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Harald III of Norway

Harald III Haardraade (1015September 25 1066) was the king of Norway from around 1040 together with the son of Olav Haroldsson (St. Olav), Magnus the Noble. After King Magnus's death in 1047, Harold became the sole king. In 1066 he was killed in a battle against King Harold Godwinson of England at Stamford bridge outside the city of York, England. King Harold's brother Tostig Godwinson was fighting on King Harald's side against Harold and some of their other brothers.

Surnamed Haardraade (English: "Hardraada"), which might be translated "hard reign", he was the son of King Sigurd and half-brother of King Olaf the Saint. At the age of fifteen he was obliged to flee from Norway, having taken part in the Battle of Stiklestad (1030), in which King Olaf met his death. He took refuge for a short time with Prince Yaroslav of Novgorod (a Russian kingdom then, now a city, founded by Scandinavians), and thence went to Constantinople, where he took service under the Empress Zoe of Byzantium, whose Varangian guard he led to frequent victory in Italy, Sicily, and North Africa, also penetrating to Jerusalem.

In the year 1042 he left Constantinople, supposedly because he was refused the hand of a princess, and on his way back to his own country he married Ellisif or Elizabeth, daughter of Yaroslav of Novgorod. In Sweden he allied himself with the defeated Sven of Denmark against his nephew Magnus, now king of Norway, but soon broke faith with Sven and accepted an offer from Magnus of half his kingdom. In return for this gift Harald is said to have shared with Magnus the enormous treasure which he had amassed in the East.


The death of Magnus in 1047 put an end to the growing jealousies between the two kings, and Harald turned all his attention to the task of subjugating Denmark, which he ravaged year after year; but he met with such stubborn resistance from Sven that in 1064 he gave up the attempt and made peace. Two years afterwards, possibly instigated by the banished Earl Tostig of Northumbria, he attempted the conquest of England, to the sovereignty of which his predecessor had advanced a claim as successor of Harthacanute. In September 1066 he landed in Yorkshire with a large army, reinforced from Scotland, Ireland, and the Orkney Islands; took Scarborough by casting flaming brands into the town from the high ground above it; defeated the Northumbrian forces at Fulford on 20 September; and entered York on the 24th of September. But the following day the English King Harold arrived from the south, and the end of the long day’s fight at Stamford Bridge saw the rout of the Norwegian forces after the fall of their king Harald. Tostig was also killed in battle.

He was only fifty years old, but he was the first of the six kings who had ruled Norway since the death of Harald Haarfagre to reach that age. As a king he was unpopular on account of his harshness and want of good faith, but his many victories in the face of great odds prove him to have been a remarkable general, of never-failing resourcefulness and indomitable courage.

Popular non-fiction books that discuss Hardraada's significant role in shaping English history include:

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

Preceded by:
Magnus I
King of Norway Succeeded by:
Magnus II

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45