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HAKON AND MAGNUS, 22ND AND 23RD EARLS, 1103-1122

CONTEMPORARY PRINCES
NORWAY: 1103 Olaf IV; 1116 Eystein; 1122 Sigurd I
SCOTLAND: 1098 Edgar; 1107 Alexander I
ENGLAND: 1099 Henry I;
ROME: 1099 Pascal II; 1118 Gelasius II; 1119 Calixtus II

PRELATES
ORKNEY: William the Old 1102-1l68 [See Historiettes]

When Earl Hakon had ruled the Orkneys for some time, Magnus, the son of Earl Erlend, came from Scotland, and wished to have his patrimony, at which all the Orcadians were pleased; but Hakon collected men and refused to surrender any portion of the realm. He, however, at last consented to yield half, if the Norse monarchs approved of it. So Magnus passed to Norway and saw King Eystein, for King Sigurd had then gone to Jerusalem (1107). Eystein received him exceedingly well, and gave him his patrimony - one-half of the Orcades with the title of earl. Thereupon Magnus sailed west to his dominions, everyone being glad to see him back. Through the kind offices of mutual friends, Magnus and Hakon agreed very well, and while their friendship continued there were good times and peace reigned in the Orkneys.

The holy Magnus, Earl of the Isles, was a most excellent man, of large stature, noble presence, and intellectual countenance. He was of blameless life, victorious in battles, wise, eloquent, strong-minded, liberal, and magnanimous, sagacious in counsels, and more beloved than any other man. Many other glorious virtues he exhibited to God Himself, but concealed from man.

Magnus and Hakon governed their lands and defended them for some time, the two agreeing well. In a song composed about them, it is said they fought with a chief called Dufniall, their second cousin, who fell before them. They also slew a famous man, Thorbiorn, in Burra Firth, Shetland; and other deeds are set forth in song, though not specially narrated here. But presently Hakon became jealous of the popularity and greatness of his cousin, being stirred thereto by men who were evilly-disposed, chief amongst whom were Sigurd and Sighvat Sock. The enmity advanced so far that the earls, coming to meet each other in Hrossey, where the Thiugstead was, drew up their troops in battle array and prepared to fight, but their mutual friends managed to avert hostilities for the moment, and a reconciliation was confirmed with oaths and shaking of hands. A little later Hakon appointed a day of meeting with the blessed Earl Magnus, to further ratify their friendship: the meeting to take place in the Pasch week in Egilsay, each to be attended with two ships and have an equal number of men. Immediately after Easter, Earl Magnus with his two ships and the stipulated number of men got ready for their voyage to Egilsay. As they were rowing in calm and smooth water, a great wave rose under the ship which was steered by the Earl, and broke over it where he sat. The mariners marvelled greatly at such an occurrence - that a breaker should rise in smooth water where no man could remember one to have arisen, and where the water was so deep. This event was taken to presage Magnus' impending doom. Earl Hakon, on the other band, came to the meeting place with a numerous army and many ships, equipped as if for battle; and after starting for the destination, announced to his followers that the meeting should finally decide between Magnus and himself, so that both should not rule the Orcadian nation. Many approved of this determination, even adding wicked suggestions, but Sigurd and Sighvat ever counselled the worst things. They then rowed more quickly. Havard Gunnarsson (who was married to Bergliot, daughter of Hakon's sister Ragnhild), the friend and counsellor of the Earls, and equally faithful to them both, was on board Earl Hakon's flag-ship. Hakon had concealed from him this evil plan, in which he would by no means have had any part; and, indeed, when Havard knew Hakon was so resolute in the design, he plunged overboard and swam to a certain uninhabited islet. Magnus, who had first arrived at Egil's Isle, descried Hakon approaching with eight war-ships, and then knew that treachery was intended. His men offered to defend him, but the noble earl declined to imperil their lives, and decided to yield himself to the questionable mercy of Hakon. So, upon being surrounded by his cousin's soldiers, Earl Magnus made these propositions: to go on pilgrimage to Rome or Jerusalem, never returning to the land of his fathers; to be exiled to Scotland, safe provision being made for his custody in that kingdom; or, thirdly, to be maimed or blinded and imprisoned. Hakon accepted the last, but the Orcadian nobles said, "One of you we will kill now, and from this day you shall not both rule the lands of the Orkneys". Earl Hakon replied, "Slay him then, for I will rather have earldom and lands than instant death. " Their conversation was related by Holdbodi, a truthful bondi in the Hebrides, who was with Earl Magnus when the latter was arrested by his cousin's soldiers. Magnus met his fate with equanimity. Hakon ordered Ofeig, his banner-bearer, to do the deed, but Ofeig indignantly refused. So then Hakon forced Lifolf, his cook, to be executioner. Lifolf wept aloud at having to undertake the office, but Earl Magnus said to him, "Stand before me and hew me a mighty stroke on the head, for it is not fitting that high-born lords should be slain like robbers". After that he made the sign of the cross, stooped under the blow, and his spirit passed in to heaven. This was two days after Tiburtiusmas (14th April) 1091. He had been seven winters Earl of the Orkneys along with Earl Hakon. Seventy-four winters had passed since the death of King Olaf, and the kings of Norway at this time were Sigurd, Eystein, and Olaf. The place where the blessed Earl was slain had been previously covered with moss and stones, but shortly afterwards his merits before God became manifest in this wise, that where he was beheaded it became green sward. Thus God showed that he had suffered for righteousness sake, and had obtained the beauty and verdure of Paradise, which is called the Land of the Living. Earl Hakon did not permit his body to be brought to the church for burial.

Thora, the mother of Earl Magnus, had invited both the earls to a banquet after their meeting, and thither Earl Hakon went fresh from the murder of the holy Earl Magnus. Thora herself served at the banquet, and brought the drink to the Earl and his men, who had been present at the murder of her son. And when the drink began to have effect upon the Earl, Thora went before him and pleaded for Christian burial for her son's remains. The Earl became silent and considered her case, as she prayed so meekly, and with tears, that Maguus' body might be brought to church. Looking at his aunt, he saw the tears fall and had compassion, saying, "Bury your son where it pleases you. " Then was the Earl's body brought to Hrossey and buried in Christ's Kirk in Birsay, the cathedral church erected by Earl Thorfinn.

Soon after this a heavenly light was seen above his burial place. Men in peril began to pray to him, and their prayers were heard. A celestial odour was frequently observed above his holy grave, from which those suffering from illness received health. Then sufferers made pilgrimages thither, both from the Orkneys and Shetland, and, keeping vigils at his tomb, were cured of all their ills. But people dared not make this known while Hakon was alive. It is said of the men who were most guilty in the death of the sainted Earl, that most of them met with a miserable end. William the Old, first bishop by Romish consecration, occupied the see at this time, and had his seat at Christ's Kirk, Birsay. He was bishop for six winters of the seventh decade. He long disbelieved in the sanctity of Earl Magnus, until his merits became manifest to such a degree that God made his holiness grow the more conspicuous the more it was tried, as is told in the book of his miracles.

Earl Hakon now took possession of all the Orkneys, and exacted an oath of fealty from the Islesmen, receiving also the submission of the supporters of Earl Magnus, whom he heavily fined. Some winters after he prepared to visit Rome. From there he travelled all to Jerusalem, where, according to the custom of the palmers, he sought out the halidoms, bathed in the river Jordan, and brought away several relics from Palestine. Returning to his island realm, he resumed the government, made new laws, which the landowners preferred to the former ones, and became so popular that the Orcadians desired no other lords than Hakon and his issue. When, in advancing years, he died a natural death, it was thought a great loss, for in the latter days of his reign there was unbroken peace. Contemporary with Earl Hakon was Moddan, a wealthy noble who resided at Dale, in Caithness. Moddan had two sons, Eugus inn urvi and Ottarr jarl in Thurso, and three daughters, Helga, Frakach (Frakokk), and Thorleif. Helga was mother to Hakon of three children. Their son was Harald the Orator, and their eldest daughter Ingibiorg was married to Olaf, King of the Hebrides: while their second daughter Margaret afterwards married Maddad, Earl of Atholl. Frakach was married to Ljot the Miscreant in Sutherland, and their daughter was Steinvor the Stout, married to Thorliot at Rackwick. The sons of the latter were Olvir Rosta (the Quarreller), Magnus, Orm, and Moddan, and Einridi, and their daughter Audhild. A second daughter of Frakach was Gudrun, married to Thorstein Hold and their son was Thorbiorn Klerk, Thorleif Moddan's daughter had a daughter Guunhild, or Audhild. Hakon the Earl had another son named Paul the Silent, a reserved but popular man. After the death of Hakon he was succeeded by Harald.

NOTE - From Helga is derived the place-name Helgarie, on the Helmsdale, near Kildonan, in Sutherland.

NOTE - In Halkirk parish, Caithness, there is a field called Auchtu Haco, or Haco's field, and in the parish of Tongue a loch called Lochan Haco, in which is an isle called the Isle of Loch Haco.

NOTE - Taken in a geographical sense, St.Magnus was the last Scottish saint. Orkney and Shetland have supplied a larger number of occupants of professorial chairs in Scotland than any other county of the same size and population. [Do any other counties have the same size and poulation ?]

[From Orkneyinga Saga; Barry and Torfaeus]

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