The Leaders: King Sverre and King Haakon

The Leaders: King Sverre and King Haakon – Analysis of King Sverre Sigurdsson and King Haakon Haakonsson in Sverris Saga and Haakonar Saga Haakonarsonar through Max Weber’s and John Gardner’s models 

By Ismael Osornio Duran

Master’s Thesis, University of Oslo, 2004

Introduction: The leadership of the Norwegian Kings during the Medieval ‘Civil War’ plays a prominent part in social, political and economical life in high Medieval Norway. The objective of the present dissertation discusses how King Sverre Sigurdsson (1177-1202) and Haakon Haakonsson (1217-1263) are depicted in their Sagas. The work will be focus on four analytical tools: 1. The Kings’ Charisma; 2. The Kings’ Personal Abilities; 3. The Kings’ Bureaucracy; 4. The King’s closest Fellows. The thesis goal will be accomplished through an analysis of both Kings’ personality in Sverris saga and Haakonar saga Haakonarsonar by the Weber’s leadership model and Gardner’s leadership theory.


According to Knut Helle1 ”The death of King Sigurd Crusader in 1130 marked the transition from a century relatively peaceful internal conditions in Norway to a century of frequent struggles over the succession to the throne, the ‘Civil Wars’ as been termed by modern historians.” Sigurd Crusader left a son, Magnus; this meant that the claim of Harald Gille, accepted by Sigurd as his half brother, was disregarded. Both Harald and Magnus were acclaimed Kings in 1130. During eleventh century the Norwegian royal power on some occasions ruled the kingdom by two or three Kings together and the territory comprised from the River (Gota alv) in the south to Troms-Finnmark in the north.

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The practice to have more than one ruler was established in an old and customary royal succession law that gives the opportunity to the legitimate and illegitimate the right to claim the royal power. A legitimate ruler by the ceremony had to be claimed in one or more Things or assemblies of freeman, through the element of election in the customary system of succession. One important Thing during the Civil Wars was the Eyrating in Trondheim, the town of Saint Olav, patron of Norway.


Click here to read this thesis from the University of Oslo

Top Image: Haakon and Skule Bårdsson, from the 14th century Icelandic Flateyjarbók.