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King Godred II Crovan (1045-1095) was King of Sodor between 1067 and 1095. He gained the name Crovan because of his custom of wearing white leather gauntlets in battle.
Godred was born in Iceland in 1045. His father, King Harold the Black, had taken refuge there after Thorfinn the Mighty, Earl of Orkney, had expelled him from Sodor and Man in 1034. Harold died in a failed attempt to reclaim his kingdom in 1047. His mother was Gerda, a local girl who Harold had married.
Thorfinn had appointed a puppet King named Fingall in Harold’s place; but Fingall was acting the tyrant, and Sudrians began to want Harold back. They sent Sigurd of Cronk in 1056 to find him. On arrival in Iceland however he found only Gerda, Harold’s widow, and Godred, his eleven year old son, who sailed for Sodor with Sigurd. There Sigurd became Godred’s foster-father rearing him with Ogmund, his own son. Later Sigurd married Gerda. They had one son, Sigmund. Both boys became Godred’s close friends.
Sigurd trained Godred to one day reclaim his father's kingdom. Upon Sigurd's death in 1063, Ogmund succeeded to his position, and eventually became Godred’s Jarl and Viceroy in Sodor.
Thorfinn died in 1065, and Godred, with Sudrian backing, claimed his father’s Kingdom. He appealed to Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, and fought on the Norwegian side at the battle of Stamford Bridge, where he was wounded and taken prisoner by Thorkell of Norwich, an officer of Harold Goodwinson. The two struck up a friendship, and he promised Thorkell lands in Sodor, by way of ransom.
With the collapse of Saxon resistance in England, Thorkell crossed over to Sodor in 1067 and was settled at Kellsthorpe Road With Sodor now secure under Ogmund and Thorkell, Godred began his conquest of the Isles. He improved upon his grandfather's fortifications at Arlesburgh and Peel Godred, the latter becoming his headquarters. This was completed in 1075, and a period of consolidation followed. He launched a failed invasion of Man from Arlesburgh that year. Finally in 1079 his conquest of Dublin left the way open for an invasion of Man, launched from Harwick, culminating in the Manx surrender at the Battle of Skyhill during which, to Godred’s lasting grief, his step-brother, Ogmund, was killed. Godred commissioned the Ogmund Saga to be sung at his funeral.
Godred Crovan ruled from Dublin. His dynasty lasted in Man for nearly 200 years. It is generally believed in Man that it was he who established Tynwald and the House of Keys. There is, however, evidence in the Ogmund Saga pointing to their existence during the reign of Harold the Black, and Godred MacHarold is named as founder.
The first Norman invasion of Sodor in 1089 was routed at Crovan’s Gate. Godred, with 300 men, held 4000 Normans at bay until Sigmund and Thorkell could arrive with reinforcements. He feigned retreat, drawing the Normans into the narrow pass, which Sigmund then closed. The result was a virtual massacre of the Norman invaders. The second came in 1094, being timed to take advantage of an illness Godred was suffering; but Sigrid of Arlesdale’s victory at Cas-ny-Hawin put a decisive stop to that.
Godred died of pestilence in 1095 and was buried at his own request on Islay. Godred's heir, Olaf was only a child and Dublin appointed a Regent to rule Sodor and Man. Four years after Godred's death, Sodor broke away from Dublin and Man, due to the former's decision to send Olaf to the court of the Norman King Henry I, to form its own independent kingdom, with Godred's half brother Sigmund as king.
- Godred Crovan was a real historic King, who ruled the Kingdoms of Dublin and the Isles during the late eleventh century.