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Óláfr (Guðrøðarson) Gudrødsen (abt. 1090 - abt. 1153)

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Óláfr (Olaf I) "King of Man and the Isles, the Dwarf Bitling, the Red" Gudrødsen formerly Guðrøðarson aka Gudrödsson
Born about in Isle of Manmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married [location unknown]
Husband of — married [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died about in Isle of Man, Norwaymap
Profile last modified | Created 25 Dec 2015
This page has been accessed 4,605 times.

Categories: Kingdom of the Isles.

Preceded by
Regent - Domnall mac Taidc Uí Briain
King of the Isles
Succeeded by
Guðrøðr Óláfsson




Olafr Godredsson was a member of the Crovan dynasty. He was the younger son of Gofraid Croban, King of Dublin and the Isles.

Óláfr's name appears variously in Irish and English secondary sources. He appears in Gaelic sources as Amlaim or Amlaíb, Olaf in English. In the Vikings sagas he appears as Ólafr and Óláfr. He is also accorded several epithets which appear to relate to his size; the Orkneyinga saga gives him the Old Norse byname bitlingr, which translates to "bit", "little-bit", "morsel", "tit-bit", the Old Norse byname klíningr, translates to "buttered bread", is accorded to Óláfr in Heimskringla. It can be assumed they relate to his stature but may suggest he was either "small" or "large". Another epithet, "the red", is accorded to Óláfr but istory, initially in the early modern History of the MacDonalds and is unlikely to be historically accurate.

For historical background, see the Historical Context below. For Olafr Godredsson on wikipedia. See also People of Medieval Scotland Olaf I, king of the Isles (

Early Life

it is not clear, in source material, when he was born but it was certainly a turbulent time. His father, who appears as King of the Isles c. 1079, was embroiled in a bitter war in Ireland with Muircheartach Ua Briain, King of Munster. Godred Crovan appears as King of Dublin in 1091, thus securing the trade routes around the Irish Sea from Galloway to Wales. Due to the increasing sensitivity with England surrounding Cumberland it might be presumed that Godfred sent his youngest son, Olafr, to the English court as "ward".

Olafr, like David I of Scotland, lived at the Court of Henry I, King of England for much of the period of the Irish campaign of, initially his father and then his brothers. It is from this period, in England, that many of his reforms, like those of David, can be attributed, including the use of Latin in his court and church. It might also be presumed that the two had developed a relationship, certainly evidenced later in life.

He does not seem to have been present on Mann during the bitter dispute, after his father's death, of the plague in 1095, between his two older brothers in 1096. He appears to have resented the punishment dealt to his brother Haraldr (he was captured, blinded, castrated and exiled to Ireland) by the older brother Lögmaðr. Olafr, with support from Henry I, appears to have risen against Lögmaðr.

Olafr, turned to Muircheartach Ua Briain, possessing the largest naval fleet in the region at the time, for further support. In return for this support he offered Ua Briain to provide a regent, from his own kin to govern the Isles, until Óláfr was old enough to assume control himself. From this we can likely assert he was less than 20 years old in 1096, possibly 16 as asserted in this profile.[1]

From an entry in Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum[2] we can determine that Magnus Olafsson, King of Norway, was on Mann, in 1098. He appears to command obedience from Galloway, Anglesey and Muircheartach Ua Briain. After this Treaty, c. Christmas 1098, Magnus Olafsson, according to the Chronicle, travelled to Ireland and was killed and then buried in Ireland (near the church of St. Patrick, in Down) and "the chiefs of the Isles sent for and brought over Olave, son of Godred Cronan, of whom we have already spoken, who was at that time residing at the court of Henry, King of England, son of William." However the notice of the death of Magnus Olafsson in 1098 is an error, thus casting doubt on the remainder. Magnus Olafsson returned to Norway in the summer of 1099 to conclude a war with Denmark and Sweden, returning to Ireland in 1101.[3] Magnus was killed, in the manner described on 24 August 1103. Most scholars now believe that Magnus Olafsson retained direct control of the Kingdom of the Isles until his death in 1103 when his son, Sigurd Magnusson, who was 14 at the time, took over. Sigurd, however, after marrying a daughter of Muircheartach Ua Briain, returned to Norway, where he was Crowned joint King and then led the Norwegian Crusade in support of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, in 1107. He never seems to have returned to the Isles. On his departure it seems that Lögmaðr Guðrøðarson held the title to the Isles. He though, according to the Chronicle, repented his actions against his brother, took the Cross and died at Jerusalem. Although there is some dispute regarding which Crusade it seems logical to suggest he went with his King, Sigurd, on the Norwegian Crusade.

Following his departure there is notice of the Regent, Domnall mac Taidc Uí Briain, a relative of Muircheartach Ua Briain, holding Court on Mann, 1111/1112 suggesting Olafr was not yet of age. Thus the dates in the Chronicle are to be treated with some scepticism.

Domnall was hated and the islands rose up in revolt and it seems likely that Henry I installed Olarf onto the throne at this point, c. 1112, to reduce the position posed by the Irish Kingdom and to strengthen the position of England amongst the Isles. It was at the same point, 1113, that Henry I gave David (later King of Scotland) Cumbria and appointed him Prince of Cumbria. Thus, in these two appointments Henry controlled much of the trade on the western shores along with possessing one of the largest naval forces available in the day.

His Reign

Olafr was a modernizer and a reformer of his realm. His four decade reign was generally peaceful. If using the Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum as source it appears to be chronologically 10 years out and records attributed to 1102 seemingly occurring in 1112.[4]

He certainly appears to have formed close relationships with both Scotland and Ireland. David I was crowned 1124 and it appears likely, as David established "marcher" (border) lordships between Cumbria and Galloway, that David continued to allow Galloway to be "ruled" by the Kingdom of the Isles.

He created or built on the Diocese of the Isles and gained authority for the establishment of its own Bishop, thus indicating it lay outside the jurisdiction of both England and Scotland. There is a record noted in the People of Medieval Scotland database[5] where Olaf, king of the Isles; has committed and granted to Furness Abbey dignity of episcopal election of bishops of the Isles, and observance of law of Christianity, saving reverence due to apostolic see; has also provided a portion of land for construction of an abbey. This, on the PoMS dataset is suggested as 1134 and similarly appears so in Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum. However the later source notes that the Abbey already existed and is believed to have been built c. 1124. This authority was later tested by both the English and Scandinavian authorities.

It is uncertain how the diocese of the Isles was organised but much of which is later attributed to the irish church was likely built by Olafr and his son, Guðrøðr Óláfsson. MacDonald (2007)[6] perceived that, by the middle of the 13th Century (1260 and beyond), Rushen Abbey was the royal mausoleum for the Crovan dynasty. Olafr's son Guðrøðr was buried on Iona, an island on which the oldest intact building is St Oran's chapel. Certain Irish influences in this chapel's architecture indicate that it dates to about the mid twelfth-century, a period of Norse domination, and it is possible that it was erected by Óláfr or Guðrøðr. However the Orkney Saga suggests the chapel pre-dates both these and existed prior to the expedition of Magnus Barefoot in 1098.[7]

The last years of his reign saw warfare erupting in both the middle Isles, around Argyll, and in Galloway, the latter being a result of Galloway creating incursions into Scotland, which Olafr could not control.

In late 1152 Olafr sent Guðrøðr (Godred) his son to Norway to give homage to Inge Haraldsson, the King of Norway. It seems, by this action, that Olafr was likely infirm or wishing to pass title to his eldest son. Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum suggests he was "well received and there some time". Another possible explanation might be that Guðrøðr was just of age; this explanation might explain why there was so much dispute, from his half-brother Rögnvaldr, regarding passage of title.

It appears that, while he was away, Olafr was confronted by three Dublin-based nephews—the Haraldssonar—the sons of his exiled brother, Haraldr. They were supported by "a large body of men, and among them all the refugees from the dominions". It seems likely, from the consequent retributions, that this body included followers of his son-in-law Somerled. They demanded division of the Kingdom and this division further supports the later position of Somerled.

David I (of Scotland) died in May 1153. It seems likely that the nephews forced the hand of Olafr as a result. The group met at Ramsay on the Isle of Man, on 29 June 1153, likely as it had the largest natural harbour. Olafr was murdered by the second brother, Reginald (Ragnall/Ragnald depending on source).[8]

It seems that the force then invaded Galloway, against Fergus - the father of the Queen, but were repelled and then they slaughtered or evicted all the Gallovidians on the Isle of Mann before fleeing back to their lands, presumably before Guðrøðr returned and inflicted retribution, which he did. It is not clear what happened to the Queen, Affraic ingen Fergusa (Affrica, daughter of Fergus of Galloway), but it can be presumed, from the action, that she was still alive prior to the coup.

The retribution was fierce Guðrøðr returned that autumn, supported by a significant Norwegian force, provided by the King of Norway and defeated his three kin-slaying cousins, and their supporters, successfully secured the kingship. As pointed out on wikipedia it is significant to note that he used Norwegian support rather than that from Galloway, the conclusions, on wikipedia, likely correct but also suggesting his mother was dead. What was also obvious, from the fact that he was after hated in the lands of Somerled, is that Somerled was part of the coup.

Family and Legacy

Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum suggests he had one wife and several "concubines".[9] We can assume this to mean he had one wife in the eyes of the church on the Isle of Man.

This wife is stated to be Affrica, daughter of Fergus of Galloway, and from which he had Guðrøðr (Godred), his heir. It might be assumed that this marriage occurred shortly after his assumption to the throne of the Isles in 1112 although noting that the relevant entry[10] uses future tense. It is worth noting that the People of Medieval Scotland entry for his son[11] suggests that Affrica might have been his second wife although doesn't mention his first. Although the union is not dated in contemporary sources, modern historians suggest it likely to have been arranged c. late 1130's.[12][13] In this they are likely late and supports the "coming of age" of Guðrøðr. If this event, of 1152, is assumed to be at age 20 then the marriage likely occurred 1131 and she young, placing her birth a c. 1115.

The Orkneyinga saga[14] is very clear and states that he, where he is stated to be Olaf Bitling, the King of the Suðreyjar, had married Ingibiorg, the daughter of Earl Hakon Paulson and a "concubine" called Helga, the daughter to a freeman, of Dale in Caithness named Maddan. It is difficult to determine from the Saga when this marriage may have occurred, The relevant paragraph starts with "When Earl Hakon ruled over the Orkneys there lived a noble and wealthy man, by the name of Maddan,......." suggesting it happened after Hakon murdered Earl Magnus and thus after 1115 (noting the error in dates pointed out in the notes to the Saga). Thus it might be presumed that the marriage between Ingibiorg and Olaf occurred c 1135. No source has been found that identifies any children from this marriage. That she is not noticed in the Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum suggests she never went to the Isle of Man.

The concept of "marriage" to the early Norse Lords was not as we might understand it today. Even though Olafr was noted as introducing feudalism into Suðreyjar he doesn't seem to have abided by these rules. Further the Crown of Norway did not require legitimacy of birth as a prerequisite to inheritance. In an unusual attempt at irony the Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum suggests, of Olafr, that "He was devout; and zealous in promoting the divine service; and acceptable to God and man, except in as much as he indulged too much in the domestic vice of kings."[15]

Other than the definitive statement that Guðrøðr (Godred) was a child of the union with Affrica, daughter of Fergus of Galloway, none of the other children are identified with a mother.

He is known to have had:

Guðrøðr (Godred).
Rögnvaldr (Reginald),
Harold, and many daughters, one of which;
Ragnhild (Ragnhilda) is known to have married Somerled. As this marriage occurred prior to 1140 she must have been born to someone other than the two ladies mentioned as wives in this Profile.

Historical Context

From the collapse of the Danish Empire under King Cnut, c. 1035 AD, until the Treaty of Perth, in 1266, the Western Isles, and parts of the Northern and Western mainland of Scotland, were controlled by various rulers who owed their allegiance to the Kings of Norway and were part of the Norwegian empire. It was ruled as two separate jurisdictions; Norðreyjar (Northern Isles; Orkneys, Shetlands, Skye and the Outer Hebrides), ruled from the Orkneys, and Suðreyjar (Southern Isles, including the Inner Hebrides), ruled from various locations but generally Dublin or the Isle of Mann. The Norwegian rulers, so removed from any control by Norway, often ruled as semi-independent lords changing allegiances to suit the geo-political circumstances of the day. Such was the case at the end of the 11th century.

When Olaf Haraldsson, King of Norway, died in 1093, civil war erupted between his son, Magnus Olafsson (Wikpedia) and his nephew, Haakon Magnusson (Wikipedia). The war ended with the death of Haakon Magnusson in 1095 but the effects were felt throughout the Norwegian empire with many nobles failing to acknowledge Magnus Olafsson as King. It appears that one such dominion to rebel was Suðreyjar as, around the late 11th Century, the region erupts into violent rebellion against the ruling Viking Crovan dynasty (Wikipedia).

The leader of this dynasty was (wikitree - Godred Crovan, Godred Crovan) who appears during the Norwegian Invasion of England in 1066. He had gained control of the southern part of Suðreyjar (Dublin, Mann and Islay particularly) in 1091 and calls himself King of Dublin and the Isles. Although his lineage is obscure, it seems likely he was Gaelic/Norwegian, believed to be descended from Uí Ímair (House of Ivar).

Ireland was devastated by the plague in 1094/1095 and, either as a result of this or an uprising by Muircheartach Ua Briain, or both, Godfred fled to Mann, which appears to have been his major centre. He died, of the plague, in 1095 and his death is well recorded in a number of contemporary or near contemporary sources. Local tradition on both Islay and Mann suggest he died in one or the other and is buried, either on Islay, Iona or Mann, with many legends arising. He gave rise to the Síol nGofraidh (seed of Godfred).

The conflict brought Magnus Olafsson, King of Norway, now secure in Norway, to the Isles to restore Norwegian authority. Based out of his base in the Orkneys he campaigned around the Irish Sea in 1098 and 1099 and raided through the Northern and Southern Isles, ensuring Norwegian control, of the Isles, by a treaty with the Scottish king (1098 - Edgar I (Eagar mac Mhaoil Chaluim)).

Based out of Mann, Magnus had a number of forts and houses built on the island and probably also obtained suzerainty of Galloway. He sailed to Wales later in his expedition (1099/1100), winning control of Anglesey (and possibly Gwynedd's submission) after repelling the invading Norman (English) forces from the island.

Magnus also recognised, in an alliance, Muircheartach Ua Briain as his lord in Dublin, with himself as King of Dublin. After successfully reaching agreement with Muircheartach Ua Briain it appears he was ambushed by enemies of Muircheartach Ua Briain and was killed in Ulster in 1103.

The Suðreyjar once more erupted into warfare. This time between the two eldest sons of Godfred. His eldest Lögmaðr Guðrøðarson certainly seems to have taken on the mantle as King of the Isles but it is not clear whether this was with agreement of Magnus Olafsson or not. His rule is not clear either but it seems that he went, or was sent, on Crusade and travelled to Jerusalem where he died.

Regardless of the reason the Síol nGofraidh was restored to the Kingdom of the Isles in the form of Óláfr Guðrøðarson (represented in this Profile) (the youngest son of Godfred).

Name: Olaf I the Dwarf GUDRØDSEN King of Man Surname: Gudrødsen Given Name: Olaf I the Dwarf Suffix: King of Man Sex: M Birth: ABT 1090 Death: 1153 in Isle of Man, Norway

Note: Olaf I the Dwarf Gudrødsen was king of Man and the Isles 1113-1153. Olaf I was the youngest son of Godrød Crovan and had lived at the English court of Henry I since his father's death. The Chronicle of Man describes him as a man of peace showing much wisdom and skill. During his long forty years of reign he managed to remain on friendly terms with the rulers of England, Ireland and Scotland. He was murdered in 1153 by his nephews who came over from Dublin to emand a share of his kingdom.

Father: Gudrød CROVAN King of Man b: ABT 1050

Marriage 1 Datter of Jarlen GALLOVAY b: ABT 1090


Gudrød II OLAFSEN King of Man b: ABT 1120 in Isle of Man, Norway

1 Olaf I the Dwarf GUDRØDSEN King of Man b: ABT 1090 d: 1153

+ Datter of Jarlen GALLOVAY b: ABT 1090

2 Gudrød II OLAFSEN King of Man b: ABT 1120 d: 1187

+ Finola MAC LOCHLAINN b: ABT 1180 d: 1180

3 Olaf the Black GUDRØDSEN b: ABT 1180

+ Christina of ROSS b: ABT 1210

4 Magnhild Maud Matilda OLAFSDATTER b: ABT 1220 d: 1292

+ Torleif HARALDSEN b: ABT 1230 d: AFT 1280

5 Halstein TORLEIFSEN b: ABT 1270 d: ABT 1345

6 Nils HALSTEINSEN b: ABT 1310

+ Kristina HALVARDSDATTER b: ABT 1310

7 Peder NILSSON b: ABT 1350 d: ABT 1410

8 Karl Pedersson HOV b: ABT 1380

9 Jens KARLSEN b: ABT 1410 d: 1469

10 Carl Jensen JAEMTE b: ABT 1460

4 Magnus OLAFSEN d: 1265


  • The major source work for this dynasty, the Crovan Dynasty, is the Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum, a Latin document, written at the Rushen Abbey, an Abbey built by the Monks of the Sauvignac Order in 1134 under grant by King Óláfr, this person. The Chronicle was compiled around 1257/1262 at the abbey which was then held by the Cistercian Order. An English transcript is available, with Historical Notes by Professor Munch, at the Isle of Mann website. The Notes are an interpretation and should be treated as such. The original manuscript can be treated as a Secondary Source although noting that there is some variance with the now accepted historical record, particularly regarding event dates. It serves as a strong reference for the genealogical record of this dynasty.
  • Olaf Godredson found in Ancestry trees. This requires a subscription and may not be accurate.
  • There is a discussion regarding tracing lineage from the Norwegian/Danish dynasties on this page, although it really refers to the main line of the Norwegian Kingdom and is of a later date.

Olof I (Bitling) Gudrödsson Född ca 1080 Isle of Man, England Hitta alla personer med händelser på denna plats Kön Man Yrke Kung på Isle of Man, England 1103-1153 Död 29 Jun 1153 Noteringar

"the dwarf"Familj med: Ingeborg Håkonsdotter (ca 1099-1126), dotter till jarlen Håkon Pålsson (1075-1126) på Orkneyöarna Dottern Ragnhild (Ayla) Olofsdotter blev gift med Sumerled Mac Gillabride, som var kung på Isle of Man och Hebriderna 1153-1164. (Källa: Regentlängd för Isle of Man) Vigsel: efter 1115 3) Familj med Afreca av GALLOWAY (1099 - 1130) Vigsel: omkring 1127 4) Barn: Gudröd II OLOFSSON (1127 - 1187) Noteringar Galloway är ett landskap i sydvästra delen av Skottland och gränsar till Isle of Mans nordligaste del. Kallas också för Olav 'the Dwarf (Dvärg)'.He took a wife named Affrica, daughter of Fergus of Galloway by whom he had issue Godred. He had also many concubines, by whom he had issue three sons, Reginald, Lagman and Harold, and manydaughters, one of whom was married to Sumerled, Lord of Argyll; and this was the cause of the ruin of the whole kingdom of the Isles, for he had issue by her four sons, Dugald, Reginald, Angus andOlave, of whom we shall speak more fully hereafter. (Källa: May Teistevoll)Kung Isle of Man och Hebriderna 1103-1153. (Källa: Regentlängd för Isle of Man)Olaf was killed in 1154 at Ramsey. Now, Chronicle says that his son Godred had, just before that, gone to Norway to King Inge; made himself his man and, next autumn, on his return, put in at Orkney,'and all the chiefs of the Isles, hearing that he had come, were delighted'. He was in fact a connection. Godred from there came to Man, and turned out his cousins who had killed his father Olaf;blinded two of them, killed the third this maintaining a connection with Orkney at that date I think in harmony with my general view of Olafþs connection with the family of the Saint. (Källa: FrancesCoakley)Olaf was brought up at the court of Henry I of England. (Källa: Frances Coakley)Källor 1) Landsarkivets bibliotek, G.V.C. Young, Isle of Man, England 2) Stewart Baldwin, England (webbplats) 3) Frances Coakley, England (epost) 4) Beräkning av Björn Espell, Frösön

Person-ID 12553 Lindh Senast ändrad 28 Dec 2009

Far Gudröd II (Crovan) Haraldsson, f. ca 1030, Hebriderna, Skottland Hitta alla personer med händelser på denna plats, d. ca 1095, Hebriderna, Skottland Hitta alla personer med händelser på denna plats (Ålder ~ 65 år) Mor Ragnhild Maria av Norge, f. ca 1047, Norge Hitta alla personer med händelser på denna plats, d. eft 1080, Isle of Man, England Hitta alla personer med händelser på denna plats (Ålder ~ 34 år) Gift ca 1062 Familjens ID 8692 Familjeöversikt

Familj Afreca of Galloway, f. ca 1099, Galloway, Skottland Hitta alla personer med händelser på denna plats, d. ca 1130, Isle of Man, England Hitta alla personer med händelser på denna plats (Ålder ~ 31 år) Gift ca 1127 Barn + 1. Gudröd IV Olofsson, f. ca 1127, Isle of Man, England Hitta alla personer med händelser på denna plats, d. 10 Nov 1187 (Ålder ~ 60 år) Senast ändrad 23 Okt 2006 Familjens ID 8691 Familjeöversikt

  1. Note there is some variance with the source "Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum" regarding the events. The variance, although important to historical scholars does not materially effect the genealogical record.
  2. Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum, entry for 1098
  3. See the wikipedia article on Magnus Barefoot for details.
  4. Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum, entry for 1102
  5. People of medieval Scotland Record of Source 731
  6. McDonald, RA (2007). Manx Kingship in its Irish Sea Setting, 1187–1229: King Rǫgnvaldr and the Crovan Dynasty. Dublin: Four Courts Press. ISBN 978-1-84682-047-2.
  7. Orkneyinga Saga on
  8. Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum, entry for 1142
  9. Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum, entry for 1102
  10. Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum, entry for 1102
  11. [ Godred, king of the Isles (d.1187)
  12. Oram, RD (1993). "A Family Business? Colonisation and Settlement in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-century Galloway" page 116
  13. Anderson, AO, ed. (1922). Early Sources of Scottish History, A.D. 500 to 1286. Vol. 2. London: Oliver and Boyd. Accessed via Internet Archive.
  14. The Orkneyinga saga, page 69
  15. Chronica Regum Manniæ et Insularum, entry for 1134


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On 26 Dec 2017 at 06:32 GMT Richard Schuerger wrote:

Born after mother's death.

On 24 Dec 2017 at 19:05 GMT Karen Parker wrote:

If Ragnhild Maria av Norge died in 1080 how can she be the mother of Óláfr (Guðrøðarson) Gudrødsen.

On 26 Jun 2017 at 18:12 GMT Steve Selbrede wrote:

I cleaned this up somewhat, but the bio still needs editing.

On 1 Feb 2017 at 21:29 GMT Mona (Dickson) Jensen wrote:

The Isle of Man has been part of England since 1399. The fact that it was ruled by Norway before 1266 is a bit irrelevant when defining a place. Maybe you should just delete ', Norway' under Died and add a historical note as to who ruled at that time.

On 1 Feb 2017 at 15:28 GMT Jack Day wrote:

Looks like Olaf has a couple of wives who need to be merged!

Olaf I is 29 degrees from Robin Helstrom, 29 degrees from Katy Jurado and 21 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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