Scotlands History

Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney (c.1009-1064)

Called Thorfinn the Mighty, perhaps because of his unusual height and strength, he controlled all of Orkney and Shetland, Caithness, Sutherland and the Hebrides at the height of his power.

As a child of five Thorfinn was fostered out to his maternal grandfather - Malcolm II, King of Scots. After his father’s death in 1014, Thorfinn’s brothers divided Orkney and Shetland between them, and Malcolm II set Thorfinn up as ruler of Caithness and Sutherland with Scots advisors to rule for him; beginning a reign which saw many conflicts.

Earl Thorfinn made himself a great chief; he was the tallest and strongest of men, ugly, black-haired, sharp-featured, and big-nosed, and with somewhat scowling brows. He was a mighty man of strife, and greedy both of money and honour; he was lucky in battle, and skilful in war...

Orkneyinga Saga

Thorfinn was married to Ingebjorg, Countess of Orkney. They named their eldest son Paul; a Christian name. The Orkneyinga Saga tells us that Thorfinn rescued his wife Ingebjorg from their burning home, smashing through a wooden wall and carrying her out of the fire.

Thorfinn the Mighty died in the early-mid 1060s. He was buried in the grounds of St Magnus church at Birsay on Mainland Orkney.

  • Photo of a rectangle of low walls made of flat slabs of stone

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