Sweyn Forkbeard: Warrior, King, and Slayer of Harald Bluetooth
If you have read some research on the Vikings, chances are that you have come across the name Harald Bluetooth whose name lent the inspiration for "Bluetooth" wireless device. King Harald Bluetooth was a great Viking warband leader. And so was his son, Sweyn "Forkbeard" Haraldsson. Sweyn Forkbeard was the one that killed his father to seize the throne and later became the Danish King of England.
Family and Childhood
Sweyn Forkbeard was the eldest son of King Harald Bluetooth and his mother's identity has been a debate for the historians. He was born around 960AD during the time that Scandinavian countries were at wars. His father, Harald Bluetooth, was the first Danish King that unified the Danes under a banner.
Some sources mentioned that Harald Bluetooth had Sweyn baptised around 965AD. This remains an unofficial historical detail as other historians believe that Sweyn waged war against his father. Because he didn't agree with new religion of Christianity introduced by Harald Bluetooth.
It was during a turbulent time so that Harald Bluetooth was on his way to battle and battle all the time. He only carried some of the older sons with him, leaving others including Sweyn Forkbeard at home. Because of this, Sweyn gradually got to know Palnatoke who founded the Jomsvikings (a Viking military group who followed Pagan belief and worshipped Odin). Palnatoke raised Sweyn Forkbeard up to become a savage warrior. But whether it was to serve Palnatoke's political purpose or not remained a mystery.
Sweyn: Player or Pawn at this political game?
Because of his violation to some rules of the clan, Sweyn was sent to exile for a number of years.
Sweyn Forkbeard quickly became a savage Viking warrior. After years of exile away from home, he came back to Denmark and declared war against his father. His ally was Palnatoke who had been harboring hatred toward Harald Bluetooth for his conversion to Christian.
He provoked an uprising against his father with the strongest ally of Palnatoke. Indeed, Palnatoke had been haboring his hatred toward King Harald Bluetooth for a long time. Palnatoke was a committed pagan who followed the Norse path of worshipping Norse pantheon while King Harald proudly submitted to the cross. This deed of Harald's baptism was the seed of Palnatoke's hatred.
No matter where it was, land or sea, Sweyn Forkbeard violently suppressed the army of his father.
After overthrowing his father, Sweyn became the next Danish King who had control over a great Viking army.
Forkbeard became a nightmare for many English parts at that time. He continued his father's footsteps of raiding and pillaging. The small hit-and-run attacks now became larger political and territorial invasions. Sweyn's army was savage and would give no chance for their victims and enemies.
King Æthelred the Unready who was reigning England at this time paid Forkbeard a sum of money to get rid of Sweyn's attacks. Sweyn took the money and headed back to Danmark where he heard the Polish princess wife bore him a son named Cnut. And yes, this Cnut is the Cnut that later became Cnut the Great.
Revenge for revenge, Sweyn became the first Danish King of England
Sweyn Forkbeard who was in the prime of his youth didn't want to settle down and rule his nation only. He declared war again and continued to travel around to claim more land. Sweyn turned up at Northern England and started to raid.
Æthelred the Unready was so tired of the Danes and was advised that to protect England, he had to rid of these Danish settlers. On St. Brices Day, November 13th 1002, Æthelred ordered to carry out a massacre of the Danes in England no matter woman or man, the young or the old. And among these Danish victims was Gunhild sister of Sweyn Forkbeard.
Hearing of the death of the Danes in England, Sweyn Forkbeard shook with anger and promised revenge for the Danes and his sister.
The massacre of the Danes turned out to be a complete failure when Æthelred the Unready learnt of the incoming Danish army. Sweyn amassed the largest army, the finest warriors, and set sail to England.
Knock, knock, anyone home? I, Sweyn Forkbeard, declared war eternal on King Æthelred of England.
"Kinsmen to kinsmen should be true".
In 1003AD, he arrived in England. His army attacked fiercely and savagely. They spared no life for those who opposed or not. They burned down houses and villages, killing cattle and destroying everything. The anger of the Danes was ignited by the thought of the kins had been savagely slain there. Sweyn made Æthelred and his people pay the ultimate price experiencing what the Danes had experienced.
Once again, Æthelred paid a large amount of money to beg for another chance from the Vikings. However, the raids continued for the following years. The war finally ended when the English earls made Sweyn the King of England sending Æthelred into exile.
However, the reign of Sweyn over England lasted a few weeks. He met his final days shortly after his getting crowned. His demise came as sudden as his ascension.