Name: Somerled King of the ISLES , King of Argyll 1 2
ALIA: Somerled King of /Argyll/
Birth: ABT 1118 in Morven, Argyllshire, Scotland
Birth: ABT 1113 3
Death: 1164 in Battle of Renfrew, Scotland (murdered?) 4 2
Somerled, King of Argyll; married Raghnild, daughter of Olaf, King of Man and the Isles (a realm comprising the Iom, Hebrides, and western islands off Scotland that flourished from the late 11th centruy to 1266), and was killed at Renfrew 1164 campaigning against Malcolm IV King of Scots. [Burke's Peerage]
Taken from www.tartans.com web site:
Somerled, Lord of the Isles
Somerled was born around 1113 in Morven, Argyleshire. He was the son of Gillebride Mac Gille Adomnan and a Viking woman. Although there is some contention on his ancestry, his father was apparently either of the Royal line of Dalriada, Gall Gael (which is Cruithni or Pict) or both. Somerled's name means 'summer wanderer', a name used by his contemporaries to describe the Vikings. For Somerled, it was a name that prophecized his life -and the combination of bloodlines, at least in Somerled's case, proved itself powerful, as he later forged a permanent spot for himself in the history of the Isles and Scotland.
Sometime in Somerled's early youth, the Lochlans and the Fingalls (Clans or tribes) expelled Somerled's family from their home. They took refuge in Ireland, where Gillebride managed to persuade the Colla (an Irish tribe) to assist him in the recovery of his possessions or holdings. A large force of approximately 500 men accompanied the family home. The mission was a failure, however, and his father either died in the battle or soon afterwards.
Somerled lived for a while in the caves of his homeland, fishing and hunting for his survival. Slowly he grew into manhood and became, according to the accounts; "A well tempered man, in body shapely, of a fair and piercing eye, of middle stature and quick discernment." During this period of his life several things happened in quick succession which made Somerled a man of stature.
In one story, Somerled put himself at the head of the inhabitants of Morven and attacked the Norwegians. He was successful, and recovered his family's lands at the same time. He then was master of Morven, Lochaber and northern Argyle. Soon after this he conquered the southern portions and pronounced himself Thane or Regulus of Argyle. This happened at about the same time as David the First's war with the Norwegians, which took place in 1135, so Somerled may have received these lands in a grant from the King.
His newfound power greatly increased his standing, but it also drew the attention of his neighbors, the Vikings in the Isles (the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Man and that general area). Somerled, however, still did not have the force required to take on the Olaf the Red, the Viking Lord of the Isles. Instead he chose to woo his enemy for the hand of his daughter, Ragnhild. Eventually he succeeded (some say by trickery) in obtaining Olaf's daughter's hand and the two were married in approximately 1140.
For the next fourteen years Somerled and Ragnhild lived in relative peace and started raising a family. Raginald gave him three sons, Dugall, Reginald, and Angus. These sons joined his son by a previous marriage, Gillecallum.
In 1154, Olaf (Olave in some stories) was murdered by his nephews who quickly took control of the northern half of the Kingdom of the Isles. Olaf's son, Godfred (or Godfrey) heard of the events and returned from Norway, quickly regaining possession of the entire Kingdom. But Godfrey was a tyrant, and the Islemen soon revolted against his leadership. Some of the chieftans of the Isles appealed to Somerled for help. He joined them and defeated Godfrey, in the process taking the southern half of the Kingdom for himself. About two years later Godfrey and Somerled again went to war, this time Somerled was using new ships with a rudder and Godfrey was defeated again. Somerled became King of the Isles in about 1156.
At about the same time, Somerled was also campaigning in Scotland to a small degree and this in combination with his new title as King of the Isles drew the attention of its King. King Malcolm IV of Scotland was concerned over Somerled's growing power and dispatched an army to Argyle. In 1160, after a battle the two Kings reached an understanding and there was again peace. This peace was short lived however, as in late 1163, after being continually insulted by Malcolm and his ministers, Somerled led an army against Scotland.
The King of the Isles sailed up the Clyde with 164 galleys and 15,000 troops to Greenock. He landed at the Bay of St. Lawrence and marched on Renfrew. There are two popular stories about what occurred in Scotland. In one version, a bribed nephew murdered Somerled and the army of the Isles dispersed and went home. In the other version of the story, battle was joined between the Scots and the men of the Isles and Somerled was killed. His son Gillecallum, his heir, also died during the battle. Now without a leader, the army from the Isles dispersed and went home. In either case Somerled died in Scotland in very early 1164.
Somerled is generally credited with breaking the power of the Vikings in the Isles as his descendants remained Kings of the Isles for centuries after his death. One of Somerled's grandsons, a Donald, is also considered the ancestor of the Clan Donald, for his sons were the first to carry the name MacDonald.
The following was supplied by Betty Knoche, BGKnoche AT aol.com:
Thought you might be interested in what was in British Kings & Queens by Mark Ashley on pages 433-434 regarding Somerled:
"Somerled was the son of Gillebride, thane of Argyll, and was descended from Ragnall, the Danish king of York. He was born in Ireland (where his father had been exiled by the Scots king Edgar) perhaps around the year 1105. His mother was Norse, the daughter of Sigurd II of Orkney, and she named the boy with a typical Norse nickname, which means "summer voyager". We know little of his early life, but he seems to have regained his heritage sometime before 1130, because he was already styled thane of Argyll when his sister married Malcolm, the illegitimate son of Alexander I of Scotland. Somerled was a skilled negotiator from an early age and he had probably re-established himself with the Scottish king David, for by 1138 he was in charge of the West Highland contingent of David's army. He also talked his way into the confidence of Olaf (I) king of Man, whose daughter, Ragnhild, he married in 1140. Throughout these years Somerled maintained a strong affection for the kingdom of the Gaels, not the rapidly anglicised or Anglo-Norman kingdom that King David had developed. Although it was the way of the future, Somerled rejected it. He was unable to convince David, but when the new and very young king, Malcolm IV, succeeded to the throne in 1153, Somerled tried again. In 1154 Somerled and his nephews rebelled against Malcolm IV. At this same time Olaf of Man had died and his son, Godred II, had returned to the Isles and was proving something of a despot. Somerled spent two years redesigning and rebuilding his fleet and then, in January 1156 met Godred in battle off Islay. Godred's fleet was the most powerful in Britain and he should have been the victor but Somerled's new design, which allowed him to out-manouevre his opponent, won him the day, though there were significant losses on both sides. As a result Godred and Somerled negotiated and agreed to divide the Isles. Somerled received the southern Hebrides, which consisted of the two main groupings of islands around Islay and Mull. Godred's continued intolerance caused Somerled to bring his fleet against him again in 1158 and this time Godred fled back to Norway. Somerled's claims were upheld and he became king of the Isles, a title accepted by both King Igne of Norway and eventually (in 1160) by Malcolm IV of Scotland. Somerled so ingratiated himself with the Scottish king that he earned the nickname. "sit-by-the-king". Nevertheless his attempts to sway Malcolm toward maintaining the Gaelic heritage remained thwarted. Somerled did try to have the Celtic church reinstated on Iona, and it was only his death that halted this development. In 1164, Somerled raised an army in the hope of forcing Malcolm into treaty. A force of 10,000 men sailed up the Clyde, from where Somerled took half the army on to Renfrew to parley with the king's representatives. Somerled was found murdered the following morning, but his killers were never identified. Somerled was buried on Iona but was apparently later reinterred by his son at Saddell Abbey on Kintyre.
After his death, Godred II regained Man and the northern Hebrides. The rest of Somerled's kingdom was divided between his sons. The eldest, Dugald, took Lorne and Argyll, with the islands of Mull, Coll, Tiree and Juta. The second, Ragnald, took Islay and Kintyre, which remained the focal point of the kingdom of the Isles. A third son, Angus, took Arran and Bute."
This raised a question in my mind regarding the mother of Somerled (that you have indicted as Agatha Hadonsdottir). Can you double check this and let me know what you find out?
Note: Checking with The Complete Peerage, Vol X, Appendix A on the Jarls of Orkney, I came up with the following Sigurds: Sigurd II "Digri" Hlodvesson was Jarl of Orkney, but he died in 1014, which makes any daughter of his (b. in or before 1015) impossible as a mother of Somerled. Sigurd Jorsalafari "Jerusalem Goer/The Crusader", was b. circa 1089, and was made King of Orkney by his father Magnus "Barelegs" King of Norway. He married as 1st wife a daughter of the King of Ireland in 1102 (at the age of 13) and left Orkney and his first wife (who stayed in Orkney) in 1105. I believe he was "married" 2 or 3 times more (CP only concentrates on his Orkney activities in this Appendix). A daughter of that early marriage could have been mother of Somerled, given that Somerled was born, say, in or after 1117.
Father: Gillebride Mac Gille Adomnan of the ISLES b: ABT 1095 in Morven, Argyllshire, Scotland
Mother: Miss SIGURDSDOTTIR b: BEF 1104 in Orkney Islands, Scotland
Raginhild Olafsdottir of the Isle of MAN b: ABT 1120 in Isle of Man, British Crown dependancy
- Agnes d' ISLES b: ABT 1140 in Morven, Argyllshire, Scotland
- Rognvald SOMERLEDSSON , 2nd Lord of The Isles b: 1148 in Morven, Argyllshire, Scotland
- Dubhgall (Dougall) MacSomerled King of ARGYLL b: ABT 1150 in Morven, Argyllshire, Scotland
- Angus Lord of Arran & BUTE b: ABT 1152 in Morven, Argyllshire, Scotland
- Arran of the ISLES b: ABT 1154 in Isle of Man, British Crown dependancy
- Title: Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 106th Edition, Charles Mosley Editor-in-Chief, 1999
Page: 327, 1985
- Title: Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, by G. E Cokayne, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2000
- Title: Newsgroup: soc.genealogy.medieval, at groups - google.com
Page: Marlyn Lewis, 18 Jun 1997
- Title: Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 106th Edition, Charles Mosley Editor-in-Chief, 1999