NORWAY: 1162 Magnus V; 1186 Sverre
SCOTLAND: 1165 William the Lion
ENGLAND: 1l59 Richard
ROME: 1159 Alexander III; 1181 Lucius III; 1185 Urban III; 1187 Gregory VIII, Clement III; 1191 Celestinin III; 1198 Innocent III
ORKNEY: 1168 William II; 1185 Bjarni - [See Historiettes]
This was confirmed by the principal Orcadians and Scotsmen, and Harald was taken to Orkney by his foster-father, Thorbiorn Klerk and Gudrun, and though only five years of age, received investiture as Earl. Thorbiorn then married Ingirid, sister to Sweyn Asleifsson.
This period is so fully recorded as to form subject matter sufficient for a special book, and will therefore only be cursorily dealt with. The most remarkable incidents are the exploits of Sweyn and the pilgrimage of Rognvald to the Holy Land.
As for Sweyn, it is told how, with the approval of the Countess of Atholl, he exacted vengeance for his father's death by burning Frakach, and causing Olvir Rosta to fly from the North of Scotland; nor is he again mentioned. After that Sweyn made an alliance with Holdbodi, the Hebridean, and plundered in the Isle of Man and Wales. One Eric, an Icelander, celebrates his little game in song:
Half-a-dozen homesteads burning,
Half-a-dozen households plundered:
This was Sweyn's work of a morning -
This his vengeance; coals he lent them
[From Orkneyinga Saga]
Swyen married Ingirid, relict of a Manx nobleman named Andrew, by whom she had a son, Sigmund. She made marriage conditional upon his revenging the death of her former husband. Holdbodi broke faith with Sweyn and endeavoured to surprise him, but unsuccessfully. While Sweyn was in the Hebrides, Earl Rognvald was in Caithness, being entertained at Wick by one Hroald, whose wife's name was Arnljot. His son was Sweyn, an active fellow. While there Thorbiorn Klerk appeared on the scene, and complained that his father, Thorstein Hold, had been killed by a certain Scottish earl named Valthiof. Rognvald and Thorbiorn became very intimate, and Sweyn Hroaldsson became Rognvalds table page. While in Scotland, Thorbiorn slew two men who had assisted at the cremation of Frakach. On Sweyn Asleifsson's return from the Hebudes there was a coolness between the brothers-in-law, but Earl Rognvald reconciled them.
At this time an Icelandic vessel arrived in the Orkneys, in which was Hall, the son of Thorarinn. He stayed in North Ronaldsay with Thorstein Ragnasson, Presently he thought of seeing the Earl, but Rognvald would not receive him, so Ragna made a personal application to procure Hall a place at the Earl's Court, and was successful. Hall remained a long time with Earl Rognvald. They jointly made "The Old Metrekey", with five verses for each different metre. Afterwards that was thought too much, and now only two verses are made for each different metre. (Clavis Rhythmica, apparently a kind of rhyming dictionary or repertory of versification). Torfaeus states that this joint production is still extant in the library at Uppsala.
Sweyn Asleifsson heard that Holdbodi had returned to the Hebrides, and asked Earl Rognvald for an armament with which to avenge himself. He was given five ships, one commanded by himself, and the others, by Thorbiorn Klerk, Haflidi, son of Thorkell Flett, Dufnial Havardsson, and Richard Thorleifsson. Holdbodi did not wait for Sweyn's arrival, but fled, leaving Sweyn to ravage the Hebrides far and wide. A dispute arose over the spoil as Sweyn wanted the lion's share, much to the chagrin of Thorbiorn, who thought they should share it equally, and, on his return to Caithness, in pursuance of a policy of revenge, divorced Ingirid, his wife, the sister of Sweyn. While in the Hebrides Sweyn had placed Margad Grimsson over his affairs at Dungalsbae and transferred to him the office of deputy, which he held from Earl Rognvald. Margad became overbearing and violent and killed Hroald at Wick, with several others, after which he went to Sweyn at Dungalsbae, and they both returned to Lambaborg (Balquholly Castle), which they fortified. Sweyn Hroaldsson asked Earl Rognvald to assist him in obtaining redress, and many supported his request. So Rognvald crossed to Caithness with Thorbiorn, Haflidi, Dufnial, and Richard, and besieged the fortress, calling on Sweyn to surrender unconditionally. When their provisions were nearly exhausted, Sweyn and Margad got lowered to the sea from the castle cliff, swam to the end of it, and escaped to Sutherland, whence they made their way to Moray. At Duffus they met with an Orcadian trader commanded by Hallvard and Thorkel, with whom they sailed south and plundered the monastery on the Isle of Mey, the head of which was an abbot named Baldvini. Leaving Mey, they made for the Firth of Forth, and found David, King of Scotland, to whom Sweyn related all he had done, including the sacrilegious attack at Mey. King David, we are told, made good the losses to those Sweyn had robbed, and wanted him to bring Ingirid to Scotland and enter his service, but Sweyn was too much attached to "the old Rock," and recommended Margad to the King. David sent men to the Orkneys with presents and a message requesting the Earl to restore Sweyn to favour. So Sweyn went north and his estates were restored to him, but Margad remained with King David.
After Sweyn and Margad escaped from Lambaborg the rest surrendered at discretion, and the Earl gave them quarter. Thorbiorn Klerk was despatched south to the Moray Firth in a war-galley of forty men to search for Sweyn, but did not hear of him. So he bethought him of a kindred quest, and went to take revenge on Earl Valthiof who had slain his father. He surprised him banqueting and set fire to the place, and Earl Valthiof, being denied quarter, perished in the flames with thirty of his retainers.
At this time a young man lived in Weir called Kolbein Hruga, a very overbearing man, where he built a fine stone castle, which was a strong defence. Kolbein's wife was Herbiorg, the sister of Hakon Bairn; but their mother was Sigrid, a daughter of Herborg, Paul's daughter. Their children were Kolbein Karl, Bjarni Skald, Sumarlid, Aslac, and Frida. They were all well-mannered.
Tbe sons of Harald Gille now ruled over Norway. Eystein was the eldest, but Ingi was a legitimate son and most honoured by the Barons, of whom Ogmund and Erling, the son of Kyrpinga Orm, assisted him in the government. These counsellors advised King Inge to cultivate the friendship of Earl Rognvald and send him an honourable invitation to the Norwegian court, saying truly he had been so great a friend of King Harald, and, in case of conflict with King Eystein, would prove an invaluable ally. The Earl duly received the invitation and decided to revisit his native land. Earl Harald, who was then fourteen or fifteen years of age, wanted to go with him, so they started together, and found King Inge in Bergen, and Rognvald was well received. Eindridi, the Young, then arrived from Constantinople, where he had long been in service in the Varangian Guard. His tales of wonder about those parts suggested a pilgrimage to Palestine, and many seemed eager for the journey. When Rognvald was leaving in the autumn King Inge presented him with two long-ships, small, but very beautiful, and specially built for rowing. Earl Rognvald gave Harald one of them, called the Fifa; the other was called Hjalp. In these ships the Earls went to sea, holding westward, and Rognvald received large presents from his friends. On the home voyage a storm arose, and they had to beach the ships near Gulberwick, in Shetland. Rognvald stayed some time in Shetland, entertained by Einar in Gulberwick, and in the autumn went to the Orkneys and resided in his dominions. That autumn two Icelanders came to him. One was named Armod, a poet; the other was Oddi, the Little, son of Glum, who also made verses well. Both entered his service. At Yule the Earl entertained Bishop William and many nobles, and then it was that he announced his intention of visiting Jerusalem. As the Bishop was a good Parisian scholar, he was requested to accompany the Pilgrims as interpreter. The following went with him - Magnus, son of Havard Guunarsson; Sweyn Hroaldsson: and others of lesser note; Thorgeir Skotakol1; Oddi the Little; Thorbjorn the Black; Armod the Skald; Thorkel the Crosseyed; Grimkell of Glettuness and Bjarni, son of Thorstein of Flydruness. Two winters were spent in preparation, and then Rognvald passed to Norway to see how the Barons had progressed.
At Bergen he found Erling, his brother-in-law John, and Aslac, Guttorm arriving later on, as also Eindridi, who put in an appearance in a very ornamentally finished vessel, although it had been understood that none should outvie the Earl. The Earl and his ships had a favourable passage to the Orkneys, but the pride of Eindridi received a curb, as his larger ship became a total loss on the Shetlands. He wintered in the Northern Archipelago, and sent men to Norway to rebuild a ship for the Eastern voyage. While waiting for Eindridi disturbances frequently took place. In one of these Sweyn Asleifsson mortally wounded Arni Stickleg, a follower of Eindridi, and then escaped to Caithness, leaving the matter to be adjusted by the Earl.
At last everything was ready and Rognvald called a Thing meeting [a general assemblage of Free men], which was attended by all the Orcadian nobles. He then transferred the government to his kinsman Harald, who was at that time nearly twenty years of age, and asked them to be faithful during his absence. Immediately on the arrival of Eindridis ship, which was rather late in the summer, Earl Rognvald set sail with a squadron of fifteen vessels. The following were commanders: - Earl Rognvald, Erling Skakki, Bishop William, Aslac Erlendsson, Guttorm, Magnus Havardsson, Sweyn Hroaldsson, John Petrsson, Eindridi, and six others of Eindridi's men who are not named.
They sailed first to Scotland, then they passed England and Gaul, landing at Narbonne, where the Count Germanus had recently died, leaving a young and beautiful heiress, Ermingerd, who was under ward of her noblest kinsmen. By the Princess Ermingerd they were royally banqueted, and verses were composed in her honour by Rognvald, Armed and Oddi. They reached Galicia (Spain) five nights before Yule, and were asked to assist the inhabitants of a certain town against the lord of the castle, one Gudifrey; a foreigner, who greatly oppressed them. They stormed and took the castle, but, through the connivance of Eindridi, Gudifrey managed to escape. Proceeding, they plundered in Moorish Spain, and entered the Straits of Gibraltar. When they, had cleared the Sound, Eindridi parted company and with six ships sailed for Marseilles, which action was thought to be a further proof of his allowing Gudifrey to escape. Continuing the voyage, they sailed along the Barbary coast and presently found themselves near Sardinia, where they fell in with a dromund, or Saracen corsair, which they attacked and captured. They anchored in Crete during a strong gale and, leaving it, bad a fair wind on to Palestine, arriving at Acre early one Friday morning. They went on shore with great pomp and splendour, such as had seldom been seen there. At Acre illness broke out among the crews, and many succumbed to it, amongst others Thorbiorn the Black. The Earl and his men, departing from Acre, visited all the holiest places in Palestine, and all bathed in the Jordan. They left Palestine in the summer, en route through Syria for Constantinople. John Petrsson was assassinated in a Syrian city. Burying him honourably, they went north to AEgos, and there waited some nights for a fair wind with which to enter Constantinople in the same magnificent manner as King Sigurd the Jorsala-farer had done. This they effected, and were well received by the Emperor, Manuel I, and his Varangians. They spent most of the winter at Manuel's court, where Eindridi also arrived, and was highly honoured. Manuel wanted them to enter his service, but before the winter was over the Orcadian pilgrims commenced their homeward trip. They first reached Durazzo, and then sailed westwards to Apulia, where the Earl, Bishop William, Erling, and others left their ships and took horse for Rome, whence they made for Denmark, and finally Norway, where all were glad to see them.
While Erling was away in Palestine his brother Ogmund died. Erling was married to Kristin, daughter of King Sigurd Jorsala-farer, and after the death of King Inge their son Magnus was made King, Erling being Regent. Valdemar, King of the Danes, gave him the title of Earl. Eindridi came from the South some winters after Earl Rognvald, and attached himself to King Eystein, because he would have nothing to do with Erling. On Eystein's death, with Sigurd of Reyr, Eindridi nominated Hakon Haraldsson as king, and slew Gregorius Dagsson and King Inge, but meeting with Erling received a decisive defeat, Hakon being-mortally wounded and Eindridi put to flight. Later on he was killed in Viken.
Earl Rognvald spent the summer in Hordaland in Norway, and heard many tidings from the Isles, where there were great disturbances, most of the nobles having divided themselves into two factions, at the head of one being Earl Harald, and of the other Earl Erlend and Sweyn Asleifsson. Many things had happened while Rognvald was in the East. The very summer Rognvald had set out on his journey King Eystein of Norway, landed in the Isles at Rinansey, and, crossing the Pentland Firth in a warship of twenty benches with eighty men, surprised Earl Harald at Thurso. The Earl was admitted to ransom on payment of a fine of three marks of gold, and upon surrendering his dominions to be held in future from King Eystein. The latter then went ravaging in Scotland and England, as some revenge for King Harald Hardrade. When Eystein returned to Norway Harald remained in his Orcadian dominions, and most of the Islesmen were satisfied with his rule. At this time his father, Earl Maddad of Atholl, was dead, and his mother, Margaret, had gone to reside in Orkney. She was a handsome woman, but very imperious. Now also David, King of Scotland, died, and was succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm the Maiden, who was but a child.
Erlend, the heir of Harald the Orator, was now grown up, and spent most of his time in Thorsa. After the death of Earl Ottar he was sometimes in the Hebrides on war expeditions. He was a very promising man, and accomplished in most things, liberal in money, gentle, open to advice, and greatly loved by his men. He had a large following. He was fostered by a hardy South Isle noble named Anakol, who was his right-hand man, and to whose counsels he chiefly listened. While Rognvald was away in Palestine, Erlend went to the Scottish Court and obtained from King Malcolm the Maiden the title of earl, and that part of Caithness which his father, Earl Harald, had, to be held jointly with his cousin, Earl Harald the Wicked. Returning to Caithness, Erlend collected forces and passed to the Orkneys, to obtain possession of the half which he considered his patrimonial inheritance. Harald declined to surrender any part of the Isles; but a year's truce was agreed to, and Erlend was to go to Norway and ask the King for the half which belonged to Rognvald, and which Harald would then surrender. So Erlend went east to Norway, but Anakol stayed behind with some of his party.
Gunni Olafsson, brother of Sweyn Asleifsson, had children by Margaret, the Dowager Countess of Atholl, and Earl Harald banished him from the Isles, so enmity arose between Sweyn and Harald. Sweyn sent Gunni south to Lewis to stay with his friend Liotolf, whose son Fugl was then with Earl Harald. While Erlend was in Norway, Harald spent the winter in Caithness, residing at Wick. Sweyn was then at Freswick, taking care of the estate which his stepsons had there, for his former wife was Ragnhild, daughter of Ogmund, though they lived together but a short time. Their son was Olaf. After that he married Ingirid, daughter of Thorkell; their son was Andreas. On Wednesday, in Passion Week, Sweyn, while going to Lambaborg, saw a transport vessel crossing the Firth, and concluding the barge contained Harald's revenues from Shetland, attacked it and seized the cargo. When Harald heard this he said, "Sweyn and I shall have our turns".
NOTE - Gunni Olafsson is accounted ancestor of the Clan Gunn.
During Easter Harald remained in guest quarters. After Easter-week Sweyn passed to the Orkneys in a barge, and at Scapa seized a ship belonging to Fugl, who was on his way from Lewis to visit Earl Harald. Sweyn also took twelve ounces of gold from the house of Sigurd Klanfi, a house-carl of the Earl's, he, Sigurd, being absent in Kirkwall. Returning to Caithness, Sweyn passed on to Aberdeen, where he spent a month at the court of King Malcolm, by whom he was well entertained. King Malcolm insisted upon his enjoying all those emoluments of Caithness which he had before becoming Earl Harald's enemy. Sweyn and Malcolm parted excellent friends, and the former sailed north to Orkney. By appointment, arranged by Gauti or Skeggbjornstead, he met Anakol at Sandav, and they adjusted matters relating to Sweyn's seizure of Fugl's ship, Fugl being of kin to Anakol, and it was agreed that the latter should make peace between Sweyn and Erlend on his return from the East, for they were bitter enemies on account of the incineration of Frakach. Sweyn and Anakol then went to Stronsay, and layoff Hulpness for some nights.
At this time Thorfinn Brusisson lived at Stronsay: his wife was Ingigerd, who had been deserted by Thorbiorn Klerk. While lying off Huipness, Earl. Erlend arrived from Norway, and through the representation of Anakol and Thorfinn reluctantly made peace with Sweyn. Erlend then told of the message from King Eystein, that be should have that part of the Orkneys formerly held by his father, Earl Harald the Orator. Sweyn advised Erlend to go at once to Earl Harald before he heard this from others, and ask him to surrender the dominions. The advice was acted upon. They found Harald in his ship off Corness, but Harald, suspecting hostile intentions, left his ship and entered the castle, to which Erlend and Sweyn laid siege. Eventually peace was secured upon Harald consenting to let Erlend have his part of the Isles, and not to redemand it from him, and this Harald coufirmed by oath in the presence of the leading Orcadians. Harald then went over to Caithness, and Erlend and Sweyn convened a Thing meeting of the Islesmen [a general assemblage of Free men] at Kirkwall, when Erlend was accepted as sole ruler, but conditionally upon his allowing Earl Rognvald to have his half whensoever he returned. Sweyn spent the following Yule at his estate in Gairsay.
During this Yule, Harald made a voyage to the Orkneys with four ships and one hundred men. He lay two nights under Grimsay. They landed in the Orcadian mainland, and on the thirteenth day of Yule-tide walked to Firth, and spent the Yule holiday at Orcahaug (Maeshowe), where two of their men were seized with madness, thus retarding their journey. It was near day when they reached Firth. There they learned that Erlend was aboard his ship, but had been ashore during the day. At Firth Harald killed one Ketil and another, and took prisoner Arnfinn, brother to Anakol, Liotolf, and two others. Harald and Thorbiorn Klerk then returned to Thurso, while the brothers Benedict and Eric went to Freswick Castle with Arnfinn in custody. They now sent word that Arnfinn would not be admitted to ransom until Erlend restored their ship, the one seized off Corness. The Earl was willing to make the exchange, but Anakol dissuaded him from it, saying that Arnfinn should be recovered without such a sacrifice. So, on the Wednesday before Lent, Anakol and Thorstein Ragnasson crossed the Firth by night and stalked Eric, whom they took prisoner to the islands, and Earl Harald liberated Arnfinn and his comrades in exchange for Eric.
In the spring Earl Harald made preparations to go from Caithness north to Shetland, his intention being to take the life of Erlend the Young (not Earl Erlend, who would hardly have fallen in love with his aunt), who had wooed his mother, the Countess Dowager of Atholl, in defiance of his disapproval. Erlend had carried her off from the Orkneys, and taken up his residence in the Tower of Mousa, in the island of that name. Harald besieged the tower, but it was so difficult to take by assault, that he listened to favourable overtures from Erlend, resulting in the marriage of Erlend and Margaret, and an alliance between him and the Earl, and the summer following they went off east to Norway in company.
Earl Erlend, on the other hand, next went with Sweyn and Anakol on a plundering cruise. They steered first for the Moray Firth, and then made inroads on the east of Scotland, and cruised as far south as North Berwick, in the Firth of Forth, where they captured a large and fine vessel belonging to a Berwick merchant, named Knut the Wealthy. On board was a valuable cargo and Knut’s wife. When Knut heard of the seizure he sent fourteen ships in pursuit. The Orcadian squadron lay under the Fern Islands, and, as a gale was blowing, erected awnings, except on Sweyn's boat, as that worthy was too careful to be surprised, notwithstanding that he was rallied about it by one of his company named Einar Skeif. Sweyn was first to sight the enemy, and the Orcadians made for the North. They put in under the Isle of May, and Sweyn sent men to Edinburgh to tell the King of Scots of his plunder; but before they came to the town they met twelve men on horseback, who had saddle-bags filled with silver, and when they met they inquired after Sweyn. Sweyn's men told where he was, and asked what was wanted with him. The Scots said they had been told that Sweyn was taken prisoner, and the King of Scots had sent them to ransom him. They thus told their errand. The King did not make much of Knut's loss, but sent a costly shield to Sweyn, and other presents besides: Earl Erlend and Sweyn arrived in the Orkneys rather late in the autumn. This summer Earl Harald went east to Norway. At the same time Earl Rognvald and Erling Skakki came to Norway from Constantinople, and Rognvald arrived in the Orkneys shortly before Yule, and immediately messengers passed between him and Erlend relative to a settlement of the islands. They had an interview at Kirkwall, when they agreed that each should have half of the islands, and they concluded a defensive alliance against Earl Harald should he lay claim to any of them. Rognvald was without ships till his should arrive from the east in the summer. The winter passed in quietness, but in the spring the Earls prepared for a visit from Harald, and Rognvald crossed over to Thurso, while Erlend and Sweyn passed to Shetland, hoping to intercept Harald on his return. In the summer Harald left Norway with seven ships, three of which were storm-driven to Shetland, and promptly seized by Erlend and Sweyn: but Harald reached the Orkneys with the rest and lauded there. He then heard of the alliance between Rognvald and Erlend excluding him from ally territory in the islands, and he resolved to cross at once to Caithness and see Rognvald before Erlend could arrive from Shetland. Erlend and Sweyn had started after Harald, but met with adverse weather off Sumburgh Roost, and Sweyn was driven back to Fair Isle with twelve ships, and all thought the Earl had perished. From Fair Isle he sailed to Sanday, where, to his great joy, he found Erlend with three ships. They then went to the Orcadian mainland to enquire about Earl Harald's movements.
When Harald reached Thurso, Rognvald was in Sutherland celebrating the wedding of his heiress Ingirid with Eric Stagbrellir. Hearing of Harald's arrival, he rode from Berriedale to Thurso with a large retinue, and through the mediation of Eric Stagbrellir and others an alliance was made at a conference in Thurso Castle, which was nearly upset by the arrival of Thorbiorn Klerk, who attacked Rognvald's men and slew thirteen before the conflict could be stopped by Harald. The two Earls now set out for the Isles to give battle to Erlend. They anchored their thirteen ships in Widewall, in South Ronaldsay, and landed.
Erlend was lying with his ships at Burswick, in the same island. On being made aware of the reconciliation of Rognvald and Harald, and their near presence, Erlend and Sweyn held a consultation, and decided to cross to Caithness at once and winter in the Hebrides. So, on Michaelmas Eve, they sailed for Caithness, where they held a great strand-hewing, and early in the winter left Thurso in six long-ships, all well manned and steering west ostensibly bound for the Hebrides. When off Ru Stoer, in Assynt, they put about ship and made for the Isles, having a rattling breeze behind them. They soon reached Walls, where they were told that the Earls were lying off Knarston, at Scapa, with thirteen ships, and that Erlend the Young, Eric Stagbrellir, and many other men of note were with them. Thorbiorn Klerk had gone to Papley on a visit to his brother-in-law, Hakon Karl. Sweyn resolved to attack them at once, so, four nights before St.Simon's mass, an attack was made on Earl Harald and his men, who were completely surprised and ranted, many being slain, amongst others a noble, Bjarni, brother of Erlend Ungi, and a hundred with him. Few of Erlend's men were killed. Erlend took fourteen ships and many valuables. Rognvald was on his way to Orphir that evening, but had stopped at Knarston, at the house of an Icelander named Botolf Begla, an excellent skald [court bard to the King or Jarl]. Erlend's men heard that Rognvald had gone towards Knarston, and enquiring of Botolf, were misled by him, and Rognvald promptly hurried off to Orphir, where he found Harald in hiding, and both crossed at once to Caithness.
Sweyn took Earl Rognvald’s ship and treasures as his share of the booty, and these he restored to that Earl. He (Sweyn) advised Erlend to station his ships at Walls, where he could command the Firth, but Erlend yielded to the persuasion of his men and went north to Darnsay, St.Adamnan's Isle, carousing in the daytime in a large castle there, and at night sleeping all board the ships, which were fastened together. Thus time passed all till the Yule feast. Five nights before Christmas Sweyn went east to Sandwick, in Deerness, to make peace between his kinswoman Sigrid and her neighbour Bjorn, and spent one night at her place. A friendly neighbour of Sigrid's named Gisl wanted Sweyn to stay with him. When they came to Gisl they heard Erlend was not stopping on board ship at night, so Sweyn sent Margad Grimsson to warn Erlend to heed his advice, adding, "I suspect I shall not have long to provide for this Earl". Margad and the others conveyed Sweyns message to Erlend, who slept on board that night, but was surprised by the Earls, none perceiving them until they were climbing on board. Orm and Ufi were on the fore part of Erlend's ship. Ufi tried to rouse the Earl, but he was not sober enough, so Ufi jumped overboard with him into a boat, and Orm plunged from the other side and escaped on shore. Margad and his men heard the battle-cry and rowed a way round the headland. It was clear moonlight. They saw the Earls go away, and they felt fate had decided between them. Two nights before Yule a spear was seen standing in a heap of seawood, and that spear was found to be fast in Earl Erlend's body.
With him the male line of the Norse Earls of Orkney ended. All Erlend's men took refuge in St. Magnus' Cathedral, and the Earls admitted them to peace. John Voeng, son of a sister of John Wing, previously referred to, was amongst the number. He had been with Hakon Karl, and had a child by his sister. Then he ran away, and was with Anakol on piratical expeditions, but now he was with Erlend, though not in the battle. The Earls would not pardon him till he married Hakon's sister. He afterwards became steward to Earl Harald.
After Erlend's death Sweyn went to Rendale, where he met Margad, who told him of what had happened in Damsey. They then went to Rousay and distributed themselves amongst the farm steadings. In the evening, at a homestead, Sweyn overheard some talk about the death of Erlend amongst Thorfinn, his son Ogmund, and his brother-in-law Erlend. Erlend was boasting of having given the Earl his death blow, and all were declaring they had done right well. Sweyn rushed in and killed Erlend, and Thorfinn was taken prisoner, and Ogmund wounded. Sweyn then went to Tyngvale to his father's brother Helgi, and spent the first few days in hiding. Rognvald was staying in Damsey, and Harald at Kirkwall during Yule-tide. Rognvald sent word to Helgi to tell Sweyn he wanted him to spend the Yule with him and make peace between him and Earl Harald. Sweyn went accordingly.
After Christmas the Earls considered Sweyn's case, and it was adjudged that he should pay a mark of gold to each of the Earls and retain one-half of his estates and a good long-ship. When Sweyn heard of the award he remarked, "Our agreement will only be good in case I am not oppressed". Rognvald, on his part, waived the fine, but Harald presently went to Gairsay and used Sweyn's corn and other property wastefully. Sweyn complained of this to Rognvald, but he only suggested peaceful overtures to Harald. Sweyn, however, was determined to have satisfaction, and with ten men took boat for Gairsay and wished to fire the hall and homestead with the Earl in it. He was dissuaded from doing so by the representations of Sweyn Blakarisson, who said the Earl might not be in the homestead, and, if he were, would not permit Sweyn's wife and daughter to leave it. Sweyn surrounded it and asked his wife, Ingirid, where the Earl was, but as Ingirid was of kin to Earl Harald she would not reveal anything. He had gone out to a certain island (Hoy ?) to hunt hares. Sweyn made for the Eller Holm and soon had Harald after him in pursuit. Sweyn took refuge in a cave, the entrance to which was hidden by the rising tide, and baffled his pursuers, who circumnavigated the isle, but without finding him. Leaving his own boat in the cave, he took one from the monks and went to Sanday, where, on landing, they pushed off the small boat, which drifted about till it was wrecked. They came to a homestead at Voluness where lived Bard, kinsman to Sweyn. Bard dared not openly house them, but gave them shelter in a secret apartment. The same evening John Wing, Earl Harald's steward, arrived with six men, and Bard welcomed them. The conversation turned on Sweyn and Erlend, John speaking adversely of both. At this, Sweyn could not restrain himself, and emerged from his retreat. John heard him coming, and rushed out from the house and ran till he came to another farm. His feet were very much frost-bitten, and some of his toes fell off.
NOTE - Bard: This is the equivalent of the Irish surname Barrett.
Through the intercession of Bard, Sweyn gave peace to John's companions, In the morning Bard gave him a boat, and he and his men went south to Burswick, where they stayed in a cave. One morning Sweyn and his men saw a large long-ship coming from Hrolfsey to Ronaldsay, and Sweyn recognised it immediately as Earl Rognvald's, and the one he himself used to command. When they rowed past the Earl's ship, which stuck fast on the beach, Sweyn was standing up with a spear in his hand. When Earl Rognvald saw it he held a shield before him; but Sweyn did not cast the spear, and the Earl, seeing they would get away, ordered a truce-shield to he held aloft. Thereon, Sweyn landed, and came to an understanding with the Earl. While they were talking, Earl Harald's ship was seen steering from Caithness to Walls, so Rognvald advised Sweyn to cross at once to Caithness. This was during Lent. The two left at the same time, the Earl for the Orcadian mainland, and Sweyn for Stroma. Earl Harald recognised Sweyns boat, and turned into the Firth in pursuit, but on reaching Stroma was too suspicious to land. However, the two were made friends by the mediation of Amundi Hnefisson, paternal uncle to Sweyn's stepchildren, and a gale arising, both had to remain there during the night, many sleeping in the same house, and Amundi (doubtless to their mutual satisfaction) put Earl Harald and Sweyn in the same bed. After this Sweyn went to Caithness and Harald to the Orkneys. Then Sweyn went on south to the Dalls, spending the Easter with his friend Somerled; but Harald went north to Shetland, and was there a long time during the spring. After Easter Sweyn, coming north, seized Bunu-Petr and Blan, brothers of John- Wing, and confiscated their goods. A gallows was erected, but Sweyn changed his mind, saying they would disgrace John more alive than dead, so he turned them out on the hills, and they were very much frost-bitten before reaching a habitation. Thence Sweyn passed to Lewis, in the Hebrides, where he stayed some time. When John Wing heard of his brothers' capture, in retaliation, he seized Olaf Sweynsson, foster-son to Kolbein Hruga, and brought him to Earl Rognvald at Rapness, in Westray. Rognvald ordered his immediate release, telling John it was very foolish of him to seek to incur the enmity of Sweyn or Kolbein, whatever the fate of his brothers.
When Easter had passed, Sweyn started for the Hebrides with a company of sixty men. He first went to Rousay, where he seized Hakon Karl, who had assisted Earl Harald when Earl Erlend was slain. Hakon was admitted to ransom for three marks of gold. There Sweyn found his ship, with two of the planks sawn asunder. This had been done by Earl Rognvald's order, as Sweyn refused to buy it or accept it as a gift from the Earls. From Rousay Sweyn went to the mainland, and met Rognvald at Birsa, where Sweyn spent the spring with him. Rognvald said he had cut the planks to prevent Sweyn from rowing rashly among the Islands all his return from the Hebrides. Earl Harald returned from Shetland at Whitsuntide, and Rognvald arranged a peacemeeting in St. Magnus' Church on the Friday during holy week. Rognvald carried a broad-axe to the meeting, and Sweyn went with him. At it the compact of the winter was confirmed. Everything was restored to Sweyn but his ship, which Rognvald gave Harald. Rognvald and Sweyn were standing at the church door while the sail, which had been lying in St. Magnus' Church, was being carried out, and Sweyn looked rather gloomy. The following Saturday, after noon-tide service, Earl Harald's men came to Sweyn and said the Earl wished to speak with him. Sweyn consulted Rognvald, who seemed dubious as to the advisability of going. Sweyn went, nevertheless, with five men, and found Harald sitting on a cross-bench with Thorbiorn Klerk beside him, and a few other retainers near by. Thorbiorn presently left the room, to the discomfiture of Sweyn, but soon returned, and presented him with a scarlet tunic and a coat, saying he could hardly call it a gift as it had been taken from Sweyn in the winter. The gifts were accepted. Earl Harald then restored to him his long-ship, and the forfeited half of his property and estates, asking him to stay with him, and their friendship should never be dissolved. Sweyn accepted all this gladly, and forthwith reported matters to Earl Rognvald, who was well pleased at the issue of the interview.
Soon after this Sweyn, Thorbiorn, and Eric sailed on a plundering expedition, first visiting the Hebrides, and then all along the west to the Scilly Isles, where they gained a great victory in St. Mary's on Columba's Mass (9th June) and returned to the Orkneys with much booty. Thorbiorn now became counsellor to Earl Harald, and Sweyn went to his Gairsay estate, where he usually wintered; but every summer he went marauding. Thorkell, a follower of Thorbiorn, and Thorarinn Killinef, a retainer of Earl Rognvald, quarrelled over their drink at Kirkwall. Thorkell wounded Thorarinn, and, being pursued by Thorarinn's companions, fled to Tborbiorn, who defended them. When Thorarinn recovered, he slew Thorkell as he was going to church, and then ran into church with Thorbiorn close behind. Thorbiorn was going to break the church door open, but Rognvald would not permit the sacrilege, and Thorbiorn crossed to Caithness, where he was frequently guilty of violence to women and man-slaying. He presently returned secretly to the Orkneys, and, coming suddenly on Thorarinn in an inn, wounded him mortally and fled under cover of darkness. For this the Earl made him an outlaw in every part of his dominions. Thorbiorn, recrossing to Caithness, stayed in hiding with his brother-in-law, Hosvir the Strong, who had married Ragnhild, sister to Thorbiorn, and their son was Stephen the Counsellor, a follower of Thorbiorn. From there Thorbiorn went to Malcolm, King of Scots, where he remained for a while in high favour with the king. At the Scottish court was a noble called Gillaodran, of great family, but a very violent man. For his numerous violent acts he had incurred the royal displeasure, and fled to the Orkneys, where the Earls received him and appointed him steward of Caithness. But he soon became embroiled in a dispute about the stewardship with a noble named Helgi, a friend of Earl Rognvald’s, whom he attacked and killed, and then went west to the Hebrides, where he was received by Somerled of Argyll, who had married Ragnhild, the daughter of Olaf Bitling, King of the Hebrides. Their sons were King Dugald, Reginald, and Angus, and they were called the Dalverja family. Rognvald sent for Sweyn, and asked him when on his next cruise to keep an eye on Gillaodran, if a chance occurred.
NOTE - Gilla-odran is found attesting a charter of Malcolm IV in 1161. See Cupar chartulary.
Sweyn started out with five long-ships and brought Somerled to an engagement with his seven ships. The battle was very fierce and doubtful for a long time, but the victory was to Sweyn. Some accounts state Somerled was slain, but from other sources we learn he was killed at Renfrew on 1st Jauuary 1164, having landed there with a fleet of one hundred and sixty galleys to attempt the conquest of Scotland. Later on Sweyn overtook Gillaodran in the Dark Firth (Loch Glean Dubh ?) and slew him and fifty of his men. Returning in the autumn, Earl Rognvald was much pleased with Sweyn's success.
Every summer the Earls were wont to go over to Caithness and up in to the forests to hunt the red deer or the reindeer. Thorbiorn Klerk was sometimes at the Scottish court and sometimes in Caithness hiding with his friends. The three whom he most trusted were his brother-in-law Hosvir; Lifolf, who lived in Thorsdal; and Hallvard, son of Dufa, who dwelt at Force, in Caldale, which goes off from Thorsdal. When Rognvald had been Earl twenty-two winters from the time of "the passing of Paul" the Earls went over to Caithness during the latter end of summer as usual, and on coming to Thurso heard a rumour to the effect that Thorbiorn was in hiding, and intended to attack them if an opportunity arose. In the day-time Earl Rognvald always rode ahead of his men, and with him were Asolf and his kinsman Jomar. Reaching Calder, they came to a farm when Hallvard the farmer was piling up a stack of corn. Thorbiorn and his men were in the homestead, and Hallvard spoke loudly that they might be warned. Thorbiorn ran out and aimed at the Earl, but Asolf warded off the blow with his hand, which was cut off. The Earl then prepared to dismount, but his foot held fast in the stirrup, and Stephen arriving, thrust him with a spear, while Thorbiorn wounded him again. Jomar requited Thorbiorn with a thrust in the thigh, the spear entering his bowels, and then Thorbiorn and his men made for an adjacent morass. Earl Harald now arrived, and meeting Thorbiorn recognised him. Some of Harald's men wanted to pursue Thorbiorn, but Harald said, as he was closely related to him, he preferred to wait for Earl Rognvald's opinion. It was some little while before Harald knew what had happened to Earl Rognvald. His followers then gave cbase to Thorbiorn, who appealed to his kinsman for protection, and Harald would have liked to aid him, but Magnus Havard-Gunnisson, a noble and a kinsman of the Earl, and the noblest born of Harald's followers, said if quarter was given Thorbiorn, Harald would be covered with everlasting shame and dishonour, as all would consider he bad been guilty of complicity. For his own part he, Magnus, would never give him quarter, but would follow him to the death. His brother Thorstein, Hakon, and Sweyn Hroaldsson spoke to the same effect, and gave chase. Thorbiorn, seeing what had been decided, advised his followers to save themselves by flight, while he asked mercy of Earl Harald, but the Earl said, "Save yourself, Thorbiorn: I have not the heart to kill you: nor will I fight for you against my men". Thorbiorn and his men then sought refuge in a deserted shieling called Asgrim's aergin, which was fired by Magnus and his party, who slew them, all nine, after a valorous defence. Earl Harald led his men down the valley of Calder, but those with Magnus went to Fors, wrapped up Earl Rognvald's body, and brought it down to Thorsa. The death of the Earl occurred five nights after the summers Marysmas. (The feast of the Assumption of St.Mary, or the 15th August and the Iceland Annals give 1158 as the year). Earl Harald brought the body with a splendid following to the Orkneys, and it was buried in St. Magnus' Kirk, and there it rested until God manifested Rognvalds merits by many and great miracles. Then Bishop Bjarni had his holy remains exhumed, with the permission of the Pope, and he was canonised thirty-four years after his death. Where the blood of the Earl fell on the stones when he died, it may be seen to this day as fresh as if it had just come from the wounds. His death was much lamented, because he was very popular in the Islands and in many other parts. He had been helpful to many, was liberal with his money, gentle, and a true friend, highly accomplished, and a good skald [court bard to the King or Jarl]. He left one only child, a daughter, Ingigerd, married to Eric Stagbrellir. Their children were Harald the Younger, Magnus Mangi, Rognvald, Ingibiorg, Will, and Ragnhild.
Earl Harald now assumed possession of all the Islands and became their sale ruler. He was a mighty chief and a man of large stature and great strength. His wife was Afrecca, daughter of the Earl of Fife, and their children were Henry, Hakon, Helena and Margaret. When Hakon was only a few years old Sweyn Asleifsson offered to foster him, so, as soon as he was old enough, he accompanied Sweyn in all his expeditions.
Sweyn's occupation was divided according to the seasons. In the winter he resided at home in Gairsay, where he kept eighty men at his own expense, and had such a large wassail-hall that none in the Isles could equal it. In the spring, after he had sowed seed, he went marauding in the Hebrides and Ireland, returning after midsunnuer, This he called spring-viking. Then he stayed home till the fields were reaped and the corn brought in, when he again sallied forth, and did not return till one month of winter had passed. This was his autumn-viking.
One spring Sweyn sallied forth, taking Hakon of Orkney with him, with a fleet of five large rowing ships to plunder in the Hebrides; but Sweyn was too well known in those parts, and the Hebrideans hid all their moveable property, so he sailed on to the Isle of Man, but got very little booty. He then made for Ireland, and all approaching Dublin fell in with two English merchantmen, laden with English cloth and other merchandise, and bound for Dublin. Sweyn annexed everything of any value and proceeded to the Hebrides, where the cargo was shared. They sailed thence with great pomp. When lying in harbour they covered their ships with the English cloth for display, and on steering home they sewed the cloth on the sails, which gave the sails the appearance of being made entirely of fine stuffs. This was named "the scarlet cruise". Sweyn had also taken a quantity of wine and English mead, and all returning to Gairsay entertained Earl Harald to a splendid feast. Harald cautioned Swevn that it was well to drive home with a full wain; but Sweyn was resolved to go once more on an autumu-viking before retiring from the then honourable profession of piracy, so he and Hakon of Orkney started with seven long-ships, making the Hebrides, as usual, their first port of call. There they found very little to take, having no doubt already carried away everything worth gathering from that group, so they plundered promiscuously in Ireland, and worked their way south to Dublin, which they surprised and took possession of. The citizens had agreed to surrender the town; but Sweyn was known to be the most exacting man in the west, and they determined to play him false. So, in the morning, when Sweyn advanced to take possession and quarter his men on the town, he was ambushed, and fell with several of his followers in one of the pitfalls dug to ensnare the invaders. Sweyn was the last to fall and, before doing so, he spake these words: "Know all men, whether I die to-day or not, that I am the holy Earl Rognvald's henchman, and my confidence is where he is with God". His surviving followers made for their ships and put to sea, and nothing is said of their voyage until they arrived in the Orkneys. It has been said that Sweyn was the greatest man in the Western lands, either in old times or at the present day, of those who had not a higher title than he. After his death his sons Olaf and Andrew divided their patrimony, and the next summer they erected a party-wall to the large wassail-hall which he had in Gairsay. Andrew married Frida, the daughter of Kolbein Hruga, and sister to Bishop Bjarni.
After he had divorced himself from Afrecca of Fife, Harald espoused Gormlath (Hvarflod), the daughter of Earl Malcolm of Moray, by whom he had Thorfinn, David, and John, Gunnhild, Herborga and Langlif. When Bishop William the Second died, Biorn, the son of Kolbein Hruga, succeeded him. He was of great consequence, and a dear friend of Earl Harald. Bishop Biorn had a large party of kinsmen in the Isles. The sons of Eric Stagbrellir were Harald the Younger, Magnus Magni, and Rognvald. The brothers went east to Norway to see King Magnus (son of Erling Skakki), and he gave young Harald the title of Earl and that one-half of the Islands which had belonged to the holy Earl Rognvald, his mother's father.
NOTE - Langlif: A John Langlifsson is mentioned in the Haconian expedition of 1263.