Norway / King Sverre Sigurdsson

Norway - King Sverre Sigurdsson (1184 - 9 March 1202)

Sverre Sigurdsson (Old Norse: Sverrir Sigurðarson) was the King of Norway from 1184 to 1202. He married Margareta Eriksdotter, the daughter of the Swedish king Eric IX, by whom he had the daughter Kristina Sverresdotter.

Many consider him one of the most important rulers in Norwegian history. He assumed power as the leader of the rebel party known as the Birkebeiner in 1177, during their struggle against King Magnus Erlingsson. After Magnus fell at the Battle of Fimreite in 1184, Sverre ruled as sole king of Norway. Differences with the Church, however, led to his excommunication in 1194. Another civil war began against the church-supported Baglers, which lasted beyond Sverre's death in 1202.

The most important historical source on Sverre’s life is his biography, Sverris saga, in part written while Sverre was alive. This saga is likely biased, since the foreword states that part was written under Sverre’s direct sponsorship. Correspondence between the Pope and the Norwegian bishops can be used as an alternate source when it comes to church affairs. The saga and the letters mostly agree about the hard facts.

In Spring 1201 Sverre sailed out from Bergen with a large leidang force in what would be his last campaign season. With this army he could demand war taxes without opposition on both sides of the Oslofjord during the summer. In September he set up camp at Tønsberg and laid siege to Tønsberg Fortress, which was garrisoned by Reidar Sendemann and his men. The siege dragged on because the other Bagler leaders dared not send a relief force and the garrison did not fall for any of Sverre’s tricks. At last, on 25 January, Reidar and his men surrendered, and Sverre decided to sail back to Bergen.

During the return journey Sverre fell ill, and by the time they reached Bergen, the king was dying. On his death bed, Sverre appointed his sole living son, Håkon, as his heir and successor and in a letter advised him to seek reconciliation with the Church. Sverre died 9 March 1202.

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King Sverre Sigurdsson: Details
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