Harald Hardrada

Harald Hardrada

Harald Sigurdsson was born in 1016. Harald was the half-brother of Olaf II, the king of Norway. Harald was with Olaf when he was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Harald sought refuge in Kiev and was protected by its ruler, Prince Yaroslav the Wise.

In 1045 Harald returned to Norway and two years later became king after the death of his nephew, Magnus Olafsson. Within a few years Harald became known as Hardrada (Hard-Ruler). Over the next few years he was involved in a long drawn-out war against King Sweyn of Denmark. The two men signed a peace agreement in 1064.

When Edward the Confessor died in 1066, Harald claimed that his father and descendants had been promised the English throne by King Hardicanute, who ruled England between 1040 and 1042.

In 1066 Tostig, the brother of Harold of Wessex, went to Norway to meet King Hardrada. The two men agreed to invade England and in early September around 300 ships sailed along the coast and did some plundering, including the burning of Scarborough. They then entered the Humber and on 20th September defeated Morcar's army at Gate Fulford. Four days later the invaders took York.

When Harold was told by a messenger that Hardrada of Norway had invaded with the intentions of conquering all of England, it is said that the king replied: "I will give him just six feet of English soil; or, since they say he is a tall man, I will give him seven feet!"

On 25th September Harold's army arrived in Yorkshire. He took Tostig and Hardrada by surprise at a place called Stamford Bridge. It was a hot day and the Norwegians had taken off their byrnies (a mail shirt that reaches the mid thigh). Harold and his English troops devastated the Norwegians. Both Hardrada and Tostig were killed. The Norwegian losses were considerable. Of the 300 ships that arrived, less than 25 returned to Norway.