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Ragnall [Rægnald, Rögnvaldr] (d. 920/21), king of York, was one of the grandsons of the Danish viking Ívarr the Boneless. Information about him comes from English, Scottish, and Irish sources, and from coins. The written sources, though extensive, are often late and garbled and cannot be wholly reconciled one with another. Much remains uncertain.

After Ívarr's grandsons were evicted from Dublin in 902, Ragnall appears to have established a base in southern Scotland or the Isle of Man. He recruited from local settlers a band of Norwegian vikings, with whom he seized York, where the Danish leadership had been weakened following the battle of Tettenhall in 910. From there Ragnall sailed north to the River Tyne in 914, forcing Ealdred, the reeve of Bamburgh, to flee with his followers to King Constantine in Scotland. Ealdred and Constantine returned that year with an army of Scots and English to face Ragnall, who defeated them at the first battle of Corbridge. Ragnall then divided the eastern lands of the community of St Cuthbert (at Chester-le-Street) between two of his leaders, giving the southern half (from Castle Eden to Billingham on Tees) to Scule and the remainder (between Castle Eden and the River Wear) to Óláf Bald. After sailing north again, Ragnall crossed from the Forth to the Clyde and attacked Dumbarton in the kingdom of Strathclyde. Later in 914 his forces defeated the fleet of a rival viking leader named Bárd Óttarsson in a naval battle off the Isle of Man.

In the following years, with Waterford as his base, Ragnall harried southern Ireland, looting the monasteries of Munster. He was joined by his kinsman (probably his brother), , who recaptured Dublin in 919. Meanwhile Ragnall had invaded Scotland and sacked Dunblane. He turned south into Northumbria and with the aid of Guthfrith, another grandson of Ívarr, he fought a second battle at Corbridge in 918, defeating once again the king of the Scots and the English of Bamburgh. Among those killed there was Eadred, son of Ricsige, who had leased from the community of St Cuthbert much of their remaining territory. Ragnall gave the jurisdiction of these lands, lying south and west of Chester-le-Street, to Eadred's sons Esbriht and Earl Ælfstan, who appear to have supported him in the battle. With virtually the whole of Bernicia now in the hands of his nominees, Ragnall entered York early in 919 and ruled there as king until his death in late 920 or early 921. Ragnall submitted to King Edward the Elder as overlord some time before his death, but was allowed to keep his kingdom. He minted three issues of coinage bearing the name RAIENALT or RACNOLDT or a similar variant. At his death he was described in the annals of Ulster as ‘king of the Finngaill and the Dubhgaill’, that is, the ‘Fair Foreigners’ and the ‘Dark Foreigners’, meaning the Norwegians and the Danes who had settled in Ireland and northern England. He was succeeded as king of York by Sihtric Cáech.

Cyril Hart

Sources  

W. F. Skene, ed., Chronicles of the Picts, chronicles of the Scots, and other early memorials of Scottish history (1867) · W. M. Hennessy, ed. and trans., Chronicum Scotorum: a chronicle of Irish affairs, Rolls Series, 46 (1866) · Symeon of Durham, Opera, 1.208–10 · ASC, s.a. 923–4 [texts A, D, E, F] · W. M. Hennessy and B. MacCarthy, eds., Annals of Ulster, otherwise, annals of Senat, 4 vols. (1887–1901), vol. 1 · F. T. Wainwright, Scandinavian England, ed. H. P. R. Finberg (1975) · A. P. Smyth, Scandinavian York and Dublin: the history of two related Viking kingdoms, 2 vols. (1975–9) · C. R. Hart, The early charters of northern England and the north midlands (1975) · C. E. Blunt, B. H. I. H. Stewart, and C. S. S. Lyon, Coinage in tenth-century England: from Edward the Elder to Edgar's reform (1989)

Likenesses  

coin, repro. in Blunt, Stewart, and Lyon, Coinage in tenth-century England, pl. 26, no. 12