Ívarr the Not-So-Boneless

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Ímar (Old Norse: Ívarr) was King of the Norsemen of all Ireland and Britain.

Ímar, or Ívarr or Ivar, was a Viking leader that came to rule Ireland and Scotland in the mid-late ninth century.  He was the founder of the Uí Ímair dynasty (Dynasty of Ivar), whose descendants continued to dominate the Irish Sea region for several centuries.

House of Ivar

The titles of the Uí Ímair Dynasty (the Descendants of Ivar): King of the Foreigners, Queen of Ireland, Queen of Norway, King of Northumbria, King of Scotland, Queen of Leinster, King of Dublin, King of Limerick, King of Waterford, King of the Isles, King of Mann, King of the Rhinns.

King Ímar is believed by many scholars to be none other than Ivar the Boneless of the Great Heathen Army.

The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland identifies Ímar patrilineality as being the son of Gofraid, King of Lochlann.

Lochlann (earlier Laithlind) is a geographical region in Classical Gaelic literature and in the history of Early Medieval Ireland. In the modern Gaelic and Welsh (Llychlyn) languages it signifies Scandinavia, and more specifically Norway. In Irish, the adjectival noun “Lochlannach” (person belonging to Lochlann) has the additional sense of “raider”, specifically, Vikings.

The Irish Fragmentary Annals name Auisle and Amlaíb Conung as being Ímar brothers.  The Viking leader, Halfdan Ragnarsson, is also considered by some scholars to be another brother of Ímar.  Which is interesting because Halfdan Ragnarsson is well known in the Sagas as being the brother of Ivar the Boneless.

The Irish Annals also titles the brothers: Amlaíb, Ímar, and Auisle as being “kings of the foreigners” – not as Irish kings, but as invaders.

Ímar is recorded as being involved in a conflict against Máel Sechnaill, the Overking of the Southern Uí Néill, during the late 850’s and early 860’s by the Irish Annals.

Map of Ireland 900 AD. “Southern Uí Néill” in red.

During the conflict, Ímar had allied with Cerball, the King of Osraige and Áed Findliath, the Overking of the Northern Uí Néill against Overking Máel Sechnaill.

Map of Ireland 900 AD. “Northern Uí Néill” in blue and “Osraige” in yellow.

The conflict ended in the year 862 AD with the death of Overking Máel Sechnaill and his lands were split. After which Ímar and his kin are noted as having warred with several Irish leaders in an attempt to expand their new kingdom’s influence.

Ímar disappears from the Irish historical records between the years 864 and 870 AD.

This absence in the records is consistent with Ímar being identical to Ivar the Boneless, as Ivar was active in England between 864 and 870 AD.

Read: Ivar the Boneless and the Great Heathen Army >>

In 870 AD, Ivar the Boneless is no longer mentioned by English sources. The Anglo-Saxon chronicler Æthelweard records Ivar’s death as 870.  However in the year 870 AD, Ímar reappears in Irish records.

The Irish annals record that Dumbarton Rock, the chief fortress of the kingdom of Strathclyde, was successfully captured by Ímar and Amlaíb following a four-month-long siege in the year 870 AD. The Vikings Olaf Traceteljie, the tree hewer and Danes, under Ivar, a son of the famous Ragnar Lothbrok laid siege to Dumbarton for four months, eventually defeating the inhabitants when they cut off their water supply.

Ímar and Amlaíb are again noted to have returned to Dublin in 871 AD with 200 ships bringing with them in captivity “a great prey of Angles, Britons and Picts” for the slave trade.

Read about slaves, which the Norse called “thralls” in: The Norse Social Class System).

The final mentions of Ímar are in the Annals of Ulster and Fragmentary Annals of Ireland which describe his death in 873 AD.

In these reports he is titled as “king of the Norsemen of all Ireland and Britain”.

This title was passed down to a dynasty of ruling kings, some of which claim lineage today.

Clan Macleod Crest

Clan MacLeod (Scottish Gaelic: Clann Mhic Leòid) is a Highland Scottish clan associated with the Isle of Skye. The Clan MacLeod of Lewis claims its descent from Leod, who according to MacLeod tradition was a younger son of Olaf the Black, King of Mann.

Olaf the Black was the son of Guðrøðr Óláfsson, who was a son of Óláfr Guðrøðarson, who was a younger son of Guðrøðr Crovan, was a descendant of Amlaíb Cuarán, King of Northumbria and Dublin who is said to be the great-grandson of Ímar (Ivar).

And of course, there’s Sigtrygg Ivarsson, son of Ivar.

This lineage kills Ivar the Boneless’ title “Boneless” as meaning “impotent.”

Ivar’s dynasty, the Uí Ímair (Grandsons of Ivar), and his line tracing to the founding of the Clan MacLeod, puts to rest the question if the “Boneless” in Ivar the Boneless meant that he was impotent or (Ivar the Impotent).


by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing

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by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing 

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