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  • On a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea, fortresses preside over the rugged shores.

  • This unlikely location was the birthplace of a medieval empire that lasted 200 years, ruled by a dynasty of sea kings.

  • The first of these kings was Godred Crovan, a notorious warlord descended from Irish and Viking rulers.

  • Starting in 1079, Godred consolidated power over the Isle of Man and the Hebrides, a collection of islands off the west coast of Scotland.

  • He seized control of important sea routes between the British Isles, Scandinavia, and the North Atlantic.

  • A turbulent period followed Godred's death, characterised by invasions from Norway and Ireland, and intense feuding between princes.

  • But his descendants held on to power, building coastal fortresses, roving the seaways, throwing themselves into epic battles, and consolidating control over an impressive maritime kingdom.

  • The inhabitants of this kingdom had both Gaelic and Norse roots, and many probably spoke both languages.

  • Those on the Isle of Man were known as the Manx people, while those in the Hebrides were known as Islanders or People of the Isles.

  • Though we still don't know for sure how many there were, we do know this relatively small group had an outsize impact on the region.

  • Perched on cliffs with sweeping views and safe harbors, seaside fortresses helped the kings control shipping, commerce, and resources.

  • The empire commanded vast fleets of Viking-style long ships, which they used for trading, raiding, and plundering the seas.

  • Observing this prowess, many neighboring rulers sought their aid.

  • The brothers Rognvald and Olaf each solved neighbors' maritime woes: King Rognvald supplied military assistance to the Scottish king, and King Olaf's forces served as a Coast Guard at the English King Henry III's requestfor a hefty fee.

  • The sea kings also sparred with their powerful neighbors, but they had a particularly bitter rivalry with another dynasty in their own isles: a line of rulers in the Hebrides.

  • In the 1150s, a chieftain of this line, Somerled, defeated the Manx King, his brother-in-law, in a naval battle and formed a rival Kingdom of the Isles, fracturing the old kingdom.

  • This began a century-long rivalry between Somerled's line, who ruled the southern and central Hebrides, and the Manx Kings, who ruled the Isle of Man and northern Hebrides, to control the seaways.

  • Family feuds often blossomed into bitter civil wars.

  • In 1223, King Rognvald sent a letter to his son commanding him to murder his uncle Olaf.

  • When Olaf discovered the plot, he launched a vicious attack on his nephew, blinding and mutilating him.

  • After Rognvald's death several years later, people realized the letter ordering the attack might have been forged.

  • The Manx kings attempted to resolve disagreements at Tynwald, an open-air parliament centered on a mound, where assemblies ruled on matters of justice and other issues.

  • Such sites were commonly used in the Viking world for resolving anything from local disputes to matters involving kings.

  • These meetings didn't always go smoothlysometimes violence erupted, and in 1237, two rival factions squabbled to the point of breaking up the assembly at Tynwald.

  • The four-tiered mound at Tynwald survives to this day, and the modern Manx parliament still holds an annual meeting there.

  • In 1248, King Harald of Man died in a shipwreck and was succeeded by his brother.

  • Weeks into the new king's reign, a rebel knight assassinated him.

  • His brother Magnus died in 1265 at Castle Rushenwithout an heir.

  • According to one scribe, his death marked the day that "kings ceased to reign in Man."

  • Scotland annexed Man and the Isles the next year, in 1266.

  • We know about the exploits of the sea kings primarily from a chronicle written by Christian scribes living on the Isle of Man, and from the praise poems composed to celebrate the kings' victories.

  • Today, although the sea kings are long gone, their presence remains etched onto the landscape.

On a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea, fortresses preside over the rugged shores.

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B2 US TED-Ed olaf king kingdom isle sea

The rise and fall of the Kingdom of Man - Andrew McDonald

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    Minjane posted on 2021/08/31
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