Lagmann mac Gofraid

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Lagman Godredsson
King of Man and the Isles
Predecessor Gofraid Crobán
Gaelic Lagmann mac Gofraid
Old Norse Lǫgmaðr Guðrøðarson
Dynasty Crovan dynasty
Father Gofraid Crobán
Died not earlier than 1098[1]

Lagman Godredsson (Gaelic: Lagmann mac Gofraid; Old Norse: Lǫgmaðr Guðrøðarson)[note 1] was a late 11th century ruler of the Isle of Man and the Hebrides (the Kingdom of Man and the Isles). Lagmann was the eldest son of Gofraid Crobán, a late 11th century ruler of Man, the Hebrides, and Dublin. There is uncertainty of the events in the Hebrides and the Isle of Man immediately following Gofraid's death, in 1095. The Chronicle of Man states that Lagmann took control of the kingdom following his father's death. However, Lagmann may have taken control when his father seized the Kingdom of Dublin, in 1091. Lagmann is recorded to have warred with his younger brother, Aralt, and had him blinded and mutilated. According to the chronicle, a repentant Lagmann voluntarily travelled to Jerusalem, where he died. Some historians of the Crusades consider Lagmann to have taken part in the First Crusade.

Some scholars[who?] of the Norse-Gaelic history of the British Isles suggest that Lagmann was forced from his island-kingdom by leading members of the powerful Uí Briain dynasty. The chronicle states that Muirchertach Ua Briain was invited by the leading men of Hebrides and Man, to select a ruler for their kingdom. This event may suggest that a faction supporting Lagmann's youngest brother, Amlaíb, appealed to Muirchertach for aid in battling supporters of Lagmann. Muirchertach imposed his nephew, Domnall mac Taidc, upon upon the kingdom, who ruled for several years. The Uí Briain influence within the island-kingdom may have enticed Magnús Berfœttr, King of Norway, to send a (short-lived) representative into the Hebrides in 1097, and to have led a successful full-scale invasion of the kingdom, the following year. Mediaeval saga accounts record that Lagmann was captured by Magnús as he sailed down the Hebrides and took control of the entire Kingdom of Man and the Isles. As the Chronicle of Man is untrustworthy in much of its chronology, it has been suggested that it was after Lagmann's capture, and Magnús's conquest of the island-kingdom, that Lagmann attempted his journey to Jerusalem.

King of Man and the Isles[edit]

According to the Chronicle of Man, Lagmann was the eldest of Gofraid Crobán's three sons—Lagmann, Aralt, and Amlaíb.[5] The ancesty of Lagmann's father is uncertain.[6] The chronicle describes Gofraid in Latin as filius Haraldi nigri de ysland,[7] and it is possible that ysland may refer to Iceland.[note 2] 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 Ímar mac Arailt, King of Dublin (d. 1054).[9] Ímar was a grandson of the celebrated Amlaíb Cuarán, King of Dublin, King of Northumbria (d. 981),[6] who was a member of the powerful Uí Ímair. In 1091, Gofraid won the Kingship of Dublin, and reigned there for about three years. In 1094 he was forced from Dublin, and died the following year of "pestilence" on the Hebridean island of Islay.[10]

The chronicle is a somewhat untrustworthy source in the years immediately following Gofraid's death. What is known for certain is that, in 1098, Magnús Óláfsson, King of Norway, led a marauding fleet through the Hebrides and ravaged the islands before reaching the Isle of Man.[11] Whether Lagmann began his reign before Magnús's arrival, or after, is not known for certain, and both possibilities have been advanced by modern scholars.[note 3] The chronicle states that Lagmann ruled the kingdom seven years after his father's death.[5] Given the dubious nature of the chronicle's dates,[1] it is possible that Lagmann assumed the kingship when his father gained the coveted kingship of Dublin, in 1091.[14] The chronicle next records that Aralt rebelled against Lagmann for a long period of time before being captured, whereupon Lagmann had him emasculated and blinded. If the chronicle is to be believed, Lagmann afterwards repented for the cruelty he had inflicted upon Aralt, and resigned the kingdom before setting off for Jerusalem, where he died. Now, if we assume that Lagmann took power in the year of his father's death and then trust the chronicle when it says that he ruled for seven years after his father's death, then that brings us to 1102. The chronicle then states that Lagmann's brother rebelled for a long period and a stretch of the imagination might let us believe it was for four long years. If Lagmann then repented of his sins and wished to go on crusade he would have been just in time to join the expedition of Sigurd Of Norway who set off to the Holy Land at this time with a large fleet. Considering that the Isles may at this time have been under Norwegian overlordship, this is perhaps not an entirely unlikely set of events to have transpired.[5] Some historians of the Crusades take this passage to be evidence that Lagmann took part in the First Crusade, which could mean he joined the "Saxon Crusade" that arrived at the Siege of Antioch on March 4, 1098.[note 4]

Uí Briain intervention in the Isles[edit]

Although the Chronicle of Man maintains that Lagmann voluntarily gave up his throne, some historians have suggested that he was forced from his island-kingdom.[14] The chronicle states that with the death of Lagmann, messengers from the leading Islesmen were sent to the "King of Ireland", requesting that he send a royal family member to rule over the kingdom until Lagmann's younger brother, Amlaíb, was old enough to rule.[18] One explanation of this request is that it may have been made on behalf of supporters of Amlaíb, who may have been hostile to Lagmann's rule. If this was the case, then the king's price for intervention may have been to impose a regent of his own choice upon the Islesmen.[19]

The "King of Ireland" of the chronicle has been identified as Muirchertach Ua Briain, King of Munster.[20] The reason why an outsider, such as Muirchertach, was picked by the Islesmen to choose a ruler, may have to do with Muirchertach's recent conquest and overlordship in the region. For example, in 1094 Muirchertach drove Gofraid from the kingship of Dublin (with Gofraid's death only a year later). Muirchertach then drove Domnall mac Flainn Ua Mael Sechlainn from the kingship of Mide, and put in his place another Ua Mael Sechlainn dynast.[21] The chronicle records that Muirchertach sent a certain Domnall mac Taidc to rule the island kingdom.[18] Domnall is considered to have been a son of Muirchertach's brother, and thus a grandson of Echmarcach mac Ragnaill,[22] who ruled Dublin between the years 1036–1038 and 1046–1052, and also the Isle of Man in 1061, and the Rhinns in 1065.[23][note 5] The chronicle records that Domnall then became a tyrant during his three year rule, and that the leading Islesmen revolted against him, and drove him from the kingdom back to Ireland.[18] The Annals of the Four Masters state that, in 1096 a certain Amlaíb mac Taidc Ua Briain was slain on the Isle of Man.[25] Amlaíb is thought to have been a brother of Domnall, and his death may be evidence that the rule of the Uí Briain brothers was not as popular as the chronicle implies. In fact, Amlaíb may have been killed by supporters of Lagmann.[26]

Magnús Berfœttr's arrival in the Isles[edit]

The extent of Domnall's rule in the kingdom is unknown. It is questionable whether he had any real authority in the northern Hebrides, furthest from the Isle of Man.[26] According to the Chronicle of Man, in 1097 Magnús Berfœttr, King of Norway, sent a delegate, Ingimundr, into the Isles to take possession of the kingdom.[27] Although Ingimundr is only mentioned in this one source, it is not implausible that Magnús sent someone to seize control of the island-kingdom on his behalf.[28] The chronicle relates that, Ingimundr installed himself on Lewis, but was later killed by the leading Islesmen.[27] It has been suggested that Ingimundr may have based himself on the remote Outer Hebrides because the coveted Isle of Man was then contested by various other parties.[28] In the following year, the chronicle records that internal hostilities broke out on the Isle of Man.[29] One suggestion is that this record of internal strife may be related to the struggles between Lagmann and Aralt.[30] The chronicle makes no mention of Domnall, and it is possible that he had lost control of the island by then.[26] In the same year, the chronicle records the arrival of Magnús himself,[29] and it is possible that Ingimundr's death at the hands of the Islesmen may have incited Magnús to take matters into his own hands.[28]

Magnús' takeover of the Hebrides and the Isle of Man is colourfully depicted in several mediaeval Icelandic sources.[note 6] Gísl Illugisson, an Icelandic skald, described Lagmann as "Ivistar gram", which can be translated as "Prince of Uist",[32] "Lord of Uist",[33] or "lord of North Uist".[34] This title may indicate that Lagmann held some sort of position in the Hebrides. One suggestion is that he may have had his base on Uist, a group of islands in the Outer Hebrides.[32][note 7] According to the mediaeval Morkinskinna,[34] and Heimskringla,[35] Lagmann ruled the "northern islands", a term which likely refers to the Outer Hebrides.[36] According to Morkinskinna, as Magnús approached, Lagmann fled southwards and out to sea, but was eventually captured and spared by Magnús.[34] Heimskringla records that Lagmann and his crew were captured whilst attempting to sail to Ireland.[35] Gísl's poetry records that Lagmann was kept in the company of Magnús. Another skald, Bjǫrn Krepphendi, described how Lagmann was banished from his lands by Magnús' marauding fleet.[34] It has been suggested that Magnús may have released Lagmann on condition that he leave the region and take part in the crusade implied by the chronicle.[37] Also, part of the seven year reign, assigned to Lagmann by the chronicle, may have been under the suzerainty of Magnús.[28]

The Annals of Innisfallen record that, in 1111 Domnall mac Taidc travelled into the north of Ireland, and took the kingship of the Insegall,[38] which may refer to not only to the Hebrides but the Isle of Man as well.[28] If this record is to be believed, then Domnall's rule was a brief one. He was slain in 1115, and would have likely been in Ireland in 1114, since he was Muirchertach's heir, and that year Muirchertach was gravely ill and had suffered the usurpation of his kingdom to his own brother.[28] However, another view of the 1111 record is that it refer to merely an attempt by Domnall to regain control of the kingdom,[13] possibly from the control of Muirchertach,[39] and it has been suggested that Domnall's rule in the region was confined to about the years 1095–1098, before the arrival of Magnús.[13] Another suggestion that has been offered is that both Domnall and Lagmann began their reigns after Magnús' death.[28]

Lagmann's legacy[edit]

One of the four houses of The Buchan School, the junior school to King William's College on the Isle of Man, is named Lagman. The three other houses are named Godred, Magnus, and Olaf. According to the school's website, the names "commemorate famous Viking rulers of the Island".[40] All four names have been borne by multiple mediaeval rulers in the region.

In the late 1920s, members of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society excavated an area near the tower of ruinous Rushen Abbey, on the Isle of Man. The team uncovered several burials, one of which was thought to have been that of Lagmann. This particular grave, dubbed "Lagman's Grave", contained two bronze buckles which were thought to have "a special significance". A more recent (1988) analysis of archaeological finds noted that the claim of a connection with Lagmann cannot be supported.[41]


  1. ^ Another form of the Old Norse name, given to him in secondary sources, is Lögmaðr.[2] The names are derived from the Old Norse lǫgmaðr / lögmaðr, meaning "lawman", which referred to a hereditary profession or kindred,[3] who were consulted as an authority in traditional laws.[4] This Old Norse term appears to have only become a personal name in the Norse-Gaelic regions of the British Isles, and is not attested in Scandinavia.[3] See also Wikipedia article: Lawspeaker.
  2. ^ The Inner Hebridean island of Islay, and even just the word "island", have also been suggested.[8]
  3. ^ For example, in 1986 Rosemary Power favoured the reigns of Lagmann and Domnall mac Taidc after Magnús's arrival. Power stated that Lagmann may have regined after Magnús's death, but also noted that Lagmann may have also ruled for a time under his overlordship.[12] In 1992, Seán Duffy placed Domnall's rule before Magnús.[13] A 2005 collaboration between Angelo Forte, Richard Oram, and Frederik Pedersen, follows Duffy, and places Lagmann and Domnall's reigns before the arrival of Magnús.[14]
  4. ^ For example, Steven Runciman,[15] and Jonathan Riley-Smith,[16] have noted Lagmann in their accounts of the First Crusade. Runciman noted Lagmann in a Scandinavian context,[15] and Allan Macquarrie considered Lagamnn to be the only named Scot who took part in the First Crusade. Macquarrie noted William of Malmesbury's description of some of the "barbarian" nationalities that took part: "Then the Welshman abandoned his poaching, the Scot his familiarity with fleas, the Dane his continuous drinking and the Norwegian gorging himself on fish ...". Also noted by Macquarrie was a contemporary description of Scots encountered by the continental crusaders, given by Guibert de Nogent: "You might have seen groups of Scots, ferocious among themselves but elsewhere unwarlike, with bare legs, shaggy cloaks, a purse hanging from their shoulders, rolling down from their marshy borders; and those who seemed ridiculous to us bore copious arms offering us their faith and devotion as aid".[17]
  5. ^ According to the Banshenchas, Tadc married a daughter of Echmarcach. The couple had sons: Donnchad, Domnall and Amlaíb; and also a daughter: Bé Binn.[24]
  6. ^ For example, in Heimskringla and Morkinskinna.[31]
  7. ^ As late as the mid 16th century, within Donald Munro's account of the Hebrides, the islands of North Uist, Benbecula, and South Uist were known as one island—Uist.


  1. ^ a b Anderson 1922: p. 98 fn 1.
  2. ^ Power 1986: p. 114.
  3. ^ a b Ó Corráin 1998. See also: Downham 2004: p. 61.
  4. ^ Hudson 2005: p. 60.
  5. ^ a b c Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 52–55. See also: Anderson 1922: p. 99.
  6. ^ a b Duffy 2004.
  7. ^ Duffy 1992: p. 106.
  8. ^ The Ancestry of the MacLeods Reconsidered, Associated Clan MacLeod Societies Genealogical Resources Center (, retrieved 24 March 2010 . This webpage is a transcription of: Sellar, W. David. H. (1997–1998), The Ancestry of the MacLeods Reconsidered, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness (Inverness) 60 . See also: Sellar 2000: p. 190 fn 16.
  9. ^ Duffy 1992: pp. 106 fn 65, 106–107.
  10. ^ Forte; Oram; Pedersen 2005: pp. 234–235.
  11. ^ Power 1986: p. 115.
  12. ^ Power 1986: p. 116–117.
  13. ^ a b c Duffy 1992: p. 109 fn 78.
  14. ^ a b c Forte; Oram; Pedersen 2005: p. 235.
  15. ^ a b Runciman 2005: p. 20.
  16. ^ Riley-Smith 1998: p. 83.
  17. ^ McLean 1997: pp. 106–107.
  18. ^ a b c Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 54–55. See also: Anderson 1922: pp. 100–101.
  19. ^ Forte; Oram; Pedersen 2005: pp. 235–236.
  20. ^ Duffy 2009: p. 296.
  21. ^ Flanagan 2005: p. 909.
  22. ^ Duffy 1992: pp. 108–110.
  23. ^ Woolf 2007: p. 245.
  24. ^ Duffy 1992: pp. 105, 105 fn 59.
  25. ^ Anderson 1922: p. 99.
  26. ^ a b c Forte; Oram; Pedersen 2005: p. 236.
  27. ^ a b Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 56–57. See also: Anderson 1922: p. 101.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g Power 1986: p. 116.
  29. ^ a b Munch; Goss 1874: pp. 56–59. See also: Anderson 1922: pp. 101–103.
  30. ^ Power 1986: p. 118–119.
  31. ^ Andersson; Gade 2000: pp. 39–40.
  32. ^ a b Fleming; Woolf 1992: p. 348.
  33. ^ Vigfusson ; Powell 1883: p. 348.
  34. ^ a b c d Andersson; Gade 2000: pp. 299–300.
  35. ^ a b Anderson 1922: p. 108.
  36. ^ Power 1986: p. 114 fn 1.
  37. ^ Forte; Oram; Pedersen 2005: p. 237.
  38. ^ Anderson 1922: p. 143.
  39. ^ Etchingham 2001: p. 151.
  40. ^ The Houses, The Buchan School (, retrieved 2 April 2011 
  41. ^ Archaeology: 1926-7 and 1928 Digs, (, retrieved 17 April 2011 . See also: Butler 1988.

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