|Earl of Orkney|
|Title held||? to 963|
|Native name||Þorfinnr hausakljúfr - Thorfinn Skull-splitter|
|Noble family||Norse Earls of Orkney|
Arnfinn, Havard, Hlodvir, Ljot, Skuli and 2 daughters
Thorfinn Torf-Einarssonalso known as Thorfinn Skull-splitter (from the Old Norse Þorfinnr hausakljúfr) was a 10th-century Earl of Orkney. He appears in the Orkneyinga saga and briefly in St Olaf's Saga , as incorporated into the Heimskringla . These stories were first written down in Iceland in the early 13th century and much of the information they contain is "hard to corroborate".
Thorfinn was the youngest son of Torf-Einarr, himself the son of Rognvald Eysteinsson, the first Earl of Orkney. Torf-Einarr had two other sons, Arnkel and Erlend who "fell in a war expedition"at an unspecified location in England along with Erik Bloodaxe. Erik's widow, Gunnhildr then fled north to Orkney with her sons who used the islands as a base for summer raiding expeditions.
Thorfinn had five sons: Arnfinn, Havard, Hlodvir, Ljot, and Skuli. Their mother was Grelad, a daughter of "Earl Dungad of Caithness" and Groa, herself a daughter of Thorstein the Red.Grelad's Norse credentials were thus impressive, but it has been suggested that her connection to this "earl" of Caithness may have been more important for the Orkney earldom. It is likely that Dungad was a member of a pre-Norse era ruling family and that the marriage brought Groa's descendants within the Celtic derbfine and helped to legitimise their ambitions on the north mainland of Scotland. Thorfinn and Grelod also had two daughters whose names are not known, each of whom had a son called Einar - Einar kliningr ("Buttered-bread") and Einar harðkjotr ("Hard-mouth").
Gunnhildr and her family later set out for Norway, but before they left they "gave" their daughter Ragnhild Eriksdotter to Arnfinn Thorfinnsson in marriage.In the later days of Thorfinn's rule, the sons of Eric Bloodaxe fled Norway and returned to Orkney where they "committed great excesses".
Thorfinn Torf-Einarsson lived to be an old manand may have died c. 963 "on a bed of sickness". He is said to have been buried at the broch site at Howe of Hoxa on South Ronaldsay. According to St Olaf's Saga his sons became Earls after him but the earldom was then beset by dynastic strife.
Ragnhild had her husband Arnfinn killed at Murkle in Caithness and married his brother Havard "Harvest-happy"who then ruled as earl for a time. Not content with this new arrangement Ragnhild then conspired with her nephew Einar kliningr, who killed Havard at the battle of Havarðsteiger near Stenness. Einar and Ragnhild then fell out and the latter persuaded Einar harðkjotr to attack and kill his cousin Einar kliningr in turn. Ragnhild's ambitions were still not assuaged and this "female spider" then colluded with Ljot Thorfinnson whom she married and then he had the second Einar killed. Having now married three of Thorfinn's sons in succession no more is told of Ragnhild and Ljot became earl and an "excellent leader".
Skuli gave allegiance to the Scots king who gave him the title Earl of Orkney but he never gained control of the islands, being killed in battle against Ljot in the Dales of Caithness at which Ljot "fought like a hero". Ljot then took control of Caithness but this angered the Scots and MacBeth, the Mormaer of Moray, brought a large army north. They engaged in battle at Skitten Mire (now called the Moss of Killimister) near Wickand although outnumbered Ljot had the victory. However he later died of wounds suffered there and "people thought it a great loss". Hlodvir then became earl and "ruled alone over this country". Hlodvir ruled well and married Eithne, daughter of Kjarvalr, King of Ireland. Hlodvir died in his bed and was buried at Ham in Caithness. He was succeeded as earl by his son Sigurd.
The modern Orcadian beer Skull Splitter is named after Thorfinn.
Kjarvalr Írakonungr appears in the Landnámabók and has been identified as Cerball mac Dúnlainge, King of Osraige who died in 888. There is clearly a chronological problem with Earl Hlodvir, whose son Sigurd was killed at Clontarf in 1014, marrying the daughter of a king who died more than 120 years before that. Furthermore, Thorstein "the Red" Olafsson (fl. late 9th century and Hlodvir's great grandfather) was apparently married to a granddaughter of Kjarvalr. Woolf (2007) concludes that the saga writers may have confused this story about the provenance of Sigurd Hlodvirsson with one about Thorstein, a close ally of Sigurd Eysteinsson.
Thomson (2008) concludes that there is "no real reason to trust the details of this bloodthirsty story" about Thorfinn's children, and speculates about the saga writer's intentions.The joint rulership of earls was a recurring theme in the period up to 1214 and was "inherently unstable and usually ended in violence". He identifies these family feuds as being the main theme of the Orkneyinga saga, culminating in the martyrdom of St Magnus c.1115, and that the writer is emphasising the doom of "kin-slaying". The connection with Erik Bloodaxe may also have been made to illustrate the continuing influence of the Norwegian ruling families in Orcadian affairs, which lessened in the late 10th century when Scandinavian expeditions tended to be directed towards England "by-passing Orkney and allowing the earls greater scope for independent action". In this context Ragnhild may have been not so much the cause of the Thorfinsson's troubles as the "prize for the winner".
Although he never became de facto earl, Skuli Thorfinsson's relationship with the Scots offers some insight into the politics of the north of Scotland in the late tenth century. In the Orkneyinga saga it is claimed that he requested the support of the "king of Scots" for his claim to Caithness.However it is far from certain that the kings of Scots were in a position to offer any authority so far north at this time. The Irish annalists referred to the rulers of Moray by the title Ri Alban and it is possible that the saga writer meant the former by this term. Crawford (1987) suggests that "if the late ninth-century conquest of northern Scotland by Thorstein the Red and Sigurd the Mighty had indeed led to permanent colonies in Caithness and along the coastal areas of Sutherland, then the late tenth century struggle may have been a result of aggression from the Scottish side in an attempt to regain control of the northernmost province of the Scottish mainland".
Macbeth was King of Scots from 1040 until his death. He ruled over only a portion of present-day Scotland.
The Orkneyinga saga is a historical narrative of the history of the Orkney and Shetland islands and their relationship with other local polities, particularly Norway and Scotland. The saga has "no parallel in the social and literary record of Scotland" and is "the only medieval chronicle to have Orkney as the central place of action". The main focus of the work is the line of jarls who ruled the Earldom of Orkney, which constituted the Norðreyjar or Northern Isles of both Orkney and Shetland and there are frequent references to both archipelagoes throughout.
Rognvald Eysteinsson was the founding Jarl of Møre in Norway, and a close relative and ally of Harald Fairhair, the earliest known King of Norway. In the Norse language he is known as Rǫgnvaldr Eysteinsson (Mærajarl) and in modern Norwegian as Ragnvald Mørejarl. He is sometimes referred to with bynames that may be translated into modern English as "Rognvald the Wise" or "Rognvald the Powerful".
The Earl of Orkney was originally a Norse jarl ruling the archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland (Norðreyjar). Originally founded by Norse invaders, the status of the rulers of the Norðreyjar as Norwegian vassals was formalised in 1195. Although the Old Norse term jarl is etymologically related to "earl", and the jarls were succeeded by earls in the late 15th century, a Norwegian jarl is not the same thing. In the Norse context the distinction between jarls and kings did not become significant until the late 11th century and the early jarls would therefore have had considerable independence of action until that time. The position of Jarl of Orkney was eventually the most senior rank in mediaeval Norway except for the king himself.
Einarr Rognvaldarson often referred to by his byname Torf-Einarr, was one of the Norse earls of Orkney. The son of the Norse jarl, Rognvald Eysteinsson and a concubine, his rise to power is related in sagas which apparently draw on verses of Einarr's own composition for inspiration. After battling for control of the Northern Isles of Scotland and a struggle with Norwegian royalty, Einarr founded a dynasty which retained control of the islands for centuries after his death.
Thorfinn Sigurdsson, also known as Thorfinn the Mighty, was an 11th-century Earl of Orkney. He was the youngest of five sons of Earl Sigurd Hlodvirsson and the only one resulting from Sigurd's marriage to a daughter of Malcolm II of Scotland. He ruled alone as earl for about a third of the time that he held the title and jointly with one or more of his brothers or with his nephew Rögnvald Brusason for the remainder. Thorfinn married Ingibiorg Finnsdottir, daughter of Finn Arnesson, Jarl of Halland.
Sigurd Hlodvirsson, popularly known as Sigurd the Stout from the Old Norse Sigurðr digri, was an Earl of Orkney. The main sources for his life are the Norse Sagas, which were first written down some two centuries or more after his death. These engaging stories must therefore be treated with caution rather than as reliable historical documents.
Harald Maddadsson 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, he was a significant figure in northern Scotland, and played a prominent part in Scottish politics of the twelfth century. The Orkneyinga Saga names him one of the three most powerful Earls of Orkney along with Sigurd Eysteinsson and Thorfinn Sigurdsson.
The Mormaer of Caithness was a vassal title mostly held by members of the Norwegian nobility based in Orkney from the Viking Age until 1350. The mormaerdom was held as fief of Scotland and the title was frequently held by the Norse Earls of Orkney, who were thus a vassal of both the King of Norway and the King of Scots. There is no other example in the history of either Norway or of Scotland in which a dynasty of earls owed their allegiance to two different kings.
Sigurd Eysteinsson or Sigurd the Mighty was the second Earl of Orkney – a title bequeathed to Sigurd by his brother Rognvald Eysteinsson. A son of Eystein Glumra, Sigurd was a leader in the Viking conquest of what is now northern Scotland.
Hlodvir Thorfinnsson, was a Viking leader who served as Jarl of Orkney, overseeing the Northern Isles from about 980 to 987. He is mentioned in the Orkneyinga saga, as well as in the sagas of Óláfr Tryggvason and St. Olaf. Beyond the saga records of Hlodvir, little verifiable information is known.
Brusi Sigurdsson was one of Sigurd Hlodvirsson's four sons. He was joint Earl of Orkney from 1014. His life is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.
Einar Sigurdsson, also called Einarr rangmunnr Sigurðarson or Einar Wry-Mouth, was a son of Sigurd Hlodvirsson. He was jointly Earl of Orkney from 1014. His life is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.
Rognvald Brusason , son of Brusi Sigurdsson, was Earl of Orkney jointly with Thorfinn Sigurdsson from about 1037 onwards. His life is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.
Paul Thorfinnsson and Erlend Thorfinnsson were brothers who ruled together as Earls of Orkney. Paul and Erlend were the sons of Thorfinn Sigurdsson and Ingibiorg Finnsdottir. Through Ingibiorg's father Finn Arnesson and his wife, the family was related to the Norwegian Kings Olav II and Harald II. They are both described as "tall, handsome men, shrewd and gentle, taking rather more after their mother's side of the family. Their lives and times are recounted in the Orkneyinga Saga, which was first written down in the early 13th century by an unknown Icelandic author.
Haakon Paulsson was a Norwegian Jarl (1105–1123) and jointly ruled the Earldom of Orkney with his cousin Magnus Erlendsson. Their lives and times are recounted in the Orkneyinga Saga, which was first written down in the early 13th century by an unknown Icelandic author.
Karl Hundason, also Karl Hundisson, is a personage in the Orkneyinga Saga. The saga recounts a war between Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney, and Karl, whom it calls king of Scots. The question of his identity and historicity has been debated by historians of Scotland and the Northern Isles for more than a century. However a literal translation suggests that the name may simply be an insult.
Ragnhild Eriksdotter was the daughter of Eric Bloodaxe and his wife, Gunnhild. According to the Orkneyinga Saga, she was an ambitious and scheming woman who sought power through the men of the family of Thorfinn Torf-Einarsson, who was Earl of Orkney. The period after Thorfinn's death was one of dynastic strife.
Scandinavian Scotland refers to the period from the 8th to the 15th centuries during which Vikings and Norse settlers, mainly Norwegians and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, and their descendants colonised parts of what is now the periphery of modern Scotland. Viking influence in the area commenced in the late 8th century, and hostility between the Scandinavian Earls of Orkney and the emerging thalassocracy of the Kingdom of the Isles, the rulers of Ireland, Dál Riata and Alba, and intervention by the crown of Norway were recurring themes.
Helga Moddansdóttir was the mistress of Haakon Paulsson who was Earl of Orkney from 1105–1123.