Haraldr Maddadson, Earl of Caithness & Orkney

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Haraldr Maddadson, Earl of Caithness & Orkney

Also Known As: "Harald", "Harold", "Maddadson"
Birthplace: Orkney, Scotland
Death: Died in Dalharold, Caithness, Scotland
Place of Burial: Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of Madach, 1st Earl of Atholl and Margrét Hákonardóttir, countess of Orkney
Ex-husband of Aufrica / Affrica of Fife and Gormflaeth (Hvafleva) MacEth
Father of Heinrek 'Henry' Gilleoin (Colin) (Haraldsson) of the Orkneys; Margaret Haraldsdatter of the Orkneys; Hakon of the Orkneys Haraldsson of the Orkneys; Helen Haraldsdottir; Thorfinn Haraldsson and 5 others
Brother of Margaret de Caithness and Whoa!
Half brother of ... Gunnason and Malcolm, 2nd Earl of Atholl

Managed by: Private User
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About Haraldr Maddadson, Earl of Caithness & Orkney

Harald Maddadsson

COA from Balliol Roll

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lewis chessmen an iconic image of Scandinavian Scotland in Harald Maddadsson's time.Harald Maddadsson (Old Norse Haraldr Maddaðarson, Gaelic Aralt mac Mataid) (c. 1134–1206) was Earl of Orkney and Mormaer of Caithness from 1139 until 1206. He was the son of Matad, Mormaer of Atholl, and Margaret, daughter of Earl Haakon Paulsson of Orkney. Of mixed Norse and Gaelic blood, and a descendant of Scots kings,[1] he was a significant figure in northern Scotland, and played a prominent part in Scottish politics of the twelth century. The Orkneyinga Saga names him one of the three more powerful Earls of Orkney with Sigurd Eysteinsson and Thorfinn Sigurdsson.[2]


In the early twelfth century, the Earldom of Orkney, although weakened since the time of Earl Thorfinn, remained in control of Caithness and was dominant in Sutherland and parts of the Outer Hebrides. Thus the succession of the earldom was of great interest to the Scots king David I. The marriage of Matad and Margart is believed to have taken place not long before 1134, shortly following David's suppression of a major revolt involving Mormaer Óengus of Moray, grandson of king Lulach, and Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair, the illegitimate son of David's brother Alexander, and the subsequent extension of royal power into the provinces of Moray and Ross.[3] David's nephew William fitz Duncan was appointed to rule Moray, and it has been proposed that Matad, whose power lay in the Scottish kingdom's heartland of Atholl, may also have been granted authority in the new lands north of the Mounth, and that his marriage to Margarat Haakonsdaughter was arranged with this in mind.[4]

Harald Maddadsson was born shortly before Rognvald Kali Kolsson took control of the Earldom of Orkney, on the disappearance of Earl Paul Haakonson. The Orkneyinga Saga reports the official tale, that Paul had abdicated, and the rumour that he was killed on the orders of Harald's mother. Earl Paul had not been well loved by his female kin. His mother and her sister, Frakkok, had previously tried to murder him with a poisoned shirt which instead caused the death of his brother Harald Haakonsson. Rognvald represented the pro-Norwegian faction in the Earldom. It is said that Frakkok and her supporters had originally intended to advance the claims of Harald Haakon's son Erlend on Paul's death. However, Matad and Margaret, with King David backing them, imposed the infant Harald Maddadson as joint ruler with Rognvald.[5]

[edit] Early years

The main threat to Harald Maddadsson and Rognvald Kali came from Erlend Haraldsson, especially from Erlend's supporter Frakkok. The old conspirator, however, was soon disposed of, burned to death in her hall near Helmsdale. The Orkneyinga Saga names one Svein Asleifsson as the killer, and says that he came to Caithness from the south, from Atholl, with Rognvald's blessing and Matad's help. This Svein Asleifsson had also been the man in whose custody Earl Paul had disappeared.[6]

In Harald's early years, when power was exercised jointly with Rognvald on his behalf by councillors chosen by King David, Orkney enjoyed relative stability, although the Saga contains the usual killings and burnings of the time, including the death of an Earl Valthjof who is otherwise unknown.[7] In 1150 or 1151, Harald visited Norway with Earl Rognvald, and probably met with King Ingi Haraldsson.[8] During this visit Rognvald made his decision to go on crusade, as recounted at length in the Saga.[9]

[edit] Earls Rognvald, Harald and Erlend

After Harald returned to Orkney and Rognvald departed on his expedition, King Eystein Haraldsson, eldest brother of Ingi, undertook a raiding expedition from Norway against the Earldom of Orkney. DUring this operation he encountered Harald near Thurso and captured him. Harald was freed in return for a ransom in gold and by giving his oath to Eystein. Eystein then went on to raid the coasts of Scotland and England.[10]

Possibly as a result of Eystein's activities, King David granted half of Caithness to Harald's cousin, Erlend Haraldsson.[11] The result, as recounted in the Orkneyinga Saga, was a political struggle which ended with Erlend's murder in 1154. Rognvald too was killed, in 1158. Svein Asleifsson was again heavily involved in this dynastic conflict.[12] In 1153 King David died, to be succeeded by his young grandson, Malcolm IV. King Eystein too died in a war with his brothers Ingi and Sigurd which left Ingi the sole surviving son of Harald Gilli.[13] As a result, by 1158 Harald Maddadsson was undisputed Earl of Orkney, with neither the King of Scots nor the King of Norway in any position to contest his power.

[edit] Earl Harald and the kings' enemies

From the death of Rognvald, Harald Maddadsson pursued a policy of supporting the enemies of the kings of Scotland, first Malcolm IV, who died young in 1165,[14] then Malcolm's brother William. Of these enemies, those who were active in the north and west, where Harald's power was significant, were Somerled, king of Argyll and Hebrides (who married earl Harold's first cousin Ragnhild of the Man Island), the sons of Máel Coluim mac Alasdair, illegitimate son of King Alexander I, himself held prisoner at Roxburgh, the Meic Uilleim, the descendants of William fitz Duncan, and the MacHeths and dispossessed would-be Mormaers of Ross (who possibly were a branch of the ancient Loairn dynasty of Moray and claimants of its rights).

An expedition to Ross by King William and his brother Earl David in 1179 may have been related to Harald's activities.[15] Two years later the rebellion of Domnall, son of Máel Coluim mac Uilleim, broke out in Ross and Moray, and it is presumed that Earl Harald played a part in this. The rebellion was not finally suppressed until 1187.[16]

The defeat of Domnall's rebellion led to more conflict between Earl Harald and King William. After 1187, it appears that Scots and Scotto-Norman nobles were being planted in Ross and in Cromarty, as had previously happened in Moray. The de Moravia family, anglicised as Moray or Murray, which later produced Andrew Moray, were granted lands in Ross and Cromarty, and they are unlikely to have been unique in this award. When King William fell ill in 1195, this may have been the catalyst for the final conflict with Harald, which lasted from 1197 until 1201. As part of this struggle, William granted lands in Caithness to Harald the Young, grandson of Rognvald Kali, in 1197. Harald the Young was killed by Harald Maddadsson the following year.[17]

Harald Maddadson also faced troubles with the Norwegian king in the 1190s. In 1193 Orkney and Shetland warriors led by Harald's brother-in-law Olaf and one Hallkjell Jonsson, fought for Sigurd Magnusson against King Sverre Sigurdsson. King Sverre appears to have believed that Harald was involved in the affair, and after Sigurd Magnusson was killed on Askøy, Sverre punished Harald by seizing Shetland, which was never returned in his lifetime.[18]

King William, the Orkneyinga Saga says, called upon the King of Mann, Ragnald Guthredsson, to fight against Harald.[19] Rognvald had possibly spuriously claims to Harald's lands, because people remembered that Harald's mother was younger daughter of earl Haakon Paulsson, whereas the elder daughter had married the king of Isle of Man (although Ragnald's father Godfrey of Man had been that lady's stepson and not her own son). Harald, however, retook Caithness at this time. In this campaign, dated to 1201, the Saga tells that Harald came to the stronghold of Bishop John of Caithness, at Scrabster. Bishop John went to meet Harald, apparently to greet him, but the Earl had him seized, tortured and mutilated.[20] The Gesta Annalia reports that Harald treatmented Bishop John in this way because he believed that John was an informant set on making trouble between Harald and King William.[21]

The creation of John's see of Caithness in 1189–1190 was undoubtedly intended to extend Scots authority in the region. The new bishopric was not uncontroversial and John soon came into conflict with Harald Maddadson and the Bishop of Orkney, Bjarni Kolbeinsson. The conflict, presented as a dispute over the collection of monies for the papacy (a form of Peter's pence), was appealed to Pope Innocent III, who wrote to Bishop Bjarni and the Bishop of Rosemarkie (or Ross) to prevent John from interfering with the collection.[22]

King William, using the treatment of Bishop John as a cause for war with Harald , brought a large army north in 1201–1202. The army, it is said, was so large that Harald capitulated without a fight and agreed to give a quarter of the revenues of Caithness to William. During this time, Earl Harald's son Thorfinn was captured by the Scots. Whether in revenge for the treatment of Bishop John, or to cow Harald, or because Thorfinn may have had some claim to the throne through his mother (the lady of Moray), he was blinded and castrated, dying soon later in prison.[23]

In 1202 Pope Innocent, persuaded that Harald was not personally responsible for the abuse of Bishop John, wrote to Bishop Bjarni to order him to ensure that Harald's man Lumberd, who was blamed for the deeds, was suitably punished.[24] With this, the story of Harald's turbulent life reaches its close. He died of natural causes in 1206 after a long and eventful reign of 65 years, aged about 72.

Notes The King of the Scots, William the Lion (1165-1214) had been a prisoner of England, When he returned to Scotland "he forever afterwards showed the most sterling qualities, and stood manfully up for the independence of his kingdom and the Church". In the spirit of the Papal decree, King William was very active in erecting, endowing and beginning numerous churches throughout the kingdom. In 1184 he gave half of Caithness to Harald Eiriksson, known as "Harald the Young", and made him a joint earl with Harald Maddadarson (Harald the Old). Harald the Old had been the sole earl of Orkney and Caithness since the murder of earl St. Rognvald in 1158 and he was enraged at this and a civil war began. His early success in battle, emboldened him to foolishly invade the Scots' earldom of Moray. King William gathered a great army, recovered Moray and chased Harald back to Caithness. He destroyed Harold's stronghold at Thurso. Harold tried to flee to Orkney but was driven back by gales. Desperately he threw himself at the King's feet asking for mercy. King William allowed him to keep half of Caithness but took Harold's son, Thorfinn, as a hostage. Harold remained rebellious. King William the Lion made two or three further forays into Caithness between 1196-7 to subdue Harold the Old but was not successful. Again in 1198 there was trouble. The two Harolds met each other with armies just outside of Wick in a fierce battle during which Harold the Young was slain. The exasperated King sold part of Caithness to Reginald Gudrodrsson, a Norse king of Man. He was a seasoned warrior who came north with a fleet of ships to claim Caithness but once again, Harold the Old was victorious. King William came in person once more to force Harold to submit. The King ordered a church to be built at Wick on the spot where earl Harold the Young had been slain. Just after Christmas 1201, six bailiffs fled from the north to King William the Lion. Once more Harold the Old was plotting rebellion and was now negotiating with King John of England. William called out a general levy, which marched to Ousdale in Caithness. Meanwhile his royal fleet sailed to cut off Harald's retreat to Orkney. The vast army forced Harald the Old to sue for peace. Later me met the king at Perth. Using the intercession of Roger, bishop of St. Andrews, and others, he was "bought to concorde with the king". By that time William had forced him to pay a fine of 2000 pounds of silver and made Harald and his kindred erect a steeple over the church at Wick that was dedicated to the slain Harald the Young. William then divided the ancient earldom of Caithness by removing all the lands south of the Ord which later became the earldom of Sutherland.

Sources [S250] http://www.clanstirling.org

son of:

  • Affrica (Aufrica) BIRTH: ABT 1113, of Galloway, Scotland
  • Father: M'DOWALL (M'DOUGAL)

Book of McKee, pg 275 states Harold was the great-grandson of Moddan through his daughter Helga. His wife Gormlath, blue eyes, daughter of Malcolm Mac Eth, hated the Crown so much that King William, when making terms with Harold in 1196, tried to stipulate, in vain, that the earl should put her away.


"Genealogy of the Family of Mackay, sometime of Sandwood and Kinlochbervie, but Anciently of Kirkiboll, Ribigill and Lettermore, with an account of the Clan Mackay," by Angus Mackay, M.A., at National Library of Scotland, states that Harold's surname was Madadson, and he was Earl of Caithness

The History of the Clan Mackay 1977 HP1.77.3303 National Library of Scotland states that King William the Lion defeated Harold (whose wife was a MacEth) at Dalharold in Caithness in 1198. After that date the name MacEth disappears from Scottish history, being replaced by mackay.

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Haraldr Maddadson, Earl of Caithness & Orkney's Timeline

Orkney, Scotland
Age 21
Orkneys, Scotland
Age 26
Age 28
Orkney, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Age 72
Dalharold, Caithness, Scotland
Age 72