King Magnus Haraldson.
King of Man and the Isles.
Died: circa. 977 AD.
The use of the name Magnus Haraldson may cause confusion as it is not used by any of the historians who have recorded the events to which we are to allude. Most of these historians seem to have gleaned their information from Sacheverell’s Account of the Isle of Man published in 1702. Wm. Sacheverell was Governor of the Island from 1693 until 1696; describing the succession of Manx kings he refers to:-
Macon, or Macutas, who lived about the middle of the 10th century, and for refusing to do homage to our glorious Monarch Edgar, lost his kingdom, but was afterwards not only restored, but made Admiral of that prodigious Fleet of 4800 sail of ships with which twice in the year he sailed round the British Isles to clear the seas from Rovers, especially the Danes and Normans, who about that time miserably harassed the seacoasts of Europe.
Sir Henry Spelman calls him ‘totius Anglise Archi-pirate’, which in another place he interprets ‘Prince of Seamen’ and from him it is probable the ancient Bearings of the Island comes [sic] – a ship in her ruff sables with the inscription ‘Rex Manniae et Insularum’.
Among other marks of honour paid to this Prince by King Edgar, his attendance on him in that solemn passage over the Dee is not the least, where he, accompanied by a vast number of his Nobility in boats, was rowed over that river in a stately Barge, prepared for that purpose, by eight of those Kings, who paid Homage to his sovereignty, he himself holding the rudder, to testify his superiority over them all, amongst whom Macon had the third oar, to give him precedence of the other five; and when that Monarch made the memorable Confirmation of the Charter of Glastonbury, Macon subscribed to it immediately after the King of Scotland. How long this great Man governed (who must always be reputed among the Heroes) is uncertain.
Other historians referred to Magnus Haraldson as Hacon:- Joseph Train starts by calling him Macon and then says he should ‘more properly be Hacon, King of Man and the Isles’. But he reduces the number of ships in the fleet to 3600. Train also provides the additional information that ‘ . . . By the Irish annalists, Hacon is called the son of Aralt or Harold and grandson of Sitric …’ He also introduces the name Maceus into his writings.
A.W. Moore in his History of the Isle of Man tells us that ‘Maces MacHarald, or Haraldson, a grandson of Sitric, King of Dublin, was styled in the Irish annals as Lord of the Isles, and also refers to his sailing around Ireland with a numerous fleet in 972 AD or 973 AD accompanied by the Lagmanns of the Islands which indicated that he, as chief of the isles, was making his circuit with the ‘lawmen’ or judges to dispense justice according to Scandinavian custom.
The Annals of the Four Masters (an Irish historical work) records that he was slain in 976 AD by Brian Boroimhe (Boru) but another source claims he was killed in battle in 978 AD.
The more detailed account of the row on the River Dee was recorded by Simeon of Durham in his early 12th century Chronicle which is derived from Florence of Worcester who drew heavily on Anglo-Saxon annals. In his account Simeon gives the date as 973AD and refers to ‘Maccus, king of many islands’. Another English historian, Roger of Wendover, in his Flowers of History written about 1237 AD refers to Macone, King of Mona and numerous isles.
The memorable Charter of Glastonbury which is mentioned by Manx historians is believed to be a 971 AD Charter to Glastonbury Abbey and although considered spurious by certain authorities it is signed by Mascusius archi-pirata confortavi.
With all these conflicting names to describe the same person the help of Dr. David Wilson of the Department of Scandinavian Studies at University College, London was sought and he, after consulting several colleagues, came down strongly in favour of the Irish Annals which described the King as Maccnus McArailt – the nearest to which in Norse would be Magnus Haraldson.
The Isle of Man Post Office commemorated his achievements by the issue of two stamps in 1974, one showing the row on the River Dee and the other the mighty fleet of ships commanded by him and his coat of arms.
G. Victor H. Kneale, CBE, MA (h.c.):
Various Manx history books.
Professor David M. Wilson, Department of Scandinavian Studies at University College, London
Somerset County Record Office.
G. V. H. Kneale. Article in Manx Life, September 1974, ‘Researching our stamps’.
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