Norwegian Monarch. He is best known for leading the Norwegian Crusade to the Holy Land from 1107 to 1110. An illegitimate son of Norwegian King Magnus III "Barefoot" Olafsson with one of his concubines whose first name was Tora, he shared the throne along with his half-brothers, Olaf and Oystein Magnusson after Magnus was killed in 1103 in combat with Irish forces. He reigned until 1130, with the last seven years as sole ruler after his half-brothers had died. According to Snorri Sturlusson's historical account written in the Heimskringla, he was chosen over his half-brothers to lead an expedition (or crusade) in support of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and was the first European king to do so, earning him the nickname "The Crusader." He and his men traveled by ship and fought several battles along the route in which they were victorious, gaining much treasure and booty. Upon his arrival in the Holy Land, he was greeted by Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, who asked for his help in conquering the coastal city of Sidon which had been refortified by the Fatimids in 1098. Their combined forces took the city on December 5, 1110 and he was given a splinter reputed to be from the Holy Cross as a relic in appreciation for his heroic actions. On his return to Norway, he stopped at the island of Cyprus and then sailed to Constantinople, where he was a guest of Byzantine Emperor. Before leaving Constantinople, he gave all of his ships and many of his treasures to the Emperor in exchange for many strong horses. His plan was to return to Norway over land with his men, but most of them elected to stay behind to serve the Emperor. After traveling through Europe, he eventually arrived in Denmark where he was greeted by King Niels, who gave him a ship so he could complete his journey. When he finally returned to Norway in 1111, he found it a flourishing and prosperous kingdom due to the hard work of his half-brother and co-king, Oystein. He built a castle in Konghelle (Kungaalv, in present day Sweden) and settled there. During his reign, tithing (a 10 percent tax) was introduced to Norway which greatly strengthened the Church and he founded the diocese of Stavanger because he was denied divorce from his wife, Malmfred of Kiev, by the bishop in Bergen so he merely installed another bishop at Stavanger and had him perform the divorce instead. Upon his death in 1130, he had no legitimate sons to access the throne and a power struggle ensued between various illegitimate sons and other royal pretenders, which ultimately plunged Norway into a devastating civil war that would last until 1240.
Bio by: William Bjornstad