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The Royal Power


It is via written sources that the first Danish royal names appear from the distant fog of our early history. From German records we get to know about the existence of Danish kings. But there have been kings, who only ruled parts of the Danish realm. And often kings in close proximity to the German realm. For instance in Southern Jutland.

It is first with Harald Bluetooth that we can be sure in defining the king as a person, who ruled the area, which the early Middle Ages describe as Denmark.

The Oldest Kings
In literature and in certain internet pages the names of many earlier kings occur. Especially kings, who are said to have ruled in Scania long before the end of the 10th century and the documented kings from this period. The fantasy names have unfortunately taken root, but they are from a period, when they could not distinguish between fiction and facts.
Saxo Grammaticus from the end of the 12th century has in the beginning of his enormous book many chapters on these legendary kings. The so-called ”Chronicle of the Lejre-kings is another early example of these fables. From the 17th century and onwards books on these legendary kings were printed. Unfortunately there are still imaginative ”truths” about this subject. Thus you have to be careful, when you want to write about the oldest, known kings in Denmark/Scania
At the peace talks in the year 811 between King Hemming and Karl the Great several Danish names are mentioned, among them ”Osfrid from Schonen”. Whether this man has been king of Scania we don´t know. By the beginning of the 10th century we encounter several kings’ names, but they only relate to western Denmark. It would be wrong to appoint these kings to be rulers in eastern Denmark/Scania
It is not until Harald Bluetooth that we encounter a king, whom we know for certain did rule most of Denmark/Scania. However, the written source materials are not definitive, but a combination of archaeological material and the so-called dendrodating, show that this must have been the case. It is in the 970’s that this king conquered eastern Denmark and laid the foundation for a larger cohesive kingdom.
The Christening of Harald Bluetooth
The Christening of Harald Bluetooth

Harald Bluetooth
We don’t know when the reign of Harald Bluetooth began. His father, Gorm, was hostile towards the Christians. However, in hear 948 three bishops were ordained in Jutland. This signifies that Harald at this time perhaps had taken over after his father.
Harald Bluetooth was married to Tofa, the daughter of a Wendish prince. Only a rune stone from Sønder Vissinge in Denmark provide information about Tofa: ” Tofa, Mistivoj’s daughter, Harald the Good, the bride of Gorm’ s son, set up this monument for his mother.”
Harald had the children Sweyn Forkbeard, who became a Danish king later on, Håkon, who ruled in Semland, Tyra, who was first married to the Swedish king Styrbjørn and later to the Norwegian king, Olav Trygvasson, and Gunhild, who was married in England. Adam of Bremen also mentions the son Iring, whom Harald had sent to England, but who had been killed there. It is also said that the king had other wives besides Tofa. Adam mentions for instance Gunhild and Saxo relates at the end of the 12th century that the king had married Gyrid, Styrbjørn´s sister.
Harald´s father in law Mistivoj had adopted the Christian faith and in the year 968 he had sanctioned the establishment of the Episcopal residence in Oldenburg. Mistivoj held on to Christianity and died in the monastery Bardowiek. Harald´s marriage to Tofa must have taken place in the 960´s. In the year 974 his son Sven is said to have been a small child. Perhaps it in connection with this marriage that Harald is baptized
Harald Bluetooth formed an alliance through his wife with a Wendish prince. The purpose of the alliance could have been to secure Harald´s expansion plans in Scandinavia and perhaps in England. In the 960´s the battle of Norway seems ho have become topical. Adam of Bremen writes in the year of 1070:
”Harald expanded his domain on the other side of the ocean to the Norwegians and the Angles. In Norway Hakon reigned and when the Norwegians had dethroned him because of his reckless behaviour, Harald reinstated him by way of his authority and made him conciliatory towards the Christians.”
In order to rule over England as well as Norway, and especially the Oslo inlet it was necessary to have a large fleet. It is not unreasonable to view the building of the enormous Aggersborg at Limfjorden as naval base for this conquest. The myths relate how the Norwegian king Harald was brutally murdered and how Harald Bluetooth later sailed to Norway with the Norwegian Hakon Jarl and an enormous fleet. This is supposed to have happened around the year 970.
When the German emperor Otto I died in the year 973, the Danes rebelled against the German suzerainty in Hedeby in Southern Jutland. Harald Bluetooth was supoorted in the fight by his Norwegian ally, Hakon Jarl. According to Snorre Sturlason, Hakon Jarl later crossed the Sound and burned and ravaged on both sides of the Sound on his way back to Norway. This information is important. If it is true it indicates that Zealand and Scania hadn´t yet been conquered by King Harald.
By the end of the 970´s King Harald conquered Zealand and parts of Scania. Then he built the large ring castle Trelleborg in Zealand. The castle has been dated to around the year 978. In Scania it seems to have been the Sound coast and the south coast, which were conquered.
In the beginning of the 980´s the great slave revolt erupted at the Baltic coast. It is all said to have been a heathen counter attack on the Christians. In Denmark Harald´s son, Sweyn, tried to take over. Adam writes:
”Suddenly a rebellion started, the Danes renounced Christianity, made Sweyn king and declared war on Harald… In this miserable war Harald and his supporters were defeated. The king himself was wounded and fled the battle, boarded a ship and he managed to escape to the society in the land of the slaves, which is called Jumne.”
King Harald died of his wounds here and was taken, according to Adam, back to Denmark by his soldiers, where he was buried in the church I Roskilde, which he had built on the honour of the Holy Trinity. Harald must have died in the year 985 or 986.
Danmark´s Birth Certificate
Danmark´s Birth Certificate

The Christian Harald
In the winter of 958-959 King Harald built the enormous hill in Jelling in Jutland, probably to bury his father or his mother in the wooden burial chamber in the hill. This heathen form of burial surely wouldn´t have been used if the king at that time had been baptized. A few years later, after the year 963, he built the large southern hill in Jelling. The work meant that they heightened an already existing hill. These certain dates from Jelling have been established via the so-called annual ring-dating of wooden objects. The years are important because they indicate the earliest possible time for Harald´s christening.
The large rune stone and the place upon the wooden church rests, are situated between to burial mounds in Jelling and they indicate that King Harald was a Christian. The text on the rune stone says: ”Harald King made these gravestones for Gorm his father and for Tyra, his mother. The Harald, who won all of Denmark and Norway and christianized the Danes.” The last sentence of the rune stone seems to have been added later.
As the marriage to Tyra hardly could have happened if Harald had been a pagan, and as the son, Sweyn was just a child in 974, the christening and the wedding must have taken place in the period.
The Three Jelling Stones
The Three Jelling Stones

©  Øresundstid 2009