It’s Thursday, November 21, 2019 in Austin, Texas
Rognvald Lord of Orkney - Kievan Rus - Viking Dogs
Genealogy research reveals surprising link to Kievan Russ and Byzantium in my tree.
I have just published a blog on the rediscovery of he Viking color palette -you can read it by clicking here.
Rognvald Jarl av Orkney Brusason was my 32nd great grand-father. He was the son of Brusi Sigurdsson, was Earl of Orkney jointly with Thorfinn Sigurdsson from about 1037 onwards. His life is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga.
Rognvald was born in 1011 and was assassinated by Thorfin's minister, Thorkel Forsterer on Orkney in December 1046, when he was just 35. You can still see where this tragic story took place. The BBC recently visited the building and told the tragic story of Rognvald. He was married to a daughter of Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev, Arlogia of Orkney. Vladimir was married to Princess Anna Lekapene. sister of Byzantine Emperor Basil II the Bulgar Slayer. Vladimir had many mistresses with whom he had a number of children. It has not believed that Anna had any children with Vladimir. Arlogia was born after the death of Anna in 1015 and in the same year of Vladimir's death. Her mother was Alogia, Princess of Sweden and Bohemia. She had the title of Countess of Orkney. Through this princely marriage Rognvald elevated his status and he took on royal affectations. This created resentment on Orkney and was a contributing factor in his murder. He was away from Orkney most of the time and lost the Earldom in battle and had to flee to Norway. Rognvald was taken by his father to Norway, to the court of Olaf Haraldsson, when Brusi and Thorfinn went there to have the inheritance of Einar Wry-mouth's third-share of the Earldom settled. Olaf kept Einar's share for himself, appointing Brusi to administer it, and kept Rognvald at his court.
With a single ship, and a crew of picked men, Rognvald returned to Orkney hoping that surprise would enable him to retake the earldom. He succeeded, but not entirely as Thorfinn was able to flee to Caithness. However, soon afterwards, Rognvald was surprised in his turn, but was killed by Thorkell the Fosterer while escaping, given away by the barking of his lap dog among the rocks of the sea.. I wonder what breed of dog it was and if the dog survived. It was probably a mongrel. Dogs were very popular with the Vikings and in pagan times dogs were believed to accompany a warrior on his voyage to Valhalla after death. Lap dogs were especially valued by the Vikings as sentinels and were given as gifts. He must have loved the dog very much since he tried to escape with him. It went with him throughout his travels. How tragic that his dog was the cause of his death. Rognvald was buried on Papa Westray.
The Orkneyinga Saga says of Rognvald:
"Rognvald was one of the handsomest of men, with a fine head of golden hair, smooth as silk. At an early age he grew to be tall and strong, earning a great reputation for his shrewdness and courtesy ..."
Rognvald was a supporter of Olaf Haraldsson, who was later proclaimed a saint, sharing his exile in Kievan Rus, and helping his brother Harald Sigurdsson, better known as Harald Hardraade, escape after the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. While Harald went on to Constantinople, Rognvald and other exiles remained in Rus, in the service of Yaroslav the Wise. Rognvald returned to Norway with Olaf's son Magnus the Good in 1035. Yaroslav was the half brother of his wife, Arlogia.
It had been claimed that Harald carved his Runic name into the balustrade of the Imperial Gallery at Hagia Sophia - which I have examined closely myself. It's one of the most famous Runic inscriptions in the world. It is to be found in the upper gallery of Hagia Sophia in an area reserved for the Byzantine Imperial family. It seems to date from the 9th century and mentions a Halvdan. Therefore, it cannot be him.
Here's something on him and his time in Constantinople (thank you to Wikipedia and other sources):.
Early life and wandering in the East
Harald was the youngest of King Olaf II's three half-brothers born to Asta Gudbrandsdatter. His father was Asta's second husband Sigurd Syr. The Icelandic sources, in particular Heimskringla, state that Sigurd, like Olaf's father, was a great-grandson of Harald I of Norway (Harald Fairhair) in the male line.
Harald took part, on the side of Olaf, in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Although wounded, he managed to escape, thus leaving Norway in exile. He was able to form a band of warriors out of men who had also been exiled as a result of Olaf's death.
In 1031 Harald and his men reached the land of the Kievan Rus, where they served the armies of Yaroslav I the Wise, the Grand Prince of the Rus, whose wife Ingigerd was a distant relative of Harald. Harald is thought to have taken part in Grand Prince Yaroslav's campaign against the Poles, and was appointed joint commander of defense forces. Sometime after this, Harald and his retinue of some five hundred warriors moved on to Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, where there had been at least since 1034 an elite royal guard composed largely of Scandinavian Rus called the Varangian Guard. Harald served in the guard until 1042. In a Greek book written in the 1070s, Kekaumenos's Strategikon, Harald is described as "son of the king of Varangia" and is said to have performed so bravely in Byzantine campaigns in Sicily and Bulgaria that the Emperor appointed him first as manglabites, or member of a special section of the Emperor's personal bodyguard, and then to the title of spatharocandidate. It appears he may have been imprisoned for some time on the orders of the Empress Zoe, it is suggested on charges of misappropriation of funds, but was released, or escaped imprisonment, on the ascension of the new Emperor Constantine IX.
Sometime in 1042, Harald requested permission from the emperor to return to his homeland, but it was denied. "Nonetheless", remarks Kekaumenos, "he secretly escaped and ruled over the land instead of his brother [Olaf]". It is likely that the money Hardrada made whilst serving in Constantinople allowed him to fund his claim for the crown of Norway: some later Scandinavian sources note that aside from the significant spoils of battle he had retained, Harald had participated three times in polutasvarf, a term which implied either a pillaging of the palace exchequer on the death of the Emperor, or perhaps the disbursement of funds to the Varangians by the new Emperor in order to ensure their loyalty. Harald had been in Constantinople through the reigns of Romanos III, Michael IV, and Michael V, and thus perhaps had three opportunities, beyond his legitimate revenues, to carry off immense wealth (with Yaroslav of Rus acting as safekeeper for his fortune. Despite this, Kekaumenos lauds the "loyalty and love" Hardrada had for the Empire.
In 1045, in Rus, where he stayed two or three years before returning to Scandinavia, Harald married Elisabeth, daughter of Yaroslav and granddaughter of King Olof Skötkonung of Sweden (referred to in Scandinavian sources as Ellisif). Sources claim they were engaged before his departure but Yaroslav declined to confirm the marriage until Harald distinguished himself. During his service in the Byzantine Empire, Harald wrote a love poem addressed to Elisabeth, citing his many heroic deeds and complaining that "a golden-haired maiden of Gard does not like me".
You can still see where the Varangian guard was housed in the Great Palace of Constantinople - to the east of the Hippodrome. There were several hundred Viking and English guard stationed there until the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The area also included a prison and wild animal zoo.
Here is my line of descent from Rognvald Jarl av Orkney Brusason from Ancestry.com: