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The Kingdom of Mann and the Isles

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Saved by Clare Christian
on December 18, 2009 at 1:22:42 pm

Consolidated under Godred Crovan (King Orry) in 1079, the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles – encompassing the islands of Orkney, Lewis, Skye and Mann (amongst others in the Hebrides) - is significant not only in understanding the role that the Vikings played in the context of the British Isles, but also as an example of Viking traditions, culture and even political ideas being transported beyond Norway.


The establishment of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles in 1079 was not a single or instantaneous act, but rather marked a significant point in over 200 years of Viking activity in the British Isles, activity which would continue in one way or another into the 13th Century.


In relation to the Viking world, the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles is therefore an example of how, away from Norway, the Vikings transplanted their principles, making a mark on the land they settled that would last for hundreds of years, through not only the landscape and archaeology but in politics, art and the popular imagination.



Kingdom of Mann and the Isles Map 



The Earls of Orkney

Orkney played an important role in the establishment and consolidation of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, making up part of the Norðr - from the Norse Norðreyjar - or northern part of the Kindgom of Mann and the Isles.  Recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga of the late twelfth/early thirteenth century, the Earldom of Orkney would become an important player in the politics of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, with the Earls of Orkney ruling there for approximately 600 years.


Orkneyinga Saga Cover



The Isles of Lewis and Skye

The Isles of Lewis and Skye made up part of the Sudreys - from the Norse Suðreyjar - the Southern islands of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles.  The photograph below depicts the Lewis Chessmen, found on Lewis in the 1800's.  The Chessmen are an example of the export of Norse art and culture throughout the islands of the Kingdom.  Below is the description of the Chessmen from the British Museum website:


“The Lewis Chessmen form a remarkable group of iconic objects within the world collection of the British Museum. They were probably made in Norway, about AD 1150-1200. At this period, the Western Isles, where the chessmen were buried, were part of the Kingdom of Norway, not Scotland. It seems likely they were buried for safe keeping on route to be traded in Ireland.


The chessmen testify to the strong cultural and political connections between Britain and Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, and to the growing popularity within Europe of the game of chess, the origins of which lie in ancient India.”



The Lewis Chessmen

The Lewis Chessmen



The Isle of Man

The mainland of the Sudreys, and the political center of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, the Isle of Man held a strategically important place in the Irish Sea.  In the Isle of Man - as across this Viking kingdom - the arrival of the Vikings resulted in the mixing of cultures,


This mixing of cultures can be seen here, in the integration of Viking imagery and stories in Celtic Crosses:


Manx Stone Cross, Andreas 128  Manx Stone Cross, Andreas 121



Above are shown the Andreas 128 Cross (left) and the Andreas 121 Cross (right).  The Andreas 128 Cross depicts Odin being eaten by Fenrir, and the Andreas 121 Cross depicts Sigurd after he has killed the dragon Fafnir, and is cooking the heart over the fire.




This timeline, though not comprehensive of all events concerning the Vikings in the British Isles, instead provides a backdrop to events concerning the islands of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles and its surrounding area.


795 First recorded Viking raids on Scotland and Ireland
839-40 Vikings winter in Ireland for the first time
841 Viking base established at Dublin
c.870 Earldom of Orkney established
874-914 "Forty Years Rest" in Ireland
937 English defeat the Norse-Scottish alliance at the Battle at Brunanburh
1014 Battle of Clontarf: Earl Sigurd and King Brodir of Man killed
c.1030-5 Battle of Tarbet Ness: Earl Thorfinn of Orkney wins control over most of Northern Scotland
c.1050 Bishopric founded in Orkney
1079 Battle of Skyhill, Isle of Man: Godred Crovan (King Orry) unites Man and Hebrides
1095 Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, recognises Norwegian sovereignty over Hebrides
1098 Magnus Barelegs establishes his authority over Kingdom of Mann and the Isles
1103 Magnus Barelegs, King of Norway, killed raiding Ulster
1156 Somerled wins Southern Hebrides from Godred II of Man
1158 Somerled devastates Man
1164 Somerled killed in ambush while raiding Scotland
1266 Norway cedes Man and Hebrides to Scotland
1469 Denmark cedes Orkney and Shetland to Scotland


All dates obtained from John Haywood's 'The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings’ (Penguin, 1995) and in Else Roesdahl's ‘The Vikings’ Revised Edition (England: Penguin Books, 1998)








Click here for a PDF copy of the Paper. 







  • Manx National Heritage - website with information on the history of the Isle of Man and details of historic sites and monuments
  • Vikings in Mann - link to a PDF booklet by Manx National Heritage, providing some information for children on the Vikings
  • Isle of Man Viking Festival - website of the Isle of Man Viking Festival, with information on its history and development, in addition to information on the re-enactment group the Vikings of Man



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