Harald Hardrada: From the Exile to the Last Great Viking King (Part 2)

Posted by Ms Elly on

Harald Hardrada: From the Exile to the Last Great Viking King (Part 2)

In Part 1, we have discussed the family background and early life of King Harald Hardrada. The 15-year-old Harald once went into exile and came back home only to witness the death of his beloved brother Olaf Tryggvason as known as St Olaf. Harald ventured all of his luck travelling to Rus and became a mercenary there. Prior to 20 years old, he joined Varangian Guards and quickly got to a high rank. However, Harald was imprisoned when a new emperor took control of the country. Harald and his fellows brought up a revolt against the new emperor and it was Harald who blinded the new emperor Michael V. 

The escape, marriage, and way back home. 

Months after the empress Zoe ruled the country, Harald grew tired of this kingdom. He decided to leave this place for his home in Norway. Although Zoe didn't allow him to leave his duty, he escaped the Eastern Roman Empire by the Black Sea. He made it to the shores of Kievan Rus in 1042 AD. 

There, it turned out that Harald had been sending gold and treasure to Grand Prince in Kievan Rus for safekeeping. And once more time, he proposed to the daughter of King Kievan Rus Elisiv. This time, impressed by the talents and fortune of Harald, the King allowed him to have his daughter as a bride. Although Harald didn't hold any title of "prince", everyone firmly believed that whatever he had achieved was more than a title. 

Viking warrior. Although Harald Hardrada had no title of Prince, he could win the hand of a princess. What he had done proved he was more than a prince

"Why need a prince when you can have a Viking warrior?"

The return of the King

After years of being away from home, Harald finally made his way back home. He took a ship, which was probably stuffed with treasure and gold, and arrived at his home in 1046 AD. 

But years had passed and things had changed in both Norway and Denmark. Two sons of King Cnut were dead and the throne at that time belonged to Magnus the Good who was the offspring of Olaf. Magnus was regarded as a competent king who made Sweyn Estridsson admit his defeat. 

This put Harald in an oddly severe position. But no matter what, Harald decided to challenge Magnus his nephew. He made an alliance with Swedish King Anund Jacob and other royal. They started conducting raids along the Danish coast plundering the land of Magnus. Witnessing their land being raided, the advisers of Magnus suggested that he give up his control over Norway and keep Denmark only. And then Harald took the land of Norway his homeland. 

The two kings seldom met to discuss political affairs. It was 1047 AD that Magnus was dead leaving behind no male heir. Yet, his dislike toward Harald made him name a successor prior to his death. It was Sweyn Estridsson who used to be the ally of Harald. As a result, political turmoil was brought about and both kings struggled to unify two kingdoms under a banner. 

Harald was the first to make his move to conquer Denmark. He applied his plundering tactics (which he had used when Magnus was on his throne) yet Sweyn still firmly held his throne. 15 years passed and no great achievement was made. Although Harald once managed to defeat the soldiers of Sweyn in the Battle of Nisa, Sweyn managed to escape with his fellows. 

When Harald reached 50, he grew tired of battling with Sweyn Estridsson. He decided to call for a truce which finally freed his time and fortune for another plan which was his invasion of England. 

Invasion of England and defeat admitted

Realizing that he couldn't conquer Denmark, Harald shifted his focus to England. Harald decided that this was no longer a hit-and-run raids. Rather, he wanted to declare the permanency of the Viking presence in England.

However, time changed the political climate in England to the point that it became more complex than Harald thought it would be. The new king of England was Harold Godwinson who was very popular with the locals there. Harald then had to ally himself with Harold's brother Tostig Godwinsson who was deprived of his earldom. Other jarls and royal later joined Harald. 

In 1066, Harald Hardrada along with 10,000 men landed at the River Tees to the north of England. They went on raiding and plunderng the coast like the Viking used to do. And they moved into the town of Scarborough which they burnt down finally. As a result, many locals there surrendered to the Vikings. 

The Viking army was gaining the upper hand. It forced King Harold Godwinsson to march to the front-line himself. This time, the fate didn't smile upon Harald Hardrada as the English army surprised him at the Stamford Bridge battle. This battle, when written down in history, marked the end of the Viking glory. 

Stamford Bridge Battle

The Battle of Stamford Bridge officially marked the end of the Viking glory

Some sources mentioned that Harald Hardrada turned himself to a berserker in the battle of Stamford Bridge. He rushed forth and madly hewing his way to the foes. He only stopped when an arrow stuck in his throat ending the life of the last great Viking King. 

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