Jon Haraldsson

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Jon Haraldsson was Earl of Orkney between 1206 and 1231.

Jon Haraldsson and his brother David were the sons of Harald Maddadsson with his second wife Hvarflod, daughter of Earl Máel Coluim of Moray. Jon and David were joint Earls of Orkney after the death of their father in 1206. David Haraldsson died of sickness in 1214, leaving Jon Haraldsson to rule alone. William the Lion, king of Scotland, took Jon's daughter hostage in August 1214 as part of a peace agreement with the new sole Earl.[1]

In 1222, Jon Haraldsson was implicated, indirectly, in the burning of Bishop Adam of Caithness in his hall at Halkirk by local farmers. Jon was accused of looking on or of fomenting the discontent. King Alexander II of Scotland undertook harsh reprisals for the killing, to the satisfaction of Pope Honorius III.

Snaekoll Gunnisson, a great-grandson of Rognvald Kali, demanded that Jon Haraldsson should share the Earldom with him. The supporters of Jon and Snaekoll fought a war until it was agreed that King Haakon IV of Norway should settle the matter. All concerned set off to Norway, but a ship carrying Jon Haraldsson, his supporters and his kin, was lost at sea on the return voyage during 1231.[citation needed] An alternative version of Earl John's demise is that he was resident in Thurso, and had his hall burnt around him. He escaped to a cellar only to be mortally wounded by Hanef, quaestor to the King of Norway, with nine wounds.[2] With his death the Norse line of the Earldom of Orkney, dating from the time of Harald Fairhair, became extinct. The Mormaer of Caithness was given over to Magnus, (Magnus mac Gille-Brighde of Angus), the son of Gille Brigte, Mormaer of Angus, forming the basis for a new governing presence. In 1236, Magnus was granted the Earldom of Orkney by King Haakon IV.


  1. ^ W.W Scott (2004). William I [known as William the Lion] (c.1142–1214), king of Scots. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29452. Accessed 19 August 2014.
  2. ^ Origines par. Scot. vol ii, p752


  • Anderson, Alan Orr Early Sources of Scottish History: AD 500-1286 2 Vols, (Edinburgh, 1922)
  • Hudson, Benjamin T. Kings of Celtic Scotland (Westport, 1994)
  • Morris, Christopher Viking Orkney: A Survey ( The Prehistory of Orkney. Ed. Colin Renfrew. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 1985)
  • Pálsson, Hermann and Paul Edwards, tr. Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney (Penguin, London, 1978)
  • Scott, W.W. 'William I [known as William the Lion] (c.1142–1214), king of Scots.' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29452. Accessed 19 August 2014