Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thyra Danebod ( * c. 910 + bef. 958)

Thyra Danebod, illustration Lorenz Frölich, wikipedia

The small runestone, Jelling
The memorial runestone Gorm raised for Tyre describes her as 'tanmarkar but', 'Danmark's Bod', i.e. Danmarks pryd.'
There have been many interpretations, and in some translations as 'the pride of Danmark'. This might be the best description, but the Danish word 'pryd' actually means ornament or jewelry, i.e. a beautiful woman.

Gorm konge gjorde kumler disse

efter Thyra kone sin Danmarks bod

Gorm king did kumler these
after Thyra wife his Denmark's pride.

It is the first time in Denmark that the name of the country is used, but in Europe it was known at least 75 years earlier. The first time was in king Alfred the Great's geography book, where the word 'dene mearc' is used on the Danish area.

Thyra's burial place is not known, but maybe it was the huge stone ship burial which was once situated where the church and the hills are now. There is hardly any hope of finding her grave. If it was placed in the middle of the hill area, then it might now be in the present church yard, and many graves have later removed all traces of earlier burial places.

Gorm calls himself king on the small runestone, so it must be raised after Gorm became king, c. 934 and before his death in 958. Thyra's year of death is not known, but she died before 958, and this means probably that she was born c. 900. Gorm and Thyra had a son Knut Dana-Ast, who was killed on an expedition to England in c. 940 and Harald, who became king of Denmark. Toke Gormsen, who probably was Gorm's son, might have had another mother.

Saxo Grammaticus and Svend Aggesen wrote in the 1200s about the wise, beautiful and virtuous queen, and how she built Dannevirke, but this cannot be true. Dannevirke was built much earlier which is proved by dendrochronology. She might have lead an extension of the bank for some reason. Historians tell that the German emperor Otto I courted Thyra , but she put him off for a year, and this indicates that she might have been the daughter of a wellknown king. She was later described as a devoted Christian, who was a good example for her son, Harald.

From where was Thyra? It is unlikely that she was a Jute. The Danish kings almost always chose their wives from other areas than their own homestead. Harald and his son Sven married Slavic princesses, Knut the Great's wife was from Normandy, Sven Estridsen married a Swede and so on.

Thyra came undoubtedly from a very noble family and was presumably the daughter of a regent. Even though Saxo gave some wrong informations around details, he attached great importance to that 'Tyre' came from a foreign country and that her person was of crucial importance as to Harald's inheritance. According to Saxo Grammaticus Harald was the first Dane who inherited the throne, and he inherited it from his mother Tyre.

Her ancestors are not known. There are some suggestions though:
a) she was a daughter of the Jute earl Harald, who was a grandson of king Harald Klak.
b) she was a daughter of king Ethelred 1. of England, which is wrong, since he died in 871.
c) she was a daughter of king Edward the Elder of the West Saxons, which is more possible referring to his age, he died in 924, and since there also are sayings that she was related to Alfred the Great, then Alfred would in this case be her grandfather.

Or she could be a daughter of a regent from East Denmark, which was not yet under the Danish king's rule, and which might be considered a foreign place.

photo: grethe bachmann

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