Vikings Invade British Isles – The Battle of Largs (Tuesday 2 October 1263).

In Book Two of “The King’s Jew” a new character is introduced in chapter one. His name is Cathal and he is (allegedly) a hermit. Cathal plays an important (though secondary) part in the plot of the book. Yet I needed some background information as to his past life before he became a follower of Lord Cristian Gilleson (my main protagonist). It was then that I stumbled across the last Viking invasion of the British Isles (see below). Thus Cathal arrived with the invading forces, was captured and eventually meets Cristian two years later (1265). Very little (indeed hardly any) of the battle of Largs is mentioned in “The King’s Jew” but it seems only fair that I share this information with those of you who were unaware of this last battle of the Vikings on our Sceptered Isle.

Norwegian realm in 1263

The Battle of Largs (Tuesday 2 October 1263) was an indecisive engagement between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland near Largs, Scotland. The conflict formed part of the Norwegian expedition in which Magnus Haakonsson, King of Norway attempted to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western seaboard of Scotland.

Since the beginning of the 12th century this region had lain within the Norwegian realm, ruled by magnates who recognised the overlordship of the Kings of Norway. However, in the mid-13th century, two Scottish kings, Alexander II and his son Alexander III, attempted to incorporate the region into their own realm.

Following failed attempts to purchase the islands from the Norwegian king, the Scots launched military operations. Hakon responded by leading a massive fleet from Norway, which reached the Hebrides in the summer of 1263. By the end of September, Hakon’s fleet occupied the Firth of Clyde, and when negotiations between the kingdoms broke down, he brought the bulk of his fleet to anchor off The Cumbraes.

On the night of 30 September, during a bout of particularly stormy weather, several Norwegian vessels were driven aground on the Ayrshire coast, near the present-day town of Largs.


On 2 October, while the Norwegians were salvaging their vessels, the main Scottish army arrived on the scene. Composed of infantry and cavalry, the Scottish force was commanded by Alexander of Dundonald, Steward of Scotland.

The Norwegians were gathered in two groups: the larger main force on the beach and a small contingent atop a nearby mound. The advance of the Scots threatened to divide the Norwegian forces, so the contingent upon the mound ran to re-join their comrades on the beach below.

Seeing them running from the mound, the Norwegians on the beach believed they were retreating, and fled back towards the ships. Fierce fighting took place on the beach, and the Scots took up a position on the mound formerly held by the Norwegians.

Late in the day, after several hours of skirmishing, the Norwegians were able to recapture the mound. The Scots withdrew from the scene and the Norwegians were able to re-board their ships. They returned the next morning to collect their dead.

The weather was deteriorating, and Haakonsson’s demoralised forces turned for home. Hakon’s campaign had failed to maintain Norwegian overlordship of the seaboard, and his native magnates, left to fend for themselves, were soon forced to submit to the Scots.

The Scots invaded and conquered the Isle of Man the following year, which was, with the whole of the Western Isles, then annexed to the Crown of Scotland.

Three years after the battle, with the conclusion of the Treaty of Perth, Magnus Haakonsson King of Norway ceded Scotland’s western seaboard to Alexander III, and thus the centuries-old territorial dispute between the consolidating kingdoms was at last settled.

And that was the last time the ‘Vikings’ invaded the British Isles.

You can view “The King’s Jew” here

The protagonists: –

Magnus Haakonsson (Old Norse: Magnús Hákonarson, Norwegian: Magnus Håkonsson; 1 May 1238 – 9 May 1280) was King of Norway (as Magnus VI) from 1263 to 1280 (junior king from 1257). One of his greatest achievements was his modernisation and nationalisation of the Norwegian law-code, after which he is known as Magnus the Law-mender (Old Norse: Magnús lagabœtir, Norwegian: Magnus Lagabøte). He was the first Norwegian monarch known to personally have used an ordinal number, although originally counting himself as “IV”.

Alexander III (Medieval Gaelic: Alaxandair mac Alaxandair; Modern Gaelic: Alasdair mac Alasdair) (4 September 1241 – 19 March 1286) was King of Scots from 1249 to his death.

Seal of Alexander III, King_of_Scots_(seal)

Alexander Stewart (1214–1283), also known as Alexander of Dundonald, was 4th hereditary High Steward of Scotland from his father’s death in 1246. A son of Walter Stewart, 3rd High Steward of Scotland by his wife Bethóc, daughter of Gille Críst, Earl of Angus, Alexander is said to have accompanied Louis IX of France on the Seventh Crusade (1248–1254). In 1255 he was one of the councillors of King Alexander III.


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