2011 SMUHA Guizer Jarl - Brydon Robertson
The 2011 SMUHA Guizer Jarl Brydon Robertson
chose to portray one of the most significant but
complicated characters in the politics of the
Earldom of Orkney and Mormaer of Caithness.
Along with Sigurd Eystein's son and Earl
Thorfinn, Sigurd's son, Harald Maddad's son
was one of the three most powerful Earls of
Orkney as recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga. To
Joseph Anderson's edition of the Saga he is
described as: "...a mighty chief and a man of
large stature and great strength."
Known in Gaelic as Aralt mac Mataid, Harald
Maddadsson was born in 1134 and was the son
of Matad, Mormaer of Atholl and Margaret
daughter of Earl Haakon Paulsson of Orkney,
thus giving him both Gaelic and Norse lines of
Written in the Orkneyinga Saga is the reported
abdication but more likely the murder of Earl Paul
Hakkonsson the then Earl of Orkney, possibly at
the instigation of Margaret, Harald's mother,
which lead to the Earldom passing to Rognvald
Kali Kolsson. However, with the judicious
intervention of both Matad and Margaret, backed
by King David I of Scotland, Harald Maddadsson
was appointed joint ruler in 1139 despite the fact
that he was barely five years old. During those
formative years control on Harald's behalf was
exercised by councillors chosen by King David
who ruled in conjunction with Earl Rognvald
In the early 1150s, either '50 or '51, Harald visited
Norway with Earl Rognvald where he may have
met with King Ingi Haraldsson and it was soon
after this event that Earl Rognvald decided on his
crusade to the Holy Land, he called a great
meeting of all his chiefs residing in his
Despite his strength and his followers confidence in his leadership soon
after Earl Rognvald's departure, Harald faced his first test and fared rather
badly. King Eystein Haraldsson of Norway raided the Earldom of Orkney
and captured Harald who was only released on the payment of a ransom
in gold and the promise of allegiance to Eystein.
With the deaths of several prominent and influential Earls and also King
David himself, Harald found by 1158 he was the undisputed Earl of
Orkney and neither the Kings of Scotland or Norway were strong enough
to dispute his title. With this power Harald pursued his own policies one
of which was not to directly support the Kings of Scotland.
As was the practice in Moray and Ross and Cromarty, lands were being
ceded to Scots or Scotto-Norman nobles and with the allocation of land
by King William to Harald the Younger, grandson of Rognvald Koli, this
lead to inevitable conflict between the King and Harald Maddadsson.
During this period of conflict and in the ebb and flow of battles, Harald lost
but re-took Caithness.
Harald's problems were not confined to Caithness. His brother-in-law Olaf
fought with the Oyskeggs (Orkney and Shetland warriors) against King
Sverre Sigurdsson of Norway but faced defeat at the battle of Florvag.
King Sverre, thinking that Harald was behind this action seized Shetland
which was never returned in Harald's life-time.
Harald's turbulent life ended in 1206 when he died of natural causes, but
not before he gained some solace for the most gruesome event in his life.
In 1202 Pope Innocent was persuaded that Harald had not been
responsible for the torture and mutilation of Bishop of John Caithness but
it had been Harald's kinsman and servant Lumberd and so he was
Harald Maddadsson was married twice; his first wife Afreka (Affirca) bore
him four children, Heinrek, Hakon, Helena and Margaret. His second wife
was Hvarflod, daughter of the Earl Mael Colium of Moray. Married around
1168 they had six children; Thorfinn, David, Jon, Gunnhild, Herborga and
Langlif. David and Jon went on to be joint Earls of Orkney while Heinrik
ruled in Ross.
He made it know to them that he intended to leave Orkney and go to Jorsalaheim (Jerusalem), saying that he would leave the
government in the hands of his kinsman Harald and praying all his friends to obey him, and help him faithfully in whatever he
required while he was obliged to be away himself. Earl Harald was then nearly twenty, tall and strong, yet he was a wise man and
the people thought he would be a good chief.