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King Swein Forkbeard
Svend Tveskæg
ca. 960 - 1014     King  985 - 1014
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Danish Kings, from Gorm the Old to the present Queen Margrethe 2nd

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Shortly after the death of his father, Harald Bluetooth, a certain Sigvald and the Vikings from Jom took the young King Swein prisoner.  To free him, Swein’s followers were forced to pay ransom money.   From that moment on, Swein felt that his name, honour and reputation had been blemished.  A way to retain his name and reputation was to resume raiding the coasts of England.  In the meantime, Denmark was left in the hands of the Swedish King Erik Sejrsæl.  As a matter of interest, Swein later married Erik’s widow, Gunhild, the daughter of Duke Miscio of Poland.

For various reasons, the King of England, Æthelred the ‘Unready’ (born 979 - died 1016) was unable to defend the English coast from the Viking raiders.  To keep the peace and avoid defeat the English were forced to pay the Vikings huge amounts of silver, the so-called Dane geld.  Together with the Norwegian Olav Trygveson, Swein collected 16.000 pounds of silver in Dane geld in 994.

A few years later, Swein returned to Denmark to free it from the Swedes.  After some hard and vicious fighting near Hedeby, the Swedes were beaten and Swein finally took full control over Denmark again.  Swein’s next step was to rid himself of his former ally, the Norwegian Olav Trygveson.  This he did at the battle of Svold, (whereabouts unknown) were the Norwegian fleet was beaten, and Olav killed.  Swein was now master of Norway and Denmark.  To show his strength, Swein minted Denmark’s first official coinage.

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The Battle of Svold, 1000 ad.  Depicted on an older painting

 

In the mean time, Æthelred found it increasingly difficult to sustain peace with the Vikings by payment of Dane geld alone.  He then made his life’s greatest mistake, by ordering the murder of all Danes living in England.  This happened in 1002.  Back in Denmark, the natural reaction was to demand revenge.  The following years the Vikings raided the coasts of England again and again.  In 1013 these raids took on the form of an invasion.  Together with a huge fleet, and together with his young son, Canute, Swein tried to take London by siege, but without success.  Undaunted by this, Swein was paid homage to by the rest of the population.  London was alone, and consequently surrendered. 

In 1014, at a meeting in Gainsborough, Swein fell off his horse and died.  His body was taken to York, prior to being sailed back to Denmark for burial.

Swein’s eldest son, Harald, was elected as King of Denmark, whilst his youngest son, the 18-year-old Canute was to become the next Viking king of England.  Later to be known as Canute the Great.  Before this could happen, Canute had to fight Edmund Ironside, elected King of England and son of King Æthelred, who died in 1016.  The two, who divided England between them, made a truce.  Everyone expected them to make battle again, but Edmund died suddenly on the 30th of November 1016.  Now Canute was finally crowned as King of England, and reigned until his death in 1035.


Swein Forkbeard and Queen Gunhild had the children according to:
Nachkommen Gorms des Alten, 1978, Brenner, S. Otto
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Reference: 9. Harald 2. (989-1018) later King.
Reference: 9. Canute the Great, (995-1035) later King.
Reference: 29. Estrid  Svendsdatter.  Born 997 Died May 9, 1074 in Roskilde. Should have been married to Robert of Normandy, however, refused. First marriage to Richard (the Good), Duke of Normany. Second marriage to Ulf Jarl about. 1015th Children: 1 Asbjørn Jarl. 2 Svend II Estridsson, born ca. 1019, later king of Denmark.
Reference: 26. Gyda Svendsdatter.    Married in 996 with Erik Haakansson, Jarl in Norway and England. Children: 1 Hakon Eiriksson, Jarl in Norway.

 

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Revised and translated from the Danish by Christopher Paul Jarvis.

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