Björn Ironside Biography

Björn “Ironside” Ragnarsson, the legendary Swedish king of the 9th century, is known as the founder and first king of the Munsö dynasty. Born as one of the sons of the mythical Viking hero Ragnar Lothbrok and his wife Aslaug, Björn grew up alongside his brothers and half-brothers. He embarked on a conquest, capturing several territories including Zealand, Reidgotaland, Gotland, Öland, and other minor islands. Björn also led raids in France and the Mediterranean. Seeking revenge for their slain half-brothers, Björn and his siblings launched a successful campaign against Ælla, the king of Northumbria, England, ultimately capturing and subjecting him to the blood eagle. Björn’s legacy continued through his son Erik Björnsson, who succeeded him as king.

Quick Facts

  • Family:
    • Father: Ragnar Lothbrok
    • Mother: Aslaug
    • Siblings: Ivar the Boneless, Ubba
    • Children: Erik Björnsson, Refil
  • Born Country: Sweden
  • Emperors & Kings
  • Swedish Male

Family & Early Life

Björn, the son of Ragnar Lothbrok, comes from a distinguished Viking lineage. While there is no historical evidence to prove his father’s existence, traditional literature has dedicated much to him. According to the Icelandic saga, Ragnar’s father was the Swedish king Sigurd Hring. Björn’s immediate genealogy is provided by the Hervarar Saga. After the death of his great-great-grandfather Valdar, Björn’s great-grandfather Randver became the king of Sweden. Harald Wartooth, the king of Denmark, also established himself around the same time. There was a conflict between Randver and Harald, resulting in the Battle of the Brávellir. After Harald’s death, Sigurd Hring took control of Sweden and Denmark. Ragnar became king after Sigurd’s death and led the Viking invasion of France in 845.

Marriage and Children

Ragnar married three times. His first wife was Lagertha, with whom he had one son, Fridleif, and two daughters. His second wife was Thora Borgarhjört, with whom he had two sons, Eiríkr and Agnar. Ragnar’s third wife was Aslaug, who bore him five sons, including Björn. Aslaug was known for her beauty and intelligence. Ragnar tested her before marrying her, and she eventually became his wife.

In Traditional Literature

According to “The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons,” Björn and his brothers grew up to be fierce and cunning like their father. They raided new lands and amassed a large territory, making Lejre in Zealand their center of power. Ragnar became jealous of his sons’ achievements and appointed Eysteinn Beli as the king of Sweden to prevent Björn and his siblings from conquering it. Björn’s half-brothers, Eiríkr and Agnar, demanded Eysteinn to declare himself as their vassal, but he refused. A battle ensued, resulting in Agnar’s death and Eiríkr’s capture. Björn and his siblings avenged their brothers’ deaths by raising a powerful army and killing Eysteinn.

Attack on England and Legacy

Ragnar’s jealousy towards his sons grew, leading him to attack England with only two merchant ships. However, he was eventually defeated by Ælla, the king of Northumbria, and thrown into a snake pit. Björn and his siblings sought revenge and attacked England, Wales, France, and Italy. They then divided their empire among themselves, with Björn becoming the king of Sweden. Björn fathered two sons, Refil and Erik Björnsson, who succeeded him to the Swedish throne.

Historical Accounts

Björn is remembered as a skilled chieftain and naval commander. Accompanied by Hastein, he embarked on several raids of France. Björn wanted to rival his father’s conquest of Paris and decided to attack Rome. He and Hastein plundered cities along the Iberian coast, attacked the south of France, and looted the coastal city of Pisa in Italy. They then devised a plan to breach the walls of Rome, which involved tricking the city’s bishop. The Vikings eventually realized they had attacked Luna, an old city in Italy, and plundered it before leaving. They continued to raid Sicily and the coasts of North Africa before encountering the Muslim fleet at the Straits of Gibraltar. The Vikings suffered losses and Björn restored morale by raiding Christian parts of Spain.

In Popular Culture

Björn is portrayed by Alexander Ludwig in the TV show “Vikings.” He is depicted as Lagertha’s son and the oldest among Ragnar’s sons.

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