34. Death of King Harald
Some time after the brothers Paul and Erland began ruling in Orkney, King Harald
Sigurdarson came west from Norway with a great army. He landed first in Shetland
and sailed from there to Orkney, where his army grew considerably, and both
Earls decided to join him. So he set off for England, leaving behind Queen
Ellisif and their daughters Maria and Ingigerd. He landed in a district called
Cleveland and took over Scarborough, then put in at Holderness, where he fought
and won a battle.
On the Wednesday before St. Matthew’s Day he fought a pitched battle against the
Earls Valtheof and Morcar, in which the latter was killed. On the following
Sunday the stronghold which stood by Stamford Bridge surrendered to King Harald
and he went ashore to occupy it, leaving behind his son Olaf, the Earls Paul and
Erlend, and Eystein Heathcock, a relative of his by marriage. He was confronted
on the march by the large army of King Harold Godwinsson, and was killed in the
battle which followed. After his fall, Eystein Heathcock and the Earls of Orkney
came ashore and launched a fierce attack in which Eystein Heathcock perished
along with almost the whole Norwegian contingent. When the battle was over,
Harold Godwinsson gave leave to Olaf, the son of Harald Sigurdarson, and the
Earls, to sail away from England with all the troops who had not run off. So in
the autumn Olaf put out from Ravenseer and sailed to Orkney.
On the same day that King Harald was killed, indeed at the very same hour, his
daughter Maria died quite suddenly, and people said of them that they shared one
life. Olaf spent the winter in Orkney on the friendliest terms with the Earls,
his kinsmen - their mother Ingibjorg and King Olaf’s mother Thora were cousins.
In the spring Olaf sailed east to Norway, where he was made joint-king with his
For quite a long time the brothers Paul and Erlend ruled over Orkney in harmony
and goodwill, but as for their sons, while Magnus was a quiet sort of man, Hakon
and Erling grew up to be very arrogant, though tall, strong and talented in many
ways. Hakon Paulsson wanted to be foremost among the brothers’ kin and
considered himself more highly-born than the Erlendssons, being the grandson of
Earl Hakon Ivarsson and of Ragnhild, the daughter of King Magnus the Good.
In everything, Hakon wanted his friends to have a larger share than those who
sided with the Erlendssons, while Erlend wasn’t going to see his sons back down
to anyone there in the islands: so it came to a point where the cousins could no
longer see eye to eye and the whole situation was growing ominous. The fathers
did their best to bring the family together and a meeting was arranged, but it
soon became clear that each of the Earls favoured the case of his own offspring,
and so there was no agreement. Bad feeling sprang up between the brothers and
they parted on hostile terms, which many people considered a great pity.
Source: Orkneyinga Saga, translated by Herman Palsson and Paul Edwards, Penguin