Ahhhh while I am enjoying my comfortable vacation in Paris, that does not mean I do not hear rumors of what is going on elsewhere in our world! Paris is a great city full of merchants and traders from near and far. Now that it is quiet on the Viking front- their raiding season is over and we can all rest easily for a bit- we get visitors even from that Northland, ones not involved in raiding, but true explorers and traders who travel to the farthest reaches of the world trading goods for wealth. Our city even now in these early times, known for it’s finest and trend setting attire. Wealthy women from as far away as those backwards kingdoms of Wessex and Northumbria, from those far northern places such as Kiev and even such places as Hedeby all send their merchants and messengers to us in search of precious materials and patterns… They even at times think to bribe our talent sewers and weavers into leaving us for their households. Thankfully, our women are most happy and content here, they would not dream of leaving such luxury as we have here for those wild and heathen places where their creations would not be so appreciated or seen by so many!
Of course, all of our best dressmakers and costumers are right now extremely busy and much overwhelmed by the daunting task of creating appropriate attire for the upcoming wedding of the Princess Gisla to our Viking friend Rollo! We are still negotiating this agreement and hopefully it will go through with few problems, but one never truly knows how things such as this will turn out? I am confident that Rollo and his current personal advisor, Sinric will manage to work all of this out. Please understand that in these times, this is a far more detailed process than just arranging a Royal wedding, which can be taxing in itself! It involves many various contracts, treaties and agreements between both sides and it is a very intricate and delicate negotiation. The slightest wrong wording of something, or misplaced comment could end the entire deal and put us all in danger once again! And, then there is the matter of Gisla herself, who as yet is still pouting, locked away in her quarters and refusing to give in on this marriage. To say that this court is in disarray is putting it quite mildly!
I am enjoying my time here but everyone’s nerves are a bit frayed by all of these wedding and treaty details going on here. The seamstresses have the duty to ensure plain Gisla is attired in all of the wealth and bounty accorded to her status… yes, they must turn her into a glorious swan that represents her Royal status and causes people to overlook her flaws, even her most apparent behavior flaws! I do not envy this task at all.
The other massive difficulty for our ladies is that not only must they dress Gisla appropriately, they must ensure that she has a wealth of linen goods to accompany her to her new household, should this marriage finally go through. It is generally expected that she will bring with her a great treasure of household goods to set up housekeeping where ever Rollo should find for them to live. This would include all of the finery that she is accustomed to such as bed linens, coverlets and hangings, tapestries and wall hangings, table linens and adornments, plus bolts of cloth for future use. Yes, the women are weary and stressed… and if this all should be for naught, they shall all be quite more vexed than they already are at the girl and her ongoing childish tantrums over such a thing as an arranged marriage for the good of their country. This is what happens when you spoil a child and give her far too much leeway in her thoughts. The women all agree that she is no different from any other girl who’s duty from birth is to work toward a marriage of alliances. I have also heard a number of women comment as to how if Gisla is not willing to do this, they would gladly trade places with her to wed and bed that Viking man, Rollo! He did cause quite a stir at his first court appearance and of course all of the women have heard the stories of his courage and bravery in battle!
In spite of all of this wedding chaos, they are also trying to keep up with the ongoing requests from all of those merchants and traders visiting the city because these women have good business sense! They are not willing to turn down a chance for profit and future business so they want to keep these merchants appeased as well. When I visited their quarters recently, they were busy with a design that I could tell immediately, was not meant for our Gisla. I made casual inquiry of who this gown was for. They responded that it was for a woman of high worth and quality in a far off North place of Hedeby… Hedeby? I was now quite curious as I know of only one woman of such worth who might be connected to Hedeby. I had to satisfy my curiosity and question them for more information on this woman. Unfortunately, they were unable to tell me much other than that the woman of worth was named Lagertha!
I watched them work on the gown and gazed thoughtfully at this creation still somewhat in it’s early stages. Such a beautiful dress, I thought to myself, it would look magnificent on Lagertha. As I continued to gaze at it, I was reminded of the wedding dresses that the far off future generations of brides will wear. They do not wear such types of all white dresses now but they do adorn themselves in all of the wealth and finery that they can afford to display their worth and their value to their future family. What ever the case or occasion, this dress does bespeak of that worth and value such as a regal bride, a queen, an Earl in her own right, or say possibly the wife of an Earl might wear!
As I left the sewing rooms, my thoughts turned to my friend Lagertha, to the mysterious Kalf, and to that kingdom which they were at such odds over… Hedeby. I thought of how disillusioned and angry Lagertha was when they left Paris. Her last trust in Ragnar destroyed, her son Bjorn having to choose between her and Ragnar once again, and her words to Kalf during this time. She had told Kalf that she would go with him, be with him with his understanding and acceptance that one day, she would kill him!
Lagertha is my friend, I love her dearly but sometimes she is just so stubborn and so insistent that she is right that she will not listen to the advice of others or listen to her own voice of reason. She is a fierce and mighty warrior and life often ends up as a battle or a competition to be won. I admire her for her determination and her pride, for her innate sense of honor and justice, and for her warrior spirit. She is so full of that spirit in all parts of her life, she lives, loves and fights with so much passion that sometimes it overshadows her clearer thinking. She has made her share of mistakes, she has survived and achieved her fame in what is truly a man’s world in this time but it has cost her much. Men have used her, betrayed her, abused her but she does not give up or give in easily in anything that matters to her heart. Once she has her mind set to something, it is almost impossible to sway her from it… Ragnar did remind Kalf of this when he told Kalf that the matter of Hedeby was a personal one that the two of them must work out for themselves.
When I think of the situation with Lagertha and Kalf, I know that much of it comes down to her insistence on being right in this matter of Hedeby, and her feeling that both Ragnar and Kalf have betrayed her. While she was away in England fulfilling her and Ragnar’s dream and enjoying her dalliance with King Ecbert, she left Kalf in Hedeby to be responsible for it in her absence. When she spoke of Kalf during this time, she spoke fondly of him and even before that, it obvious that were feelings between them.
So, with a possibility of some future together between Lagertha and Kalf, one which so many have such concerns and doubts about, let us look at the entire situation realistically. Let us look at Lagertha’s decisions, what ever Kalf may or may not be hiding or be responsible for, Ragnar’s involvement in all of it, and let us look at Hedeby itself- it’s importance and it’s history.
First of all, let us look at Hedeby, it’s importance and it’s history- and how that history and tradition relates to the present situation between Lagertha and Kalf. I do not want to overwhelm and overload you with historical facts, but my research has proven that Hedeby is clearly such an important place in history that it needs to be presented here in that context so that you understand some of the reasons behind Kalf’s behaviors and thoughts, Ragnar’s reasons for wanting to hold on to it and Kalf as an alliance, and Lagertha’s reasons for wanting it- because of it’s importance, it is of far more value than just her spoken reason of, I want it because it is mine! In looking at the history, we will also see why it might be next to impossible for her to actually rule this land on her own. When Kalf states his justification for having it, he may be more right than Lagertha. Ragnar as King, and as one who know much more about everything than he lets on, would clearly know of Hedeby’s history and understand how difficult this situation is. He would understand why Lagertha might not be able to achieve this rule but knowing Lagertha, he would also know very well that she would not be willing to listen to reason on this matter! As King, Ragnar should be aware of and knowledgeable about Kalf himself. Kalf admits that he has ambitions of fame and greatness for himself, but that he rightly fears Ragnar. As Kalf puts it, What man would not fear such a man as Ragnar, a farmer who made himself King! I have always been of the thought that there is more going on between Kalf and Ragnar behind the scenes and beneath the surface than we are aware of. Did they betray Lagertha outright with malicious and manipulative intent? Well, Ragnar has certainly betrayed her trust a number of times so, it wouldn’t be out of line for him to have betrayed her in this matter of Hedeby as well. On the other hand, he would know that this situation of Hedeby is a difficult one to solve and realistically, the easiest way to solve it would be as he put it, for Lagertha and Kalf to work it out. In some way, I think Ragnar’s rationale is that if Kalf and Lagertha were to marry and form such an alliance, it would keep Hedeby, Kalf and Lagertha closer under his control and his watchful eye, since it’s becoming abundantly clear that he trusts few, not even Lagertha any longer. Has Kalf betrayed her? Well, in some ways, yes of course he has but in looking back at the situation she left for him to manage, he may have felt justified and felt as well that he could find a way to work through this mess with her. He did tell her that he believed their lives and their fates were destined to be entwined together.
The history and importance of Hedeby
After researching the history of Hedeby, I am a little frustrated with how Michael Hirst has so far presented it and it’s importance to the Norse and Viking history. From what little information we have been given about the place, one might have a tendency to view it as a rather small, relatively unimportant village or earldom other for the fact that Lagertha ended up there when she left him and married the previous Earl. He does make some mention of it’s ships and that importance in his willingness to work with Kalf but other than that, it is portrayed as a place of little consequence other than to those living there. In reality, it was one of the major port settlements and one of the oldest kingdoms in that northern land. Until sometime in the mid 800s, it was a kingship in it’s own right.
Hedeby (Danish pronunciation: [ˈheːð̩byːˀ], Old Norse Heiðabýr, German Haithabu or Haddeby) was an important trading settlement in the Danish-northern German borderland during the Viking Age. It flourished from the 8th to the 11th centuries.
The site is located towards the southern end of the Jutland Peninsula. It developed as a trading centre at the head of a narrow, navigable inlet known as the Schlei, which connects to the Baltic Sea. The location was favorable because there is a short portage of less than 15 km to the Treene River, which flows into the Eider with its North Sea estuary, making it a convenient place where goods and ships could be ported overland for an almost uninterrupted seaway between the Baltic and the North Sea and avoid a dangerous and time-consuming circumnavigation of Jutland, providing Hedeby with a role similar to later Lübeck.
Hedeby is first mentioned in the Frankish chronicles of Einhard (804) who was in the service of Charlemagne, but was probably founded around 770. In 808 the Danish king Godfred (Lat. Godofredus) destroyed a competing Slav trade centre named Reric, and it is recorded in the Frankish chronicles that he moved the merchants from there to Hedeby. This may have provided the initial impetus for the town to develop. The same sources record that Godfred strengthened the Danevirke, an earthen wall that stretched across the south of the Jutland peninsula. The Danevirke joined the defensive walls of Hedeby to form an east-west barrier across the peninsula, from the marshes in the west to the Schlei inlet leading into the Baltic in the east.
The town itself was surrounded on its three landward sides (north, west, and south) by earthworks. At the end of the 9th century the northern and southern parts of the town were abandoned for the central section. Later a 9-metre (29-ft) high semi-circular wall was erected to guard the western approaches to the town. On the eastern side, the town was bordered by the innermost part of the Schlei inlet and the bay of Haddebyer Noor.
Hedeby became a principal marketplace because of its geographical location on the major trade routes between the Frankish Empire and Scandinavia (north-south), and between the Baltic and the North Sea (east-west). Between 800 and 1000 the growing economic power of the Vikings led to its dramatic expansion as a major trading centre.
The following indicate the importance achieved by the town:
- The town was described by visitors from England (Wulfstan – 9th century) and the Mediterranean (Al-Tartushi – 10th century).
- Hedeby became the seat of a bishop (948) and belonged to the Archbishopric of Hamburg and Bremen.
- The town minted its own coins (from 825?).
- Adam of Bremen (11th century) reports that ships were sent from this portus maritimus to Slavic lands, to Sweden, Samland (Semlant) and even Greece.
Situated in present-day Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein, the location at the neck of Jutland was the perfect site for a trading port, as pre-Viking settlers had already recognised. Here, only a narrow land-crossing separates the Schlei, an inlet of the Baltic, in the east from the then tidal river to the west, giving access to the North Sea. In what were the early days of kingdoms in Scandinavia, the wealth and power generated by long-distance trade prompted Hedeby’s documented foundation by Danish King Göttrik at the beginning of the ninth century. Commercial contact also meant cultural contact leading to the spread of ideas and beliefs as well as fashions and technologies. Trade flourished, workshops produced their wares, the harbour expanded. And at this place where political and cultural boundaries met, one of Scandinavia’s earliest towns developed and thrived. Merchant ships came and went with their cargoes of furs, amber, soapstone, semi-precious stones, iron, silver, glass-beads… and, not least, slaves.
But as a kingdom’s prized possession, Hedeby was fiercely fought over by rival rulers, and in the tenth century defences were built around it. In the course of the eleventh century, trading was relocated to a site at nearby Schleswig, and when Haithabu was ravaged in the middle of the century it was abandoned. The site within the semi-circular rampart was left virtually undisturbed in its rural context, keeping its memories and treasures hidden, until its rediscovery by archaeologists in the late nineteenth century.
So, obviously, Hedeby was an extremely important port which Kings such as Ragnar would have deemed crucial to have under their control. During much of the 9th century, Hedeby was under the control of Danish rulers but some time during the late 9th century it fell under the rule of a Swedish dynasty. A Swedish dynasty founded by Olof the Brash is said to have ruled Hedeby during the last decades of the 9th century and the first part of the 10th century. This was told to Adam of Bremen by the Danish king Sweyn Estridsson, and it is supported by three runestones found in Denmark. Two of them were raised by the mother of Olof’s grandson Sigtrygg Gnupasson. The third runestone, discovered in 1796, is from Hedeby, the Stone of Eric (Swedish: Erikstenen). It is inscribed with Norwegian-Swedish runes. It is, however, possible that Danes also occasionally wrote with this version of the younger futhark.
For a long period of time, Hedeby was the kingship location, not just an Earldom under the rule of a King. Mr. Hirst presents us with a version of Hedeby where the land is now a minor Earldom under the rule of Danes and a fictional Sigvard was Earl. Sigvard was domineering and abusive, often asserting his power and ownership over Lagertha. He is brutal, ill-tempered, and frequently drunk, beating Lagertha when she talks back to him. Sigvard dislikes Bjorn, Lagertha’s son with Ragnar, and takes pleasure in insulting and humiliating him in front of his people. Lagertha eventually stabbed him and his nephew, Einar killed him- it is important to remember, Lagertha did not kill him, Einar did!
After Sigvard’s death, supposedly the people chose Lagertha as their new Earl rather than Einar. Einar was not much more trusted or liked it would seem, than his uncle Sigvard. The fact that he had just murdered his uncle for control of the Earldom probably had something to do with their not choosing him as Earl. Yes, they did choose Lagertha as new Earl, which was extremely rare and not a generally accepted practice at the time, or for this land. I believe they would have expected her to quickly marry an acceptable candidate and then co-rule or step down in deference to the one she would marry. They would also have expected her to remain there as ruler during this most precarious transition period when the land would have been in disarray and turmoil over the recent events. This all brought Kalf into the picture. Kalf, also a fictional character, was Lagertha’s well trusted and liked second in command. We know little else of Kalf’s ties and relationships within Hedeby. He did state at one point that he had more right and claim to the title than Lagertha did. He was born in Hedeby…. but, surely there must be some other reason to justify his claim than just that fact? Hopefully, Mr. Hirst will address some of this in the future!
Before we go on with the real history of Hedeby, let’s look closer at what Kalf was dealing with in Hedeby when Lagertha so rashly decided to follow Ragnar to England. She left a land in disarray and expected Kalf to manage it all for her while she was gone. Kalf had to deal with Einar, who held a seething grudge against Lagertha for spurning his sexual offers- and for insulting him with the comment that he would never be Earl because even his own people considered him a failure and unworthy of ruling. Their decision to choose an outsider and a woman over him as the next male in line would surely have ate deeply at him and he would have reason to cause rebellion and revolt against her in her absence. Einar was bitter and willing to go to any lengths to see her deposed. Kalf is an intelligent man, always thinking ahead, and thinking of consequences and repurcussions. There would have been many who might side with Einar in his rants against Lagertha. Kalf had to find a way to diffuse this situation, not cause more rebellion by the killing of Einar. Kalf was in a difficult position. He could accuse Einar of treason and have him killed, but that would only lead to more rebellion. Kalf is also an ambitious man with goals of fame of his own. He has some reason or justification for feeling that he has right to this Earldom and he needs to find a way to accomplish that without complete civil war. He chose to indulge Einar and gain his support for him as Earl. I believe that he felt that he could work the situation out with Lagertha if or when she should ever return. Realistically, the land of Hedeby was in some chaos at this time without an actual ruler. Who knew if Lagertha or Ragnar would return from the voyage, how long does a country wait for a ruler to return? Kalf took the steps he needed to ensure that Hedeby had a ruler, one who was liked, trusted and capable of ruling. As to the situation with Erlandeur, son of King Horik… when we look closer at the history of Hedeby, we will see that Kalf may have his own reasons for luring Erlandeur in, for playing his own deceptive game with Erlandeur in order to eventually destroy the boy himself.
I’ve mentioned previously that we know little about Kalf’s past history or why he might feel justified in his claim to the Earldom. But, if we look at the history of Hedeby, we will find that it was Erlandeur’s father, a King Horick who was much responsible for the demise of any Royal households in Hedeby and it eventually lapsing into a more minor Earldom.
For our history purposes, I am only going to deal with the earlier periods of Hedeby’s history and not the later periods when it became a part of Denmark and Sweden at various point of time. As I have already stated, Hirst has placed it as an Earldom ruled by the Danes. There could of course be some future ambitions on Kalf’s part to undo this but we do not know of such plans right now. For now, I want to present the portion of history that ties Hedeby to the Carolingian Frankish Empire led by Charlamagne, and to Horick of Denmark.
This is a list of Kings of Hedeby covering the time period of 780 to about 916. If you look towards the bottom of the list, you will find reference to Ragnar Lodbrok’s son Ivar the Boneless. You will also notice reference to the lands held in Britain, as in York or Jorvick.
Kings of Hedeby (Haithabu) House of Vestfold c.780–798
Sigurd I … son of king Øystein of Vestfold in Norway; king in southern Jutland 798–804
Harald I … brother of Sigurd I 804
Harald II … son of Harald I 804–810
Halfdan … son of Harald I 810
Sigurd II … son of king Halfdan II of Vestfold, brother of Sigurd I 810
Godfred I … brother of Sigurd II; Vestfold 802–810? 810–812 Hemming … son of Sigurd II & 810–812
Sigurd III … son of Sigurd II 812
Anulo … son of Halfdan 812–814
Harald III, Klak … son of Halfdan; deposed, died 844 & 812–814
Rörik … son of Halfdan; deposed, died 844 813–854
Erik I … son of Godfred I 854–870:
Erik II … son of Erik I & 854–862
Sigurd IV … son of Erik I & 854–885
Godfred II … son of Harald III 870:–891:
Erik III … son of Erik II 891:–894
Knud … son of Rörik; deposed, died 894 House of York (Jórvík) 894–c.910
Oluf, the Brash … son of (?) king Ivar the Boneless of York, son of Ragnar Lodbrok c.910–c.915
Gurd … son of Oluf & c.910–c.915 Gnupa … son of Oluf c.915–c.916 Sigtryg … son of Gnupa
The early history of Kings of Daneland and specifically, Hedeby is actually documented within Frankish records of Charlamagne and later rulers. It is detailed in the Annales Fuldenses, or Annals of Fulda are East Frankish chronicles that cover independently the period from the last years of Louis the Pious (died 840) to shortly after the end of effective Carolingian rule in East Francia with the accession of the child-king, Louis III, in 900. Throughout this period they are a near contemporary record of the events they describe and a primary source for Carolingian historiography. They are usually read as a counterpart to the narrative found in the West Frankish Annales Bertiniani.
These Frankish annal mention early Rulers of Daneland and Hedeby. They also document much of the unrest and civil wars of Daneland and Hedeby during those early years. During many of those disputes, the early rulers of Hedeby sought protection and aid from the Frankish Empire. There is a very detailed account of this history in research regarding one of the rulers, Harald III, Klak. What is confusing here is that these early rulers of Hedeby were the earliest rulers of the entire land of Denmark. Because Hedeby was the largest and most important settlement at the time, the rulers generally located themselves in that area.
The earliest disputes came from King Horick’s Father, Godfrid and his brother Halfdan. Little is mentioned of Halfdan other than that he turned to Charlamagne and the Franks for aid. We do know more about Godfrid, who supposedly was murdered by one of his own sons…. an action which I would not put past or above Horik who eventually became King!
Fearing an invasion by the Franks, who had conquered heathen Frisia over the previous 100 years and Old Saxony in 772 to 804, Godfred began work on an enormous structure to defend his realm, separating Jutland from the northern extent of the Frankish Empire. The Frankish invasion never materialized, but it caused Gudfred to construct the first sections of the Danevirke, which ran from the Schlei toward the west coast of Denmark by means of the river Trende. The wall was built with an earthen embankment topped by a wooden stockade and protected from the south by a deep ditch. Denmark’s most important town, Hedeby, which apparently already existed on the Schlien, was expanded and garrisoned with Danish soldiers and the early sections of the wall were designed to protect it.
In 808, King Godfred forced the Obodrites to acknowledge him as their overlord. The citizens of Reric were allied with Charlemagne, who used the port as part of a strategic trade route. King Gudfred attacked Reric burnt it down, killed Chief Drożko and ordered the merchants to resettle at Hedeby, which was being integrated into the Danevirke defensive line.
In 809, King Godfred and emissaries of Charlemagne failed to negotiate peace. In 810, Gudfrid led 200 ships to plunder the Frisian coast, and forced the merchants and peasant to pay 100 pounds of silver and claimed Northern Frisia as Danish territory. To protect the northern coast of the Frankish Empire, Charlemagne began paying Viking chieftains to protect sections of the coast from the Schlei west to the Weser River. That same summer King Godfred was killed by one of his housecarls. According to Notker of St Gall, the bodyguard who murdered King Gudfred was one of his own sons.
For some reason, when Godfred died, his nephew, Hemming inherited the throne rather than any of his sons. No reason is given for this but in any case, Hemming’s rule did not last long. Hemming died and Sigifrid, the nephew of King Godofrid, and Anulo, the nephew of Heriold and of the former king, both wished to succeed him. Being unable to agree on who should be king, they raised troops, fought a battle, and were both killed. The party of Anulo won, however, and made his brothers Heriold and Reginfrid their kings. The defeated party out of necessity had to go along with Anulo’s party and did not reject the brothers as their kings. They say that ten thousand nine hundred and forty men died in that battle.” Heriold usually translated to Harald. This would bring us to Harald Klak as ruler of Hedeby and Denmark. Harald and his brother Reginfrid were installed as co-rulers.
There was another rebellion led by the sons of Godfred- Horik would have been among them… Harald and Reginfrid were defeated. The Annales entries of 814 start with the death of Charlemagne. Louis the Pious became sole emperor and turned to diplomatic relations with other European powers. The Royal Annales then mention the continuation of the conflict among the Danes and that Harald Klak sought refuge in the court of Louis. “Heriold and Reginfrid, kings of the Danes, had been defeated and expelled from their kingdom the year before  by the sons of Godofrid, against whom they regrouped their forces and again made war. In this conflict Reginfid and the oldest son of Godofrid were killed. When this had come to pass, Heriold despaired of his cause, came to the emperor [Louis], and put himself under his protection. The emperor received him and told him to go to Saxony and to wait for the proper time when he would be able to give him the help which Heriold had requested.
Eventually, some sort of agreement was made whereby Harald would be co-ruler with two of those sons. One of those sons would have been Horik. Everything remained calm for a time until Harald once again pleaded for assistance. He and a group of 400 Danes again sought sanctuary from the Frankish Empire and assistance to restore him to his throne. This assistance was granted on condition that he accept the Christian faith and be baptized. He was also granted land in the Frankish realm should he ever need to seek asylum or refuge in the future. On his return to Denmark Harald was probably accompanied by Saint Anskar and a group of monks and it may have been in this time that a church in Hedeby was first built, as well as a school were twelve Danish boys (some of whom were from Harald’s household) were to be educated as priests.
In the second year after his return to Denmark, however, in 827, he was once again expelled by the surviving sons of Gudfred. One of them was Horik I. The Royal Annals mention in 827: “The emperor [Louis] held two assemblies. One was at Nijmegen because Hohrek (Latin:Hohrici), son of Godofrid, the king of the Danes, had falsely promised to appear before the emperor.” Later in the year the Annals mention the deposition of Harald. “In the meantime the kings of the Danes, that is, the sons of Godofrid, deprived Heriold of his share of the kingship and forced him to leave Nordmannia.” The reason for the deposition is not mentioned. His introduction of Christianity may have also made him unpopular with his subjects.
It seems that, in the years between 829 and 852, Harald had remained a figure of some influence in the region, but he never again managed to launch a serious attempt to regain the Danish throne, nor did the Frankish monarchs seem interested in sending more armies to fight his cause. He died two years before his rival King Horik the elder.
Horik I (died 854) reigned as sole King of the Danes from 827 to his violent death in 854. His reign was marked by Danish raids on the Franco-German empire of Louis the Pious, son and successor of Charlemagne.
Horik’s father was King Gudfred, known for his successful raids and wars against Charlemagne’s Frankish empire and against the Abodrites. In 810, Gudfred was assassinated by one of his own sons, and his nephew and successor Hemming made peace with Charlemagne.
Hemming did not last long. Horik and another of Gudfred’s sons took power in 811, later expelling a rival named Harald Klak, who took refuge at the court of Charlemagne’s son and successor, Louis the Pious. In 819, Louis forced Gudfred’s sons to accept Harald as co-ruler. Harald converted to Christianity in 826, with Louis standing as his godfather, but Harald was driven out of Denmark for the second and final time one year later. By then Horik was the only son of Gudfred’s still alive, making him the sole king of the Danes.
Horik refused to convert to Christianity, as it was his enemies’ religion, and resisted attempts by Archbishop Anskar of Hamburg–Bremen to proselytize the Danes. In 845, Horik’s army attacked Hamburg and destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral there. It was Horik’s last major war in East Francia.
However, Danish raids against Frisia continued. The Franks lacked an effective fleet, so the Danes could raid more or less with impunity. The Danes sacked the silver minting center of Dorestad in 834, 835, and 836, and plundered Walcheren in 837. In 845, a Viking warlord named Ragnar Lodbrok attacked Paris and had to be bought off with 7,000 French livres (pounds) (2,570 kilograms (5,670 lb)) of gold and silver.
King Horik seems to have disapproved of these raids, for successful raiders constituted possible rivals. Occasionally, Horik even punished raiders. In 836, Horik sent an embassy to King Louis declaring that he had nothing to do with the raids on Frisia, and that he had executed those responsible. In 845, following Ragnar’s mysterious death, he had Ragnar’s followers massacred.
In 854, King Horik I was killed by a nephew whom he had driven into exile. While in exile, the nephew had become a successful raider. No mention or name was ever given of the nephew who killed him.
In our Viking version of the history, Kalf makes a point of stating that no Christian King would ever be able to rule their land or their people.
While our Kalf is a fictional creation, I can’t help but wonder what his past story is, how he might possibly be connected to any of Hedeby’s rich history of dissenters and disputes over the throne of Danemark?
Aside from Hedeby’s rich Royal links, it’s history goes even deeper than that.
The broad and deep impact of the Danish peoples on world history has been long appreciated by scholars of the middle ages. This is especially true for a branch of the Danish royal family that held the ancient town of Hedeby for many centuries. Hedeby was perhaps the oldest and largest town and the most active marketplace in ancient Scandinavia. Hedeby lies in the ancient region of Angle, which is now positioned in the modern German district of Schleswig-Holstein.
Wikinger Museum Haithabu
The Angles, a subgroup of the Danish peoples, are well known in history for their role in the Anglo-Saxon development of England. The full extent of Danish influence and especially that of the Angles, however, is only recently beginning to surface. This site is developed for the purpose of further documenting the role of the Angles in world history in accordance with recent and ongoing discoveries, including those based on archeology, DNA and various other forms of research.
The seat of power in Angle was Hedeby-Haithabu, and the regional name of Angle derives from the angled, or curved shape of the large semi-circular bailey fort at Hedeby. Hedeby was an ideal location due to its position at the end of a very long inlet that cuts half way through lower Denmark. Merchants would pass through Hedeby to substantially reduce transit time and risk, a benefit for which merchants were happy to pay a toll to the kings of Angle.
A dominant feature of the fort at Hedeby was the placement of Hawthorn bushes atop a tall earthen wall. These bushes bristle with long, sharp thorns, providing additional defense against invaders. The wall was curved (angled) in a semi-circle, with one side opening to a bay. This curved wall and the thorns of the Hawthorn bush are defining features of the fort at Hedeby, and many places and people from Angle are named in honor of these and other features of the Hedeby fort. The list of such names is quite long, but we might consider a few root words and composite names relevant to the I1a migration topic:
- Bul/Bol: cognate with ball, bowl, meaning “round, curved”
- Rus/Ris: derives from O.N. hris, meaning “thorny thicket”
- Ger/Gar: derives from PIE *ghers- “stand out, rise to a point, bristle” used to name the thorny briar and spear
- Poe/Pa: cognate with pea, meaning “round, curved”
- Tringen: Old Frisian, “ring, curved”
- Phris/Pres: authorities beginning with Chalmers (see Watson) correctly identified -fries with Gaelic preas, Angl. pres(s), gen. phris, Angl. -fries, gen. pl. preas, (b)p(h)reasach, “bush, copse, thicket, briar”
From these root words, we get the following names:
- Bulgar, “round [wall] of thorns”
- Rus, “thorny thicket”
- Rustringen, “round [wall] of thorny thicket”
- Paris, “round [wall] of thorny thicket”
- Frisia, “land named for the thorny thicket”
These names support the notion that Hedeby is the nucleus for migration of the Angles to Paris, York, Frisia, Kiev, Bolghar (Volga Bulgars), and Bulgaria (Danube Bulgars).
The Angles are known to have favored York and we know that a mass migration from Angle to York happened in the 5th century. In the 9th century, the famous Viking Ragnar was ruler of Hedeby and was captured and killed in York. His son Sigurd (aka Ingvar) captured York, which became an Angle stronghold and the capital of Northumbria. A tribe called the Parisii held York in the 1st century. As mentioned, the Parisii and Paris derive from Pa-hris, “round [wall] of thorny thicket” and are named in honor of Hedeby. The Parisii “tribe” was also found in France near Paris.
Frisia is an ancient land lying within the current political boundaries of The Netherlands. The Frisii and Frisia are names for the fris or thorny thicket ring hedge that characterized Hedeby. Similarly, the Belgea and Bulgar are each named for the boll-ger, or “ring of thorns.”
The use of thick hedgeworks for defense was not known in Italy. A tribe of the Belgea, the Nervii, became known to Julius Caesar during his campaigns. The Nervii tribe, he says, had an ancient practice: they cut into slender trees and bent them over so that many branches came out along their length; they finished these off by inserting brambles and briars, so that these hedges formed a defense like a wall, which could not only not be penetrated but not even be seen through. There is some evidence for hedges from excavation. For instance, Hawthorn berry pits are found in great quantities in the refuse layers of Hedeby. Archeologists are puzzled, as Hawthorn berries are not generally considered edible. Also, part of a hedge was excavated at Bar Hill (Dunbartonshire). Beneath the Roman fort were found hawthorn stems.
There is one other very important concept that these earliest Dacians/Angels passed on to their future generations, and it applies directly to the situation that Lagertha is in right now with regard to ruling Hedeby. That extremely critical and paramount concept is, The Right to Rule!
Right to Rule
Claimants to power in Angle were from a ruling family, with preference given to the eldest male most closely related to the prior ruler. This tradition reduced the likelihood of conflict during times of transition and served to concentrate wealth and power. This tradition continued in Russia, Scotland, Flanders, Normandy, post-conquest England and other regions controlled by the Angles, likewise serving to enable the formation of powerful governments and military capabilities. Conflicts were reduced to situations where the lack of an immediate male heir led to contested claims by paternal cousins.
The origin of this behavior is perhaps based on the very ancient notion that the royal family descends from the gods. Perhaps this concept was borrowed by the Dacians and Thracians from the Romans. The family of Julias Caesar (gens Julia), for example, claimed to descend by Venus through Aeneas. The original royal family of Norway were said to be descended from Odin. Frey was the main god of kingship among the Swedes and the royal family (the Ynglings) were believed to have descended from him.
We should consider the many similarities among the the Goths, Dacians and Thracians. They shared common cultural characteristics and often shared a common government. We might consider the possibility that these groups of peoples were aware of their common heritage and perhaps ruled by branches of a common ruling family.
When Kalf makes his point that he has better right and claim than Lagertha, the most rational or real reason for that could be if he is hiding something in his family history that would somehow link him to that “Right to Rule”? Just the fact that he is from Hedeby would not necessarily give him just reason to make such claim over hers. In Lagertha’s defense, she was the wife of the previous Earl and the people did choose her, although they later changed their mind. And, in looking at the history of Hedeby as we have, if Kalf does have some as yet unknown better claim to Hedeby, he might have some better claim to the rule of all Danemark because it is all tied together!
If one observes Kalf and his actions in Paris, he does present a regal and confident appearance. Some might say he displays that inherent leadership quality and bearing that those who carry a Leadership gene present naturally. So, where might he have inherited it from, and what does he do with it in the future? Some of you are probably asking, What the Hell is a Leadership gene anyway and what does it have to do with this subject!
Well, that my friends is what I intend to discuss in my next post! We will look this leadership gene concept and how it relates and applies to that concept of Right to Rule and Rule by divine right!
For more information on the rich history of Hedeby, here are some additional excellent links!
Hurstwic: Towns and Traditions
Viking Museum Haithabu
The Vikings- Heading west: