Tag Archive | aslaug

Some early Saxon history: From Aethelwulf and descendants to Ivar the Boneless!

 

 

 

First of all, remember to fight/vote! Shirtless men are in an even race with Highland Warriors…

Now on to our history lesson for the night! You may recall that recently I sent a message to Athelstan urging him to tread cautiously and carefully in affairs of the heart where the Lady Judith, wife of Aethulwulf is concerned?

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/vikings-message-to-athelstan/

aethelwulf vikings2 judith vikings

more wooo but with who?

more wooo but with who?

Well, tonight’s history lesson has to do with descendants of Aethulwulf. If you remember, I did mention how important his descendants are in the future rule of England.  I just recently came across an interesting article and discovery about one of his descendants! It is a bit of old news but seeing as I just discovered it, some of you may also find it interesting as well?

Remains discovered in Germany confirmed as oldest confirmed British Royal, who died more than 1,000 years ago

Bones found in a German cathedral belong to the granddaughter of Saxon king Alfred the Great, experts confirmed today.  Body parts excavated in Magdeburg Cathedral in 2008 are those of Saxon princess Eadgyth, who died more than 1,000 years ago.  They are the oldest surviving remains of an English royal burial, according to experts at the University of Bristol who analysed the skeletal fragments to piece together a snapshot of the princess’s life.

640px-HerscherpaarMagdeburgCathedral Eadgyth and otto

Eadgyth was married off to Otto I, the Great, in AD 929 by her half brother Athelstan, who was the first king to rule all of England.   As wife of the king of Saxony, she lived most of her married life in Magdeburg, capital of Saxony-Anhalt, and had at least two children.  Eadgyth died in AD 946 aged about 36 and was buried in the monastery of St Maurice in Switzerland.  Her bones were moved at least three times before being finally interred in an elaborate tomb in Magdeburg Cathedral in 1510.

Edward

Two years ago, German archaeologists opened the tomb, expecting it to be empty.  To their surprise, they found it contained a lead box bearing the inscription ‘The remains of Queen Eadgyth are in this sarcophagus’.   When they opened the coffin they discovered bone fragments wrapped in silk.  It is thought some of the missing body parts, including hands and feet and much of the skull, were probably taken by medieval relic hunters.  An analysis of the remains by Professor Kurt Alt at the University of Mainz established they were those of a female who died aged between 30 and 40.  Professor Alt also found evidence that the woman was a frequent horse rider and ate a high protein diet with large amounts of fish, which suggested she had enjoyed an aristocratic lifestyle.

I find the article interesting from a scientific point of view even though I do question the need for opening up a coffin to examine the remains in order to prove exactly who the person was. If there was a sound reason for a more thorough and in depth examination, it might sit better with me? An example of a more sound reason to prove who ancient remains are would be in a case such as the controversy over skeletal remains which might or might not be connected to mystery of the Princes of the Tower. But, that is another story for another time!

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1287283/Remains-Saxon-princess-Eadgyth-oldest-British-Royal-discovered-Germany.html#ixzz3Qg4fjq4q
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I know you are thinking, Ohhh well an odd and interesting bit of information- but what does she have to do with Aethulwulf?

Well, if you follow along with my very brief genealogy lesson, you will see how she is related to our Aethelwulf… You know, the one who is turning more and more to a life of pious devotion to God? Oh, by the way, he passes this devotion down to future generations as well!

what goes on here 2

what goes on here 2

what on earth is going on here?

what on earth is going on here?

 

Eadgyth, or Edith was born to the reigning English king Edward the Elder by his second wife, Ælfflæd, and hence was granddaughter of Alfred the Great. Nothing is known of her until in order to seal an alliance between two Saxon kingdoms, her half-brother, King Athelstan of England, sent two of his sisters (Eadgyth and Eadgifu of Wessex) to Germany, instructing the Duke of Saxony (later Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor) to choose whichever one pleased him best. Otto chose Edith and married her in 930. The remaining sister Algiva or Adiva was married to a “king near the Jupiter mountains” (the Alps). The precise identity of the husband of this sister is debated.

In 936 King Henry I of Germany died and his eldest son, Eadgyth’s husband, was crowned at Aachen as King Otto I. There is a surviving report of the ceremony by Widukind of Corvey which makes no mention of his wife having been crowned at this point, but according to Thietmar of Merseburg‘s chronicle Eadgyth was nevertheless anointed as queen, albeit in a separate ceremony. As queen, Eadgyth undertook the usual state duties of “First lady”: when she turns up in the records it is generally in connection with gifts to the state’s favoured monasteries or memorials to holy women and saints. In this respect she seems to have been more diligent than her now widowed and subsequently sainted mother-in-law Queen Matilda whose own charitable activities only achieve a single recorded mention from the period of Eadgyth’s time as queen. There was probably rivalry between the Benedictine Monastery of St Maurice founded at Magdeburg by Otto and Eadgyth in 937, a year after coming to the throne and Matilda’s foundation at Quedlinburg Abbey, intended by her as a memorial to her husband, the late King Henry I.

Eadgyth accompanied her husband on his travels, though not during battles. She spent the hostilities of 939 at Lorsch Abbey

Like her brother, Athelstan, Edith was devoted to the cult of Saint Oswald and was instrumental in introducing this cult into Germany after her marriage to the emperor. Her lasting influence may have caused certain monasteries and churches in Saxony to be dedicated to this saint.

Eadgyth’s death at a relatively young age, in her early thirties, was unexpected.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadgyth

Eadgyth was the granddaughter of one Alfred the Great, who was the son of Aethelwulf! 

Alfred was born in the village of Wanating, now Wantage, Oxfordshire. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife,Osburh.

In 853, at the age of four , Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who “anointed him as king”. Victorian writers later interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, his succession could not have been foreseen at the time, as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a “consul“; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.  It may also be based on Alfred’s later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855.

On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming, the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e., traditional Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east.

When King Æthelwulf died in 858, Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred’s brothers in succession, Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred.

Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in Saxon, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it.  Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn’s disease.  Statues of Alfred in Winchester and nev Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong, and though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than a warlike character.

During the short reigns of the older two of his three elder brothers, Æthelbald of Wessex and Æthelberht of Wessex, Alfred is not mentioned. An army of Danes which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described as the Great Heathen Army had landed in East Anglia with the intent of conquering the four kingdoms that constituted Anglo-Saxon England in 865.  It was with the backdrop of a rampaging Viking army that Alfred’s public life began, with the accession of his third brother, Æthelred of Wessex, in 866.

640px-England_Great_Army_map_svg

It is during this period that Bishop Asser applied to Alfred the unique title of “secundarius”, which may indicate a position akin to that of the Celtic tanist, a recognised successor closely associated with the reigning monarch. It is possible that this arrangement was sanctioned by Alfred’s father, or by the Witan, to guard against the danger of a disputed succession should Æthelred fall in battle. The arrangement of crowning a successor as royal prince and military commander is well known among other Germanic tribes, such as the Swedes and Franks, to whom the Anglo-Saxons were closely related.

Fighting the Viking invasion

In 868, Alfred is recorded as fighting beside Æthelred in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless out of the adjoining Kingdom of Mercia.  At the end of 870, the Danes arrived in his homeland. The year which followed has been called “Alfred’s year of battles”. Nine engagements were fought with varying outcomes, though the place and date of two of these battles have not been recorded. Yes, if that Viking Heathen name sound familiar, you would be correct in having heard of it in our Viking Saga! Ivar the Boneless is one of the sons of Ragnar and Aslaug… You know, that poor infant that Aslaug warned Ragnar would be cursed, and the one that she as his Mother could not and would not leave to die.

In Berkshire, a successful skirmish at the Battle of Englefield on 31 December 870 was followed by a severe defeat at the siege and Battle of Reading by Ivar’s brother Halfdan Ragnarsson on 5 January 871. Four days later, the Anglo-Saxons won a brilliant victory at the Battle of Ashdown on the Berkshire Downs, possibly near Compton or Aldworth. Alfred is particularly credited with the success of this latter battle.

Later that month, on 22 January, the English were defeated at the Battle of Basing. They were defeated again on 22 March at the Battle of Merton (perhaps Marden in Wiltshire or Martin in Dorset). Æthelred died shortly afterwards on 23 April.

Alfred eventually went on to defeat the Dane Vikings and unite much of England under one rule.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

Statue_of_King_Alfred_in_Wantage_Market_Square Alfred the Great 1024px-Southwark_Bridge_City_Plaque 1024px-A_Chronicle_of_England_-_Page_057_-_Alfred_Plans_the_Capture_of_the_Danish_Fleet

Seeing as Ivar the boneless was mentioned in connection with Alfred’s history, I feel it important to include a bit of history on him as he is one of Ragnar’s sons!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivar_the_Boneless

aslaug pregnant as usual Aslaug and Ragnar with Ivar

Ivar the boneless

Ivar was one of the leaders of the Great Heathen Army which invaded the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia in 865.  According to the Norse sagas this invasion was organised by the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, of whom Ivar was one, to wreak revenge against Ælla of Northumbria. Ælla had supposedly executed Ragnar in 865 by throwing him in a snake pit, but the historicity of this explanation is unknown. The invaders are usually identified as Danes, although the tenth-century churchman Asser stated in Latin that the invaders came “de Danubia”, which translates into English as “from the Danube“, the fact that the Danube is located in what was known in Latin as Dacia suggests that Asser may have actually intended Dania, a Latin term for Denmark.

the snake pit

King Aelle’s snake pit!

 

The Great Heathen Army landed in East Anglia in the autumn of 865, where they remained over the winter and secured horses for their later efforts.  The following year the army headed north and invaded Northumbria, which was in the midst of a civil war between Ælla and Osberht, warring claimants for the Northumbrian throne.  Late in 866 the army conquered the rich Northumbrian settlement of York.   The following year Ælla and Osberht put their differences aside, and teamed up to retake the town. The attempt was a disaster and both of them lost their lives.  According to legend, Ælla was captured alive, but was executed by Ivar and his brothers using the blood eagle, a method of execution whereby the ribcage is opened from behind and the lungs are pulled out, forming a wing-like shape.  With no obvious leader, Northumbrian resistance was crushed and the Danes installed a puppet-king, Ecgberht, to rule in their name and collect taxes for their army.

Later in the year the Army moved south and invaded the kingdom of Mercia, capturing the town of Nottingham, where they spent the winter.  The Mercian king, Burghred, responded by allying with the West Saxon king Æthelred, and with a combined force they laid siege to the town. The Anglo-Saxons were unable to recapture the city, but a truce was agreed whereby the Danes would withdraw to York. The Great Heathen Army remained in York for over a year, gathering its strength for further assaults.

The Danes returned to East Anglia in 869, this time intent on conquest. They seized Thetford, with the intention of remaining there over winter, but they were confronted by an East Anglian army.[13] The East Anglian army was defeated and their king, Edmund, was slain.  Medieval tradition identifies Edmund as a martyr who refused the Danes’ demand to renounce Christ, and was killed for his steadfast Christianity.  Ivar and Ubba are identified as the commanders of the Danes, and the killers of Edmund.  How true the later accounts of Edmund’s death are is unknown, but it has been suggested that his capture and execution is not an unlikely thing to have happened.

Following the conquest of East Anglia Ivar apparently left the Great Heathen Army – his name disappears from English records after 870.

 

 

Scandinavian sources for Ivar Boneless

According to the saga of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ivar Boneless was the eldest son of Ragnar and Aslaug. It is said he was fair, big, strong, and one of the wisest men who had ever lived. He was consequently the advisor of his brothers Björn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Hvitserk.

The story has it that when king Ælla of Northumbria had murdered their father, by throwing Ragnar into a snake-pit, Ivar’s brothers tried to avenge their father but were beaten. Ivar then went to king Ælla and sought reconciliation. He only asked for as much land as he could cover with an ox’s hide and swore never to wage war against Ælla. Then Ivar cut the ox’s hide into so fine strands that he could envelope a large fortress (in an older saga it was York and according to a younger saga it was London) which he could take as his own. (Compare the similar legendary ploy of Dido.)

Right after the messenger of king Ælla delivered the message that Ragnar had died to Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-eye, and Hvitserk, Ivar said: “I will not take part in or gather men for that, because Ragnar met with the fate I anticipated. His cause was bad; he had no reason to fight against King Ella, and it has often happened that when a man wanted to be overbearing and wrong others it has been the worst for him; I will take wergild from King Ella if he will give it”.[24]

As Ivar was the most generous of men, he attracted a great many warriors, whom he subsequently kept from Ælla when Ælla was attacked again by Ivar’s brothers. Ælla was captured, and when the brothers were to decide how to give Ælla his just punishment, Ivar suggested that they carve the “blood eagle” on his back. According to popular belief, this meant that Ælla’s back was cut open, the ribs pulled from his spine, and his lungs pulled out to form “wings.”

In Ragnar Lodbrok’s saga, there is an interesting prequel to the Battle of Hastings: it is told that before Ivar died in England, he ordered that his body was to be buried in a mound on the English Shore, saying that so long as his bones guarded that section of the coast, no enemy could invade there successfully. This prophecy held true, says the saga, until “when Vilhjalm bastard (William the Conqueror) came ashore[,] he went [to the burial site] and broke Ivar’s mound and saw that [Ivar’s] body had not decayed. Then [Vilhjalm] had a large pyre made [upon which Ivar’s body was] burned… Thereupon, Vilhjalm proceeded with the landing invasion and achieved] the victory.  What is interesting about this particular legend is if you look at the ancestry of William the Conqueror, you find that he was descended from the Viking, Rollo…  Ivar sets forth a prophecy or curse that no “enemy” would invade that coast successfully, but if William’s ancestry is taken into account, he would not necessarily be an enemy, would he? But, more of a distant descendant!

Explanation for Ivar’s nickname:

There is some disagreement as to the meaning of Ivar’s epithet “the Boneless” (inn Beinlausi) in the sagas. Some have suggested it was a euphemism for impotence or even a snake metaphor (he had a brother named Snake-in-the-Eye). It may have referred to an incredible physical flexibility; Ivar was a renowned warrior, and perhaps this limberness gave rise to the popular notion that he was “boneless”. The poem “Háttalykill inn forni” describes Ivar as being “without any bones at all”.

Alternatively, the English word “bone” is cognate with the German word “Bein”, meaning “leg”. Scandinavian sources mention Ivar the Boneless as being borne on a shield by his warriors. Some have speculated that this was because he could not walk and perhaps his epithet simply meant “legless”—perhaps literally or perhaps simply because he was lame. Other sources from this period, however, mention chieftains being carried on the shields of enemies after victory, not because of any infirmity.

John Haywood put forth another hypothesis from the origin of Ivar’s nickname:  the nickname, in use by the 1140s, may be derived from a 9th-century story about a sacrilegious Viking whose bones shriveled and caused his death after he plundered the monastery of Saint- Germain near Paris.

Genetic disease

Still another interpretation of the nickname involves Scandinavian sources as describing a condition that is sometimes understood as similar to a form of osteogenesis imperfecta. The disease is more commonly known as “brittle bone disease.” In 1949, the Dane Knud Seedorf wrote:

Of historical personages the author knows of only one of whom we have a vague suspicion that he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, namely Ivar Benløs, eldest son of the Danish legendary king Regnar Lodbrog. He is reported to have had legs as soft as cartilage (‘he lacked bones’), so that he was unable to walk and had to be carried about on a shield.

There are less extreme forms of this disease where the person afflicted lacks the use of his or her legs but is otherwise unaffected, as may have been the case for Ivar the Boneless. In 2003 Nabil Shaban, a disability rights advocate with osteogenesis imperfecta, made the documentary The Strangest Viking for Channel 4‘s Secret History, in which he explored the possibility that Ivar the Boneless may have had the same condition as himself. It also demonstrated that someone with the condition was quite capable of using a longbow, such that Ivar could have taken part in battle, as Viking society would have expected a leader to do.

 

That concludes our history lesson for the night, from Aethelwulf and his descendants to Ivar the Boneless and how they’re all a part of early Saxon history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Viking adventure: Last thoughts before I embark!

 

 

 

 

Previous related post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/reflections-wishes-and-suggestions-for-the-new-year/

I am so excited, nervous, and just a little overwhelmed with all of the preparations for this trip! There are still a few final details to get worked out with the travel arrangements and a bit of last minute research, but Mrs. Graham assures me that we are almost ready for my departure. While she and her staff are seeing to the final travel details, I am trying to cram in as much history and varied information as possible and go over notes on what Mrs. Graham and her associates want me to pay most attention to as far as documentation?  They want me to keep a close eye on a man named Rollo? It seems they are concerned about his behaviors and are wondering if he truly is destined for greatness? They also want more information on Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons… there is so much controversy on all of them that it would be helpful to sort out the myths from fact.

mrs graham and tea leaves2

Ahhhh Mrs. Graham, I am so grateful to her for this opportunity! I only hope I make it back to see her again, and don’t end up regretting taking her up on this offer, or cursing her name and existence at some point in the future during this experience! Let’s pray that her tea leaf readings are not just a bunch of fanciful imagination!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/category/mrs-graham-of-outlander/

tea leaf reading2

 

Before I leave on my adventure, I do have a few last thoughts and research notes I would like to share.

First of all, my thoughts on how one chooses to look at history and learn it? There is much debate and criticism over the methods used to learn history… Many historians and intellectuals look down on the history information provided in fiction as in books, movies and television. I keep seeing the comments on how inaccurate all of this information is and how it does more harm than good to be presented in such formats. These academics insist that if one wants the truest picture of history, then they need only concern themselves with non-fictional accounts and documents. Every time a historical novel or show arrives on the scene it is picked apart and criticized for all of it’s inaccuracies, frowned upon as a misleading or misrepresentation of what actually happened.  Yes, I do agree in some part with those observations. There are any number of books and shows that so blatantly disregard the facts and misrepresent the events and as a result, can not be considered as any form of historical representation at all. I have read and viewed more than my share of those, and do not bother to comment on them or share them here!

My disagreement with such academics and historians is in terms of  what is accurate, what is the truth? There is a much common phrase that, History is written by and colored by the victors. For that reason, the so called documentation and accurate evidence cited is often written in terms of what the victorious side wanted portrayed. With the more ancient past, much of the time, the losing sides were so decimated as not to even leave behind any trace as to what their side of the story or event might have been. So, by all rights, even the most supposedly accurate accounts of an historical event are colored by the writer’s viewpoint and perspective at that time.

My other personal thought on the subject is that any book or show that sparks an interest finding out more about history is well worth the reading or the viewing! I hear so often from so many people that they don’t like history, it’s sooo boring and does not interest them at all? I usually ask them what they do like to read or watch, and then explain to them that everything from sci-fi, fantasy, horror or  suspense and  mystery… what ever genre they have mentioned, has already been written about throughout history. When put that way, it sparks their curiosity in history. An example of this is the horror genre. Now, I am not a fan of this genre by any means but a recent conversation with a group of young people who are fans led to my suggestion that if they want some short horror stories, they should perhaps try reading the original Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales!

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/index2.html

Another example of generating interest in history; I recently watched an old movie with a young co-worker.  The movie was Gypsy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsy_(musical), it was an entertaining musical about the life of Gypsy Rose Lee. My young co-worker enjoyed the movie and was surprised when I mentioned that it was about a real woman. She then asked me for more information so she could find out more.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it spurred her interest in a past time period- and sometimes, that is all it takes!  My only slight concern on this particular occasion is the thought of not hoping that my young co-worker is not considering a change of careers now? Ahhhh well, I guess if she chooses this path, at least she will be an entertainer with some class!

Gypsy_Rose_Lee_NYWTS_1 Gypsy-Rose-Lee-photo

 

When history is presented in a way that people can relate to, it becomes more real, more personal and so much more interesting and valuable to them! If one begins their journey and education through history because of a so called frivolous book or silly show, what does it really matter as long as they are motivated to pick up a book, to search for  knowledge in any way that keeps them interested and wanting to learn more? Eventually their path will take them to the more truthful and accurate facts such as they exist.

 

Now back to our Vikings related research!

As I mentioned, I am finishing up some of the last minute research regarding the general time period. In a previous post, I mentioned a few book suggestions for additional information and insight into the importance of this time period and some of the historical figures related to it.  One book is of particular importance even though it deals with a much later time frame?

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9223563-i-am-the-chosen-king?ac=1

I finished the book and have nothing but praise for Helen Hollick’s representation of all the characters involved in this historically important event! She gave an excellent portrayal of all the people, and presented them on a well even playing field. What she does for this event in history is provide us with a sense and feeling of their emotions, she gives us a well thought out picture of who they were and why they made the choices they did. Even though I knew perfectly well how it was going to end, she held my interest and my concern for all of them until the very end. She gave a detailed, but not overly bogged down and boring account of that final battle between the two men who would be King at Hastings. In those final pages and moments, she gave us some much appreciated and welcome thoughts on how each of the men might have felt at the end, knowing the importance of the outcome and what their fates would be if they lost the battle. She made me care about both men, see the event and the history from each of their perspectives.  The book  gave me insight into each of their possible personalities, their character traits and caused me to think more on how each of their past histories brought them to this point in time!

The reason I feel this book and these two men are so important to our journey to an earlier time is due to who and where they each came from. If you trace each of their ancestries, you will see the irony and the twist of fate or what ever you want to call it that led these two men to face each other in a final battle for the future of England.

Harold Godwinson, the chosen King of England

harold godwinnson

Harold Godwinson

Harold II (or Harold Godwinson) (Old English: Harold Godƿinson; c. 1022 – 14 October 1066), was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.  Harold reigned from 6 January 1066  until his death at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror during the Norman conquest of England. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England.

Harold was a powerful earl and member of a prominent Anglo-Saxon family with ties to King Cnut. Upon the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066, the Witenagemot convened and chose Harold to succeed; he was crowned in Westminster Abbey. In late September he successfully repulsed an invasion by rival claimant Harald Hardrada of Norway, before marching his army back south to meet William the Conqueror at Hastings some two weeks later.

On the surface, it may not seem that Harold had any real tie or connection to that earlier time of the Vikings, the one which we will be soon visiting. If you look closer into his family’s history however, you will find them closely tied to those Vikings and their eventual dynasty.

This is a quick, abbreviated history of Harold’s family and their ties to the history of Denmark. I do not want to overwhelm you or bog you down with excessive details on this. I do want to point out that if you are interested in how this matters, you should pay most attention to his Mother’s lineage and connections. His Mother, Gytha Thorkelsdottir was the one who brought the historical tie and passed it down to her son.

Harold was a son of Godwin, the powerful Earl of Wessex, and Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, sister-in-law of King Cnut the Great of England and Denmark. Gytha’s brother was Ulf Jarl, who was married to Cnut’s sister Estrith. This made Ulf the son-in-law of King Sweyn Forkbeard,  and the father of King Sweyn II of Denmark. Godwin was the son of Wulfnoth, probably a thegn and a native of Sussex.Godwin remained an earl throughout Cnut’s reign, one of only two earls to survive to the end of Cnut’s reign. On Cnut’s death, Godwin originally supported Harthacnut instead of Cnut’s initial successor Harold Harefoot, but managed to switch sides in 1037, although not without becoming involved in the murder of Alfred Aetheling, half brother of Harthacnut and younger brother of the later King Edward the Confessor.  When Harold Harefoot died, Harthacnut became king and Godwin’s power was imperiled by his earlier involvement in Alfred’s murder, but an oath and large gift secured the new king’s favour for Godwin.   Harthacnut’s death in 1042 likely involved Godwin in a role as kingmaker, helping to secure the English throne for Edward the Confessor. In 1045, Godwin was at the height of his power, when his daughter Edith was married to the king.

To make a very long history and story short, Gytha brought with her to Saxon England, the connection and loyalties to the Danish dynasty of Cnut and his father, Sweyn Forkbeard… why is this so important, you might ask? Well, because Sweyn Forkbeard’s lineage traces back to one important  member of  Ragnar Lodbrok’s founding family!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweyn_Forkbeard

Sweyn_Forkbeard Swen_Widlobrody_ubt

 

If you trace Sweyn Forkbeard’s lineage back, you will find him to be a descendant of one Harthacnut of Denmark… Harthacnut or Cnut I (Danish: Hardeknud) (born c. 880) was a legendary King of Denmark. Adam of Bremen makes him son of an otherwise unknown king Sweyn, while the saga Ragnarssona þáttr makes him son of the semi-mythic viking chieftain Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, himself one of the sons of the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok!

Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, as we will eventually come to find out is the son of Ragnar Lodbrok and second  wife, Aslaug.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigurd_Snake-in-the-Eye

sigurd snake in the eye

ragnar and aslaug1 ragnar and aslaug4 VIKINGS2_09-final

Aslaug in Norse mythology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aslaug

Aslaug and her father the king painting of Aslaug the legend

 

So, while Harold may not be a direct descendent of Ragnar Lodbrok by blood and he may be looked on as a Saxon King… the last Saxon King for that matter, his family history and his character has it’s roots bound deep in this Viking dynasty. In fact, after his death, his Mother Gytha eventually returned to Scandinavia, taking with her one of Harold’s daughters.

William the Conqueror

The other key player and claimant for the throne of England in 1066 was of course, William the Conqueror. William I (Old Norman: Williame I; c. 1028[ – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard,  was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. The descendant of Viking raiders, he had been Duke of Normandy since 1035 under the style William II. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.

William the Conqueror AKA William I

William the Conqueror AKA William I

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror

William’s lineage traces him back to one other person of note in Viking history… Rollo (c. 846 – c. 932), baptised Robert and so sometimes numbered Robert I to distinguish him from his descendants, was a Norse Viking who was founder and first ruler of the Viking principality which soon became known as Normandy. His descendants were the Dukes of Normandy, and following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, kings of England; he is the 33rd-great-grandfather of Elizabeth II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo

Rollo_statue_in_falaise

*****Warning**** I do need to clarify and be very clear here on one point… for the purposes of our upcoming Viking Adventure and travel back in time, it is as yet uncertain whether the “Rollo” we will be observing is indeed the same person as this most famous one of history? We can only speculate or guess on this right now! It has been leaked that members of the Lodbrok family will travel to France and encounter a few people who would make this guess a plausible one….

                            Vikings Season 3 spoiler and preview: Charles Emperor of France and daughter, Gisela will make their appearance. Canadian actor Lothaire Bluteau will portray Emperor Charles of France and French actress Morgane Polanski (daughter of Roman Polanski) will be Princess Gisla, the Emperor’s daughter and his main advisor.

Lothaire Bluteau

Lothaire Bluteau

Morgane Polanski

Morgane Polanski

The appearance of these two characters does much to link the Lodbrok dynasty’s Rollo to the historical Rollo.  According to accurate history, Rollo is traditionally referenced to as marrying Gisela, the daughter of Charles III of France.

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Simple

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gisela_of_France

 

Now that you are thoroughly overwhelmed with history and confused even more, let’s go back to the original topic of William the Conqueror! I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, Please do get to the point of this already, we’re tired of the extra history lessons!”

 

Ok, the whole point of this history lesson and it’s comparisons to the Vikings legacy is that while Saxon England assumed it was being conquered by Normandy, in a sense it was actually being conquered once again by a Viking descendent that in many ways, still fought and thought like a Viking Warrior.

Rollo’s words can just as easily be attributed to how William the Conqueror felt and acted.

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-34231469-1000-561

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-

In a last thought on Helen Hollick’s portrayal of Harold Godwinson and William, her presentation of the two men could also very well represent the two founding characters of the Lodbrok legacy. After many generations of violence and battles for England, Harold Godwinson comes across as one similar to Ragnar Lodbrok in his beliefs, his reasonings, and his actions. He is caught in the middle of a for the most part, an un-winnable situation but tries to put the future of his country and his people as a whole above his personal wishes. In another ironic symbolism or reversal of it… Harold sets aside his long time love and handfasted wife in order to marry within the church and possibly provide a legitimate heir to the throne. Ragnar Lodbrok sets aside his long time love and wife (though, to his credit, he does offer to keep her as wife? She soundly refuses to share!) in preference for a wife who can bear him more sons. 

Then there is William, who is a bastard son and must fight for everything he feels is his. He is determined to win at all costs, willing to do what ever he has to in order to achieve his goals. He is volatile, uneducated in a scholarly sense but he is a Warrior and thinks like one in all instances. His goal is not so much one for the long range future of his people, but more of a personal vendetta. He is angry with Harold, whom he considered a friend- an ally… he feels betrayed by Harold and acts on it. In Helen’s representation of him, he also acts on it as part of a one time promise he made to his wife- that he would make her a Queen… and so he will, no matter what the cost to others. It is not until the end when he faces his final battle with one that he realizes is an equal on all levels, that he thinks about the possible consequences, about the future for all, not just for himself. Her portrayal of William, his character and his flaws closely parallels that of  Ragnar’s brother Rollo. Rollo, who acts before thinking much of the time, who questions and resents, who battles with himself so constantly.  It often seems impossible that this struggling and often failing Rollo could be the forefather, the founder of such a dynasty as Normandy? Yet, we see that same struggle for worthiness in William I as he battles for what he thinks is his by right.

In the final battle at Hastings, it was an evenly matched battle that by all accounts, Harold should have been able to win? But, by a twist of fate or luck, William won the battle for England. This event resembles much of what happens with Rollo’s life in the Vikings Saga. He  makes grevious errors in judgement, is  at the point of failing miserably but is always the warrior in the end. He is usually on the brink of following the wrong path but for some reason or twist of fate, he succeeds- often surprising himself!

portrait of Rollo in history

portrait of Rollo in history

Old ways of yule

 

I know this has been a rather lengthy, involved and more in depth look at some of the history that will take place after the Vikings initially invade England but I think it’s important to know the legacy that the Vikings such as Ragnar Lodbrok and his brother leave for us in the future!

And, yes, while many will scoff at the Vikings Saga as it is presented on the history channel, throw up their hands in disgust and cries of  “That’s not what really happened”,  I applaud Michael Hirst’s representation of history. He has worked hard to incorporate as much actual history as possible into the show and as a result, the show and the subject of Viking and Saxon era history has reached millions of viewers. Many of those viewers develop a deeper interest in the history of the time period,  go on to do their own research into it and come away with more knowledge and understanding of the past. Is that such a bad thing?

Historical accuracy

Some critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the series’ depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator, criticized its portrayal of Viking Age government (in the person of Earl Haraldson) as autocratic rather than essentially democratic.  Joel Robert Thompson criticized the show’s depiction of the Norse peoples’ supposed ignorance of the existence of Britain and Ireland, and the use of the death penalty instead of outlawry (skoggangr) as a punishment for heinous crimes.

Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the show’s depictions of Viking Age clothing, but went on to state that fictional shows like Vikings could still be a useful teaching tool.   The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that the series incorrectly depicted the temple at Uppsala as a stave church in the mountains, whereas the historical temple was situated on flat land and stave churches were a hallmark of later Christian architecture in Scandinavia.   The temple as depicted in the show does have similarities with the reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof on the other hand. The show also portrays a crucifixion of a prominent character instigated by a Christian bishop near Wessex, apparently as a standard punishment for apostasy – however, Emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in the 4th century  and no crucifixions were documented to have taken place in Europe thereafter.

Other errors include the presence of window glasses, XVI-XVIIth century helmets used by King Ecbert´s soldiers, the mention of “Russia” as the land the Vikings aim to plunder in the first episode, although the episode takes place in 793 A.D. and Russia would not exist until 860 A.D. (as the Kievan Rus’), as well as the scenery where Ragnar Lodbrok lives, which shows great mountains although there are no mountains in Denmark. One could assume Ragnar lives in Norway because of the presence of fjords and that Uppsala can be reached by land while Horik arrives always by sea. However, Lagertha seems to be able to ride from Hedeby to Kattegat without crossing a sea which would be impossible at the time.

Regarding the historical accuracy of the show, showrunner Michael Hirst comments that “I especially had to take liberties with ‘Vikings’ because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages” and that “we want people to watch it. A historical account of the Vikings would reach hundreds, occasionally thousands, of people. Here we’ve got to reach millions.”  When Katheryn Winnick was asked why she licked the seer’s hand she answered “It wasn’t originally in the script and we just wanted to come up with something unique and different”.

 

As I pointed out in the beginning of this discussion, my personal thought is that whether it is a book or a show, if it sparks one’s interest in learning more about history then it is well worth the time spent on it! To disregard a particular genre or format, as being just fiction and not authentic or accurate causes those who would look down on it or negate it’s value to miss the whole point that history has to be made interesting and relative to those learning from it. If you can not get people to read it, view it or listen to it, then it’s accuracies really make no difference anyway.  In sharing history and it’s lessons, one needs to make it interesting enough for the audience to want more of it! Such is the case for Vikings, which will embark upon it’s third season this winter. People are interested in the show, and as a result, are more interested in the real history presented in it!

So with that thought in mind, I will end this long winded discussion and be off to finish my last minute preparations for heading into the past with the Vikings.

If you missed my previous discussions regarding travel plans, you can catch up on it here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/crag-na-dun-time-tours-update/

I will be traveling to Lindholm Hoje near Aalborg Denmark

With the assistance of Mrs. Graham and her Time travel associates, I will be attempting to go through some stones in this area to the past and then travel to Kattegat where I will find the founding family of Ragnar Lodbrok!

Upon my arrival there, I will then proceed to document events of their lives from their humble beginnings as farmers and sometime raiders to their eventual rise to power and rulers of the Viking era!

vikings_gallery8_3-P