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  Magnus - the Martyr of Orkney

Betrayal on Egilsay

Magnus was the first to arrive on Egilsay, where he waited for the arrival of his cousin.

When, later that day, eight warships came into view it became clear that treachery was afoot. Hakon and his men landed on Egilsay the following morning. After first ransacking the church, Hakon sought out Magnus, who had:

"gone to another part of the island, to a certain hiding place".

After a search, Magnus was found, captured and brought before an assembly of local chieftains. There, the saga stresses, Magnus was concerned only for the welfare of his deceitful cousin's immortal soul.

Magnus made three suggestions that would save Hakon from breaking his oath by killing an unarmed man. The first, that Magnus would go on a pilgrimage and never return to Orkney, was rejected, as was the second, that Magnus be exiled to Scotland and imprisoned.

The final suggestion was that Hakon should:

"have me mutilated in anyway you choose, rather than take my life, or else blind me and lock me in a dungeon"

Hakon deemed this acceptable, but the assembly were not so keen. The chieftains leapt to their feet and announced that one of the earls had to die. They had had their fill of joint-rule in Orkney.

Hakon smugly informed the dissenters that, as he preferred ruling and was not ready to die, Magnus should be slain.

Magnus put forward no argument so "was doomed to death".

Informing his followers they were not to die defending him, Magnus stepped forward to accept his fate.

The Martyrdom of St Magnus