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Philip Simonsson (old Norse Filippus Símonsson), d. 1217, was a Norwegian aristocrat, and pretender to the throne of the Bagler party during the civil war era in Norway, from 1207 to 1217.



Philip was the son of Símon Kárason (d. 1190), and Margrét Arnadóttir. Símon was a prominent opponent of the Birkebeiner king Sverre, who fought with the unsuccessful pretender Jon Kuvlung in the 1180s, and was killed launching a new unsuccessful rising against Sverre in 1190. Philip's mother Margrét was the half-sister of king Inge Crouchback and full sister of Nikolás Arnason, bishop of Oslo and another prominent opponent of king Sverre and the Birkebeiner. In 1196, bishop Nikolas and other opponents of king Sverre raised the bagler party, with Inge Magnusson as their king, and with the strong support of the Church. The bagler fought Sverre until his death in 1202, neither side being able to achieve victory. Sverre was succeeded by his son, Håkon Sverresson, who reconciled himself with the church. Deprived of its main support, the bagler party dissolved, and their king Inge was killed.

Philip as earl

In 1204, Håkon died unexpectedly, and the birkebeiner elected an infant king, Guttorm, with real power in the hands of earl Haakon the Crazy. In response to this, the old bagler united their army again, with the support of the Danish king, Valdemar. Bishop Nikolas attempted to have Philip, his nephew, elected king of the bagler. The main body of the bagler objected to this, as Philip was not of Norwegian royal lineage. Instead, Erling Stonewall, a putative son of king Magnus Erlingsson was made king of the bagler, and Philip was given the title of earl, the highest rank below that of king.

Philippus Simonson of Stodreim actually numbered king Harald I of Norway, the eponymous king of the Fairhair dynasty, among his ancestors, through his mother Margaret: Margaret's mother descended from the Swedish Stenkil dynasty, whose ancestor king Stenkil's mother Estrid Njalsdottir, according to Norse legends, descended from a daughter of king Harald. This descent was not fully sufficient for succession, as Norwegians had tended to require male-line descent from their royal dynasty, and claimants with even a close cognatic lineage to a recent king of Norway (such as maternal grandsons) had been exceptions and not fully approved as dynastic - Philip's Birkebeiner rival king Ingi II (successor of Guttorm, chosen in 1204) had severe difficulties because he was just a maternal grandson of king Sigurd II.

The bagler army came to Norway in 1204, accompanied by the Danish king Valdemar. Erling was made king and Philip earl at the thing in Tønsberg. This started the second bagler war. The bagler rapidly gained control of the Oslofjord-area (Viken), while the birkebeiner held control of the Trøndelag-region around Nidaros (Trondheim). Western Norway with the city of Bergen changed hands several times. As the fighting raged on, both sides launched assaults on their opponents' strongholds, but neither side managed to achieve victory.

Philip as king

In January 1207, the bagler king Erling died, leaving two infant sons. The bagler first considered which son to take as their new king, but bishop Nikolas now relaunched Philip's candidature for the title of king. He achieved the support of the free farmers against the bagler military leaders, and Philip was made the new bagler king at the thing in Sarpsborg.

Philip continued the war against the birkebeiner, capturing Sverresborg castle in Bergen in 1207, but abandoning it and later enduring a successful birkebeiner-raid on his own stronghold in Tønsberg later the same year. In 1208, with no side looking able to achieve victory, bishop Nikolas and the other bishops managed to broker a peace deal between bagler and birkebeiner. At the settlement of Kvitsøy, the birkebeiner king, Inge Bårdsson, recognized Philip's rule over the eastern third of the country, in return for Philip giving up the title of king and recognizing Inge as his overlord. To seal the agreement, Philip was to marry king Sverre's daughter, Kristín Sverrisdóttir.

For the rest of his life, Philip ruled eastern Norway. The peace with the birkebeiner held, even though Philip broke his promise, and continued using the title of king until his death. He married Kristín in 1209. She later died, giving birth to their first child. The child also died soon after. Philip never produced another heir. In April 1217, the birkebeiner king Inge Bårdsson died. Philip attempted to renegotiate the peace deal, demanding to divide the kingdom half-and-half with the birkebeiner. But the same autumn, Philip fell ill and died. The next year, the new birkebeiner king, Håkon Håkonsson, was recognized as king also by the bagler, bringing the division of the kingdom to an end.


The main source to the life and reign of Philip is the bagler sagas. The oldest Norwegian royal letter to have been preserved was issued by Philip.[1]


  • Finn Hødnebø & Hallvard Magerøy (eds.); translator Gunnar Pedersen; (1979). Soga om baglarar og birkebeinar (Noregs kongesoger 3). Det Norske Samlaget, Oslo. ISBN 82-521-0891-1 (in Norwegian)
Preceded by
Erling Steinvegg
Bagler pretender to the Norwegian throne
Succeeded by
Håkon (King of Norway)


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