Monday, 19 February 2018

Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson


Since I'm editing a book set in Dublin in 1035/6, I thought I should maybe offer some factual information for the reader who wants to know the history behind the book to be published soon as VIKING SUMMER.

Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson actually existed. He glories in having several spellings of his name depending which source you read; he can be Sihtric, Sitric and Sitrick in Irish texts; or Sigtryg and Sigtryggr in Scandinavian texts. There were two Sitrics before him in the family tree and one of his sons was also named Sitric, so reading histories of the time can be confusing. As the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin of the Uí Ímair dynasty, his dates are complicated too. He ruled - and these dates are the best I can glean from the different reports - AD 989–994, then again AD 995–1000; and restored once more in AD 1000 and abdicated 1036. Adding all that time together, he ruled for 46 years, which was no mean feat at the time.

He conducted a long series of raids into territories such as Meath, Wicklow, Ulster, and perhaps even the coast of Wales. He also came into conflict with rival Norse kings, especially in Cork and Waterford. 

He went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1028 and is associated with the foundation of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin and would have called himself a Christian, but that didn't stop him executing and blinding his enemies. 

His father was Olaf Cuaran, King of York and his mother the infamous Gormflaith ingen Murchada of Munster. They married in AD 972, and Sigtrygg was born around AD 974. He married Emer, daughter of Brian Boru, when he was 24 and forced her to watch the Battle of Clontarf with him from his fortress. It was the battle in which her father Boru died. They had 5 sons, who all died before Sigtrygg. He seems to have been related to almost every famous family of the time - his sister Gyda married Olaf Tryggvasson, who died in 1000. Their son was killed by Canute's son, Sveinn in 1033 in Norway. Sigtrygg's son Olaf married Slaine, daughter of Boru - though some reports have Slaine as Sigtrygg's wife. 

With English blood from his paternal grandmother, Eadgth, Alfred's grandaughter;  Irish blood from Murchadh, King of Leinster, his maternal grandfather, the mix was complete with his Norse bloodline reaching back to his great great grandfather Ivarr the Boneless. He abdicated in 1036, and died in 1042 

Marriages were repudiated seemingly at will, and Gormflaith, in spite of her famed beauty, was repudiated twice. Not only did Sigtrygg marry Boru's daughter, but Brian's third wife was none other than Gormflaith.  It is rumoured that Brian had four wives and thirty concubines and though Gormflaith gave him a son, it is doubtful that she was ever truly married to him.

Interesting scraps of information I found was that in the year 1000 AD, the temperature was 2-4 degrees higher than now. Population was so much less than now: in 1066 England had a population of 2-3 million, Ireland just under 1 million and Scotland and Wales a little over half a million. 

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