History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: $213

Target: $420

Totals slider

The History Files is a non-profit site. It is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and your help is still very much needed. Please make a small donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your incredible support really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Northern Europe


Norway (Norge) (Scando-Germanic)
Incorporating the Eunix, Ranii, & Taetel

FeatureMuch of the area which makes up modern Norway has been occupied since the end of the last ice age by Sámi groups and the preceding hunter-gathers clans which they absorbed. Following the arrival in the third millennium of Finno-Ugric tribes (which added Kvens and Finns to the mix) and then also Indo-Europeans, the southern section of Norway became home to various Germanic groups, ancestors of today's Scandinavians alongside the absorbed indigenous populations.

The birth of the modern Norwegian nation took place following the Viking period, along with the simultaneous arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia and Fennoscandia. Before that, the Scandinavians were contained entirely within the southernmost third of Sweden and Norway. The rest was part of a poorly-defined territory known as Kvenland, which stretched all the way east into modern Russia (see the feature link, right, for an examination of the origins of 'Scandinavia' as a name).

What is known today as Norway (or Norge to its own inhabitants) began as Norvegr, meaning 'the way north'. Following the gradual unification of the country from various petty Norse kingdoms it came to be called 'Noregr'. During the Middle Ages this gradually became 'Noreg' before ending up with the current 'Norge'. Another, rarer name during the Viking period was 'Norrmannaland', land of the northmen, but this was used mainly by foreigners.

As with Denmark and Sweden, the rulers of Norway (the Norsemen) emerged from legendary origins. There are less ambiguities and contradictions in Norway's reignal list than there are in Sweden's, probably because it starts much later in time (with the exception of Sæming of Hålogaland and Lade). The only uncertainty here is over the first known ruler, who is ascribed two sets of dates by differing sources. It seems to be fairly certain that Norway's royal line was founded by a refugee king from the early kingdom of the Swedes, fleeing his homeland during a period of Danish superiority.

In the timeline below, alternative dates are shown in red text alongside relevant entries. Rulers with a lilac backing are semi-mythical. Halfdan the Black is the earliest confirmed ruler of large swathes of Norway, and his resting place is usually assigned to a large burial mound in Norway. Those kings who ruled before him are generally though to have controlled only limited parts of modern Norway, and sometimes only very small areas of territory. However, if the list of names is to be believed then the small, regional kingdom which was founded by the aforementioned Swedish exile was the birthplace of Norway's monarchy.

This regional kingdom bordered the native inhabitants of Kvenland until late in the Viking age, when it began to expand northwards. The Norwegians assimilated the westernmost section of this territory much more quickly than the neighbouring Swedes could absorb 'their' part of it, although the people in Hålogaland may have been coastal migrant Norse from an early point, or possible early descendants of ancient Kvens, or most likely a mixture of the two.

It was the mid-sixth century Eastern Roman historian, Jordanes, who mentioned various tribes in central and southern Norway. These included the Adogit, Arochi, Augandzi, Eunixi, Grannii, Ranii, Raumarici, Rugii, and Taetel. Most of them are covered on pages which detail later kingdoms in the relevant regions.

Three, though, are harder to pin down or link to later kingdoms. The 'eu' of the Eunix is in other spellings shown as a 'y' such as, for example, the Eudos, better known as Jutes but without the French 'j' sound, and a 'y' sound instead: 'Yutes'. So the Eunixi may instead have been the Yunik, Yunek, Yunec, Iunik, or similar. Attempts to pinpoint their location seem to place them close to - or within - the later borders of Rogaland. Rudolf rules the Ranii until he went to seek adventure, while the Taetel name probably contains an '-el' suffix, leaving 'Taet'. Generally, t-[vowels]-t is the sound pattern used by the Teutons, but that name breaks down as 'teut' plus '-on' (definite article), meaning 'the teut' (the tribe, or the family).


(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson and Andreas von Millwall, from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frækna, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), and from External Links: Kvenland (a detailed overview of the existence of Kvenland before it was absorbed into Norway, Sweden, and Finland, although with some content which is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Icelandic, Faeroese, Old Norse (Symbol Codes).)

Nori / Nór / Norr

Son of Danp, who was the brother-in-law of Domar of Upsal.

Nori is the legendary founder of the kingdom of Norway. He is mentioned in several medieval Scandinavian texts, which establish that he is either the son of Danp (who himself is the brother-in-law of Domar of Upsal), or one of the sons of King Ypper of Upsal (the other two being Dan, who later rules Denmark, and Østen, who later rules the Swedes (possibly the Östen of the late sixth century)).

Geilo in eastern Norway
Norway's origins lie in regional petty kingdoms which were challenged in the mid-seventh century by an exiled member of the Swedish royal house, with full unification being the eventual outcome

Nori is also claimed as a descendant of King Fornjótr of Kvenland. Perhaps he represents the beginnings of any notable kingship in Norway. However, apart from the tribes mentioned in the Old English poem Widsith, the first kingdoms are petty, coastal territories such as Agder, Hålogaland, Oppland (this being the exception in that it is inland), Ringerike, and Rogaland.

Unfortunately the name Nór or any of its variants is quite preposterous. It means 'north'. Even the modern name of Norway is a good translation of Nor∂vegr, the 'north way'. The name refers to a sea lane which heads into the north. All long distance travel in early Norway was by boat. The word 'nor∂' simply means 'north' while 'veg' means 'way'. They are exact cognates.


Son. Ruler in south-western Norway. Possibly in Thelemark?

fl late 400s

Gard Agdi / Garðr Agði

Brother. Father of the founder of Rogaland.


The Swedish princes, Jorund and his brother Eric, remain on their warships while Hugliek is king of the Swedes, and they prove to be great warriors. They maraud in Norway where they fight and capture King Gudlog of Hålogaland, an early appearance of Norsemen in this northern territory which must have been occupied solely by Kvens until very recently. The princes hang Gudlog at Stomones and allow his men to raise a mound over him.


The Germanic Gloms are mentioned in the Old English poem Widsith. They are probably located along the River Glomma (or Glåma) in south-western Norway - the country's longest river. Seemingly no sixth or seventh century Norse kingdom emerges which bears a variant of their name, making it possible that their tribal territory is later cut up into segments by various kingdom creations. The Heatho-Reams are also mentioned, who form the later kingdom of Raumarike.

Map of Scandinavia c.AD 100
Part of the reason behind the relatively late appearance of Norse petty kingdoms could be its comparative remoteness from the core Germanic settlement and early incubation region to the east, as demonstrated by this map of around AD 100 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

early 500s

Roduulf / Rodwulf

King of the Ranii. Abandoned them to join the Ostrogoths.


According to Jordanes, the tribe of the Adogit live in the far north, while the Grannii (Grenland), Augandzi (Agder), Eunixi, Taetel, Rugii (Rogaland), Arochi (Hördaland, possibly linked to the Charudes), and Ranii occupy central and southern Norway at this time, along with the Raumarici (the later kingdom of Raumarike) close to modern Oslo.

Roduulf rules the Ranii until, apparently despising his own kingdom and seeking adventure (or perhaps being exiled and forever bitter about it!), he flees to join Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths. The Adogit of the far north could be a form of háleygir, possibly linking them to the later petty Norse kingdom of Hålogaland, which is probably still part of Kvenland at this time outside of a few coastal ports.

fl c.580s


(A) 'King of Norway', according to Saxo Grammaticus.

According to Saxo Grammaticus, Koll is killed by Horvendil, Danish governor or prince of Jutland. He appears to be only one of several minor kings in Norway. A series of petty kingdoms seem to have sprung up along the south-western coastline of Norway by this time.

Jutland was governed as a principality during the early Danish period in the Cimbric peninsula, but may have begun life as an independent Danish kingdom

Many of the kings of these early kingdoms are known primarily from early Norse sagas, supplemented by patches of other surviving information. Some of this, such as the writings of Saxo Grammaticus, probably uses the sagas as their basis, or at least tries to make sense of some of the more mythological episodes in the sagas.

Petty Kingdoms (Norway)

The birth of the modern Norwegian nation took place following the Viking age, along with the simultaneous arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia and Fennoscandia. Initial settlement and the spread of the early kingdoms largely followed the rivers, with inland areas being only sparsely inhabited. During this early emergence, the Scandinavians were contained entirely within the southernmost third of Sweden and Norway. The rest was part of a poorly-defined (and poorly understood) territory known as Kvenland, which stretched all the way east into modern Russia. As with early Denmark and Sweden, the rulers of Norway (the Norsemen) emerged from legendary origins, but the royal house which eventually dominated was probably founded by a refugee noble from the kingdom of the Swedes, fleeing his homeland during a period of Danish superiority.

All of the kings of early Norway are known primarily from Norse sagas, supplemented by patches of other surviving information. Some of this, such as the writings of Saxo Grammaticus, probably used the sagas as their basis, or at least tried to make sense of some of the more mythological episodes in the sagas. Despite this, the mist around early events can be parted to reveal a list of petty kings of Norway and their various heroic deeds. Shown below are some names which cannot be placed in definite kingdoms, but where those kingdoms can be properly documented all of the relevant regional information is shown there. These kingdoms include Agder, Alfheim, Finnmark, Firdafylke, Hadeland, Hallingdal, Hålogaland, Hedmark, Hördaland, Møre, Naumudal, Oppland, Ramsta, Raumarike, Ringerike, Rogaland, Sogn, Solor, Söndmör, Thelemark, Throndhjem, Värmland, Vestfold, Vestmar, Vingulmark, and Voss.

None of the sagas are especially strict with their chronology, making any firm dating of kings next to impossible. As an example, Hrólf Kraki of the Danes is claimed in Gautreks saga as a contemporary of Adils of the Swedes. Vikar, king of Agder in Norway is also claimed as a contemporary, seemingly contradicting other mentions of him which seem to place him a century later. Gautrek himself, king of Götland, is also placed in the same generation as Adils, and is thought to flourish around the 620s. Chronology is clearly not especially strict in the sagas.


(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson and Andreas von Millwall, from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frækna, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), and from External Links: Kvenland (a detailed overview of the existence of Kvenland before it was absorbed into Norway, Sweden, and Finland, although with some content which is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Visit Norway.)

c.600 - 630?

Following the death of Stóvirk (Stórvirkr), his son Starkad is brought up in the court of Harald, king of Agder, along with Harald's son, Víkar. King Herthjóf (Herþjófr) of Hördaland makes a surprise attack on the kingdom one night and kills Harald, taking Víkar hostage so that the young king's subjects remain subjugated. Herthjóf is the grandson of Fridthjóf the Bold, the main protagonist in Fridthjófs saga ins frækna. Vikar waits some years before gathering some men and striking back, killing Herthjóf and regaining his kingdom, along with some of the lands of his fallen oppressor.

Troll's Tongue (Trolltunga)
The 'Troll's Tongue' (Trolltunga) is a remarkable geological feature which lies in the Odda municipality of modern Norway, part of a county by the name of Hördaland - inherited from the Norse kingdom of the same name

Now that he has been restored to his rightful inheritance, Vikar of Agder kills Herthjóf's brother, King Geirthjóf of Oppland, at the First Battle of Telemark. He also gains Thelemark itself from Geirthjóf's other brother, Fridthjóf, after the Second Battle of Telemark. In this Vikar is aided by King Óláf the 'Keen-Eyed' of Nærríki in Sweden and by Starkad. Unfortunately, Vikar is subsequently killed by Starkad in order that the latter might 'gain the blessings of Odin', which sounds suspiciously like an attempted coup.


The Swedes control of areas of Norway at this time, suggesting increasing Swedish power, but also the likelihood that there is something worth conquering and ruling in Norway. Many minor kingdoms are known, but little is recorded of their history or rulers outside of early sagas until they come into contact with the Yngling kings, and are subsequently conquered or absorbed.

623 - 647?

Ingjald Illrade

Son of Anund of Upsal. King of (part of) Norway and Sweden.

fl c.620s


King of Aatundaland. A minor king. No successor?

fl c.620s

Yngvar / Ingvar

King of Fiadryndaland. A minor king. Successor?


At a time at which the kings of the Denes are conquering his homeland, Olaf Tretelgia is said to flee the Swedish kingdom and, settling in Norway, founds its first (historical) royal house. However, although perhaps dominant in Norway, Olaf cannot be said to be the ruler of a single kingdom. Instead he creates a kingdom on the border between modern Norway and Sweden called Värmland.

Värmland in Sweden
Today Värmland is located in western-central Sweden, but in the Viking age it was a border territory which was often more Norse than Swedish

The historical existence of his descendants of the eighth and early ninth centuries is doubted by some scholars, but the names probably reflect real persons, even if the stories surrounding them may be fanciful. It is Olaf's line which soon marries into the ruling family in the nascent Vestfold kingdom to dominate Norway.

fl c.655 - ?

Olaf / Olav Tretelgia ('Tree-cutter')

Former king of the Yngling Swedes. Founded Värmland.


Hedmark borders the kingdom of the Swedes in the south-east of Norway, (the north-eastern section of modern Østlandet). The kingdom is now either conquered by Halfdan Hvitbeinn (son of Olaf Tretelgia) or he gains it following the death of his father-in-law, Eystein Haardaade, king of Oppland. On its western flank Oppland also borders Hedmark ('opp' or 'upp' meaning highlands or upper countries, the highlands next to Hedmark).

fl c.660s?

Ingjald Olafsson / Ingiald

Son. King of Värmland. Died.


Starting out from his stronghold in Soløyjar, Halfdan Hvitbeinn becomes one of pre-unification Norway's most powerful kings. Having obtained Hedmark and then Oppland, he also conquers Hadeland, Toten (a minor kingdom within Oppland), and part of Vestfold. In addition he inherits Värmland (which had been founded by Olaf Tretelgia on the border between the Swedes and Norway about AD 655) upon the death of his half-brother, Ingjald Olafsson.

late 7th century

Halfdan Hvitbeinn / Halfdan I 'Whitelegs'

Brother. King of Hedmark. m Åsa, dau of Eystein of Oppland.


The original line of 'kings' of Kvenland ends with the father of Gor Thorrasson 'Sea King'. The appellation of 'Sea King' to subsequent names, from Gor to his great-grandson, Sveidi, suggests that they lose or surrender their inheritance as Kven kings and rule the seas instead, eventually ending up as minor lords in Norway.

Map of Norway
This map shows a host of the many petty Norwegian kingdoms in eighth and ninth century Scandinavia, most of them arranged along the coastline, although penetration into the interior is clearly beginning (click or tap on map to view full sized)


King of Varna. A 'great warlock'.

fl c.700s

Eystein I Halfdansson / Eystein Vart

Son of Halfdan. King of Raumarike. m Hilde, dau of Eric.

Eystein may inherit the thrones of Raumarike and Vestfold from his father-in-law, Eric Agnarson of the Vestfold kingdom. However, his own expansionist skills prove to be limited, and he is killed by Skjöld (apparently a great warlock) while pillaging in Varna (location unknown).

Vestmar (Westmare or Grenland) is a minor coastal kingdom which is part of the larger region of Grænafylket (or Grenafylket), situated within the modern county of Telemark (formerly Thelemark) in the south-west of Norway. Dag's daughter, Liv, marries Halfdan hinn Mildi, son of Eystein Vart and king of Raumarike and Vestfold. Vestmar is seemingly added to Halfdan's territory, probably upon Dag's death. Called 'the Mild' he apparently well rewards his followers with gold where other kings would use silver, but is a parsimonious host at the feasting table.


Kvens and Norse cooperate in battling against the invading Karelians, according to Egil's Saga, written around 1240. This is not the same event as the battle of about 873 which includes Faravid of the Kvens.

Despite occasional descriptive references from early writers such as Tacitus, pre-Viking Kvenland is shrouded in the mystery of a people with no writing and a lost oral tradition

late 8th century

Halfdan II hinn Mildi / Halfdan 'the Mild'

Son of Eystein. King of Raumarike & Vestfold. Died in bed.


A series of rulers are ascribed to Jutland for this period, between the late eighth century to the mid-ninth, and seemingly following a gap in the known rulers of the region. It is unclear who they are and from where they originate until the title 'King of Vestfold-Jutland' appears in genealogies.

The Vestfold kingdom is Norse, lying almost directly north of Jutland across the Skagerrak strait which is fed from the North Sea. Also at this time the Danish kingdom is somewhat weak and fractured, not even having fully unified yet. It would seem likely that Vestfold has expanded its reach into territory which the Danes - to date - have never really controlled.

c.804 - c.810

Gudröd / Gudrod 'the Magnificent'

Son. King of Raumarike & Vestfold.


Alfheim is a minor entity between the Glomma and Göta älv rivers which also incorporates at least the southern section of the province of Bohuslän. It also seems to have gained all of Vingulmark (although possibly not until the accession of Alfarin Gandalfsson).

Alfarin's daughter is Alfhild, who marries Gudröd, king of Raumarike and Vestfold. Thanks to this marriage, Gudröd inherits half of Vingulmark (bordering the settlement of Raumarike, although the use of 'settlement' would suggest that Raumarike is not yet sufficiently important enough to be labelled a kingdom). This territory also includes the site of the country's later capital, Oslo, and later archaeological finds suggest the region is an important centre of power.

River Glomma
The modern River Glomma in Norway was known by the Vikings as the Raum, marking Aflheim's northern border, although much of the originally-Norwegian territory to the south-east of this was lost to Sweden in 1658


Gudröd's wife dies during his reign, so he sends warriors to propose a marriage to Åsa, the daughter of King Harald Grunraude of Agder. Harald refuses, so Gudröd takes her by force, killing Harald and his son, Gyrd (or Gyrder), in the process.

However, a year after becoming father to Halfdanr Svarti, Gudröd is murdered by Åsa's page boy (on Åsa's orders). The queen returns to Agder to raise her son while the boy's half brother by Gudröd, Olaf, inherits the southern half of Gudröd's kingdom, as well as the Vestfold. Álfgeir of Alfheim restores the full control of Vingulmark by his family and places his son, Gandalf, in command there.

There is a question over whether Åsa's father, Harald Grunraude, still reigns in Agder, as her son, Halfdanr, has to conquer it in his early years. Harold is known to have been killed by Gudröd, so perhaps Halfdanr's elder half-brother, Olaf Geirstade, still rules it until the late 820s.

c.810 - 840

Olaf Gudrodsson Geirstad-Alf

Elder son. King of Raumarike, Bohuslän, & Vestfold.


At the age of eighteen or nineteen, Halfdanr Svarti has already gained half of Vestfold, having divided the territory with his half-brother, Olaf Gudrodsson. Then he reconquers Agder before pursuing an aggressive policy of expanding his kingdom further. He subsequently persuades Gandalf of Vingulmark to cede him half of that kingdom (possibly through intimidation).

c.827? - 863

Halfdanr Svarti / Halfdan III 'the Black'

Son. King of Agder & Vestfold. Died crossing a frozen ford.

c.830s - 840s

Over the course of his long reign, Halfdanr builds up an impressive list of conquests. He takes Sogn in the 830s, after the king's daughter, Ragnhild, becomes his first wife, and also mother to a boy named Harald. Ragnhild's father names the young Harald as his successor, but when all three pass away in succession, Halfdanr Svarti lays claim to the kingdom, and it is peacefully subsumed.

Raknehaugen (Rakni's Mound) lies in Raumarike, the last resting place of a possible late tribal leader named Rakni, although his connection to the later kingdom of Raumarike is entirely unknown

The minor kingdom of Raumarike is more forcibly incorporated into Halfdanr's domains. He attacks and kills its king, Sigtryg Eysteinsson, and then repeatedly attacks Sigtryg's brother in battle until he is also defeated. Raumarike is gained along with half of Hedmark. Then he raises a fresh army and attacks the brothers who rule Vingulmark, killing two and forcing the third to flee. Vingulmark is incorporated into the kingdom.

Following the death of Halfdanr's wife, the daughter of the king of Ringerike, Ragnhild, becomes his second wife after being kidnapped by one Hake (the same Hake who had been expelled from Vingulmark?). Halfdanr rescues her and together they become the parents of Haraldr Hárfagri, successor to this growing kingdom. (The apparent coincidence of names for Halfdanr's wives may simply be that, or two different stories of her origins are being told - both are entirely possible. Harald Fairhair's mother is also referred to as being one Gyda, daughter of an Eirik.)

863 - 872

Haraldr Hárfagri / Harald I Fairhair

Son of Halfdanr Svarti of Agder. United all of Norway.


There is internecine war between the minor Norwegian kingdoms. Haraldr Hárfagri (or Harfarger) of Agder slowly becomes dominant, forcing the kingdoms to acknowledge his rule which, by 872, is complete. He starts his campaigns in 866 by visiting the Oppland and Orkadal. Then, in a series of battles, Gaulardal and Strind districts are conquered, followed by Stjoradal, and then Veradal, Skaun, the Sparbyggja district, and Eyin Idre together. Possibly the tiny neighbouring kingdom of Söndmör is taken at the same time.

Some of their kings fall and some flee, but Haraldr is the victor. All of these victories take place in or near the Throndhjem district (modern Trondheim). Then falls Naumudal and its two kings, far to the north of the Throndhjem. Haraldr sets up a royal residence called Lade and marries Asa, daughter of Hakon Grjotgardson, the new jarl of Strind.

Trondheim in Norway
Although it later served for a time as Norway's capital (997-1217), Trondheim in the Viking age was only just emerging as an important centre

867 - 868

Haraldr Hárfagri of Agder opens the new campaigning year with a fresh attack on stubborn Orkadal before he sails south to attack the Møre region. The kings of North Møre, Raumsdal, and South Møre assemble an army and the two sides meet at Solskel. A great battle ensues in which Haraldr is the victor. Hornklofe's poem, Glymdrapa, records the action, and mentions two kings being killed. Solve Klofe, the son of Hunthjof of North Møre, escapes the defeat and flees south to join Arnvid of South Møre.

South Møre is attacked in the following spring (868). Solve has spent the winter raiding Haraldr's posts in North Møre, killing many of his men and burning and plundering. Now he heads south to Firdafylke to enlist the help of Audbjørn.

The expanded joint army, together with Arnvid's forces, meets Haraldr's forces at Solskel again, although this time the Heimskringla describes ships being lashed together, stem to stem, marking this out as a naval encounter. In the end, Haraldr kills both Audbjørn and Arnvid. Solve flees again, this time to become 'a great sea king [who] often did great damage in King Harald's dominions'.

868 - 870

Late in 868, Haraldr has selected Ragnvald 'The Wise' to be jarl (earl) of North Møre, South Møre, and also Raumsdal. Ragnvald is the descendant of the original line of 'kings' of Kvenland who seem to have left their homeland in the time of Gor Thorrasson 'Sea King' in the late seventh century to find a new home amongst the Norwegians.

In the following year, Jarl Ragnvald captures Firdafylke by burning down a 'house' in Naustdal in which is King Vemund with ninety of his men (more likely to be a royal hall). At the start of 869, Haraldr Hárfagri sails his own forces into the kingdom to subdue the rest of Firdafylke.

Haraldr Hárfagri and the giant Dofri
In his younger days, Haraldr Hárfagri ('Fairhair' or 'Fine Hair') cuts the bonds of the giant Dofri so that the giant can become his foster father in the Norse sagas - from the collection of Icelandic sagas, the Flateyjarbók

Haraldr learns that King Eric Anundsson of the Swedes has taken command of Värmland and is collecting scat (a form of land tax) from all the forest settlers. He has clearly taken advantage of the fact that Haraldr has been campaigning on the western shores for the past four years. Eric is also claiming Raumarike, the Vestfold, Vingulmark, and additional territory as a restoration of the eighth century Swede kingdom of Sigurd Ring.

Many of the chiefs of these lands have already given obedience to Eric, so Haraldr summons them to face punishment or fines. He processes through Raumarike and Vestfold in the summer, restoring his hold over them. Then he advances into Värmland and seizes it, killing all of Eric's men that he can find and continuing to Vingulmark to restore his power there.


A final rebellion is organised against Haraldr Hárfagri's increasingly dominant control of Norway. The men of Agder (presumably under Haraldr's rebellious sub-king there), Hördaland, Rogaland, and Thelemark, along with chieftains from the Sognefjord region, are gathering under the leadership of their kings. They meet Haraldr's great army at the Battle of Hafrsfjord of 872 which seems to be the key point in Haraldr's various conflicts. Many are killed and all of the rebels are defeated.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 862-882
Haraldr's final rebellion against his rule came shortly after Scandinavian expansion into the east took place at Novgorod, with other Rus princes at Izborsk and Beloozero (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The year given may not be strictly accurate (various scholars have calculated dates between 870-900 based on the number of winters recorded in the Heimskringla). Many surviving nobles who refuse to accept the defeat now emigrate to Iceland while the defeated states themselves are forced to join Haraldr's new kingdom of Norway. During this same period, King Faravid of Kvenland is said by later chronicles to ally himself to the Norwegians to fight the Karelians to the east.

Kingdom of Norway
AD 872 - 1450

It was Haraldr Hárfagri of the Norse petty kingdom of Agder who fought a series of unification wars in the 860s and 870s to forge a single Norwegian kingdom by AD 872. Even by this time, the kingdom still only comprised the southern third of modern Norway, with the rest forming part of a vast territory which was known to some as Kvenland. It was only in the latter days of the Viking age and in the late medieval period that the westernmost areas of this began to be absorbed.

Migrants also arrived in Norway from Finnic lands to the east in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At least a couple of hundred thousand citizens of modern Norway are known to be descended from the 'Forest Finns', migrants from a group which is distinct from the Kvens (in modern Sweden that number is much larger).

Upon the death of Haraldr's father, the kingdom of Raumarike submitted to Sweden, and had to be forcibly encouraged to join Haraldr's kingdom of Norway, probably completing Haraldr's control of that entire region. It was also claimed by King Eric V Anundsson of the Swedes, forcing Haraldr to invade Götaland to defend his own claim. In fact, many of Haraldr's opponents were forced to flee the country to seek refuge in various Viking outposts including the Faroe Islands, the Hebrides, Iceland, the Orkney Islands, and the Shetland Islands. Eventually he was forced to undertake an expedition to clear out some of them, including from outposts in Scotland itself. Independently-minded Hålogaland in the north of Norway continued to be a thorn in the king's side for quite some time, while Haraldr placed his son Dag in command in Hedmark.

Accepted wisdom translates the word 'viking' as someone who goes on a raid, but this is much more likely to be a later interpretation of the word based on their reputation for attacking the medieval kingdoms of England, France, and so on. The word was originally used to denote a trader, simply that and nothing more. Indo-European languages contain many cognates of the root word for trader, such as the Latin 'vic', along with 'wic' (primarily Anglo-Saxon) and 'wich' (Germanic), all of which relate to Scandinavian 'vik'. A Viking was more likely to be someone who goes to 'wics' or 'wichs' to trade.

FeatureThere is also the problem of 'vik' meaning an inlet in Norse, and this has created considerable confusion. Norway is called that precisely because it is the north way, a sea path. Without roads the only reliable travel is by water, so trading centres would be sited in protected inlets. This meant the use of 'vik' being transferred over time from the trade location or village to its location on inlets. In England, this usage did not go so far, but many Anglo-Saxon trading villages still retain their trading names, such as Harwich, Ipswich (see feature link), and Norwich, while Hamptonwic has been modified as Southampton.


(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frækna, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), from Novgorodskaia Pervaia Letopis' Starshego i Mladshego Izvodov, A N Nasonov (Ed, ANSSR, 1950), from The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016-1471, Michell & Forbes (Eds, Translators, Offices of the Society, London, 1914), and from External Links: Kvenland (a detailed overview of the existence of Kvenland before it was absorbed into Norway, Sweden, and Finland, although with some content which is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Visit Norway, and The War in Algiers (in Danish).)

872 - 933

Haraldr Hárfagri / Harald I Fairhair

Son of Halfdanr Svarti / Halfdan III 'the Black' of Agder.

late 800s

Haraldr marries Ragnhidr (Ragnhild), daughter of Eirik, prince of Jutland (who may be the same person as King Eric (I or II) of Denmark). The king's son by her is Eric Bloodaxe. During the same late ninth century period, battles take place as the Geats have to defend themselves against Haraldr. They receive no help from their Swedish overlords.

Haraldr Hárfagri Halfdansson of Norway
Haraldr Hárfagri united all the minor kingdoms of Norway in the later ninth century through a mixture of force of arms and diplomacy, although the former seemed to involve most of his time


It is only after Norway has been unified that the permanent presence of Norsemen is established in Finnmark, the borderland between Norse settlement or trading posts in the far north and the indigenous Sámi tribes. The Norse sagas state that the new Norwegian monarchy imposes tribute on the Finnmark. It remains unoccupied by Norsemen to any great or permanent extent but royal agents are appointed to collect the tribute from the region's Finno-Ugric tribes.

In this year, the Kvens and Norse cooperate in battles against the invading Karelians, again according to Egil's Saga. Thorolf Kveldulfsson, head of taxes for the king of Norway from 872 (and later the tax agent in the Finnmark), enters Kvenland, going 'up on the fell with a hundred men; he passed on at once eastwards to Kvenland and met King Faravid.' Based on medieval documents, this meeting takes place during the winter of 873-874.

874 - 875

Iceland is 'discovered' in 874 and is settled in increasing numbers (although it would appear that the island has been visited for some years by Norse Vikings). An independent republic governs it until 1262. During Haraldr's reign, Thorvald Asvaldsson of Jadar is exiled for murder. He settles in Iceland where he becomes the father of Eirik the Red, who himself goes on to settle Greenland and fathers Leif Eriksson, founder of the Vinland colony in the Americas.

Leif Erikson
Leif Erikson's name is preserved by the Icelandic sagas which record the relatively short-lived Viking settlement of Newfoundland

At the same time, Haraldr is forced to take more permanent action against Norse exiles who have been raiding Norway's coast since their defeat in 872. Rather than carrying out regular summer expeditions against them, around 875 he pursues them to their western bases. Hjaltland (Shetland) is stormed, as are the Orkneys and Sudreys (Hebrides), Vikings are chased down across Scotland, and those on the Isle of Man flee before him.


The oldest known written use of the term 'Kven', with nearly that spelling, is made in the Account of the Viking Othere, a report of the geopolitical landscape of the North, based on the voyage by Ottar, the Norse Viking adventurer, as he makes his way through the oceanic coasts of northern Scandinavia and the extreme north-western of modern Russia. In this account, the Kvens are referred to as 'Cwenas' who live in 'Cwena land'. It is the first genuine and comprehensive account of the far north, and is therefore a principle source in studies relating to Nordic history.


Ottar reports his findings to King Alfred of Wessex, who has his account included in the additions to the Universal History of Orosius, which the king republishes. The book is a shared work between Orosius and King Alfred. The Kven Sea is mentioned as the northern border of Germany.

The location of Kvenland is also explained in the following ways: 'Ottar (Ohthere) said that the Norwegians' (Norðmanna) land was very long and very narrow... and to the east are wild mountains, parallel to the cultivated land. Sámi people (Finns) inhabit these mountains... Then along this land southwards, on the other side of the mountain, is Sweden... and along that land northwards, Kvenland (Cwenaland).

The Estonian artist, Oskar Kallis, depicted Kalevipoeg in his traditional form of a giant, perhaps mixed with a little Viking, in this pastel from 1915, but the giants of legend are usually accepted as being descriptive forms of earlier, pre-Christian peoples


'The Cwenas (Kvens) sometimes make depredations on the Northmen over the mountain, and sometimes the Northmen on them; there are very large freshwater meres amongst the mountains, and the Kvens carry their ships over land into the meres, and thence make depredations on the Northmen; they have very little ships, and very light.'


During his reign, Haraldr divides responsibility for the management of the kingdom. The original holdings in the south-east are given to sons (at least twelve) and kinsmen, the south-west coastal region remains under Haraldr's direct control as high king, the long north-western coastal strip is governed by the earls of Lade, while the earls of Møre govern a much smaller region between Lade and the south-west. The earls of Lade prove to be important players in the rule of Norway later in the century.


Haraldr secures the succession by naming his favourite son, Eric Bloodaxe as his successor. They rule side by side for the three remaining years of Haraldr's life. This does not end the possibility of division within the kingdom, however, and it is not until about 1030 that Norway is unquestionably unified.


To keep the peace in the face of Viking attacks, Charles III of the Franks grants territory in the north to the Viking chieftain, Rollo. The resulting duchy of Normandy proves to be far more powerful than the king could have feared, but Rollo's origins are today disputed by Norway and Denmark. Norway claims him as the son of Rognvald Eysteinsson, earl of Møre, in western Norway. Records from the twelfth century claim he falls out with the king and migrates to Normandy.

Viking village
The Vikings who settled in Normandy would have seemed a rough and ready lot to the relatively sophisticated French court, but they proved their worth as loyal vassals and renowned fighters

930 - 934

Eric I Bloodaxe

Son. King of York (948 & 952-954).

Gudrod Liomi Haraldsson

Brother. King of Hadeland.

Rögnvaldr / Ragnald Haraldsson

Brother. King of Hadeland. Killed by Eric.

Dag Haraldsson

Brother. King of Hedmark.

Halfdan Haleg (Haraldsson)

Brother. King of Ringerike. Killed on Orkney.

Guttorm Haraldsson

Brother. King of Ringerike.

Halvdan Kvite (Haraldsson)

Brother. King of Throndhjem.

Halvdan Svarte (Haraldsson)

Brother. King of Throndhjem.

Sigrød Haraldsson

Brother. King of Throndhjem.

Bjørn Farmann

Brother. King of Vestfold. Killed by Eric.

Olaf Haraldsson Geirstadalf

Brother. King of Vingulmark, to which he added Vestfold.

934 - 954

An apparently harsh ruler, Eric quickly falls out of favour with the Norwegian nobility. When Haakon returns from England, he is asked to take the throne. Eric is banished and flees the country to become an adventurer.

In 946 he is invited to England to become ruler of the Scandinavian kingdom of York. He is rejected in 948, returns in 952, and is finally defeated in 954, although by then he has already killed many of his rivals (who also happen to be his brothers), including Bjørn Farmann, grandfather of Harald Gudrødsson Grenske, the later king of Agder and Vestfold. Even so, Eric's defeat on the other side of the North Sea creates a fully unified kingdom of England.

Eric Bloodaxe silver penny
Shown here are two sides of a silver penny issued under the rule of Eric Bloodaxe following his exile from Norway and during his governance of the Scandinavian kingdom of York in England

934 - 961

Haakon / Hacon I 'the Good'

Brother. First Christian king. Fostered in Wessex as a child.

961 - 977

Harald II Graypelt

Son of Eric Bloodaxe. Killed Gudrød Bjørnsson of Vestfold.

977 - 995

Haakon Sigurdsson

Danish ally. Jarl Haakon II of Lade. 'Regent'. Murdered.

976 - 977

The accession of Haakon Sigurdsson of Lade may cause some disharmony in the Norwegian nobility. From about 976, Harald Gudrødsson Grenske, father of King Olaf II, can be found ruling Agder, Vestfold, and Viken, although it is not clear if he is claiming a kingship or remains subject to the king's authority.


Greenland is discovered by Eric the Red and is claimed for Norway. He is the son of the exiled Thorvald Asvaldsson of Jadar in Rogaland. His own son, Leif Eriksson, later becomes the founder of the Vinland colony in the Americas.


The Battle of Maldon on the Essex coast of England is lost by the Anglo-Saxon regime when the forces of Olaf Tryggvason (soon to be king of Norway and the main rival against Sweyn Forkbeard for the throne of Denmark) defeat those of the ealdorman of Essex. The Vikings begin to demand heavy tribute from the Saxon lands.

Eadred silver penny
Shown here are both sides of a silver penny which is in surprisingly good condition and which was issued during the reign of Eadred, first acknowledged king of all England

995 - 1000

Olaf I Tryggvason

Defeated in battle and disappeared (probably drowned).


Tryggvason is attacked by a united army under the command of Olaf III Skötkonung of Sweden and Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. The pair have determined that Norway will be conquered and divided between them. They duly defeat Olaf at the Battle of Svolder and divide the country.

A jarl of Lade, Eric son of Haakon, holds the Norwegian throne as regent from this point, while the Swedes gain border territories from part of Trøndelag and modern Bohuslän. A pagan ruler also appears in Gudbrandsdal after this point.

1000 - 1014

Eric Haakonsson

Son of Haakon. Regent for Denmark. Jarl of Lade.

1015 - 1028

St Olaf II Haraldson / 'the Holy' / 'Stout'

Son of Harald (Agder). 1st Christian king. Expelled. Died 1030.

1016 - 1021

The accession of Olaf II in 1016 brings his own domain of Agder fully back under the control of the Norwegian crown (if it was not already under that control beforehand). In gaining the crown, he also restores Norwegian control of the land after the Danish interlude. Olaf, though, does have to battle against pagan petty kings in his realm, which means killing Gudrod of Gudbrandsdal about 1020, and mutilating the defeated Hroerkr Dagsson of Hedmark in 1021.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1000
St Olaf II Haraldson
Early in life Olaf Haraldson took part in Viking raids on England, before securing his election as a king of Norway and pursuing a passion to Christianise his countrymen, something which ended in the rebellion of his subjects, while above is a map of Scandinavia around AD 1000 showing the extent of the Norwegian kingdom (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1028 - 1035

Norway again falls under the rule of Denmark. At first it is governed by Haakon Eirksson, son of the previous Norse regent, then directly by Canute himself, and finally under Canute's son, Sweyn, and his mistress, Aelfgifu, in his name until his death. Olaf II returns in 1030 to reclaim his throne but is killed by the Norwegian lords who oppose him at the Battle of Stiklestad.

Chief among these seems to be the independently-minded kings and lords of the north who largely refuse to accept Christianity even under torture. Thórir Hund of Hålogaland is marked out as the man who strikes Olaf the fatal blow, while Thórir himself is protected under his reindeer cloak, made invulnerable by the magic of his powerful friends in the north (largely Sámi natives who bind magic with paganism to an otherworldly extent).

1028 - 1029

Haakon (III) Eiriksson

Regent. Danish ally. Jarl of Lade.

1030 - 1035

Sven Cnutsson / Sweyn / Svein

Regent. Son of Canute II of Denmark.


Canute's death sees his great Scandinavian empire begin to break up. By the late 1020s he had been able to claim kingship over England, Denmark, Norway, and part of Sweden. Scotland had also submitted to his overlordship, and Viking raids against the British Isles had been ended. Now his brother Harold gains England, his son Hardicanute gains Denmark, and Sweyn gains Norway.

1035 - 1036

Sven Cnutsson / Sweyn / Svein

Former regent or governor of Norway.

1036 - 1047

Magnus I 'the Good'

Also king of Denmark (1042-1047).

1047 - 1066

Harald III Hardrade 'Hard Ruler'

Killed by Harold II, king of England at Stamford Bridge.


The son of Sigurd Syr, sub-king of Ringerike in Norway, Harald Hardrade attempts to invade England with the help of King Harold's rebellious younger brother, Earl Tostig of Northumbria and his own son, Olaf (later known as 'the Peaceful'). The invasion is defeated at the Battle of Stamford bridge on 28 September, and both Harald and Tostig are killed.

Canute shows that he cannot stop the waves
Canute is popular in folklore for teaching his fawning courtiers that even he was not powerful enough to stop the tide's progress up the beach

1066 - 1069

Magnus II Haraldsson

Son. Became ill and died. Not an official king until recently.

1067 - 1069

Olaf Kyrre 'the Peaceful'

Brother & co-ruler upon return. Succeeded as sole ruler.

1069 - 1093

Olaf III Kyrre 'the Peaceful'

Became sole ruler upon brother's death.

1093 - 1103

Magnus III 'the Barefoot / Barelegs'

Son. Also ruled Ynys Manau (1095-1102) & Dublin (1102-1103).

1093 - 1095

Haakon Magnusson Toresfostre

Son of Magnus II and co-ruler. Died young.

1098 - 1099

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.

1103 - 1115

Olaf Magnusson

Son of Magnus 'Barefoot'. Discounted from numbering (IV).

1103 - 1123

Eystein II (I) Magnusson

Half-brother & co-ruler. Improved the country.

1103 - 1130

Sigurd I Jorsalfer 'the Crusader'

Brother & co-ruler. Fought to secure Jerusalem.


A period of prolonged civil war erupts in Norway following the long reign of Sigurd Jorsalfer, partially due to muddy succession laws but also due to various oppositions groups with their own interests in claiming the crown. Conflict is frequent and prolonged until 1240, but there are periods in which it subsides to the level of a mere feud.

King Sigurd Jorsalfer on Crusade
Sigurd Jorsalfer's reign was long and prosperous for Norway, but his death and the country's confusing succesion laws plunged it into a series of civil wars

1130 - 1135

Magnus IV Sigurdsson 'the Blinded'

Illegitimate son. Dethroned &  mutilated. Killed 1139.

1130 - 1136

Harald IV 'Gillechrist'

Uncle. In uneasy co-ruling agreement. Civil war 1134-1135.


Sigurd Slembe 'Horrid'

Deacon. Killed Harald. Held throne for one day.

1136 - 1161

Inge I 'Crookback'

Son of Gillechrist. Defeated a returning Magnus IV.

1136 - 1161

Sigurd II Munn 'the Mouth'

Brother & co-ruler from infancy. Killed by Inge's men.

1142 - 1157

Eystein III (II)

Brother & co-ruler from infancy. Fought, fled, & killed.


The world atlas by the Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi, which is commissioned by the Norman king of Sicily, Roger II, mentions that the king of FMRK has possessions in Norway. 'FMRK' refers to Finnmark ('Finn land'), the name for the northernmost part of Fennoscandia, which is still part of Kvenland. In the modern northern Norwegian county of Troms alone there are at least twelve prehistoric Kven place names, and Finnmark retains its name as Norway's northernmost county.


In his geographical chronicle, Leiðarvísir og borgarskipan, the Icelandic Abbot Níkulás Bergsson (Nikolaos) provides descriptions of the lands near Norway: Closest to Denmark is little Sweden (Svíþjóð), there is Öland (Eyland); then is [the island of] Gotland; then Hälsingland (Helsingaland); then Värmland (Vermaland); then two Kvenlands (Kvenlönd, perhaps Kvenland itself and Finland to the south, on the northern shore of the Baltic Sea), and they extend to north of Bjarmia (Bjarmalandi, the land of the Bjarmians).

Muhammad al-Idrisi's world map
Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi's world atlas, as commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily, carries important contemporary notes for each of the regions it displays

1161 - 1162

Haakon II Sigurdsson 'Broad-Shoulder'

Illegitimate son of Sigurd Munn. Killed in battle.


By this time Erling 'Skakke' ('the Jolted', named as such after a war 'accident') has claimed much of the country on behalf of his son, Magnus V Erlingsson. Essentially two power blocs now exist in the civil war; the 'Baglers' (the church and the nobility led by the five year-old Magnus V and his father), and the 'Birkebeiners' (shown in green, a motley crew of brigands, 'ravers', and other outcasts led by King Sverre who holds his claim via his mother's side of the family).

1161 - 1179

Erling Skakke 'Slanted'

Former guardian for Inge. Regent for son. Killed in battle.

1162 - 1184

Magnus V Erlingsson

Son. Leader of the 'Baglers'. Killed at Battle of Fimreite.

1162 - 1163

Sigurd III

A Bagler.

1166 - 1169

Olaf / Olav Ugjæva

A Birkebeiner. Fled to Denmark in 1168. Died 1169.

1170 - 1173


A Birkebeiner.


The Historia Norvegiae (History of Norway) provides another mention of the vast and still-largely-mysterious domain of Kvenland, stating that the Kvens serve pagan gods. Given that many Norwegians themselves had only recently given up their pagan ways after resisting Christianity for a good couple of centuries, this is hardly surprising.

The medieval Swedes and Norse may have liked to think that they had the natives of Kvenland conquered by the thirteenth century, but intermittent raiding was continued by both sides in the struggle for superiority in Scandinavia and Fenno-Scandinavia

1174 - 1177

Eystein Meyla 'the Maiden'

Son of Eystein III (II). A Birkebeiner. Killed escaping battle.

1177 - 1202

Sverre Sigurdsson 'the Priest'

Son of Sigurd? Birkebeiner, in Tronheim (main stronghold).

1184 - 1194

Once Magnus V is killed at the Battle of Fimreite in this year, Sverre is sole king of Norway. He also proves to be a great king, and perhaps one of the country's most important. In 1194, following a disagreement with the church (which supports the opposing Baglers), he is excommunicated by the Pope. Despite this, he continues to receive support both from Knut VI of Sweden and from Prince John in England, and relations with the pope become insignificant with the resurgence of Bagler opposition.

1185 - 1188

Jon Ingesson Cuvlung / Kuvlung

A Bagler. Claimed as a son of Inge. Killed by Sverre.

1193 - 1194

Sigurd Magnusson

Bagler son of Magnus V. Killed in battle against Sverre.

1196 - 1199

Inge Magnusson

Brother? A Bagler. Killed by his own men in 1202.

1202 - 1204

Haakon III

Son of Sverre. A Birkebeiner. Died without an heir.

1203 - 1208

The four sons of Knut VI of Sweden have been living at King Sverker's royal court, but in 1203 they begin to stake their own claims for the throne. Sverker has them exiled to Norway, but they return with troops in 1205, supported by the Birkebeiner faction of Norway's nobility.

Sverker is victorious at the Battle of Älgarås in which three of Knut's sons are killed. The surviving son, Eric Knutsson, retires back to Norway until 1208, when he is able to try again with further Norwegian support, and defeats Sverker at the Battle of Lena. Sverker is forced into exile in Denmark while Eric seizes the Swedish throne.

The Danes conquer Rugen
The Danish conquest of Rügen in 1168 ended more than a millennium of independence for the native people - a possible combination of Celts, Germanics, and Slavs - pulling down their gods in the process


Guttorm Sigudsson

Nephew, aged 4. A Birkebeiner. Died.

1204 - 1207

Erling Magnusson Steinvegg

Son of Magnus V? A Bagler. Died.

1204 - 1217

Philip Simonsson

Nephew of Inge I. Bagler. Opland & Viken, 2 main strongholds.

1204 - 1217

Inge II Baardson

A Birkebeiner. Ruled in the west only.


Agreement is reached between the two warring factions. Inge rules the west of the country with the title of king, while Philip Simonson rules in Viken and the east in a nominally independence guise, but without the same title.


The long-running period of civil war is finally ended following the deaths in this year both of Inge II and Philip Simonson. The thirteen year-old Haakon is chosen as sole king, with Skule Bårdsson acting as regent. The regency does not go smoothly, however, with Skule eventually rebelling against the king. Skule proclaims himself king in 1239 but is killed the following year, and with that country is finally at peace.

1217 - 1263

Haakon IV Haakinsson 'the Old'

Son of Haakon III. Died on Orkney during an expedition.

1217 - 1240

Skule Bårdsson

Regent. Rebelled and was killed. End of civil war.


Despite the Baglers and Birkebeiners having reconciled themselves to peace, not all Baglers are happy with the situation, especially given that Haakon is essentially a Birkebeiner king. This disaffected element forms its own rebellion, called the Ribbunger ('Ribalds' in English, but with a broader meaning). It digs up two successive candidates, neither of whom proves successful.

1218 - 1226

Sigurd Erlingsson Ribbung

Son of Erling Steinvegg. Died of natural causes.


Knut Haakonsson

Surrendered to Haakon, the Ribbunger cause now spent.


The Norwegians and Karelians engage in combat. Various Karelian elements have been forced westwards by the Mongol invasions, with one in 1241 even being settled and Christianised in Norway. Possibly too many have since followed the same escape route.

Chingiz Khan
This portrait shown Chingiz Khan in his later years, by which time he had built up an empire which covered much of eastern and Central Asia, as well as stretching into Eastern Europe


The Icelandic Althing (assembly) votes for union with Norway. The agreement is known as the 'Old Covenant', or the Gissurarsáttmáli after the Icelandic leader who has worked to promote it. The former term appears to be a confusion with a renewal treaty of 1302 which bears a very similar name.


King Alexander III of Scotland successfully defeats an 'invasion' by Haakon 'the Old' at the Battle of Largs in 1263 (the 'Last Viking Invasion' of the British Isles, although in reality the confrontation is small-scale and relatively neutral in outcome). Now an old man, Haakon winters in Orkney and dies there.

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. As part of the peace-making, Alexander's daughter marries Haakon's grandson, Eric II. Their daughter Margaret later becomes queen of Scotland.

1263 - 1280

Magnus VI Haakonsson 'Lawmender'

Son of Haakon IV. Pursued a much more peaceful path.


Icelandic annals report the following to have happened in the mid-northern area of modern Norway: 'Then Karelians and Kvens pillaged widely in Hålogaland'.

1281 - 1299

Eric II / Eirik II Magnusson

Son. His dau. Margaret, later queen of Scotland (1286-1290).

1299 - 1319

Haakon V

Brother. Ended ongoing Dano-Norwegian conflict.


Torkel Knutsson, constable of Sweden, governor of Finland, and virtually king during the early years of the young King Berger, is arrested and, in February 1306, he is executed. Prince Waldemar, duke of Finland, divorces his wife, the late constable's daughter, and in 1312 marries Ingeborg Eriksdottir, daughter of the late King Eric II of Norway.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1300
By around AD 1300 the Swedes and Norse had taken full control of southern Scandinavia and were starting to extend their influence northwards, while the Swedes were also becoming heavily involved in what is now southern Finland (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1320 - 1365

Magnus VII of Norway 'the Caresser'

Grandson. Also Magnus II of Sweden (1320-1365).


King Magnus is conducting a series of campaigns of conquest against the Finno-Ugric Izhorians along the River Neva (to the immediate east of today's St Petersburg). His campaign also threatens the Novgorodian fortress of Oreshek on the same river (today's Shlisselburg). Future posadnik of Novgorod, Ontsifor Lukinich, and his colleagues manage to clear the area, causing the Scandinavians heavy casualties. The fortress still falls, later in the year.

1343 - 1380

Haakon VI Magnusson 'the Younger'

Son. Died, leaving Norway to his wife, Margaret.


Upon the death of Valdemar of Denmark, his daughter immediately secures the election of her infant son as his successor. The daughter is Margaret, wife of Haakon VI, having been engaged to him since the age of six. As the son, Olaf, is a baby, Margaret rules in his stead, proving to be an able and accomplished queen regnant.

1380 - 1387

Olaf IV

Son. Also Olaf V of Denmark (1376-1387). Died aged 17.

1380 - 1387

Queen Margaret I

Mother & regent. De facto ruler of Denmark & Norway.


Haakon dies, leaving Queen Margaret to ensure that their son, Olaf, is proclaimed king in Norway, adding it to his territories. This creates the Union of Denmark and Norway, which means that Denmark also gains Greenland and Iceland. In reality, Margaret is again the de facto ruler as Olaf is still a minor.

1387 - 1388

Olaf's sudden and unexpected death at the age of seventeen puts Margaret firmly in the driving seat as queen regent of Denmark and Norway. In effect, Norway is ruled as an appendage of Denmark. The nobility of Sweden, already unhappy with their own King Albert, invite Margaret to invade and take the throne. In 1388 she is accepted, at her own insistence, as 'Sovereign Lady and Ruler' of Sweden.

Silver coin of Eric XIII of Pomerania
Shown here are two sides of a silver coin which was minted at the Lund mint during the reign of Eric XIII of Pomerania, king of Sweden and Denmark, and then also of Norway

1387 - 1389

Queen Margaret I

Queen of Denmark, Norway & Sweden. Became regent again.


Having promised to find a ruling king for the Scandinavian nations which are under her control, Margaret proclaims her great-nephew, Bogislaw of Pommern-Stolp, as king of Norway with her ruling alongside him as is specifically agreed for Norway. He receives the more acceptable Scandinavian name of Eric as he takes up his new position, although he is still a minor so Margaret returns to the role of regent.

1389 - 1439

Eric III of Pomerania

Eric VII of Denmark, XIII of Sweden, & I of Pommern-Stolp.

1389 - 1412

Queen Margaret I

Regent and former queen. Remained de facto ruler.


In order to fully unite the three kingdoms under her control and promote her aim of securing peace and prosperity for Scandinavia, Margaret convenes the Congress of the Realm at Kalmar in June 1397. Eric is crowned king of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under the terms of the Union of Kalmar.

Margaret remains regent for the rest of her lifetime so that even when Eric reaches his majority, she remains in control. (Eric is removed by the nobles in 1439, although Norway waits until 1440 to ratify this decision, so he returns to Pommern-Stolp.)

Queen Margaret I of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden
Acting as regent for her young son in Denmark and Norway, Olaf IV, Margaret ended up being queen when he died unexpectedly at seventeen, with Sweden also accepting her in 1388

1439 - 1440

Sigurd Jonsson

Regent in Norway until the selection of Christopher.

1440 - 1448


Son of Eric III. Also Christopher of Denmark & III of Sweden.

1448 - 1450

Sigurd Jonsson

Regent for a second time in Norway.

1448 - 1450

Christopher dies suddenly. In Norway, Sigurd Jonsson becomes regent in Norway for the second time while the nobles of the three nations (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) decide who to elect as the new king. Sweden selects Karl while Denmark chooses Christian of Oldenburg.

Norway debates selecting a third candidate for its own throne but eventually it also goes with Christian of Oldenburg (in 1450), although a portion elects Karl in opposition to Christian. Karl and Christian now jostle for supremacy in Scandinavia, and Karl is soon forced by the nobility to relinquish his claim on Norway. Christian remains Norway's king for the rest of his life. Norway is now, essentially, ruled by Denmark through the Kalmar Union.

Kalmar Union Norway
AD 1450 - 1905

Haraldr Hárfagri of the Norse petty kingdom of Agder fought a series of unification wars in the 860s and 870s to forge a single Norwegian kingdom by AD 872. Even then, the kingdom still only comprised the southern third of modern Norway, with the rest forming part of a vast territory which was known to some as Kvenland. It was only in the latter days of the Viking age and in the late medieval period that the westernmost areas of this began to be absorbed.

A period of prolonged civil war erupted in Norway in 1130, following the long reign of Sigurd Jorsalfer. This was partially due to the state's muddy succession laws, but it was also due to various opposition groups which had their own interests in terms of claiming the crown. Conflict was frequent and prolonged until 1240, although there were periods in which it subsided to the level of a mere feud.

By the 1160s, in essence, two power blocs now existed in the civil war, these being the 'Baglers' (the church and nobility led by the five year-old King Magnus V and his father), and the 'Birkbeiners' (a motley crew of brigands, 'ravers', and other outcasts who were led by King Sverre). Sverre came out victorious, and his long and able rule pushed the state towards a gradual settlement of affairs. The civil war was all but over by 1217, with Norway's subsequently rulers forging a series of marriages and connections with Sweden and Denmark which, in 1397, led to the creation of the Union of Kalmar (Norway and Denmark had already been held jointly in personal union since 1380).

So interlinked now were the three Scandinavian kingdoms that, from 1450, the kings of Denmark essentially ruled Norway directly, largely in their minds as hereditary kings. For its part, Norway often insisted on a formal election process, confirming the king as ruler of Norway some time after he had been proclaimed in Denmark. This allowed Norway to retain at least the pretence of being a separate kingdom within the union. From 1536, governors (statholders) were appointed to manage Norway's internal interests for the king (shown below in light grey).


(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frækna, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), and from External Links: Visit Norway, and The War in Algiers (in Danish).)

1536 - 1551

Peder Hansen Litle

First statholder in Norway for Denmark.


The map of Scandinavia by Olaus Magnus shows a Kven settlement to the south of modern Tromsø in northern Norway, named 'Berkara Qvenar'. Integration is continuing, but Kvens are still easy to pick out in northern Scandinavia.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1581
In the near-three centuries since 1300 the Norwegians and Swedes had massively increased their dominance of the once-uncharted northern depths of Fenno-Scandinavia, although Denmark now dominated Norway (click or tap on map to view full sized)


The first known Norwegian tax records mention Kvens. These records are stored at the Norwegian national archives (Riksarkivet). This is at a time, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that the Swedish government is encouraging settlement in many wilderness and border areas in order to secure territories against fears of expansionism by the Russians. Even Sweden proper has its wilderness areas which require settlement.

Thanks to this policy, many Finns migrate westwards across Scandinavia. Thousands of farmers from Savonia and Northern Häme make the journey as far as eastern Norway and central Sweden and become known as the Forest Finns. They help to turn forests to farmlands using slash-and-burn agriculture, and in return they are given land. More of them head north to Ostrobothnia and Kainuu, east towards Northern Karelia, and south towards Ingria (Swedish land at this time, but now within Russia). An estimated ten or fifteen per cent also cross the Baltic Sea in search of largely uninhabited land fit for their needs.

Those Kvens who settle in Norway prior to the twentieth century - and in some cases prior to the Second World War - and their descendants are called Kvens today, as they had originated from the medieval area of Kvenland. Also, the descendants of all the native Kvens in northern Scandinavia continue to be known by that name.

1551 - 1556

Jesper Friis

1556 - 1572

Christen Munk

Danish statesman. Died 1579.

1561 - 1562

During the Livonian Wars (1558-1583), Tallinn in North Estonia, together with its vassals of Harju-Viru and Järva, asks Sweden for military support, and in June 1561 they pledge allegiance to King Eric to be incorporated into the kingdom as the duchy of Estonia. Sweden also gains Ingermanland, creating a Scandinavian empire.

Russian siege of Narva in 1558
The Russian siege of Narva in 1558 (as envisaged by Boris Chorikov in 1836) was the first step by Ivan IV of Russia in his attempted seizure of the Baltic lands, thereby sparking the Livonian Wars

1566 - 1568

Ösel (Saaremaa) is invaded by Swedes as an act of the Northern Seven Years War. They pillage the entire island and leave with a huge quantity of loot. Being unable to defend another castle besides Kuressaare if the Swedes attack again, the Danes destroy Maasi Castle in the same year. They soon began to regret that decision and instead reinforce the castle again. The Swedes return in 1568, this time in eighteen ships. On 14 August Maasi Castle is handed over to them, together with Pöide and the island of Muhu.

1572 - 1577

Pouel Ottesen Huitfeldt

First official Danish governor-general of Norway. Died 1592.

1577 - 1583

Ludvig Ludvigsson Munk of Norlund

Danish noble. Died 1602.

1583 - 1588

Ove Juel

1588 - 1601

Aksel Gyldenstjerne

Danish noble. Died 1603.


The son of King John III of Sweden, King Sigismund III of Poland-Lithuania, inherits the Swedish throne, but his inflexible politics and passionate Catholicism causes opposition from the Swedish Protestant population, forcing the king to return to Poland. He does not relinquish his claim to the throne, however, which leads to conflict.


The Teusina Treaty agrees peaceful terms between Sweden and Russia. Kvenland ('Kaianske landet') is mentioned for the first time in an official government document as a territory that is governed by Sweden, although this claim seems not entirely to be merited as there is territory in the northern reaches of Scandinavia and Fenno-Scandinavia which is unlikely to be under any direct administration at this point.

1601 - 1608

Jørgen Friis of Krastrup

Danish noble. Died 1616.


Having strengthened his hold on the Swedish crown, Karl IX adds the title 'King of the Caijaners', referring to the inhabitants of Kainu, otherwise known as Kvenland, apparently using the title for the first time on 16 March 1607. However, Kvenland is recognised as being distinct from the rest of Finland for a long time to come.

The pre-Indo-European Kainu continued to enjoy a notably different way of life even when this photo was taken in 1900

1608 - 1618

Enevold Kruse of Hjermislov

Danish noble. Died 1621.

1611 - 1613

The Kalmar War sees Denmark-Norway successfully defend itself from Sweden. Karl IX's use of the title 'King of the Caijaners' has been part of a concerted effort by Sweden to avoid paying fees for the use of the Danish-controlled strait which accesses the North Sea. Karl is even collecting taxes in the north, from Norway's territory. Denmark-Norway attacks him to safeguard its territory and rights and confirms its own position as a militarily-competent state.

1618 - 1629

Jens Hermansson Juel

Danish noble. Died 1634.

1629 - 1642

Christopher Knudsson Urne of Asmark

Danish noble. Died 1663.

1642 - 1651

Hannibal Sehested

Danish noble. Resigned from post. Temporarily disgraced.


One of the first acts of Queen Christina of Sweden is to negotiate the peace with Denmark. She does so successfully, gaining all of modern Estonia when the Danes hand over the island of Ösel (Saaremaa) under the Treaty of Brömsebro, along with the island of Götaland. As a constituent of Danish holdings, Norway also has to concede territory, this being the districts of Härjedale and Jämtland which remain part of Sweden to this day.

1651 - 1655

Gregers Krabbe

Danish noble. Died 1655.

1656 - 1661

Nils Trolle Trollesholl Gauno

Danish noble and brother-in-law to Krabbe. Died 1667.


The Treaty of Roskilde sees Denmark-Norway hand over Bohuslän in south-eastern Norway and Skåneland (Scania) in southern Sweden to the kingdom of Sweden. At least part of Bohuslän had formerly been part of the Norwegian pre-unification kingdom of Alfheim, while Scania had been a Danish minor kingdom.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1660
The Swedes had removed themselves from the Union of Kalmar with Denmark and Norway in 1523, and since that time had built up a Nordic empire of their own which now dominated the eastern lands and Baltic territories (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1661 - 1664

Iver Tageson Krabbe

Danish noble. Died 1666.

1664 - 1699

Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve

Son of Frederick III of Denmark. Count Laurvig-Tønsberg.

1669 - 1675

Ove Juel

Acting statholder for Ulrik during Scanian Wars.

1675 - 1682

Jens Juel

Acting statholder for Ulrik during Scanian Wars.

1682 - 1694

Just Högh of Fultoffe

Acting statholder.

1699 - 1708

Frederik Gabel

Danish vice-governor-general. Died 1708 in Copenhagen.

1700 - 1710

The Great Northern War (1700-1721) is fought when Sweden finds itself facing Russia, Poland, and Denmark (alternatively entitled the Second Northern War). Sweden's expansion at the end of the Livonian Wars had antagonised several states, notably those on the receiving end of defeats such as Russia and Denmark. The latter state takes the opportunity presented by the death of Charles XI of Sweden to organise an anti-Swedish coalition.

An attack on the unified kingdom of Saxony and Poland in 1702 sees Sweden occupy large areas of Poland until 1710. The situation deteriorates rapidly at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, when Sweden suffers a disastrous defeat at the hands of Peter the Great of Russia, and the following year loses control of Finland, Ingria, Estonia and Livonia to the Russians. Karl XII seeks refuge within the Ottoman empire from the field of battle at Poltava and remains there, in exile.

Capture of Malmo 1709
The capture of the town of Malmo in 1709 by Count Magnus Stenbock was probably one of the last Swedish victories of the Great Northern War as Russia and her allies defeated the Swedes later the same year

1708 - 1710

Johan Vibe

Danish vice-governor-general. Died in office.

1710 - 1712

Ulrik Frederik Valdemar

Baron Løvendal.

1712 - 1712

Claus Henrik Vieregg

Danish vice-governor-general. Died in office.

1713 - 1722

Frederik Krag

Danish noble. Died 1728.

1716 - 1718

Karl XII attempts to break the threat of attack on Sweden by Denmark, England, Hannover, Russia, and Saxony by attacking Norway, a vital part of Denmark's war effort. However, Swedish efforts are largely rebuffed. A repeat with greater numbers in 1718 ends prematurely when Karl is killed by a shot through the brain, and under potentially suspicious circumstances.

1722 - 1731

Ditlev Vibe

Danish noble. Died in office.

1731 - 1733

Patroclus Romeling

Danish noble. Acting statholder.

1733 - 1739

Christian Rantzau

Count Rantzau. Removed from office by the king.

1739 - 1750

Hans Jakob Arnold

Acting statholder. Office remained vacant during this period.

1750 - 1771

Jacob von Benzon

Danish noble. Removed from office.


For the past two centuries, Forest Finns have been settling a swathe of land in Norway from a point about 150 kilometres north of Oslo and covering a long stretch of border land between Norway and Sweden. That border is only now properly established between the two countries.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1721
The Great Northern War of 1700-1721 was Sweden's undoing as it had stretched itself too far - Russia was able to secure Livonia, Estonia, and Ingria, and Prussia gained Nearer-Pomerania in 1720 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1766 - 1768


Acting statholder. Son of Frederick II of Hessen-Kassel.

1769 - 1772

Soon after becoming the dey of Algiers, Muhammad V demands that the Danish increase their annual tribute. They refuse but three Danish-Norwegian vessels are hijacked shortly afterwards. The Danish-Algerian War results, otherwise known as the Algerian Expedition, or The War Against Algeria. The outcome is not especially favourable for the Scandinavians once Algiers proves that it can defend itself.

1771 - 1809

The Swedish-created post of statholder is vacant during this period. This is largely under Gustavus III of Sweden who reintroduces an absolute monarchy, forcing parliament to accept a secondary role. Despite two failed military campaigns in 1788-1790, first to capture Norway and then to recapture the Baltic Provinces from Russia, he is still able to restore Sweden's military power and restore to the country some of its former sense of greatness.

In 1807, Sweden loses Nearer-Pomerania to Napoleonic France, which occupies it until all of Pomerania is regained by Sweden in 1809. In the same year, 1809, Sweden permanently loses its provinces in Finland to the Russians as a result of the Finnish War. Only the westernmost of them remain in Swedish hands, and these continue to be referred to as Österland. The disaster triggers a revolt against the king. He is seized by army officers and forced to abdicate in favour of his uncle, Karl XIII. The power of the monarchy is again strictly limited.

In the same period (1807) Denmark is threatened with invasion by Napoleonic France, with the French army massed on its southern border. Napoleon Bonaparte wants the Danish fleet after losing his own at Trafalgar in 1805, so to prevent this, Britain mounts a raid on Copenhagen and captures the fleet.

Napoleon Bonaparte cornwed king of Italy in 1805
As depicted in 'The Coronation of Napoleon', by Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon was crowned king of Italy in Milan, in May 1805, virtually completing his domination of Southern Europe as far east as the Adriatic Sea

1809 - 1810

Christian August

Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.

1810 - 1813


Son of the landgrave of Hessen-Kassel.

1813 - 1814

Christian Frederik of Denmark

Later Christian VIII of Denmark.


Marcus Gjøe Rosenkrantz

Last Danish statholder. Swedish control established.

1814 - 1905

Denmark loses Norway, which then comes under the rule of Sweden from the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The post of statholder is retained, but now with Swedish nobles fulfilling the duties of office. The brief Norwegian-Swedish War of 1814 does nothing to alter the situation. From 1818, Sweden's new king is Karl XIV, but in Norway he is known as Karl III John.

1814 - 1816

Hans Henrik

Swedish statesman and general. Count von Essen.

1816 - 1818

Carl Carlsson Mörner

Count Mörner of Sweden.

1818 - 1827

Johan August Sandels

Count Sandels of Sweden.

1827 - 1829

Baltzar von Platen

Count von Platen of Sweden. Died in office.

1829 - 1836

The post of statholder is vacant, not for the first time, and seemingly with little urgency to refill the post by King Charles XIV of Sweden, the ex-marshal of the French First Empire.

Swedish Troops in the Napoleonic Wars
Swedish troops were notable in the part they played during the 1813 campaign against Napoleon Bonaparte in Germany, being present at the Battle of the Nations - Leipzig

1836 - 1840

Johan Caspar Herman

Count of Wedel-Jarlsberg in Sweden. Died in office.

1841 - 1856

Severin Løvenskiold

Swedish noble. Oversaw early industrial revolution. Died.

1856 - 1873

The post of statholder is again vacant, primarily due to the role played by the strongly conservative Severin Løvenskiold in distancing his position from Norway's own political establishment. The empty post is formally abolished in 1873. Full rule of Norway returns to the kings of Sweden until 1905.


Tension has been building between Sweden and Norway, which are joined in personal union under the king. The possibility of war is in the air, so it is with tactful negotiation and understanding that Sweden withdraws from the union on 7 June 1905. King Oscar of Sweden renounces his claim to the Norwegian throne, formally dissolving the union.

On 12-13 August a plebiscite is held in which male voters agree to formally end the union with Sweden while only 184 vote against the move. Women collect 250,000 signatures in support of the move. Prince Carl of Denmark is asked to become the country's new king, and he arrives on 25 November to take his seat on the throne of a newly independent Norway.

Kingdom of Norway (Restored)
AD 1905 - Present Day

Norway is on the western edge of Scandinavia, bordered to its west only by the North Sea, although its location has meant a long history of involvement in the affairs of Great Britain, Iceland, and Greenland. To its south is Denmark, while Sweden is to the east. Finland connects to Norway's far north-eastern border, as does Russia. The capital is Oslo, known as Christiania between 1624-1877 and Kristiania between 1877-1925. It lies at the head of the Oslo Fjord in the south-eastern part of the country, having been founded by King Harald Hardraade about 1050.

Norway's minor kingdoms were united by Haraldr Hárfagri during various wars of the 860s and early 870s. By this time Norway still only comprised the southern third of the modern country, with the rest forming part of a vast territory known as Kvenland. It was only in the latter days of the Viking Age and in the medieval period that the westernmost parts of Kvenland began to be absorbed into the Norwegian territories.

Migrants also arrived in Norway from the Finnic lands to the east in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At least a couple of hundred thousand citizens of modern Norway are known to be descended from the Forest Finns, migrants from a group which is distinct from the Kvens. In Sweden that number is much larger.

From 1450 the kings of Denmark ruled Norway directly, largely in their minds as hereditary kings, but Norway often insisted on a formal election process, confirming the king some time after he was proclaimed in Denmark. From 1536, governors (statholders) were appointed to manage the country's internal interests. Following the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden took over as the senior partner, but the system started to break down in the second half of the nineteenth century, and direct rule by Sweden was not especially welcomed by Norwegians. Instead, the country moved further and further towards breaking away from over four hundred years of union with the other Scandinavian countries.

Norway gained full independence from Sweden on 7 June 1905. On 12-13 August a plebiscite was held in which 368,392 male voters agreed to formally end the union with Sweden. A total of 184 voted against the move. Women, unable to vote, collected 250,000 signatures in support of the move.

The Norwegian government then asked Prince Carl of Denmark to become the country's new king. Following a highly successful vote on 12-13 November 1905 to establish whether the Norwegian people themselves wanted the prince, he arrived during a blizzard on 25 November, with his wife Maud (daughter of King Edward VIII of England), and his son Alexander. Carl changed his name to the more acceptable Haakon, and was welcomed as the first wholly Norwegian king for six hundred years. The royal anthem is sung to the same melody as that of Britain's 'God Save the Queen' and Liechtenstein's anthem, albeit with different words.


(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), and from External Links: Kvenland (a detailed overview of the existence of Kvenland before it was absorbed into Norway, Sweden, and Finland, although with some content which is of dubious reliability), and Visit Norway, and The War in Algiers (in Danish), and Gáldu Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (also available in English), and Why does Liechtenstein use 'God Save the Queen' as its national anthem? (Guardian Notes), and Britannica, and Norway mourns 77 dead (PBS News Hour).)

1905 - 1940

Haakon VII

Formerly Prince Carl of Denmark. Deposed by Nazi Germany.

1914 - 1918

When the First World War erupts on Continental Europe, all three of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, remain neutral. Sweden asserts its right to continue trading with the countries of its choice, whatever side they have taken in the war. In practice this favours Germany so the Allies, especially Great Britain's Royal Navy, blockade Sweden, causing a severe food shortage in 1916.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1917-1944
The twentieth century wrought great changes on the borders of the Nordic countries with Finland, controlled from Moscow since 1809, now becoming a battleground between Soviet and German interests, while Denmark and Norway were occupied by Germany (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1927 - 1929

The country's Labour Party becomes the largest party in parliament in 1928. In the following year it forms Norway's first Labour government. Despite some calls to restrain this 'revolutionary' party, the king declines, stating that he is also king of the country's communists. In the next year, 1929, Haakon's son, Crown Prince Olaf, marries the Swedish Princess Märtha on 21 March.

1940 - 1945

As in the previous war, Sweden manages to remain neutral throughout the Second World War. Despite this, there are unofficial breaches of that neutrality on behalf of both sides in the war. German troops are shipped along Sweden's railways during their invasion of Russia in 1941, while the Allies are allowed to use Swedish airbases from 1944. There are several further examples.

Neighbouring Denmark and Norway are both invaded and occupied by the Nazi Germans. During this period a fascist regime rules the country while the king is transported safely to Tromsø, by Great Britain's Royal Navy to form a government in exile. That government soon has to be transported to Britain itself where it spends the remainder of the war.

King Haakon VIII of Norway during the Second World War
King Haakon VII (pictured in uniform on the left) had to spend much of the Second World War in exile in Britain, attempting to support his people despite the Nazi German occupation of Norway

1945 - 1957

Haakon VII

Restored to popular acclaim. Died aged 85.


Olaf's bride of 1929, Crown Princess Märtha, dies on 5 April of cancer after having been ill for quite some time. She leaves behind her grieving husband who is very soon to ascend the throne, and three children, the eldest of which is shortly to give birth to her own first child.

1957 - 1991

Olaf V

Son. Prince Alexander of Denmark. Died 16 January, aged 87.


Norway's first female prime minister is the Labour Party's Gro Harlem Brundtland. Her first term is brief (4 February-14 October 1981) but she returns for two full terms of office between 1986-1996. She continues many of the reforms of her Conservative predecessor, while also backing traditional Labour concerns such as social security, high taxes, the industrialisation of nature, and feminism.

By the late 1990s, a Norway which is led by her government has paid off its foreign debt and had started accumulating a sovereign wealth fund.

1991 - Present

Harald V

Son. Born 21 Feb 1937.


Following almost thirty years of disputes with the Norwegian government over the management of Sámi native land in Finnmark, a satisfactory agreement is reached. Beginning as 'the Finnmark' a border region which had come under increasing Norwegian control since the ninth century, the region had been formalised as Norway's northernmost county.

Sámi protest against the 1978 hydroelectric dam construction in Norway
Sámi protests against the intended flooding of one of their villages in order to construct a dam served as a kind of trigger for the 2005 signing of the momentous Finnmark Act

In 1978 plans to inundate a Sámi village as part of a new dam and hydroelectric plant had met with vociferous Sámi protests. Now, in 2005, the government agrees the Finnmark Act. It signs over to the inhabitants of Finnmark approximately ninety-five per cent of the county's total land, to be managed as part of the Finnmark Estate.


The country suffers two terrorist attacks on the same day, both of which are conducted by Anders Behring Breivik. The first strikes at the government quarter in Oslo, while the second takes place at a summer camp for the Labour Party's youth movement, on Ut°ya Island, which results in seventy-seven deaths and 319 wounded.

Crown Prince Haakon Magnus

Son. Born 20 Jul 1973. m Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby.

Crown Princess Ingrid Alexandra

Dau. Born 21 Jan 2004.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.