What I know, cont.
After the successful invasion of England by the Norman's however, a large number of Anglo-Saxons and Danes immigrated to the Byzantine Empire by way of the Mediterranean. One source has more than 5,000 of them arriving in 235 ships. Those who did not enter imperial service were settled on the Black Sea, but those who did became so vital to the Varangians that it was commonly called the Englinvarrangoi from that point. In this capacity they were able to war against the Normans under Robert Guiscard in Sicily, who unsuccessfully sought to invade the lower Balkans as well.
The duties and purpose of the Varangian Guard was similar to - if not identical - to the services provided by the Kievan druzhina, the Scandinavian vikinge-lag, and the Anglo-Saxon and Danish huscarls. The Varrangoi served as the personal lifehuard of the emperor, swearing an oath of loyalty to him; they had ceremonial duties as retainers and acclaimers and police duties similar to the American Secret Service especially with regard to cases of treason and conspiracy. Naturally, they served at the emperor's side when he was on campaign. The guard performed all these duties superbly: it was one of the fiercest and most loyal elements of the Byzantine army. Similar to their distant brethren, the Varangians' main weapon was a long axe, although they were often skilled swordsmen or archers as well. They were the only element of the army to successfully defend part of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Although the Guard was apparently disbanded after the city's capture in 1204, there are some indications that it was revived either by the Empire of Nicaea or the Palaeologid emperors themselves.
It is neither unusual nor particularly Byzantine that a foreign unit would gain such access and prestige. Augustus himself had a personal guard of Germans, the Collegium Custodum Corporis or Germani Corporis Custodes, to protect himself from the native Praetorians. This guard was revived by Tiberius and continued until Nero.
One of the most famous members of the Varangian Guard was the future king Harald III of of Norway known as Harald Hardraada ("Hardreign"), who arrived in Constantinople in 1035. He participated in eighteen battles and became the Akolythos ("Acolyte," the title of the commander of the guard) before returning home in 1043. The exiled English prince Edgar Aetheling may also have served with the Guard around 1098.
In critical moments even the powerful have need of the weakest.