Harald Fairhair
Harald Fairhair (The Kalmar Union).png
Harald Fairhair
King of Norway
Reign c.872 - c.930
Coronation n/a
Predecessor n/a
Successor Eirik I Bloodaxe
Born c. 850
Vestfold?, Viken
Died c. 930
Rogaland, Hordaland
Spouse Åsa Haakonsdotter

Gyda Eiriksdotter
Svanhild Eysteinsdotter
Åshild Ringsdotter
Snøfrid Svåsesdotter
possibly others

Issue Eirik I Bloodaxe

Olaf I Geirstadalf
Haakon I
numerous others

Full name
Harald Halfdanarson
House Fairhair
Father Halfdan the Black
Mother Ragnhild Sigurdsdotter

Harald Fairhair is usually recognised as the only King of a united Norway. Although other kings would rule the Norwegian lands in union, it was only under Harald that they all could be said to follow a central authority.

Extrordinarily long-lived for the period, his 80-year+ career saw him build a united Norway out of various small kingdoms only to then face continual revolt and rebellion thanks to his multitude of offspring and lesser nobles.

Born around c. 850 to Halfdan the Black, Harald first enters the historical record in the poem Haraldskvaedi as winning the Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872. While many of the poems and sagas about him are contradictory it is clear that this naval battle saw him triumph over other rival kings, allowing him to add their lands to those Vestfold kingdoms he had inherited from his father. Importantly this included Hordaland, the most powerful of his rivals. He had already made important conquests and recognitions of his overlordship in the east, but the conquest of Hordaland sealed his domination over the west too.

Proclaimed King of Norway many of his opponents chose to leave, settling in newly discovered Iceland, the Faroes, Orkney, Man and Jorvik. Many were driven out by Harald's harassment, his taxations and the new lords he promoted to power in the regions. Harald would be forced to attack vikings in Scotland at least once to remove his enemies.

Eventually Harald's death in 930 did what his rivals could not do during his lifetime: divide Norway once more. His son, Eirik had been recognised as heir to the throne but Harald had previously attempted to rule by investing his large group of sons with local powers over the small sub-kingdoms, often replacing those who had fled his conquests. This bred division and once Eirik's rule became even more heavy-handed than his father his brothers, Olaf and Haakon, began a campaign to oust him, leading to the breakup of Norway. Many kings who followed attempted to reunite Norway but their efforts rarely lasted long. The actual title of 'High King of Norway', one of the few remaining legacies of Harald, generally followed the crown of Viken but fell into disuse as it was enveloped by Denmark in the 15th century.

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