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Hakon the Good

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King of Norway, 935 (936) to 960 (961), youngest child of King Harold Fair Hair and Thora Mosterstang. Harold several years previous to the birth of Hakon, had divided his realm among his sons by former wives and, except for a species of suzerainty over the whole, retained only the central portion of the country (Gulathingslagen) for himself. Hakon remained under his mother's care, and developed into a beautiful youth, in every respect like his father. But as his elder half-brothers showed but little love for him and even tried to compass his death, Harold determined to remove him out of harm's way and accordingly sent him to the court of his friend, King Athelstan of England, who brought him up (hence his nickname Adelstenfostre) and gave him a splendid education. Hakon was destined never to see his father again, as the latter expired at the advanced age of eighty-three in 932 (or 933) at his residence at Hange, after a glorious reign of seventy years. His successor as ruler of the kingdom was Eric Blodoexe, who disarmed his brothers by craft and war, and earned the hatred of the people by his despotic temper. The disaffected nobles (Jarls) consequently turned to Hakon in the hope that he might take the reins of government into his hands and at the same time restore their old-time rights. The ambitious youth gladly agreed to their views. Above all Hakon won the support of Sigurd, the leader of the nobility, who had given proofs of a sincere attachment to him from the very beginning, by promising him increased power; moreover, he managed to gain the goodwill of the freedmen by his clemency and liberality. Eric soon found himself deserted on all sides, and saved his own and his family's lives by fleeing from the country. Hakon was now undisputed master of the nation, the unity of which seemed to be assured; of course the royal power was signally curtailed to the advantage of the people. Before he could feel secure on his throne, Hakon had to fight a dangerous war with the Danes. Having emerged victorious from this, he directed his efforts towards the improvement of domestic conditions as well as to the extension of his power abroad. Judiciously planned reforms in the administration of justice, government, and military affairs were carried out, and suitable measures were taken to promote commerce and to advance the deep sea fishing industry. At this juncture Jämtland and Vermland were annexed to Norway, provinces which that country afterwards lost to Sweden. Having been brought up a Christian, and being firmly convinced of the benign influence of Christianity on the intellectual as well as the moral life of mankind, Hakon attempted by precept and by duress to spread the new faith, and to root out paganism with its bloody ceremony. But meanwhile the sons of King Eric had grown up, and Hakon stood in need of the help of the entire nation in order to repel their invasion. Consequently, to his grief, he was compelled first to let matters rest half-way and subsequently to tolerate paganism which was still powerful. Finally, to escape the fury of the fanatical pagans, he was forced to take part in their sacrifices. When the heathens, however, subsequently grew so arrogant as to demolish Christian temples and murder Christian priests, the gallant prince determined to punish the criminals at all hazards and to enforce the laws he had enacted for the conversion of the nation. Taking advantage of the civil war that ensued, three of Eric's sons (Gamle, Harold, and Sigurd) landed unnoticed on Hoerdaland in 950 (961) and surprised the king at Fitje. The latter, although he was at the head of only a few faithful followers and vastly outnumbered, drove the enemy back to his ships. During the over-hasty pursuit of the vanquished, Hakon was struck in the forearm by an arrow, which caused the hero's death by hæemorrhage. He expressed his contrition for his sins before dying, begged the forgiveness of those who were present, and recommended his former enemy Harold as his successor, excluding his daughter Thora from the succession. As he had deemed himself unworthy of a Christian burial, he was interred according to ancient custom as a warrior in a raised mound at his palace at Sacim near Lygren in Nordhoexdadalen. He left behind him an honoured name. The people surnamed him "the Good", and historians extol him as the second founder of Norway's power. His memory lived long in songs and is not forgotten even today.

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