History Files

Gaelic British Isles & Ireland

Outer Islands


Map Ynys Manau / Isle of Man

This moderate-sized island is located in the Irish Sea, midway between southern Scotland and Ulster in Ireland. The Isle of Man (or Ynys Manau to the post-Roman Britons and later Welsh) was taken by the Irish in the sixth century. Before that, for a short time, it governed the southern Picts of Galwyddel. That region was absorbed into Rheged, but became a dominion of Ynys Manau again from around 632 until circa 900, before being taken into Strathclyde.

The fate for the Isle of Man was different. It was conquered during the ninth century wave of Viking attacks, with local Viking rulers vying for control of the island against stronger forces from Viking Dublin, York and the Orkneys. Once Viking power had faded, Man became a political pawn between England and Scotland. However, it retained its identity, with the last native Manx speaker reputedly dying as recently as 1974.

fl c.400s?

Mannanan / Manawydan fab Llyr

Legendary first king of Ynys Manau.

Mannanan, or Mannanan mac Lir (Lir being the Celtic sea god), is the legendary founder of the Manx people, after whom the island is named, and the island's first king. In Celtic mythology he is the god of the sea, not necessarily surprising if he really was an early king of Man. Attributed to him are dealings with the early Irish High King, Cormac mac Airt, so it is possible that they were contemporaries.

c.485 - 550

The son of Cinuit of Alt Clut, Tutgwal Theodovellaunus, establishes himself in Galwyddel, perhaps as a legitimate division of Alt Clut on his father's death, with such a division being an entirely normal and customary practise in Celtic kingdoms.

It also seems that he and his successors rule Manau at the same time. However, if the order of succession for Alt Clut is correct, then the continual shift between two branches of the royal house may hint at a civil war or successional struggle which has since been forgotten.

Around 550, Galwyddel is invaded by Rheged and annexed to the kingdom, and the king, Sennylt, is forced to flee with his family to Ynys Manau.

c.485? - c.495

Tutgwal Theodovellaunus ap Cinuit

Son of King Cinuit of Alt Clut. Also king of Alt Clut (c.490-495).


Dingat ap Tutgwal

Son. Also in Galwyddel.

fl c.550

Sennylt ap Dingat

Son. Exiled from Galwyddel.

c.570 - c.582

Llywarch Hen of South Rheged counts Ynys Manau as part of his holdings. However, towards the later years of his reign, the Annals of Ulster record an expedition by the Ulaid (in the form of Báetán mac Cairill) to Ynys Manau. Báetán returns to Ireland in 578 after having imposed his authority on the island - temporarily as it transpires. Shortly after his death, in 582 the island is taken by the Dál Riata Scotti under Áedán mac Gabráin and may be ruled by a client king or lesser member of the ruling family. As Sennylt ap Dingat's family appear to retain their position, it must be they who become the client kings.

fl c.575

Nudd Hael ap Sennylt

Son. Client king of South Rheged and then Ulaid?


A young girl is buried in a sacred site on the island (now known as Mount Murray) that dates back to the Bronze Age. Not only is the site sacred, it is a Christian site, making this the earliest-known Christian burial on the island. There may also be a wooden chapel nearby, which is the site that is later re-used as a Viking keeill (chapel) and surrounding burial site (the latter starting in use from about the eighth century). The young girl's grave remains remarkably intact when it is excavated by archaeologists in 2006.

fl c.600

Dingad ap Nudd


It appears that at the start of the seventh century, Manau is invaded by Dál Riatan Scotti. Dingad and his family are reputed to flee their kingdom (although Manau is not specifically named) and take refuge in Gwent, where they settle in the role of minor chieftains.



Dál Riatan Scot.

620 - 633

Ynys Manau is conquered by the Bernician Northumbrians until the death of King Edwin and the resultant chaos in his kingdom allows the island to throw off any claims of Northumbrian overlordship.




Ynys Manau apparently regains the region of Galwyddel.



? - 682

Merfyn Fawr

Descended from Magnus Maximus.

682 - ?

Anarawd Gwalchcrwn






Son of Anarawd.



790 - ?

Elidyr map Sandde

Son. Heir to South Rheged. Transferred family from Powys.


Elidyr map Sandde map Alcwn map Tegid map Gwyar map Llywarch Hen is a direct descendant of the last British king of South Rheged. Elidyr's son, Gwriad, becomes king of Gwynedd in 815, still carrying the title, 'Heir to South Rheged'. Physical control of the region, however, has long since fallen to Northumbria, although southern sections may be conquered by Mercia during its ascendancy around this time.

? - 825

Gwriad map Elidyr

Son. King of Gwynedd. Fought Norse settlement invasions.

825 - 844

Merfyn Frych (Freckled) map Gwriad

Son. Offered throne of Gwynedd.


It is likely that the heirs of South Rheged abandon Ynys Manau around this time. Attacks by Danes are increasing, while at the same time they conquer a base in Ireland near the settlement of Dyflin. The attacks on Ynys Manau lead swiftly to conquest, settlement, and the founding of a Viking dynasty.

c.836 - 853

Godred I MacFergus

Hiberno-Norse Lord of the Hebrides.

c.853 - 866

Ketil Flatnose Bjarnasson

Fled his Norse homeland in Sogn.

850s - 860s

Ketil Flatnose Bjarnasson, his family, and followers flee Haraldr Hárfagri's ongoing and enforced unification of Norway. Ketil becomes ruler of the Isle of Man and much of the Hebrides, although his precise dominions are open to some question and debate. His daughter, Unn 'the Deep-Minded', marries Olaf the White, ruler of Dublin, while their son, Thorstein 'the Red', is an early jarl of the Orkneys and Caithness. Much of Ketil's clan eventually settle in Laxdaela on Iceland.

c.866 - 870

Helgi Ketilsson



The Great Army of Ivarr the Boneless, king of Dublin, are fresh from sacking the capital of Alt Clut when they venture on to invade Ynys Manau. The island falls to them in the same year and Norse vassal kings are installed.


c.870 - 880

Caitill Find Tryggvi

Sub-king under Norse Dublin rule.


King Haraldr Hárfagri campaigns across the seas to hunt down those opponents who had fled Norway in opposition to his unification of the country. They have been raiding Norway's coast since then, causing considerable damage. Haraldr has been carrying out regular summer expeditions against them, but around this year, having tired of simply chasing them away, he pursues them to their western bases.

His forces storm the islands of Hjaltland (Shetland) and clear them of hostile Vikings. Then he does the same on the Orkneys, plunders the Sudreys (Hebrides), chases down Vikings across Scotland, and finds that Vikings on the Isle of Man have fled before him. As compensation for the death in battle of Ivar, son of Jarl Ragnvald of Møre, Haraldr gives Ragnvald the Orkney and Shetland Isles. He in turn hands them to Sigurd, his brother, who remains there to govern them.

c.880 - 899

Asbjorn Skerjablesi

Sub-king under Norse Dublin rule.


Alt Clut (Strathclyde) gains control of the region of Galwyddel.

900 - 902

The isle is controlled by the Viking kingdom of Dublin, although this is disputed by the Scandinavian kingdom of York.

902 - 921

The isle is ruled directly by the Scandinavian kingdom of York.


The Scandinavian kingdom of York changes the governance of the isle by appointing client kings.

921 - 937

Gebeachan / Gibhleachan

Sub-king under Scandinavian kingdom of York rule.

937 - 942

Macragnall / Mac Ragnall

Sub-king under Scandinavian kingdom of York rule.

942 - 972

Map Manau is ruled directly by the Viking kingdom of Dublin.

972 - 977

Magnus I MacHarald

Sub-king under Norse Dublin rule.

977 - 989

Guthred / Godfred I

Sub-king under Norse Dublin rule.


From this point the isle is controlled by the Vikings of the Orkneys, who themselves are subjects of the Norwegian throne.

989 - 999

Harald I

Sub-king under Norse Orkney rule.

999 - c.1000

Godfred II

Sub-king under Norse Orkney rule.

c.1000 - 1005

Ragnald I Godfredson

Sub-king under Norse Orkney rule.

1005 - c.1014

Kenneth Godfredson

Sub-king under Norse Orkney rule.

c.1014 - 1034

Sven / Swein Kennethson

Sub-king under Norse Orkney rule.

early 1000s

The Vikings on Man convert to Christianity, and the island quickly contains up to two hundred keeills (a derivation of the word chapel) that are built at the centre of Viking burial sites that themselves have been in use as far back as the eighth century. The keeill at Mount Murray is the only one to survive untouched into the modern age so that it can be excavated by archaeologists. The rest of Man's keeills are dug up, mostly by Victorian antiquaries. The keeill is a small stone chapel with turf wall buttresses, while the burials lay outside a ditch that surrounds the keeill. Many keeill sites re-use pre-existing burial sites, and they remain in use until about the twelfth century.

1034? - 1038

Manau again falls under the control of the Viking kingdom of Dublin.

c.1034 - 1052

Harald II Svarte the Black

Sub-king under Norse Dublin rule.

1052 - 1061

Margad MacRagnald / Ragnallson

Also king of Dublin (1036-38 & 1046-52). Sub-king under Dublin.

1061 - 1070

Murchaid MacDairmit

Also king of Dublin (1052-1070).

1070 - 1079

Fingal Godfredson

Sub-king under Norse Dublin rule.


The Norse kings of Man & the Isles establish independent control under distant Scandinavian overlordship when Godred invades the island three times and, following two defeats, he seizes control. He establishes the 'Kingdom of Man & The Isles'. Then he turns his attentions to conquering Dublin.

1079 - 1095

Godred II / Godfred IV / Godric Crovan

King of Dublin (1091?-1094). 'King Orry of Man'.

c.1091 - 1094

The Annals of Ulster record that the grandsons of Ragnall, the kings of Dublin, are killed on an expedition to attack Ynys Manau. Godred Crovan, in turn invades Dublin and takes the kingship until he too is kicked out. He dies the following year.

A Viking longboat
The attack and conquest of Dublin by Godred Crovan would have been launched from longboats just like this

1095 - 1102

Magnus II Barfod / Barefoot / Barelegs

King of Norway, and Dublin (1102-1103).


Olav I

Probably a sub-king under Magnus II.

1096 - 1098


Probably a sub-king under Magnus II.

1098 - 1103

Magnus 'Barefoot' is the first aggressive king of Norway since the reign of his grandfather, Harald Hardrade. Having secured his throne at home in these years he goes campaigning in and around the Irish Sea. Orkney, the Hebrides, and Man are all raided, and his authority there is agreed through treaty with King Edgar 'the Valiant' of Scotland. Man remains loosely controlled by the Vikings of the Orkneys once Magnus no longer requires it for his base of operations.

1102 - 1104


Son of Godred IV. Died 1111.

1104 - 1130


1114 - 1115

Domnall mac Teige

1115 - 1137

Murchadh O'Brian

1137 - 1153

Olav II Bitling the Red

1153 - 1158

Godred III / V the Black

1158 - 1164


Lord of the Isles (1140-1164). Ancestor of Clan MacDonald.


The Isles break away from Man and become an independent kingdom.


Godred III / V the Black



Ragnald / Reginald the Usurper

Died c.1210.

1164 - 1187

Godred III / V the Black

Restored for a second time.

1187 - 1226

Ragnald / Reginald I


Man passes from the overlordship of the Scandinavian crown to that of the Scottish crown.

1226 - 1237

Olav II Odhar the Black


Godred IV the Brown

1237 - 1248

Harold I

1249 - 1249

Ragnald / Reginald II

Viking. Killed.

1249 - 1250

Harold II

1250 - 1252


1252 - 1265

Magnus III

Viking. Scot-controlled.

1263 - 1275

King Alexander III of Scotland successfully defeats an invasion by Haakon of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263. Following this, the Treaty of Perth transfers the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to Scotland from Norway. From this point the Isle of Man is controlled directly from either Scotland or England, as the two nations vie for power.


The son of Magnus III is Godfrey Magnuson. He attempts to seize the island by force, but the Battle of Ronaldsway, near Castletown, forever ends Manx independence.


Godfrey Magnuson / Godred VI

Last king (but uncrowned). Illegitimate son of Magnus.

1275 - 1290

Man is under the control of Scotland.

1290 - 1293

Man is under the control of England.

1293 - 1296

Man is under the control of Scotland.

1296 - 1313

Man is under the control of England.

1313 - 1317

Man is under the control of Scotland.

1317 - 1328

Man is under the control of England.

1328 - 1333

Man is under the control of Scotland, until it is retaken by Edward III of England.

King of the Isles of Man
AD 1334 - 1765

The Isle of Man passed to Edward III of England in 1333. Edward invested local authority in the earl of Salisbury and his descendants. While not kings themselves, the unchanged traditions on the island titled them as such, and gave them all the royal trappings that had been accorded to their Viking predecessors.

1334 - 1344

William I

William Montague, earl of Salisbury.

1344 - 1393

William II

Earl of Salisbury. Died 1397.

1393 - 1399

William III

William le Scrope.


William le Scrope constructs Peel Castle on the coastal St Patrick's Isle. The islet site is already covered in ruins which date back to around 1000, while the castle itself replaces an earlier Viking structure built between 1095-1102 during the reign of King Magnus Barelegs.

Peel Castle on the Isle of Man
Shown here is Peel Castle, home of the latter-day 'Kings of the Isle of Man' on an island which had long been buffeted between overlords

1399 - 1405

Henry I

Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland. Died 1408.

1405 - 1414

John I

Sir John Stanley KG. Lord lieutenant of Ireland (1389). Died.

1414 - 1437

John II

1437 - 1459

Thomas I

Thomas Stanley, Baron Stanley from 1456.

1459 - 1504

Thomas II

Earl of Derby from 1485.


The title of 'King of the Isles of Man' is relinquished (officially), to be replaced with 'Lord of the Isles of Man'.

1504 - 1521

Thomas III

Earl of Derby.

1521 - 1572


Earl of Derby.

1572 - 1593

Henry II

Earl of Derby.

1593 - 1594


Earl of Derby.

1594 - 1610

The Isle of Man is confiscated by the English Crown.

1610 - 1612

William IV

Earl of Derby.

1612 - 1627


1627 - 1651

James I

Earl of Derby.

1651 - 1660

The Protectorate and Commonwealth of Britain takes direct control of the island, appointing a Puritan governor for most of the duration of its existence. Following the Restoration, the earls of Derby are reappointed to govern Man.

1651 - 1660

Thomas Fairfax

Puritan Governor.

1660 - 1672


Earl of Derby.

1672 - 1702

William V

Earl of Derby.

1702 - 1736

James II

Earl of Derby.

1736 - 1764

James III

James Murray, duke of Atholl.

1764 - 1765

John III

Duke of Atholl. Died 1774.


John III, the final 'King of the Isles of Man' is pressured by the English crown into relinquishing the title in return for a substantial payment. Direct authority passes to the Crown, and the rampant smuggler trade which has made the most of the island's independence is suppressed by governors.

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