Bjaðǫk was a twelfth-century woman purported to have been the mother of Eysteinn Haraldsson, King of Norway.[note 1] In the first half of the twelfth century, Eysteinn was brought to Norway and claimed to be the son of his royal predecessor, Haraldr gilli, King of Norway. The latter was himself the son of a Gaelic woman, and claimed to be the son of an earlier king. The claims of Bjaðǫk and Eysteinn were accepted, and the latter went on to rule as king for fifteen years. Bjaðǫk's name could to be an Old Norse form of a Gaelic name, and she may well have been a member of a prominent family. According to modern tradition, Haraldr gilli's wife was an aunt of Somairle mac Gilla Brigte, King of the Isles, although whether this tradition is authentic is uncertain.
Norwegian royal family
|Simplified pedigree illustrating the parentage of Haraldr gilli and Eysteinn Haraldsson, and their kinship with contemporary Norwegian kings. Women are italicised and highlighted.|
Eysteinn Haraldsson (died 1157) was a son of Bjaðǫk and Haraldr gilli, King of Norway (died 1136). Following Haraldr gilli's death, two of his sons, Sigurðr munnr (died 1155) and Ingi (died 1161), jointly ruled the Norwegian realm as kings.[note 2] According to Haraldssona saga within the thirteenth-century saga-compilation Heimskringla, in 1142 Eysteinn and Bjaðǫk were brought to Norway from west-over-sea by three prominent men of the realm: Árni sturla, Þorleifr Brynjólfsson, and Kolbeinn hrúga. Eysteinn was thence put forward as an adult son of Haraldr gilli who deserved a share of the kingdom. Once his claim was accepted, Eysteinn was recognised as king. The thirteenth-century texts Fagrskinna and Morkinskinna give similar accounts although these sources do not identify Bjaðǫk by name. In fact, her name appears to correspond to either the Gaelic Blathach, Bláthóc, or Bethóc.
Overseas sexual encounters between Norwegian royals and foreign women was evidently not an uncommon occurrence at the time. Certainly, the thirteenth-century Chronica of Roger de Hoveden (died 1201/1202) pointedly remarks upon the low-status of the mothers of Norwegian monarchs. Such relationships offered young women an opportunity to produce a royal son, and thereby procure preferment for herself and her family. Whether the women concerned actually pursued such schemes themselves is uncertain, and it is possible that they were instead selected by the kings themselves or proffered by their own families. In any case, it is conceivable that Eysteinn and Bjaðǫk enjoyed the support of influential relatives who backed their claims. Despite his apparent Gaelic background, however, there is no hint of Eysteinn's interest in his homeland after his arrival in Scandinavia. Eysteinn jointly ruled as king with his brothers until the end of his life.
One episode that may have bearing on Eysteinn's Gaelic heritage is his raiding expedition along the eastern British coast in about 1151. At about this time, Guðrøðr Óláfsson (died 1187), son and heir of the reigning King of the Isles, visited Norway and rendered homage to Ingi. Guðrøðr's Scandinavian stay coincided with that of Nicholas Breakspeare, Cardinal-Bishop of Albano (died 1159), an Englishman who became pope in 1154. The latter was instrumental in the creation of the Norwegian Archdiocese of Niðaróss, an eclessiastical jurisdiction that officially included the Diocese of the Isles in 1154. Nicholas also apparently favoured Ingi as king over Eysteinn and Sigurðr munnr. Guðrøðr's cooperation with Ingi, therefore, could have been undertaken in the context of avoiding having to deal with Eysteinn and his seemingly Irish or Hebridean kin.
The story of how Eysteinn's father came to the kingship is similar to that of Eysteinn. At some point in the 1120s, Haraldr gilli arrived in Norway claiming to be a brother of the reigning king. The tale of Haraldr gilli's accession is preserved in several sources. According to Magnússona saga, within Heimskringla, a Norwegian baron named Hallkell húkr voyaged from Norway to the Isles where he encountered Haraldr gilli and his mother. Named Gillikristr by the saga, Haraldr gilli told Hallkell húkr that he was a son Magnús berfættr, King of Norway (died 1103), and that another name of his was Haraldr. In fact, Haraldr gilli's byname—gilli—is a shortened form of Gillikristr, an Old Norse form of the Gaelic personal name Gilla Críst.[note 3] According to Magnússona saga, Haraldr gilli was originally from Ireland, and both he and his mother were subsequently conveyed to Norway by Hallkell húkr, who presented them to Magnús' reigning son, Sigurðr Jórsalafari, King of Norway (died 1130). Fagrskinna and Morkinskinna give similar accounts, with the latter source calling him Haraldr Gillikristr. Some years before his arrival, whilst only a teenager, the thirteenth-century Orkneyinga saga indicates that Haraldr gilli encountered Kali Kolsson (died 1158) at Grimsby, where he revealed to Kali his parentage, as a descendant of Magnús and an Isleswoman. According to Magnússona saga, and the twelfth-century Historia de antiquitate regum Norwagiensium, after Haraldr gilli's arrival in Norway from Ireland or Scotia respectively, Sigurðr Jórsalafari had Haraldr gilli undergo an ordeal in which the latter was to walk upon nine red-hot ploughshares. The latter source further states that it was believed that Haraldr gilli was divinely aided since he emerged from his ordeal unburnt.[note 4]
Since Haraldr gilli's mother evidently travelled with him to Norway, and Sigurðr Jórsalafari is known to have spent time in Ireland as a child, it is possible that Sigurðr Jórsalafari recognised her as a former lover of his father.[note 5] The accounts of Eysteinn's father gaining royal recognition illustrate that, although such claimants sometimes had to undergo ordeals to prove their paternity, the testimony of their foreign mothers also carried weight in the final decision. Nevertheless, not only did claimants to throne need to prove their paternity, they needed to also gain the acceptance of an assembled þing in a process known as konungstekja. Having gaining approval of such an assembly, a successful claimant would have sworn an oath to uphold the national law, whereupon he would have received an oath of allegiance from the assembly itself. Eysteinn and Haraldr gilli lived during a remarkable period of Norwegian history in which civil warring waged for nearly a century, from 1130 to 1240. No less than forty-six candidates emerged seeking recognition as king during this period. Although twenty-four of these candidates succeeded, only two gained royal authority throughout the realm. In fact, only one king from this period, Ingi, was the legitimate son of a king.
According to a much later tradition, dated to turn of the twentieth century and perhaps as early as the late eighteenth century, the grandfather of Somairle mac Gilla Brigte, King of the Isles (died 1164), Gilla Adamnáin, had a daughter who married a Norwegian king—a king who seemingly corresponds to Haraldr gilli himself. Although there is no way to confirm the claim itself, such a union is not implausible, and may correspond to the relationship between Bjaðǫk and Haraldr gilli. Certainly, Somairle himself had a daughter named Bethóc. Nevertheless, the notion of an affiliation with Somairle's family postdates the printing of Heimskringla, which could suggest that this source spawned ideas of a familial connection.
- Bjaðmunjo Mýrjartaksdóttir, a daughter of Muirchertach Ua Briain, High King of Ireland (died 1119). She was married to Sigurðr Jórsalafari whilst still a child.
- Since the 1980s, Bjaðǫk has been variously known in English scholarly secondary sources as: Biadok, Bjaðǫk, Bjaðok, Bjaðök. Bjadok, and Blathac.
- Sigurðr munnr and Ingi had different mothers.
- The name Gilla Críst means "servant of Christ". The name-element Gilla- was common in Gaelic personal names. Other examples include Gilla Patráic and Gilla Ísu. It is apparent that such names were shortened to Gilli by Scandinavian settlers in Britain and Ireland.
- Scandinavian sources relevant to Haraldr gilli reveal that he was regarded as a foreigner by Norwegians. Specifically, he is stated to have spoken the Norwegians' native language poorly. This suggests that Haraldr gilli's own native language was Gaelic. Both Eysteinn and his grandfather, Haraldr gilli, were noted to have been darker than their peers. For example, appearance (including his dark hair and eyes) is noted; whilst Eysteinn's dark and curly hair is contrasted with the fair hair of his half-brother, Sigurðr munnr.
- In fact, a piece of poetry ascribed to Magnús refers to an Irish lover, and declares that Magnús left his heart in Dublin.
- Unger (1871) p. 336 ch. 1; AM 45 Fol (n.d.).
- McDonald; McLean (1992).
- Gade (2009).
- Power (2005).
- Jochens, J (1999).
- Jochens, JM (1987).
- Hollander (2011) p. 766 ch. 32; Storm (1899) p. 614.
- Gade (2009) p. lxxx.
- Taylor (1965) p. 121.
- Driscoll (2008) p. 107 n. 60.
- Finlay; Faulkes (2015) p. 197 ch. 13; Hollander (2011) pp. 749–750 ch. 13; Gade (2009) p. 552; Antonsson (2007) p. 173; Salvucci (2005) p. 162; Sellar (1966) pp. 129–130; Anderson (1922) pp. 204–205; Jónsson (1911) p. 581 ch. 13; Storm (1899) pp. 599–600 ch. 13; Unger (1868) pp. 737–738 ch. 13; Laing (1844) p. 252 ch. 13.
- Salvucci (2005) p. 162; Finlay (2004) p. 269 ch. 99; Jónsson (1903) p. 351 ch. 84.
- Andersson; Gade (2012) p. 389 ch. 95; Salvucci (2005) p. 162; Jónsson (1932) p. 440 ch. 80; Unger (1867) p. 223.
- Finlay; Faulkes (2015) p. 265; Power (2005) p. 21 n. 20; Craigie (1897) p. 444.
- Sellar (1966) p. 130 n. 1; Anderson (1922) p. 205 n. 1.
- Power (2005) p. 21; Sellar (1966) p. 130.
- Jochens, JM (1987) p. 342; Stubbs (1870) p. 272; Riley (1853) p. 341.
- Magnúsdóttir (2013) p. 97; Larrington (2009) pp. 512–513; Jochens, J (1995) p. 97; Jochens, JM (1987) pp. 335, 349.
- Jochens, JM (1987) pp. 335, 349.
- Power (2005) pp. 21–22.
- Sayers, JE (2004).
- Power (2005) p. 25; Sayers, JE (2004).
- Power (2005) p. 25.
- Storm (1899) p. 564.
- Antonsson (2007) p. 164; Jochens, JM (1987) pp. 341, 342–343 n. 61.
- Finlay; Faulkes (2015) p. 162–163 ch. 26; Hollander (2011) p. 707 ch. 26; Aalto (2010) p. 95; Salvucci (2005) p. 124; Jochens, J (1995) pp. 96–97; Jochens, JM (1987) pp. 342–343 n. 61; Sellar (1966) p. 129; Anderson (1922) pp. 171–172; Jónsson (1911) pp. 547–548 ch. 26; Storm (1899) pp. 562–563 ch. 26; Unger (1868) pp. 691–692 ch. 34/33; Laing (1844) pp. 191–193 ch. 33.
- Thornton (1997) p. 82.
- Ó Corráin; Maguire (1981) p. 111.
- Thornton (1997) pp. 81–82.
- Aalto (2010) p. 95; Finlay (2004) pp. 257–258 ch. 93; Anderson (1922) pp. 172–173 n. 2; Jónsson (1903) p. 334 ch. 78.
- Andersson; Gade (2012) p. 352 ch. 76; Aalto (2010) p. 95; Power (2005) p. 18; Finlay (2004) p. 257 n. 759; Jónsson (1932) p. 391 ch. 6; Anderson (1922) pp. 172–173 n. 2; Unger (1867) p. 192.
- Parker (2012) p. 186; Jochens, J (1995) pp. 96–97; Jochens, JM (1987) p. 342 n. 60; Vigfusson (1887) p. 95 ch. 62; Anderson; Hjaltalin; Goudie (1873) pp. 75–76 ch. 50.
- Finlay; Faulkes (2015) p. 162–163 ch. 26; Hollander (2011) pp. 707–708 ch. 26; Jochens, JM (1987) pp. 341, 342–343 n. 61; Sellar (1966) p. 129; Anderson (1922) pp. 171–172, 172–173 n. 2; Jónsson (1911) pp. 547–548 ch. 26; Storm (1899) pp. 562–563 ch. 26; Unger (1868) pp. 691–692 ch. 34/33; Laing (1844) pp. 191–193 ch. 33.
- McDougall; McDougall (2006) pp. 53 ch. 34, 114 n. 324; Finlay (2004) p. 257 n. 759; Sellar (1966) p. 129; Anderson (1922) pp. 172–173 n. 2.
- Aalto (2010) p. 95; Sayers, W (1991) p. 164.
- Shaw (2008) p. 250.
- Aalto (2010) pp. 95, 95 n. 39, 139 n. 176; Driscoll (2008) pp. 78–79; Antonsson (2007) p. 174; Jochens, J (1999) p. 101; Taylor (1965) p. 121.
- Power (2005) p. 18.
- Duffy (1993) p. 38 n. 38; Duffy (1992) p. 111 n. 90; Power (1986) p. 117 n. 1; Vigfusson; Powell (1883) p. 247 § 3; Mberf Lv 6II (n.d.).
- Jochens, J (1995) pp. 96–97.
- Jochens, J (1995) p. 95.
- Orning; Crozier (2008) p. 73.
- Jónsson (1916) p. 195; AM 47 Fol (n.d.).
- McDonald; McLean (1992) p. 5; Sellar (1966) p. 130; MacDonald; MacDonald (1896) p. 36; MacDonald; MacDonald (1904) p. 178; Johnstone (1786) p. 152.
- Power (2005) p. 21 n. 20; Sellar (1966) pp. 129–130.
- Power (2005) p. 21; McDonald; McLean (1992) p. 5; Sellar (1966) pp. 129–130.
- Power (2005) p. 21 n. 20.
- "AM 45 Fol". Handrit.is. n.d. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "AM 47 Fol (E) – Eirspennill". Skaldic Project. n.d. Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- Anderson, AO, ed. (1922). Early Sources of Scottish History, A.D. 500 to 1286. 2. London: Oliver and Boyd.
- Anderson, J; Hjaltalin, JA; Goudie, G, eds. (1873). The Orkneyinga Saga. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas.
- Andersson, TM; Gade, KE, eds. (2012) . Morkinskinna: The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030–1157). Islandica. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-7783-6. LCCN 99-43299.
- Finlay, A, ed. (2004). Fagrskinna, a Catalogue of the Kings of Norway: A Translation with Introduction and Notes. The Northern World: North Europe and the Baltic c. 400–1700 AD. Peoples, Economics and Cultures. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90 04 13172 8. ISSN 1569-1462.
- Finlay, A; Faulkes, A, eds. (2015). Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla. 3. London: Viking Society for Northern Research. ISBN 978-0-903521-93-2.
- Hollander, LM, ed. (2011) . Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-73061-8. OL 25845717M.
- Johnstone, J, ed. (1786). Antiquitates Celto-Normannicae. Copenhagen: Aug. Frid. Stein. OL 21776678M.
- Jónsson, F, ed. (1903). Fagrskinna: Nóregs Kononga Tal. Samfund til Udgivelse af Gammel Nordisk Litteratur. Copenhagen: Háskóli Íslands. hdl:10802/4969.
- Jónsson, F, ed. (1911). Heimskringla: Nóregs Konunga Sögur. Copenhagen: G.E.C. Gads Forlag. hdl:10802/5008. OL 25104622M.
- Jónsson, F, ed. (1916). Eirspennill: Am 47 Fol. Oslo: Julius Thømtes Boktrykkeri. OL 18620939M.
- Jónsson, F, ed. (1932). Morkinskinna. Samfund til Udgivelse af Gammel Nordisk Litteratur. Copenhagen: Háskóli Íslands. hdl:10802/4986.
- Laing, S, ed. (1844). The Heimskringla; or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway. 3. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans. OL 6913111M.
- MacDonald, A; MacDonald, A (1896). The Clan Donald. 1. Inverness: The Northern Counties Publishing Company.
- MacDonald, A; MacDonald, A (1904). The Clan Donald. 3. Inverness: The Northern Counties Publishing Company.
- "Mberf Lv 6II". The Skaldic Project. n.d. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- McDougall, D; McDougall, I, eds. (2006) . Theodoricus Monachus, Historia de Antiquitate Regum Norwagiensium: An Account of the Ancient History of the Norwegian Kings. Viking Society for Northern Research Text Series. London: Viking Society for Northern Research. ISBN 978-0-903521-40-6.
- Riley, HT, ed. (1853). The Annals of Roger de Hoveden: Comprising the History of England and of Other Countries of Europe, From A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201. 2. London: H. G. Bohn.
- Storm, G, ed. (1899). Norges Kongesagaer. 2. Oslo: I.M. Stenersens Forlag.
- Stubbs, W, ed. (1870). Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Houedene. Rerum Britannicarum Medii Ævi Scriptores. 3. Longman & Co.
- Unger, CR, ed. (1867). Morkinskinna. Oslo: B. M. Bentzen.
- Unger, CR, ed. (1868). Heimskringla; Eller, Norges Kongesagaer af Snorre Sturlasson. Oslo: Brøgger & Christie. OL 18762756M.
- Unger, CR, ed. (1871). Codex Frisianus: En Samling Af Norske Konge-Sagaer. Oslo: P.T. Mallings Forlagsboghandel. hdl:2027/hvd.32044084740760. OL 23385970M.
- Vigfusson, G, ed. (1887). Icelandic Sagas and Other Historical Documents Relating to the Settlements and Descents of the Northmen on the British Isles. Rerum Britannicarum Medii Ævi Scriptores. 1. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. OL 16401290M.
- Vigfusson, G; Powell, FY, eds. (1883). Corpvs Poeticvm Boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue, From the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Aalto, S (2010). Categorizing Otherness in the Kings' Sagas (PhD thesis). Publications of the University of Eastern Finland Dissertations in Social Sciences and Business Studies. University of Eastern Finland. ISBN 978-952-61-0238-2. ISSN 1798-5757.
- Antonsson, H (2007). St. Magnús of Orkney: A Scandinavian Martyr-Cult in Context. The Northern World: North Europe and the Baltic c. 400–1700 AD. Peoples, Economics and Cultures. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-15580-0. ISSN 1569-1462.
- Craigie, WA (1897). "Gaelic Words and Names in the Icelandic Sagas". Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie. 1 (1): 439–454. doi:10.1515/zcph.18220.127.116.119. eISSN 1865-889X. ISSN 0084-5302.
- Driscoll, MJ, ed. (2008). Ágrip af Nóregskonungasǫgum: A Twelfth-Century Synoptic History of the Kings of Norway. Viking Society for Northern Research Text Series (2nd ed.). London: Viking Society for Northern Research. ISBN 978 0 903521 75 8.
- Duffy, S (1992). "Irishmen and Islesmen in the Kingdoms of Dublin and Man, 1052–1171". Ériu. 43: 93–133. eISSN 2009-0056. ISSN 0332-0758. JSTOR 30007421.
- Duffy, S (1993). Ireland and the Irish Sea Region, 1014–1318 (PhD thesis). Trinity College, Dublin. hdl:2262/77137.
- Gade, KE, ed. (2009). Poetry From the Kings' Sagas 2: From c.1035 to c.1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers. ISBN 978-2-503-51897-8.
- Jochens, J (1995). Women in Old Norse Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-3165-4.
- Jochens, J (1999). "Race and Ethnicity in the Old Norse World". Viator. 30: 79–104. doi:10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.300830. ISSN 0083-5897.
- Jochens, JM (1987). "The Politics of Reproduction: Medieval Norwegian Kingship". The American Historical Review. 92 (2): 327–349. doi:10.2307/1866620. eISSN 1937-5239. ISSN 0002-8762. JSTOR 1866620.
- Larrington, C (2009). "Queens and Bodies: The Norwegian Translated lais and Hákon IV's Kinswomen". Journal of English and Germanic Philology. 108 (4): 506–527. eISSN 1945-662X. ISSN 0363-6941. JSTOR 20722773.
- Magnúsdóttir, A (2013). "Kingship, Women and Politics in Morkinskinna". In Esmark, K; Hermanson, L; Orning, HJ; Helle, V (eds.). Disputing Strategies in Medieval Scandinavia. Medieval Law and its Practice. Leiden: Brill. pp. 83–106. ISBN 978-90-04-22159-8. ISSN 1873-8176.
- McDonald, RA; McLean, SA (1992). "Somerled of Argyll: A New Look at Old Problems". Scottish Historical Review. 71 (1–2): 3–22. eISSN 1750-0222. ISSN 0036-9241. JSTOR 25530531.
- Orning, HJ; Crozier, A (2008). Unpredictability and Presence: Norwegian Kingship in the High Middle Ages. The Northern World: North Europe and the Baltic c. 400–1700 AD. Peoples, Economics and Cultures. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978 90 04 16661 5. ISSN 1569-1462.
- Ó Corráin, D; Maguire, F (1981). Gaelic Personal Names. Dublin: Academy Press. ISBN 0 906187 39 7.
- Parker, EC (2012). Anglo-Scandinavian Literature and the Post-Conquest Period (PhD thesis). University of Oxford.
- Power, R (1986). "Magnus Barelegs' Expeditions to the West". Scottish Historical Review. 65 (2): 107–132. eISSN 1750-0222. ISSN 0036-9241. JSTOR 25530199.
- Power, R (2005). "Meeting in Norway: Norse-Gaelic Relations in the Kingdom of Man and the Isles, 1090–1270" (PDF). Saga-Book. 29: 5–66. ISSN 0305-9219.
- Salvucci, G (2005). 'The King is Dead': The Thanatology of Kings in the Old Norse Synoptic Histories of Norway, 1035–1161 (PhD thesis). Durham University.
- Sayers, JE (2004). "Adrian IV (d. 1159)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/173. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
- Sayers, W (1991). "Clontarf, and the Irish Destinies of Sigurðr Digri, Earl of Orkney, and Þorsteinn Síðu-Hallsson". Scandinavian Studies. 63 (2): 164–186. eISSN 2163-8195. ISSN 0036-5637. JSTOR 40919258.
- Sellar, WDH (1966). "The Origins and Ancestry of Somerled". Scottish Historical Review. 45 (2): 123–142. eISSN 1750-0222. ISSN 0036-9241. JSTOR 25528658.
- Shaw, J (2008). "'Gaelic/Norse Folklore Contacts' and Oral Traditions From the West of Scotland". In Gunnell, T (ed.). Legends and Landscape: Articles Based on Plenary Papers Presented at the 5th Celtic-Nordic-Baltic Folklore Symposium, Reykjavík, 2005. Reykjavik: University of Iceland Press. pp. 235–272.
- Taylor, AB (1965). "Eysteinn Haraldsson in the West, c. 1151: Oral Traditions and Written Record". In Small, A (ed.). The Fourth Viking Congress, York, August 1961. Aberdeen University Studies. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. pp. 119–134.
- Thornton, DE (1997). "Hey, Mac! The Name Maccus, Tenth to Fifteenth Centuries". Nomina. 20: 67–98. ISSN 0141-6340.