The Loðbrók Dynasty

“In the days of Harald Fairhair, king of Norway, certain pirates, of the family of the most vigorous prince Rögnvald, set out with a great fleet, and crossed the Solundic sea…, and subdued the islands to themselves. And being there provided with safe winter seats, they went in summer-time working tyranny upon the English, and the Scots, and sometimes also upon the Irish, so that they took under their rule, from England, Northumbria; from Scotland, Caithness; from Ireland, Dublin, and the other sea-side towns.” – Historia Norvegiae

The Loðbrók dynasty was short lived and prospered throughout the 9th Century, they are the ancestors of many famous European families including the Corbyn family.

The founder of the dynasty was Ragnar Loðbrók who was a royal exile who conquered many lands in Scotland and Ireland. He became the King of all Lochlann which was a collection of Islands north of Scotland, the Kingdom included the Orkney islands, the Isle of Mann and the Shetlands. The Kingdom of Lochlann had previously been ruled by his male line ancestor King Arthwys ap Mor. Before he became the undisputed King of Vestfold in Norway, he had an earldom in the east of Norway which was known as Møre. The name Møre alludes to the Jewish title of Mar which was carried by those who were of the Royal House of King David, of which he was one.

A Statue of Rollo the Duke of Normandy from Ålesund 1911.

Around 831 after ravaging the North of England, he moved his attentions to Ireland eventually killing an Irish king and becoming a King in his own right. He first visited Ireland in 820 but by the the late 830s his intentions had changed, instead of mere conquest, now he intended to settle. This coincided with his exile by the hands of his brother Hálfdan who wanted the Kingdom of Vestfold for himself. Shortly after this, the events in fortriu of 839 in which the Picts fought a bloody battle with Ragnar and his warriors resulted in Kenneth MacAlpine’s rise to power. Saxo records that he summoned his sons Bjorn and Erik, and they ravaged the Orkney Islands, then landed at last on the territory of the Scots, and in a three-days battle wearied out their king Murial, and slew him. But Ragnar’s sons, Dunwat and Radbard, after fighting nobly, were slain by the enemy. So that the victory their father won was stained with their blood.

His crowning glory was his invasion of Paris in 845, which secured his position as the most feared man in all Christendom. His descendants continued attacking Paris throughout the rest of the century. The most famous of which was a siege in 885 led by Hrólf Rägnvaldsson who later became known as Rollo Duke of Normandie.

After Ragnar’s invasion of Paris he became very sick and word spread that he was dead, the Irish king even claimed he had killed him through drowning. His kinsman King Hrørik sent emissaries to Charles the Bald informing him that he had killed Ragnar and all his men, the truth was that Ragnar had returned to his kingdom in the Scottish isles to recover. It appears his main drive was to reconquer all the lands of his ancestors and build peaceful settlements in foreign land so that his people could prosper, evidence for this is found in Scotland during the reign of Kenneth MacAlpine who had allied with Ragnar during the 830s. In this period of recovery his kingdom in Dublin was invaded and conquered by his enemies over in Scandinavia, he sent his sons to try and reconquer these lands in Ireland, however a son called Thorir who remains unnamed in any other record was killed during one of these attempts, eventually his son Ívar was successful, becoming the King of Dublin.

King Aella’s messengers inform the sons of Ragnar of their father’s death.

While he wasn’t as famous in history as he was in the sagas he was certainly worthy of honour considering he carved out a kingdom of his own and paving the way for his sons to conquer the British Isles. Knowing he couldn’t do it on his own, he knew the only thing that could unite his children was his death. So he set out on a mission which would eventually lead to his death by the hands of King Ælla of Northumbria.

Ragnar Lodbrok King of the Danes and his sons Ivar and Ubba.

Ragnar was married at least three times in his life, possibly a fourth. His first marriage was to the shield maiden Lagertha, they married young after fighting together in the Danish civil war during the early 9th century. They had one son and two daughters Bjorn, Aløf and Asbjørg but their relationship came to a rocky end after he met his second wife princess Thora, daughter of King Harald of Sweden. With Thora he had five sons and one daughter Agnar, Erik, Dunvat, Radbad, Thorir, and Åscrida. His third wife was Aslög and they had three sons and one daughter Halfdan, Sigurd, Ivar  and Thora. Ragnar’s son Ubba who became the Duke of Frisia appears to have been born out of wedlock, perhaps to a noble lady from Friesland, he had a twin sister called Matilda who married Godfrid son of Harald Klak, Godfrid claimed the duchy of Frisia after Ubba’s death in 877. There is also another son called Ásl, Óláfr killed him in 867 but the histories fall silent as to the true reason for his murder. Their was also at least one other brother that has only one historical reference as Thorir son of the King of Lochlann but he was killed in 848 during an attempt by King Ragnar to reconquer his lands in Ireland, which had recently been taken over by his enemies.

The Loðbrók Dynasty sadly ended with the death of his children, however his son Bjorn Ironside seeded the Münso dynasty in Sweden, his son Ivar seeded the ua Ímair dynasty in Ireland, his son Rägnvald seeded the House of Normandy, while his son Sigurd seeded the House of Gorm in Denmark.

Ragnar Loðbrók m. Hlaðgerðr, the shield maiden

  1. Bjorn “Ironside” seeded the Münso dynasty that ruled Sweden.
  2. Aløf married Helgi the Sharpe.
  3. Asbjørg married Æthelwulf, King of Wessex, mother of King Alfred the Great .

Ragnar Loðbrók m. Thora the Townhart, Princess of Sweden

  1. Agnar killed in the battle for Sweden.
  2. Eirik (Hrørek/Roric) in the battle for Sweden.
  3. Dunvat Killed in the conquest of Lochlann.
  4. Radbad (Rodbert/Radbard/Redbeard) killed in the conquest of Lochlann.
  5. Thorir killed in an attempt to reconquer Dublin.

Ragnar Loðbrók married Aslög, princess of Sweden 

  1. Halfdan “Whiteshirt” via his daughters he seeded the Rurik dynasty of Rus.
  2. Sigurd “Snake In The Eye” seeded the house of Gorm that ruled Denmark.
  3. Ivar “The Boneless” seeded the Ua Imair dynasty that ruled Dublin.
  4. Thora who married Gerulf, Count of Frisia.

 

The Legendary Kings of Hedeby

A list of Kings of Hedeby also known as Haithabu, they ruled over the Danish lands with Hedeby as their economic centre. The early King lists of Hedeby have a lot of duplicate entries, which contradict each other and do not match with the contemporary historical records. It was a turbulent time with various families competing for the throne with at least two civil wars, one in 812-814 and another in 854. These were the legendary Kings of the Danes who ruled over Denmark and much of Norway in the late 8th Century and early 9th century. There was another Royal line who ruled over Sweden that were eventually defeated by the Loðbrók dynasty in 860.

  1. Harald Wartooth (Died in 772).
  2. Sigurd “Hring” Ranversson (Died in 798).
  3. Harald Goldbeard (Died in the Irish Sea in 804).
  4. Gudrød “The Magnificent” (Murdered in 810).
  5. Hemming (Killed in 812 by the sons of Gudrød).
  6. Harald Klak with his brothers (Exiled in 814).
  7. The sons of Gudrød (A brief rule from 814-820).
  8. Harald Klak ( Returned in 820 until he was again exiled in 826).
  9. Hrørik Gudrødsson (Ruled from 827 until his violent death in 854).
  10. Hrørik the Younger (Died in abt 867 with the Great Heathen army).
  11. Sigurd “Snake in the Eye” (Ruled jointly with his brothers from 867).
  12. A period of instability while the Loðbrók dynasty focused on the British isles.
  13. Harald “Fine Hair” (In 871 he took advantage of the instability in Denmark and for a couple of years ruled both Norway and Denmark).
  14. the Loðbrók dynasty (Returned to Denmark in 873 and started a very long conflict with King Harald that lasted generations).
  15. Another period of instability when Sigurd “Snake in the Eye” around 890 left Denmark to rule Lochland creating instability once again in Denmark.
  16. Olaf the Brash (Conquered Denmark and founded the House of Olaf).
  17. Gyrd and Gnupa.
  18. Sigtrygg Gnupasson.
  19. Cnut I son of Sigurd successfully defeated the House of Olaf and became King of all Denmark.

Harald Wartooth King of The Danes


Harald Wartooth at the Battle of Bråvalla. Illustration by the Danish Lorenz Frølich in a 19th-century book.

King Harald was King of the Danes and ruled over all of Scandinavia, he was a feared warrior and through his marriage to Hilda, daughter of Ivar the Wide Fathom he became undisputed heir to the Danish thrown. While there have been many humorous opinions of why he carried the name “War Tooth” it is most likely that he was a Great War hero who had a taste for war, he just loved getting his teeth into a good battle. It is said that his empire stretched as far south as the Mediterranean.

He was the son of Hrørik the Ring Slinger, who held land in Zealand and the grandson of Hódr, the sagas fall fairly silent about these two personages, except for a few references to Hrørik. However the Frankish annals give plenty of detail for these two individuals.

Theuderic IV from Guillaume Rouillé’s Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum

Famous for being the grandfather of Hamlet, Hrørik was none other than Theodoric IV (Thierry IV), the Duke of Narbonne from 739 when Charles Martel insisted that the King of Baghdad dispatch a Jew of the seed of David to rule Narbonne. The King of Baghdad sent Rabbi Makhir Todros (Thierry/Theodoric) and made him the Duke of Narbonne after he captured it from the Ishmaelites in 739. Also known as Aymeri de Narbonne a legendary Frankish hero, he ruled as the Duke of Septimania and married Charles Martel’s daughter Alda, known as Auðr the deep minded in the sagas.

Rather than being son of Odin, Hódr was the famous Odo (Eudes/Eudo) le Grande duke of Aquitaine, the ancestor to a many great dynasties including the infamous Corbyn family. He was a great leader and fought a great many battles in Francia against the Ishmaelites. Many historians argue over his ancestry, however rather than being a Merovingian, he was in fact of the seed of David and a Babylonian Exilarch known as Judah Zakkai son of Ahunai of the Holy Land. Battle and conquest certainly ran deep in this family.

Harald Wartooth was the grandfather of Gudrød the Magnificent king of the Danes, he was succeeded by Sigurd Hring after he was defeated and killed during the Battle of Bråvalla. It was in fact King Harald’s suggestion they fight a great battle, Harald was very old and desired to die in battle rather than dying in bed of sickness.

Sigurd and Harald encouraged their warriors to attack, the lur horns sounded and the battle cries rose up. Warrior fought against warrior. Blind, old King Harald rode out into the fray with a sword in each hand and struck away at the enemy. Harald fell in the battle with his son Rørek and when Sigurd Ring heard that his opponent had fallen, he instantly gave the sign that the fighting should cease. The day after the battle he sought out King Harald’s body and put it onto a funeral pyre along with his horse. Sigurd Ring stood before the fire and bade Harald ride straight to Valhalla and secure lodging for those who had perished.

  1. Ahunai of the Holy Land (Hernaut de Beauland) m. St. Clothilda Queen of Austrasia
  2. Odo le Grande (Judah Zakkai ben Ahunai) m. Sussanah le Blanchfleur.
  3. Theodoric IV Duke of Narbonne (Rabbi Machir Todros) m. Alda (Auðr) daughter of Charles Martel Mayor of the Palace.
  4. Harald Wartooth  (Menachem ben Machir) m. Hilda daughter of Ivar the Wide Fathom King of the Danes.

Gudrød the Hunter King of the Danes

In 804 a new King came to the throne in Denmark Gudfred, most scholars theorise he was the son of Sigfred. However in this period in Danish history their was an awful lot of civil war and conflict, rival families disputing land and titles, resulting in numerous struggles for the Danish thrown. It is highly unlikely he was King Sigfred’s son, there is no historical evidence for this.

Harald Wartooth
Harald Wartooth at the Battle of Bråvalla. Illustration by the Danish Lorenz Frølich in a 19th-century book.

In fact King Gudfred was none other than the legendary King of Vestfold, Gudrød the Hunter ancestor of Harald Finehair, also known as Gudrød the Magnificent. Legend records him as the son of Halfdan the Mild and the grandson of King Harald Wartooth who had inherited the Kingdom of Denmark legitimately through his wife Hilda, daughter of Ivar the Wide Fathom, the last male line descendant of Odin. King Ivar ruled over all the northern kingdoms but had no male heirs. Harald Wartooth was feared across Europe but Harald eventually died in a battle against his brother in law Sigurd Hring, Harald was an old man and wanted to die in battle. Sigurd Hring took the Danish throne and ruled for several years until 798 when the crown was passed to Gudrød’s uncle Harald who was later killed in the Irish sea in 804.

This brings us to the man in question Gudrød the Hunter King of Vestfold. Vestfold was just north of Denmark on the southernmost coast of Norway and his father Halfdan the Mild had died two years earlier of sickness, so it fell to his eldest son Gudrød the Magnificent.

Gudrød was a ruthless ruler and faced very little competition when making his claim for the throne. He spent most of his rule fearing invasion from the Franks, he made many improvements to the security of Denmark. A wall was built with an earthen embankment topped by a wooden stockade and protected from the south by a deep ditch. Denmark’s most important town, Hedeby was expanded and garrisoned with Danish soldiers and the early sections of the wall were designed to protect it.

His rule was a tyrannical one, forcing many settlements and towns to accept him as overlord and forcing taxes upon them and he even forced taxes upon his kinsman. By the end of his rule, he failed to negotiate a peace treaty with Charlemagne.

Gudrød had two wives, his first wife was Alfhild, daughter of Alfarin King of Alfheim and his second wife was Åsa, who he took by force after her father King Harald Red beard (Ráðbarðr) of Agder refused his request to marry her. He arrived by night and King Harald fought well but was eventually defeated and killed. He and Åsa had at least one son who was known as Halfdan the Black.

Murder of King Gudrød
Gudrød is murdered (Illustration by Gerhard Munth)

He ruled Denmark for 6 years until his premature death in 810, when after a long night of celebrations one of his men thrust a spear through his heart killing him instantly. It turned out to be Åsa’s page-boy, she admitted that he was acting for her and she fled with her son Halfdan back to her father’s Kingdom in Agder where she ruled as queen regnant.

Gurød the Magnificent was succeeded by his kinsman Hemming who ruled for two years and successfully made peace with the Franks.

Sources:

  1. Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson
  2. Ynglingatal
  3. Historia Norvegiae
  4. De Carolo Magno, Book II, Chapter 13
  5. Danmarks Riges Krønike by Huitfeldt, Arild
  6. Danernes Sagnhistorie
  7. Norsk biografisk leksikon