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Harald Gråfell

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Harald Gråfell - Harold Gray-cloak
Reigned circa 960-970 AD

The son of Eirik Blodøx and a ruthless tyrant that kept Norway hanging onto its pagan roots.

The History of Harald Gråfell
Harald Gråfell, "Harold Gray-cloak" ruled Norway following the death of Håkon Den Gode. In the Norges Regenter, "The list of Norwegian rulers", he is referred to as Harald II Eiriksson Gråfell. He is the eldest son of Eirik Blodøks, he was a also a member of the Hårfagre line and, together with his four brothers, governed the country from 960 to 970 AD.

Harald's reign is a dark chapter in the saga of Norway’s kings. A Viking who treated his subjects and minor chieftains with great harshness, he remained a heathen, despite the fact that, like all Eirik Blodøks’ sons he had been converted to Christianity in England. Harald permitted pagan sacrifices and did nothing to turn his subject from their heathen ways.

The reckless conduct of Harald and his brothers led to profound unrest among the people. Sigurd Håkonson, a member of the powerful family of Lade earls was killed. The brothers also killed their royal cousins Trygve and Gudrød and broke with their ally, Harald Blåtann, "Harold Blue-tooth", Christian king of Denmark. Håkon Sigurdsson Ladejarl, "Håkon son of Sigurd earl of Lade" son of the murdered earl of Lade Sigurd, had sought refuge in Denmark, and there seized the opportunity to avenge his father’s death by challenging Harald to battle to have him killed. The victorious in the Battle of Limfjord, Harald Blåtann and Håkon Sigurdsson, sailed with a powerful fleet to Norway and took possession of Harald Gråfell’s kingdom with little or no resistance. They then divided the country between them. Eastern, Southern and Western Norway was now Danish, while Trøndelag, along with Namdal valley and Hålogaland, was taken over by Håkon Sigurdsson to be an independent kingdom.

Håkon Sigurdsson, who was a heathen, viewed with disfavor Harald Blåtann’s missioning zeal and insistence on baptism. He disassociated himself from Harald’s Christening of the country. Harald declared war on Håkon to try to make the rest of Norway baptized. Håkon won the battle, and he is considered the last true pagan to rule Norway circa 970-995 AD. Håkon Sigurdsson was given the title king, despite not being of the royal bloodline of Harald Hårfagre, and become Norway's 5th ruler.

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