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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Hedmark / Hedemarken (Norway)

FeatureThe birth of the modern Norwegian nation took place following the Viking age, along with the simultaneous arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia and Fennoscandia (see feature link for an examination of the origins of 'Scandinavia' as a name). Before that, the Scandinavians were contained entirely within the southernmost third of Sweden and Norway. Initial settlement and the spread of early kingdoms largely followed the rivers, with inland areas being only sparsely inhabited. 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 that eventually dominated was probably founded by a refugee noble from the kingdom of the Swedes, fleeing his homeland during a period of Danish superiority.

One of the minor kingdoms which was eventually subjugated by the growing power of that early Norwegian royal house was Hedmark or Hedmarken (the '-en' is a plural suffix which may instead refer to the people of Hedmark, the Hedmarken). The German word 'march' or 'mark' was also rendered in Old English as 'mierce', meaning 'boundary, borderland'. The English kingdom of Mercia bore this name for much of its existence. The kingdom of Denmark still bears it, as does the modern region of Finnmark in Norway, while Austria was originally the Ostmark and early German lands had the Nordmark. The Hedmark was located in southern-central Norway, around the north-western parts of the modern county of Hedmark, at least to begin with. Its southern border abutted Vestfold, while much of its long south-western border lined up with the territory which formed Oppland.

All of the kings of early Hedmark 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 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 Sweden, and their various heroic deeds can be pieced together. Most of these kings cannot be pinned down by historical documents or other such reliable methods, so they essentially enjoy a semi-legendary status which probably reflects (and glorifies) a more earthly reality.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, 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 Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), from Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, 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 that is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Visit Norway.)

fl c.640s - 680s

Thrond 'the Old'

First pre-Viking king of Hedmark?

c.655

At a time when the kings of the Denes are conquering his homeland, Olaf Tretelgia is said to flee Sweden 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. 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.

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

fl c.660s?

Eystein (I) Haardaade ('Severe')

Son. King of Oppland and Hedmark.

c.660s/670s?

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

late 7th century

Halfdan Hvitbeinn / Halfdan I Whitelegs

Son of Olaf Tretelgia. m Åsa, dau of Eystein Haardaade.

Halfdan Hvitbeinn (or Huitbein) 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 Sweden and Norway about AD 655) upon the death of his half-brother, Ingjald Olafsson.

fl c.800s?

Ivar Halfdansson

Son. King of Oppland and Hedmark.

Halfdan Hvitbeinn's son is Eystein. He succeeds his father as king in Raumarike and Vestfold. Married to Hilde, a daughter of Eric Agnarson, the latter kingdom is clearly inherited through his wife while the former appears to be due to a conquest.

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)

fl c.840s

Sigtryg Eysteinsson

King of Hedmark & Raumarike. Killed by Halfdan Svarti of Agder.

fl c.840s

Eystein (II) Eysteinsson 'the Noisy'

Brother. King of Hedmark & Raumarike. Oppland too?

c.840s

The minor kingdom of Raumarike is attacked by Halfdanr Svarti of Agder. He first kills its king, Sigtryg Eysteinsson, in battle, and then repeatedly attacks Sigtryg's brother in battle until he is also defeated. Raumarike passes to Halfdanr, along with half of Hedmark. The latter's subsequent ruler seems to survive into history as nothing more than a name.

fl c.850s?

Hogne

Vassal or independent ruler of Hedmark's free half?

860s - 870s

Eysteinsson

Son of Eystein 'the Noisy'.

860s - 870s

Frode

Co-ruler? Brother?

866

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.

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 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'.

872

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), Hordaland, 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.

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

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. Haraldr places his son Dag in command in Hedmark.

fl 920s - 930s

Dag (I) Haraldsson

Son of Haraldr Hárfagri. Also ruled Gudbrandsdal.

fl 920s - 930s

Ragnar Rykkil Haraldsson

Brother. Also ruled Gudbrandsdal.

fl c.940s

Ragnvald 'Reitilbein' Haraldsson

Brother?

? - c.950

Hring (I) Haraldsson

Brother?

Dag (II) Haraldsson

Brother?

Eivind / Eyvind Finnsson

Son of Finn.

fl  early 1000s

Dag (III) Hringsson

Son of Hring.

? - c.1020

Gudrod Haraldsson

Brother? In Gudbrandsdal. Pagan. Killed by Olaf II of Norway.

c.1020

The accession of Olaf II in 1016 brings his own domain of Agder fully back under the control of the Norwegian crown. Olaf, though, does have to battle against pagan petty kings in his realm, which means killing Gudrod of Gudbrandsdal and Hedmark about 1020, and mutilating the defeated Hroerkr Dagsson of Hedmark in 1021.

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)

1000s - 1021

Hroerkr Dagsson

Son. Eyes put out by Olaf II of Norway.

1021

Hring (II) Dagsson

Brother. Defeated and kingdom absorbed into Norway.

1021

Olaf II seemingly secures his unified Norwegian throne. Having defeated petty king after petty king, he rules a country which seems now to be a fully and permanently unified kingdom (despite various other rebellions).