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Guðrøðr Magnússon

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Coat of arms of the King of Mann, as depicted by the late thirteenth-century Armorial Wijnbergen.[note 1]

Guðrøðr Magnússon (fl. 1275),[2] also known as Godred Magnusson,[3] was an illegitimate son of Magnús Óláfsson, King of Mann and the Isles. In 1275, whilst Mann was under Scottish overlordship, Guðrøðr led an unsuccessful revolt on the island. According to a near contemporary source, over five hundred people lost their lives in the subsequent Scottish invasion and suppression of the Manx. It is not certain whether Guðrøðr escaped the decisive defeat of the rebels at Battle of Ronaldsway with his life or if he was among the slain.


Guðrøðr was a son of Magnús Óláfsson, King of Mann and the Isles (died 1265), a member of the Crovan dynasty.[4] Guðrøðr's father came to power in 1252, following a period of confusion and contention in the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, when Magnús' right to rule was acknowledged by Hákon Hákonarson, King of Norway (died 1263), his nominal overlord.[5] In the previous decade, Alexander II, King of Scotland (died 1249) had made several attempts to incorporate the Hebrides into the Scottish realm. In the 1260s, Alexander's son and successor, Alexander III, King of Scotland (died 1286), renewed his kingdom's struggle to wrest the region from Norwegian overlordship. In so doing, Alexander III provoked a retaliatory military response from Hákon, a campaign that ultimately ended in failure with the latter's weakening health and death in 1263.[6]

With Hákon's passing Alexander III seized the initiative, and oversaw a series of invasions into the Isles and northern Scotland. Recognising this dramatic shift in royal authority, Magnús Óláfsson submitted to Alexander III within the year,[7] and in so doing, symbolised the complete collapse of Norwegian sovereignty in the Isles.[8] The following year, Magnús died without a legitimate heir to succeed him, and proved to be the last ruling king of the Crovan dynasty.[9] In 1266, Alexander III pacifically secured the Hebrides and Mann from Hákon's son and successor, Magnús Hákonarson, King of Norway (died 1280), by way of the Treaty of Perth.[10]

Following the conclusion of the treaty, Alexander III entrusted control of Mann into the hands of royal officials. Four such bailiffs or justiciars are known to have been appointed to govern the island: a certain "Godredus Mac Mares"; Alan (died c. 1284), illegitimate son of Thomas fitz Roland, Earl of Atholl (died 1231); a certain "Mauricius Okarefair" / "Mauricio Acarsan"; and Reginald, the king's chaplain.[11][note 2] Scottish exchequer records also reveal that the Scottish Crown held several Manx hostages as a means to insure order on the island.[13]

Rise and fall[edit]

If the hostages were still held by the Scots a decade later, they may well have feared for their lives.[14] For in 1275, the continuation of the twelfth-century Historia rerum Anglicarum, the thirteenth–fourteenth-century Chronicle of Mann, and the fourteenth-century Chronicle of Lanercost reveal that Guðrøðr led a revolt on the island against the Scottish Crown.[15] According to the continuation of Historia rerum Anglicarum, Guðrøðr took possession of the island's strongholds, ejecting the Scottish representatives in the process.[16] Alexander III quickly responded by sending a great fleet, drawn from the Hebrides and Galloway, to invade the island and restore Scottish royal authority. The commanders of this enterprise were: John de Vesci (died 1289), John Comyn I, Lord of Badenoch (died c. 1277), Alan, Alasdair Mac Dubhghaill, Lord of Argyll (died 1310), and Ailéan mac Ruaidhrí (died ×1296).[17] The identities of these men suggest that the Scottish force was composed of a small component of heavily armed knights, a contingent of infantry troops levied from the common army of Galloway, and a fleet of galleys gathered from the Hebrides.[18][note 3]

The Scots made landfall on the southern shores of Mann.[20] According to the Chronicle of Lanercost and the Chronicle of Mann, the invaders first attempted to resolve the uprising peaceably, demanding that the rebels stand down and submit to Alexander III.[21] The account preserved in these sources suggest that lightly armed and poorly trained rebels were soundly crushed by well-armed Scottish warriors, with the Annals of Lanerost declaring that "the wretched Manxmen turned their backs, and perished miserably".[22] Although the Chronicle of Mann specifies that five hundred thirty seven people were slaughtered by the Scots, it is possible that this tally owes itself to contemporary poetic convention, as the source further quotes the following rhyming lament: "ten times fifty, three times ten and five and two did fall; O Manx race, beware lest future catastrophe you befall".[23][note 4] Although Guðrøðr may have died in the defeat,[24] the continuation of Historia rerum Anglicarum reports that he and his wife managed to escape the carnage on Mann, and fled to Wales.[25] If correct, this source is one of several that demonstrate strong connections between the Crovan dynasty and Wales spanning the eleventh- and thirteenth centuries.[26]


Upon the successful subjugation of the Manx, Alexander III evidently installed his son, Alexander (died 1284), as Lord of Mann.[27] Although this eleven year-old child was too young to govern in person, his elevation to the lordship reinforced Scottish control of the island in dramatic fashion. The bestowal of Mann as a royal appanage openly designated the prince as the heir to the Scottish throne, and enabled the authority of the Scottish Crown to be personally represented on the island.[28] As it turned out, Scottish control was not long-lasting, and before end of the century the Manx placed themselves under the overlordship of the English Crown.[29] Furthermore, Guðrøðr was not the last claimant to the island, as two women are known to have put forth claims of their own in the late thirteenth- and early fourteenth centuries: a certain Aufrica de Connoght (fl. 1293–1304), and Maria (fl. 1305), daughter of Rǫgnvaldr Óláfsson, King of Mann and the Isles (died 1249).[30]



  1. ^ The coat of arms seems to have been first associated with Mann after the Scots took possession of the island in the last half of the thirteenth century. The adoption of a new heraldic device—the triskeles—may have been used as a means of reinforcing the new regime on the island.[1]
  2. ^ The name borne by the first official could be evidence that this man was an Islesman or Gallovidian.[12]
  3. ^ The expedition was evidently a personal affair for Alasdair, as his sister, Máire (died 1302), was the widow of Guðrøðr's father.[19]
  4. ^ The passage reads in Latin: "L. decies, X. ter, et penta duo cecidere, Mannica gens de te dampna futura cave".[23]


  1. ^ Wilson, RJA (2000).
  2. ^ McDonald (2007).
  3. ^ Moore, D (2013); Oram (2000).
  4. ^ McDonald (2007) pp. 54, 107.
  5. ^ McDonald (2007) p. 89.
  6. ^ Wærdahl (2011) pp. 49–50.
  7. ^ Neville; Simpson (2012) p. 212 § 231; Forte; Oram; Pedersen (2005) pp. 261–262; McDonald (1997) pp. 53, 115–116; Duncan; Brown (1956–1957) pp. 213–214; Anderson (1922) p. 653 n. 2; Skene (1872) pp. 295–296 § 56; Skene (1872) pp. 300–301 § 56; Goodall (1759) pp. 101–102 § 26.
  8. ^ Brown (2004) p. 84.
  9. ^ McDonald (2007) pp. 92, 101, 222.
  10. ^ Forte; Oram; Pedersen (2005) pp. 262–263; McDonald (1997) pp. 120–123, 136–137.
  11. ^ Neville (2015) p. 160; Neville; Simpson (2012) pp. 199–200 §§ 170–173 213 §§ 241–244, 214 § 246; McDonald (1997) p. 137; Duncan (1996) p. 582; Barrow (1981) p. 119; Anderson (1922) p. 657; Wilson, J (1915) pp. 488–490 § 497; Munch; Goss (1874) pp. 231–232; Stevenson (1839) p. 64.
  12. ^ McDonald (1997) p. 137; Duncan (1996) p. 582.
  13. ^ McDonald (1997) p. 137; Duncan; Brown (1956–1957) p. 214.
  14. ^ McDonald (1997) p. 137.
  15. ^ McDonald (2007) pp. 54, 91 n. 18, 100 n. 56, 107; Raven (2005) p. 60; McDonald (2004) p. 183; Oram (2000) p. 156; Sellar (2000) p. 210; McDonald (1997) p. 137; Anderson (1922) pp. 672–673, 673 n. 1; Maxwell (1913) p. 11; Anderson (1908) pp. 382–383; Howlett (1885) pp. 570–571; Munch; Goss (1874) pp. 110–111, 232; Stevenson (1839) pp. 97–98.
  16. ^ McDonald (1997) p. 137; Anderson (1908) p. 382; Howlett (1885) p. 570.
  17. ^ Young (2008); Tout; Ridgeway (2005); Brown (2004) p. 85; McDonald (2004) pp. 180–181, 183; Sellar (2004); Barrow (2003) pp. 86, 348; Carpenter (2003) ch. 12; Oram (2000) p. 156; Sellar (2000) p. 210; Stringer, K (1995) p. 88.
  18. ^ Duncan (1996) p. 582.
  19. ^ Sellar (2000) p. 210.
  20. ^ Duncan (1996) p. 582; Anderson (1922) p. 672; Maxwell (1913) p. 11; Stevenson (1839) pp. 97–98.
  21. ^ Neville (2012) p. 14; McDonald (1997) p. 137; Anderson (1922) pp. 672–673, 673 n. 1; Maxwell (1913) p. 11; Munch; Goss (1874) pp. 110–111; Stevenson (1839) p. 98.
  22. ^ McDonald (1997) p. 137; Anderson (1922) pp. 672–673; Maxwell (1913) p. 11; Stevenson (1839) p. 98.
  23. ^ a b Moore, DW (2005) pp. 93, 104; Carpenter (2003) ch. 12; McDonald (1997) p. 137; Anderson (1922) p. 673, 673 n. 1; Munch; Goss (1874) pp. 110–111.
  24. ^ Sellar (2000) p. 210; Sellar (1998) p. 243.
  25. ^ McDonald (2007) p. 107; Anderson (1908) p. 383; Howlett (1885) p. 570.
  26. ^ Moore, D (2013) ch. 3; McDonald (2007) pp. 105–107; Moore, D (1996) p. 27.
  27. ^ Neville (2015) p. 160; Neville (2012) p. 13; Neville; Simpson (2012) pp. 198–199 § 171; McDonald (1997) p. 137.
  28. ^ Neville (2015) pp. 160–161.
  29. ^ Brown (2004) p. 164; Freke (1990) p. 115.
  30. ^ Sellar (1998) p. 243; Wagner (1960) p. 72.


Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]