Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dead King Watch: Sweyn I



Sweyn I of Denmark -or 'Sven' as he can also be called - ruled England for five weeks from Christmas Day 1013 to February 3 1014 - when he died, which made it the 992nd anniversary of his death a few days ago. This 'Great Dane' led a bloody invasion to get his hands on the throne of England - nice.

'The contemporary Laud Chronicle states that "before the month of August came king Sweyn with his fleet to Sandwich. He went very quickly about East Anglia into the Humber's mouth, and so upward along the Trent till he came to Gainsborough. Eorl Uhtred and all Northumbria quickly bowed to him, as did all the folk of Lindsey, then the folk of the Five Boroughs. (...) He was given hostages from each shire. When he understood that all the people had submitted to him, he bade that his force should be provisioned and horsed; he went south in full force, and entrusted his ships and the hostages to his son Cnut. After he came over Watling Street, they worked the most evil that a force might do. They went to Oxford, and the town-dwellers soon bowed to him, and gave hostages. From there they went to Winchester, and did the same, then eastward to London."

But the Londoners are said to have destroyed the bridges that spanned the river Thames ("London Bridge is falling down"), and Sweyn suffered heavy losses and had to withdraw. The chronicles tell that "king Sven went from there to Wallingford, over the Thames to Bath, and stayed there with his troops; ealdorman Aethelmaer came, and the western thegns with him. They all bowed to Sweyn and gave hostages."

London had withstood the assault of the Danish army, but the city was now alone, isolated within a country which had completely surrendered. Sven Forkbeard was accepted as King of England following the flight to Normandy of king Ethelred the Unready in late 1013. With the acceptance of the Witan, London had finally surrendered to him, and he was declared "king" on Christmas day.

Sweyn based himself in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, and began to organize his vast new kingdom, but he died there on February 3rd 1014, having ruled England unopposed for only five weeks.'

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