Two Earls of Orkney


Magnus Erlendsson, joint earl of Orkney with his cousin Haakon, was treacherously murdered by Haakon. The film tells the story of his life.

We knew nothing of St Magnus the Martyr when we arrived in the Orkneys, but the towering cathedral dedicated to him in Kirkwall attracted our attention and other locations in the islands added to the story.

Magnus was something unique - a non-violent Viking, an earl who refused to shed his followers' blood in defence of his own, a Christian who sang psalms while others battled, and a man who went calmly to his death while praying for his murderers. The discovery that his bones were still held in honour in the cathedral added the finishing touch to the tale.

Unfortunately, not all the earls of Orkney followed his example, and the film begins with the story of the Stewart earls, selfish, violent men who eventually broke into open revolt and were justly - but tardily - executed for their crimes. Their monument is a ruined palace and the execration of the people of Orkney.