Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • 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.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it

B2 US TED-Ed king kingdom isle olaf sea

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

  • 3643 246
    Minjane posted on 2021/08/31
Video vocabulary