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Magnus II (1048 – 1069), son of Harald Sigurdsson, was king of Norwaymarker from 1066 until 1069.

Magnus' expedition to the west

In the late 1050s Magnus led an expedition to the west, to the Northern Isles, the Hebridesmarker, and the Irish Seamarker. This expedition is only attested in contemporaneous non-Scandinavian sources and is entirely ignored by the sagas. Since the year in which Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney, died is nowhere recorded with precision—the Orkneyinga saga states that it was in the latter days of Magnus's father—it may be that Magnus's expedition was the occasion on which Paul and Erlend Thorfinnsson submitted to King Harald. It has been suggested that Magnus also played some part in the war in Scotlandmarker in 1057–1058, perhaps supporting Máel Coluim mac Donnchada against Lulach. In 1058 Magnus and his forces were active in Walesmarker and perhaps in Englandmarker. According to the Irish Annals of Tigernach, Magnus's goal was to seize power in England, whereas the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle appears to associate the Norwegian fleet with the return to power of Earl Ælfgār. The Annales Cambriae appear to support the Chronicle version, stating that Magnus Haraldsson laid waste to parts of England in support of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, Ælfgār's son-in-law and ally.

Harald's expedition to England

In the summer of 1066 King Harald prepared for his ill-fated expedition to England. Before departing, he made his son Magnus regent, and caused him to be crowned King of Norway. Harald's younger son, Olav, accompanied him on the expedition. Olav was left in charge of part of his army while Harald advanced. Not expecting opposition, Harold's army traveled light in the warm weather, without the protection of their byrnies. When Harald arrived at Stamford Bridgemarker the English force fell upon them. Rather than retreating, Harald sent for Olav and his reinforcements. Before Olav's forces arrived the Norse forces were defeated and Harald was fatally wounded. Although a success for the English, the battle set the stage for the defeat later that summer of England's last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, by William the Conqueror.

Division of the Kingdom of Norway

At that time, the Kingdom of Norway was looked upon as a property of the king. As such it would be divided among his heirs, like any other private estate under ancient Norwegian property laws. Retreating from England, Magnus' brother Olav spent the winter of 1066–1067 in Orkneymarker and returned to Norway in the spring of 1067, claiming his portion of the estate. Magnus was to rule the northern half of the country and Olav the southern. This division is the beginning of a long series of partitions of the kingdom between the sons and heirs of the ruling king.

Death of Magnus

After just a few years in power, Magnus died in 1069, apparently of ergot poisoning. This left Olav as the sole ruler of Norway.


See also


  • Gjerset, Knut, History of the Norwegian People. London: The MacMillan Company, 1915.
  • Woolf, Alex, Pictland to Alba 789–1070. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-7486-1234-5

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