Thorfinn II "the Black" Sigurdsson Earl of Orkney
- Born: 989, Orkney, Orkney Islands, Scotland
- Marriage: Ingeborg Finnsdatter Queen Of Scotland about 1040
- Died: 1064, Christ's Kirk, Birdsey, Scotland at age 75
- Buried: Birdsey, Scotland
At the time of Macbeth, Thorfinn ruled Orkney and Caithness with Sutherland a disputed area between them. Thorfinn's father was of Viking blood but his mother was a daughter of Malcolm II as was Macbeth's, thus giving him an equal claim to the throne of Scotland should it become vacant. To complete the picture ' the ' King Duncan, who was supposed to have been slain in his bed by Macbeth, according to Shakespeare that is, was also the son of a daughter of that same king. This made the three men cousins, and all with a good claim to that same throne. By a quirk of fate, or even a touch of mischief making, King Malcolm chose Duncan to be his successor thus ensuring an animosity which was to change Scotland's history and an end of the celtic culture which was then dominant.
Duncan, who wanted to eliminate any potential threat to his rule went to war with Thorfinn and after a series of battles was himself killed at Pitgaveny, not far from Elgin in Morayshire. The Orkneys' ancient writings give Thorfinn the benefit but Shakespeare has made Macbeth the infamous villain.
Thorfinn and his sons became legends in his domain and he eventually died peacefully at his beloved Birsay where he had built a magnificent church. It was to be some time before the Islands were ceded to scotland by treaty but only after a great Battle at Largs. To this day the ancient traditions of the Vikings are still played out in festivals and ceremonies each year on the Islands and even on the mainland much to the enjoyment of the participants and onlookers alike.
From the Orkney saga:
XIII. Sigurd's sons, Sumarlidi, Brusi and Einar, each inherited a
third of the Orkneys. Their brother Thorfinn was made Earl of
Caithness and Sutherland by Scotland's King Malcolm. Sumarlidi died
young in his bed. Einar took Sumarlidi'd third over Thorfinn's
protests. Einar was a strong handed and disliked ruler.
XIV. Thorkel Amundason spoke at assembly for leniency for Einar's
farmers. Einar was enraged. Thorkel joined Thorfinn in Caithness.
XV. Einar gave a third to Thorfinn, but became chief ruler of the
other two thirds, now shared between him and Brusi. Most summers,
Einar plundered. King Konofogor won a great battle against Einar at
Lough Larne. A gale forced Eyvind Aurochs-Horn ashore on Orkney and
Einar killed him, angering King Olaf. Einar threatened Thorkel who
was collecting tribute for Thorfinn. Thorkel went to King Olaf in
XVI. Thorfinn went to Norway to see King Olaf. On his return, Brusi
sought peace between Thorkel and Einar. They agreed to host
reciprocal feasts. Thorkel hosted first, but learned of ambushers
awaiting his departure to Einar's Thorkel slew Einar and went to
Norway where King Olaf was pleased.
XVII. Brusi claimed two thirds of Orkney. Thorfinn objected. Brusi
went to Norway to seek King Olaf's support. There he swore fealty to
XVIII. Thorfinn went to Norway. He said he'd happily help King Olaf
as needed, but couldn't swear fealty, as he had done so to the king
of Scotland. King Olaf pressed him, and since he was in the king's
hands, Thorfinn complied.
XIX. King Olaf claimed one third as recompense for the slaying of
his friend Eyvind Aurochs-Horn. He also sought reconciliation
between Thorkel and the brothers. Thorkel went to Thorfinn and swore
to do what he wished. Olaf asked Brusi to manage two-thirds and to
give him Rognvald Brusason to foster. Later, Olaf was replaced
Canute and Thorfinn ruled two-thirds of Orkney.
XX. On the death of King Malcolm, Karl Hundason became ruler in
Scotland. When Thorfinn refused to pay him tribute, King Karl sent
Muddan to be earl in Caithness. Thorfinn and Thorkel met him with a
force so large, Muddan fled. They followed plandering and then
returned home. King Karl moved against Thorfinn with eleven ships.
Thorfinn attacked with five ships. Thorfinn won. Karl's ship was
taken, but the king dove into the water and fled in another one.
Thorkel surprised Muddan at home in Thurso, set fire to the house
there. He severed Muddan's head when he leaped to escape. King Karl
with a large force met Thorfinn at Tarbat Ness. Thorfinn defeated
Karl and plundered much. Brusi died and Thorfinn held all the
XXI. Rognvald Brusason fought at Stiklestad, where he rescued Olaf's
brother and went with him to Russia. Harald went on to Byzantium.
Rognvald served King Jaroslav of Novgorod and fought in ten battles
for him. Norwegians came to Jaroslav to ask for Magnus Olafsson as
king. Rognvald returned with him to Norway and learned of his
father's death in the Orkneys. He went with King Magnus' support,
three ships and the earldom of a third of the Orkneys.
XXII. Thorfinn acknowledged Rognvald's claim to two thirds of the
islands in return for Rognvald's help raiding and in battle. A great
victory was won at Loch Vatten..
XXIII. Thorfinn raided England and suffered a heavy loss.
XXIV. Thorfinn returned with Rognvald and a large force and the
English lost severely.
XXV. Kalf Arnason fled to Thorfinn with enough men to strain
Thorfinn's resources. Thorfinn asked for another third. Rognvald
refused. Thorvald threatened to take it by force. Rognvald went to
King Magnus in Norway and returned with a large force.
XXVI. There was a great sea battle. At first, Thorfinn was hard
pressed. Kalf Arnason came to help and Rognvald was flee to Norway.
XXVII. Thorfinn took control of all the islands. Rognvald, offered
by King Magnus a great force to strike in good weather, said he
preferred to spare those men and go in early winter with a select
XXVIII. Rognvald surprised Thorfinn and set fire to the house where
Thorfinn was. Rognvald allowed the women and slaves out. Thorfinn
broke through a wall carrying his wife and escaped in the dark to a
small boat. Rognvald took control of the islands. Thorfinn stayed
quietly with friends.
XXIX. Thorfinn struck at Rognvald, setting fire to a house where he
was. Rognvald escaped taking his dog, but it barked, giving him away
and he was killed.
XXX. King Magnus swore to avenge Rognvald. First he and Harald
Sigurdarson, who had returned and received half the kingdom, moved
against King Svain of Denmark. Thorfinn joined him on the way and
they seemed to be getting on all right, until a man Thorfinn had
spared demanded compensation. Thorfinn withdrew to his ship and
sailed home. Svain refused to fight. Magnus died. Harald became king
of all Norway.
XXXI. Thorfinn raided in Ireland and was commander of the English
king's bodyguard. Thorfinn went to Harald and was received in
friendship. Thorfinn travelled through Denmark and Germany to Rome,
where he met the Pope. He returned home. His wife was Ingibjorg, his
sons Paul and Erlend.
XXXII. Thorfinn was the greatest Orkney earl holding part of
Scotland, much of Ireland, as well as the Hebrides. He was seventy
five when he died.
XXXIII. Thorfinn's sons, Paul and Erlend, succeeded and got on well
with each other.
Thorfinn married Ingeborg Finnsdatter Queen Of Scotland, daughter of Finn Arnesson Earl Of Halland and Mrs-Finn Arnesson, about 1040. (Ingeborg Finnsdatter Queen Of Scotland was born about 1035 in Østeråt, Yrje, Norway and died about 1068.)