Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Svend Estridsen, ab. 1018-1076

Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Carl Fr. Bricka
Project Runeberg

Svend Estridsen, o.1018-1076, King, was a son of Jarl
Ulf from the Sprakalegg-family and Estrid, Svend
Tveskjæg's daughter. He was born in England and brought
up there, also after his father became governor in
Denmark.He was partly a hostage of his father's loyalty.
After having served the Swedish king Anund Jacob for
12 years, he went to Denmark and was being appointed
Jarl by Hardeknud(Hardicanute). At Hardeknud's death
in 1042 had Svend - whose attitude and character did
not inspire any respect at that time - had no party
which could help him to gain power. He therefore went
to see king Magnus and was by him appointed Jarl(earl)
in Jutland and swore Magnus fidelity. When a relative
of Svend was murdered by Magnus' brother-in-law,
this woke a suspicion among the Danes against Magnus
and Svend. Svend let himself proclaim king but had
to flee to Sweden.

After Harald Sigurdsson's (Hardrada)homecoming from
the Greek kingdom Svend joined him and they went
on an expedition to Denmark, but without result,
and Harald soon made an alliance with Magnus and
got a share of Norway's kingdom. Both kings
harrassed in Denmark, but Magnus did not like his
ruthless co-regent Harald and began changing his
view on Svend's talents and character. When Magnus
after an unlucky fall with his horse felt death
coming, he inserted Svend as the heir of the
Danish kingdom and thus Svend could unaffected
ascend the Danish throne in 1047.

Harald Hardrada still considered Denmark as a goal
for warfare and predatory expeditions, he never
attempted to conquer the country  though, and
although Svend never retaliated in Norway, Harald
continued his expeditions on the coasts (maybe
with a stop in the time 1050-60).Svend was rarely
successfull in those fights; in a battle at Niså
in 1062 he had a defeat and hardly escaped, but
two years later it ended in peace between the kings.
After Harald Hardrade was killed at Stamfordbridge
and Vilhelm of Normandy had conquered England, Svend
twice sent fleets to England (1069-70 and 1075); he
wanted to take back the country from Vilhelm, but he
achieved nothing.

Alhough Svend never lacked courage, he was successfull in
managing the peaceful conditions of the country. It was
as a founder of a new peaceful Denmark that Svend proved
to be a great king. First of all it was the management of
the church.The division in bishoprics was carried through,
and churches were built in all parts of the country. Svend
governed the Danish church independently without any
trouble from the archbishop Adalbert of Bremen; first of
all he made it his mission to be on friendly terms with
the popes. Svend had married Anund Jacob's widow Gunhild,
but since she was closely related to him, he divorced her
on the pope's demand. After Svend's death pope Gregor VII
said that he had never met a king, who was such a faithful
and kind son of the Roman Holy See as Svend. Like the
church conditions were taken care of so it seems that Svend
was lucky in creating peace inside the country and
a good and lasting management of the kingdom.

Svend was book-learned and very knowledgeable in clerical
matters; supported by an excellent memory he was
skilled in Denmark's history and Adam of Bremen could
build large parts of his church history on his story-
telling. Svend was a tall, handsome, strong-built man,
he followed his sensuality and lived in a very immoral
way, but at the same time he was a very friendly man,
and nothing is heard or told that he among his subjects
had opponents or enemies. The story about the poor
Icelander Audun's stay by him or his friendship with
bishop Vilhelm only confirms what is obvious in all
narratives about him, that he exceptionally knew to
win both rich and poor and obtain their devotion.

Svend died at the king's castle in Søderup in Schleswig
28 April 1076 (the Danish year books have, probably
wrongly, the year 1074)and was buried in Roskilde
Cathedral. Svend Estridsen was married several times.
One of his wives, Gyda was poisoned by his mistress
Thora, another was the mentioned Gunhild; a third was
Thora, a widow after Harald Hardrada and daughter
of the vasal Thorberg Arnesen. Svend had a son with
Gunhild, named Svend, who died young; his other
marriages were childless, but with various women he
had a large flock of children thus Harald, Knud,
Oluf, Erik, and Niels, who all became kings; besides
Bjørn, Knud, also named Magnus, who was sent to Rome
to be inaugurated king, but died abroad,Svend Crusader
and a third son Svend, Thorgils, Sigurd,who was killed
in the Wend, Benedict, Guttorm, Ømund and Ulf, who
was also named Ubbe. From Svend's daughters was
Ingerid married to king Olaf Kyrre, and Gunhild
who was also called Helene, Sigrid, who was married
to the Abodrit-prince Gotskalk , and Ragnhild.

Ræder, Danmark under Svend Estridsen og hans Sønner.
A. D. Jørgensen, Den nord. Kirkes Grundlæggelse
S. 618 ff. 732 ff.
H. Olrik, Konge- og Præstestand I, 168 ff.

Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Carl Fr. Bricka
Project Runeberg
translation grethe bachmann  ©copyright 

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