May 17: Norwegian Constitution Day

In honor of my bride who is a descendant of King Harald Hardrada.

I cannot mention the last of the Vikings, albeit a Christian one, as King Harald has been called, without playing this brilliant intro to the 1958 film The Vikings with Orson Welles as the narrator:

This superb scene from the same movie, Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine being at the top of their acting game that day, demonstrates why the Vikings were such fearsome warriors, as were their Christianized variant, the Normans:




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  1. “a descendant of King Harald Hardrada”

    I am sure many of us have some rather interesting ancestors, if we can trace them back far enough.
    In 1809, a maternal ancestor of mine, Lt-Col William Linnaeus Gardner (b. 1770) who had served in the 74th Highlanders raised, , the famous cavalry corps known as “Gardner’s Horse” at Farrukhabad and Mainpuri. In 1796, he married by Muslim rites, Nawab Mah Manzilunnissa Begum Dehlivi, aged 13, a princess of Cambay, afterwards adopted as daughter by Padshah Akbar Shah, Emperor of Delhi.
    Such an inter-racial marriage was no new thing in the Gardner family; he was descended from Col Jonathan Gale of Fullerswood, Parish of St Elizabeth, Jamaica, who, in 1699, had married a West African slave, Eleanor.
    Gardner’s granddaughter, Susan Gardner [Sabia Begum], married Mirza Anjan Shikoh, son of Shahzada Mirza Suleiman Shikoh of the Delhi Imperial Family. He was the grandson of Padshah-e Hind (Emperor of India) Jalal ad-Din Abu´l Mozaffar Mohammad Ali Gauhar Shah Alam II (1759-1788). Such family connections were quite common in the days of the old East India Company, right up until the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
    As a direct descendant of Sabia Begum (one of her sons married a distant Scottish cousin), my ancestors include Akbar the Great and the first Mughal Emperor, Zahir ud-Din Mohammad (Babur). Of course, it also makes me a lineal descendant of Genghis Khan, to whom I attribute my love of horses, simplicity of taste and suavity of manner

  2. as it is time for heredity here’s mine.

    My son,” said the Norman Baron, “I am dying, and you will be heir
    To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for my share
    When we conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
    But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:—

    “The Saxon is not like us Normans, His manners are not so polite.
    But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
    When he stands like an ox in the furrow with his sullen set eyes on your own, And grumbles, “This isn’t fair dealings,” my son, leave the Saxon alone.

    “You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears, But don’t try that game on the Saxon; you’ll have the whole brood round your ears. From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field, They’ll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

    “But first you must master their language, their dialect, proverbs and songs. Don’t trust any clerk to interpret when they come with the tale of their wrongs. Let them know that you know what they’re saying; let them feel that you know what to say. Yes, even when you want to go hunting, hear ’em out if it takes you all day.

    “They’ll drink every hour of the daylight and poach every hour of the dark, It’s the sport not the rabbits they ‘re after (we ‘ve plenty of game in the park). Don’t hang them or cut off their fingers. That’s wasteful as well as unkind, For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher makes the best man-at-arms you can find.

    “Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and funerals and feasts. Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests. Say ‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘ours’ when you’re talking instead of ‘you fellows’ and ‘I.’Don’t ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell ’em a lie!”

    Rudyard Kipling

  3. Ancestors of Norse origen may be one thing the Irish, English, and Scots have in common.
    My surname is an anglicized version of an old Norse name, yet my lineage is West of Ireland for all known ancestors.
    My friend who is a Norwegian lady close to 90 years old has remarked that in her visits to Scotland, she noted a very pronounced Norse presence in place names, particularly in the northern part of that country.
    Curiously even York, England was known in or about the year 866 as “Jórvík” by its Viking conquerors, and Dublin, of course, in or about 842 was known by its Viking name “Dyflin”. Like so many other invading strangers, the Vikings stayed in Ireland,intermarried with the locals, and became more Irish than the Irish.

  4. Slainté is right.
    As late as 1263, the Norwegian king, Harald Harkonarson tried to reassert his sovereignty over the western coast of Scotland at the Battle of Largs (about 4 miles from where I live)
    Three years later, by the Treaty of Perth, the Norwegians ceded the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to Scotland, whilst retaining Orkney & Shetland. They only became part of Scotland as part of the dowry of Queen Margaret, daughter of Christian I of Norway, who married King James III. They were a wadset for the dowry, which was never paid, so they never reverted to Norway.
    Now, here is a curious reminder of those times. I own a piece of ground, about 18 acres of winter pasture, which is known locally as “the ten shilling land.” [The shilling is an old British coin, 20 to the pound, abolished in 1971 and, curiously enough, it is a Norse word] The name refers to the Old Extent.” Now, the Old Extent was a survey of rental values, carried out by King Alexander III (1241-1286) in 1280 as the basis of a war tax. He still did not trust the Norwegians. People around here don’t forget things like that in a hurry and the name stuck.

  5. Which is the original, the first line of “Deck the Halls” or the first line of the Norwegian anthem?
    Born into the Knott family, I heard often that we were legitimate (no other kind in this family!) descendants of none other that King Knute. This sounded very agreeable. Then another more prosaic etymology of the word arose. Knott = “a hill”. Blah! The fiery red head of my sister tells me that if it was a hill that described our ancestor a Viking stood upon it.

  6. “Which is the original, the first line of “Deck the Halls” or the first line of the Norwegian anthem?”

    Deck the Halls was written in 1862 and the melody of the anthem was written in 1863-64. The melody of the first seven notes is the same as Deck the Halls, the melody of Deck the Halls being taken from a 16th century Welsh song “Nos Galan”.

  7. Well Mr. McClarey.
    If your mom had red hair and Kmbold is correct about its originating among the Vikings, and if both parents must possessive the recessive gene for red hair to appear in one’s children, your bride may not be the only one with Norse blood. 🙂

  8. MPS writes: “…Of course, it also makes me a lineal descendant of Genghis Khan, to whom I attribute my love of horses, simplicity of taste and suavity of manner”
    You attribute Genghis Khan as the source of your “suavity of manner”.

    You are nuts MPS. : )

  9. The mythology was that Odin (seen as an old man or raven) needed heroes for the final battle, Ragnarok.

    They’re still at it in Afghanistan. A recent YouTube has a Norwegian CO pumping up the troops before an op.

    You are the hunters!
    You are the predators!
    Taliban are the prey!

    Til Valhall!
    Til Valhall!
    To Valhall!

    Picture a berserker with the blood lust, frothing at the mouth, gnawing his shield . . . Homer Iliad has it in spots. The warrior, fully armed striding forth, feeling strength and vigor coursing through his limbs.

    I read that the Irish and Scots Celts/Gaels/Milesians were light skinned, dark haired peoples. The men would bleach their hair with lime or lye. The red and blond hair came from the Danes/Norse and, in America, inter-marriage with Germans, Swedes, etc. The Scottish gallowglass likley had his origin, both gentic and armory, in Norse raiders who “went native.” Which was a common problem among the adventureres, free-booters and mercenaries the sassenach kept sending into Eire.

  10. T Shaw

    The Normans, who settled in Scotland and Ireland in considerable numbers, had an admixture of Norse blood
    Tacitus in the Agricola comments on the red hair and large limbs of the Caledonians (that was before the arrival of the Scots from Ireland), which he attributes to a German origin: “Namque rutilae Caledoniam habitantium comae, magni artus Germanicam originem adseverant.” [The red hair and the large limbs of the Caledonian peoples testify to a German origin.] Dio Cassius, I believe, say Boudicca had red hair, but I have not checked the reference.

  11. MPS, apologies for being rude. I always understood Genghis Khan to be an invader who conquered civilizations by force of arms and pillory; I did not equate civility and suave manners with his persona. As he is your ancestor, you may be aware of personal details unknown to me. I should have reserved judgment.

  12. Slainté

    Not at all. It’s just that when I have mentioned my illustrious ancestor to people I know, they have usually said something like, “I might have known,” or “I should have guessed,” so I can only assume that is what they are referring to.

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