Harald IV of Norway

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Harald Gille (Old Norse: Haraldr gilli or Haraldr gillikristr) (died 14 December 1136), king of Norway from 1130 until his death in 1136. His byname Gille is probably from Gilla Críst, i.e. servant of Christ.



Harald was born ca. 1102 in Ireland or the Hebrides. According to the sagas, he became familiar with Norway through an acquaintance with Norwegian merchants including Rögnvald Kali Kolsson, who would later become Earl of Orkney. Around 1127, Harald went to Norway and declared he was an illegitimate son of the former King Magnus Barefoot, who had visited Ireland just before his death in 1103. Harald consequently claimed to be a half-brother of the reigning king, Sigurd. Harald appears to have submitted successfully to the ordeal by fire. The alleged relationship was acknowledged by Sigurd on condition that Harald did not claim any share in the government of the kingdom during his lifetime or that of his son Magnus. Living on friendly terms with the king, Harald kept this agreement until Sigurd’s death in 1130.


Harald was in Tønsberg when he heard of King Sigurd's death. He called together a meeting at the Hauga (Haugathing from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill or burial mound). At this Thing, Harald was chosen king over half the country. King Magnus was obliged to divide the kingdom with Harald into two parts.[1]

The kingdom accordingly was so divided that each of them should have the half part of the kingdom which King Sigurd had possessed. They ruled the country for some time in peace. After four years of uneasy peace, Magnus began to openly prepare for war on Harald. On August 9, 1134, he defeated Harald in a decisive Battle at Färlev in Bohuslän and Harald fled to Denmark. Subsequently Magnus disbanded his army and traveled to Bergen to spend the winter there. Harald then returned to Norway with a new army and meeting little opposition, reached Bergen before Christmas. Since Magnus had few men, the city fell easily to Harald's army on January 7, 1135. Magnus was captured and dethroned. His eyes were put out, and he was thrown into prison. Harald now ruled the country until 1136, when he was murdered by Sigurd Slembedjakn, another alleged illegitimate son of Magnus Barefoot.[2]

Personal life

Harald was married to Ingrid Ragnvaldsdottir, daughter of Ragnvald Ingesson, the son and heir of King Inge I of Sweden. Harald had a son Inge with her. According to the sagas, Harald had previously been married to Bjadok. Later Gaelic clan tradition makes her a daughter of Gilledomnan mac Solam. They had a son, Eystein. Bjadok's brother, this later tradition claims, was Gillebride of Clan MacInnes, the father of Somerled, king of the Hebrides and Kintyre. Among Harald's concubines was Tora Guttorm, the daughter of Guttorm Gråbarde, who was the mother of Sigurd. He also had a son Magnus, who died in 1145 at 10 years of age. All four sons were kings of Norway.[3][4]

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