Harald III of Norway

Harald III of Norway

Harald Sigurdsson (1015 – September 25, 1066), later given the epithet Hardraada (Old Norse: "Haraldr harðráði", roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler") was the king of Norway from 1047 [Harald became co-ruler in 1046 and king in 1047 when Magnus died.] until 1066. He was also claimed to be the King of Denmark until 1064, often defeating King Sweyn's army and forcing him to leave the country. Many details of his life were chronicled in the "Heimskringla". Among English-speakers, he is generally remembered for his invasion of England in 1066. Harald's death is often recorded as the end of the Viking era.

Harald was the youngest of King Olaf II's three half-brothers born to Åsta. Harald took part in the battle and although wounded managed to escape leaving Norway in exile. He was able to form a band of warriors out of men who had also been exiled as a result of Olaf's death. In 1031 Harald and his men reached the land of the Kievan Rus where they served the armies of Yaroslav I the Wise, the Grand Prince of the Rus. Harald is thought to have taken part in Grand Prince Yaroslav's campaign against the Poles and was appointed joint commander of defense forces.

Invasion of England

In September 1066, Harald landed in Northern England with a force of around 15,000 men and 300 longships (50 men in each boat). At the Battle of Fulford, two miles (3 km) south of York, on 20 September, he won a great victory against the first English forces he met. Believing that King Harold Godwinson was prepared to surrender, Harald confronted the English, with roughly half of his forces, to accept his claim to the English throne. His forces were carrying light weapons and wore light armour, as opposed to heavy armour.

However, Harold Godwinson had ambitions of his own. At the Battle of Stamford Bridge, outside the city of York, England, on 25 September 1066, Godwinson's forces met with Harald's. Godwinson's forces were heavily armed, heavily armoured, and heavily outnumbered Harald's. Although one of Harald's men was able to block one side of the bridge, when he fell, Godwinson's better armed and better equipped forces cut through Harald's forces easily.

Harald died fighting at this final battle against the forces of King Harold Godwinson of England by an arrow to the throat. He had come to England with the idea of claiming the English Throne as his own, basing this claim on a supposed agreement between Magnus and Harthacanute whereby if either died without heir, the other would inherit both England and Norway. Instead, he met his end.

His army was so heavily beaten that fewer than 25 of the 300 recorded longboats Harald used to transport his forces to England were used to carry the survivors back to Norway.

Not long after his victory over King Harald, Harold Godwinson was defeated by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

The fact that Harold had to make a forced march against Hardrada to fight at Stamford Bridge and then move at utmost speed back south to meet the Norman invasion, all in a matter of days, is widely seen as a primary factor in William's hard-fought victory at Hastings. By a double irony not only were both Harold and William were descended from Vikings-but Harold {Danish} was defeated by William {Norway}


Harald was the last great Viking king of Norway and his invasion of England and death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 proved a true watershed moment. It marked the end of the Viking age. In Norway, although he was at least nominally Christian, Harald's death also marked the beginning of the Christian era: the High Middle Ages.

Sturluson writes, "One year after King Harald's fall his body was transported from England north to Nidaros (the present Trondheim), and was buried in the Mary Church, which he had built.

It was common observation that King Harald distinguished himself above all other men by wisdom and resources of mind; whether he had to take a resolution suddenly for himself and others, or after long deliberation. He was, also, above all men, bold, brave, and lucky, until his dying day, as above related; and bravery is half victory."³

Being remembered is one of the most important wishes for Vikings that went abroad or even those that stayed home. About a hundred years later his body was reinterred in Elgeseter Monastery, which was demolished sometime in the 1600s.

On September 25, 2006, the 940th anniversary of Harald's death, the newspaper "Aftenposten" published an article on the poor state of Norway's ancient royal burial sites, including that of Harald Hardrada, which is reportedly located underneath a road built across the monastery site. In a follow-up article on September 26th, the Municipality of Trondheim revealed they would be examining the possibility of exhuming the king and reinterring him in the Nidaros Cathedral.

The cathedral is currently the burial place of nine Norwegian kings, among them Magnus I and Magnus II, Harald's predecessor and successor respectively.

Harald in fiction

In 1980 the Danish American science fiction and fantasy author Poul Anderson published "The Last Viking", a three-volume historical novel about Harald. Harald also makes a notable appearance in Thomas Holts novel "Meadowland" where the tale of Vinlands discovery is used as the plotline.

In 2006, the archeologist-author David Gibbins in his book "Crusader Gold" uses Hardrada in his plot trying to follow the lost Jewish treasure "the Menorah" (candelabrum of the Temple in Jerusalem), by having the king escaping wounded the battle in England to seek refuge in Vinland having with him the treasures of Miklagard, the name of Constantinople in Norse language.

Harald Hardrada is featured in the novel as his historical figure in the novel "Harold the King", written by Helen Hollick in 2006. The novel follows the history of Harold Godwinson from his first establishment as an Earl to the Battle of Hastings. As such, Harold is also included in the historical real-time strategy game, "".

Harald was portrayed by actor Richard Long in an episode of the British educational TV series "Historyonics" entitled "1066" (2004).

*Henry Treece wrote a historical novel about Harald Hardrada called "The Last of the Vikings", first published in 1963.
* Michael Ennis' epic adventure "Byzantium", published 1989, is based on Harald Hardrada's life in Constantinople, and eventual flight back to Norway.

ee also

*Raven banner



*Sawyer, P.H. (1994)."Kings and Vikings". pgs 118-20, 146-47. Barnes and Noble Books, New York.
*Sturluson, Snorri (2005). "King Harald's Saga" (Part of the Heimskringla). pgs 45, 46, 47. Penguin Classics..
*Snorri Sturulson, The Heimskringla, trans. Samuel Lang. (New York: Norrcena Society, 1905).

External links

* [http://www.ibattles.co.uk audio drama documentary Haralds Last Great Victory in England]
* [http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/Heimskringla/hardrade1.html Saga of Harald Hardrade]


harold hardraada was a powerful viking ruler

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