry lent credibility to their son that Somerled lacked himself.[44] In fact, it is not entirely clear whether Dugald was the son in question and events may pertain to another son, Ragnvald. The reasoning is that there is no evidence that Dugald acted as a king in the Hebrides. Furthermore, after Somerled's death in 1164 the leadership of his descendants appears to have been taken up by Ragnvald,[45] who styled himself in one charter "King of the Isles and Lord of Argyll and Kintyre".[46]

The chronicle records that in the year 1156, on the night of the Epiphany (5 January 1156),[47] the forces of Godred and Somerled fought a vicious naval battle with heavy casualties on both sides. The next day Godred and Somerled made peace, and divided the Kingdom of the Isles between themselves.[19] In essence this division lasted for over a century, at which time Godred's grandson, last of the Crovan dynasty of sea-kings, Magnus Olafsson (d. 1265), had his seat on Mann and controlled at least the largest Hebridean islands of Skye and Lewis, while Somerled's descendants controlled the Inner Hebridean islands of Islay, Mull, and likely Coll and Tiree, possibly along with the Outer Hebridean islands of Uist and Barra.[5][note 10] In 1158, two years after this stalemate on the Epiphany, the chronicle records that Somerled returned to Mann with a fleet of 53 ships, and fought Godred again. This time Somerled was victorious, and the chronicle states that all of Mann was plundered before his forces left.[49]

Exile in Norway[edit]

If the Chronicle of Mann is to be believed, on his defeat by Somerled, Godred fled to Norway to ask for assistance.[49] However, contemporaneous sources show that Godred attempted to garner aid from the English and Scottish kings in 1158 and 1159 respectively before sailing to Norway.[50][note 11] Godred appears to have been in Norway in about 1160, where he is recorded in connection with Inge Haraldsson, King of Norway, in late 1160 or early 1161.[53] Inge may have formally recognised Godred as King of the Isles during a public ceremony in 1160,[50] since four Icelandic chronicles record that he assumed the kingship in that year.[54]

A 19th-century depiction of the forces of Inge Haraldsson, King of Norway, at the Battle of Oslo, 1161.

In the mid 12th century, Norway was in the midst of civil war.[55][56] Harald Gille, King of Norway was murdered in 1136, leaving several sons by different mothers – Eysteinn, Sigurd, Magnus, and Inge. For a short time there was peace between the brother's factions, until Sigurd was slain by followers of Inge[57] in 1155.[58] Eysteinn was killed two years later,[58] and his men then elected Hakon Sigurdsson (son of the slain Sigurd) as their leader. On 3–4 February 1161, Hakon attacked Inge near what is today the city of Oslo,[57] at what was known as the Battle of Oslo. According to the medieval Heimskringla, Godred was present at the battle as a follower of Inge. The saga describes how Inge deployed his army of 4,000 men and waited for the approach of Hakon and his army. Godred's position is described as on one of Inge's wings, along with another man, John Sveinsson. According to the saga, when Hakon's forces drew close Godred and John signalled to Hakon and his followers in order to let them know their location. It then states that Godred fled the scene with 1,500 of his followers while John and his men, joined the ranks of Hakon. Inge's depleted line was thrown into disarray, and according to the saga, he was slain in the ensuing battle.[59] Godred's participation at the battle may have been part of the fulfilment of his obligation to render military service as Inge's vassal.[60] After Inge's death, his followers chose Magnus Erlingsson, young son of Erling Skakke, as their king. The next year Hakon was slain battling Erling.[57] Godred is suspected to have been present at the coronation of Magnus, in 1163 or 1164.[61]

Return to the Isles[edit]

Somerled launched an invasion of mainland Scotland and was slain at the Battle of Renfrew (1164).[14] The continuator of the Annals of Tigernach styles him on his death "King of the Hebrides and Kintyre". The Annals of Ulster state that his force consisted of men from Argyll, Kintyre, the Hebrides, and Dublin.[14][62] The diverse composition of Somerled's forces appears to confirm that he had usurped the power of the Godred in the Hebrides and possibly on Mann itself.[63] The same year, the Chronicle of Mann records that Godred's younger brother Ragnvald invaded Mann and fought the Manx people at Ramsey.[64] It is uncertain whether the Manx fought on behalf of Somerled or Godred,[65] and the chronicle attributes Ragnvald's victory over the Manx to the treachery of a certain sheriff.[note 12] The victorious Ragnvald is said to have only reigned as king for four days as on the fourth day Godred arrived on the island with a large army and had Ragnvald seized, emasculated, and blinded.[64]

In about 1182, the Chronicle of Mann states that a man of royal blood—one Ragnvald, son of Echmarcach—landed on Mann with many followers while Godred was absent. Ragnvald's forces easily thwarted a party of Manx coast-watchers, killing about twenty of them. Later the same day during a clash with a large body of Manxmen, Ragnvald and his forces were defeated and he and almost all of his followers were slain.[67]

Ecclesiastical events[edit]

Little is known of the ecclesiastical history of the Kingdom of the Isles until Godred's father, Olaf, appointed Wimund as Bishop of the Isles, in 1134.[68] One of the most important ecclesiastical events in the history of the kingdom was the foundation of Rushen Abbey in 1134, with a grant of lands from Olaf to the Abbot of Furness.[69] At the time of Olaf's original grant, Furness was a Savignac house. In 1147 the Cistercian and Savignac orders merged, and it is likely that Rushen became Cistercian at this time.[70] When Godred ascended the throne, his first act was to confirm his father's grant.[69] Another key event was the foundation of the Archbishopric of Nidaros, a metropolitan see centred in Norway. During this time the archbishopric, founded in 1152–53, incorporated 11 bishoprics within and without Norway.[note 13] One of these bishoprics encompassed the domain of the Kingdom of the Isles,[71] and was created by a papal decree in 1154.[note 14] In several respects the bishopric mirrored the political reality of the Kingdom of the Isles. For example, the bishopric and kingdom shared the same geographical boundaries, and at times both shared a similar subjection to Norway. The ecclesiastical connection with Nidaros further strengthened the link between the Kingdom of the Isles and the Kingdom of Norway.[72]

St Oran's Chapel, dating to the mid 12th century, is the oldest building on Iona. It may have been built by Godred or his father, Olaf. Godred was buried on Iona, in 1188.

In one charter, thought to date from between Godred's ascension and his temporary expulsion by Somerled in 1158, Godred granted several rights to the monks of Holm Cultram Abbey: the right to enter and leave his lands with no tolls or customs taken from them and the assurance that in the event of their ships being wrecked ashore, no goods belonging to the monks would be taken from them.[74] Another charter, thought to have been in circulation in 1175, records that Godred gave "Asmundestoftes" and "Eschedala" to St Bees Priory, in exchange for the "Church of St Olaf" and the villula ("small villa") called "Euastad". The charter's "Asmundestoftes" has been identified as Ballellin, and "Eschedala" as Dhoon.[75][note 15] It has been suggested that the "Church of St. Olaf" was located at Jallo, near Port Mooar; and that the villula was at Ballajora, all within the parish of Maughold.[75] St Bees Priory was closely connected with Godred's son-in-law, John de Courcy, who granted Nendrum Monastery to St Bees Priory.[76]

St Oran's Chapel, the mortuary chapel on the Inner Hebridean island of Iona, is the oldest surviving building on the island today. Judging from certain Irish influences in its architecture, the chapel is thought to date to about the mid 12th century.[77] Somerled's rise to power took place in the mid 12th century,[78] during which time he seized many of the Inner Hebridean islands from Godred's control. Later descendants of Somerled are known to have used the chapel,[77] and both he[79] and one of his sons, Ragnvald, have been linked to the chapel's establishment.[80] There is also a possibility that the chapel was built during Godred's reign or possibly that of his father Olaf. The Chronicle of Mann records that Godred died in 1187, and notes that he was buried on Iona the following summer, in 1188.[77] In Donald Monro's mid 16th century description of the Hebrides, and of Iona in particular, he stated that the island contained a stone tomb inscribed Tumulus Regum Norwegiæ ("The Tomb of the Kings of Norway").[81] According to Monro, it was said that eight Kings of Norway were buried there; however, the only historical candidates for Monro's 'Norwegian' kings are Godred, Olaf Cuaran (d. 981), and Uspak (d. 1230).[82][note 16]

According to the chronicle, papal legate Cardinal Vivian came to Mann in 1176 where he formalised the marriage between Godred and his wife, Fingola, daughter of a son of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn.[84][note 17] The chronicle notes that, on the same day that Sylvanus,[84] Abbot of Rievaulx,[86] married the couple, he duly received from Godred part of the lands of Myroscough, in the north part of Mann (within what is today the parish of Lezayre).[84] Although Sylvanus built a monastery on these lands, by the end of the 13th century, the estate had been taken over by Rushen Abbey.[86]

John de Courcy, Affreca, and the Norman Invasion of Ireland[edit]

The seal of Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, a Cambro-Norman lord who led the 'Norman' invasion of Ireland in the mid 12th century. The seal depicts a mounted Cambro-Norman knight and footsoldier.[87]

In the last half of the 12th century, Cambro-Normans, or Anglo-Normans, began settling and conquering large swathes of territory in Ireland.[88][note 18] Godred is known to have assisted the Dubliners and their Irish allies early on against these invaders. For example, according to chronicler Gerald of Wales, the High King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, and the Archbishop of Dublin, Lorcán Ua Tuathail, sent letters to Godred and other men in the Isles, asking them to blockade Dublin, which had been seized by the Normans.[89][90] However, Godred later formed an alliance with one of the most powerful of the early Anglo-Normans lords in Ireland – John de Courcy.[11]

John de Courcy's parental-ancestry is uncertain, although he was very likely a member of the de Courcy family, lords of Stoke Courcy (what is today Stogursey, Somerset). de Courcy bound himself to the Crovan dynasty by marrying Godred's daughter, Affreca. According to the Dublin Annals of Inisfallen, their marriage took place in 1180, although scholars consider this an unreliable source. Nothing is known about the early life of de Courcy. He arrived in Ireland in 1176, with Henry II, King of England's deputy in Ireland, William fitz Audelin, and was a member of the English garrison of Dublin. According to the Gerald of Wales, in 1177 de Courcy led an invasion of Ulaid, an area roughly encompassing what is today County Antrim and County Down). He reached Down (modern day Downpatrick), drove off Ruaidrí Mac Duinn Sléibe, King of Ulaid,[91] and consolidated his conquest of the area with the erection of a castle.[92] Following Cardinal Vivian's visit to Mann, where he solemnised Godred and Fingola's marriage, Vivian unsuccessfully attempted to mediate between de Courcy and Ruaidrí.[91] Thereafter, De Courcy ruled his lands with a certain amount of independence for about a quarter of a century.[93]

Grey Abbey, founded in 1193 by Godred's daughter, Affreca, husband of John de Courcy.

In the early 13th century, long after Godred's 1187 death, de Courcy came into conflict with Hugh de Lacy (d. 1242), who was encouraged by John, King of England to oust de Courcy from Ulster, and later rewarded for his success with the newly created Earldom of Ulster, in 1205.[94] De Courcy later fled to his brother-in-law, Godred's son and successor, Ragnvald Godredsson, King of the Isles (d. 1229). Reinforced by Ragnvald's massive fleet, de Courcy attempted an invasion of Ulster. However, the attempt ended in failure with an unsuccessful attack on what is thought to be Dundrum Castle, and he never regained his Ulster-lands.[91] De Courcy then took refuge in Tír nEógain (modern day County Tyrone), before returning to England in 1207. De Courcy last appears on record in 1210, when he took part in John's overthrow of Hugh de Lacy.[95]

In 1213, the justiciar was ordered to provide lands for de Courcy's wife, Affreca, and seven years later the justiciar was further ordered to secure Affreca's dower-lands. Both records are thought to show that de Courcy had recently died.[95] De Courcy is known to have been a great benefactor of the Church, and to have founded numerous abbeys and priories.[95] Affreca herself founded Grey Abbey in 1193, and made it a Cistercian daughter-house of Holm Cultram Abbey.[96][97] Affreca is thought to have died in, or sometime after 1219. According to the Chronicle of Mann, she was buried in Grey Abbey. The couple are not known to have had any children.[91][95]

Death and succession[edit]

Ruinous Peel Castle sits upon St Patrick's Isle. Godred died on the island, in 1187.

The Chronicle of Mann records that Godred died on 10 November 1187, on St Patrick's Isle off the western coast of Mann. According to the chronicle he was buried the following summer on the Inner Hebridean island of Iona.[98] Godred is known to have had three sons: Ragnvald (d. 1229), Olaf (d. 1237), and Ivar.[11] The chronicle states that the eldest son, Ragnvald, was illegitimate, and that Godred had instructed that Olaf should succeed to the kingdom. Olaf was still very young according to the chronicle, and thus the Manx people appointed the capable Ragnvald as their king.[98] The half-brothers subsequently fell out and the kingdom was severely weakened by bitter family-feuding.[11] At one point Ragnvald's son, Godred Don (d. about 1231), was defeated in battle against Olaf and brutally mutilated by one of Olaf's close followers.[99] Ragnvald was finally slain in 1229, whilst battling Olaf's forces on Mann. Olaf then took the throne and ruled until his death in 1237.[11] Recognised rule of the kingdom by the Crovan dynasty ended with the death of Olaf's younger son, Magnus, in 1265.[note 19] The kingdom was then ceded by the Kingdom of Norway to the Kingdom of Scotland, through the Treaty of Perth in 1266.[48]



  1. ^ The gaming pieces are thought to have been crafted in Norway, and have been dated from the at least the mid 12th century to the early 13th century.[1][2] It has been suggested that they are somehow connected with Godred's visit to the court of Inge Haraldsson, in 1152. They could thus have been a gift between the King of Norway and the King of Mann and the Isles.[1]
  2. ^ Some English-language secondary sources (particular those written from a Scottish perspective) call him Godfrey.[3]
  3. ^ The Inner Hebridean island of Islay, Ireland, and even just the word "island", have also been suggested.[7]
  4. ^ The name of Henry's daughter is unknown.[12]
  5. ^ For example, the 12th century chronicler Robert of Torigni, noted a meeting between Henry II, King of England, William I, King of Scotland, and the Bishop of the Isles where it was stated that the Kings of Mann and the Isles paid the Kings of Norway 10 marks of gold on their ascension to the Norwegian throne. Robert also recorded that the King of Mann and the Isles was not obliged to render any other tribute until the next Norwegian king succeeded. He went on to note that the Kings of Mann and the Isles ruled 32 islands, including Mann.[18]
  6. ^ Years before, according to the chronicle, Harald had warred over the throne with his brother, Lagman, who was the eldest of Godred Crovan's three sons. Unfortunately for Harald, he was eventually captured with the chronicle noting that Lagman had him blinded and emasculated.[21]
  7. ^ In the early 20th century, Alan Orr Anderson suggested that this name may represent Ua Siblen.[27] Seán Duffy later suggested that he may have been the lord of Uí Echach Muaid (in what is today the barony of Tirawley, County Mayo). Duffy noted that Muirchertach's mother was Caillech Críst, daughter of a man called Ua Cuilén and suggested that before her marriage to Muirchertach's father, Caillech Críst may have been married to an Ua Siblen dynast, which would have made children from this marriage the half-brothers of Muirchertach.[28]
  8. ^ David Sellar has suggested that Ragnhild's mother may have been Ingebjorg, daughter of Hakon Paulsson, Earl of Orkney. According to the Orkneyinga saga, she was a descendant of Moddan of Dale, a wealthy farmer in Caithness who had a prominent son named Ottar. Gareth Williams has suggested that Moddan's wife may been a member of the Thorfinn's family. See also: Olvir Rosta for more on Moddan's family.
  9. ^ It has been suggested that this particular Paul may have been an ancestor of Paul Balkason, a 13th-century sheriff of Skye, recorded in the Chronicle of Mann.[43]
  10. ^ Thus the MacDonald Lordship of the Isles, forfeited in the late 15th century, was a direct successor to the Crovan dynasty's Kingdom of the Isles.[48]
  11. ^ For example, the English Pipe rolls record that, in 1158, the sheriffs of Worcester and of Gloucester received allowances for payments made to Godred for arms and equipment.[51] In 1159, while at Roxburgh, Godred was a witness to a charter of Malcolm IV, King of Scots to Kelso Abbey.[52]
  12. ^ It has been suggested that this sheriff may have been identical to the Fogolt who the chronicle records to have died in 1183.[65][66] Anderson suggested that it was possible that Fogolt was the son of Liotolf, who is recorded within the Orkneyinga saga wherein Liotolf has a son named Fugl.[66] See also: Olvir Rosta#Hebridean runes: possible family connections.
  13. ^ Of the 11 bishoprics, five were centred in Norway, and six in Norwegian colonies (two in Iceland, one in Orkney, one in the Faroe Islands, one in Greenland, and one centred on Mann).[55]
  14. ^ The bishopric is sometimes called "Sodor", and is derived from the Latin Sodorensis, which means "of the southern islands".[72] This Latin term is in turn derived from the Old Norse Suðreyjar, which means "Southern Isles". This Old Norse word referred to the Hebrides, and sometimes included Mann as well.[73]
  15. ^ Groudle Glen, near Douglas, has also been suggested as possible location of "Eschedala".[16]
  16. ^ Monro further stated that the tomb's location was north of that of Scottish kings (Tumulus Regum Scotiæ), which was north of that of Irish kings (Tumulus Regum Hyberniæ).[81] In the early 18th century, Martin Martin also stated that eight 'Norwegian' kings were buried on the island.[82] Modern scholars are however sceptical of claims that Iona was a 'traditional' burial place of Scottish kings; and such traditions are though to have been invented to increase the prestige of Iona.[83] Uspak is thought to have been a son of Dugald, son of Somerled.
  17. ^ On his death in 1166, Muirchertach was survived by five sons.[85]
  18. ^ Various terms have been used to name the incoming settlers/invaders: Anglo-French, Anglo-Normans, Cambro-Normans, and Normans. However, these terms are anachronisms, and Irish accounts contemporaneous to this period simply called the incomers Saxain, meaning "English".[88]
  19. ^ In 1275, Magnus' illegitimate son, Godred[disambiguation needed], the last known male of the dynasty, led a brief rebellion on Mann which ended in his defeat, and most likely his death, at the Battle of Ronaldsway.[100]
  20. ^ Olaf Godredsson is known to have had at least two wives: Ingebjorg (daughter of Hakon Paulsson, Earl of Orkney) and Affreca (daughter of Fergus, Lord of Galloway). It is most probable that Godred was the son of Affreca.[11] Ingebjorg was likely Olaf's first wife.[104]


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  2. ^ Caldwell; Hall; Wilkinson 2009: pp. 197–198.
  3. ^ Sellar 2000: p. 187 fn 1.
  4. ^ Flemming; Woolf 1992: p. 346.
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  9. ^ a b Duffy 2004d.
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  14. ^ a b c Sellar 2004.
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  37. ^ Kneale 2006: p. 676. See also: Kermode 1915–16: p. 60.
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  43. ^ MacLeod 1927: pp. 24–26. See also: Mackenzie 1903: p. 34.
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Further reading
  • Beuermann, Ian (2002), Man amongst kings and bishops: What was the reason for Godred Olafsson's Journey to Norway in 1152/53?, Oslo: Senter for studier i vikingtid og nordisk middelalder / Centre for Viking and Medieval Studies, ISBN 82-92359-04-4 .
  • Beuermann, Ian (2002), "Metropolitan ambitions and politics: Kells–Mellifont and Man & the Isles", Peritia 16, doi:10.1484/J.Peri.3.497, ISSN 0332-1592 .
  • Duffy, Seán, ed. (2011), A New History of the Isle of Man: Volume 3: The Medieval Period, 1000–1406, A New History of the Isle of Man, Liverpool University Press, ISBN 978-0-85323-627-6 .
  • McDonald, R. Andrew (2007), Manx Kingship in its Irish Sea Setting, 1187–1229: King Rögnvaldr and the Crovan Dynasty, Dublin: Four Courts Press, ISBN 978-1-84682-047-2 .

External links[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Olaf Godredsson
King of Mann and the Isles
First reign
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Rögnvaldr Óláfsson
King of Mann and the Isles
Second reign
Succeeded by
Ragnvald Godredsson