Ragnvald ‘the wise of More’ “Count of Maer” EYSTEINSSON (830 – 894)

Stormforge Saga Book One The Jarl of More
Odin’s Raven

Pedigree and descent from Ragnvald the Wise

Below is an outlined pedigree of my descent from The Jarl of More, this is one of hundreds of links I have to this famous Viking Jarl who lived 1200 years ago. The period is also important mathematically as scholars believe that all living people today that have European ancestry can claim descent from ALL Europeans that lived and had issue in the 9th century.

Ragnvald is likely your ancestor as much as he is mine.

His story and his sons epic Saga have always interested me, Which is why three years ago, I wrote the first words to a story I wanted to tell. three years later my first Novel is complete.

In 2020, I plan to share this story.

Stormforge Book one (The Jarl of More) is coming soon.


Facts

Name: Rognvald Eysteinsson / Earl of Møre

Birth: circa 825

Place of Birth: Sweden: Åre Municipality in Jämtland County or Norway: Vestfold

Father: (In dispute) – Eystein Ivarsson Glumra aka Eystein “the Noisy” or Halfdan, King of Lochlann aka “Halfdan the Black”

Mother: Not named in sagas

Spouse(s):

(1) Ragnhild “Hildr” Hrolfsdotti aka Ragnhild the daughter of Hrolf Nose

Issue:

(1) Hallad, earl of Orkney (by unnamed concubine)

(2) Hrollaug (by unnamed concubine)

(3) Einarr aka Torf-Einnar, earl of Orkney (by unnamed concubine)

(4) Ivar Rognvaldson (by Ragnhild)

(5) Hrólfr Rognvaldson aka “The Walker” aka Rollo, first Duke of Normandy (by Ragnhild)

(6) Thorir Rognvaldson the Silent (by Ragnhild)

Title(s):

Jarl / Earl of Møre

Earl of Orkney

Count of Maer

Successor: Thorir Rognvaldson

Death: (circa 890 to 894)

Place of Death: Giske at Møre og Romsdal in Norway House: Earls of Møre My Family

Connection: My 35th Great Grandfather

Life and times of Rognvald Eysteinsson, the Earl of Møre (circa 825 to 894)

Who is Rognvald Eysteinsson, Earl of Møre?

Rognvald Eysteinsson was the first Earl (Nowegian: Jarl) of Møre in Norway. His title was bestowed by none other than the first historically verified king of Norway, Harald. Rognvald was King Harald’s close ally as well as his blood relative.

Ronvald is best remembered as the founding earl of Orkney. He was also the earl of Møre, Norway.

Before Reign as Earl of Møre and Orkney expeditions

According to the saga dubbed “Orkneyinga,” King Harald Fairhair, made Rognvald the Jarl of Møre after he cut and dressed Harald’s long and unruly hair. Harald had vowed to never get a haircut until he had gained total control of all of Norway. After ten years of not getting his hair cut, Rognvald’s gesture formalized the fact that Harald had gained the fealty of all the Viking chieftains in Norway.

As mentioned by contemporary Scottish and Irish sources, Rognvald played a role in the founding of the earldom of Orkney. Beyond this point of agreement, the historical record is unclear regarding his precise role. The sagas tell of a “great voyage” where Rognvald sailed with Harald from Norway and other Viking chiefs. This journey was initially a punitive expedition to punish renegade Viking chiefs who settled in Orkney.

Rebel chieftains supposedly used Orkney as a base from which to launch their marauding raids into Norway itself. Acting under the King’s command, Rognvald supposedly took over rebel Viking bases in the Shetland Islands and Orkney. From here, he then launched raids into the Isle of Man as well as the coastal regions of Ireland and Scotland. Scholars dispute the timing of the great journey. Many researchers say that the events mentioned by the Norse sagas occurred some time after Rognvald’s lifetime.

According to the Orkneyinga, King Harald compensated Rognvald with the earldom of the Shetland Islands and Orkney for the death of his son Ivarr. Ivarr was killed during a raid in the course of the expedition. Different sources are quite confused about Ivarr’s death. One record places his death in Hafrsfiord in 872. Another says he died in a battle at or near Orkney in the year 874. Family life

There’s quite a bit of conflicting information in the available historical record regarding how closely related he was to King Harald. At least one Irish source claims that Rognvald was the son of Halfdan the Black. If so, this would mean he was the brother of King Harald. However, according to sagas written hundreds of years after Rognvald’s death, present him as the grandson of Halfdan the Black or “Halfdan, the king of Lochlann.” Regardless, as can be seen by Harald’s heavy trust in him, he was definitely closely related enough to the king.

Rognvald had at least one concubine before getting married to the daughter of Hrolf Nose, Ragnhild “Hildr” Hrolfsdotti. It appears that Rognvald married many years after the birth of his first three sons. The sagas say they were fully grown men by the time his three younger children were born. At least one of his earlier concubines descended from slaves. In one saga passage, he said that his son Torf-Einnar’s mother was a slave descended on both sides from slaves. Accordingly, he didn’t have high expectations about this youngest illegitimate son’s chances at ruling Orkney. Despite his dismissive attitude about Torf-Einnar, it is quite ironic that it was Torf-Einnar who ultimately avenged Rognvald’s death. He was trapped in a house that was burned down in a surprise attack by two disgruntled sons of King Harald. Torf-Einnar tracked down one of the killers, Halfdan Hålegg, and slew him in North Ronaldsay.

Torf-Einnar went on to found a dynasty in the Orkneys that would last several hundred years.

Rognvald’s youngest legitimate son Thorir or Thorer “The Silent” went on to inherit the title of Earl of Möre. He was invested by King Harald Fairhair of this title since Rognvald was killed and stripped of the earldom by the king’s own renegade son Ljome aka Gudrod.

However, it was Rognvald’s son with his official wife, Hrólfr Rognvaldson aka “The Walker” aka Rollo who would prove the most illustrious among his heirs. Rollo not only became the first Duke of Normandy, but he would also be the ancestor of the Norman vanquisher of England, William The Conqueror.

Rule as Earl of Orkney and More

After the “great voyage” to Orkney, Scotland, and the Shetland Islands concluded, Rognvald went back to Norway. He turned over his newly awarded earldom to a brother of his who was also Rognvald’s ship forecastleman, Sigurd Eysteinsson. Harald supposedly approved of the transfer of the title. There is quite a bit of inconsistency in the historical record regarding this point. The Heimskringla saga says that Sigurd was the very first Earl of Orkney implying it wasn’t turned over from Rognvald. Regardless, the sagas tell that Sigurd’s rule as Earl was a short-lived one. He died after battling Máel Brigte of Moray. Sigurd’s successor, Gurthorm, did not have any children and died a year after Sigurd’s passing.

One of Rognval’s sons, Hallad was given the earldom by his father. Frustrated by the fact that he could not stop the seemingly ceaseless Danish Viking incursions into Orkney and surrounding areas, Hallad went back to Norway. His return was viewed derisively as some sort of ‘joke’ by fellow Norse. Viking culture prized honor and duty above every other value and the whole idea of retreating back home was not looked upon favorably. The sagas indicate that he was viewed as a laughingstock for turning his back on military honor to settle for life as a common land owner.

In contrast, according to the oral tradition of villagers and townsfolk of Strath Halladale in Sutherland, Hallad came back to Orkney to die a warrior’s death in battle. This tradition states that Hallad’s body was buried close to the battle site. Supposedly, his body was buried with his sword in a grave trench with a single central stone in the middle of a stone circle. Records indicate that the grave was still visible as late as the 1700s. The grave was close to the town Dal Halladha or “Halladha’s Field.”

According to oral tradition, Hallad’s death infuriated Rognvald. He summoned his other sons to help end the Danish raids. He predicted that his son Thorir will probably end up staying in Norway. He predicted that his son Hrolluag will end up adventuring in Iceland. According to the saga account, this is when his youngest son, Turf-Einar stepped up and volunteered to fight for the islands. Noting that both sides of Turf-Einar maternal ancestors were slaves, Rognvald dismissively said that Turf-Einar was “not likely to make much of a ruler.” Still, he was happy that Turf-Einar volunteered and hurried him along.

Turf-Einnar eventually vanquished the marauding Danes and finally brought lasting peace to Orkney. He founded the ruling family of Orkney which went on to hold power several centuries after Turf-Einar’s death.

According to at the Orkneyinga saga, Turf-Einnar was able to bring peace and order to Orkney after he killed Danish radiers with fearsome names like “Kalf Scurvy” and “Thorir Tree-Beard.” The saga also describes him as the first person to ever dig the peat bogs for fuel. Supposedly, this feat happened at the Tarbat Ness area located in Scotland. This is quite notable because digging and burning peat for fuel

was quite a long-standing tradition in the Orkney or Northern Isles region. In terms of appearance, the sagas describe Turf-Einnar as having only one eye and of tall stature. As far as aesthetics go, the saga narrative is quite unkind to the man who finally succeeded in bringing an end to Danish incursions to the Orkney region-the saga describes him as “ugly.”

Death and Succession

Envious of the favor Rognvald received from his patron King Harald, the king’s own sons Halfdan Hålegg and Gudrod Gleam staged a surprise attack on the Earl. Rognvald had around 60 men in his entourage lodged in a house at Giske (located in Møre og Romsdal, Norway). Moving quickly, Hålegg had the house surrounded and lit up. It burned to the ground as its occupants remained stuck. There were no recorded survivors.

Flying into a rage at the dishonorable attack on his long-time trusted lieutenant, King Harald sent out a massive punitive force to punish the perpetrators. Harald’s son Gudrod planned Rognvald’s murder to take the title of earl from him. It’s not unreasonable to suspect, based on the historical record, that Gudrod felt that the title should go to him-a royal son-instead of Rognvald.

The saga and historical records conflict regarding the exact lineage of Rognvald. While one saga positions him as a possible brother of King Harald, if he indeed were the uncle of Halfdan Hålegg and Gudrod Gleam, they would not have tried to strip his earldom and, in the process, kill him. Apparently, Gudrod thought whatever standing Rognvald had was inferior to his claim to title as a royal son.

After his defeat, Gudrod was banished from the king’s realm. Usually, Viking banishments often led to further expansions of Viking territory as ‘surplus’ sons, stripped of all chances at title succession, raided far and wide in pursuit of their fortunes. They usually brought with them followers and lieutenants who went along in the hopes of being awarded new lands and titles. Regardless, the historical record is silent regarding Gudrod’s whereabouts after his banishment.

Maybe something similar happened with Rognvald as he supported Harald Fairhair’s campaigns on all other Norwegian Viking lords who opposed or contested his claim to the Norwegian throne. As a reward for his loyalty as a lieutenant, Rognvald was given the earldom of Møre.

Halfdan Hålegg ended up escaping via the western sea. Despite the discouragement Rognvald heaped upon him, it was Rognvald’s son Torf-Einnarr who ended up avenging his father. He slew Halfdan in North Ronaldsay. Realizing full well that he had killed one of the King’s sons, Torf-Einnar quickly sued for peace with the monarch.

Harald passed the title of Earl of Møre from Rognvald to Thorir. As a sign of goodwill, the king also betrothed Alof, his daughter, to Thorir in marriage.

Legacy

Rognvald’s greatest legacy flows from the fact that Robert I aka Rollo, the first Duke of Normandy was one of his sons. As powerful as the Norman legacy may be in French history, they also played an indelible role in British history since William the Conqueror traces his lineage to Rollo and, by extension, to Rognvald. Thanks to the Norman conquest of England, English landholding patterns as well as socio-political and economic organization changed dramatically. Prior to this point, feudalism wasn’t as ingrained and tightly defined. The Normans introduced subinfeudation where legal title to

and control over land was divided between the king and his followers. The followers then divided lands among their own followers so on and so forth. The end result is a neatly descending order of legal obligations, political loyalty, and military responsibility all leading to a monarch on top.

Rognvald’s family line retained control of the Earldom of Orkney for several hundred years after Rognvald’s death. The title only passed from his line in the year 1232. Despite the end of formal Norse political control in the Northern Isles, the Scandinavians left an indelible effect on the local culture and language. Indeed, the English vocabulary contains lots of “borrowed” words of Scandinavian origin. Even English lore was not immune to Norse influence. None other than the quintissential English legend, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, count on Orkney as the home of several of its knights.

Historical Dispute over the historical accuracy of Norse Sagas regarding Orkney

There’s quite a bit of historical doubt regarding how much of a role Rognvald played in the Norse founding of the Earldom of Orkney. This dispute highlights the potential influence of political disputes in the writing of supposedly previous oral tradition. While there is no dispute about the actual historical existence of Rognvald Eysteinsson, how he became earl of Orkney is under a considerable cloud. This is due to the fact that modern historians have pretty much concluded that the “great voyage” supposedly taken by King Harald and Rognvald (and other Viking chieftains) did not take place as described by the sagas.

Much of the modern skepticism about the sagas’ veracity stem from two points: a) they were written several hundred years after the events they supposedly describe and b) when they were written, there were strong political motivations in play. Around the 1200s, when much of the sagas were written, the king of Norway was in a dispute with the king of Scotland over the Hebrides Islands and the Isle of Man. The sagas depictions of King Harald Fairhair’s “great voyage” to punish Orkney-based Viking renegade chieftains and its subsequent stories of the conquest of the Isle of Man and the Shetlands seem a bit too convenient. These passages can easily lend themselves to legitimising 13th century Norwegian claims to these territories. After all, if King Harald ‘liberated’ these from Viking incursions, the Norwegians would have a very long-standing (and legitimate) claim to the contested western Kingdom of the Isles kingdom and the “Northern Isles.”

Any historical analysis must be made with the overhanging political motivations described above. Accordingly, many historians are quite doubtful of any early dates given to key events in the Viking incursions in the North Isles as well as Ireland and Scotland. For example, the earliest accounts regarding the founding of the Orkney earldom places King Harald’s incursions into Scotland around 875 or earlier. However, this doesn’t line up with Scottish records which say that related events (such as attacks during Domnall mac Causantín’s 889–900 rule happened later. It appears a lot of this ‘historical backdating’ by sagas may have been motivated by political considerations at the time of their writing.

Stephen Robert Kuta

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