Jelling kirke, Gorms grav

Jelling kirke, Gorms grav
Jelling kirke, Gorms grav

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Knud 4. den Hellige, ab. 1040-1086 ~ Edel of Flandern

Knud 4. den hellige, o.1040-1086, King of Denmark,
was the second eldest and most outstanding of Svend
Estridsen's (illegitimate )sons. His sparkling eyes
revealed an enthusiastic and passionate character,
and he early showed to be a keen warrior. Svend
Estridsen therefore sent him on two expeditions to
England, hoping that he would drive out William the
Conqueror. On the first expedition (1069-70) Knud
shared the leadership with his brother Harald and
his paternal uncle Asbjørn Jarl;for a time they were
successful, but later they got into trouble; Asbjørn
took bribes from the English king, and the fleet had
to go back, which probably made Knud furious. On the
second England-expedition, where Jarl Hakon Iversen
took part, Knud ravaged York in 1075, but achieved
nothing. He won fame in his battles to the east against
the Sembers and the Estonians; the Scald Kalv Maanesen
praised him as victor over 10 kings.

After Svend Estridsen's death (1076)Knud could not
control his lust for power, and at the king-election at
Isøre he ruthlessly tried to force his older brother
Harald from his right to the throne, but the people chose
unanimously the mild Harald (Hen), and the proud Knud
had to - like Ælnoth says - go away from his brother's
anger. He spent his exile-years in Sweden. A contemporary
papal letter blamed the Norwegian king Olaf Kyrre that
he supported Harald Hen's rebellious brothers and in
spite of the legend about Knud as a saint it is tempting
to imagine him among these brothers.

At the death of Harald Hen (1080) Knud achieved the
supremacy in Denmark, and his short rule became one of
the strangest periods in the Danish history. He was bold
and violent, he was over-ambitious and he pursued an aim,
but he was also ruthless when he wanted to keep things in
order in the country. The power of the magnates was
clipped and their violations of the law were punished
harshly. But also the common man had to bend under the
authoritative monarchy. Knud acquired a power of
legislation, and although his endeavours partly were
humane and in harmony with the culture of advanced
countries, it could not mitigate the indignation of the
Danes, who saw their inherited rights being offended.
His enthusiasm for the church displeased also the people,
who then was forced to obey the clergymen's demands.
Knud's work in this area is however a kind of grandiose.
He gave the priesthood a higher position in society
and attempted to sort it out from the laymen, and he
ordered the church festivals and the Lents stricly
respected. For his part the proud king followed the
precepts of the church, took care of widows and orphants,
fast strictly and let himself be flogged by his curates
- his piety also showed his passionate character.

Most of all he was generous to the churches, especially
in Roskilde, Dalby, Odense and Viborg and Lund's bishop
church, since he with a large gift (1085) established a
charter  with a school; possibly he wanted like his
father to make Lund into a Nordic archbishopric, but
this goal was not achieved in his lifetime. His eagerness
and enthusiasm for the church was also a means to
strengthen the monarchy, the growing authority of the
priesthood forced them to support the king who increased
their power, and thus Knud also worked for his own cause.

Knud's ambitions kept his old war fever alive.In a great
England-expedition he wanted to drive out William the
Conqueror and wipe out the memory of the former bad luck
of the Danes. In the spring 1085 a great fleet gathered
in "Vestervigen" in the western part of Limfjorden in
order to go from there to England; Knud's brother-in-law
Olaf Kyrre sent Norwegian ships for assistance and Knud
expected to get support from the militantly count Robert
Friser of Flandern, whose daughter Edel Knud had married.
But Knud hesitated in Schleswig in order to keep an eye
on the German emperor Henrik IV, whose rival-king he had
given shelter recently. During the perpetually wait the
army's supply almost had come to an end, and the
expedition would now happen so late that it was
impossible to come home in time for harvesting.  After
an army Thing the king's brother Oluf (Hunger) was sent
down to him in order to ask him to begin the expedition
or send home the army,but Knud treated Oluf as a traitor
and sent him in chains to Flandern. Soon after he had
to conform to the army's wish and for harvesting reasons
send the army back home. When Knud saw his proud
conquering-plans destroyed, he wanted to use his utmost
power inside the border of the country, he became more
and more hard and ruthless to his subjects than before.
He probably knew that his bailiffs tormented both rich
and poor people with lawsuits and when they collected
fines it was said that they took three times as much
as before. And now people's patience was exhausted.

Knud went on a visit to Vendsyssel and put up at the
king's estate Børglum, but the "Vendelboer" rebelled
against him, and his attempts to address them was in
vain. Knud took flight south to bishop Henrik's farm
Biskopstorp (Bejstrup), while most of his men went to
the king's estate Aggersborg at Limfjorden. Now the
rebellion spread quickly and the king's estates were
ravaged, bishop Henrik rode to meet the flocks to
mediate, but was met with rage, and when he rode back
to tell the king, Knud took flight across Limfjorden
and then to the city Viborg. The "Vendelboer" surprised
and ravaged Aggersborg and persued Knud. The revolt
spread to all Jutland, and from Schleswig the king had
to flee to Funen. But also here was revolt. The chief
of the rebellion was Piper, who treacherously came to
Odense castle and first made Knud feel secure and then
hasten a surprise attack on the king.

In the last minute Knud succeeded in with his brother
Benedict and his men to get into the Albani-church.(in
Odense). Knud offered in vain reconciliation.The rebels
tried to set the wooden church on fire, and when they
failed, a terrible fight began at the church door. Many
attackers were killed, among others Piper died from his
wounds, but also the king and his men were wounded and
had to go back. Kneeling in front of the altar Knud
confessed and prepared for death, but the enemy threw
spears and stones through the small church windows and
Knud was seriously wounded. His brother had already
been killed and his 17 men were slain, he himself was
dying, when the enemies forced their way into the
church and killed him in a raw beating-up.(10 July 1086).

The posterity has justified Knud's endeavours, since a
later co-operation between a strong monarchy and a strong
priesthood gave Denmark power and success. But there is
no defense when it comes to the means Knud used - and his
downfall was caused by his own unjust measures. The
priesthood's awe for his memory and more the disasters
of the following period opened way for another reflection;
they began to consider him a saint. His bones were taken
from his grave already in 1095, and an Odense-priest wrote
"Kong Knuds Lidelseshistorie"(King Knud's tale of his
suffferings); but not until the pope had canonized Knud,
the final shelving of his reliquaries was done with a
large celebration (1101), and twenty years later the monk
Ælnoth drew up his strange biography of the Martyr-king.
The skeleton in Knud's shrine is a witness of his tall
and strong body, but at the same time a witness about the
rough treatment he suffered at his death.

He was married to Edel(Adele) of Flandern and they had the
daughters Ingerid and Cæcilia and the son Carl, who became
count of Flandern and had a fate similar to his father's.

Script, rer. Dan. III.
Danske Helgeners Levned, ved H. Olrik.
A. D. Jørgensen, Den nord. Kirkes Grundlæggelse.
H. Olrik, Konge og Præstestand i den danske Middelalder I.
Hist. Tidsskr. 6. R. IV.

Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
Carl Fr. Bricka
Project Runeberg

Edel/Adela of Flandern

Edel (Adela), --1115, queen, was a daughter of count
Robert of Flandern,(called the "Friser"/"Frison")
and Gertrude. Edel was married ab. 1082 to Knud den
Hellige and had with him 3 children. After her
husband was killed in Albani church in Odense
10. July 1086, she stealed at night into the church
to bring his body to Flandern, but she already saw
the first miracles at the grave and gave up her
intention. She then fled with her son Carl (the
Dane) to her father in Flandern, while her husband's
faithfull brother Erik probably took her two
daughters with him to Sweden; they were married in
Sweden, Cæcilia to the Jarl from Gotland, Jarl
Erik, and Ingerd to Folke who was the ancestor of
the Folkunger.

Edel stayed in Flandern for 5 years, where she won
praise for her piety and charity. Escorted by her
brother Robert (2.le Croisé)she went in 1092
through France to Apulia in order to marry duke
Roger (1. Bursa). Roger had inherited Apulia from
his father Robert Guiscard in 1085; the brilliant
exploits which his relatives - i.e. his brother
the crusader Boemund and his paternal uncle Roger,
the conqueror of Sicily - carried out, put him and
his duchy aside; according to the legends Sigurd
Jorsalfarer called Roger king on his visit in 1110.
At his death he left Apulia to his and Edel's son,
(Guillaume).2 earlier born sons, Ludvig and Guiscard
had died as infants.

Edel did not forget her first husband while she
lived so far away from Denmark, and when Knud was
declared a saint, she sent valuable gifts to
decorate his shrine. She died in April 1115.

Translated from Johannes C. H. R. Steenstrup's
Danish text: grethe bachmann.

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

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