Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sweyn Forkbeard/Sven Tveskæg

Sven Tveskæg/Sweyn Forkbeard * ca. 960 + 3. Februar 1014 in England. King of Denmark 986/87-1014 and of England 1013-1014. Sweyn died already 3. February 1014 in Gainsborough. His year of birth is not known, but he was probably in the middle of his fifties when he died. Sweyn was first buried in York Minster, but later transferred to Roskilde domkirke, where he today rests in an unknown place under the church together with his father Harald. Sweyn Forkbeard's nickname, which was probably used during his lifetime, unlike many royal nicknames, refers to a pitchfork-style moustache which was fashionable at the time, particularly in England, where Sweyn may have picked up the idea. Similar type moustaches can be seen depicted on English coins from the period and from the Bayeux tapestry.

Married to Swietoslawa of Poland/Gunhild

Harald 2.
Knud den Store
Estrid Svendsdatter
Santslaue, later a nunn in England
Gyda, married to Erik Jarl (Håkonson) of Norway.

Harald married a Slavic princess, so did his son Sweyn. The royal marriages were of a special importance and as far as we know the Danish kings always marrried women from abroad. This happened undoubtedly i.e. in order to avoid political complications and feuds with ambitious relatives and rejected rivals' families. It was probably also very important that a marriage with a bride from abroad could be a means to strengthen the power of Danish supremacy.

Adam of Bremen says that Sweyn's rebellion against Harald happened in archbisop Adaldag's last time, before his death 29 April 988. If the rebellion was before 987 it would have been mentioned in the material about bishop Adaldag - the rebellion year might be 987. Harald's death in Wollin a few days after his arrival was probably on 1. November 987. Adam says that Harald died on Halloween 1. November, since a mass was celebrated each year at that date for king Harald in Bremen, but he does not mention the year. Adam considered Harald a martyr, and Sweyn was responsible for his death. In his eyes Sweyn was a heathen and Harald a saint. It was either black or white, and then it was of no importance if Sweyn had built churches and founded two bishoprics. Since Sweyn wanted no connection to Hamburg-Bremen then he was an enemy of Christianity was Adam's opinion.

A fight at Haithabu is mentioned upon two runestones found there. One of the stones was raised by king Sweyn. "Kong Sven satte stenen efter sin hirdmand Skarde som var draget vestpå, men nu fandt døden ved Hedeby." (King Sweyn raised the stone after his hirdman Skarde who went west but now found his death at Haithabu). Both inscriptions probably refer to Sweyn Forkbeard's siege of Haithabu. If it happened at the campaign in 983, it meant that Sweyn either shared the rule with his father or that the stone was raised after he had succeeded his father on the throne. A destruction of Haithabu, which is mentioned by Adam, seems not to have happened. There are no archaological evidence that the city was exposed to any attacks.

Sweyn decided to give up Jelling and create a new royal mausoleum in the heart of Zealand. He moved the central point of the kingdom to Zealand and built close to the royal residence a church, "Den Hellige Treenigheds kirke" (The Holy Trinity's Church), where he buried his father and where Sweyn later had his last resting place. Sweyn's daughter Estrid buried her husband Ulf here. She replaced the wooden church with Denmark's first stone church where Roskilde domkirke lies now. Maybe the royal residence in Roskilde functioned long before the 1000s as a headquarter for the rulers of Zealand, but it is more likely that it had been moved to Roskilde from Lejre. Adam mentions Roskilde as "den danske kongeværdigheds sæde (the seat of dignity of the Danish king). It had been chosen by Sweyn as a burial place for himself and his father.

Lund was probably founded by Sweyn Forkbeard. But the royal power had been there long before that. Except the royal mint, which existed ab. 1020 - the coining in Lund probably began in the 990s - there are other things indicating that some sections of the cityplan had already been determined. From 990 until 1020 was Lund considered a village , but the very early and large church buildings and the explosive growth shows that it was more than that. Sweyn Forkbeard created a new power center in Skåne in a suitable distance from existing centers and probably upon land, which he himself or his father had achieved when the Jutlanders had the supremacy east of Øresund.

Adam did not believe Sweyn to be a devouted Christian, but never the less was Sweyn the founder of a church in Lund, latest ab. 990. In Norway he was remembered as an active Christian armour-bearer, and he founded the church in Roskilde with a burial place for his father and himself. But anyone who did not support the archbishop in Hamburg-breen was an enemy of Christianity in Adam's eyes. Sweyn was appearantly not interested in the German section of the church, he fetched his bishops in other places. Adam knew only one of Sweyn's bishops and he came from England.

The bishopric in Lund was probably also established by Sweyn Forkbeard. The first Bishop with English basis working in Denmark was Gotebald who was appointed by Sweyn Forkbeard "to teach in Skåne". It is not likely that Sweyn fetched his bishops on his expeditions to England, but he might have met English missionaries in Norway where they might have worked since before 975. Gotebald could as a missionary-bishop in Norway be fetched to Skåne by Sweyn after Olaf Tryggvason's death ab. 1000. He might even have been the first bishop of Lund, which seems to have been a more important church center, because it had more churches than Roskilde. In king Knud's rule the most important Danish mint was in Lund, and it is likely that Sweyn did some comprehensive coining there. It is reasonable to assume that Gotebald had his bishopric in Lund.

In the 990s a lot of German and English coins came to Denmark, and many of these coins made in Sweyn's rule had an English type as model. Once in a while they used English stamps, but most coins had stamps made in Denmark on basis of English coins, and they were often awkward. Imitations of Aethelred's coins were produced in large numbers in the 990s and in the beginning of the 1000s at a place in the eastern Denmark, probably in Lund. Sweyn also produced coins in his own name, which imitated an English coin issued ab. 995-97, but also in this case it was produced in Lund. There are few of these coins and only eight copies are known, they have got the same front stamp, but two various backsides. They are the first Danish coins with inscription, and it mentions both the king's and the mintmaster's name. The mintmaster was named Godwine and he must have been an Englishman.

The development from village into town depended on workmen and merchants coming to the town with their families living and working there. Every landlord could in theory have workmen and merchants as tenants - and many great landowners undoubtedly gave the workmen board and lodging at their farms, the same hospitality as they showed their priests, but the only one who could give protection or give guaranties for the security of the foreigners was the king, and nothing indicates that any other chief than the king gathered merchants and workmen in special settlements. There is much evidence that Sweyn Forkbeard and Cnut the Great did this, often in connection to the bishoprics they established. In the beginning both laymen and priests were just tenants at the king's property - the church had its own land not until the middle of the 1000s - and most towns stayed in the Crown's possession. The secular citizens paid a half-yearly rent to the king.

Both in the first and later years Sweyn was successful as a ruler. He founded and built two churches, he issued coins in his own name in or shortly before 997 at the same time as a large Danish production of imitations of English coins in Lund; he had the absolute power in Denmark, two important expeditions to England took place under his leadership, by all acounts in 991 and three years later. Adam's negative evaluation of Sweyn's rule is different from the real circumstances, but his hostile attitude to Sweyn has influenced the narratives of later writers. The positive stories have been forgotten or ignored, amongst others a tribute-paper to Cnut's Queen Emma, in which the writer says that Sweyn was the happiest of kings at that time.

Sweyn did not maintain the fortifications and bridges his father had built, they were falling into decay. Maybe they were to expensive to maintain, furthermore it would not be the most popular thing he could do, since Harald's fall might partly have someting to do with the economic burdens imposed on the Danish people. Apart from this there was no need of the fortifications anymore. There was no immediate danger of a German invasion, and although the pirates still were at work, the private viking fleets around 990s were mostly occupied in expeditions to England. Sweyn had a strong army which caused the greatest respect both in Germany and in England.

Sweyn Forkbeard and Olaf Tryggvason did some expeditions to England in the 990s. Olaf was christened in England and king Aethelred himself was his confirmation's witness - besides the English paid him a considerable amount to make him give up his campaigns in England and gave him a direct support in Norway when he returned home, conquered and killed jarl Håkon. After their father's death Erik and Sven Håkonson stayed at the Swedish king Olof Skötkonung. Sven married Olof's sister Holmfrid and Erik married Sweyn's daughter Gyda. Sweyn Forkbeard later married Olof's mother. The two Håkonsons and Olof Skötkonung were now allies of the Danish king.

According to Adam of Bremen Olaf Tryggvason was prompted to attack Sweyn by his Danish wife Tyre/Thyra (Sweyn's aunt) This was Olaf's last fight. He was conquered by the united forces of Sweyn Forkbeard, Olof Skötkonung and Erik Håkonson. Saxo and Snorri Sturlusson added more to the story in the 1200s, where both Tyre and Olof Skötkonung's mother had a principal role. The most liked version of the battle takes place at the island Svold somewhere at the Baltic coast, but there are so many versions of the famous battle that it is impossible to unravel the real course of events. After Olaf Tryggvason's death Sweyn Forkbeard's position was secured. The two Håkonsons ruled in Norway acknowledging Sweyn's supremacy, and Sweyn had a friendly relation to Olof Skötkonung who was now his son-in-law. Apart from this there was no trouble from the Germans, they had enough to do with the Slavs.

As the leader of expeditions westwards Sweyn saw to that his men were rewarded just as generously as men of other great Viking leaders. The purpose of the Viking expeditions was to take possession of a rich booty for the pay of his warriors on whom his power depended. The members of a lid (army) had to be paid. Loyalty was not just a question of honour, it was a question of profit. The Roman writer Tacitus said 900 years earlier that it is impossible to keep a large flock of warriors with supplies without violence and war. The generosity of the chief fed by war and plunder. At the Baltic it was possible to purloin a rich booty, but when Sweyn became king the preferred destinations of the Viking attacks was western Europe.

When it showed that the English were willing to pay large sums to the Vikings, the fleets grew bigger and bigger. In the 990s almost all expeditions went to England, and two of those took place under Sweyn's lead, the first probably in 991 when Essex was attacked and the other three years later. Olaf Tryggvason participated both times, probably as Sweyn's ally. From 997 till 1016 when king Athelred died there were attacks and extorting of the people each year. The leaders are not always mentioned and some of the attacks were carried out by Vikings from Ireland. Nothing indicates that Sweyn came back to England before 1003, but other Danes did. One was Pallig, Sweyn's brother-in-law who let himself recruit by the English to help them in their defence. He was heartily received by king Athelred and loaded with gifts, but he was not a reliable allied, in 1001 he changed side and joined a Viking fleet, which was on its way to attack southwest England.

When Adam talks about Sweyn it is as if he is talking about quite another person than Sweyn Forkbeard. His claim that Sweyn was in exile in Scotland for fourteen years is not popular among historians. Sweyn built churches in Denmark during that period, like in Lund and Roskilde, and he was also the leader of Viking campaigns in England. Besides was a story about his capture and a ransom with large sums, a story which grew more and more dramatic each time it was told. After Harald's death Adam told about a Swedish invasion of Denmark - and although the Danes and Swedes came to blows whenever it was possible this story is not considered reliable. The Danish kings in the Viking period practised a certain control of the traffic to and from the Baltic, even of the Swedes. Thietmar of Merseburg was closest to the events, he wrote his chronicle in the first 30 years after Sweyn became king. Thietmar was not af friend of Sweyn, who had killed his uncle and cousin in a campaign, but he does not mention the invasion and neither does the tribute paper to queen Emma. And as for Adam's story about the destruction of Haithabu, then there are no archaological indications of this.

Pallig's treachery might be one of the reasons why Aethelred in 1002 ordered to kill all Danes in England. The English chronicle writer says that the king had been informed that he would be murdered together with all his council. The order was carried out on St. Brictii day, 13. November. There was no large massacre, but several Danes in England, especially in the cities were killed by the help of civil Englishmen who probably thought it was a just revenge for the gruesome attacks and treachery of the Danes. The massacre was confirmed in a letter of 1004 in which Aethelred confirms the privileges which the closter of St. Friedewide in Oxford had. This confirmation was necessary since the closter church and all its archives were destroyed during the action against the Danes in 1002. The Danes had broken all locks and doors and had taken refuge in the church, and when the English could not chase them out, they set fire to the church. Among the killed were Pallig and his wife Gunhild, Sweyn's sister and their son, and maybe there is some thruth in that Sweyn came back to England to avenge the death of his family and other Danes. In 1003 and 1004 he mainly attacked cities, but he was of course also interested in demanding payments. He probably gathered a rich booty during these years.

It is not known who headed the Danish army which in 1006 attacked England and collected a tax of 36.000 pounds, but one of the fleets in 1009 was headed by the famous Torkel, a brother of Sigvald, whose troups had been conquered at Hjørungavåg by jarl Håkon. Another fleet headed by Hemming joined Torkel's ships, and Eilif who later served Cnut the Great. It was assumed that Torkel in some way represented Sweyn's interests, but he was actually Sweyn's enemy. After three years of looting the English agreed at Easter 1012 to pay 48.000 pounds. A part of the fleet spread in all directions, but Torkel came to king Aethelred with 45 ships from the fleet promising him to defend England. Torkel was obviously the leader of an independent lid. (Viking army)

An English chronicle writer wrote his work when the defeat was complete. His valuation is marked by the English breakdown, and it became a basis of later judgements of Aethelred as an unfortunate king. The English were lucky once in a while, but to conquer a fleet or buying themselves free did not secure the peace - more fleets arrived constantly. In far away areas where the king seldom came or never visited was his power dependent on his bailiffs and the local aristocray. In Danelagen these men were mainly of Scandinavian descent, but in all parts of England there were magnates - both of English and Danish descent - who found it lucrative to support the Vikings. In 991 a magnate of Essex was suspected of supporting Sweyn, and gradually, as the situation grew worse there were still more accussations of treachery. The attacking armies were probably both larger and better organized than 100 years before, and much indicates that they were unusually well-disciplined. When Sweyn in 1013 arrived in England, his base was Gainsborough in the heart of Danelagen, and most residents subjected to his will. It would have been foolish to make them furious over some thoughtless looting , but it was not an easy task to control an army who used to live from booty. It is remarkable that the chronicle writer underlines that Sweyn's troups did not vandalize before they had passed Watling Street which was the border of Danelagen, but "when they had passed Watling Streeet, they made the worst destructions any army could cause".

Sweyn's invasion of England in 1013 was not an ordinary expedition. His purpose was to conquer England. By conquering the supremacy of England Sweyn hoped to avoid the fate which had happened to earlier Danish kings who had been brought down by homecoming Viking leaders. When Sweyn organized his conquest of England, the inhabitants were exhausted by the constant attacks and king Aethelred felt threatened by his son Edmund's claim of sharing the power. Sweyns' conquest went fast. At summertime he went into Sandwich at the coast of Kent and sailed along the east coast where he established his base in Gainsborough at the river Trent. After he had made the Northumbrians and the people of Danelagen give in, he marched south, leaving his young son Cnut with the responsibility of his hostages who had to secure peace in the occupied areas. He only met a weak opposition in the southern England, and in the end of the year king Aethelred had left England finding asylum in Normandy. Sweyn was now acknowledged "as valid king of the whole nation". He could only enjoy his victory for two months, the third February 1014 he died in Gainsborough. The army elected Cnut his successor, but the English sent for Aethelred, and he mobilized an army against the occupation troups. Cnut sailed home leaving his father's hostages without hands, noses and ears.

Sweyn had left Denmark in the care of his oldest son Harald, while he was in England, maybe Harald was already co-king. He was chosen to succeed his father as king of the Danes, Cnut accepted this and concentrated about re-conquering England. During a year he gathered the necessary troups from all Scandinavia, and many from Mälardalen. In this year (1014-1015) Cnut and Harald fetched their mother from Slavia, which might mean that she had gone home to her brother Burislaw, who was a ruler in Poland. The brothers buried their father's body - which had been brought to Denmark by a "certain English lady" - in the church he had built in Roskilde.

Sweyn Forkbeard and Cnut the Great had by their lucky attacks in England increased their wealth and power immensely. During Sweyn and Cnut's rule the power area of the Danes stretched over parts of Sweden as well as the English kingdom. The Danish kingdom had been strengthened thanks to the reforms Gorm's three successors carried through. It was in their rule the mint system was put in order and mint was striken all over the kingdom. The countries on both sides of Øresund were brought under firm and direct royal control, and both Roskilde and Lund were founded. The Danish royal power began in Jutland, and in the first centuries of the kingdom Jutland had been the center. When the scalds still celebrated Cnut the Great as Jótlands jøfurr, Jutlands chief, it was in remembrance of the past. But by supplementing the Jutland power with a firm grip of the rule of the Danish Isles and Skåne - the large areas which had until then been considered the outer districts of the kingdom , the "mark" of the Danes - the last great Viking kings Harald, Sweyn and Cnut had created a strong and vital unity with a future. Danmark.

Source: Peter Sawyer, "Da Danmark blev Danmark", Politikens Danmarkshistorie, Bind 3, 1988.

translation grethe bachmann  ©copyright

Monday, December 21, 2009


Swietoslawa, * 967/972, + ca. 1016, was first married to Erik Sejersæl ( Eric the Victorious) of Sweden and was the mother of Olof Skötkonung; later married to Svend Tveskæg, (Sweyn Forkbeard), king of Denmark. From her second marriage she was probably the mother of Harald and Knud den Store (Canute the Great), king of Denmark, Norway and England. Sigrid Storråde's name is only mentioned in the sagas, while Gunhild was the name she got when she came to the North.

Several contemporary chronicles say that Harald 2. and Knud den Store had a Slavic mother, either from Poland or a neighbouring area. This supports the theory that Sigrid was a daughter of Mieszko 1. of Poland, although it is not ruled out that another person got the name Gunhild. The name Sigrid was interpreted as a distortion of the Polish name Swietoslawa, and the majority of Polish historians consider Sigrid and Swietoslawa the same person - and Sigrid of the Sagas as fictional. A possible explanation - that there are two variants of the same woman Svend Tveskæg married - is that he was married twice, and that Adam of Bremen did not know. This means that Olof Skötkonung and Knud den Store were made halfbrothers by a mnisunderstanding.

Thietmar of Merseburg is usually considered the best informed of the medieval chronicle writers, since he was contemporary to the events and very knowledgeable about the relations both in Denmark and Poland. He also mentions a Wendic Gunhild, but he does not say that the Wendic princess Gunhild was earlier married to the Swedish king. He writes that Mieszko 1.'s daughter and Boleslaw 1.'s sister married Svend Tveskæg and that she gave him two sons, Knud and Harald, but does not mention her name in this connexion.

Adam of Bremen claimed that Olof Skötkonung and Knud den Store were sons of an unnamed Wendic princess. In a later edition to this she appears to be named Gunhild. Adam writes that a Polish princess was the wife of Erik Sejersæl, and that she was the mother of Knud den Store and Harald 2.

It has i.e.been suggested that a Slavic princess was the mother of Olof Skötkonung and that she later married Svend Tveskæg. If she is identical to Sigrid Storråde this cannot be proved. It has led to speculations if there in reality were to different women. One, a Christian Slavic princess and another, a heathen Swedish magnate's daughter. The informations in the late Nordic sources differ in several points from the contemporary chronicles, which point out that Sigrid was of Slavic origin.

Gesta Cnutonis regis mentions in a short passage that Knud and his brother went together to Slavia to fetch their mother, who lived there.(after Svend's death). This does not necessarily mean that she was of Slavic origin, although it is very probable. The assumption that Harald and Knud's mother was the sister of Boleslaw 1. explains some of the enigmatic informations from several chronicles that i.e. Polish troups participated in Knud's invasion of England. The hypothesis that Swietoslawa changed her name twice seems unlikely.

Liber vitae from New Minster and Hyde Abbey in Winchester has a text which says that Knud den Store's sister was named "Santslaue" ("Santslaue soror CNVTI regis nostri"),which without doubt is a slavic name. She might probably was probably named after her mother Świętosława.
(Note: I don't think Santslaue is similar to Swietoslawa)

From a new article by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn: (from Norman Davis' book: God's Playground. A History of Poland):
After 994 she married Sweyn I of Denmark under the name Gunhilda. (He says like the Polish historians that she was first married to Erik Sejersæl under the name Sigrid). From the second marriage she probably had five children, including Canute the Great and Harold II. Since her marriage was not happy, she returned to Poland, where her brother Boleslaw the Brave was ruling. After Sweyn died, her sons Canute and Harald took her back from Poland. She died somewhere in an English castle. In any event, Boleslaw I of Poland actually sent his troops to help Canute in his successful conquest of England, another sign of close relationships between Polish rulers and Vikings.
It is said that Swietoslawa's difficult character was inherited after her aunt Adelaide (Polish Adelajda), who was probably a sister of Mieszko I and also the wife of the Hungarian duke Geza. Adelaide became a mother of St. Stephen the Great (977-1038) who became the first king of Hungary and a saint. Adelaide was known as a beauty, but she drunk excessively and loved riding horses like a man. Once, she even killed a man in a rage. (Very much like the legendary Sigrid Storråde)!

An almost new one:
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband delivered on 23 June 2009 a speech during his first visit to the country as foreign secretary in Warsaw, Poland. He argued that Europe's creation and evolution represent one of the most visionary acts of statesmanship of the 20th century and the start of his speech was like this: "
Any British Foreign Secretary visiting Poland is deeply conscious of the history between our two countries. It goes back a long way. Canute the half Polish King of Denmark who, in 1015, invaded England, bringing with him Polish soldiers and his mother, Princess Swietoslawa, who was buried in Winchester castle. [...]

If you search for burials in Winchester cathedral, Swietoslawa is not there.
grethe bachmann

A Polish website/Prominent Polish Women says: Swietoslawa died after 2/2/1014, in Kamien Pomorski, Poland

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thyra Haraldsdatter

This Thyra is a daughter of Harald Bluetooth, but who was her mother cannot be said for certain. Gyrid Olavsdatter is mentioned as her mother in several places, but since Thyra gets married to Gyrid's brother Styrbjørn Olavsson "The Strong", this would mean that she married her mother's brother - therefore it is unlikely that Gyrid is Thyra's mother. A close family relation like this was not allowed and the church would either prevent or dissolve it. Even a marriage between 1/32 cousins was not allowed in theory, although it might be difficult to avoid. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the kings fetched their brides abroad.

Thyra gets married to Styrbjørn the Strong, prince of Sweden and has a son Thorgils Styrbjørnsson with the byname Sprakaleg - he is interesting, also because he fathered Gyda or Gunhild? (Gyda of Wessex)  who was married to Jarl Godwin of Wessex and became the mother of Harald II Godwinsson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England before the Norman Conquest. Thorgils had also the son Ulv/Ulf Jarl, who was married to Estrid Svendsdatter.

Styrbjørn is killed in the battle of Fyrisvalla in 985 - and in ab. 997; Thyra is then married to Olav Tryggvasson, who was married twice before 1) to Geira, who died before 984 and 2) to Gyda, who was a sister of the king of Dublin, she died before 995. There is a gap between 985 and 997 where Thyra was said to be married to Boleslaw I of Poland, but this seems impossible. Boleslaw is in his fourth marrriage in 997, and there is not a shadow of a Danish wife named Thyra. Maybe there had been some agreement between Thyra's brother Sven Tveskæg and Boleslaw about a marriage to Thyra, which for some reason was not carried through. There was a large difference in age between Thyra and Boleslaw, and Boleslaw began his first marriage at the age of 18 in 984. Thyra is married to Styrbjørn in 984, she might be ab. 35 and has a son of 14-15 years of age.

But there was a connection to Denmark. Boleslaw's sister Swietoslawa was first married to Erik Sejersæl of Sweden. After his death in 985 she married Sven Tveskæg - and it is said that she was the mother of Knud den Store, who was born ab. 995. At that point her brother Boleslaw is 29 and Swietoslawa is 28 years. After Sven Tveskæg's death in 1014, Knud and Harald fetched their mother in Slavia, which might mean that she had gone home to her brother Boleslaw. The brothers buried their father's body - which had been brought to Denmark "by a certain English lady" - in the church he had let build in Roskilde. According to a note Boleslaw helped ab. 1015 Knud den Store (his nephew) with a detachment of Polish horsemen, when he went to England with his army to claim the throne.

Boleslaw's marriages: When Thyra's husband Styrbjørn dies in 985, Boleslaw is 19 years. He is ready for his second marriage; the first marriage was in 984 ,when he was 18, to a daughter of Rikdag, Margrave of Meissen. Her name was Hunilda or Oda, she bears a daughter in 985, but when her father dies in 985, there is no political reason for the marriage, and she is repudiated. Boleslaw gets married again in 985 to a Hungarian princess, who probably was named Judith; she was the daughter of a Grand Duke of Hungaria. She had a son Bezprym, but this marriage ended quickly too, this time caused by bad political relations between Poland and Hungaria, and she was repudiated.

Boleslaw was 21 years in 987, and Thyra is a widow since 985, she might be in her late thirties now, and it seems that Boleslaw has no intentions of marrying a Danish princess, for he gets married again in 987 (or 989) to Emnilda, a daughter of Dobromir, a Slavic prince of Lusatia. Boleslaw and Emnilda's marriage lasts until 1013 where she probably dies, but they had 5 children, one is Mieszko, the later Mieszko II. In 1018 Boleslaw married Oda, a daughter of Eckhardt I, Margrave of Meissen, and they have a daughter Mathilda. In 1025 he crowns himself king of Poland and dies the same year.

Thyra is married to Olav Tryggvasson ab. 997. He dies in the year 1000, some sources say that Thyra dies shortly after, others say that her year of death is unknown.

It is mentioned (Adam af Bremen) that Thyra fled from her heathen husband Burislav (Mieszko I) in 997. Mieszko died in 992, and he was not heathen, he was baptized in 966. She did not flee Boleslaw either, he was married to Emnilda at that time.

Mieszkos first wife Dobrawa died in 977, and he was married to Oda in 980. He was still together with Oda at the time of his death in 992.

Source: Danmarkshistorie bd. 3, Da Danmark blev Danmark, Peter Sawyer; Wikipedia: Mieszko I og Boleslaw I Chrobry , the House of Piast.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Harald Gormsen, Harald Bluetooth

Harald Gormsen aka Harald Bluetooth was also known by the name Harald the Good, which is seen at Tove Mistivoidatter's rune stone. The by-name Bluetooth might have been caused by a natural root canal-treatment of a front tooth in a fight or at the battle field! Harald might have been a co-regent with his father Gorm in a period, and he was king until his death in 986. His birth year is not known. From 948 there were three bishops in Denmark, and it is likely that Harald reigned too, since Gorm would have made difficulties if he had been sole regent. According to Adam of Bremen and Sven Estridsen Harald was friendly against the Christians, while his father was hostile and let several Christians kill.

Harald was the second son of Gorm and Thyra; his big brother Knud Dana-Ast was killed during a viking-expedition to England , probably in 940. His sister Gunhild was married to Erik Blood-Axe, and when he was killed in England in 954, she came to Denmark and took up residence by her brother Harald with her sons, the famous Eriksønner. One son, Harald Gråfeld was brought up as king Harald's fosterson.

Harald was probably married more than once, but as usual there are few sources from this period of time. He was married to Tove, a daughter of the Wendic prince Mistivoi. A rune stone which Tove let raise as a memory of her mother, is the only known source about her. The rune stone stands in Sønder Vissing church in Tyrsting herred ab. 30 km north of Jelling. The text says: "”Tofa (Tove), Mistivojs datter, Harald den Godes, Gorms søns kone, lod gøre dette dødeminde efter sin moder" ("Tove, Mistivoj's Daughter, Harald the Good's , Gorm's son's wife, let make this death memory after her mother") Here we are told that her husband was called Harald the Good. It is not known if Tove was the mother of some of Harald's known children, but it is sure that her mother, who might have been a widow at that time, lived in the neighbourhood of her daughter and son-in-law.

Tove Mistivojsdatter's rune stone

According to Adam of Bremen Harald was christened together with his wife Gunhild and their little son, who was christened Sven Otto. (Otto after the German emperor). The christening took place maybe ca. 965 (?) when Sven is a small boy, and when Harald after the christening built a wooden church in Jelling and moved his father's body from the northern hill to the church. Saxo only says that Harald had been married to Gyrid, a sister of Styrbjørn, she is not known from other sources. Tove's text on the runestone is a valuable piece in order to illustrate the political situation in Denmark in the middle of the 900s. Marriage was about politics. Several Scandinavian kings from that time married women from the Wendic area south of the Baltic. Tove and Gunhild are often connected to the same woman, but the two names are very different, they were probably two women. Harald might have been married to subsequently Gunhild and Tove, and Gunhild might have been a Wendic princess like Tove.

Harald's children were 1) Sven Tveskæg, whose Christian name was Otto, named after the German emperor; 2) Håkon who later ruled in Semland; 3) a daughter Thyra, who first was married to Gyrid's brother Styrbjørn and later to Olav Trygvasson and 4) a daughter Gunhild, who was married to Pallig in England. 5) A son Hirig is mentioned by Adam of Bremen, who informs that Harald sent him to England with an army where he was killed. It is said that Harald at his death in 986/987 was weak and that he had reigned for 50 years.

In the winter 958-59 Harald let build the large northern hill in Jelling in order to bury his father in the wooden burial chamber. (Thyra died some years before Gorm, but her year of death is not known). Harald used a heathen burial custom for his father, which he would not have used, if he had already been christened. A few years later, just after 963, he let change the southern hill in Jelling, which meant that he had to heighten the existing hill. These years are important since they give a time limit for his christening. The large rune stone, which stands in the middle of the two grave hills, represents Harald as a Christian. The famous text is: "Haraltr kunukr bath kaurua kubl thausi aft kurm fathur sin auk aft thaurui muthur sina. sa haraltr ias sar uan tanmaurk ala auk nuruiak auk tani karthi kristna". In present Danish and modern grammar: "Harald konge bød gøre dødeminde dette efter Gorm sin fader og efter Thorvi (Thyre) sin moder, den Harald som (for) sig vandt Danmark al og Norge og gjorde danerne kristne."

Around year 960 the Eriksønnerne took over the power in Norway. Hakon Jarl ruled in Trondheim, but he was soon driven away by the Eriksønnerne. In spite of this Hakon was well received in Denmark by Harald, who probably had some interests in Norway,especially in the Viken-area (= the Oslofjord). The most important of the Eriksønnerne, Harald Gråfeld was cunningly murdered. Snorre Sturlasson says that king Harald gathered 600 ships and sailed to Norway together with Hakon Jarl. Hakon got back the country, the Eriksønnerne had to take flight to the Orkneys and Harald returned to Denmark. It was said to have happened in ca. 970 and this is probably the supremacy, which is referred to on the Jelling stone. Haralds' sister Gunhild died at the Orkneys, where she lived by a daughter.
Harald's daughter Thyra became queen of Norway for a short time, and according to tradition she contributed to her husband Olav Trygvasson's death in 1000. After this she disappears from history. Historia Norvegiæ tells about her marriage to king Olav. According to Snorre Sturlasson she was given away in marriage to Burislav of Vendland = Boleslaus I of Poland, as a part of a Danish-Wendic peace agreement, which also meant that her brother Sven Tveskæg was married to Burislav's sister Gunhild. According to Gesta Danorum was Thyra earlier married to Styrbjørn Stærke of Sweden, a son of Olaf Bjørnsson, a brother of king Erik Sejersæl of Sweden.

Returning to Harald's christening, since this was a very special event - the first Danish king who was christened. Upon the golden altar in Tamdrup church near Horsens the artist has described scenes from Harald's christening upon golden plates. The plates were probably made early in the 1200s and were probably originally from a reliquary. The earliest story about the event is told by Widukind in his Saxon Chronicle: There had been a discussion about the gods which took place during a feast, attended by king Harald. The Danes meant that Christ was a god, but that other gods were far greater than he was. But the priest Poppo protested; he claimed that there was only one true god, while the idols were demons and not gods. King Harald demanded him to prove his faith, he had to wear red-hot iron for his catholic faith, and he wore a red-hot glove as long as king Harald wanted it and then showed his unharmed hand. This convinced king Harald, who decided to honour Christ alone as a god and to order his people to reject the idols.

Widukind writes that it was thanks to the emperor Otto I. that the Danish churches and the priests were honoured in these places - and this was probably an important factor in Harald's christening, he might have considered the danger of a German invasion. Adam of Bremen claimed that Harald was christened as a direct cause of Ottos invasion in Denmark - but it is not alone doubtful that this invasion took place at all - his mentioning Otto as the godfater, bearing Harald's son for the christening and giving him the name Otto contradicts Widukind's report; if the emperor had been present at Harald's christening, Widukind would not have avoided telling about it. Adam furthermore says that Poppo wore his jernbyrd(hot iron) after Harald's death, which adds one more minus to his credibility.

In the beginning of Widukind's telling about Harald's christening he says that "the Danes were Christians from old times, but at the same time they served the idols according to their heathen customs." This shows that the Danes in the 900s were not hostile towards the Christians and thus it was also in the days of the Horik-kings. The archbishop Unni could without any problems visit Denmark in 936 - and another ecample of the Scandinavian people's kindness to Christianity was that the Norwegian king Harald Hårfager sent his son to the court of king Athelstan, who reigned 924-39. During more than one century there had been a good connection between the Danes and the western Christian countries, the Christian influence came to the country in several ways, many Danes had been christened already, numerous Danes had been christened abroad, and most descendants from the Scandinavians, who lived in the English Danelagen and in the Normandy were Christians - and their connection to the homeland must have meant much for the Christian influence which came to the country .

Harald proved that he meant Christianity seriously. He built a wooden church i Jelling of 30 x 14 m, and he ordered an impressing monument with a large image of the crucified Christ, he issued cross-ornamented coins and moved his father's body from the north hill to be buried below the church floor at the choir. Gorm's grave was placed in one half of the choir entrance, while the other half was free. He probably meant it to be his own burial place next to his father. Fate wanted it otherwise; he died in exile, but he left us the greatest memorial in our thousand-year old kingdom, the large Jelling stone, Denmark's birth certificate, a part of our world's heritage.

It was difficult to abolish the heathen customs, and the church had to compromise in order not to spoil the good beginning. Harald's christening meant that the heathen cult ceremonies were abolished, in any case those he attended. Especially at Iceland there were some problems, where people were allowed to continue some old customs, if they in return would be so kind to accept Christianity. They were allowed to eat horse meat, to sacrifice to the gods at home and to expose babies. It looks as if the Danes stopped eating horse meat in the late 900s, but new habits do not suddenly erase old customs, and it took a long time before Christianity had a fairly good power over the newly converted souls. The heathen burial customs disappeared not until the end of the 900s. Findings from the burial place at the viking fortification Fyrkat show no horse skeletons in the graves. This might be due to Christian influence, but several persons, especially women, were buried with their belongings.

In the end of Harald's reign Sven rebelled against his father, and Adam of Bremen told about a serius weakness of the Danish church, the rebellion was considered a heathen reaction, although nothing indicated a return to heathen customs. It seems that there was some chaos and that the bishops from Hamburg-bremen took flight out of the country at the same time as their protector, king Harald. Adam says that the rebellion happened shortly before bishop Adaldag's death 29. april 988 and he also says that Harald went to Wollin, where he died. The rebellion is by historians dated to 987, which is confirmed by a letter from emperor Otto 3, who gave Danish bishops rights in Germany, dated 18 March 988.

Harald fled to Jumne, after he was defeated by Sven. No sources tell why he went exactly there, but he might have escaped on a ship sailing for Jumne. No sources mention if he had a speciel connection to the place. Later writers changed Jumne into Jomsborg and wrote along about the Jomsvikings, a legend was written about them in the 1200s and after this many tales. The story about the Jomsvikings is an expression of the posterity's romantic view of the vikings, but Jomsborg itself is a fiction. Maybe a viking fleet had a base close to Wollin, but there have been found no traces yet. Sven Aggesen wrote 200 years later that Harald built Jomsborg during his exile, but since he died a few days after his arrival to Wollin, it has been changed, making the building of Jomsborg much earlier. The connection of the Jomsvikings to Harald is supported by a story that they revenged Harald by taking Sven prisoner and force the Danes to pay a big ransom. This story is probably a tall story.

In 968 Harald improved Danevirke thoroughly and built the halfcircular fortification bank around Hedeby - and something alike probably happened at Ribe and Århus at the same time. It was the eternal German danger - emperor Otto moved incessantly around down there, south of the border, leading a very agressive politic elsewhere; it was not an incorrect assumption that he might turn to Denmark in his next stroke. But it seemed that the Saxons were more interested in Denmark, since in a Saxon meeting in Werla were - in connection to a letter from Otto - said some words about a soon to come war with the Danes , so Harald's energy on the fortification works was not plucked out of the air. But no German attack came in 968 however, Harald attacked first, better to attack than to defend he might have thought.

Emperor Otto I died in April 973, and Harald invaded the land south of the Ejder, but the Germans made a counter attack in 974 and drove back the Danes. They took both Hedeby and Danevirke. Harald was not discouraged. He issued new coins, quite different from the usual coins from Hedeby, obviously Christian with a cross on one side. But he especially impressed with the great projects and fortifications like Fyrkat and Trelleborg and the bridge at Ravning, all dated to the same period as the German occupation of the border. The fortification at Aggersborg was probably also built at the same time and also the castle in Odense. But the pretty bridge at Ravning did not stand alone, lesser bridges were built at Sjælland and Lolland and maybe also more bridges in Jutland , it was all probably a part of a complicated defense system. It was not a coincidence that the defense system covered both Jutland and the isles, it meant that the Germans were not the only threat against - there was always a danger from Norway, Sweden and from the Slavic countries - furthermore were the Slavic and Scandinavian pirates operating from bases in the Baltic.

The German occupation restricted to Sønderjylland and lasted nine years. Otto 2. suffered a serious defeat in Calabria, and this gave the Danes a chance. In 983 Harald regained the power of Hedeby and destroyed the newly built German fortification, while his Abroditic allied and father-in-law Mistivoi harrassed Holstein and set fire to Hamburg. In December died emperor Otto in Rome and was succeeded by his four year old son Otto 3. This made it much easier for the Danes to regain the power north of the Ejder and to have their demands carried through. Adam of Bremen says that the people and the Frisians in his time 100 years later still respected the laws and customs Harald had introduced.

Harald says proudly on his great runestone that he won all Denmark. It is certain that he besides Jutland and Funen also ruled a part of the land east of Storebælt. Trelleborg at Sjælland was built in 981 approximately at the same time as Fyrkat in Jutland and with almost identical houses and constructions. The wooden bridges in Risby, Bakkendrup bro and Flintinge also indicate that his power stretched till the Øresund. He also claims that he won Norway. There are basis in the scald-poetry that Hakon Jarl respected and accepted his supremacy. Later saga writers understood in some verses that Hakon Jarl came to Harald's assistance when the Germans invaded in 974, and this is very possible.

A fight at Hedeby is mentioned upon two rune stones, one is raised by king Sven, both inscriptions refer probably to Sven Tveskæg's siege of Hedeby, which possibly happened in 983, and the mentioning of Sven as king indicates that he and Harald shared the power - or that the stone was first raised after Sven succeeded Harald on the throne. Another probable assumption is that the runetexts refer to an event during Sven's rebellion against his father, maybe shortly before Harald went in exile. Hedeby could have been a starting point for a resistance against Sven, maybe lead by a loyal substitut of Harald's. The fortificated town might have been a good stronghold for Harald.

Those many assumptions build on various sources and show the uncertainty around our knowledge about the last part of Harald's reign. It all ended with a rebellion led by his son, this is certain, it is also certain that Harald was driven into exile. The most trustworthy cause of this misére could be the heavy economic burdens which was brought on the Danes by Harald's mighty building projects. But although his ruling period and his life ended with a disaster and a personal tragedy he did a great work. He will be remembered for the mighty Viking fortifications at Aggersborg, Fyrkat, Trelleborg and Nonnebakken and the beautiful Ravning bridge in Vejleådalen - and for the magnificent monument he raised in Jelling - he had won all Denmark - and he had christened the Danes.

Kilde: Peter Sawyer, Da Danmark blev Danmark, fra ca. år 700 til ca. 1050, Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bd. 3, 1988.

Extra notes:
A source: Europäische Stamtafeln says that another daughter of king Harald Blåtand, Gyda was married to Olav Tryggvasson. But this must be a mix-up? There was a Gyda Haraldsdatter, but she was the daughter of Harald II Godwinsson.

A German source in Wikipedia says that Erik of Northumbria was a son of Harald Blåtand, but Erik of Northumbria = Erik Bloodaxe, who is a son of Harald Hårfager.

Harald had as mentioned a daughter Gunhild, who was married in England to Pallig Tokesen. They were both killed in Danemordet in London in 1002. Harald fathered Gunhild late in his life? 875? Maybe this can tell us the name of his last wife. Daughter Gunhild named after her mother?

foto Jelling 2008: grethe bachmann

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gorm and Thyra - and a little extra

There are periods in history where the interpretation of exactly one period depends on several evaluations, which caused by no concrete knowledge must be a question of an assumed probability. The Viking period and the early Middle Ages are such periods. There are many sources and chronicles to look into, but most of the material was written a hundred years or more after the events. So what is the absolute truth about the periods and the persons we really want to know just a little more about? This will always be a mystery - and maybe that's why it is so fascinating, it's like working on a crime story.

Gorm den Gamle: ( *c 910 +958)
Thyra Danebod: (* c. 910 + bef. 958)

Silver cup from Gorm's burial chamber.

Jelling kirke, a pretty silverband across Gorm's grave in the choir.

The Danish kingdom existed a long time before Gorm. According to the Nordic sagas Gorm's father was Hardeknud (Knud I Hardegon), who was king before Gorm, but Gorm is the first Danish king since 873, who is more than a name to us. Gorm was supposedly a descendant of Sven, whose son came from Nortmannia and drove away his rival. The runestones in Jelling confirm that Harald was his son and successor and that Gorm's wife was Tyre. The monuments and the inscriptions at this place tell us that Jelling was an important power center.

Gorm was first buried in the large Jellinghill, but after Harald's christening his body was moved and buried under the floor in the middle of the wooden church, Harald built. The wooden burial chamber in the large hill has been excavated, and the dendrochronology proves that Gorm's death must have been in the winter 958. Most of Gorm's skeleton was found in a chamber grave in the church in 1978 and sent to the National Museum for further examinations. They showed that he had been ab. 172 cm tall and not heavily built. He was ca. 40-50 years of age and "like most other middle-aged Danes he suffered from osteoarthritis in the bottom section of the spinal column. In year 2000 Gorm was re-buried in Jelling kirke in a metal coffin placed in a concrete chamber under the floor in front of the choir. The church floor is here decorated with a silver band.

The small Jelling stone.

The memorial stone Gorm raised for Thyra describes her as "tanmarkar but", "Danmark's Bod", = "Danmarks pryd" = The pride or the jewel of Denmark. There have been many interpretations. The Danish word pryd means an ornament = a jewel = a beautiful woman. Maybe this is what Gorm meant.

Gorm konge gjorde kumler disse

efter Thyra kone sin Danmarks bod

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

This is the first time the name Danmark is mentioned in Denmark, but it was known in Europe at least 75 years before in king Alfred the Great's geography-book, where the word "dene mearc" is used for the Danish area.

Thyra's burial place is not known, but maybe she was buried in the mighty stone ship, which was 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 area, it might be in the present church yard, but many graves have since removed every trace of earlier burial places.

Gorm calls himself king on the small rune stone, so it must have been raised after he became king in ca. 934 and before his death in 958. Thyra's year of death is not known, but she died before 958, and this means that she probably was born ab. 900. Gorm and Thyra had a son Knud Dana-Ast, who was killed on an expedition to England ca. 940 and the son Harald, who became king of Denmark. Furthermore a daughter *Gunhild, who was married to Erik Blood-Axe. Toke Gormsen, who possibly/probably was Gorm's son, might have had another mother.

* The earliest saga Historia Norwegiæ describes Gunhild as a daughter of Gorm den Gamle, king of Denmark ( and thus a sister of Harald Blåtand). Most reports call her father Ozur, with the byname Toti "teat" (Egils saga Fagrskinna, Heimskringla), or lafskegg = hanging beard (Agrip, Fagrskinna) a man from the northern province Hålogaland. (Egils sagas, Heimskringla). Icelandic hostility towards Gunhild has been cited as a possible cause for her distinction from the Danish royal house.

Gorm married Thyra,who is given conflicting and chronologically uncertain parents in later sources. Saxo Grammaticus og Svend Aggesen wrote in the 1200s about the wise, beautiful and virtuous queen, and how she built Danevirke; she might have supervised an extension of the bank for some reason. Danevirke was built much earlier, which has been proved by dendrochronology.

The history says that the German emperor Otto I courted Thyra, which indicates that she must have been the daughter of a wellknown king. It was said later on that she was a devouted Christian and thus an example for her son Harald. But from where came Thyra? She was unlikely a Jutlander. Danish kings almost always chose wives from other countries than their own. Harald and his son married Slavic princesses and Knud den Store's wife Emma was from Normandy. Thyra came without any doubt from nobility and was probably the daughter of a ruler. Although Saxo gave some wrong informations about the details, he attached importance to that "Tyre came from a foreign country" and that her person was of crucial importance to Harald's inheritance. According to Saxo Harald was the first Dane to inherit the Danish throne, and he inherited it from his mother Tyre.

Her ancestors were not known but there are some theories:
a) she was a daughter of the Jutland earl Harald, who was a grandson of king Harald Klak.
b) she was a daughter of king Ethelred I. of England, which cannot be true since he died in 871.
c) she was a daughter of king Edward the Elder of West Saxon, which holds more probability at least according to age; he died in 924, and since there are sayings that she was related to king Alfred the Great, he would then be her grandfather.

Or she might be the daughter of a ruler from East Denmark, which was not yet a part of the Danish kingdom - and which therefore might be considered a foreign country. This fits in with that Harald was dependent on her inheritance in order to inherit the whole kingdom.

Kilde: Dansk/Norsk/Svensk Biografisk Lexicon; Danmarks Historie, Politiken 3-4; Vikingeskibsmuseet; Nationalmuseet; Skalk, arkæologisk magasin; Saxo Grammaticus; Emma emmorium; Sejer Olesen Leth og hans slægt af P. Filtenborg; Den Hvide Klan af Michael Kræmmer; Thi de var af stor slægt af Marianne Johannesen & Helle Halding.

foto og skitse: grethe bachmann

Various sources about Gorm:

Adam af Bremen says that Gorm's father Hardeknud came from Northmania to Denmark and ousted the young king Sigtrygg Gnupasson, and when Hardeknud died Gorm took over the throne. Other sources say that Chnuba (usually identified as Gnupa, Sigtrygg's father) still ruled in 934, while Heimskringla reports that Gnupa was conquered by Gorm den Gamle, again placing his death later than Adam wanted it. Adam mentions that there were several kings at that time and expresses his doubt that Denmark represented a united kingdom.

Arild Huitfeldts Danmarks Riges Krønike tells how Gorm died. Gorm preferred the eldest son, Knud Dana-Ast, and he swore an oath that the messenger who brought him the news about Knud's death would be executed. The two sons, Knud and Harald, were true vikings, they left Denmark each summer on viking expeditions. Harald returned to the royal residence at Jelling with the news that Knud had been killed in an attempt to conquer Dublin in Ireland. He was shot with a coward's arrow, while he was watching some games in the evening. No one wanted to tell the king this, considering the oath he had sworn. Queen Thyra ordered to hang a black cloth up in the royal hall and that no one said a word. When Gorm entered the hall, he grew astonished and asked what this black mourning colour meant. Queen Thyra said:" My lord king, you owned two falcons, a white and a grey. The white flew far away and was attacked by other birds, who tore off its beautiful feathers, and it is now of no use to you." - "My son must have died, since all Denmark is mourning!" - "You said that my lord king and not I" said Thyra. "But what you said is the truth." According to the legend Gorm was so struck with sorrow that he died the following day.

Gorm was old in that sense that he was always considered the traditional ancestor of the Danish monarchy, the oldest in Europe. It was a tradition/ habit to give bynames to persons, since a last name was not used until the middle of the 1800s in Denmark. The by-name was in several categories: based upon an event, on physical marks, on a pun, or based upon the opposite of the person's character = a witty byname.

Den Store Danske, Gyldendals åbne enkyklopædi: Gorm den Gamle, died probably 958, Danish king. Gorm belonged to the Jelling dynasty, which according to Adam of Bremen came from "Nortmannia", = Norway or Normandy, and after 900 took the power from the dynasty which shortly before 900 came from Sweden. Gorm is mentioned for the first time in 936 when he gave archbishop Unni of Hamburg-Bremen a cool reception. He probably died in 958, this year a 40-50 year old male was buried in the northern hill in Jelling, and his bones were later re-buried in the first wooden church in Jelling. This man was probably Gorm, who must have been born between 908 and 918. According to the inscription on the small Jelling stone he was married to Thyra, and upon the large Jelling stone he is remembered as Harald I Blåtand's father. It is possible that Gorm's kingdom only was Jutland, but not certain, since it is not precisely known, what it means that Harald Blåtand "vandt sig al Danmark" (won himself all Denmark) as is written on the large Jelling stone.


Here is an essence of a very interesting article by Magnus Brandt Tingstrøm in the magasine "Would nowadays Danes be able to talk to Gorm the Old, if he came to their doorstep?" an interested reader asked this question, he had discussed the matter with some friends and now sought advise by: Spørg Videnskaben. (Ask Science).The question was sent to an expert, lektor and ph.d. Hans Götzsche for lingvistik at Ålborg University. Hans Götzsche points out that there would be no probability that a common Dane would be able to understand Gorm the Old. He explains that the Danish spoken language has changed radically since the time of the old Vikings. About 1000 years ago Danish could be said to be just one dialect of the common Nordic language, which was spoken in all of the North. Since then there have been great changes of the language in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Hans Götzsche says that the largest change happened from ab. 1000-1500. Gorm the Old spoke almost like Icelanders today, and they are not understandable to a Dane just like that.