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Harald "Hardrada" of Norway, III
Original name: Harald Sigurdsson
Birth: 1015
Death: Sep. 25, 1066

Norwegian Monarch. He is considered by many to be the most noted and influential of the early Norwegian kings of the Viking era. He reigned as the King of Norway from 1047 until 1066. Born circa 1015 to Asta Gudbrandsdatter and her second husband, Sigurd Syr, he was the youngest of King Olaf II Haraldsson's (later known as Saint Olaf) three half-brothers. In 1030, around the age of 15, he fought along with his half-brother at the Battle of Stiklestad, in an attempt to restore him to the Norwegian throne which had been taken from him two years earlier by the Danish King Canute the Great. They were defeated and Olaf II was killed and he was wounded. He escaped to a remote farm in Eastern Norway with the help of a friend, Rognvald Brusason (later on the Earl of Orkney). After his wounds healed, he fled in exile to Russia via Sweden to the present day region of Kiev, Ukraine, where he was welcomed by the Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, whose wife, Ingegerd, was a distant relative. Because of his leadership abilities, Yaroslav made him a captain of his army. In 1034, he and his men relocated to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and they joined the Varangian Guard (the Byzantine emperor's bodyguard). He was involved in the military campaigns against the Arab pirates in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor and according to the sagas, he had become a leader of all the Varangians. By 1035, he and the Byzantine army had driven the Arabs out of Asia Minor and he took part in the military campaigns that went as far as the Euphrates River. He then joined the Byzantines in their effort to take the island of Sicily from the Saracens, and after the success of that campaign, he returned to Constantinople. As a reward, he was appointed by Byzantine Emperor Michael IV as an official of the imperial court for his successful role in the Sicilian campaign. He was then called upon to fight against the Bulgarians and again served with distinction. In December 1041 Emperor Michael IV died and he lost favor at the imperial court which was followed by conflicts between the new Byzantine Emperor Michael V and the powerful Empress Zoe. During this time he was arrested and imprisoned, but managed to escape with the aid of some of the Varangians, who were revolting against the new emperor. He and the Varangians seized the new emperor, blinded him, and exiled him to a monastery. Empress Zoe was restored to the throne in June 1042, together with Constantine IX. Harald requested to return to Norway but Zoe refused and he decided to escape back to Russia, where he had befriended Yaroslav. During his time in Constantinople he amassed immense wealth, through the spoils of battle and from pillaging of the palace treasury, when it was convenient, and had sent it to Russia for safekeeping. During his second stay in Russia, he married the Elisabeth (or Ellisif), Yaroslav's daughter and granddaughter of King Olof Skotkonung of Sweden. In 1046, he returned to Scandinavia to pursue his goal of regaining the Norwegian throne. He had learned that the sons of Canute the Great had abandoned Norway and Magnus the Good, an illegitimate son of Olaf II had been restored to the Norwegian throne as well as being selected King of Denmark. He and his forces soon began some minor military exploits against Magnus. Magnus' advisors cautioned him against engaging in an all-out warfare against Harald and a shaky compromise was reached where Harald would rule jointly with Magnus and Harald would share half of his wealth with him. In 1047, Magnus died and Harald became the sole ruler of Norway. However, the inhabitants of Northern Norway, under the leadership of Einar Tambarskjevle, were opposed to his rule and after a confrontation with Harald's men, Einar was killed, which threatened to pull Norway into a civil war. Harald eventually managed to negotiate a peace, thereby securing Einar's family and supporters' submission for the remainder of his reign. He then began to embark on the conquest of Denmark to depose King Sweyn Estridsson, the Danish royal pretender. From 1048 until 1064, he conducted hit and run warfare along the coast of Denmark. On August 9, 1062, he engaged Sweyn's forces at the Battle of Nisa, a naval encounter in which Harald was the victor, but Sweyn and a large part of his fleet and men managed to escape. In spite of this, Harald was never successful at conquering Denmark and his campaign began to lose popularity in Norway. He dealt with this opposition with brutal force and maintained control through the use of his private army maintained by the Norwegian lords. However, the fatigue and cost of the Danish campaign eventually forced Harald to negotiate an unconditional peace with Sweyn in 1064 or 1065. He then turned his attention to the conquest of England, basing his claim to the English throne on an agreement supposedly made between Magnus and Harthacanute (Canute III), son of Canute the Great, which stated that if either died, the other would inherit the deceased's throne and lands. With the encouragement and promise of support from of Earl Tostig Godwinson, the brother of the English King Harold Godwinson, he landed at northern England in September 1066, with a force of around 15,000 men and 300 ships in preparation to fight the English king for the throne. On September 20, 1066, he engaged the English forces at the Battle of Fulford, near York, and won a great victory. Believing that King Harold Godwinson was prepared to surrender, he took about two-thirds of his forces, carrying only light weapons and wearing only light armor, and leaving the rest of his army at the ships. As his men were collecting tribute from the local citizens, Harold Godwinson's English army, who were heavily armed and outnumbered Harald's forces, surprised them at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066. Harald was killed along with Earl Tostig Godwinson, and his survivors were so badly beaten that only 24 of the ships that transported his army to England were used to carry the survivors back to Norway. A year after his death, his body was transported from England to Nidaros (now Trondheim) and interred in the Mary Church which he had built. About a hundred years later his remains were reinterred in the Helgeseter (or Elgeseter) Priory in Nidaros (Trondheim), which was destroyed in 1564. Despite his hard rule, his reign was one of peace and progress for Norway. He is considered to have instituted a good economic policy and developed a Norwegian currency and a viable coin economy that allowed Norway to participate in international trade. Through his previous connections, he initiated trade with Russia and the Byzantine Empire, as well as with Ireland and Scotland. He also continued to advance Christianity in Norway, building and improving churches, and importing priests and monks from abroad. His death marked the end of the Viking age. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
Family links: 
  Tora Torbersdatter (1025 - ____)*
  Elisaveta Yaroslavna (1025 - 1067)*
  Magnus of Norway Haraldsson (1049 - 1069)*
  Olav Kyrre of Norway (1050 - 1093)*
*Calculated relationship
Nidaros Cathedral
Trondheim kommune
Sør-Trøndelag fylke, Norway
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Benny Chordt Hansen
Record added: Sep 22, 2004
Find A Grave Memorial# 9503940
Harald Hardrada of Norway, III
Added by: William Bjornstad
Harald Hardrada of Norway, III
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