King of Man 1079-1095
King of Dublin 1091-1094

How he came to power

According to the Chronicle of the Kings of Man he was a survivor of Harald Hadrada’s army defeated at the battle of Stamford Bridge, as the Chronicle says

From that defeat, a certain Godred, called Crovan, son of Harold the Black of Ysland, escaped to Godred, son of Sytric, then King of Man, by whom he was received with honour.

His gratitude to the other Godred for providing him with sanctuary does not seem to have extended very far, for as soon as this Godred son of Sytric had died in 1075 and had been succeeded by his son Fingal, Godred Crovan left the island to collect together an army and returned with the intention of making it his own.

Twice he was defeated by the defenders of the island, but in 1079 and at the third attempt he finally succeeded in taking control of the Isle of Man after his victory at the battle of Sky Hill or Scacafel fought near Ramsey. This victory was achieved by the simple ruse of hiding a force of 300 men in a nearby wood who then rushed out to attack the Manx defenders from the rear at the height of the battle.

The Chronicle goes onto explain that the;

Next day Godred gave his army the option of having the country divided amongst them if they preferred to remain and inhabit it, or of taking everything it contained worth having, and returning to their homes.
Godred's army selected option B, and systematically looted the island; those that remained were allotted the south of the island whilst the surviving Manx got the north.

Godred is then credited with bringing the Hebrides and the Western Isles under his control, and later of subduing "Dublin, and a great part of Leinster" and apparently scared the Scots so much that

that no one who built a vessel dared to insert more than three bolts.

Origins and Kingship

His exact origins are uncertain; as we have seen the Chronicle refers to him as the son of "Harold the Black of Ysland", (Ysland being Iceland), an opinion with which the document known as "Achau Brenhinoedd a Thywysogion Cymru" 1 concurs and names Harald the Black as son of one Ivarr Gamle, son of Olaf who is presumed to be the Olaf Cuaran, king of Dublin and Jorvik in the mid tenth century.2

This does not tell us from where he came prior to the battle at Stamford Bridge and where he raised the fleet and army that eventually conquered the Isle of Man but it is most likely that he was from the Hebrides somewhere which was also the most likely source of his military strength.

What title he assumed for himself is not known but his successors styled themselves as Rex Insularum or 'king of the Isles' and the Irish Annals of Inisfallen named him as em>rí Innsi Gall which is the same thing in Gaelic. There are also references to him as king of the Sullr-eyjar or the Sudreys or 'South Isles' as opposed to the Viking Earldom of Orkney who ruled the 'North Isles' of Orkney and Shetland which was quite probably the Old Norse version of his title.

He reigned for sixteen years on the Isle of Man and held Dublin for four years before being expelled in 1094. He was apparently busy organising his defences on the isle of Islay against Magnus Bareleg, aka Magnus III of Norway to whom Godred had refused to do the customary homage and whose invasion fleet was expected, when he died in the year 1095.

Very little is known of Godred other than what is recorded in the Chronicle but it is clear that he was the last Viking adventurer in the British Isles who successfully carved out a kingdom for himself and whose descendants were still ruling the Isle of Man one hundred and seventy years later.

It is very likely that he is the source of the popular Manx legends regarding King Orry, although the well known 'King Orry's Grave' in Laxey on the island is not really his burial place, being as how it is in fact a 5,000 year old Neolithic monument.


1 That is "The Descent of the Kings and Princes of Wales" from Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, edited by P. C. Bartrum (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1966) The Welsh recorded a number of Norse genealogies simply because a number of kings such as Gruffudd ap Llywelyn and Gruffudd ap Cynan were related to the Hiberno-Norse of Dublin.

2 However according to the Irish Annals of Tigernach he was a grandson of Harald

3 Quotations from the Chronicle of the Kings of Man published as The Chronicle Of Man And The Sudreys(The Manx Society 1874)

3 Other sources;

BBC History at

The 1911 Encycopedia Britannica at

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