Surnamed Haardraade (English: "Hardraada"), which might be translated "hard reign", he was the son of King Sigurd and half-brother of King Olaf the Saint. At the age of fifteen he was obliged to flee from Norway, having taken part in the Battle of Stiklestad (1030), in which King Olaf met his death. He took refuge for a short time with Prince Yaroslav of Novgorod (a Russian kingdom then, now a city, founded by Scandinavians), and thence went to Constantinople, where he took service under the Empress Zoe of Byzantium, whose Varangian guard he led to frequent victory in Italy, Sicily, and North Africa, also penetrating to Jerusalem.
In the year 1042 he left Constantinople, supposedly because he was refused the hand of a princess, and on his way back to his own country he married Ellisif or Elizabeth, daughter of Yaroslav of Novgorod. In Sweden he allied himself with the defeated Sven of Denmark against his nephew Magnus, now king of Norway, but soon broke faith with Sven and accepted an offer from Magnus of half his kingdom. In return for this gift Harald is said to have shared with Magnus the enormous treasure which he had amassed in the East.
He was only fifty years old, but he was the first of the six kings who had ruled Norway since the death of Harald Haarfagre to reach that age. As a king he was unpopular on account of his harshness and want of good faith, but his many victories in the face of great odds prove him to have been a remarkable general, of never-failing resourcefulness and indomitable courage.
Popular non-fiction books that discuss Hardraada's significant role in shaping English history include:
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