Harald I

Harald I

▪ king of Denmark
byname  Harald Bluetooth , Danish  Harald Blåtand 
born c. 910
died c. 987, “Jumne,” Den.

      king of Denmark from c. 958? to c. 985, credited with the first unification of the country.

      He was the son of Gorm the Old, the first significant figure in a new royal line centred at Jelling (North Jutland). Harald completed the country's unification begun by his father, converted the Danes to Christianity, and conquered Norway. After Harald's Baptism (c. 960) his father's pagan tomb was transformed into a Christian place of worship with a church between two great mounds; and the newly appointed Jutland bishops, under the Archbishop of Hamburg, organized the country's conversion. The Trelleborg type of fortifications date from his reign. The expansion begun by Harald in Norway was continued by his son Sweyn I, whose war with his father marked Harald's last years. After Sweyn conquered England in 1013, his son Canute ruled over a great Anglo-Scandinavian kingdom that included parts of Sweden.

▪ king of Norway
byname  Harald Fairhair,  or  Finehair,  Norwegian  Harald Hårfager,  Old Norse  Harald Hárfagri  
born c. 860
died c. 940

      the first king to claim sovereignty over all Norway. One of the greatest of the 9th-century Scandinavian warrior chiefs, he gained effective control of Norway's western coastal districts but probably had only nominal authority in the other parts of Norway.

      The son of Halvdan the Black, ruler of part of southeastern Norway and a scion of the Yngling dynasty, the ancient royal house of Sweden, Harald succeeded his father at the age of 10. His first conquest came with the suppression of a revolt in the Uplands region. A pact with Haakon, earl of Lade, enabled him to pursue conquest of the western districts, culminating in the battle of Hafrsfjord, dated 872 by medieval historians but placed 10 to 20 years later by modern historians.

      Harald's conquests and taxation system led many chiefs and their followers to emigrate to the British Isles, adjacent lands, and perhaps to Iceland, which first became known to Scandinavians during the era of Harald's rule. He acquired wealth through his control of coastal trade but ruled indirectly through lesser chieftains in areas other than his own tightly controlled home district, in the southwest. His major governmental contribution lay in the development of provincial administrations through such chieftains.

      The most reliable information on Harald's life is contained in contemporary poems written down in Iceland in the 13th century. His career is also described in 12th- and 13th-century Icelandic and Norwegian historical works of questionable reliability, the fullest account being written by the Icelander Snorri Sturluson (d. 1241) in the Heimskringla.

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