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Harald Hardrada: Apprentice Warlord

By James Turner

“Generous one, you wiped the sword’s mouth when you had finished the fight; you filled the raven with raw flesh; the wolf howled on the hill. And, resolute ruler, the following year you were east in Russia; I never heard of a peace-diminisher becoming more distinguished than you.” – Bolverk Arnorsson

So far in our journey across the fractured and kaleidoscope edifice of eleventh-century society, Harald has occupied a relatively passive role. A peripheral member of a fledging royal dynasty whose ambition far outweighed its pedigree or prestige; the young Harald nevertheless displayed some glimmerings of early potential.

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It is evident that the young Harald took the initiative when his elder half-brother returned to Norway from exile, rallying a considerable contingent of warriors and family retainers before rendezvousing directly with Olaf. As we touched upon previously, despite his young age, Harald personally fought in and was wounded at the Battle of Stiklestad. Harald’s presence amidst the thick of the fighting is perhaps a testament to both his personal valor and the scale of the calamity that befell the royalist cause. As we have discussed exhaustively, at this point eleventh-century rulers, particularly Scandinavian ones, attempted to expand their authority at their own peril.

We now turn to explore the events, as well as the political and cultural contexts of Harald’s burgeoning military career. His participation in Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise’s campaign against the Polish in 1031 and assumption of a leadership capacity gave Harald the experience and credibility necessary to establish himself within the military elements of the eleventh-century Scandinavian diaspora. From there, as we shall see imminently, Harald leveraged the prestige and military resources this afforded to him into military service with the Byzantines and eventually a position overlooking the very heart of imperial power.

This is probably an auspicious point to remind ourselves that Harald did not flee into exile in Kievan Rus’ alone. Indeed, rather than heroically forging ahead undaunted in the best tradition of the protagonists of the often heavily embellished or fictionalized Scandinavian sagas, it is more probable that Harald, fifteen and freshly injured, was whisked away to safety by followers looking to salvage what royal dynastic assets they could. It is the obligation of any historian to examine the available evidence in an honest and clear-eyed manner and we must take care to keep the often-dubious historical value of the sagas in the forefront of our minds. According to the Saga of King Harald, composed by Snorri Sturluson and supported by a scattering of other Norse poems, the leading figure of this group, royal or pseudo royal personages aside, was Rögnvald Brusason.  Much like Harald, the history of Rögnvald’s family comes to us primarily through sagas, first written and formalized in the early thirteenth century; a situation which raises a pall of doubt over their historicity.

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An inheritor of the Viking Age and their explosive settlement throughout the North Sea and beyond, Rögnvald was a member of the ruling family of the Orkney Islands. Upon the death of his grandfather, the charmingly named, Sigurd the Stout, in 1014, Orkney and its wider domains were divided between Sigurd’s four sons. Rögnvald first entered the orbit of King Olaf when he travelled to the Norwegian court alongside his father, Brusi Sigurdsson, in order to arbitrate the further division of this inheritance following the death of Einar Sigurdsson. Einar, who had been killed by the stepfather of his youngest half-brother at the culmination of a confusing barrage of ambushes and mutual betrayals, had reportedly come into conflict with the king and his proxies amongst the Norse communities of the Irish Sea. The king acquiesced to the continued division of power between the remaining brothers but claimed a portion of Einar’s former territory for himself. Brusi would administer this new addition to the royal demesne on the king’s behalf, leaving his son, Rögnvald, with the king a surety for his good faith and continued behavior.

Swiftly ingratiating himself as a member of king’s inner circle, Rögnvald developed into an adroit diplomat and politic courtier. His fortunes were evidently tied closely to Olaf’s, joining the king in exile at Yaroslav’s court after he was driven out by the Norwegian nobility and returning with him in his ill-fated attempted to reclaim power. Given his long stay in Kievan Rus’, it seems only natural that following Olaf’s death and the collapse of the royal party that he led their most diehard supporters and one of the king’s potential heirs to once more seek shelter with Grand Prince Yaroslav. While Harald went on to become a spectacularly successful and wealthy mercenary commander in Byzantine employ, Rögnvald eventually returned to Orkney, in circumstances that we shall cover imminently, sharing the title of Jarl with his remaining uncle in much the same way that his father and uncles had previously.

The clash between Sigurd’s sons and their eventual accommodation with the Norwegian king is part of a cycle that repeats throughout the History of the Earls of Orkney in which the inter-dynastic conflicts of the isles’ ruling family are resolved through the intervention of their Norwegian overlords. It reads, to be frank, eerily similar to how a thirteenth-century Icelandic court poet, intent on imbuing their society with an ancient and glorious past, would wish to present Norway’s historical relationship with the Norse-Gael settlements of the North and Irish Seas.

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The notion of any kind of Norwegian hegemony being exercised in Orkney or across the wider Norse-Gael world prior to the mid-half of the eleventh century has been robustly questioned by historians. The prevailing view amongst contemporary historians is that the Orkney Isles only came under Norwegian overlordship during the reign of Harald Hadrada as part of his grand endeavor to reunite and reinvent the North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great under Norwegian rule. Related to this is the contention by some historians that contrary to the bombastic events depicted within the History of the Earls of Orkney, the Jarldom of Orkney’s origins as a unified and coherent political entity are to be found in the reign and hegemonic efforts of Danish king Harold Bluetooth.

Despite his plurality, Olaf II is the first native king of Norway for whom we have significant corroborating non-saga evidence. The extent to which previous Norwegian kings, such as Harald Fairhair, may have exercised any sort of hegemony over Scandinavian settlements in the North Sea is, alongside their fundamental historicity, highly questionable and heavily debated. The idea of Olaf II, acting as an arbiter in the dynastic conflict between the prospective heirs of the Orkney Isles is, while far from impossible, rendered somewhat implausible by the highly conditional and limited nature of his authority within Norway itself as is the notion that he would be powerful enough to actively extract territorial remuneration from the family.

Within Norway and to a lesser extent even those areas of Scandinavia such as Denmark where the apparatus and exercise of royal authority were more established at the beginning of the eleventh century, military power and legal authority were largely decentralized amongst members of the regional aristocracy. Jarl was a title rather than a royally sponsored office and had very little in the way of fixed responsibilities, authority or even meaning. Given the malleability of the term, which was adopted by prominent members of the nobility with little reference to the manner or conditions under which they individually held power, Rögnvald family’s apparent decision to share the title of Jarl of Orkney amongst them rather than adopt individual styles seems strange and out of place.

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Even the fact that Rögnvald appears in the History of the Earls of Orkney, Saga of King Harald and a smattering of other Norse sagas and poems is of only limited comfort to those inclined to support his historicity. These works were all composed in the thirteenth century which also saw the flourishing of Arthurian Romance literature, a tradition in which an expanding cast of characters would be recycled in the works of various authors who would often build upon or reference preceding works. Overall it is difficult to divine with any sense of certainly whether Rögnvald Brusason is a literary invention affixed to the story of Harald Hardrada or whether he was a genuine historical figure whose life and family history has been distorted by the curated projection of 13th century political and social norms upon them.

Attentive readers may have noticed mention of heirs, plural, in reference to Rögnvald Brusason’s, fictional or otherwise, journey to the principalities of Kievan Rus’. When Olaf II was initially ousted from power in 1128 and forced to flee eastward, he did so accompanied not only by elements of his military retinue but by his wider household which included his illegitimate son Magnus. Born sometime around 1024 near the high-water mark of his father’s political career, his mother Alfhild was a former slave in the service of Olaf’s wife Queen Astrid Olofsdotter. Magnus was raised within the royal household and appears to have been the recipient of both formal acknowledgment and considerable paternal interest.  He was left in the court of Yaroslav for safekeeping when Olaf launched his ultimately ill-fated attempt to reclaim the throne of Norway.

Prior to the eleventh century, marriage had been a primarily secular and legal practice largely devoid of the religious significance which later came to imbue it with deeper connotations of permanence and sacral purpose.

Aristocratic marriages, in particular, were characterized by an impermanence and plasticity and were often set aside or dissolved when the conflux of interests that had initially led to the formation of an accord between noble families changed or otherwise became an impediment to their emerging prospects. The ease through which martial unions could be ended, and another commenced, as well as the probable existence of concubinage as a legally recognized form of quasi marriage throughout much of Europe in the early Middle Ages, meant the definition, boundaries and ramifications of illegitimacy were blurred and imprecise. Nominally illegitimate children were routinely able to claim and secure significant portions of inheritance. The line between legitimate and illegitimate could be rendered arbitrary and subjective by the ambiguity of the criteria for legal marriage and the overlapping web of relationships formed by the nobility. This meant that in the absence of any legal or social absolutes the nomination of primary heirs and the apportioning of inheritance was a relatively flexible process encompassing such factors as personal affection and the capabilities of individual heirs, in addition of the prestige and power of their wider familial connections.

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Various attempts by individual scholars and churchmen to better delineate the criteria for a legal marriage and probe the theological arguments that supported its sacral and beneficial character were made throughout the medieval period but change only began to take root on a systematic level in the early eleventh century. As part of the same process of intellectual renewal which promoted the growing power and authority of the Papacy as the keystone of the Church reform movement, significant efforts were made to unify and universally enforce a consistent understanding of church doctrine and canon law. As part of this drive for accountability and standardization within the Church hierarchy, marriage and its precepts became increasingly rigidly defined and its criteria delineated instead of being left to the whims or judgement of local bishops who ruled on such issues on a case-by-case basis.

The increasingly stark demarcation between legitimate and illegitimate was further reinforced and lent symbolic and social weight by two additional elements of the ongoing reform movement. The spiritual implications of marriage as an institution, irrevocably tangled as it was with concepts of reproduction and sex, had long been a source of significant debate since the earliest days of the Church. By the early eleventh century, thought within the Church had developed to the point that rather than seeing the bonds of matrimony as a lesser evil, a compromise made with Christians’ social and biological imperatives, marriage was increasingly seen as a sacred and religiously significant union.

The second of these abetting factors is that as part of an attempt to increase the quality of pastoral care throughout Europe, the reform movement sought to curb nepotism and in particular the defaulting of parish priesthoods into hereditary positions. In order to achieve this aim, reforming elements within the Church began to push to both penalize clerical marriage and prevent illegitimate persons from being ordained.

The Church’s increasingly stringent definition and enforcement of the institution of marriage was eagerly adopted and transmitted by the aristocracy of eleventh-century Europe who were, due to social and demographic shifts, increasingly keen to clarify and preempt the distribution of inheritance amongst family members. However, by the time of Magnus’ birth in the early 1020’s the process of socially and legally relegating illegitimate individuals was in its infancy. Bastards would continue to be recognized and accepted as potential heirs throughout the remainder of the eleventh century, particularly in Scandinavia where conversion was still incomplete, and the infrastructure of the Church was yet to be fully established.

Magnus’ illegitimacy may have counted somewhat against him in the weighing of his father’s potential heirs but in eleventh-century Norway, it certainly did not disqualify him. Indeed, both of his potential rivals in this regard, his uncle Harald and his half-sister Wulfhild, had their own, more serious or difficult impediments to overcome in gaining recognition as Olaf’s heir.  While illegitimate and far too young to meaningfully engage with politics or act as anything more than a figurehead, Magnus was at least Olaf’s son and had been widely acknowledged as such. Harald on the other hand was a mere half-brother, a scion of a relatively obscure and rusticated branch of the family. Any potential claim Harald may have possessed was further complicated by the presumed survival of his older brothers. Moreover, despite his recent military support for and commitment to Olaf, Harald was not in the grand scheme of things much older than Magnus and had no real military experience or reputation of his own.

Born in 1020, Wulfhild was the daughter of Olaf and his queen, Astrid Olofsdotter, and was simultaneous the king’s eldest and sole legitimate child. Following the revolt in 1028, it is probable that Wulfhild accompanied Olaf and the remainder of his court into exile, although by the time of the king’s death in 1030, Princess and Queen had both found shelter in court of her uncle, King Anund Jacob of Sweden. As both the legitimate child of Olaf II and a member of the far more established Swedish royal lineage, Wulfhild held huge amount of dynastic prestige but was due to reasons of her gender unable to meaningfully translate these dynastic connections into power and authority in the world of eleventh century Scandinavia. To jump ahead slightly, the unfortunate reality of this situation was further demonstrated in 1034 when Astrid and Wulfhild accompanied Magnus to Norway in his bid to claim the throne, in effect devolving their considerable prestige and legitimacy as dowager Queen and Princess to a male member of their extended family.

In 1030 then, Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise found himself hosting two of Olaf’s potential heirs, a worthy addition to his collection of princelings which also included the two sons of Edmund Ironside and a member of the Hungarian royal family. Yaroslav had a keen and vested interest in the shape and direction of Scandinavian politics; not only was his wife Ingegerd a member of the Swedish royal family, he was also the Prince of Novgorod the most north-westerly of the princedoms of Kievan Rus’ which had significant cultural an economic links to both Scandinavia proper and the emerging Scandinavian settlements in the surrounding regions. Indeed, a substantial portion of the wealth of the principalities of Kievan Rus’ and the military capabilities of Yaroslav himself was dependent on the circulation of Scandinavian goods and the free movement of merchants. While Yarolsav was unable or disinclined to intervene militarily in the immediate aftermath of Olaf’s death, these crucial economic and political interests in Scandinavia meant that the heir to the throne of Norway remained an incredibly valuable resource.

Of the two prospective Norwegian heirs that Yaroslav sheltered within his court, Magnus was the more plausible and promising successor to Olaf II possessing, as his son, the superior claim. The young Magnus was, therefore, far too valuable as a potential future ally and font of interventionist opportunities to risk. In contrast, Harald who was older and freshly bloodied in battle could be of considerable use to Yaroslav in the short term. While his position in the Norwegian royal house was trumped by the younger Magnus and Wulfhild, he was still a member and could if suitably guided and channeled act as a figurehead for the numerous itinerant Scandinavian mercenaries and adventures that prowled the principalities of Kievan Rus’. Yaroslav could have little known that by elevating Harald into a position of senior command within the Scandinavian elements of his host, that he was catalyzing one of the greatest military careers of the century.

The eleventh century had seen the principalities of Kievan Rus’ attain considerable economic prosperity and cultural sophistication. Something it failed to bring them, however, was peace and stability; throughout their history the principalities of the Rus’ were plagued by outbreaks of internecine war. To be fair to the region’s ruling dynasty, often referred to as the Rurikids, conflicts arising from disputes over the distribution of inheritable interests, the aggressive renegotiation of political relations or simply the purist of booty were common throughout Europe and the Mediterranean in the eleventh century and beyond. What is notable, however, is that many of the social and cultural changes that were wrought upon western and European society during this period were in some ways designed to mitigate and minimize outbreaks of violence in a culture dominated by an aristocratic warrior elite.

Such innovations included the Peace and Truce of God movements through which the Church attempted to exert pressure in order to limit the waging of warfare to certain days. It also sought to stress the sanctity and inviolability of church properly and less successfully to insulate the peasantry from the worst excesses of warfare. The aristocracy was to an extent complicit in these efforts, albeit for their own reasons. Their ready adoption of the Church’s reformed definition of marriage and the definitive relegation of illegitimate children from claiming inheritance was motivated by a desire to clarify, control and regulate the transmission of inheritance. Meanwhile, primarily out of a sense of self-interest, the developing ethos of knighthood and its accompanying codes of conduct began to disincentivize the out-of-hand killing of fellow practitioners.

In contrast, there is some evidence to suggest that Yaroslav codified the very system of inheritance that enabled and inspired so many challenges to his rule.  As we have previously touched upon, historians are divided on the exact parameters and mechanism of this system of inheritance, but it seems to have been predicated on the principle that the family member’s seniority was derived primarily from their dynastic proximity to ruling Grand Prince of Kiev.

The various principalities of Kiev Rus’ were distributed amongst members of the dynasty based on this seniority, with the richest, largest and most important settlements being assigned to the Grand Prince’s closest relatives. It seems probable that Yaroslav hoped that the formalization of the system, and the historically opaque manner in which the relative prestige or value of the individual principalities was determined would prevent further disputes over the distribution of inheritance which was a natural source of conflict. It is possible that the conscious retention of this system of inheritance was, alongside the promulgation of heavily Scandinavian influenced law code, part of Yaroslavs attempts to resist the further encroachment of Byzantine culture and influence.

However, beyond these petty jealously and political wrangling, which were truly not that dissimilar from contemporary inheritance disputes in western and central Europe, the Rota System had a number of idiosyncrasies which could result in inter-dynastic conflict. Most notable, the reshuffling of titles and assets that followed the death of a Grand Prince of Kiev to accommodate the promotion of the children and immediate family members of their successor almost inevitably led to conflict and resentment as more distant family members resisted being demoted and outed from their established powerbases.

In addition to this, it can be surmised from the sources that the standing of members of the Rurkid dynasty was determined in part by the Principality held by their father. But family members whose fathers had never held the title of prince, most likely because they had predeceased their own father or grandfather, were excluded from this system almost entirely. Such individuals excluded from the prospects of inheritance by a dynastic quirk often resorted to rebellion and warfare rather than accept a diminished position.

Yaroslav was born sometime in the late 970’s, one the numerous sons of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great. Frustratingly the identity of Yaroslav’s mother remains unknown. Presuming he was legitimate, which is far from certain, it is probable, based on his approximate date of birth, that his mother was Vladimir’s second wife, Rogneda of Polotsk. A possible member of the extended royal dynasty of Sweden, Rogenda’s father, Rogvolod, was a Scandinavian warlord and settler that the Russian Primary Chronicle credits with the establishment of the principality of Polotsk. Vladimir, who as we have seen in a previous article within this series, was responsible for the formal adoption of Christianity within the principalities of Kievan Rus’ was the ultimate victor in a prolonged and exceedingly bloody series of wars fought amongst his brothers for the throne of Kiev and hegemony over the other principalities. History was to repeat itself.

Initially granted the rulership of the Rostov by his father, before being transferred to the far more prestigious Novogrod in 1110, possibly after the death of one or more now unknown elder siblings. Despite the power and prestige afforded to him by his control of Novogrod, Yaroslav soon quarreled with his father over Vladimir’s plans for the succession. Open war between father and son was only avoided with Vladimir’s death in 1115 which trigged an explosion of internecine warfare and fratricide. In the see-saw conflict which saw the murder of many of these siblings and rivals, Yaroslav and his northern cohorts were opposed by his half-brother Sviatopolk who had at various times in the war been able to secure control of Kiev. By 1019 Yaroslav had managed to decisively secure control of the principalities and defeat Sviatopolk and his allies who seem to have died in rather murky circumstances soon afterward.

Despite busying himself with numerous reforming efforts and the consolidation of power, Yaroslav did not have long to rest on his laurels. In 1024, his brother, Prince Mstislav of Chernigov, rebelled launching a surprise attack on the heartlands of Kievan Rus’. Mstitslav’s powerbase was located on the extreme eastern fringes of Kievan Rus’ and, in much the same manner as Yaroslav benefited from considerable Scandinavian support, his army was enhanced by the presence of various allied steppe peoples such as the Khazars and Pechnegs. With the support of these formidable auxiliaries, Mstitslav was ultimately able to fight Yaroslav to stalemate and was able to secure the autonomy and independence of his bourgeoned domains.

In 1031 with the un-pleasantries of the past seemingly firmly behind them, Yaroslav allied with his ostensible co-ruler Mstitslav and their kinsmen Briacheslav of Polotsk in the invasion of eastern Poland.  Sviatopolk had been married to the daughter of one of the greatest and most dynamic figures of the age, Boleslaw the Bold, the first king of a unified Poland and the uncle of Olaf II’s perennial enemy, Cnut the Great. As a result of this dynastic connection, Sviatopolk had enjoyed significant Polish supports in his attempts to retain the throne of Kiev and defeat Yaroslav. In addition to protecting the interests of his son-in-law, the ever-canny Boleslaw made sure to protect his own interests and those of his fledging kingdom when towards the tail end of the conflict he seized control of Belz and the surrounding area which the Primary Chronicle refers to as the Chevin Towns.

Upon his death in 1025, Boleslaw was succeeded to the throne by his second son Mieszko, who by 1028 was deeply embroiled in a war with Emperor Conrad II of the Holy Roman Empire. In cooperation with and possible incentivized by the Emperor, Yarolsav and his domestic allies resolved to attack Poland’s exposed eastern border and reintegrate the long-disputed territory into the principalities of Kievan Rus’.

While the Primary Chronicle does not touch upon the composition of this allied army, it does convey the sense that the military preparations for this joint campaign were extensive, noting that both Yaroslav and the Mstitslav took care to gather many warriors. Contextual evidence and contemporary Scandinavian sources would suggest that a portion of Yaroslav’s host was made up of Scandinavian mercenaries which during this period so often made up the cutting edge of Kievan Rus’ armies. Likewise, while the Primary Chronicle makes no specific mention of Mstitslav’s use of auxiliaries from the steppes during this specific campaign it seems probable. In the portion of the Heimskringla that pertains to the life of King Harald, Snorri Sturluson maintains that Yaroslav placed Harald and a man named Eilif in charge of his military forces.

The main source for Harald’s involvement within the campaign which the saga’s draw upon and the quote is a poem composed by Harald’s court poet, Bolverk Arnorsson, sometimes after his accession to the throne which describes Harald as the co-commander of an army that met and routed a western Slavic, or Polish, force in battle. The Morkinskinna and Fagrskinna, two other saga’s dating from the early thirteenth century corroborate this story although the Morkinskinna excludes any mention of Eilif while the Fagrskinna specifies that he was the son of Jarl Rognvald Ulfsson and he was placed in a position of seniority over Harald.

Rognvald was a prominent Scandinavian nobleman from the Norwegian/Swedish border who had initially escorted Yaroslav’s Swedish bride to Kiev and established himself amongst the thriving Scandinavian expatriate community in Kiev Rus’. This interpretation of events has something of the ring of truth about it and is far more convincing than the contention of the History of the Earls of Orkney that Eilif was the son of Harald’s companion Rognvald Brusason, who was of an age where it would be extraordinarily unlikely that he had a son much older than Harald.

Yaroslav’s campaign into Poland proved to be a great success, recapturing the Chevin Towns; the Rus’ host met Mieszko and his hastily redeployed army somewhere in the region of Kuyavia or Mazovia decisively defeating the Polish king. Miezko survived the battle but, cut off from his allies, was forced to flee into Bohemia where he was captured and imprisoned by Duke Oldřich. Meanwhile Yaroslav’s army, presumable with Harald in tow, was free to ravage and plunder much of Lesser Poland which they did with great verve. The sagas are always going to be dubious as a historical source which can raise a pall of doubt around the young Harald’s celebrated participation in Yaroslav’s Polish campaign. Yet what direct evidence we do have closely aligns with and corroborates with the greater context of Harald’s life and Rus’-Scandinavian relations.

The only contemporary image of Yaroslav I the Wise, on his seal

Harald was a young adult living in the court of Yaroslav during the time of his invasion of Poland. A periphery member of Olaf II’s nascent royal house he had considerable status and the first stirrings of a reputation but was rendered politically superfluous by the presence of his nephew Magnus. Yaroslav’s army surely contained a considerable Scandinavian contingent; ready access to Scandinavian trade goods and mercenaries have been instrumental in allowing him to capture and in a fashion retain the throne of Kiev.

It seems eminently plausible then that the sagas have captured the essence of the story and that Yaroslav seized upon the chance to strengthen his alliance with Olaf’s heirs and capitalize upon Harald’s royal status by placing him in a position of authority over his Scandinavian troops. Fundamentally young and inexperienced Harald was placed under the command of Elif Rognvaldson, a more experienced commander who was already deeply rooted amongst the partially itinerant Scandinavian community of Kievan Rus’.

In 1034 two of Norway’s most powerful noblemen, disillusioned by the resumption of Danish hegemony and their own failures and their failure to effectively insinuate themselves into the new regime, travelled to the court of Yaroslav the Wise. These two men, Einar Thambarskelfir and Kálfr Árnason intended to declare Magnus king and whisk him back to Norway, from where he could resurrect his father’s great royalist endeavor and rally opposition towards Danish overlordship. By the time they arrived and the young Magnus was being impelled along the path towards kingship and Scandinavian hegemony, his uncle Harald had already left Yaroslav’s court.

The invasion of Poland 1031 with its bloody sieges, massed combat and grand sweeping raids to say nothing of the series of border skirmishes Yaroslav fought in the following years had given the teenager Harald a wealth of valuable military experience. Moreover, his assumption of a leadership role during the campaign, alloyed with his royal familial connections, had greatly enhanced Harald’s notoriety and prestige amongst the scarred and serried ranks of eleventh-century Europe’s many Scandinavian mercenaries and itinerant expatriates. While Magnus and his adherents sheltered in the court of Yaroslav waiting for a political thaw Harald and his bourgeoning collection of battle-hardened followers looked eastward to the glittering glory of the Byzantine Empire.

James Turner has recently completed his doctoral studies at Durham University before which he attended the University of Glasgow. Deeply afraid of numbers and distrustful of counting, his main research interests surround medieval aristocratic culture and identity.

Click here to read more from James

If you are interested in reading more about this important figure, see also the new book The Last Viking: The True Story of King Harald Hardrada, by Don Holloway. You learn more about this book from the publisher’s site, or purchase this book on Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk

Top Image: Illustration by Julia Lillo

 

 

 

 

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