Harald Hardrada: From the Exile to the Last Great Viking King (Part 1)

Posted by Ms Elly on

Harald Hardrada: From the Exile to the Last Great Viking King (Part 1)

Harald Hardrada Sigurdsson was the last great Viking king of Norway. He was the half-brother of Olaf II Haraldsson who was known as St Olaf later. The death of St Olaf was believed to be among the factors fusing the determination of controlling Norway of Harald Hardrada. 

Family Background

Harald Hardrada Sigurdsson who was just Harald Sigurdsson at that time was born in 1015 AD in Ringerike, Norway. Sigurd Syr, the chieftain of Uplands of Norway, fathered Harald. His mother was Åsta Gudbrandsdatter who had two marriages. With the first marriage, Asta gave a birth to Olaf Haraldsson who was St Olaf. When her first husband passed away, she got married with Sigurd Syr and they had Harald Hardrada. The relationship between the half-brothers went on very well. 

Harald Hardrada the Last great Viking King

Harald Hardrada on the church window 

The fact was that Harald Sigurdsson was the offspring of King Harald Fairhair who used to unify Norway under a banner. 

Like many other royal families, Harald's family encountered problems when Viking King of England Cnut the Great declared war to claim parts of Norway. This led to the exile of Olaf who made a return after a year. Harald supported his half brother with 600 more warriors from Uplands. The brothers met at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. However, this battle deprived Olaf of his life and left Harald badly wounded. 

Years of exile, living as a mercenary and getting imprisoned 

The year was 1030 and Harald just turned 15 years old. He was badly wounded and torn apart by the death of his beloved brother. There were a few places that Harald could go. 

After a month licking his wound in Eastern Norway, he made his way to cross Swedish mountains and forced himself to the realm of Kievan Rus. The town where Harald arrived at was ruled by a Rurik dynasty who were originally Swedish. 

It was fortunate that the Rus Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise welcomed Harald with both arms as he knew that the boy was the brother of Olaf. Yaroslav then employed Harald as one of his military captains. Harald who was descended from a warrior family quickly earned respect and power from his company. 

Some accounts told that Harald tried to court one of the daughters of Yaroslav yet unsuccessful.

Under the power of Kievan Rus, Harald realized that he couldn't grow to his full potential. So, he decided to take a gamble when he turned 20. This was a brilliant step in his life. 500 warriors became his followers to the city of the Constantinople. This venture paid off when he managed to get himself employed as a Varangian Guard - the elite bodyguard group of Eastern Roman emperor. 

Once again, with the blood of true warrior and military genius running in his vein, he quickly rose to high ranks by joining campaigns which took him to many parts of the world. 

Everything went on very well until the end of 1041 AD when his patron emperor Michael IV died. Struggles rose up between new emperor Michael V and empress Zoe, Harald was imprisoned due to various charges. 

It was true that Harald never disappointed his fellows when he managed to escape from the prison. He joined the revolt of Varangian Guards against the new emperor. Once more time the fate smiled on Harald Sigurdsson and Michael V was permanently defeated with his eyes blinded by Harald. This granted the revolting forces freedom. 

To be continued. 

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