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24. Magnus the Good

25. Denmark's History - Sweyn II Estridson

Introduction - Sweyn Estridson - Childhood and Youth - Personality - War against Magnus the Good - War against Harald Hårderåde - Sweyn Estridson as King of Denmark - Sons, Daughters, Wives and Mistresses - Sweyn Estridsons Death and Burial - Links and Litterature -

Introduction

Sweyn Estridson Engraving showing Svend Estridsen from 1685 from the Royal Library.

Sweyn Estridson was one of Denmark's great kings. In the chaotic aftermath of King Canute and all his sons death - in the time, when Christianity began in earnest - he gathered Denmark through lengthy and grueling battles against Magnus the Good and Harald Hårderåde.

He was born in England in 1018 and ruled Denmark for 29 years from 1047 until his death in 1076. All indications are that he was a loved and respected king. Maybe he was particularly loved by the women, as he got a very large number of children with several queens and many mistresses. Five of his sons became kings after him, one after the other, which testifies to the respect and love that the Danes felt for him.

He sought to become king of England after his cousin, Hardicanute's death, which failed - due to opposition from Earl Godwin, and because Hardicanute, already when he was alive, had raised Edward the Confessor to royal dignity as fellow king.
Timeline for Denmark's history
Timeline of history of Denmark based on Royal dynasties - They all descend from "Hardegon, the son of a certain Sven" that captured at least part of Denmark around the year 917. It is of advantage to divide the list of kings and thereby Denmark's history into some manageable groups or dynasties, as it gives a good overview.
The Knytlings have got their navn from Hardecnut, søn of Hardegon. He is called Knud I and was father of Gorm the Old. Magnus the Good was the son of the Norwegian Catholic saint, Olav the Holy; His reign appears as an interregnum to the rule of Svend Estridsen and his sons and grandsons. Svend Estridsen was the grandson of Svend Tveskæg.
The rivaling kings, Sven, Knud and Valdemar, were all the candidates for kingship descending from Svend Estridsen, but the period appears as an interregnum to the period of the Valdemars.
Many historians, probably most, only considers Valdemar I the Great, his son Knud VI and Valdemar II Sejr (victory) as the Valdemars. But no one has a patent on the definition, and it seems the author natural and appropriate also to include their direct male descendants - including Erik IV Plovpenning, Abel and Christoffer I - until Christoffer II, who was the last king before the period without king.
Valdemar IV Atterdag was not a union king, but it was his daughter Margrete I and his grandson Oluf. You could say that Valdemar IV Atterdag laid the foundations of the Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden.
The first kings of the dynasty of the Oldenborgs were also Union kings but only for short periods.
The Oldenborg line died out with the childless Frederik VII in 1863. The throne was then taken over by Christian IX of Glücksborg.

He sought approximation to Sweden and Norway by marrying Gunhild, widow of King Anund of Sweden, and daughter of Earl Svend of the Lade Jarl's lineage that still enjoyed great respect in Norway. But this marriage was dissolved at the request of the Pope and bishops, who claimed that they were too closely related.

Sweyn Estridson and his sons
Erik Emmune was the son of Erik Ejegod, and Erik Lam was the son of Ragnhild, who was probably the daughter of Erik Ejegod, some say she was the daughter of Sweyn Estridson.

Adam of Bremen, who visited him and spoke personally with him, relates that he was a kind, intelligent and knowledgeable man, who did not miss any opportunity to hear news from abroad: "In the last years of the Archbishop's lifetime I came to Bremen; There I heard of the wisdom of this king, and soon I made the decision to travel to him. Like all his guests, I was very graciously received".

Svend organized the new Danish church and divided the country into 10 dioceses.

Sweyn Estridson.

Sweyn Estridson was the son of Ulf Jarl and Canute the Great's sister Estrid and thus Canute the Great's nephew. In Danish sources he use his royal mother's name, while the Icelanders call him Svend Ulfsøn after his father. Some say he took his mother's name because she was the most distinguished, others say that he avoided his father's name, because Canute had him killed as a traitor.

In between Sweyn Estridson also called himself Magnus - including on some coins, which can be confusing. Some believe that he received this name at his Christian baptism in the same way, as Canute the Great "- received in baptism the name Lambert" as told by Adam. It will also fit very well with that he on his coins with Christian motifs called himself by his Christian name.
Ulf Earl's origin from a bear
Saxo says that Ulf Jarl's great-grandfather was a bear. Here is Claus Deluran's presentation of the story.

Saxo describes how his father Ulf - and thus also Sweyn - descended from a bear: "A man in Sweden had a beautiful daughter, who once had gone out to play with her maids. Then a very big bear came and chased her girls on the run, grabbed her and carried her quite gently on his pawns to his cave in the woods. By the sight of her lovely body, however, a great desire desire arose in him, he became more keen to embrace her than to eat her, and she, whom he had taken to destroy, became the subject of his shameful lustful craving, for from robber he was at once transformed into a lover, forgot his hunger and embraced her. And to take care of her as good as he could with a decent way of living, he regularly walked into the neighborhood and robbed cattle, and she, who had been used to delicious dishes only, had to get used to eating bloody raw meat."

"Eventually, the owner of the herd became sad losing all his cattle; He was careful, surrounded the beast with dogs, attacked it with all his might under barking and hooting of the dogs and pursued it to its cave, where it kept the girl stored up, as she was surrounded by impassable swamps, and where there always was dark because of the dense foliage of infiltrated branches. Here the animal was quickly surrounded by the hunters, who pierced it with their spears."

"Lovingly nature made it so that the fruit of this hideous and unnatural mating did not become as bad, as you could have expected; det monster that the bear had bred, she gave birth to in the usual way, and the blood of the animal is hidden under human facial features. The boy was by his kinsmen called Bjørn (Bear) after his father." - "His son, Thorgils Sprageleg, followed in every way in his father's footsteps, what virtue and good morals concern; His son again was Ulf, whose mind correspondeds to his descent, as his way of thinking matched the blood that he had inherited from his ancestor."


Rikard 3. as part of Six Duchess of Normandy monument on the square of Falaise.
Rikard 3. as part of Six Duchess of Normandy monument on the square of Falaise. When Estrid came to Normandy around 1016-17 as the duke's coming bride, she could have been about 18 years old and hence the same age with the duke's son, the coming Rikard 3. It must have been him, who rejected her. It did not work well for him, as he only mannaged to be a duke one year, before he died under circumstances that some find suspicious. Perhaps it was not good for health to reject Canute the Great's sister.

Ulf Jarl was appointed by Canute the Great as his earl in Denmark, but Canute became angry with him and killed him, because Ulf made the young Hardicanute a king of Denmark without his permission. Like other Danish and English sources Saxo considers him as a mere traitor, who waged war against his king. The Icelanders, on the other hand, describe him more positively.

Sweyn's mother, Estrid, also had two names, she is in some sources called Margrete. We must believe that she got this last name by her Christian baptism.

Adam states that Estrid first married a son of the Russian king: "Canute married his sister Estrid to the king of Russia's son." But it did not work so well; maybe he died. Then she - still according to Adam - was betrothed to Rikard 2. of Normandy. Nor did this relationship work out well, as Estrid was rejected and sent back to Canute: " When Rikard had separated himself from the sister to Knud, he became afraid of the Danes, went to Jerusalem and died there." Rikard 2. was at this time about 63 years old. Perhaps we can believe that Estrid was destined for his son Rikard 3., who by the time of the death of his father was around 26-27 years old and died of suspicious causes only a year after.

Sweyn Estridson's skull
Sweyn Estridson's skull. Sweyn had a big head; note the impressive canines especially the one in the left under-jaw. Photo from Forensic Science International.

Olav the Holy's Saga says that "Sweyn and Hardicanute were of equal age." and because we believe that Hardicanute was born in 1018, we believe that this was Sweyn too, which is also what many historians believe.

If we assume that Svend was born in 1018, as the second son, Estrid might have been be married to Ulf in 1016. Erik Sejrsæl of Sweden died in 995, and we may think that Sweyn Forkbeard could have married his widow, Estrid's mother, about 996. So maybe Estrid was born in 997 and was about 19 years old, when she married Ulf Jarl. We remember that Emma was about 17 years old, when she was sent to King Æthelred in England, so it will probably suit.

As mentioned above, Canute gave his sister to his retainer Ulf Jarl, and they had several sons, whom Adam mentions different in places, namely Bjørn, Sweyn, Asbjørn, Bern and Osbern. Bjørn and Bern were very much the same, as Bern means bear. It is also very likely that Asbjørn and Osbern are the same, since the meaning of the names are the same. Adam mentions that Bern or Bjørn was killed by Godwin's sons: "Bjørn, they killed immediately, the other Osbern, they chased out of the country along with all his men." It is said that Bjørn was the leader of the Tingmannalid.

Recreating Sweyn Estridson's face
Recreating Sweyn Estridson's face using the technique of face reconstruction. Most likely he had a narrow face. This technique can not reconstruct wrinkles and fat layers. One might think that in his last years he had a more round face. Foto Picture Mixture.

Bjørn was probably the oldest, as he has a name from his father's lineage - he may have been slain, because he was a rival royal candidate of Canute the Great's lineage - Sweyn may have been the second-oldest, as he has a name from the mother lineage. The brother Osbern or Asbjørn shows up later in history as one of Sweyn's trusted men in Denmark.

When Sweyn Estridsons tomb in Roskilde Cathedral was opened in 1911, the anatomical investigations were conducted by anatomy-professor Fr. C. C. Hansen. He concluded that the skeleton had belonged to a tall, strongly built man, who was between 50 and 70 years old, when he died. He had a big dolichocephalic head. The corner teeth of the left under-mouth is unusually large and at the same time very protruding, almost like a fang, as it also is referred to in older literature. The right hip and thigh showed that the king was lame, perhaps after a stroke or blow. After modern methods his height is estimated to have been 173 to 176 cm.

There were no signs of bone or joint-diseases apart from some inflammatory changes in left elbow-joint - which has been caused by overload suggesting that he used the left hand most, and thus was left-handed.

It is said that Saxo somewhere describes King Sweyn as "heavily built and bold". It was perhaps especially in his later years.

Men, who are more eager than others after the company of women, have a good life appetite, and it usually also involves appetite for food. That's also what Adam writes: "The Danish King, who often came to him (the archbishop), when he stayed at the (river) Ejder, and who then carefully memorized and precisely preserved in his memory all, what the archbishop's told him about the holy sciptures, except for what concernded the palate and love for women; these his countrymen's age-old sins the king could not be persuaded to let go," which in the long run will affect the weight.

He can really have reminded of his ancestor, the famous bear - strongly built, large head, protruding canines, round and full-bodied with a slightly awkward walk, because of the problem with his thigh and hip.

Childhood and Youth

Sweyn must have spent his early childhood in England with his parents, until Ulf Jarl was assigned responsibility for Denmark in 1024. The little Sweyn may have followed his parents to Denmark or might have remained in England as a kind of hostage for his father.

The killing of Ulf Jarl
Saxo tells us that Ulf was killed during a party in Roskilde by party participants on Canutes's order, and not in church the following day, as the saga tells. Tegning af Louis Moe

Most sources tell that Ulf Jarl aroused Canute's anger, because he got the young Hardeknud elected king of Denmark without first obtaining Canute's permission. Ulf Jarl sought refuge in front of the altar in the church in Roskilde, and here he was killed by the man that Canute sent. Only Roskilde Chronicle has a different explanation: "Canute gave Rikard his sister Estrid in marriage. Rejected by him, she married Ulf Jarl without her brother's consent. When Canute heard this, he began to become an enemy of Ulf and his sister, and to the extent that he even chased them out of the kingdom. In the end, however, he forgave them, as many prayed for them and supported them. After not very a long time he let Ulf killed in the church of Roskilde, when he was there for rhe morning mass."

In any case, we find Svend in Denmark in 1025. Olavs Saga tells that his father sent his seven year old son and the same age Hardicanute to the angry Canute to please him: ""Earl Ulv sent his son Sweyn to the king; Sweyn was King Canute's son-in-law. Sweyn sought mercy and conciliation for his father, and offered himself as a hostage on behalf of the him." It was shortly after the Battle of Helgeå. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1025 says: "This year went King Knute to Denmark with a fleet to the holm by the holy river", which gives the year.

Sweyn Estridson in Roskilde Cathedral
Mural in Roskilde Cathedral by Sweyn's tomb, which is supposed to represent the king. It is known, however, that it has been painted hundreds of years after his death and probably does not look like him. Note that he is called here by his full name Sweyn Magnus.

Adam reports that Sweyn made war service in Sweden for 12 years: "At the same time the famous kings of the North, Canute and Olaf, died, who were real brothers. (He must think that they both were sons of Sigrid th Haughty) One of them, the Swedish king Olaf, was followed by his son in the government, the before mentioned Jacob. Under him, the younger Sweyn, son of Ulf, made military service in Sweden for 12 years."

Both Ulf and Estrid had strong ties with Sweden. Saxo reports that Ulf's ancestor, the famous bear, came from Sweden. Estrid was the daughter of Sigrid Storråde, who owned much real estate in Sweden, probably in Western or Eastern Gøtaland, which Estrid may have inherited after her mother.

Estrid is regarded as one of Roskilde Cathedral's chief benefactors. Valdemar's Jordebog (a kind of Danish Doomsday Book) mentions the so-called "Syghridlef", which is estimated to have been located in the Eastern Gøtaland, which must have been the land estates that had belonged to Sigrid the Haughty. In any case, we believe that immediately after the murder of Ulf Jarl, Estrid took care to bring her son to safety in Sweden, outside Canute's reach.

Next time Svend appears in history is in Saxo: "However, Sweyn Estridsson, who in England waited for Canute's son Hardicanute to come over there, placed warriors around in the fortresses to be so much safer that the people of the country did not dare to fall from Canute, for he did not trust the Englishmen and would not give them weapons in hand by unrestrainedly allowing them to occupy the fortified cities."

We remember that in the tense situation in England in 1035 after Canute's death, a meeting was held in Oxford, where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it was agreed that Harold Harefoot should be king of England, though so that Emma should rule south of the Thames supported by Earl Godwin on behalf of the absent Hardicanute. It must have been in this situation that the now 17-18 year old Sweyn "waited for Canute's son Hardicanute to come over there."

Christian cross found at the village Hågerup on the island of Funen
Christian cross found at the village Hågerup on the island of Funen. The cross was part of a treasure, mainly consisting of coins deposited around 1050. Odense Bys Museum.

However, after the death of Alfred, one of Emma's sons with Ethelred Godwin and Emma could no longer maintain their position in the South of England. Emma fled to Bruges, and in 1037 Harold Harefoot became king of all England.

There is no intelligence about, what Svend Estridsen, who was now about 20 years old, then did, but he seems to have been in the service of Hardicanute, perhaps he sailed to Denmark and joined Hardicanute there.

Anglo Saxon Chronicle of 1039 reports: "This year, Hardacnute also came to Bruges, where his mother was." Shortly after, the message came that Harald Harefod had died and Hardicanute continued to England, where he became elected king throughout the country same year.

Svend probably arrived in England together with Hardicanute in 1039, because Adam tells: "Magnus immediately attacked Denmark, and became master of the two kingdoms, while the Danish King Hardeknud lingered in England with his army. Soon, however, he armed himself against Magnus and put Sweyn, his cousin, over the fleet. Sweyn was overcome by Magnus, went back to England and found Hardicanute death;" Which happened in 1042.

Urnesfibula in silver from late viking period
Urnesfibula in silver from late viking period found by Robert Hemming Poulsen on the island of Møn. It represents one or more animals fighting snakes. Photo Imgrun.

However, Magnus the Good's Saga believes that Sweyn ever since the killing of his father had been in the service of the Swedish king Anund, and he came to Magnus after Hardicanute's death: "Svein was a man named, son of Ulf Jarl, who was the son of Thorgils Sprakalegg; Sweyn's mother was Astrid, daughter of King Sweyn Forkbeard;" - "Svein Ulvsøn had lived for a long time with his cousins, the Swedish king, since his father Ulf Jarl fell, as it is written in Knut the Old's Saga that he let kill his brother in law Ulv Jarl in Roeskelda." - "Svein Ulvson came to King Magnus when he stayed in the river, as previously written; The king welcomed him, and also many ssupported his case, because Svein was the most friendly man. He also spoke for his case beautiful and wisely to the king, and it came to happen that Svein became King Magnus'man."

This would give Sweyn the 12 years of war service in Sweden that Adam mentions in his remark about King Anund: "Under him, the younger Svend, son of Ulf, made military service in Sweden for 12 years".

Personality

Sweyn was a knowledgeable and open person, who did not neglect any opportunity to hear news from travelers. Adam reports: "Like all his guests, I was very graciously received, and from his mouth I have gathered a large part of this book's content. For he possessed a thorough scientific education, and was also extremely accommodating to foreigners."

Mural by Svend Estridsens grave in Roskilde Cathedral
Detail of mural at Sweyn Estridsons grave in Roskilde Cathedral. It is painted several hundred years after his death and have with great certainty no likeness.

The saga of Magnus the Good says something similar: "Sweyn Ulvsøn was the most beautiful man; He was very big and strong, a great athlete and very clever; It was the speech of all men, who knew him that he had all the qualities that adorn a good chieftain."

Saxo also says that Svend was a kind and generous man: "While winning a famous name by generosity and kindness and considered to be perfect in respect of noble behaviour, he also made an enthusiastic effort to build and decorate churches and guide his people, who were still quite uninformed in religion, to a deeper worship of God."

Sweyn was intelligent and knowledgeable. He could probably read and write. None other than Pope Gregory the 7th wrote in a letter to him: "But as we have understood that you, noble and high king, distinguishs yourself over other kingdom's princes both with academic knowledge and in your zeal for church beautifying, we address with so much more confidence our letter to you, who we believe that we easier progress with you, the more you are known to have made progress in learning and wisdom of life."

Sweyn's literacy is confirmed by Saxo in the episode, where some students to make fun of Sven's favorite, Svend Normand, had removed some letters from a prayer book so that the "servant of God" had become to "God's donkey", which the victim unwittingly read aloud in latin: "A servant is in latin called famulus, and now they had deleted the first two letters, so there stood mulus, which means a donkey. Those present burst into such an immense laughter at this his ignorance that the worship service was turned into a joke by this coarse joke. When the mass was over, the king had the book taken from the altar, and when he saw that it recently had been forged by envious hands, and that it was this forgery, that caused that the prayer had been read erroneously, he became angry."

Sweyn Estridson and bishop Wilhelm
Sweyn Estridson and bishop Wilhelm. Saxo brings the story of the close friendship between Sweyn and Bishop Wilhelm. Bishop Vilhelm once stopped King Sweym at the entrance to the church and forced him to a humiliating penance, because he had let some men kill in the church; but the friendship between them was nevertheless so strong that William by the message of Sweyn's death let dig a grave to himself next to the grave of the king, thereafter he went to meet the burial procession and died as it approached. Probably, none of the stories are true.

Some historians have suggested that as the younger son of the murdered and disgraced Ulf Jarl it was originally planned that Svend should have an ecclesiastical career. It will explain his great knowledge and his literacy skills. We can only congratulate Svend that it did not materialize; with his great appetite for women it would have been unbearable to live a life of celibacy.

There is no doubt that Sweyn himself was convinced Christian. It was not something he pretended to win the newly converted Danes' hearts in competition with the holy Magnus, the saint king's son. Harald Hårderådes Saga says that after the battle of Lofofjord the victorious Norwegians found a reliquary on Sweyn's ship: "In the aft end of King Svend's ship they found a shrine with the holy Vicentii Diaconi sanctuary and brought it with them." But even though he was a convinced Christian, he was not so unwise to demand of his people that they should pay tithing, as he his son, Canute the Holy, later did - with fatal consequences for himself.

Although Sweyn lost most of his battles - but won the wars - he was personally courageous. Harald Hårderådes Saga recounts that Sweyn and Harald met in battle in Lofofjord (which reportedly is also called Lagefjord), probably located somewhere in southern Halland: "King Svend did not flee before his ship was completely cleared".

The Skjald Arnor tells:

Brave Svend not without cause
Left his ship in battle,
Surely that time high helmets
The hard iron has split,
For before the king fled,
The Jutlanders protector
So completely left to swim
His navy, retainers death.

Hakon Earl speaks with Vanraad
Hakon Earl speaks with Vanraad. Drawing by Wilhelm Wetlesen in Heimskringla Nationaludgaven.

The Norwegians won the battle, and King Harald pursued the fleeing Danes. The Norwegian Hakon Jarl, however, remained on the place of the battle as he could not sail because of the damaged ships: "Then a man rowed to the Earl's ship in a boat and docked at the ships side; It was a tall man with a wide-brimmed and big hat on his head" - "Where is the earl?" he said. The earl stood in th fore end room, and stopped a man's blood; He looked at the man with the hat and asked about his name; "It is Vanraad, here is," he said." - "The earl bowed over the shipboard to him, and the man in the boat said: "I will ask you about my life, Earl, if you will grant it to me." Hakon Jarl stood up, and called the two men, whom he loved very much, and asked them to bring the man to the land; "Vanraad has proven me very well," sagde han, "follow him to my friend Karl, and say this as a sign that it is me, who sends him, that he should give the horse, that I gave him the day before yesterday and his saddle and give him his son to show the way." This happened early in the daybreak."

Harald Hårderåde's Saga continues: "Then they went up to Karl's farm; It started to be daylight, they went into the living room, where Karl precisely had been dressedwas and had just been dressed; The earl's men told him their errand, Karl said that they should eat first, he let the table be set and offered them a hand wash. Then the wife in the house came into the room and said immediately: "It is strange that we have not been able to sleep or rest in the night for a moment because of of shouting and roaring." Karl said: "Do you not know that the kings have met in battle in the night?" "Who then got the upper hand?" she said. "The Norwegians have won," said Karl. She answered: "Then our king again had to flee." "There is no one who knows," Karl said, "whether he has fallen or fled." She said: "Some wretches we are, for the king we have, who is both lame and cowardly." The newly arrived guest said: "Let's rather believe what is more decant, my dear! That the king is not a fool, but he is not very victorious." Vanraad washed his hands, and when he took the towel, he dried himself in the middle of the same; The woman grabbed the towel and tore it from him, and said: "A poor upbringing you've got, it is not good behaviour to make the whole hand cloth wet at once." Vanraad answered: "Yet again, I hope if God's will to live the day that we can dry ourselves in the middle of the towel." They sat down and ate and drank awhile, and then went; Karl's horse was when prepared, and his son prepared to accompany Vanraad, he had another horse; they rode into the woods, but Hakon Jarl's men went down to the boat and rowed out to the Earl's ship."

Vanraad was Sweyn Estridson. Hakon Jarl had previously been King Sveyen's man, and he immediately recognized him and helped him to the forest. Sweyn rewarded the peasant Karl.

The name Vanraad mean literally bad advice and reveals a certain self-knowledge and self-irony. Perhaps he thought his plan had not been good enough to win the battle. It also reflects responsibility, as he did not blame others for the defeat.
Harald Hårderåde and his men see the Danes' ships at sunrise
"In the morning when the sun rose, they saw the Danes' ships". Drawing by Wilhelm Wetlesen i Heimskringla National udgaven.

Harald Hårderådes saga describes some episodes on the sea near to Læsø, throwing some light on Sweyn's lack of luck in warfare: Harald Hårderåde and his men were on their way home to Norway with ships heavily laden with booty and Danish prisoners. They got headwind and lay therefore under Læsø for the night. But when the morning fog liftet, they saw that a superior Danish navy was heading right against them. The Norwegians threw everything superfluous overboard and pulled the oars all they could, but the Norwegian ships had been long in the sea and was water-soaked and heavy to row, while the Danish was recently launched: "But when King Harald saw that the Danes ships sailed faster, he commanded his men to lighten their ships, throwing malt, wheat and pork overboard and letting goodies and other beverages running out: it was done and helped for some time. But when King Harald saw that the Danish were constantly approaching him, he said to his men, "Now good advice is valuable, take all the shields and push them overboard, and fasten to them empty barrels and bowls, then put on that thr Danish women and other prisoners"; but when all of this driftet into the sea, Kong Sweyn commanded that they should help the people." The Danish ships stopped and picked up the distressed, and thus Harald got such a head start that he escaped.

Alter plate from Tamdrup church
Alter plate from Tamdrup Church at Horsens exhibited at the National Museum. Christ sits on his heavenly throne with the holy book in his left hand. On his left side is a person in a worldly suit and on his left side a person with crown and headscarf, both in worshiping position. It is assumed that they are Svend Estridsen and his mother. Photo Kim Bach Wikipedia.

A more hard-boiled commander might have thought that if he really could lay hand on Harald Hårderåde, then it would in the long run save more lives than the few who swimmed around in the sea of Kattegat. But Svend was soft-hearted and could not sail past the countrymen in distress.

Harald Hårderådes Saga continues to describe Sweyn's soft heartedness: "King Sweyn returned with his fleet to the south near Læsø, and found there seven Norwegian ships, which were manned by conscripts and peasants from Viken; they asked for peace, and offered ransom for themselves. Many asked King Sweyn to have them killed, and said that all Norwegians should suffer for what King Harald had done. King Sweyn answered: "Only little desirable I find it in my destiny to miss the victory in the battle, and then to treat them badly, who themselves surrendered to my mercy; since now that major victory escaped our grasp, so we bestow these freedom and life."

War against Magnus the Good

Analyzes of coins indicate that Magnus had good support in Jutland, where he was also legally elected at Viborg Ting, and Svend had his power base in Skåne, which he gradually extended to the islands.

Mold of soapstone with both Kristi Kors and Thor's Hammer

Støbeform af klæbersten med både Kristi Kors og Thors Hammer
Støbeform af klæbersten fundet ved Trendgården i Himmerland. Den kunne bruges til at stæbe både Christi Cross og Thor's Hammer. Drawing by Jørgen Kraglund. Photo Pinterest.

Ælnoth, the English monk in Odense, confirms that Magnus was specifically supported by the Jutlanders, while Svend especially had his support in Skåne and the islands: "After many hostile instances and bloody clashes between Magnus ,the leader of the northerners and westerners, and Sweyn with the epithet Magnus, the leader of the easterners and southernes, fierce opponents both, and after the end of the memorable war between Harald Hårfager and the same Sweyn Magnus about the rule of Denmark, Sweyn Magnus won, as Magnus had gone the way of the flesh."

Magnus the Good's Saga tells that after Hardicanute's death, Sweyn came to Denmark and met Magnus at Gøtaelven, they became friends and Magnus appointed him to his earl in Denmark despite the protest of Ejnar Tambeskælver: "Too great an earl, too great an earl, my foster son."

The Orø cross
The Orø cross is a so-called relic-cross made of 22k gold, to wear in a chain around the neck, made in two parts with a cavity in the middle, where a relic has been stored. On the front side is seen the crucified Jesus and by his foot a dragon. Over his head, God's right hand is shown between sun and moon - note that the sun is shown as a wheel cross - and to the right and left of Jesus' arms two small figures, probably Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. On the horizontal cross arm stand the words OLAFC VNVnCE (Olav cununce = king) - which must be attributed to Olav the Holy - and ISACO (possibly Isaac). The devotion to Saint Olav may well have been transferred to his son, Magnus.
The cross was found on the island of Orø near Holbæk in 1849 and is apparent from the early Middle Ages. It is located at the National Museum, but a copy can be seen in the museum Orø Minder, Bygaden 56, Orø. Photo Orø Kirke.

This saga further tells that Sweyn very soon failed his fidelity oath to Magnus and accepted to be elected as king of Denmark, after which he was completely chased out of Denmark by Magnus. Adam writes: "Svend was beaten by Magnus and accepted him coming into the victor's favor and swore allegiance to him. Encouraged by the Danes he took up the fight again, but again found his match in Magnus. Then he took refuge in Jacob loudly regretting having broken his fidelity oath."

But Svend Aggesen tells another story: "But as he (Canute the Great) could not take care of several kingdoms together, he bestowed his sister's son, then still only a child, with royal dignity and gave him Denmark to govern. Svend's father was Ulf Spragelæg, his mother was Estrid and was a sister of King Knud." The historian J.G.F Ræder believes that it is a confusion, and it was Canute's son Hardicanute - who is also elsewhere referred to as only Canute - who gave responsibility for Denmark to his cousin Sweyn. It also fits with Adam's remark about Hardicanute: "Soon, however, this armed himself against Magnus and put Svend, his cousin, over the fleet."

Sweyn's initial presence in Denmark is confirmed by William of Malmesbury, who describes how he initially was king of Denmark, lost two battles and yet won the war: "One Sweyn, doubtlessly a most exalted character, was then made king of the Danes. When his government had prospered for several years, Magnus, king of the Norwegians, with the consent of some of the Danes, expelled him by force, and subjected the land to his own will. Sweyn, thus expelled, went to the king of Sweden, and collecting, by his assistance, Swedes, Vandals, and Goths, he returned, to regain the kingdom: but, through the exertions of the Danes, who were attached to the government of Magnus, he experienced a repetition of his former ill-fortune. This Avas (?)a great and memorable battle among those barbarous people: on no other occasion did the Danes ever experience severer conflict, or happier success." - "and then also Sweyn fled, but soon after, on the death of Magnus, he received his kingdom entirely."

We - with the historian J.G.F Ræder - may believe that Svend initially exercised the government of Denmark. After he had learned of Hardicanute's death, he went to England as quickly as possible - to claim the kingship there, since he was a nephew of King Canute and thereby a royal candidate at leat as relevant as Edward.

Coin of Byzantine type issued in Lund by Sweyn Estridson.
Coin of Byzantine type issued in Lund by Sweyn Estridson. Photo Verasir.

However, by Sweyn's arrival in England in 1043, Edward had already been crowned King of all England on 3. of April. Hardicanute had already elevated him to royal dignity as a co-king, and in addition he was supported by the mighty Godwin Earl. Following Adam, Sweyn had to satisfy with a promise that he should be considered for England's throne at Edward's death, even he should have got sons.

In Edwards saint biography, which was written more than twenty years later, is told the king of the Danes with a number of advisers came to King Edward and accepted him as their overlord. This agreement was confirmed with oaths and exchange of hostages.

What they agreed is not know in details, but when Sweyn a few years later asked for help against Magnus, the agreement proved worthless. Florence of Worcester reports for the year 1047: "Sweyn, King of Denmark, sent ambassadors to Edward, England's King, requesting him to send a fleet to join him against Magnus, king of Norway. Then Earl Godwin counselled the king to send at least fifty ships full of soldiers, but as the proposal was objected by Earl Leofric and all the people, he declined to furnish any."

Furthermore, when Edward the Confessor later in 1066 really died - even without sons - Sweyn was not considered as his successor. Earl Godwin's son, Harold, let himself in great haste crown as King of England - which aroused Duke William of Normandy's anger.

The Dagmar Cross from St. Bendt's Church in Ringsted
The Dagmar Cross from St. Bendt's Church in Ringsted is made in Constantinople of gold and enamel. The dating is in the range 1000 - 1200. Photo Pinterest.

However, when Svend in 1043 came from England to Denmark, he found that the saint king's son, Magnus, had taken power in the country followed by a jubilant crowd of newly converted Danes. Svend was in a difficult situation, claiming England, as Magnus also did, and thereby opposed to him. It seems that the newly converted Danes' devotion to the son of the holy saint Olav was overwhelming.

Harald Thorkilssøn had just been murdered in Slesvig on his way home from Rome by Magnus' brother-in-law, because he was a royal candidate. Sweyn was also an obvious candidate, and therefore he possibly feared to suffer the same fate as Harald. Therefore, he saw no other option than choosing the safety in Sweden.

Magnus the Good's Saga confirms that Sweyn immediately traveled to Sweden without trying to resist Magnus: "But when Svend became aware of his journey, he did not have trust in his fighting forces, but travelled away from the land into Sweden to his cousin, the Swedish king Ønund."

In Sweden, he met Harald Hårderåde, who was Olavthe Holy's half brother and thus Magnus the Good's uncle. Harald took part in the Battle of Stiklestad in the age 15 years, where he was wounded. Then he travelled to Constantinople, where he quickly became the leader of the Imperial Væringe-guard, and in this capacity he participated in many battles against Arabs and Bulgarians. Perhaps in 1044 he returned home to Scandinavia as an experienced commander bringing a legendary amount of gold.

Harald Hårderådes saga says that Svend and Harald met in Sigtuna and joined together: "There Harald met Sweyn Ulfsøn," - "at their meeting they embraced each other kindly." - "Sweyn and Harald entered an oath alliance with each other." - "Then Harald and Sweyn got ships, and soon a great army came to them, and when all these warriors had finished, they sailed down to Denmark." Which must have been the army of "Swedes, Vandals and Goths" which William of Malmesbury mentions.
Sweyn Estridson and Harald Hårderåde ravage on Sjælland
Sweyn Estridson and Harald Hårderåde ravage on Sjælland. Drawing by Wilhelm Wetlesen in Heimskringla Nationaludgaven.

The raid that now followed in the spring of 1046 was a complete plunder raid, Zealand and Funen were terribly ravaged with fire and sword, especially it is reported that the city of Roskilde was burned. The historian J.G.F. Ræder suggests that in particular was Harald that was responsible for all these devastations, as he was used to such methods from his time as the leader of the Væringe Guard in wars against muslims and Bulgarians. It was suggested that it was on this occasion that Harald Hårderåde was disqualified as a future Danish king. Sweyn, on the other hand, had his supporters in precisely this part of the land and could not afford such brutal conduct. According to the Norwegian Tjodrek Munk Harald and Sweyn succeeded in submitting most of Denmark.

Now it looked bleak for Magnus, and the saga tells that he sent secret messengers to Harald to persuade him to change side.

There was some men in a room drinking
There was some men in a room drinking. In the drunkenness, it came to light that the Norwegian Håkon Earl had helped Sweyn Estridson to get away from the battle of Lofofjord. Drawing by Wilhelm Wetlesen i Heimskringla Nationaludgaven.

Harald Hårderådes Saga continues: "One evening Svein and Harald sat at the drinking table, "Svein asked Harald what treasures he had that he appreciated most. He answered that it was his banner, called Landøde. Then Svend asked what attribute this banner had since he it was so valuable for him. Harald answered: "It is said that he always gains victory, who carries this banner in front, and it has always been so for me since I got it." Svein said: "Then I think the banner will have the nature that if you hold three battles with your cousin, King Magnus, and win victory in all of them." Then Harald answered angrily: "I know quite well that there is kinship between me and Magnus, without you having to remind me of it, and not therefore we meet each other in warfare, that our meeting could take place in a more decent way." Svein then changed color and said: "Some would think that you have done it before that you of commitments only kept so much that was for your own benefit." Harald answered: "Less you must be able to prove that I have not met the obligations, I have concluded, than King Magnus will be able to claim that you have held yours against him." Then each went his way."

Magnus accepted Harald as co-king against receiving half of the treasures that Harald had from Constantinople.

The winter 1046-47 was unusually severe: "The sea between Denmark and Norway was covered with ice, so the wolves ran between the countries" Maybe there was ice on Kattegat.
Five coins from Næsbyholm treasure
Five coins from Næsbyholm treasure. At Næsbyholm south of Sorø a purse with 15 silver coins was found in 1943 that its owner must have hidden in troubled times. Maybe it did not went him so well that he could dig them up, when the danger had passed. They are almost all minted by Svend Estridsen. In his time, the share of Danish coins in the coin finds increased quite significantly.

When spring came, it was Sven's turn to have problems with the new alliance between Magnus and Harald: "But in the beginning of spring both kings Magnus and Harald ordered leding of Norway." - "The kings Magnus and Harald had a large and beautiful army with which they sailed down to Denmark; but when Svend was informed of this, he fled over to Skåne; The kings, on the other hand, rmained in Denmark a big part of the summer, and subjected the whole country." - "On this raid they took much goods from the men, who had cheered Svend Ulfsøn; many prisoners they drove in front of them to the ships and put them in chains."

Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1047 writes: " - and Magnus won Denmark". And for the year 1048, the same source says: "And Sweyn also sent hither, begging assistance against Magnus, king of Norway; that fifty ships should be sent to his aid. But it seemed unadvisable to all people: and it was then hindered by reason that Magnus had a great ship force. And he then drove out Sweyn, and with much man-slaying won the land. And the Danes paid him much money and acknowledged him as king. And that same year Magnus died."

It was a bitter and bloody civil war. As Ælnoth says: "After many hostile instances and bloody clashes between Magnus ,the leader of the northerners and westerners, and Sweyn with the epithet Magnus, the leader of the easterners and southernes." There is talk of several battles between Sweyn and Magnus, and Sweyn lost them all but won the war.

Magnus' messenger meets Sweyn Estridson
Magnus' messenger meets Sweyn Estridson at the border of Sweden and says that Magnus is dead, and on his death-bed pointed to him as the king of Denmark. Sweyn then exclaimed: "Now help me God as true as I will never in my days turn my back to Denmark." Drawing by Wilhelm Wetlesen i Heimskringla Nationaludgaven.

Knytlinge Saga says: "The same autumn (as the battle on Lyrskov Heath) in the beginning of winter King Magnus and King Svend Ulfsøn met in a battle at Ærø, in which King Magnus prevailed."

The battle of Aarhus is believed to have taken place very early in the war in Kattegat next to the city, Magnus's Saga says: "Svein was then in Aaros and had many people; but when he heard about King Magnus's army, he led his men out of the city and prepared for battle." - Magnus assured his men that the sacred Olav would give them victory: "Since they dressed in army dress, and every man prepared himself and his room; The men of Magnus rowed forward until they saw the army of the Earl, and immediately rowed against them. But Svein's men armed themselves and tied their ships together." - "It then became the fiercest fighting. In that battle, Svein's ship was cleared forward arpund the bow and he saxes(?); then King Magnus himself with his followers went up on Svein's ship, and since his men, one after the other. They attacked so hard and fiercely that Svein's men gave way, and King Magnus then cleared that ship and then one after another. Since Svein fled and a a large part of his army; but a lot of his men fell, and many got mercy."

The battle of Re is assumed to have taken place at Stralsund in the Strait between Rügen and the mainland immediately after Magnus' attack on Jomsborg. The old Danish name for Rügen was Re or Rø. Magnus the Good's Saga says: "They met in front of Vestlandet at Re, and there was a big battle that ended that King Magnus was victorious, but Svein fled and lost many people; He now fled back to Skåne". Vestlandet is perhaps to be understand the mainland west of Jomsborg.

There is talk of the Battle of Helgenæs: "But when King Magnus heard that, he gathered army and ships and steered southwards to Denmark. He heard where Svein lay with his army, and King Magnus sailed then against him. Their meeting was yhere, which is called Helganes, and it was toward evening. But when the fight took on, King Magnus had fewer men, but bigger and better equipped ships. Then Arnor Jarlesskjald says:

Widely I have heard it is called
Helganes there, where the king,
the widely known wolf-feeder,
spoiled seahorses many.

It is soon to say about this battle that King Magnus got the victory, but Svein fled. His ship was cleared along the bows, and all of Svein's other ships were cleared.

But fortune smiled on Svend in the end. Magnus died on his ship, as is told in the previous section on Magnus the Good. The Tronders gave up further struggle and sailed home with Magnus' corpse. We must believe that also Harald immediately sailed back to Norway to ensure his domination after Magnus' death. It is also what Florence of Worcester writes for the year 1048: "Sweyn recovered Denmark and Harold Harfager, son of Siward, king of Norway and brother of St. Olaf by the mothers' side and by the fathers' uncle to king Magnus, returned to Norway"

War against Harald Hårderåde

Sweyn Estridson coin
One of Sweyn Estridsons many Byzantine coin types. The front side shows the seated Christ with an outstretched arm. The text says: Magnus Rex. On the back side is a very special type of cross bordered by runes or Latin characters. It was minted in Lund around 1058. Photo Skalman.nu

The next 15 years Harald led continuous war against Denmark without coming only close to a breakthrough. There are reports of Norwegian victories, but they never got a foothold or something, which only looked like territorial gains. In the main case there were looting raids, which of course was also bad enough.

Thorkel Geysa was Denmark's richest and mightiest man. Harald Hårderådes Saga says: "It is said that Thorkel Geysa gave Svend king's name on Viborg Ting in the winter; but all the Danish and chiefly Thorkell daughters, made that winter much fun of King Harald and the Norwegians; They said about them that they would not risk sending warships to Denmark. Geysa's daughters cut anchors of cheese and said that they could fully hold King Harald's warships, with which he would win Denmark; and they did a lot of other insulting things with the Norwegians."

The Blenstrup  treasure

Blenstrup skatten
The Blenstrup Treasure consists of more than 200 coins found by two unnamed detector people in a field near Blenstrup south of Aalborg. It consists of Danish, German and English coins. Some English coins are minted by the kings Ethelred the Unready and Edward the Confessor. One of the German coins is minted in Cologne. The Danish coins are minted by the kings Canute the Great, Hardicanute and Sveyn Estridson. Since the Sveyn Estridson coins are the youngest, we can believe that the treasure was dug down, when Harald Hårderade ravaged the country 1047 to 1062. The treasure contained, among other things, two copies of a coin that Hardeknud had minted in Aalborg. The front of the coin tells us that it was King Hardeknud who stood behind the minting. On the back of the coin stands "Alfric on Alabu", which means that the coin-master Alfric made it in Aalborg. This coin is the oldest written testimony of the city of Aalborg. Photo from Nordjylland Historical Museum.

The saga continues: "But when King Harald came to Denmark, and disembarked from the ships, he said to his warriors: "Here shortly up in the country is Thorkel Geysa's farm, the man, who gave Svend kingship, who is one of our greatest enemies; I think that Thorkel and his daughters will now come to know if the Norwegians dare to come to Denmark, or if our anchors are made of cheese or they are more reliable. " And when they came to Thorkel's farm, they immediately put fire on the houses, but as soon as the men, who were in there, felt that the fire was spreading, they asked for peace and permission to go out. Then King Harald answered: "Although it was more reasonable that Geysas daughters burned in here, then I do not mind that they now try if Norwegian chains could be fixed on Danish legs;" The farm was burned, but Thorkel's daughters were bounded taken to the ships.

Thorkel Geysa bought her daughters free with a very large amount of money.

Every year Harald ordered leding and sailed on plunder raid towards Denmark: "The next spring after the raid that we newly told about, Harald ordered an army, and sailed to Denmark, and this he since did one summer after another, as Stuf says:

Hedeby
The semicircle rampart around Hedeby. In the background on the the left, Slesvig is visible on the other side of the fjord Slien. Photo Martin Geisler Online.

Then Falster was destroye,
By scare the people was hit,
Happy was the raven, but afraid
every year the danish were.


The saga says: "King Harald ravaged the whole summer in Denmark, got a lot of loot, but did not become master of any part of the country this summer". There is talk of a battle at a place called Tjolenæs. There are no details, but it was apparently in Jutland, as Grane says:

"On defeated Val themselves rejoiced
from Jutes the wolf lived."


Moreover, it is said: "King Svend ruled all Denmark after King Magnus had died; He sat quietly every winter but lay out on the ships with all his warriors every summer and threatened to go to Norway with the Danish army and to do as much ravaging as Harald did in Denmark."

Harald Hårderåde attacked and burned Hedeby - quite early in the war - in 1049: "With this army King Harald sailed down to Jutland and past Thy, and they went with warfare over the country with the army, and burned the villages, killing the men they could catch, but most of them fled, who could get away."-" They went all way down to Hedeby, where they captured many of the treasures of the Dane King, robbed all goods, and made the people and many mighty men's women, who had fled there to seek shelter, to prisoners. Then they captured and burned the whole city; Then the men of King Harald spoke the following:

Skuldelev spærringen
The Skuldelev barrier. In 1962 was made a sensational discovery of five ships on the bottom of Roskilde Fjord. They had apparently all been lowered to make a blockade that would prevent surprise attack from the sea towards Roskilde. The ships were all from the 1000 years, and it is reasonable to assume that they had been lowered in connection with the war against Harald Hårderåde. The ships are the main attraction of the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. Photo Google Maps.

"In Hedeby we let
The whole city consumed,
Between both ends abruptly
By fire, that trick will not be forgotten."


Hedeby was never rebuilt because the merchants preferred to move to Slesvig on the other side of the fjord. It might be that the water depth in Haddeby Nor off Hedeby was quite low, and the greater depth off Slesvig was better suited to new and larger ships.

The Skuldelev barrage in Roskilde Fjord, which was built in 1060, was very likely an attempt to secure Roskilde against Harald's surprise attacks. The citizens had not forgotten that Harald burned the city 14 years before - in 1046.

Twice we are told that Harald's men narrowly escaped a fleet of large and fast Danish ships. It tells us that Svend gradually succeeded in building larger and better ships, which were superior to the Norwegian ships.

On the way home - laden with booty and prisoners from Hedeby - it almost went wrong for the Norwegians, as it is told above. They got headwind and put themselves under Læsø: " - and therefore sailed to Lesø and lay there at night. Then a thick fog came over the sea; but in the morning, when the sun rose, they looked on one side, as several fires burned on the sea. This was said to King Harald; He looked at it and immediately said, "Let as fast as possible the tent-covers on our ships be taken down down, and men to be placed on the rowing benches: tha is the army of the Danes who comes against us." The Norwegians succeeded to escape by throwing everything superfluous overboard.

Svend Estridsen tilbeder Kristus på alteret i Tamdrup Kirke
Svend Estridsen worships Christ on the altar of Tamdrup Church. Photo Kim Bach Wikipedia.

The saga lets us understand that the Danes defended their country still more decisively: "One summer, King Harald sailed out with some light ships, and had no great army, when he sailed south to Viken, where he got good wind, and from there over to Jutland, where he started to ravage. The inhabitants of the country gathered to defend their land; King Harald then steered with his fleet into Limfjorden. This fjord is such that the inlet is only like a narrow estuary, but when you enter the fjord it extends like a large sea. Harald ravaged the country on both sides, but the Danish had everywhere a gathered an army against him." - "King Harald was then informed by his scouts that King Svend had arrived with a large fleet of ships at the mouth of the fjord; but it lasted long for him to run in, as only one ship could sail in at a time. King Harald then steered further into the fjord, where it is the widest, it is called Lusbred, but between the most inner part and the North Sea is only a narrow strip of land; To there King Harald rowed with his ships in the evening, and at night, when it had become dark, they unloaded the ships and dragged them over the landstrip: with all this they had finished before day and had the ships reloaded; they then rowed north past Jylland's side." Some story translations say, they were singing all the way home to Norway.

At first glance we imagine that it was at the entrance to the fjord at Hals that Sweyn's large ships could only enter one at a time, but it is more likely that it was at the infamous Løgstør banks. They are some sand banks next to Løgstør, which for long periods has been a serious obstacle to sailing through Limfjorden. The National Archives has stored Hald Len's accounts, where we from 1610 can find charges for transshipment of the king's treasure grain at Løgstør. Similar obstacles to the sailing may well have been the case around 1050.

Historians have for a hundred years debated intensely, what it was for a narrow "strip of land" that Harald and his men pulled their ships across. Some theories are based on very literal interpretations of the saga's statements. But the saga is written for Icelanders, who were not expected to have a detailed knowledge of the Limfjord's geography.

Harald Hårderåde in Limfjorden
Proposal for Harald Hårderåde's escape toute from Limfjord to the North Sea:
K.Erslev and G. Strom suggested in 1873 and 1877 that the flight must have taken placeover Bygholm Vejle and out to the North Sea at Bulbjerg.
R.H.Kruse and J. Stenstrup proposed in 1869 and 1876 the western escape route through Nissum Bredning and across the land strip to the North Sea.
Stenstrup believed that the isthmus that Snorri mentions must be sand bar at Løgstør and Limfjorden must have been open to the west, so that Harald was saved by just getting over the sand bar.
In 1975, Sven Larsen placed the route over Lønnerup fjord, Kløv Å and out to the North Sea near Vigsø.
J.T.Møller suggested in 1982 an escape route through Sløjkanalen and into the North Sea at Kollerup Strand. Sløjkanalen is today a stream that starts North-West of Fjerritslev running in South-Western direction towards the fjord. Photo Google Map.

Vi kan tro at "the fjord, where it is the widest" simply means that part of the fjord, which is different from the narrower part between Hals and Løgstør; and "the most inner part" must be Nissum Bredning, as "between the most inner part and the North Sea is only a narrow strip of land" between this and the North Sea.

The isthmus between the North Sea and the fjord has historically been influenced by two oppositely acting forces, namely the sea and the waves that ceaseless removes one meter of Western Jutland after another, and the deposition of sand, which also takes place along the coast and has formed the isthmuses by the Limfjord and Ringkøbing Fjord, Fanø and Rømø.

Therefore, for long periods, the connection between the North Sea and the Limfjord has been closed and in other periods has been open. Knud the Holy ordered in 1085 - 35 years after the events - the leding fleet to gather in Limfjorden, at what time the connection to the North Sea must have been open. One can easily imagine that it was a new phenomenon that the sea was broken through; so perhaps around 1050 the isthmus has been quite thin and narrow in some places, which allowed Harald Hårderåde to pull his ships over in one night.

Harald Hårderåde lands at Humber
Harald Hårderåde lands at Humber in England in 1066 not far from Stamford Bridge, where he met his end. It's Harald with the ax. Illustration in old English handwriting.

Kalv Arneson was one of the men, who gave Olav the Holy his deadly wounds in the battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Together with Ejnar Tambeskælver he brought Magnus to Norway and made him king. But Magnus could not forgive him, what he did to his father, and Kalv had take refuge in Orkney.

But after Magnus' death, the chance appeared that he could return: "Kalfs brother, Finn Arnesøn, sent word to him, and let him inform about the agreement, which was concluded between him and King Harald, that Kalf should be allowed to return to Norway, and again recover the possessions and the same vasalries, he had received by King Magnus."

But Harald had a sly plan to put Kalf on a Uriaspost: "The following summer, following the settlement with Kalf, King Harald ordered leding, sailed with this army to Denmark, and ravaged there in the summer; but when he came down to Fyen, a great army was gathered against them; Then the king let his warriors go out of the ships, and prepare themselves for landing. He put his men in order, gave Kalf Arnesøn command of a squad, and commanded him to go ashore first, and assigned them a route they should take, and promised that he, himself, later on would go ashore, and come to their aid if they should need it. Kalf went ashore with his squad, and soon an army came against them; Kalf immediately prepared for battle, and a fierce fight began, but it did not last long, as Kalf had to flee for the superior force, and set off on escape with his troops, but the Danish pursued them, and killed many of the Norwegians; There Kalf Arnesøn fell."

The burning of Scarborough in 1066
The Norwegian attack on England in 1066 and the burning of Scarborough.
The Norwegians made some big bonfires on a hill above the city, and when the fire had spread good, they pushed it all down the hill and thereby burned the whole the city. Drawing by Wilhelm Wetlesen in Heimskringla Nationaludgaven.

His brother, Finn Arnesøn, "spread the words that the king's enmity had been the cause of his brother Kalf's death and accused the king of betraying his life and that it was a fraud against Finn himself that he had caused him to lure Kalf home from the Western lands into King Harald's power" As several other Norwegian great men, he left Norway and joined Svend Estridsen, "and King Svend gave him the dignity of Earl King Svend gav ham jarls værdighed, og Halland to govern on behalf of the king, where he long was Jarl and protector of the land against the Norwegians."

The battle in Lofofjord - as Saxo calls Nisåen - as also mentioned above - was the only real battle in the 15-year-lasting war between Sweyn Estridson and Harald Hårderåde. Finn Arnesøn fought on Sweyn's side. Lofofjord or Nisåen were probably located in southern Halland.

Aslak in battle in the battle of Nisåen
Aslak in battle in the battle of Nisåen. Drawing by Louis Moe in Saxo Gramaticus.

Harald sailed south along Halland and "ravaged around, he put into Lofofjord and plundered the nearby country. Shortly afterwards, the Dane King Sweyn came against them; He had three hundred ships." - "Then many advised to flee; King Svend had such a great army, they said that it was not advisable to fight; but several did not speak. Then Hakon Jarl replied, "It seems to me, Lord, that although the Danish have a great power, they have smaller ships than we, and I also hope that their warriors, as before, will be found less brave than the Norwegians; with the Danish, it is so that they are not unfit in the first attack, but they will soon be despondent when you really attack them seriously. You have often struggled against a great supremacy, and yet won victory, and so it will also work out this time."

Saxo reports that when the Danes realized how few they were, they tied their ships together and awaited the Norwegian attack. One of Skjalm Hvide men named Aslak, mowed the enemy down with his truncheon and contributed to the fight remained unsettled until late at night.

The Norwegian chieftain Skjalg Erlingson was forced against land and his entire crew were cut down by Sweyn's land forces.

Then the Norwegians received unexpected reinforcement of the Opland chieftain Hakon Ivarson, who attacked the Danes from behind or in the flank. This made the Skåne people lose courage: "They cut the ropes, disconnected the cooperation and slipped in the darkness of night away from the rest of the fleet and fled with muted strokes of the oars secretly up the river."

The Norwegian attack on Scarborough in 1066
The Norwegian attack on England in 1066 and the burning of Scarborough.
For thousands of years it has been used by invading armies to burn, kill and rape, wherever they went - to force the country's men to put up in battle for their families and property. Which was what Harold did in Scarborough, and probably also in Roskilde. It was most likely fairly routine when he was chief of the Væringer-guard in Constantinople.
Guerrilla war is a modern invention, based on another modern idea, namely that an invading army will not harm women and children. There was no one who tried to lead guerrilla war against, for example, Djengis Khan, it would have had catastrophic consequences for precisely women and children.
Harald found it hard to break away from old habits, which made him somewhat unpopular. Harold Godwinson came with a large army from the south, they rested in the city of York at night. The Norwegian Army stayed at Stamford Bridge not far from York. Many people must have known that there was a large English army inside York's city walls, but no one told the Norwegians, and they were completely surprised the following morning.

Then the Norwegians got the upper hand and cleared the other Danish ships one by one. The saga says: "However, at the end of the night the main force of the Danish Navy began to flee; for then King Harald had boarded King Svend's ship; King Harald went manly forward and struck with both hands."

Svend Estridsen disguised himself as Vanraad, and with the help of the Norwegian Hakon Jarl Ivarson he came ashore under cover of night and the peasant Karl helped him on through the forest.

Same Winter messengers traveled between Norway and Denmark, and a peace meeting at Gøtaelven was scheduled in spring 1064. Here, following the saga it was agreed that "King Svend should have Denmark and King Harald Norway with the same boundary divides that from ancient times had been between Norway and Denmark; none of them has to fine the other for damage suffered, al feud should stop, where such a thing had begun, and both keep the advantage he had gained; this peace should remain in force as long as they both were kings."

Battle of Stamford Bridge by Peter Nikolai Arbo
Battle of Stamford Bridge 1066 by Peter Nikolai Arbo. The Norwegians were surprised by the Tingmen's Army and had to fight without their chain mail. Harald Hårderåde was hit by an arrow in the throat, which became his death. Wikipedia.

Harald Hårderådes Saga says that in the winter of 1065-66 Harold Godwinsson brother, earl Toste, came to Norway to persuade Harald Hårderåde to attack England. In this context, he made it clear to Harald, why he did not get Denmark.

Harald asked: "Why did King Magnus not get the kingdom of England, when it rightly belonged to him?"

The earl answered: "Why do you not have Denmark that Magnus had before you?"

"The Danish should not be proud of themselves for the strife with the Norwegians," the king said, "many a spot, we burned them, your beloved kinsmen."

Then the earl said: "When you will not answer my question, so I will give you information about it: for this reason King Magnus got Denmark, because all the country's chieftains stood by him, but you did not get it, because everyone was against you; Consequently, King Magnus did not fight the kingdom of England because all the subjects would have Edvard as king."

Sweyn Estridson as King of Denmark

Already in 1049, King Svend appeared confidently on the international scene. Florence of Worcester writes for this year: "Emperor Henry assembled a vaste army against Baldwin, Count of Flanders, chiefly because he had burned and ruined his stately palace in Nimeguen. In this expedition were, Pope Leo and many great and noble men from various countries. Sweyn king of Denmark was also there with his fleet, on the emperor's command, he swore fealty to the emperor for that occasion. He sent also to Edward, king of England, and requested him not to let Baldwin escape, if he should retreat to the sea."
Dalby Church in Skåne
Dalby Church in Skåne. The church was built by King Sweyn Estridsen and is believed to be the oldest preserved building in Scandinavia. The west wing, a few rare buildings and significant parts of the original bishopric church are preserved. Sweyn's son and successor Harald Hen is believed to be buried in the church, but we do not know where.

Florence expressly states that Svend swore allegiance to the Emperor for that occasion, which must be very natural, as a military cooperation must have leadership. When Danish forces participate in campaigns in Iraq or elsewhere with other nations soldiers, the entire campaign will also be subject to a superior command.

After the victory of Hastings, William the Conqueror recognized the pope as his overlord. Much suggests that Sweyn Estridson did as well. In a letter to Sweyn the pope writes: "We know that you and your brave people give all churches' Mother right submissiveness. Therefore, we ask you to let us know, if you need anything that the authority of the Roman Church could give you that we could honor you as much as it is reasonable and repay your glorious kingdom's before mentioned submissiveness in the most dignified way."

In this way William and Sweyn became members of the international network of princes and kings, who called themselves Saint Peter's vassals. They had made a special oath to the pope to support him and to put themselves and their powers at his disposal. It is worth noting that the pope and emperor stood in stark contradiction to each other. Saint Peter's vassal's teamed together and their families married into each other, and it was primarily Saint Peter's vassals, who followed Pope Urban 2.'s call to crusade for Christendom in 1095.

The crypt church in Aarhus
The Crypt Church is under Vor Frue Kirke i Aarhus. It is the oldest preserved stone church in the Nordic region. The crypt church was built in Sweyn Estridson's time around 1060 after Harald Hårderåde had burned the old wooden church during an attack on the city. It was built of soft stone cut near springs, but was buried during a rebuilding and was first discovered, excavated and restored around 1955 and re-consecrated in 1957. There are regular worship services in the crypt. Photo Tripadvisor.

Much suggests that one of Sweyn's ambitions as a king was to bring Denmark to the level of southern abroad with regard to the church's organization, buildings and the city's interior design. Adam talks about how Sweyn told him and bystanders that during a trip to England he bad weather and were driven ashore - around Cuxhaven between Bremen and Hamburg - and captured by the Archbishop's people. But in Bremen, the Archbishop treated him very honorablely, joined friendship with him and allowed him to continue his journey after a few days. Sweyn talked long time about everything, he had seen in Bremen: " - and for the bystanders, he described on that occasiont the bishop's royal splendor and the church's immense wealth, besides much else that he said, he had seen in Bremen."

Another of Sweyn's ambitions was to create a Scandinavian archbishopric in Lund, thereby releasing the Danish church from the German archbishopric's sovereignty, thereby also keeping the emperor at a distance. Through many letters and messengers he connected Denmark so direct as possible to the Holy See. He negotiated several times with the pope on the new archbishopric, however, without coming to a breakthrough in his lifetime. First his son Erik Ejegod managed to establish it around the year 1100. Sweyn was not a man, who unnecessarily made himself enemies. With great diplomatic skills he limited Hamburg-Bremen archbishopric's influence.

Svend Estridsen divided Denmark into 8 ecclesiastical areas
Sweyn Estridson divided Denmark into 8 ecclesiastical areas, which was Slesvig, Ribe, Aarhus, Viborg, Børglum (Vendsyssel), Odense, Roskilde and Lund. The largest was Lund Stift, which included Skåne, Halland, Blekinge and Bornholm. There is nothing mentioned about Venden and Jomsborg, which had been connected to Denmark for hundreds of years. From Tom Thygesens blog.

The death book from Lund, Necrologium Lundense, refers to Sweyn Magnus Estridson as: "The most Christian King, who carried out that Denmark was divided into eight dioceses. It was him who first started building the church in Dalby." Svend himself gave land to the bishoprics.

Svend placed great emphasis on religion and the church's organization, but he was too clever to demand the peasants to pay tithing. Adam of Bremen complained that the priests in these countries were still paid with special payment for each ecclesiastical act. In his description of Norway, he tells of how the priests worked on a kind of piecework: "As for the barbarians to this day either have no conception of, or commitment to tithe, so for that reason they (the priests) are paid for other services, which should be provided free. Because both home visits and burials - everything cost money."

Under Sweyn Estridson's rule Danish coinage was reformed and expanded. There appear more coinmasters and coin types than before, while the number of coinshops is reduced. In the coin finds from his time the relationship between Danish and foreign coins is completely changed compared to previous kings' time. In coin finds from the time of previous kings only one tenth of the coins is Danish, while in coin finds from Sweyn Estridsons time, more than half of the coins are Danish. Some coins from Sweyn Estridson's recent years are special by that the text is written in runes.
Leif Eriksson discovers America.
Leif Eriksson discovers America. Painted by Christian Krohg, 1893. Wikipedia

Sweyn was well-informed, he told Adam about the discovery of Vinland - that is America: "The same king has also told us about the discovery of another island in that ocean called Viinland, because the grapes grow up by themselves and yield the most delicious wine, just as the grain, without being sown, grows in superfluity. This is not a fabulous imagination, but is grounded on the Danes reliable information. "But behind this island," the king said, "there is no more inhabitable land in the ocean, for all that lies further away is filled with intolerable ice and infinite darkness." - About this, Martian says: "Beyond Thule, one day's journey further away, the sea is solid." This the experienced sailor the Norwegian Harald Jarl recently had to experience. He explored the shores of the northern ocean; and finally, for the eyes of the crew the world lost itself in its outmost gloomy limit, then he had to retreat and barely escaped from the terrible maelstrom of the abyss."

Sweyn Estridson coin as necklace pendant
Sweyn Estridson coin as necklace pendant found at Mildenhall Suffolk. From British Library. Photo PHGCOM Wikipedia.

In 1069 - three years after Wilhelm Erobrerens victory at Hastings - Sweyn sent his brother Earl Asbjørn, Earl Thorkild and his sons Harald and Canute to England to help the Englishmen to oust the Normans Florence of Worcester tells. "Arriving from Denmark with 240 ships, landed at the mouth of the river Humber, where they were met by Edgar the ethetling, earl Waltheof, Marlesweyn and many others with a fleet they had assembled." - "The Normans, who garisoned the forts, set fire to the adjacent houses, fearing they might be of service to the Danes in filling up the trenches; and the flames' spreading destroyed the whole city together with the monestary of St. Peter. But they were speedily punished for this by an infliction of the divine venegance; for on monday the Danish fleet arrived before the city was entirely consumed, and the forts being stormed the first day and more than three thousand of the Normans killed (the lives of William Malet and his wife and two children with very few others, being spared) the ships drew off laden with plunder."

240 ships - It was quite a sizable Danish force, not only a small expedition. We remember that Thitmar of Merseburg wrote that Canute the Great and Thorkild the Tall in 1015 arrived with 340 ships.

Svend Estridsen coin found in England
Sweyn Estridson coin found in England. From British Library. Photo PHGCOM Wikipedia.

Florence of Worcester tells on: "King William, receiving intelligence of this, imidiately assembled an army and hastened into Northumbria, giving way to his resentment; and spent the whole winter in laying waste the country, slaugthering the inhabitants and inflicting every sort of evil without cessation. Meanwhile, he depatched messengers to the Danish earl, Asbiorn, and promised to pay him secretly a large sum of money and grant permission for his army to forage freely along the sea-coast, on condition that they would depart without fighting when the winter was over." - "In consenquence of the ravages of the Normans, first in Northumbria, the preceding year throughout nearly the whole of England, so severe a famine prevailed in most parts of the kingdom, but chiefly in Northumbria and the adjacent provinces, that men were driven to feed on the flesh of horses, dogs, cats and even human beings."

Some modern historians believe that the reason why the Danish forces did not confront the Normans seriously was that the English insurgents were beaten already before they arrived. We know nothing, but one can also imagine other reasons. For example, there could have been difficulties negotiating a political agreement about what would happen after the victory over the Normans; Godwin's sons were not very easy to get along with; One could not expect Sweyn to sacrifice the lives of Danish warriors for purely idealistic reasons.

Some time before the 24. of June the Danish fleet sailed home: "Shortly before the feast of Johannes the Baptist earl Asbiorn sailed to Denmark with the fleet, which had wintered in the Humber; but his brother, Sweyn, made him an outlaw, because he had accepted money from King William to the Danes's great regret."
Canute the Great, Ulf Jarl and Godwin's sons
Canute the Great, Ulf Jarl and Godwin's sons. As seen, Sweyn descends from the kings Harald Bluetooth and Sweyn Forkbeard, both of whom were kings of England as well as Denmark, while his rival to the English throne, Harold Godwinson, did not have such royal ancestors. Sweyn was thus closer to the English throne than Harold. Sweyn and his brothers were cousins to the Godwin-sons, but he had no reason to love them, as these latter were some very aggressive types that did appreciate the kinship very much. Adam mentions that Sweyn's brother Bjørn was killed by Godwin's sons: "Bjørn, they killed immediately, the other, Osbern (Asbjørn), they chased out of the country together with all his men." Bjørn Ulfsøn had a prominent position as leader of the standing army, Tingmannalid.

The following year, Svend himself was on the move in England. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for the year 1070 says that this year William ordered all English monasteries riches to be brought to his treasury. But King Sweyn personally led a daring expedition to England to beat William ahead and save the treasures of the English Church from the Norman conquerors.

Both in Peterborough and Ely the Danes were faster than William:"Then they laid on fire, and burned all the houses of the monks, and all the town except one house. Then came they in through fire at the Bull-hithe gate; where the monks met them, and besought peace of them. But they regarded nothing. They went into the minster, climbed up to the holy rood, took away the diadem from our Lord's head, all of pure gold, and seized the bracket that was underneath his feet, which was all of red gold. They climbed up to the steeple, brought down the table that was hid there, which was all of gold and silver, seized two golden shrines, and nine of silver, and took away fifteen large crucifixes, of gold and of silver; in short, they seized there so much gold and silver, and so many treasures, in money, in raiment, and in books, as no man could tell another; and said, that they did it from their attachment to the minster." - "The two kings, William and Sweyne, were now reconciled; and the Danes went out of Ely with all the aforesaid treasure, and carried it away with them." - " Afterwards through their own carelessness, and through their drunkenness, in one night the church and all that was therein was consumed by fire."

Combs found in the Viking Age York
Combs found in the Viking Age York. There is no doubt that at that time one should have a nice and well-combed hair. Photo: Historical Romance Review with Regan Walker.

Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1075 tells about the last expedition against England in Sweyn's reign, which was led by his son Canute and Håkon Jarl. When they arrived in England, the rebellion, which they wanted to support, was already defeated. They merly plundered the cathedral in York and then sailed home again: "It was Earl Roger and Earl Ralph who were the authors of that plot; and who enticed the Britons to them, and sent eastward to Denmark after a fleet to assist them. Roger went westward to his earldom, and collected his people there, to the king's annoyance." - "The king afterwards came to England, and seized Earl Roger, his relative, and put him in prison. And Earl Waltheof went over sea, and bewrayed himself; but he asked forgiveness, and proffered gifts of ransom. The king, however, let him off lightly, until he came to England; when he had him seized. Soon after that came east from Denmark two hundred ships; wherein were two captains, Cnute Swainson, and Earl Hacco; but they durst not maintain a fight with King William. They went rather to York, and broke into St. Peter's minster, and took therein much treasure, and so went away." - "And the king was then at Westminster, at midwinter; where all the Britons were condemned who were at the bride-ale at Norwich. Some were punished with blindness; some were driven from the land; and some were towed to Scandinavia. So were the traitors of King William subdued."

Sons, Daughters, Wives and Mistresses

Svend Aggesen writes about Sven Estridsen: "The common people called him King father, because he had such a big litter of sons, of which five in a row wore the Danish crown." Later sources mention 17 sons of Sweyn Estridson. There are so many that we must believe that the statistical laws apply, so that there must also have been about 17 daughters. Therefore, we must believe that Svend had more than 30 children, who reached adulthood.

Sankt Jørgensbjerg Church in Roskilde
Sankt Jørgensbjerg Church in Roskilde is one of Denmark's oldest churches. Parts of the masonry can be traced back to about Sweyn Estridson's time around 1080. Photo VisitRoskilde.

It is known that Svend begat all those children with multiple queens and even more friller that mistresses were called in the viking period.

According to Adam of Bremen Svend and Archbishop Adelbert of Hamburg-Bremen often met at the river Ejder, perhaps in Hedeby or Slesvig, where the bishop in vain tried to get Svend to abandon his innate vices of the Danes: "With the same words and to the same sport he also encouraged the Danish king, who often found himself with him, when he stayed at the Ejder, and then carefully memorized and truly preserved in memory all the archbishop spelled out of the holy scriptures with exception of what were about the palate and love for women; those his countrymen's arch-sins the king could not be persuaded to let go, while he in everything else obeyed and complied the archbishop."

The Hørning plank
During restoration of Hørning Church between Skanderborg and Aarhus in 1896 there was found an approximately 1 m. long wooden plank with carved worms on one side and weak paint on the other side. It is now known as the Hørning plank. It has been shown that the plank has been part of a wooden church, which in Sweyn Estridsons time - around 1050 - was built on top of a rich Viking woman's grave from about year 950. Photo: Docplayer.dk - Den farverige Middelalder.

Adam did not believe that this was a true Christian living, but Sweyn could not help it - he thought - for such an unusual desire for women came from genetically determined propensities: "The excellent Danish king suffered from no other failures than an immense tendency for women. I do not think that the fault lay with himself, but is rooted in his people."

The early medieval kings relations to many mistresses was an old established practice, which has been used for thousand years not only in Scandinavia but throughout the Germanic world. It is known that also the English King Æthelred had sons with several women in addition to his queens.

The Roman author Tacitus wrote in the first century about the Germans beyond the Rhine: "Their marriage code, however, is strict, and indeed no part of their manners is more praiseworthy. Almost alone among barbarians they are content with one wife, except a very few among them, and these not from sensuality, but because their noble birth procures for them many offers of alliance."

Sweyn Estridson's sons and daughters
Sweyn Estridson's sons and daughters. In different sources - Adam of Bremen, Saxo, Knytlinge Saga, Albert of Aachen, Svend Aggesen - are mentioned 17 sons of Svend and 3 daughters. It is probably inaccurate, but there is no doubt that there were many. There are so many that the statistical laws must apply, and therefore there must have been an equal number of daughters, which is a 12-14 in addition to the three mentioned. These sons are only those who grew up and left an impression in history; during that time there must also have been more gentle types and many, who died in childhood.

It was of utmost importance that a king had sons, who could grow up and become future kings and that could fail, if he had only one wife. Moreover, there could be a high mortality rate among young men in those days. Contemporaries may have Canute the Great in mind, who got three promising sons, who all died young. All this could be countered if the king had many children - preferably sons - with more women.

Moreover, not all royal princes are equally suitable as leaders. In an elective kingdom, it is definitely an advantage to have several princes of royal blood to choose from.

Adam tells his readers that the mistress-children "as it was custom among the barbarians" received the same inheritance-share of the estates as the true-born.

Mistress sons were also candidates as kings nearly equal with the true-born. Thus Canute the Great's mistress sons Svend and Harald kings of Norway and England respectively; Sweyn Forkbeard was the mistress son of Harald Bluetooth; Olav the Hoy's mistress-son Magnus became king of Norway; All five sons of Sweyn Estridson, who followed him on the throne, were most likely mistress sons; Erik Emune was Erik Ejegod's mistress son.

Ælnod says about Sweyn's many sons: "Some of them he put to the study of the divine science (kristendom), others, he gave to noble-borne men, that they might be brought up each in seperate places." Adam tells of a daughter, who in Saxo is called Sigrid and in Aggesen Syrithe, that she married Gotskalk, prince of the Abodrittes and a strong voice for Christianity. Another daughter, Ingrid, got married to Harald Hårderådes son, Olav Kyrre. Adam of Bremen says that one of Sven's sons, Magnus, was sent to Rome to be consecrated as a king; but, however, he died on the journey: "And when King Svend had sent the son of Tora, who was called Magnus, to Rome, to make him anoint to king, the poor youth died on the way" In one of Pope Gregor 7's letters to King Sweyn from 1075, the pope announces that he is ready to take one of the king's sons in his favor and make him a prince over a heretical people.

We must believe that when Sweyn traveled around the country on "guesting", as the kings did in the early Middle Ages, a women was arranged for him in every place and city.
Coins issued by Sweyn Estridson
Coins issued by Sweyn Estridson from the Næsbyholm treasure, found at Næsbyholm south of Sorø in 1943. They are almost all minted by Sweyn Estridson.

The mothers of his children must have been women of high status, great men's daughters; It is inconceivable that the Danes would have accepted kings, whose mothers were daughters of simple peasants or thralls - just think of the campaign in Jomsvikinge Saga against Sweyn Forkbeard that he should have been the son of a mannish peasant girl on Funen named Sy-Æsa.

The Danish great men hardly had anything against putting their sisters and daughters in Sweyn's bed. The benefits were obvious: it would give increased influence, and the women could give birth to sons who could become kings and that had swept all concerns off the table.

Adams report on Sweyn's incest and divorce has been a great challenge for historians. He says that Sweyn had to divorce from his queen Gunhild, because the pope wrote to him that the they in the church's view were too closely related:: "Thus, the young King Svend got three kingdoms in possession; but as luck was good to him, he soon forgot the heavenly kingdom and brought home from Sweden a wife, who was his close sibling. This, the archbishop disliked very much; He sent a message to the mad king and threatened him because of this sin to hit him with the sword of excommunication. Then the king turned furious and threatened to destroy the entire Hamburg diocese. Without to be intimidated by these threats our archbishop continued to correct and exhort him, until finally the Danes' tyrant bowed to a letter from the pope and gave the sibling child divorce letter. However the king was still far from lending ear to priestly admonitions. As soon as he hed dismissed his cousin's child, he took a number of other wives and mistresses"

In the saga of Harald Hårderåde we find that Svend married Gunhild, who was a daughter of that Svend Earl, who participated in the battle of Hjørungavåg around 986 and fell in the battle of Nesjar 1016. This Svend was at one time married to Holmfred, who was the daughter of the Swedish king Olof Skotkung, who again was the son of Sigrid the haughty and Erik Sejrsæl, that Sigrid, who later married Sweyn Forkbeard and gave birth to the daughter Estrid. This Estrid was Sweyn Estridson's mother. According to the Icelandic tradition, Sweyn Estridson's wife, Gunhild, should have been his half-cousin. The point here is whether Gunhild really was the daughter of Svend Jarl and Holmfred, so that Svend Jarl could have had daughters with many other women. In any case she would have been maybe 3-5 years older than Sweyn Estridson.

Reconstruction of Hørning Stave Church
Reconstruction of Hørning Stave Church in Moesgård Museum in Aarhus. The basis of the reconstruction is postholes from the outer walls and floor layer found under the existing Hørning Church and the Hørning plank. The pictured stave church is inspired by the "simple versions" of the Norwegian stave churches, which surely is correct. The hundreds of churches that Adam talks about must have looked very similar. Foto Sten Porse Wikipedia.

Modern Danish law prohibits only marriage between relatives in a straight up and down line and between sister and brother. But in the Middle Ages, cases of incest were conducted on the basis of far more distant relationships. There is no doubt that if the Icelandic tradition is true, the archbishop had a strong case against the Danish king. A famous later incest case was, when the French king in 1215 attempted to get rid of his Danish Queen Ingeborg - Valdemar the Great's daughter - on the basis of a claim for far more distant relationship.

Adam writes that Sweyn's queen Gunhild was widow of the Swedish king Anund - which, however, does not rule out the Icelandic tradition - and she might also be named Gyde: "The pious Queen Gunild Gyde, she, who because of kinship was divorced from the Danish king, and who now stayed on her estates beyond Denmark." He is, however, contradicted by a skolie (later comment) in his own book: "Anund's widow, Gunild, was one, and another was Gyde, who fell for Thora."

Compared with other contemporary cases of incest against royal families the case against Svend Estridsen is special by the intransigence, with which it was led by the pope and bishop. The historian Niels Lund presents several contemporary cases:

Emperor Henrik 2. raised an incest charge against Otto of Hammerstein, the last male descendant of King Konrad 1. and his wife Irmgard. The couple was banded in 1018, but continued their cohabitation. Later they received papal approval for their cohabitation, and a later Emperor, Konrad 2. put an end to the case.

Another case was raised by the abbot Siegfried of Gorze, when Emperor Henry 3. wanted to marry Agnes of Poitou. The emperor's lawyers contested Siegfried's kinship calculations; the case was dismissed, and the marriage took place.

Initiated by Leo 9. a concilium in Reims threatened in 1049 to ban a planned marriage between Duke Wilhelm of Normandy and Matilde, daughter of Count Balduin of Flanders. The couple defied the charge and married, and the marriage was later legalized by Pope Nicolaus 2 on condition that they built a monastery in Caen.
Sailing routes in the Viking Age
Sailing routes in the Viking Age. Especially Sweden had good connections with Novgorod, Kiev and Constantinople. Map: Keith Torkelsons.

The historian J. G. F. Ræder has suggested that the clergy really was afraid that Sweyn should approach the Russian Orthodox Church. Scandinavia and especially Sweden, from where Gunhild came from, had very close links with Russia and Constantinople, where Russian Orthodox Christianity was dominant. A royal marriage had political implications, and when Svend married the Swedish Queen Gunhild, it represented a political rapprochement between Denmark and Sweden and therefore a possible rapprochement with the Russian Orthodox Church, which was pope and Hamburg-Bremen Archbishop abomination.

One might imagine that circles in Sweden felt attracted to this Christian faith, which offered several advantages over the Catholic faith. It had more respect for the individual people's language and customs, and it was not controlled by a head abroad like the Catholic Church was ruled by the Pope in Rome.

Adam wrote that Sweyn "would rather fail the religion than abandon the one, he had married". Most likely it did not mean that Sweyn would return to Odin and Thor, but perhaps he had in mind that he would turn away from the Catholic faith and embrace Russian Orthodox Christianity.

Svend eventually gave up and divorced, but following J. G. F. Ræder's opinion, it was connected with recent political changes in Sweden, where King Stenkil had other ideas than the deceased Emund the Old had.

Viking Age dress
Viking Age suits. Drawing: Museum Sønderjylland.

Elsewhere, the same Adam writes that Sweyn defended himself against Harald Hårderåde's sons until they agreed peace, and Olaf married Sweyn's daughter, Ingerid, and Sweyn married Olaf's mother: "The most famous among the barbarians was the Danish King Svend. With much bravery he kept the Norwegian kings Olaf and Magnus, in control." And in a following skolie: "This married the young Olaf's mother. But the Norwegian king married the Danish king's daughter, and they made peace with each other." In Haralds Hårderåde's Saga it is stated that Olaf's mother was named Thora.

In Saxo, Gunhild has become a Swedish princess named Gyda: "Eventually the king decided to turn his mind from lust and unbridled love and to tame it by imposing the marriage's chastity, and to tear himself away from his many mistresses by accepting a proper marriage and stick to one, so he did not further waste his strength by such promiscuity, he married, eager to get true-born children, the daughter of the Swedish king, Gyda, who was his sibling, as if it could be called a real marriage."

There was not eternal happiness and harmony in Sweyn's harem. Adam writes: "However, he did not avoid the punishment for this evil, one of his mistresses, named Thora, killed his rightful queen by poison. And when King Svend had sent the son of Thora, who was called Magnus, to Rome, to let him anoint to king, then the poor youngster died on the way, and after him the repentant mother gave birth to no other son."

We have the names of at least some of Sweyn's queens, but it is difficult to derive any chronological order of the available sources.

A queen Gyda came from Sweden, perhaps Svend's original wife from his exile in Sweden. He married the Swedish King Anund's widow Gunhild after Anunds death around 1050, but had to divorce again. Gyda was poisoned by the mistress Thora, who may be identical to Harald Hårderådes widow, Thora, whom Sweyn married some time after Harald's death in 1066.

Sweyn Estridsons Death and Burial

Kong Sweyn Estridson died from a disease on the royal estate in Søderup west of Åbenrå in 1076 at the age of about 58 years. Ælnod writes: "But when he himself in the place called Suddatorp, that is: "The Mud City", had wandered away along the path, from which no one can hope to return, they gave the royal corpse a royal funeral bringing it to the island surrounded by the sea, which, precisely because it is mostly bordered by the sea, in the Danish language is called Sealand, to the main city, which from ancient times have had the name of Roskilde, it is "Ro's Spring", and buried it with a seemly, honorable burial in the Holy and Indivisible Trinity and the Holy Martyr Lucius's Church, that was built with beautiful quarry stone walls by Svend, that time bishop of this bishopric. This happened in the year after the Lord's incarnation to man 1074, which was his royal government's 28. years, on April 28."

Sweyn Estridson's grave in Roskilde Cathedral
Sweyn Estridson's grave in Roskilde Cathedral, when it was opened in 2003. Photo: Vikingeskibsmuseet -Jens Ulriksen.

However, Danish historians have demonstrated that he both sent and answered letters in both 1075 and 1076, which is normally reserved for living persons. Therefore, Ælnod must have remembered a few years wrong, and his death year must be 1076.

Knytlinge Saga tells: "Kalf Månsson says thus in a poem that he did about Canute the Holy King Sweyn's son that King Sweyn's corpse in thirteen days was taken from south of Jutland north to Ringsted with much splendor and considerable funeral procession."

Saxo tells that Sweyn was very weakened by age, when he died - which, however, could not be detected on his skeleton the two times the grave has been opened: "Eventually, Svend, who, as a result of old age, had become badly weak, was attacked by fever at the town of Søderup in Jutland, and that became his fatal disease. When he felt that the disease occurred and that it would lead to death, he collected his last effort and asked those, who were with him to make sure that he was buried in Roskilde, and he was not satisfied that they promised him, but let them swear by oath on this." It is confirmed by Roskilde Chronicle.

The king was buried in the Trinity Church in Roskilde, and his tomb has undoubtedly been among the most distinguished in the old Cathedral. However, this church no longer exists. His grave was moved to the present cathedral of burned bricks, which Absalon began in 1175. Work was done on the church hundreds of years thereafter, and precisely when the relocation of the king's earthly remains took place is not known.

Sweyn Estridson's tomb in a column in Roskilde Cathedral
Sweyn Estridson's tomb in a column in Roskilde Cathedral, when it was opened in 1911. It is quite simply a roughly chiseled cavity in the column, wherein the rear wall has been walled up with a few bricks. Photo: Danmarks Kirker - Nationalmuseet.

Sweyn Estridson's earthly remains are found behind Roskilde Cathedral's alter walled in the southeastern pillar about 10 cm above the floor. Compared to the magnificent monuments of the Oldenburger kings, which are also found in the church, the grave is incredible simple. It is simply a hole in the column into which Sweyn's bones have been inserted. Only on the rear wall have been fitted a few bricks; The remaining surfaces still appear roughly chiseled. The cavity is closed with a travertine stone slab.

Links and Literature

Roskildekrøniken Heimskringla
Adam af Bremens Kirkehistorie Heimskringla
Svend Aggesen Heimskringla
Knytlinge Saga Oldnordiske Sagaer Bind 11
Heimskringla og andre sagaer Nettsted olhov.net
Danske mønter som historisk kildemateriale i 1000-tallet af C. J. Becker.
Magnus den godes saga Heimskringla
Saxo Grammaticus Heimskringla
Full text of "Danmark under Svend Estridsen og hans Sønner" Archive.com
Numismatiske bidrag til Danmarks historie i 1040'rne Niels Jørgen Jensens & Mogens Skjoldagers Dansk Mønt
The Chronicle of Florence of Worcester Harvard College Library
William of Malmesbury's Chronicle of the kings of England. Archive.org
Danmark under Svend Estridsen og hans Sønner J. G. F. Ræder
Nettsted: www.olhov.net
Page:The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Wikisource
Harald Hårderådes Saga (C.C.Rafn) Heimskringla
Løgstør grunde og Frederik den syvendes Kanal af N.H. Lindhard
Bremdal lokalhistorie Vikingetiden
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Eleventh Century Yale Law School Library
Ælnods fremstilling af Knud den helliges historie Heimskringla
Svend Estridsens hustru Vikingetidens Konger
Stifternes Pillegrave Roskilde Domkirke - Nationalmuseet
DNA reveals warriors brought their women when raiding British Isles Mail Online
Hearg, Vé og Stavkirker Verasir
Tacitus: Germania Medieval Sourcebook
"En medfødt last hos dette folk" af Vivi Jensen - Skalk 2015 nr. 2.
"Myten om prins Svend" kronik af Kurt Villads Jensen Skalk 2001 nr. 2
Danmarks Historie 4 - Ole Fenger - Gyldendal og Politikken.
Snorres Heimskringla - Nationaludgave Oslo 1930.
Saxo Grammaticus oversat af Fr. Winkel Horn - Sesam.
Illustreret Danmarkshistorie for Folket 9. del af Claus Deluran - Ekstrabladets Forlag.
Svend Estridsen - Lasse C.A. Sonne & Sarah Croix (red) - Syddansk Universitetsforlag 2016.
Danmark under Svend Estridsen og hans Sønner - J.G.F. Ræder - Boghandler H. Hagerups Forlag 1871.

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