The Greatest Viking, The Life of Olav Haraldsson by Desmond Seward. 

Upcoming Book, Published by Birlinn November 2022

A ruthless Viking warrior who named his most prized battle weapon after the Norse goddess of death, Olav Haraldsson and his mercenaries wrought terror and destruction from the Baltic to Galicia in the early eleventh century. Thousands were put to the sword, enslaved or ransomed.

In England, Canterbury was sacked, its archbishop murdered and London Bridge pulled down. The loot amassed from years of plunder helped Olav win the throne of Norway, and a century after his death he was proclaimed ‘Eternal King’ and has been a national hero there ever since.

Despite his bloodthirsty beginnings, Olav converted to Christianity and, in a personal vendetta against the old Norse gods, made Norway Christian too, thereby changing irrevocably the Viking world he was born into.

In Scotland, he is known for forcing the population of Orkney to convert to Christianity. Told with reference to Norse sagas, early chronicles and the work of modern scholars, Desmond Seward paints an intensely vivid and colourful portrait of the life and times of arguably the greatest Viking of them all.

The Greatest Viking will be the final book published by renowned historian Desmond Seward following his death in Spring 2022.

About the Author

Desmond Seward was educated at Ampleforth and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. Among the most highly regarded popular historians of his generation, he was the author of some thirty books, including biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry V, Richard III, Marie Antoinette and Metternich. He died in 2022.

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  1. The term Orkney is commonly used for 11 th century Nordic Scotland.
    Many people do not realise that Orkney ras its administrative, cultural & economic centre.
    However Nordic Scotland in the 1130s means today’sOrkney, Shetland, Caithness, Sutherland, the Western Isles, Hebrides, much of Western Scotland, Arran, Bute & south west Scotland.
    N S was an devolved part of the Kingdom of Norway within the boundaries of present day Scotland & 25 to 30 % of the area.
    Kirkwall’s 1000 years of history as the centre of Orkney started at that time.
    We have all no doubt heard of Earl Rognvald Brucisson & are familiar with the wooden St Olav statue on St Magnus Cathedral