Halvdan Sigurdsson
(Abt 0944-)
Gudbrand "Kula" Olafsson
(Abt 0935-)
(Abt 0938-)
King Sigurd "Syr' Halfdansson of Norway
Åsta Gudbrandsdatter
(Abt 0965-Abt 1020)

King Harald III Hardråde Sigurdsson of Norway


Family Links

1. Tora Torbergsdatter på Giske

2. Elizabeth of Novgorod-Kiev Jaroslavna Princess Of Kiev Queen of Norway

King Harald III Hardråde Sigurdsson of Norway

  • Born: 1015, Ringerike, Buskerud, Norway
  • Marriage (1): Tora Torbergsdatter på Giske in 1048 in Norway
  • Marriage (2): Elizabeth of Novgorod-Kiev Jaroslavna Princess Of Kiev Queen of Norway in 1044 in Novgorod, Kievan Rus'
  • Died: 25 Sep 1066, Stamford Bridge, Lincolnshire, England at age 51
  • Buried: 1067, St. Mary's Church, Trondheim, Sor-Trøndelag, Norway

  General Notes:

King Harald III Hårdråde is Eric & Evan Obrock's 29th great grandfather.

One of the most famous personages who served in the Varangian guard, and one who is sometimes said to have been its founder, was the royal Norwegian Harald Sigurdsson Hardråde. The prince was born in 1015 and while still a boy had fought for his half-brother St. Olav at Stiklestad (1030), where he was wounded; after Olav's fall he fled first to Sweden and then to Russia, where he entered the service of Jaroslav, as has been related, and became in a very short time a trusted and redoubtable captain in the Russian army. But when he was only twenty years old he embarked upon the supreme adventure of a visit to Constantinople and there he arrived with 500 men in his train in 1034, the very year when the Varangian corps is first mentioned in Byzantine history.

The Greeks hailed him as the 'King of Varangia', but the emperor Michael IV the Paphlagonian (1035-1041) and the Empress Zöe, after welcoming him, at once gave him the opportunity of proving his prowess in the field by inviting him to take part in the Arab wars in Asia Minor. Harald and his men proceeded to the theatre of war where the brilliant young general George Maniaces commanded, and here the ardent Norwegian prince soon covered himself with glory. The campaign took him in 1035 east to the Euphrates and it is said of him that he captured 80 strongholds of the Arabs and then turned south to threaten Jerusalem, harrying on both sides of Jordan as he approached the town. But after the capture of Edessa by Maniaces in 1031 the emperor had begun negotiations with the Caliph, and in 1036 a treaty was made with the Muslims whereby the Christians secured access to its holy places without waiting for Harald's attack upon Jerusalem.

As the account was derived from his comrade and countryman Halldor Snorrason it might be expected to have considerable historical value, but the saga-writer's ignorance of eastern geography and of Byzantine affairs has reduced Halldor's story to a muddled rigmarole of dubious worth. It is chiefly interesting for the account of the rivalry between Harald and Maniaces that culminated in Harald acting independently of his commander-in-chief in Sicily.

The Norwegian prince returned to Constantinople, but his sojourn there was a short one, for his next adventure was a share in the Greek attempt in 1038 to win back Sicily from the Arabs, and again George Maniaces was his commander-in-chief. The new campaign, in which a number of Norman soldiers also took part, opened with a series of fine victories and it was not long before Messina and Syracuse, with all the eastern part of Sicily between them, fell into the hands of the Greeks. But Maniaces in this hour of triumph was rewarded only by the jealousy and suspicion of his imperial master and was recalled to the Byzantine court, there to languish in disgrace; then the Norman auxiliaries departed after a quarrel about their pay and Harald's Scandinavians likewise became discontented.

Subsequently, all the newly conquered territory, except for the town of Messina, was recovered by the Saracens and in 1041 the Greek general who had supplanted the too-successful Maniaces removed the Greek army to southern Italy to fight against the Normans. Harald took part in this short Italian campaign and then went back in the middle of this same year to Constantinople. The sick and troubled emperor loaded him with honours, making him manglavite, a high official of the imperial entourage, and with Michael Harald and the Varangians shortly afterwards set off to take a part in the Bulgar war that was fought in the late autumn.

On the return he was promoted to the rank of spatharocandidate, the third highest grade of officials in attendance upon the emperor, and his position at the palace seemed to be one of enviable preeminence and security; but at the end of this fateful year Michael died. He was succeeded by Michael V Calaphates, a stranger to the Macedonian dynasty, and at once the court was in a turmoil of intrigue and revolt.

Four months later, after the upstart's senseless persecution of Harald's aged friend the Empress Zöe, there was a revolution. The infuriated mob flung themselves upon the palace walls and after two days and two nights of fierce and bloody battling the people burst their way into the imperial apartments. The emperor and his hated uncle had fled, but the mob discovered their whereabouts and surged angrily after them, eventually to batter their way into the Stadion Church where they had taken refuge. It was Harald Hardråde, captain of the guard, who, when the fugitives were dragged to the Sigma, upon the prefect's bidding gouged out their eyes.

After these terrible days of carnage in April of 1042 Harald did not remain long in Constantinople, and in the days of Constantine IX Monomarchus he decided to return to his own country where his nephew Magnus was now king. It is said that he was refused permission to leave the Greek capital and that he was cast in prison, perhaps under the suspicion of having connived at the luckless Russian raid upon Constantinople in 1043; but he was able to escape and to make his way back to Jaroslav in Kiev, to whom he had already despatched a great part of the booty won by the prowess of his arms.

But the Varangian Guard was not dissolved either by the shattering disaster of the revolution or by Harald's departure, for fresh adventurers continued to arrive from the north to swell their numbers, and the corps remained a permanent and privileged part of the army.

These Varangians were known to the Greeks as the 'axebearing barbarians', and more than once Anna Comnena refers to them by this name in the Alexiad, the ponderous biography that she wrote of her father the Emperor Alexius (1081-1118). She paid a high tribute to their loyalty, saying they deemed themselves bound to the emperor's service by inviolate ties that were already an ancestral tradition among some of them, being handed down from father to son, and she declared that they would not hearken to a single treacherous word; (1) she tells also of their foolhardy gallantry at the battle of Durazzo (1082), when the Varangian corps under a captain named Narbites was cut to pieces. (2) Another historian, Zonaras, describes the loyalty of the Varangian guard to their master Alexius at the time of his death, (3) yet it seems that there was some reason to suspect that the fidelity of this illustrious corps was not always unshakeable; for it is certain that the Varangians mutinied in the reign of Alexius's predecessor, Nicephorus III Botaniates (1078-1081), (4) and Alexius himself on the occasion (1103) when he entertained the Danish king Eric I is said to have been seriously afraid that the Varangians would transfer their allegiance to the northern king who could address them in their own tongue. (5) He took considerable precautions to prevent this, but Eric, when at last he was allowed to address some of the guard, congratulated them on having attained the highest honour to which a northerner could aspire; they were, he said, far more fortunate than their stay-at-home brethren and therefore he charged them to fit themselves for their high office by the constant practice of virtue and sobriety. To his own countrymen he promised rewards upon their return commensurate with their services to the Byzantine emperor, while if they fell in battle he pledged himself to take care of their families. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- 1. Alexiad, C.S.H.B., 25, i, p. 120 (II, 9: 62). 2. Ib., p. 211 (IV, 6: 116). 3. C.S.H.B. 29, iii, p. 763 (Epit. XVIII, 29, 1-10). 4. Ib. p. 722 (Epit. XVIII, 7-8). 5. Saxo, ed. Müller, XII, p. 610. Cf. Knytlingasaga, ed. Petersens and Olson, 81, p. 192, where the incident is not mentioned.

At first these Northmen of the guard were well paid, for quarters and food were free and each man received as much as 10 to 15 gold solidi for a month's service, together with various special grants and prize-monies, so that soon the Scandinavians and other northerners who came to Constantinople with the intention of joining this favoured band of foreigners had to pay heavily for their commission in the guard.

Of its normal strength and of its officers little is known, but in the field the corps was commanded by a chieftain (£ge mèn) of Varangian blood, while in the palace the chief authority was vested in an official probably a Greek, known as the pansebastos and megalodiermeneutes, who, as the title of his office explains, was the supreme officer-in-command and principal interpreter of the corps, and one whose duty must have been the administration of the regiment on behalf of the Byzantine government.

An impression in lead of the seal (Fig. 23) of one of these civil administrators, a man named Michael, still exists; upon the obverse is the figure of his patron the archangel and on the reverse are his titles 'pansebastos, sebastos and megalodiermeneutes of the Varangians' with a representation below this of the famous axe that gave the Varangian Guard their sobriquet of pelekufÒroi, the 'axe-bearers'; but this seal is probably no earlier than the thirteenth century, and though the blade of the axe is not unlike those of the late Viking Period that have been found in the north, the weapon here is probably meant to be a version of some special variety of medieval pole-arm that resembled the Scottish lochaber in appearance; or, perhaps, as the drawing on the seal suggests, it was a short-handled battle-axe of eastern European variety. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- A. Mordtmann, Archives de l'orient Latin, I (1881), p. 698; G. Schlumberger, Sigillographie de l'empire byzantin, Paris, 1884, p. 350.

The fighting skill of the splendid northern warriors and their own adventurous spirit was sufficient to ensure that these vikings in the service of the Greek emperor were not merely household troops and guards of parade. They fought abroad when their master willed it and many were their adventures. The disastrous and complete annihilation of the Varangian section of the Greek army at the battle of Durazzo, the result of their improvident ardour in the fight, is described in the Alexiad, but the most remarkable witness to the exploits of the Scandinavians in the Greek world is not to be found among the writings of an historian; it is the great white marble lion that now stands sentinel, with three companions, outside the gates of the Arsenal in Venice (Frontispiece). The two largest of these four lions are known as the Piraeus lions because they were brought back to Italy in triumph from the Piraeus harbour of Athens by the Doge Francesco Morosini at the end of the seventeenth century; the bigger of the two, a huge beast squatting on his haunches and measuring about 12 feet in height, is a Greek carving probably of the second or third century A.D., and near to it when it stood in its original position in Greece some Scandinavian soldiers upon at least one occasion were encamped; for its two flanks are defaced by ribbons of their ugly runes. The carving of this inscription on the lion was done, as its style shows, in the second half of the eleventh century and there is little doubt that it is the work of Swedes.

Except in the illustrious instance of the Norwegian Harald Hardråde, little or nothing is known of the names or deeds of the Scandinavians who served in the Varangian Guard and who took part in the emperor's wars; for it is likely that most of them, since the route to Constantinople lay along the waterways of Russia, were Swedes whose Swedish sagas had no interest for the Icelandic historian of later days. But on rune-stones in Sweden there are inscriptions telling of a few of these men, and the best known is one at Ed near Stockholm that commemorates the mother of a man named Ragnvald who had been a military chief in Greece. From the style of the runes it is clear that Ragnvald must have served in Constantinople during the days of the earlier Comneni, either in the reign of Isaac or Alexius, and perhaps was in the city in that fateful year of 1058 when the Varangian Guard, acting under the orders of the Emperor Isaac, arrested the Patriarch Michael Cerularius.

As an episode in viking history the story of the Varangian Guard is but of slight interest after the middle of the eleventh century; for when Maniaces returned to Constantinople from his short governorship of south Italy in 1042 he brought with him many Norman adventurers who were recruited for the Greek army and subsequently drafted into the guard. Indeed, after 1066 the ranks of the guard were filled not so much by Scandinavians as by the numerous Englishmen and Danes who fled from England after the Conquest and by discontented Norman soldiers who deserted from France or Italy to Greece; so it came about that it was as an English and Norman-French body rather than as a Scandinavian corps that the guard ended its short but eventful history at the time of the fall of Constantinople to the Latins in 1204.

In addition to the Scandinavian visitors in the Greek capital who came either to soldier or to trade, there were many other Northmen who found their way thither when the call to the crusades provided the spirited folk of Scandinavia and Denmark with a new field for adventure. It was a party of these 'Jerusalem-farers', men of Norway, Orkney, and Shetland, who, halting in the Orkneys in the first winter of their expedition (c. 1152), broke into the huge prehistoric cairn of Maeshow and scratched many lines of feeble runes and a little drawing of a wounded dragon upon the walls of the magnificent, but empty, burial-chamber that they found.

Many crusaders were illustrious folk whose names are familiar in northern history, (1) and the most famous of them were King Eric of Denmark and King Sigurd Magnusson (Jerusalem-farer) of Norway, who both arrived in Constantinople during the reign of Alexius Comnenus, Eric, as was told above, about the year 1103 and Sigurd some eight years later. This Norwegian king left his country in 1108, spent the winter in England, and then journeyed with his host to France and Spain, passing his second winter in Galicia; in 1110 he sailed for the Mediterranean and arrived in the Balearic Islands, where he inflicted a heavy defeat upon the Saracen population; thence he went to southern Italy, where the Normans showed themselves willing to take him for their chief, but Sigurd remained faithful to his purpose and in the same year he reached Palestine.

In 1111, after fighting in the Holy Land, he came to Constantinople and there he was received at the Golden Gates by the emperor himself, who welcomed him with all the prodigal and glittering magnificence of Byzantine state ceremonial. It was a visit never to be forgotten by the Norsemen in Sigurd's train; they were housed in splendour, overwhelmed with costly gifts, and entertained with banquets and with games in the great hippodrome where these simple souls took the statues for gods. Sigurd left for the north again as a devoted adherent of the emperor and at their parting gave to him the dragon-head from the prow of his own ship, a work of northern craftsmanship that was once erroneously believed to have found its way back from the warm south and to be none other than the dragon that to this day scowls down from its cold belfry-summit in Ghent over the roofs and gables of a Flemish city. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- 1. á Gríklandi liðsforungi (A.T.S. 10, p. 84); the usual translation 'chief of the bodyguard' is a trifle bold. 2. For references to the English in the Varangian Guard see Vasilievsky, op. cit. (p. 170), and also G. Buckler, Anna Comnena, Oxford, p. 366, n. 1. Mr. Robert Byron makes an interesting reference to the often-mentioned tombstones of the Varangians on p. 147 of his Byzantine Achievement (London, 1929). ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

Harald III (b.1015 - d. Stamford bridge, England, September 25, 1066), king of Norway from ca. 1040 together with the son of Olav Haroldsson (St. Olav), Magnus the Noble.

After King Magnus's death in 1047, Harald became the sole king. In 1066 he was killed in a battle against King Harold Godwinson of England at Stamford bridge outside the city of York, England. King Harold's brother Tostig Godwinson was fighting on King Harald's side against Harold and some of their other brothers. Surnamed Haardraade (English: "Hardraada"), which might be translated "hard reign", he was the son of King Sigurd and half-brother of King Olav the Saint.

At the age of fifteen he was obliged to flee from Norway, having taken part in the Battle of Stiklestad (1030), in which King Olav met his death. He took refuge for a short time with Prince Jaroslav of Novgorod (a Russian kingdom then, now a city, founded by Scandinavians), and thence went to Constantinople, where he took service under the Empress Zöe of Byzantium, whose Varangian guard he led to frequent victory in Italy, Sicily, and North Africa, also penetrating to Jerusalem.

In the year 1042 he left Constantinople, supposedly because he was refused the hand of a princess, and on his way back to his own country he married Ellisif or Elizabeth, daughter of Jaroslav of Novgorod. In Sweden he allied himself with the defeated Sven of Denmark against his nephew Magnus, now king of Norway, but soon broke faith with Sven and accepted an offer from Magnus of half his kingdom. In return for this gift Harald is said to have shared with Magnus the enormous treasure which he had amassed in the East.

The death of Magnus in 1047 put an end to the growing jealousies between the two kings, and Harald turned all his attention to the task of subjugating Denmark, which he ravaged year after year; but he met with such stubborn resistance from Sven that in 1064 he gave up the attempt and made peace. Two years afterwards, possibly instigated by the banished Earl Tostig of Northumbria, he attempted the conquest of England, to the sovereignty of which his predecessor had advanced a claim as successor of Harthacanute.

In September 1066 he landed in Yorkshire with a large army, reinforced from Scotland, Ireland, and the Orkney Islands; took Scarborough by casting flaming brands into the town from the high ground above it; defeated the Northumbrian forces at Fulford on 20 September; and entered York on the 24th of September. But the following day the English King Harold arrived from the south, and the end of the long day's fight at Stamford Bridge saw the rout of the Norwegian forces after the fall of their king.

Harald and Tostig were both killed in battle. He was only fifty years old, but he was the first of the six kings who had ruled Norway since the death of Harald Hårfagre to reach that age. As a king he was unpopular on account of his harshness and want of good faith, but his many victories in the face of great odds prove him to have been a remarkable general, of never-failing resourcefulness and indomitable courage.

Popular non-fiction books that discuss Hardråde's significant role in shaping English history include: "1066 The Year of the Conquest" (©1977) by David Howarth (ISBN 0-88029-014-5) "The Making of the King 1066" (©1966) by Alan Lloyd (ISBN 0-88029-473-6)

HARALD THE RUTHLESS, Norwegian HARALD HARDRAADE, OR HARDRÅDE, king of Norway (1045-66). His harsh suppression of lesser Norwegian chieftains cost him their military support in his unsuccessful struggle to conquer Denmark (1045-62).

The son of Sigurd Sow (Syr), a chieftain in eastern Norway, and of Estrid, mother of the Norwegian king Olaf II Haraldsson (St. Olaf), Harald fought at the age of 15 against the Danes with Olaf II in the celebrated Battle of Stiklestad (1030) in which Olaf was killed. He then fled to Russia, where he served under the grand prince of Kiev, of Novgorod, Yaroslav I the Wise, whose daughter Elizabeth he later married.

After enlisting in the military service of the Byzantine emperor Michael IV (reigned 1034-41), he fought with the imperial armies in Sicily and Bulgaria and is said to have made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His military exploits under Michael IV were described by both Byzantine and Norse medieval historians. When Harald returned to Norway in 1045, he agreed to share the Norwegian throne with the reigning king, his nephew Magnus I Olafsson. Harald became sole ruler in 1047, when Magnus died in a military expedition that the two rulers had launched against Denmark. He spent the next 15 years attempting to wrest the Danish throne from Sweyn (Svein) II. After Sweyn's defeat in the Battle of Niz (1062), the two rulers recognized each other as sovereign in their respective countries.

Harald also quarreled with Pope Alexander II and Adalbert, the archbishop of Bremen and the Holy Roman emperor's vicar for the Scandinavian countries. Harald antagonized the two prelates by maintaining the independence of the Norwegian church. Harald expanded Norway's colonial possessions in the Orkney, Shetland, and Hebrides islands and in 1066 attempted to conquer England, allying himself with the rebel earl Tostig against the new English king, Harold II. After gaining initial victories, Harald's forces were routed by the English king in September 1066 at Stamford Bridge, where Harald was killed. His son Magnus (c. 1048-69) succeeded him and ruled jointly with Olaf III, another of Harald's sons, until Magnus' death in 1069.

In the saga of St. Olav, Snorri Sturluson relates how King Olav tested his young half brothers. Each of the three were put on his knee. When he angrily glowered at them, the two older boys began to whimper. But Harald, it is said, simply stared back. And when Olav tugged the boy's hair, he grabbed the king's mustache and pulled it in turn, to which the king remarked "You are likely to be vindictive when you grow up, kinsman."

Another time, Olav came upon his brothers playing with toy barns and farmhouses, cattle and sheep. Harald, however, played with chips of wood on a pond, pretending that they were his longships. Olav then asked each what he most would like to have. One boy wanted fields sown with grain; the other, as many cattle as could stand around the pond. But Harald wanted housecarls, as many as could eat all his brother's cows at one time.

Another anecdote occurred just before the battle in which Olav was killed and Harald wounded. "'It seems advisable to me,' said the king, 'that my brother Harald be not in this battle as he is still only a child.' Harold answered, 'By all means I shall take part in it, and if I am so weak as not to be able to wield a sword, then I know what to do: let my hand be tied to the haft.'"

Harald once was asked by Swein Forkbeard what possession he valued the most. He replied that it was his battle standard "Land-Waster" because it prophesied that victory would belong to the one who possessed it. The banner had been with Harald at Stamford Bridge, but Snorri does not say how it foretold victory or defeat.

[IT:Disclaimer: There is ample scholarly evidence to support the line of Eric & Evan Obrock having descended from Harald's first wife (Elizabeth of Kiev). Most encyclopedic sources place the line with Elizabeth, however, many family trees on the web suggests that this family line follows the line of Thora Ragnaldsdatter. This researcher has chosen to follow documented literature, and therefore, follows the line of Rurikides, through Elizabeth and her father, Jaroslav the Wise.:IT]

From Prescott Archery Quotations: King Harold Hardråde used the bow at the battle of the River Nissa in 1063. It was late in the day when the battle began, and it continued the whole night. King Harald shot for a long time with his bow. So says Thiodolf: -- "The Upland king was all the night Speeding the arrows' deadly flight. All in the dark his bow-string's twang Was answered; for some white shield rang, Or yelling shriek gave certain note The shaft had pierced some ring-mail coat, The foemen's shields and bulwarks bore A Lapland arrow-scat or more." (Heimskringla, page 756)

Harald married Tora Torbergsdatter på Giske, daughter of Torberg Arnesson på Giske and Ragnhild Erlingsdatter, in 1048 in Norway. (Tora Torbergsdatter på Giske was born about 1015 in Norway.)

Harald next married Elizabeth of Novgorod-Kiev Jaroslavna Princess Of Kiev Queen of Norway, daughter of Jaroslav I "the Wise" Vladimirovich Grand Prince and Ingegarde Olofsdatter Princess Of Sweden, in 1044 in Novgorod, Kievan Rus'. (Elizabeth of Novgorod-Kiev Jaroslavna Princess Of Kiev Queen of Norway was born in 1032 in Novgorod, Kievan Rus' and died in 1070.)

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