Sunday, October 19, 2008

Skjalm Tokesen Hvide, * ab. 1040 + 1113

Skjalm Tokesen Hvide 
Skjalm Hvide was born in ab.1040 and died in 1113 , 70-72 years of age. Buried in Sorø. According to Sorø Kloster's book his wife was named Signe , (Signe Asbjørnsdatter) , born before 1050 (maybe in England) and died 1086 in Fjenneslev. She was a daughter of Asbjørn Ulfsøn Sprackling/Sprakaleg, her paternal grandmother was Estrid Svendsdatter and her greatgrandfather Svend Estridssen.

Skjalm Hvide is said to have married twice, first wife Signe Asbjørnsdatter, the other Ragnhild of Denmark, named Haraldsdatter, which indicates that she was a king's daughter. She was born 1054 and died 1075 at Sjælland, (21 years old), and Signe was born before 1050 and died 1086 in Fjenneslev. Signe Asbjørnsdatter is mentioned as the mother of the first three sons in Sorø Kloster's Letters, and she's also mentioned as the mother of Skjalm's children born in the 1080s.

Ragnhild was 16 years of age in 1070, when Signe and Skjalm had their first son Toke, and she died in 1075 only 21 years of age, the same year as Signe gave birth to Ebbe Skjalmsen. There is no possibility of placing Ragnhild Haraldsdatter as a wife of Skjalm or even as a mother of one of his children. If Skjalm had a second marriage, then it must be after Signe's death in 1086. Maybe this second wife was the mentioned Ragnhild Haraldsdatter, but this is an another story.

Fjenneslev Church , immediately north of the church are proved some building foundations of granite boulders , which was Skjalm Hvide's house in Fjenneslev. The farm itself was built in wood, but the fortification building was obviously a tower in granite boulders and travertine.

Skjalm lived in his inherited family residence in the village Fjenneslevlille. The base in his property were 6-8 villages or small manors between Sorø and Ringsted. Fjenneslevlille is today named Kirke Fjenneslev and is wellknown because of its twin towered church. In 1128 there was no stone church in Fjenneslevlille, only farm buildings with a matching wooden church. The wooden church was later replaced with a small stone church, which was one of the biggest in the area at that time. The family also built Tveje Merløse, Bjernede church and other churches in
Sjælland and in Skåne.

Fjenneslev Church, pillar made of the Hvide-family' stone mason, who worked in other churches like in Kalundborg. (similar pattern on baptismal font)

Skjalm is first heard of in 1062, where he fought a formidable fight in the struggle between Svend Estridsen and the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada in "The Battle at Nivå" on the coast of Halland. He fought so bravely that the Norwegians spared his life and took him prisoner, but he escaped in the night at Gedesø. His father Toke Trylle had equipped him with ship and crew, which indicates that Skjalm must have been about 20 years of age, since he was given such a big responsibility. This gives him a birth year to about 1040. It also shows that Toke Trylle was a magnate with everything under control. The costs of a war ship plus crew demanded a rather good economy.

After Erik Ejegod's accession to the throne Skjalm is mentioned again. His brother Auden (Aute) was killed by Wendic pirates during a sail from Sjælland to Falster. At that time the royal power was weakened after Oluf Hunger's ruling period, and Skjalm went on expedition without the king. He went with a procession of Sjællændere to the pirates' resort, Juhlin, in order to revenge his brother's death. The city had to hand over the pirates - and it was said that 'they suffered a gruesome death.' When Rügen around 1100 for a short period was under Danish jurisdiction Erik Ejegod made Skjalm høvedsmand over the island. (army commander/ chief).

When Erik Ejegod went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land together with his queen, Bodil, he left his only legitimate son, Knud(Lavard) in Skjalm Hvide's foster care. It was considered a great honour to be fostering a king's son.

Skibet Church, part of 'Rytterfrisen'

The posterity gave Skjalm's family the name 'Hvide'. In their own time they were probably called the Skjalm-family and later maybe the Absalon-family, but it is not known, if they used any special name themselves. The name Hvide was not taken as a family name until the 16th century, shortly before the family died out. Today it is used historically in order to have a common denominator.

The name Hvide(White) is 'Candidus' in the Latin texts, and it was used by only few members of the family. Skjalm Hvide's son's son Stig Tokesen was named Hvide or Hvidelæder (White Skin) , which might be interpreted as white or pale, and Sune Ebbesen and his sons, the bishops Anders and Peder Sunesen were given the common Latin description for white = Albus. Two other bishops from the famliy were called Albus.

The theory is in Helle Halding and Marianne Johansen's book from 2001 about the Hvide-family and the Royal Power in the Denmark's Late Middle Ages : "Thi de var af stor slægt". ('For they were of great family'.) It's a very interesting and very likely theory. The members of the family were tall, fair-haired people with round heads. The idea about the round heads comes from examinations of the skeletons from the graves in Sorø Klosterkirke, where it was shown that the Hvide-family have a very characteristic skull with a strongly domed back of the head. The theory about the heights are also from Sorø. Absalon was between 180-190 cm tall, Skjalm and his son Toke 175-180 cm, and the archbishop Jens Grand probably got his byname 'Grand Danois' during his study in France. In contemporary Italian Latin documents he's called' Johannes Longo'.

The Magnate families (Stormandsslægterne) might have their origin from ancient families, maybe from the old Viking chief families ( Høvdingeslægter) - maybe family lines from small kings, whose kingdoms were swallowed by Harald Bluetooth. He claimed that he had collected the whole kingdom under his rule in the 900s. Their position might also origin from some of the Viking chiefs, who were given large royal duties like 'thegn', earl or army commander for a whole region, like Skjalm Hvide was given at Sjælland.

The upper classes around the 1000-years did not form a real nobility; the strong families did not need a noble title in order to rise above the crowd. They had power and influence which sometimes measured the king, and they owned much riches and big properties. The first accolades, exemptions from taxation and other privileges, which rose a family above ordinary people, didn't happen until about one hundred years later.

The family feeling in the big families from that time didn't reach only parents, children and siblings, but also cousins, uncles and aunts, nephews and grand nephews. The family had also friends and faithful companions. Under the family were different serving people and slaves and maybe also military - like the farmers, who lived on the family estate, being attached to them in both work and war. All this formed something difficult to namecall. It might be called a Family Union , but also a 'clan' like in Scotland. In that period was often used the latin term 'familia', which might be interpreted like a 'large household'.

Skjalm Hvide's family was one of those strong families during the next 200 years. Skjalm was appointed høvedsmand (chief of Sjælland) by the king and was given the army command, whenever the king used his right to call in the war fleet. Skjalm's brother Aute was killed by the Vends ab. 1095 , and Skjalm called the war fleet himself for a raid against the Vends at a time where the king didn't use his right. This information alone tell us how much power men of Skjalm's position might have.

Besides the Skjalm- family there were two other strong families upon Sjælland at that time, the Bodil-family (Peter Bodilsen) and The Trued-family, also called the Thorgunna/Thrugot Trued-family. Their ancestor was Thrugot Ulvsen Fagerskind. Erik Ejegod's queen, Bodil, was a daughter of Thrugot. After the murder on Knud Lavard in 1131 those three families were united in the fight against king Niels, but after that time their ways parted, and the Hvide-family with Absalon became the dominating family. Often these families had a final word to say by the election of a king, and on some occasions they had the power to have the king dethroned. They also took many lucrative posts in the ecclesiastical power apparatus.

Skjalm was a powerful man , he was chief and earl at Sjælland , and his riches came to a certain degree from his ancestors' properties, but the family's riches grew even bigger when his diligent descendants bought and married into yet more land. Furthermore they also received much riches because they participated on the victorious side in the civil wars.

Skjalm's children were:
Toke Skjalmsen (1070-1145/1150)Toke was named after his paternal grandfather Toke Trylle, and according to the old Nordic name custom he is possibly the eldest son. He is sometimes referred to as Toke Signessøn, which indicates that his mother was of royal origin.

Ebbe Skjalmsen (1075-1151) . He was married to Ragnhild, with whom he started the building of Bjernede Church, their son Sune Ebbesen finished it. Ebbe died in 1151 before Valdemars election as sole king.

Asser Skjalmsen (Rig) ( ab. 1080-1151) , married to Inge Eriksdatter. Asser was brought up together with Knud (Lavard), whose son, Valdemar, he later became the fosterfather of.

Cæcilie Skjalmsdatter (ab. 1080-1175) was married to the powerful Peder Torstensson of Pedersborg north of Sorø.

Sune Skjalmsen( bef. 1086 - 1152) was working together with his brothers in the period after Knud Lavard's murder, but he had died before the Skjalm-brothers founded Sorø monastery.

Margrethe Skjalmsdatter/ Magga (bef. 1087) was married, and when widow she became a nun in Roskilde.

photo: grethe bachmann

Information from Dansk Biografisk Lexicon
(1887-1905) Carl Frederik Bricka, Project Runeberg

Hvide, Skjalm, –1102–, Høvding (Chief), belonged to a powerful Stormandsæt(magnate-family). According to tradition his father was Toke Trylle; contradictory to Saxo's words and worthless is the claim that the family descended from the legendary hero Palnatoke. S.H. had many and large estates at Sjælland, mostly in the Sorø-district. He early got the assignment of being his native island's Jarl (Earl). As such he followed Svend Estridsen in the fight against Harald Hardrada in Nisaa (1062), where he fought bravely; but when the victory was on the Norsemen's side, he was wounded and taken prisoner; at Gedesø he succeeded in getting away from his keepers. Nothing is heard of him until king Oluf Hunger's ruling period. In the disbanded conditions of that time his brother Aute was taken by surprise and killed by Wendic pirates on his way from Sjælland to Falster. Without asking the king for help S.H. gathered a Sjælland-army himself, went to Julin and forced the inhabitants to deliver over the guilty, who then were killed in the most gruesome way. When Erik Ejegod started his victorious expeditions against the Wends, S.H. was at his side. After the conquering Rügen he was made chief of this island. When king Erik and queen Bodil went out on their great pilgrimage they left their little son Knud in S.H.'s care; thus be became the fosterfather of one of Denmark's most famous men.

Some years later he sent the young kongesøn ( prince) Knud to Hertug (duke) Lothar of Sachsen, and it is uncertain if he ever saw his fosterson again. S.H. died probably ab. 1131 , old of age. He was buried in Fjenneslev kirke, which belonged to his Hovedgård (main manor ). Later his body was moved to Sorø by his son's son Absalon. Like S.H. had been the greatest chief in Denmark thus he became the ancestor of the mightiest stormandsæt (magnate-family) which ever lived among Danes. Already his 4 sons, Toke, Sune, Ebbe and Asser Rig were respected chiefs, and from the 2 last mentioned descend many of our most outstanding men, most of all Absalon, Esbern Snare and Anders Sunesen. More than any other family S.H.´s descendants raised Denmark as long they worked together with the kings, but when the friendship changed into enmity, the Hvide-ætten (the Hvide-family) caused the greatest disasters on people and country. - Besides his sons S.H. had 2 daughters: Cæcilia married Peder Thorstensen of Borg at Sorø; Margrethe, but (here is said: unknown husband), she spent her widowhood in Roskilde Convent.

translated from Hans Olrik's Danish text: grethe bachmann.

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