108702: Somerled, King of the Isles

Somerled (died 1164), son of Gillebride and of Norse-Gaelic ancestry, was married to Ragnhild, daughter of Olaf Godredsson, King of the Isles. Somerled, who became Lord of Argyll and later King of the Isles, had at least five sons and one daughter.

Somerled, very much a warlord, was involved in many confrontations during the mid 12th century. According to the History of the MacDonalds, Somerled supported Olaf, whose campaigns included the death of a ‘MacNicoll in North Uist’. Somerled was also involved in disputes against Malcolm IV, King of Scotland. 

Somerled seized control of the Kingdom of the Isles from his brother-in-law Godred between 1156 and 1158. Somerled was killed during his attempted invasion of mainland Scotland, at the Battle of Renfrew in 1164.

Following Somerled’s death the Kingdom of the Isles was divided, and as far as the Western Isles was concerned, Lewis and Harris were controlled by Godred’s descendants, whereas Uist and Barra were controlled by Somerled’s descendants.

The famous Uig Chessmen date from this period. The hoard of 93 pieces includes several warriors.

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