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Magnus Barefoot

Sometimes referred to as

Magnus Barelegs

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1073 to August 1103

Magnus Barefoot is remembered in Ireland largely from the so called Magnus Viking Festival held in late autumn each year in Delamont Country Park between Downpatrick and Killyleagh county Down with Viking boat races held in Killyleagh bay.

Magnus Barefoot sometimes referred to as Magnus Barelegs During the reign of Olaf Kyrre, Magnus' father Norway enjoyed a period of relative peace, however when Magnus came to power in 1093 he was soon at war with Sweden and Denmark, and he sought to consolidate Norway's control of the Irish Seas area

In 1093 Magnus Barefoot leading a Norse fleet appeared off of the coast of Gwynedd, at Ynys Seiriol (Puffin Island), where he interrupting a Norman victory celebration after they had recently defeated the Welsh of Gwynedd. During the ensuing battle the earl of Shrewsbury was shot with an arrow in the eye, allegedly by Magnus himself.

In 1098, he conquered the Orkney Islands, the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. Magnus returned to Norway in 1099 but in 1102 set out again, this time to conquer Ireland. He captured Dublin and the surrounding area.

The following year, 1103 Magnus Barefoot set his sights on the north of Ireland, he had acquired a new ally Muirchertach Ua Briain, the self proclaimed King of Ireland, to cement this alliance Magnus's son, Sigurd I Magnusson. had married Ua Briain daughter. The Norse Irish alliance were successful in many battles with opposing Irish forces and soon overrun large tracts of Ulster.

Muirchertach Ua Briain together with a large part of his army left for Connacht, while Magnus decided to return to Norway while leaving some of his forces to hold Dublin and surrounding area.

Magnus's final battle took place while waiting for supplies to be sent from Muirchertach Ua Briain, seeing signs of the approach of a large group of men and horses, Magnus advanced with his army and satisfied himself that it was indeed the supply train, he sent the bulk of his men back to camp to prepare for their departure, soon after a band of native Irish who had been hiding nearby attacked Magnus and his group, who were outnumbered, Magnus received spear wounds to both his thighs but was finally killed by an axe blow to the neck, the Vikings who survived the battle returned to their camp and from thence to Norway.

There appears to be no evidence as to exactly where in Ulster Magnus was killed, two folklore traditions point to Portrush in County Antrim where an area within the towns golf club is known as the 'war hollow'. Another lists his death as having taken place in marshy ground a little to the west of the town of Downpatrick in County Down, it is on the strength of this that the Magnus festival is held in this area of county Down.

Another version of the death of Magnus Barefoot can be read on the Portrush section of a book Sketches of Olden Days in Northern Ireland by Rev. Hugh Forde

Magnus was married to Margareta (the daughter of his former enemy Inge Stenkilsson, King of Sweden), in 1101 at Kungahälla. They did not have surviving children. His extant sons at his death were Olaf Magnusson, Øystein Magnusson and Sigurd Magnusson (later known as Sigurd Jorsalfar or Crusader) who all together succeeded him. After his death, Harald Gille and Sigurd Slembedjakn later came forward and both claimed to be his illegitimate sons (and thus heirs to the throne). Harald Gille became king Harald IV of Norway in 1130.

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