1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harald

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HARALD, the name of four kings of Norway.

Harald I. (850–933), surnamed Haarfager (of the beautiful hair), first king over Norway, succeeded on the death or his father Halfdan the Black in A.D. 860 to the sovereignty of several small and somewhat scattered kingdoms, which had come into his father’s hands through conquest and inheritance and lay chiefly in south-east Norway (see Norway). The tale goes that the scorn of the daughter of a neighbouring king induced Harald to take a vow not to cut nor comb his hair until he was sole king of Norway, and that ten years later he was justified in trimming it; whereupon he exchanged the epithet “Shockhead” for the one by which he is usually known. In 866 he made the first of a series of conquests over the many petty kingdoms which then composed Norway; and in 872, after a great victory at Hafrsfjord near Stavanger, he found himself king over the whole country. His realm was, however, threatened by dangers from without, as large numbers of his opponents had taken refuge, not only in Iceland, then recently discovered, but also in the Orkneys, Shetlands, Hebrides and Faeroes, and in Scotland itself; and from these winter quarters sallied forth to harry Norway as well as the rest of northern Europe. Their numbers were increased by malcontents from Norway, who resented Harald’s claim of rights of taxation over lands which the possessors appear to have previously held in absolute ownership. At last Harald was forced to make an expedition to the west to clear the islands and Scottish mainland of Vikings. Numbers of them fled to Iceland, which grew into an independent commonwealth, while the Scottish isles fell under Norwegian rule. The latter part of Harald’s reign was disturbed by the strife of his many sons. He gave them all the royal title and assigned lands to them which they were to govern as his representatives; but this arrangement did not put an end to the discord, which continued into the next reign. When he grew old he handed over the supreme power to his favourite son Erik “Bloody Axe,” whom he intended to be his successor. Harald died in 933, in his eighty-fourth year.

Harald II., surnamed Graafeld, a grandson of Harald I., became, with his brothers, ruler of the western part of Norway in 961; he was murdered in Denmark in 969.

Harald III. (1015–1066), king of Norway, surnamed Haardraade, which might be translated “ruthless,” was the son of King Sigurd and half-brother of King Olaf the Saint. At the age of fifteen he was obliged to flee from Norway, having taken part in the battle of Stiklestad (1030), at which King Olaf met his death. He took refuge for a short time with Prince Yaroslav of Novgorod (a kingdom founded by Scandinavians), and thence went to Constantinople, where he took service under the empress Zoe, 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, the story says 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 Yaroslav 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 Harthacnut. In September 1066 he landed in Yorkshire with a large army, reinforced from Scotland, Ireland and the Orkneys; took Scarborough by casting flaming brands into the town from the high ground above it; defeated the Northumbrian forces at Fulford; and entered York on the 24th of September. But the following day the English 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 (25th of September 1066). He was only fifty years old, but he was the first of the six kings who had ruled Norway since the death of Harald Haarfager 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.

Harald IV. (d. 1136), king of Norway, surnamed Gylle (probably from Gylle Krist, i.e. servant of Christ), was born in Ireland about 1103. About 1127 he went to Norway and declared he was a son of King Magnus III. (Barefoot), who had visited Ireland just before his death in 1103, and consequently a half-brother of the reigning king, Sigurd. He appears to have submitted successfully to the ordeal of fire, and the alleged relationship was acknowledged by Sigurd on condition that Harald did not claim any share in the government of the kingdom during his lifetime or that of his son Magnus. Living on friendly terms with the king, Harald kept this agreement until Sigurd’s death in 1130. Then war broke out between himself and Magnus, and after several battles the latter was captured in 1134, his eyes were put out, and he was thrown into prison. Harald now ruled the country until 1136, when he was murdered by Sigurd Slembi-Diakn, another bastard son of Magnus Barefoot. Four of Harald’s sons, Sigurd, Ingi, Eysteinn and Magnus, were subsequently kings of Norway.