Haraldr Guðrøðarson

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Haraldr Guðrøðarson
King of the Isles
Reign 1249–1250
Predecessor Rögnvaldr Óláfsson
Successor Magnús Óláfsson
Old Norse Haraldr Guðrøðarson
Mediaeval Gaelic Aralt mac Gofraid; Aralt mac Gofraidh
House Crovan dynasty
Father Guðrøðr Rögnvaldsson

Haraldr Guðrøðarson (IPA: [ˈharaldr ˈɡuðruðarsson])[note 1] was a mid-13th century King of the Isles. He was the son of Guðrøðr Rögnvaldsson, King of the Isles (d. 1231), who was the son of Rögnvaldr Guðrøðarson, King of the Isles (d. 1229). Haraldr and his predecessors were members of the Crovan dynasty. The 13th century Kings of the Isles (and Kings of Mann and the Isles)[note 2] ruled an island-kingdom which encompassed the Isle of Mann (Mann) and portions of the Hebrides.

In the early 13th century, Haraldr's paternal grandfather, Rögnvaldr, fought over the kingship with his younger half-brother, Óláfr Guðrøðarson (d. 1237). The kin-strife between the two continued on down through their descendants, and in time included Haraldr himself. Rögnvaldr was slain in 1229, whereupon Óláfr took up the kingship. In 1231, Óláfr co-ruled a split kingdom with Rögnvaldr's son, Guðrøðr. On Guðrøðr's death in the same year, Óláfr ruled the entire kingdom until his own death in 1237, whereupon he was succeeded by his son, Haraldr (d. 1248), who was in turn succeeded by another son of Óláfr, Rögnvaldr (d. 1249).

In 1249, Rögnvaldr Óláfsson was slain by a knight who appears to have been an accomplice of Haraldr Guðrøðarson. Immediately following the assassination, Haraldr first appears in the mediaeval Chronicle of Mann, the main historical source for the Crovan dynasty, when it records that he took control of the island-kingdom and replaced the chieftains of the old regime with followers of his own choosing. Although he was recognised as the legitimate ruler of the kingdom by Henry III, King of England (d. 1272) at first, he was later summoned to Norway by Hákon Hákonarson, King of Norway (d. 1263), for his seizure of the kingdom. Upon his removal from Mann, Haraldr is not heard from again. In his absence, Magnús Óláfsson (d. 1265), yet another son of Óláfr, with Hebridean and Norwegian support, unsuccessfully attempted to seize Mann by force. The leadership of the victorious Manx-defenders during this encounter may have been adherents to Haraldr's cause against that of the Óláfssons. Even so, Magnús returned two years later and succeeded to the kingship, becoming the last of the sea-kings of the Crovan dynasty.


Haraldr was a member of the Crovan dynasty of sea-kings who ruled the Isle of Man (Mann) and parts of the Hebrides from the late 11th century to the mid-13th century. He was the son of Guðrøðr Rögnvaldsson, King of the Isles (d. 1231), who was the son of Rögnvaldr Guðrøðarson, King of the Isles (d. 1229).[2] Although Rögnvaldr may have managed to rule a somewhat independent kingdom, surrounded by formidable Norwegian, Scottish, and English monarchs, his successors fell under the shadow of Hákon Hákonarson, King of Norway (d. 1263), and rendered tribute to him in recognition of his overlordship of the western seaboard of Scotland and Mann itself.[3]

Rögnvaldr and his younger half-brother, Óláfr Guðrøðarson (d. 1237), warred over the dynasty's island-kingdom in the early 13th century, until Rögnvaldr was slain battling Óláfr in 1229. Rögnvaldr's son, Guðrøðr, who was also in conflict with Óláfr, took up his father's claim to the throne, and at his height co-ruled the kingdom with Óláfr in 1231. Guðrøðr was slain in 1231, and Óláfr ruled the entire island-kingdom peacefully until his own death in 1237.[4] Óláfr was succeeded by his son, Haraldr Óláfsson, King of Mann and the Isles, who later travelled to Norway and married a daughter of Hákon, but lost his life at sea on his return voyage in 1248.[3]

In the year of Haraldr Óláfsson's drowning, two prominent members of Clann Somairle, Eógan mac Donnchada, Lord of Argyll (d. in or after 1268) and his second cousin Dubgall mac Ruaidrí (d. 1268), travelled to Hákon in Norway and requested the title of king in the Hebrides. Hákon subsequently bestowed the title upon Eógan, and in 1249, upon learning of Haraldr Óláfsson's death, Hákon sent Eógan westward to take control of the Hebrides.[5] In May 1249, Haraldr's brother, Rögnvaldr Óláfsson (d. 1249), formally succeeded to the kingship of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles.[6]

Dynastic relations and rivals[edit]

The following pedigree[7] illustrates the male patrilineal descendants of Guðrøðr Óláfsson, King of Mann and the Isles, King of Dublin (d. 1187). The ancestry of Haraldr Guðrøðarson (shown in boldface) is shown in relation to the rival sons of Óláfr Guðrøðarson, King of the Isles (d. 1237).

Guðrøðr (d. 1187)
King of the Isles, King of Dublin
Rögnvaldr (d. 1229)
King of the Isles
Óláfr (d. 1237)
King of the Isles
Guðrøðr (d. 1231)
King of the Isles
Haraldr (d. 1248)
King of Mann and the Isles
Rögnvaldr (d. 1249)
King of Mann and the Isles
Magnús (d. 1265)
King of Mann and the Isles
Haraldr (fl. 1249)
King of the Isles
Guðrøðr (fl. 1275)

Haraldr Guðrøðarson's ascension[edit]

Locations mentioned in the article. The first map shows the British Isles in relation to Iceland and Norway; the second map illustrates specific locations associated with the Crovan dynasty in England, Ireland, and Scotland; the third map is of Mann itself.

The mid-13th century Chronicle of Mann records that, on 30 May 1249, Rögnvaldr Óláfsson was slain in a meadow near the Church of the Holy Trinity at Rushen, and later buried at the Church of St Mary at Rushen. The chronicle names Rögnvaldr's killers as a certain knight named Ívarr, along with several of the knight's followers.[note 3] Immediately following Rögnvaldr's death, Haraldr Guðrøðarson makes his first appearance in the chronicle, as it records that he then seized the kingship.[9]

The chronology of events surrounding Rögnvaldr's death suggests that Haraldr and Ívarr were allies. Moreover, a letter of Henry III, King of England (d. 1272), dated April 1256, further supports the likelihood of an alliance, as the letter commands Henry's men not to receive the Haraldr and Ívarr who "wickedly slew" Rögnvaldr.[6] The identity of Ívarr is uncertain. His designation as a knight may indicate that he was an élite of some sort.[10] One suggestion is that he may have been a member of the Crovan dynasty.[11] One man of the name is known to have been a son of Guðrøðr Óláfsson, King of the Isles, King of Dublin (d. 1187), although nothing more is known of him, and it is unlikely that a man born before 1187 would have been active in 1249.[6] The chronicle makes no mention of the knight's ancestry, and this may be evidence that he was not related to the Crovan dynasty in any meaningful way. It is likely that he is identical to the "domino Yuor' de Mann" ("Lord Ívarr of Mann") who is recorded in one of Haraldr Óláfsson's charters of 1246.[6]

Following Haraldr Guðrøðarson's takeover, the chronicle records that he then drove out all of the chiefs and nobles of the old regime who had been supporters of the deceased Haraldr Óláfsson, and then replaced them with men whom the latter had previously exiled.[12]

In several instances, the chronicle reveals a bias against the descendants of Rögnvaldr Guðrøðarson (Haraldr Guðrøðarson's paternal-grandfather), in favour of the descendants of his half-brother Óláfr.[13] One such instance relates of a miracle attributed to St Mary, which may have been added to the chronicle to illustrate the supposed oppressive reign of Haraldr Guðrøðarson. The story concerns an aged chieftain named Domnall, who is described as a close friend of Haraldr Óláfsson. The chronicle states that Domnall and his young son fled from Haraldr Guðrøðarson to the sanctuary of the Church of St Mary at Rushen; Haraldr, however, tricked the two into leaving the church-grounds whereupon he had them immediately seized. The chronicle relates how Domnall's prayers to Mary were ultimately answered, and that it was through her intervention that he and his son escaped from their imprisonment.[14]

Haraldr Guðrøðarson dealt with the formidable Hákon Hákonarson, King of Norway (left), and Henry III, King of England (right).

Haraldr may have attempted to strengthen his hold on the kingdom by entering into negotiations with Henry,[15] and was, for a time, regarded as a legitimate ruler by that English king,[16] as a license of safe-passage granted by him, valid from 28 December 1249 until 29 September 1250, names Haraldr as king and gives him free pass to travel to the English court.[17][note 4]

Forced exile[edit]

Haraldr's reign was not a long one. In 1250, the chronicle records that he was summoned by letter to the Norwegian royal court, because Hákon was displeased at how Haraldr had wrongfully seized the kingship which was not his by right. The chronicle notes that the Norwegian king intended that Haraldr should never return to Mann, and he was consequently kept from returning to the island-kingdom.[19] Nothing further is heard from Haraldr.[16]

Looking south-west from St. Michael's Isle across the tidal causeway to mainland Mann.

In the same year, the chronicle records that Magnús Óláfsson (another son of Óláfr) and Eógan arrived on Mann with a force of Norwegians.[20][note 5] The exact intentions of the invaders are unknown for certain. It is possible that they may have intended to install Magnús as king.[22] At the very least, Eógan was likely looking for some form of compensation, as he had previously been forcefully dispossessed of his mainland Scottish lordship by Alexander II, King of Scots (d. 1249) for his refusal to renounce his allegiance to Hákon.[23] The chronicle states that the invaders made landfall at Ronaldsway, and entered into negotiations with the Manx people; although, when it was learned that Eógan styled himself "King of the Isles" the Manxmen took offence and broke off all dialogue. The chronicle describes how Eógan had his men form-up on St Michael's Isle,[20] an island that was attached to Mann by a tidal causeway,[22] and that the Manxmen formed-up on the mainland, on the beach opposite the island. When the tide began to recede, the chronicle states that Eógan and those men closest to him boarded their ships, although much of his force remained stationed on the island. As evening drew near, the chronicle records that an accomplice of Ívarr led an attack upon the island and routed Eógan's forces there. The next day, the chronicle states that the invading forces left the shores of Mann.[20]

Ívarr's connection to the Manx attack on the invading forces of Eógan and Magnús may suggest that there was still considerable opposition on Mann by adherents of Haraldr to the prospect of Magnús' kingship there.[24] Two years later, the Chronicle of Mann and the Chronicle of Lanercost record that Magnús returned to Mann and with the consent of the Manxmen began his reign.[25] There are indications that opposition to Magnús, and thus possibly support of Haraldr, continued into the mid 1250s. For example, the chronicle records that Hákon bestowed upon Magnús the title of king in 1254; it further notes that when Magnús' opponents heard of this, they became dismayed and that their hopes of overthrowing him gradually faded away.[26][27] Also, Henry's 1256 letter, which orders his men not to receive Haraldr and Ívarr, may have indicated that the two were still alive and active. Magnús, the last of the Crovan dynasty of sea-kings, reigned peacefully as King of Mann and the Isles until his death in 1265.[27]


See also[edit]

  • Domnall mac Ragnaill, a member of Clann Somairle, who may be the Domnall whom the Chronicle of Mann states was a friend Haraldr Óláfsson and wrongfully imprisoned by Haraldr Guðrøðarson.


  1. ^ The patronym Haraldr Guðrøðarson is Old Norse. In Mediaeval Gaelic, the name is rendered: Aralt mac Gofraid or Aralt mac Gofraidh. The form Harald Godredsson is an Anglicised form of the Old Norse name.
  2. ^ Originally, the leading members of the dynasty styled themselves rex insularum ("King of the Isles"); for example Rögnvaldr Guðrøðarson (d. 1229) and Óláfr Guðrøðarson (d. 1237) styled themselves this way. The sons of Óláfr, who reigned just before and after Haraldr Guðrøðarson, styled themselves rex mannie et insularum ("King of Mann and the Isles").[1]
  3. ^ The Chronicle of Lanercost states that Rögnvaldr reigned for 27 days, and was slain on 1 July 1249—although this date should probably be read as 1 June. The same chronicle names Rögnvald Óláfsson's killers only as the followers of Ívarr the knight.[8]
  4. ^ For a transcription and translation of the licence see: Oliver 1861: pp. 83–84. Note that the date "1250" is in error and should read "1249".[18] For another transcription see: Rymer; Sanderson; Holmes 1739: part 1, p. 159.
  5. ^ One of Eógan's daughters is known to have been married to Magnús,[5] at the time of the latter's death in 1265.[21]
  6. ^ Óláfr Guðrøðarson (d. 1153) is known to have had at least two wives: Ingibjörg (daughter of Hákon Pálsson, Earl of Orkney), and Affraic (daughter of Fergus, Lord of Galloway). It is most probable that Guðrøðr's mother was Affraic.[29] Ingibjörg was likely Óláfr's first wife.[30]
  7. ^ The identity of the mother of Rögnvaldr Guðrøðarson (d. 1229) is uncertain, although the existing evidence points towards Sadb, a woman who is described as Rögnvaldr's mother in a Gaelic praise-poem composed in his honour.[31] Sadb's identity is otherwise unknown, although she is considered to have been an Irishwoman, and is likely to have been an unrecorded concubine of Rögnvaldr's father.[32]


  1. ^ Sellar 2000: pp. 192–193.
  2. ^ Sellar 2000: pp. 191–193.
  3. ^ a b McDonald 2007: pp. 151–152.
  4. ^ McNamee 2004.
  5. ^ a b Sellar 2004.
  6. ^ a b c d McDonald 2007: p. 88.
  7. ^ McDonald 2007: p. 27. See also: Sellar 2000: p. 192.
  8. ^ Anderson 1922: p. 554 fn 1.
  9. ^ Anderson 1922: pp. 553–554.
  10. ^ McDonald 2007: pp. 88, 216–217.
  11. ^ McDonald 2007: p. 88. See also: Munch; Goss 1874: p. 203 fn 45.
  12. ^ Anderson 1922: pp. 557–558. See also: Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 102–103.
  13. ^ Oram; Adderley 2010: p. 128. See also: McDonald 2007: pp. 98–100.
  14. ^ Anderson 1922: pp. 566–567. See also: Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 102–105.
  15. ^ Moore 1900: p. 128.
  16. ^ a b McDonald 2007: pp. 88–89.
  17. ^ Anderson 1922: p. 567. See also: Moore 1900: p. 128.
  18. ^ Moore 1900: p. 128 fn 2.
  19. ^ Anderson 1922: p. 567. See also: Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 104–105.
  20. ^ a b c Anderson 1922: pp. 567–569. See also: Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 104–109.
  21. ^ Munch; Goss 1874: p. 206.
  22. ^ a b McDonald 2007: p. 89.
  23. ^ Sellar 2004. See also: Stringer 2004. See also: Brown 2004: p. 81. See also: McDonald 1997: p. 104.
  24. ^ McDonald 2007: p. 89. See also: Munch; Goss 1874: p. 206 fn 49.
  25. ^ Anderson 1922: pp. 573, 573 fn 1. See also: Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 108–109.
  26. ^ Anderson 1922: p. 578.
  27. ^ a b McDonald 2007: pp. 89–90.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h Sellar 2000: p. 192.
  29. ^ a b Duffy 2004a.
  30. ^ Anderson 1922: p. 136 fn 2.
  31. ^ McDonald 2007: p. 72–73.
  32. ^ Duffy 2004b.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Rögnvaldr Óláfsson
(first cousin once removed)
King of the Isles
Succeeded by
Magnús Óláfsson
(first cousin once removed)