Nigel (d.921?) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 41
Nigel (d.921?)

by Alice Margaret Cooke
Nigel the Dane is said by the ODNB to be a chronicler's confusion.

NIGEL, called the Dane (d. 921?), reputed king of Deira, has a contested claim to rank among the Danes who ruled in Northumbria. The existence of a Danish king of Northumbria of this name, who was slain by his brother Sitric about 921, is vouched for by two manuscripts of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ (i. 195, Rolls Ser.), by Henry of Huntingdon (Petrie, Monumenta, 745 A, and 751 A), by Simeon of Durham (ib. 686 B), by Gaimar (ib. 807 [2]), and by Hoveden (i. 52, Rolls Ser.) If these writers are to be trusted, Nigel must have been of the famous race of the Hy Ivar, and grandson of the Ivar who invaded Northumbria in 866.

The Irish annalists, on the other hand, who record the history of the Danes in Dublin and Deira, are unaware of the existence of a Danish king of Deira of Ivar's race named Nigel or Niel, and modern writers have reasonably inferred, from entries in the Irish annals, that the English chroniclers are in error, and that Nigel of Deira never existed (Robertson, Early Kings of Scotland, i. 57; Todd, War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, p. 277, Rolls Ser.; Hodgson, Northumberland, pt. i. pp. 138–9) (Hinde).

The ‘Annals of Ulster,’ like other Irish chronicles, record that in 888 Sitric, son of the above-mentioned Ivar, slew his brother (O'Conor, Rer. Hibern. Script. iv. 238; cf. Chron. Scotorum, p. 171, Rolls Ser.; Ware, Antiq. Hibern. p. 130). In 919 the same authorities state that another Sitric, sometimes called Sitric Gale, grandson of Ivar, defeated and slew Niall (870?–919) [q. v.], called Glundubh, king of Ireland, in the battle of Kilmashogue near Dublin (Ann. Ult. iv. 252, where the name of the victor is not given; War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, loc. cit. p. 35; Ann. Inisfalenses, ap. O'Conor, ii. 39, ex cod. Dubl.; Chron. Scot. p. 191; The Four Masters, an. 917 = 919, ii. 593, ed. O'Donovan). This Sitric afterwards attacked Northumbria and became king there about 921. The writers who doubt the existence of Nigel of Deira argue that the English chroniclers have been misled by these two entries, and that their mention of Nigel or Niel, whom they call king of Northumbria, is a confused reference to Niall Glundubh, king of Ireland. The latter, of course, was neither a Dane nor a brother of Sitric, but an Irishman of the race of the northern Hy Neill.

[Authorities cited in the text.]

A. M. C.-e.