Bjorn Ironside (also spelt Björn Ironside; Old Norse Bjǫrn Járnsíða) was a popular Viking king and leader who was credited for founding the House of Munsö, a dynasty that ruled in Sweden between 860-1060. The name of this dynasty was named after a barrow which he allegedly owned; it was found on the island of Munso.
According to the sagas, Bjorn's wife was Thora. He was able to win her hand in marriage after ridding an area of a scary dragon. The couple had two sons, Agnar and Eirik, but after his wife died, he dedicated his life to raiding along with his other brothers.
In my previous blog post, I mentioned that Ivar was kind of like the strategist of the group according to historical sources. On the other hand, Bjorn was described as a ferocious warrior whose presence and prowess could turn the tide of battles. He earned his nickname “Ironside” for his iron hard muscles that he took advantage of during their pillaging and raiding adventures.
He eventually collaborated with Sigtrygg, another Vikng leader in 855. They teamed up to assault the French forces of Charles the Bald. While they didn’t succeed in defeating the enemies, Bjorn Ironside decided to create a fortress on Oissel island near Rouen and conducted raids in Paris. Charles the Bald couldn’t seem to get rid of him and his antics so he eventually talked to him to keep the other territories he won all to himself, as long as he agreed to keep the rest of France out of trouble.
After six years, he joined forces with another Viking leader called Hastein. They had their eyes set to travel the Spanish Atlantic Coast. They launched an expedition into the Mediterranean, with plans of sailing to Rome. They sacked Pisa while on their way to their final destination but mistakenly ended up at Luni, which they thought was Rome at that time.
Due to Luni’s defences, they felt that they were going to have a hard time taking the city down so they resorted to trickery instead. Bjorn’s team sent a message to the Bishop of Luni and told him that their leader (Bjorn) was in a critical condition and wanted to convert to Christianity before being buried on a sacred ground. The bishop didn’t hesitate to grant the dying wish of Ironside and welcomed a small group of Vikings not knowing what would happen next. Upon entering the city gates, Bjorn jumped right out of his coffin and held the gates to let the other Vikings in.
After successfully besieging Luni (the furthest city they reached), Bjorn and his team of raiders decided not to pursue their plans to do the same thing to Rome because it was too far.
Bjorn returned to Sweden after some time and established his dynasty. The Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok mentioned that he ruled Uppsala (town) and the rest of central Sweden. Unfortunately, there were no details about his death. Other people believe that he died peacefully knowing that his other son Eirik would take over Sweden and would continue his legacy.