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Happy Millennium. King Sweyn!

count tiszula

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It's not often that a millennium anniversary turns up, so I've been a bit disappointed that there has been so little coverage of the great King Sweyn in the media.

As you will recall from school history, the Viking King Sweyn Forkbeard more or less invented danegeld. Most summers a thousand years ago he would sail across from Scandinavia, do some brief raping and pillaging, and then Ethelred the Unready would give him hundreds of silver pennies of danegeld to make him go away again.

However. in 1013 he seems to have decided to conquer England permanently. Arriving on the East coast before July he set off North into the Danelaw and received the submission of the Five Boroughs and others. He turned South and crossed Watling Street into Wessex, taking Winchester and Bath. Ethelred had decamped to London or Westminster with his family, or Perhaps London had already taken over as capital from Winchester. Sweyn therefore pursued him back East. But by the time he got there, Ethelred had embarked on a ship, with his Norman wife and her brother Duke Richard II of Normandy, and sailed off to Normandy.

Sweyn was in effective control of England and on Christmas Day 1013 was proclaimed King. Indeed he may well have been crowned at Westminster Abbey on that day, as was becoming customary after St Dunstan had had the idea some years before.

He reigned in London happily, but unfortunately died five weeks later. It was assumed that his son Canute would succeed him, but he did not have the same support and a slight interregnum ensued. Edmund II Ironside , son of Ethelred, was militarily victorious for the English, Ethelred himself was still around being King, and it was not until 1016 that Canute established himself as King, free to pursue his policy of issuing orders to the waves.

So, Happy Millennium, King Sweyn Forkbeard, son of Harald Bluetooth, and may you have many more!

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