Norway History: Viking Age to the Kalmar Union

By | September 15, 2021

Until the 9th century, the territory of the Norwegians was divided into partial kingdoms as well as “landscapes” under the leadership of a peasant aristocracy, which had gained considerable wealth through military campaigns and trade in England, Ireland and the Franconian Empire. The expansion of the Norwegians during the Viking Age (late 8th century to mid 11th century) included parts of central and northern England, Scotland, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man and the coastal regions of Ireland, the Faroe Islands and finally Iceland and Greenland. Visit for Norway home to magnificent mountains.

Starting from his home areas in southwestern and eastern Norway, the petty king Harald I Fairhair attempted to unite the other petty kingdoms under his rule. He succeeded in the battle of Hafrsfjord (near Stavanger, 872?). His power base, however, was limited to western and south-eastern Norway. Many families of chiefs and small kings left the country after this first “imperial collection” and settled in Iceland, which had been discovered shortly before. However, Harald’s work ofconquest and unification did not last. It was not until 1047 that Harald III, the Strict, the founder of Oslo, was recognized as the sole king.

Christianity came to Norway via England and was supported by the mission kings Håkon I, the Good (around 935–961), Olaf I. Tryggvasson (995–1000) and Olaf II. Haraldsson (“the Holy”, 1015 –28) partly violently and against the resistance of the independence-minded Jarle (“princes”) of Trondheim. Olaf Haraldsson was venerated as a saint soon after his death in the Battle of Stiklestad (July 29, 1030). He is still Norway’s national saint today. The center of his cult was Nidaros (today Trondheim), which became the Norwegian archbishopric in 1152. Until then, the Norwegian bishoprics had been under the Archdiocese of Lund.

From a legal and administrative point of view, at the end of the Viking Age, the country was divided into four large thing districts, initially independent of royalty, which then had their own legal books in the 12th and 13th centuries, as well as into numerous “ship-providing districts”, which were defined as part of the royal army Had to man and equip number of warships (Leidang).

The foreign policy interests of the Norwegian kings of the 11th century were BC. a. facing south (disputes with Denmark) and west; Harald III, the strict, fell in 1066 during a campaign of conquest in England; his grandson Magnus III. Barfot (1093–1103) sought to consolidate Norwegian rule on the Scottish islands and in Ireland in three campaigns.

The period between 1130 and 1240 was marked by civil wars, which were not only about dynastic succession disputes – special tensions arose from the combined electoral and hereditary kingship – but ultimately about the distribution of power between kingship, church, rural aristocracy and free peasants. In particular, the now well-organized church succeeded in asserting its claim to supremacy over the kingship by legitimizing Magnus V. Erlingsson’s coronation (1163 or 1164; the first royal coronation in the north) not only his claim to the throne, but also a hereditary kingship devoted to the church established (Reichstag zu Bergen 1163/64). The opponents of this church policy (the civil war party of the “Birkebeiner”) won under their leader Sverre Sigurdsson (1184–1202) won a decisive victory over the supporters of Magnus Erlingssons and the bishops (the “Baglers”) in 1184. Sverre ascended the throne, made himself overlord of the Norwegian Church and was crowned in 1194. Not until the long reign of Håkon IV. Håkonsson (1217–63) stopped the turmoil of the civil war. The kingship emerged consolidated from it. The royal court in Bergen was the glamorous center of an upper class oriented towards the continent, who received European court culture and literature (in Norwegian translations). During this period Norway had the greatest territorial expansion in its history: in 1261 Greenland was subordinated to Norway, and in 1262 Iceland; the Faroe Islands, the Orkney Islands, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man and the now Swedish provinces of Jämtland and Bohuslän also belonged to the empire. Håkon’s son Magnus VI. Lagabøter (»The Law Improver«, 1263–80) finally ended the dispute with the church, which was granted its own jurisdiction and the free occupation of church offices (Concordat von Tønsberg 1277). Under him the regional rights were combined to form a nationwide imperial law (1274/76). Håkon V. Magnusson(1299–1319) made Oslo the capital of the empire.

Norwegian kings

Norwegian kings
Harald I., called Hårfagre (= fair hair) around 865– around 933
Erich I., called Blodøks (= blood ax) around 933 – around 935
Håkon I., called the Gode (= the good) around 935– around 960
Harald II., Called Gråfell (= gray fur) around 960 – around 970
Håkon Jarl around 970-995
Olaf I. Tryggvasson 995-1000
Erich Jarl 1000-1015
Sven Jarl 1000-1015
Olaf II. Haraldsson, called the Hellige (= the saint) 1015-1028
Knut the Great (Knud the Store, Knud the Mektige) 1028-1035
Magnus I. Olafsson, called the Gode (= the good) 1035-1047
Harald III. Sigurdsson, called Hardråde (= the hard one) 1045 / 47-1066
Olaf III. Haraldsson, called Kyrre (= the silence) 1066-1093
Magnus II. Haraldsson 1066-1069
Magnus III. Olavsson, called Berføtt (= barefoot) 1093-1103
Øystein I. Magnusson 1103-1123
Sigurd I. Magnusson, called Jorsalfare (= Jerusalem driver) 1103-1130
Magnus IV. Sigurdsson, called the blind (= the blind) 1130-1135
Harald IV. Gille 1130-1136
Inge I. Haraldsson, called Krokrygg (= hooked back) 1136-1161
Sigurd II. Haraldsson Munn 1136-1155
Øystein II. Haraldsson 1142-1157
Håkon II. Sigurdsson, called Herdebrei (= broad shoulder) 1157 / 61-1162
Magnus V. Erlingsson 1161 / 63-1184
Sverre Sigurdsson 1184-1202
Håkon III. Sverresson 1202-1204
Inge II. Bårdsson 1204-1217
Håkon IV. Håkonsson, called den Gamle (= the old man) 1217-1263
Magnus VI. Håkonsson, called Lagabøte (= law improver) 1263-1280
Eric II. 1280-1299
Håkon V. Magnusson 1299-1319
Kings of Norway and Sweden
Magnus VII. Eriksson 1319-1355
Håkon VI. Magnusson 1343 / 55-1380
Kings of Denmark, Norway and Sweden
Olaf IV. Håkonsson 1380-1387
Margarete 1387-1412
Eric III. (Erich of Pomerania) 1389-1442
Christoph I. 1442-1448
Christian I. 1450-1481
Johann I. 1483-1513
Christian II 1513-1523
Kings of Denmark and Norway
Friedrich I. 1524-1533
Christian III 1534 / 37-1559
Frederick II 1559-1588
Christian IV 1588-1648
Friedrich III. 1648-1670
Christian V. 1670-1699
Frederick IV 1699-1730
Christian VI. 1730-1746
Friedrich V. 1746-1766
Christian VII 1766-1808
Friedrich VI. 1808-1814
King of Norway
Christian Friedrich 17. 5. – 4. 11th 1814
Kings of Sweden and Norway
Charles XIII 1814-1818
Charles XIV. Johann 1818-1844
Oscar I. 1844-1859
Charles XV 1859-1872
Oscar II 1872-1905
Kings of Norway
Håkon VII. 1905-1957
Olaf V. 1957-1991
Harald V. since 1991

Economically after 1300 Norway became more and more dependent on the Hanseatic League, which had settled in Bergen in the middle of the 13th century. From around 1350 the German merchants, mostly from Lübeck, were organized in an office, the “Deutsche Brücke” zu Bergen, exporting Norwegian fish and supplying the country with vital grain; so they could also exert political influence in Norway. After the plague of 1349-50, which killed large parts of the population, Norway had reached an economic low.

When the Norwegian royal family died out in the male line with the death of Håkon V in 1319, the crown went to Magnus VII. Eriksson, son of the daughter Håkon V, Ingeborg, and the brother of King Birgers of Sweden, Erich. After Birgers was expelled, Magnus was also recognized as king in Sweden (1319), but had to give Norway his son Håkon VI in 1343 . Resign Magnusson (from 1355 independently ruling there). Håkon was also elected in Sweden in 1362, but was deposed there in 1363. His wife Margarete received after the death of her son Olaf IV. Håkonsson in 1387 the Danish and Norwegian crowns, and with the victory of Falköping in 1389 over Albrecht of Sweden also the Swedish crown. She secured the successor to her great-nephew Erich von Pommern through the Kalmar Union (1397).

Norway History - Viking Age to the Kalmar Union