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Perpetuus Rex Norvegiae and Pyratarum Dux: Olaf Haraldsson’s Conversion of Norway and The Presence of Norman Power in Northern Europe

Perpetuus Rex Norvegiae and Pyratarum Dux: Olaf Haraldsson’s Conversion of Norway and The Presence of Norman Power in Northern Europe

By Rachael Kerrigan

Ex Post Facto, Vol.18 (2009)

Introduction: Gladly I saw the glorious / Gold-ring-dealer’s men there / Busked in cold steel byrnie- / Bated not the sword-din; / But my black hair hid I, / Benchmate, ‘gainst the flight of / Arrows- armed thus were we-  / Under a French helmet.

Olaf Haraldsson’s skald Sigvat perfectly captured Olaf’s intentions for his reign over Norway in this verse about the Battle of Nesjar in 1015. Olaf, the ‘gold-ring-dealer,’ would lead his men to victory, while ‘under a French helmet,’ with the support of the formidable Norman ruling family, whose provisions of supplies and soldiers would allow Olaf to gain complete control over his native Norway. However, these war-plan intentions proved difficult to bring to fruition.

Olaf had no way of securing an alliance with the Norman ruling family. The traditional avenues to such an alliance, generally through marriage or vassalage, remained unviable. The Norman family at the time of Olaf’s ascension lacked a marriageable woman, and the head of the Norman family at the time, Duke Richard II, refused requests for land grants. He simply had too many brothers, cousins, nephews, uncles and illegitimate siblings to give land away to the promising young Viking. Olaf himself could not grant fiefs to the Normans for a slightly different reason – he did not, due to the traditionally limited role of Norwegian kings, have the right to grant fiefs, and if he had attempted to do so, his fiercely independent pagan earls would not have accepted it.

Click here to read this article from Ex Post Facto

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