Harald Hardrada

Harald Hardrada, sometimes called the last Viking king, was the half-brother of the Norwegian king, Olav Haraldson, later called St Olav.

Harald took part in the battle at Stiklastad 1030, where Olav was killed. After the battle Harald fled to Sweden and from there to Russia. He enlisted as a warrior in the army of Jaroslav I the Wise, and from there he continued to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and became commander of the Varangian Guard. Harald took apart in the Byzantine campaigns of restoring the Empire's prestige in Syria, Bulgaria, Itlay and Sicily where he fought alongside Normans from the Viking colony of Normandy in north-western France. He became rich and later returned to Norway, purchasing half the kingdom.

Harald became known as a terrible and ruthless soldier, and got the nickname Hardrada – ’hard ruler’.

After the death of Magnus, Harald became the king of Norway in 1045. In 1066 he went to conquer England, but he died in the battle at Stamford Bridge defeated by Harold Godwinson who in turn lost his life at the battle of Hastings a few weeks later fighting against the Normans of Duke William (later 'the Conqueror') – effectively ending the Viking Age in England. If you want to learn more about King Harald 'Hardrada' follow the below link to Hugin & Munin our free cultural magazine. He features in issue 5 and the Varangian Guard in issue 2