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Index of Scandinavian KingdomsDenmark (Danes)

The Danes, or Dene, were part of a Scandinavian tribal collective which suffered divisions in the fourth and fifth centuries. As a result, they began to migrate southwards from southern Sweden, entering Jutland and the Cimbric Peninsula in the fifth century, a relatively peaceful southwards movement that nevertheless put pressure on the Jutes and Angles and contributed to their migration to Britain. The Angles appear to have been allies of the Danes, but may have seen the migration as an opportunity not to be missed.

A Danish kingdom (and perhaps initially more than one) seems to have been established by the late fifth century, but the earliest records of its kings is fragmentary and sometimes allusive. However, some data can be built up from those records, especially from the Old English poems, Beowulf and Widsith, and the fragment commonly known as The Fight at Finnesburg. Many of the notes regarding fifth and early sixth century Danes are taken from the Alan Bliss/JRR Tolkein examination of the latter.

A distinctly separate Danish 'province' existed in Jutland between the sixth and ninth centuries, perhaps initially wholly or semi-independently as one of the early rival states. Others, such as Scania, continued to survive in southern Sweden for many centuries. In what is now Denmark itself, the march of the Danes - a march, mark, or mierce being a borderland territory - was probably the no-man's land between them and whatever tribes lay to the south (following the exodus to Britain by the Jutes and Angles). This name became normalised as Denmark. Similar border states included Mercia in England, the North March of eastern Germany, and Finnmark in Norway.

Dating the early rulers precisely contains some uncertainty. Possible dates vary from source to source, as does the order of succession on occasion, so this is an amalgamation of the available data. Dates which blatantly divert from the main body are shown in red text.

FeatureGerman tribes were heavily influenced by the neighbouring Celts (Gauls), some of whom live on the Cimbric Peninsula (Jutland), and possibly in Sweden. A number of German gods and goddesses were borrowed from or shared with the Celts; for example Taran/Thor. Edward Dawson theorises that the Dene are likely named after a leader (a woman?), who in turn bore the name of the Goddess Danu or Dana. Either that or they were followers of Dana as a tribe and named such. Such a distinction between gods and earthly leaders is probably irrelevant due to ancient European deification customs wherein a strong leader was often elevated to deity status after death. Additionally, a name for the Danes was 'Ingwine'. 'Wine' means friend, so the Danes were friends of Ingvi, part of the Germanic Ingaevones.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from Gautreks saga, and from External Link: The Gutenburg Text of Beowulf, translation by Lesslie Hall, 1892.)

Skiold

First of the Scyldings, important both to Denmark and Angeln.

Skiold, or Scyld, first of the Scyldings, is the founding father of the Danes in southern Sweden, but is also a highly important figure in the list of kings of Angeln. Could there be an ancient connection between the Danes and the Angles which is remembered in this individual? He is sometimes called the king of Reidgotaland, whose location is disputed by scholars.

Fri I / Frodhi I

Fridlief II

Havar

Fri II / Frodhi II

Vermund the Sage

Vermund is probably the Vermundus of Saxo Grammaticus in his Danish History. He is said to be a Danish king, but he is a repetition from the list of kings of Angeln - Wrmund. His father and famous son, Wihtlg and Offa respectively, are also copied, as Vigletus and Uffo. Typically, the famous rulers of a district which later comes to be ruled by Danes are called Danes themselves.

Olaf the Mild

Dan mikillti / Dan the Magnificent

Son of Danp , who was the brother-in-law of Domar.

Dan is the legendary founder of the (ancient) Danish kingdom. He is mentioned in several medieval Scandinavian texts, which establish that he is either the son of Danp or one of the sons of King Ypper of Uppsala (the other two being Nori, who later rules Norway, and sten, who later rules the Swedes (possibly the sten of the late sixth century)). Whatever Dan's reality in history, his coming suggests that a new dynasty is founded, or at least that a sideshoot of the same dynasty of ancient rulers of the Dene takes over.

Fri mikillti / Frodhi III

Son.

Halfdan I

Fridlief III

Fri IV

Last of the ancient Scyldings?

Ingild / Ingeld / Ingjald

Of the Heaobards. Survived the defeat against the Scyldings?

Fri V / Froda

Of the Heaobards. Killed.

Ingild and Fri of the Heaobards (Heathobards or Heathobeards) fight a war of dynastic rivalry (or inter-tribal conflict, if the Heathobards are accepted as the Langobards of western Poland) against the Scyldings. It is a war that apparently represents a shift in power from the traditional rulers of the Danes, signalling the end of the ancient ruling dynasty and allowing the beginning of a new one which is later genealogically attached to the Scyldings (alternatively, the ancient house, whose name is lost, is attached to the new rulers to give them an air of legitimacy).

The new order is represented by the Scyldings and the Healfdena, who win the war and who possibly lead the migration of Danes from Sweden into the Cimbric Peninsula. This puts pressure on the Jutes in the north of the peninsula, probably resulting in feuds and local power struggles (which impacts upon the Angles and minor groups such as the Germanic Rondings). The fifth century migration period is one in which no one Dane rules over all the Danish peoples, representing an interregnum of sorts. At least one probable sub-grouping can be identified under Hnf Healfdene, and there probably exist other factions which have been lost to history.

fl c.390s?

Scyld Scaefson / Shield Scaefson

Son of Scaef. 'The Great Ring Giver'. King of the Dene?

Scyld Scaefson is later added to the genealogies of the descendant kings of Angeln, probably due to his importance as an early Dane in the Cimbric Peninsula. He is known as the 'Great Ring Giver' signifying a powerful lord who is able to well reward his followers. The question is whether he is a king or perhaps a leader of his peoples as they migrate into the peninsula - or perhaps both. Could Scyld be the father of kings who himself does not rule but helps in establishing his people in their new territory?

fl c.420?

Beowulf

Son of Scyld, father of Healfdene, grandfather of Hrothgar.

fl c.420

Hoc Healfdene?

Born to mixed parentage ('half-Dane'). King of the Dene?

While not a Scylding himself, Hoc seems to be allied to them by blood or marriage, perhaps explaining the Danish half of his parentage (or the parentage of an earlier generation of his family, although it cannot even be confirmed that Hoc is a name and not an eponym (as per Widsith)). The Danish side of his parentage is covered by the epic poem, Beowulf, which describes him as the son of Beowulf (the elder), while the other side is most likely to be Jutish or Anglian, given that the Danes are intruding into the territory of these peoples. The other likely explanation for 'Healfdene' is that he commands a mixed following of Danes and Jutes. The name of Scylding is later attached to the man who is probably his son, Hnf.

Golden Horns of Gallehus
A replica of one of the fifth century Golden Horns of Gallehus found in Denmark

Additionally, while 'Healfdene' is initially used as a nickname to describe Hoc, it appears to stick, with his son being termed Hnf Hocingas Healfdena, 'of the Healfdene', and later becomes a Danish group or tribal name. Hoc himself is forgotten by history, which in legendary terms means that either he is not a king, or he is not in the direct line of descent from any ancient house or hero.

? - c.448

Hnf Healfdena / Hnf Hocing

Probable son. Born c.420-425. Sub-king? Lord of the Hocings.

c.448

Hnf seems to be a sub-king or prince of a 'following' or group of Danes called the Hocingas, and a S-Dene (Sea Dane), possibly a roving Danish prince who is involved in the struggle for power in the North Sea during this period. His family is likely to be settled in modern Jutland. About this year, he winters with his elder sister, Hildeburh, who is married to Finn, king of the Frisians. Fighting appears to be sparked by a feud between the Jutish allies of either side (those with the Frisians angry that some of their people have sworn loyalty to the Danes who are 'stealing' Jutish territory), The Dano-Germanic lord Sfer of the Sycgs is amongst his comitatus. Hnf is killed during the Freswl, the 'Fight at Finnesburg'. Finn is subsequently killed in revenge by Hengist, Hnf's Anglian comrade in arms.

Soon afterwards, his duty done to his deceased lord, Hengist (if it is indeed the same man) leads his people to Britain to take up temporary service under another lord, the high king of Britain, but this soon turns into a conquest of the south-eastern territory of Kent. Large numbers of Jutes and Angles follow him, and this has the effect of leaving Jutland almost deserted for the incoming Dene.

? - c.495

Healfdene Scylding / Halfdanr / Haldan II

Nephew of Hnf? Born c.430-435. First of the (new) Scyldings.

Healfdene is not a member of an ancient house and his real father is later forgotten (the gap being filled by a strange and mythical descent in tradition, or a later attachment to the Scyldings). He may bear a relationship with Hoc Healfdene through his mother, standing in the specially intimate relation of 'sister-son' to Hnf Hocing, and so also to Hildeburh and Finn of Frisia.

He represents a new beginning, one which is made possible by migration into the non-Danish Cimbric Peninsula, but one which results in dislocations and feuds as Danish power shifts from southern Sweden. At least two ruling groups can be established by about AD 500, that of the Scyldings shown here and another in Jutland, which is treated as a domain in its own right for some centuries. A third group is probably that of the Healfdena mentioned above, while a fourth group is the Germanic Sycgs (whose lord, Sfer, had been a member of Hnf Healfdena's comitatus).

c.495 - c.525

Hrothgar Scylding / Ro / Roe / Roar

Son. Born c.460-465. Visited by Beowulf c.520.

Wealhtheow / Wealthow

Wife. A Wulfing, 'wolfling'.

c.490s

Wealhtheow is the queen of the Danes, wife of Hrothgar. He appears in Norse Sagas and two Old English epic poems, Beowulf and Widsith, while she is a Wulfing, an eastern Geatish ancestor (or mother) of the Wuffingas who, within twenty years, are to be found creating their own kingdom of the East Angles in Britain. Therefore she must have some relationship to one or more of the names in the list of Caser's Folk, although it would be speculation to go any further.

The Wulfingas (the 'wolf-clan' - a variation of the spelling used above) are known for their feud with the Germanic Hundings or Hundingas (the 'hound-clan') who are mentioned in Widsith - the hounds versus the wolves is classic tribal totemic behaviour. The founder of the Hundingas, the warrior Hund, is slain by the later Danish King Helgi Hundingsbane (ruling in the 520s). The feud clearly begins in Scandinavia, and probably ends when the pre-Wuffingas migrate to Britain, but they may not have been the Wulfingas before the migration. Wolf coins found in East Anglia in 2013, more than four hundred years before the Wulfingas take control, had been minted by the Iceni in the late first century AD. It seems likely that the Wulfingas take their name from some element that already exists in the territory, much like many other migrants are taking local names and adapting them. In which case, the question is what have the Wulfingas been called before their arrival in East Anglia?

Queen Wealhtheow of the Danes
Queen Wealhtheow of the Wuffingas pledges Beowulf in this illustration by George Timothy Tobin (1864-1956) for the work entitled Lost in Translation: The Queens of Beowulf

c.500

The Angles of Angeln depart their lands as part of a full-scale migration over the North Sea to Britain, where they found several kingdoms in newly conquered territory. Angeln is reputedly left abandoned and empty by the mass population movement, allowing the Danes to migrate south and west to fill the gap. During this period the Danes become an ever-greater threat to the Frisian hegemony of the North Sea and the north-western European coastal territories.

c.520

A prince of the Geat court, Beowulf visits Hrothgar Scylding at his hall of Heorot at the start of the epic Old English poem, Beowulf. He witnesses the funerary rights of Scyld Scaefson, a 'king of the Danes', before ridding Hrothgar of the monster, Grendal (in reality a rival king? Perhaps a relic of Jutish kingship).

fl c.500

Sighere

Ruler of the S-Dene (Sea Danes).

Sighere is mentioned in the Old English epic poem, Widsith, where he is called 'Sighere lengest' ('longest ruler') of the Sea Danes. They are the coastal Danes of the North Sea's eastern coastline who are locked in a power struggle with the equally powerful Frisians to the south. Given that the Danish prince, Hnf Healfdena, of about 448 had also been a prince of the Sea-Danes, could there be a relationship between the two, or does Sighere rule by force of arms alone?

fl c.520s

Halga / Helge / Helghe / Helgi / Helgo

Son of Healfdene. Nicknamed 'Hundingsbane'.

Helgi Hundingsbane is responsible for killing Hunding, founder of the Germanic Hundings, possibly before he becomes king of the Dene. Helgi of the Geats is called Hundingsbane by some scholars, but as it is most likely that he rules in the late seventh century, the Danish Helgi would seem to be the most likely candidate. This Helgi is mentioned in Beowulf and in Norse and Danish sagas, having a rather complicated familial relationship with his wife, Yrsa, and her mother, Alof the Great of the Saxons.

fl c.530s

Snr (Fri / Frodhi VI?)

Son of Frosti. Oppressive & dishonest. Gained throne by trickery.

c.530s

Snr's unwelcome rule over the Danes occurs while Adils is ruling the Swedes, placing the former in the mid to late sixth century.

fl c.530s

Hrlf Kraki / Rolf Krage / Hrolf Crow

Son of Halga.

Hrlf Kraki is claimed in Gautreks saga as a contemporary of Adils of the Swedes. Vikar, king of Agder in Norway is also claimed as a contemporary, seemingly contradicting other mentions of him that seem to place him a century later. Gautrek himself, king of Gtland, is also placed in the same generation as Adils, and is thought to flourish around the 620s, so it can clearly be seen that chronology is not especially strict in the sagas.

c.530s - 548

Fri / Frodhi VII

548 - 580

Halfdan III

580 - 588

Rurik Slyngebard / Rrik Slyngebond

Cousin of Hrothgar? Grandfather of Amleth ('Hamlet') of Jutland.

580s - 590s

Rurik is fought by Valdar, who disputes his right to the throne. The succession becomes very confused from this point, with various Norse sagas contradicting themselves on the exact order of succession, while dating is almost non-existent. What is clear is that most of these seventh and eighth century kings are descendants of Hrothgar Scylding (or are at least claim so).

fl c.590?

Valdar

(Grand)son of Hrothgar?

fl 600s

Halfdan Snjalli ('the Valiant')

Son. Murdered.

c.640s?

Halfdan's son is Gurr (Guthrothr), who marries sa, daughter of King Ingjald Illrade of the Swedes. She persuades her husband to murder Halfdan.

fl 650s?

Gurr / Guthrothr

Son. Murdered. 'King of Scania'.

c.655

sa is the cause behind the death of her husband, Gurr, and she escapes to her father in Sweden after the deed is done. Ivar Vidfamne musters a large army and besieges King Ingjald and his daughter at Rning, forcing the pair to committed suicide by setting fire to the hall which contains them and the king's retinue. With no viable successor, Ivar Vidfamne is able to conquer Sweden.

c.655 - 695

Ivar Vidfamne

Brother (or grandfather of Halfdan). Also king of Sweden.

695 - 735

Harald I Hildetand / Hildetonn 'Wartooth'

Or died c.750. Grandson of Ivar Vidfamne. Also king of Sweden.

735 - 756

Sigurd I Ring / Sigurd Hring

Or c.770-812. Also king of Sweden & Raumarike in Norway.

737

The sheer scale of the construction works on the Danevirke (now spelled Dannevirke and located in Schleswig-Holstein), which has been successively built up since the third century as a line of defence against the Saxons to the south, can be taken as confirmation of the true emergence of a unified Danish kingdom. In the next century it is further built up as a defence against the Franks.

c.750

The settlement of Sliasthorp (or Sliaswich) is founded (or at least first mentioned in sources). This settlement plays an important role in the Viking Age, especially under King Gudfred from 804.

756

Although many of the kings up to this point can be attested by multiple sources, it is only now that one king is generally accepted by scholars to extend a single rule over all of Denmark. By this stage, the Danes have also absorbed any tribes remaining after the Angles and Jutes had migrated to Britain, including (possibly) the Aviones, Nuitones, Reudigni, and Suardones.

Kingdom of Denmark
AD 756 - Present Day

Denmark is located on the Cimbric Peninsula in northern Europe, with Germany to the south, and Norway and Sweden to the north. Rulers of the Scandinavian kingdoms emerge from legendary origins, and the early Danes could be found in what is now southern Sweden. Population pressures around the fourth and fifth centuries AD forced them to begin a migration into Denmark, a process that was made much easier by the migration to Britain of virtually the entire population of Angles and Jutes. The Danish migration seems to have been complete by about the sixth century, but a single, fully unified kingdom took approximately three more centuries to emerge.

During the ninth and tenth centuries the Danes, along with the other Scandinavian peoples, became the scourge of northern and eastern Europe as the Vikings. The Danes staged a major invasion of the English kingdoms in the late ninth century, conquering a swathe of eastern and northern territory which became the Danish kingdom of East Anglia and the Scandinavian kingdom of York respectively. At the very end of the tenth century a Danish dynasty took the English throne, heralding a new Anglo-Scandinavian period which was only truly ended with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Elsewhere, the Danes settled Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, which they retained following the dissolution of the Dano-Norwegian Union under the terms of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814.

Accepted wisdom translates the word 'viking' as someone who goes on a raid, but this is much more likely to be a later interpretation of the word based on their reputation for attacking the medieval kingdoms of England, France, and so on. The word was originally used to denote a trader, simply that and nothing more. Indo-European languages contain many cognates of the root word for trader, such as the Latin 'vic', along with 'wic' (primarily Anglo-Saxon) and 'wich' (Germanic), all of which relate to Scandinavian 'vik'. A Viking was more likely to be someone who goes to 'wics' or 'wichs' to trade. There is also the problem of 'vik' meaning an inlet in Norse, and this has created considerable confusion. Norway is called that precisely because it is the north way, a sea path. Without roads the only reliable travel is by water, so trading centres would be sited in protected inlets. This meant the use of 'vik' being transferred over time from the trade location or village to its location on inlets. In England, this usage did not go so far, but many Anglo-Saxon trading villages still retain their trading names, such as Harwich, Ipswich, and Norwich, while Hamptonwic has been modified as Southampton.

(Modern data supplied by Andreas von Millwall, with additional information by Edward Dawson, and from Gesta Danorum: The History of the Danes, Karsten Friis-Jensen & Peter Fisher (Ed & Trans).)

756 - 794

Randver / (Ragnar?) / (Ongendus?)

Son of Sigurd. Probable first king of Denmark (& Sweden).

794

Jarl Eystein of Sweden defeats an attack by Eric and Agnar, two of Randver's sons, but falls during a subsequent attack by Randver's wife and two remaining sons, one of which is Bjrn Jrnsida, Once Randver himself passes away, Bjrn becomes king of the Swedes.

794 - 803

Sigurd (II) ? / Sigfred

Son.

804 - 810

Gudfred / Godfred / Gtrik

Son. Assassinated by one of his retinue.

804

Gudfred appears in what is now Holstein with a navy to face off against the all-powerful Franks, who are fresh from their conquest of the Saxons and now threaten to invade Denmark. Gudfred is responsible for a second stage of the large-scale rebuilding and fortification of the Danevirke, and for the military expansion of Sliasthorp, located somewhere on the southern Danish border (a little way north of the Danevirke). A site unearthed by archaeologists in 2010-2011 in the Schlei Bay (now in northern Germany) contains at least two hundred houses and piles of weapons and is a very strong candidate for Sliasthorp.

810 - 812

Hemming

Nephew.

812? - 827?

Canute I / Harthacanute

Son or grandson of Sigurd? Shared rule with Eric.

827

Eric I is one of a number of rulers of the Danes following the death of his father, some of which appear to share power. Little seems to be known about Canute I, but by 827, Eric is the sole remaining ruler and is sole king of Denmark.

812 - 854

Eric / Horik I / Horeg I

Son of Gudfred. Same as Eirik of Jutland? Murdered.

851/852

A force of 350 Danish ships sails into the Thames estuary in England, sacks London and puts to flight a Mercian army under Beorhtwulf. In the same year, Wessex wins a famous victory over Danes (quite possibly the same force) at Aclea (perhaps in Surrey), and then a great sea victory off Sandwich.

853 - 854

The Danes launch a campaign against the Couronians. However, as part of the feared 'Eastern Vikings', the Couronians fight the Danes in a sea battle, defeating them and enslaving half their number. Perhaps this leads to a brief civil war in Denmark in the following year which wipes out many of the major claimants to the throne. Eric, whose strength is in the far southern area of Denmark, including Hedeby, is one of the few remaining (legend has him as a surviving child, hence his nickname).

854 - c.866

Eric Barn 'the Child' / Horik II / Horeg II

Probably a grandson or nephew of Eric I

845

Ragnarr Lothbrok leads the Viking sack of Frankish city of Paris.

Vikings

860

Danish Viking activity in the basin of the River Seine threatens Frankish Paris from a base on the Isle d'Oissel. They are chased off by Vikings on the Somme who have been paid by Charles the Bald to turn gamekeeper. While Charles raises funds from his hapless subjects to pay for his new defenders, the Somme Vikings take the summer off to go raiding across the Channel. It seems likely that these are the same raiders who sack Winchester in Wessex before making northwards to the Berkshire Downs, plundering and burning as they go. The men of Berkshire and Dorset are ready for them under the command of their ealdorman. The raiders, slowed by their booty, are cut to pieces where they stand, while the survivors flee.

c.860 - 865

Ragnarr Lothbrok

King in Sweden (860-865)? Apparently also powerful in Denmark.

Ivarr the Boneless

Son. Viking king of Dublin (853-873).

Halfdan

Brother. King of the Scandinavian kingdom of York (875-877).

865 - 878

FeatureIvarr the Boneless, king of Dublin, and his brothers, the sons of Ragnarr Lothbrok, lead the first Viking army to invade mainland Britain in search of conquest rather than pillage. Landing in East Anglia, they ravage the kingdom for a year before heading into Northumbria in 866. That kingdom falls in 867 and a puppet king is installed. The Great Army moves south, campaigning during the spring and summer. East Anglia falls in 869, and the capital of Alt Clut is sacked in 870. Ynys Manau also falls to them in around 870, and between 870-871, Ivarr's brother, Bagsecg, is involved in the attacks, leading the Great Summer Army into England and adding his forces to those of Ivarr and Halfdan.

Bagsecg is killed at the Battle of Ashdown in Wessex in 871, and the following year the Great Army is back in Northumbria. It winters in late 872 and early 873 at Torksey on the River Trent in Lindsey, before moving west into Mercia, which is defeated in 874 and a vassal king is installed on its throne. Later that year the army divides, with one half going to Cambridge and the rest heading towards the Tyne and eventually settling in York.

Bagsecg / Bgsecg / Bagsec

Brother. Claimed as 'king of Denmark' in some sources.

866 - 873

Sigurd II Snogoje

873 - 884

Hardeknut / Knut / Canute I

879

The Danish army under Guthrum in England formalises its rule of eastern and northern territories under the Peace of Wedmore. Guthrum secures the Danish kingdom of East Anglia, founded to exist alongside the similarly-formed Scandinavian kingdom of York.

Viking helmet

884 - 885

Frodo

885 - 899

Harald II Parcus

897

Alfred the Great of Wessex experiments with warship styles for his navy. The two styles of choice are Frisian or Danish, revealing the importance of both peoples in the building of state-of-the-art warships.

died c.900

Helgi

Last of the Scyldings.

fl c.900 - 920s?

Olof the Brash / Olav / Ole den Frkne

Founder of the Olafsens. Based in Hedeby.

902 - 903

Prince thelwald of Wessex returns following his exile, arriving on the Essex coast with support from the Danelaw. He ravages west as far as Mercia. Alternatively called 'prince', 'elected king', 'King of the Danes', and even 'King of the Pagans', in 903 (sometimes shown as 902) he is brought to battle against King Edward in a major confrontation somewhere in Cambridgeshire. Many fall on either side, including Eohric, king of the Danelaw and thelwald himself. However, Edward has to give the Danes silver to buy peace (and to buy time), while his own battered forces recover.

911

To keep the peace in the face of Viking attacks, Charles III of the Franks grants territory in the north to the Danish Viking chieftain, Rollo. The resulting duchy of Normandy proves to be far more powerful than the king could have feared.

Viking village
The Vikings who settled in Normandy would have seemed a rough and ready lot to the relatively sophisticated French court

918

The failure to apply a concentrated force means that the Danes of East Anglia in England are defeated on all three fronts. They lose a large number of men - particularly at Bedford, where a sortie organised by the besieged English garrison inflicts a severe defeat upon them and puts their army to flight. The Danish kingdom in England falls to Edward the Elder of Wessex, as he begins to unify the country under one king.

fl c.920s - 935

Gnupa

Based in Hedeby.

fl 935

Gyrd / Gurd

Based in Hedeby.

fl c.935

Sigtrygg Gnupasson / Sigerich

Based in Hedeby. Deposed.

c.935

Sigtrygg Gnupasson is mentioned in 935, although this conflicts with a date of 917 in which he is deposed by Harthacnut.

c.936 - 940

Harthacnut / Hardegon

Harthacnut's rule is opposed by the Jellings.

c.936 - 957

Gorm the Old

First of the Jellings.

957 - 991

Harald III Bluetooth

First Christian king.

977 - 995

A Danish earl of Lade, Haakon, holds the Norwegian throne as regent.

991 - 1014

Sweyn I Forkbeard

Occupied the English throne (1013-1014). Died unexpectedly.

991

The Battle of Maldon on the Essex coast of England is lost when the forces of Olaf Tryggvason (Sweyn's main rival for the Danish throne and soon to be king of Norway) defeat those of the ealdorman of Essex. The Vikings begin to demand heavy tribute from the Saxon lands.

1000

King Olaf I Tryggvason of Norway is attacked by a united army under the command of Olaf III Sktkonung of Sweden and Sweyn Forkbeard. The pair have determined that Norway will be conquered and divided between them. They duly defeat Olaf I at the Battle of Svolder and divide the country. A Danish earl of Lade, Eric son of Haakon, holds the Norwegian throne as regent from this point, while the Swedes gain border territories from part of Trndelag and modern Bohusln.

1002

In England there is a massacre of Danes not of the Danelaw, which apparently includes the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard. This prompts an increasing number of Danish raids on England by Danish forces.

1013 - 1014

Sweyn Forkbeard occupies England as the English king seeks exile in Normandy. The occupation ends with Sweyn's death on 2 February 1014, and King Ethelred fights to expel Sweyn's son, Canute, who nevertheless gains the throne in 1017.

Danish axe head
There was heavy fighting around the English capital between Danes and English during the early 1000s, and this axe head was found with many others at the bridge's north end, possibly lost in battle or thrown into the river in celebration (courtesy Museum of London)

1014 - 1018

Harold IV

Son.

1018 - 1035

Knut / Canute II the Great

Brother. Also king of Norway (1028-1035) & England (1017-1035).

1035

Canute's death sees his great Scandinavian empire begin to break up. By the late 1020s he had been able to claim kingship over England, Denmark, Norway, and part of Sweden. Scotland had also submitted to his overlordship, and Viking raids against the British Isles had been ended. Now his brother Harold gains England, his son Hardicanute gains Denmark, and another son, Sweyn, gains Norway.

1035 - 1042

Hardicanute / Knut / Canute III

Son. Also king of England (1040-1042).

1042

Hardicanute dies unexpectedly at a wedding feast in England, and Edward, son of the Anglo-Saxon king, Ethelred II, is perfectly positioned to ascend the throne, ending the dynasty of Danish kings and replacing it with a restored Anglo-Saxon dynasty.

1042 - 1047

Magnus the Good

King of Norway.

1047 - 1074

Sweyn II Estridsson

1074 - 1080

Harold V Hen

1080 - 1086

Knut / Canute IV the Holy

1085 - 1095

Olaf IV the Hungry

1095 - 1103

Eric I the Evergood

1103 - 1134

Niels the Elder

1125

Ragnvald Knaphvde of Sweden is murdered by Geats after entering their territory without taking the precaution of securing hostages. The Geats elect Magnus Neilsson as his successor, the son of Niels the Elder.

1134 - 1137

Eric II

1137 - 1146

Eric III

1146 - 1157

Sweyn III

c.1157

In his geographical chronicle, Leiarvsir og borgarskipan, the Icelandic Abbot Nkuls Bergsson (Nikolaos) provides descriptions of the lands near Norway: Closest to Denmark is little Sweden (Svj), there is land (Eyland); then is [the island of] Gotland; then Hlsingland (Helsingaland); then Vrmland (Vermaland); then two Kvenlands (Kvenlnd, perhaps Kvenland itself and Finland to the south, on the northern shore of the Baltic Sea), and they extend to north of Bjarmia (Bjarmalandi, the land of the Bjarmians).

1157

Knut / Canute V Magnussen

1157 - 1182

Valdemar I the Great

1168

In his work, Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus describes the defeat of a group of Wends. They occupy the island of Rgen in the Baltic Sea, off the coast of north-eastern Germany. After years of pirate attacks by the Wends, King Valdemar has been persuaded by Absalon, bishop of Roskilde and the chief royal advisor (and future archbishop of Lund), to launch a crusade against them. The Danes land on Rgen and besiege the capital city of Arkona. Once Valdemar's forces set fire to the city's walls and buildings, the residents of Arkona surrender. With the subsequent surrender of the town of Karenz, the Danes control the island and an area of the adjoining mainland off the coast of Pomerania.

The Danes conquer Rugen
The Danish conquest of Rgen ended more than a millennium of independence for the native people - a possible combination of Celts, Germanics, and Slavs - pulling down their gods in the process

1170

Denmark is fast rising as a great military and merchant power, and it is in its interest to end the occasional Estonian and Couronian pirate attacks that threatened its Baltic trade. To that end, a Danish fleets now makes an attack against Estonia.

1182 - 1202

Knut / Canute VI the Pious

1185

An invasion of Pomerania secures overlordship of the duchy from the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa.

1194 - 1197

Danish fleets makes a second and third attack on Estonia in 1194 and 1197, but the efforts probably fail to end the problem, leading to more direct action in 1206.

1202 - 1241

Valdemar II the Victorious

1206

Valdemar II and archbishop Andreas Sunonis launch a raid on sel (the modern Estonian island of Saaremaa). The islanders are forced to submit and the Danes build a fortress there, but they can find no volunteers to man it. Relinquishing their brief occupation of the island, they burned the fortress and leave the island. However, they lay claim to Estonia as their possession, which claim the Pope recognises.

1216

The Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus, writes in Gesta Danorum about Finnish and Kven kings and about the Scandinavian royal families which, based on several medieval sources, descend from them. Grammaticus' writings share a likeness and many characters and stories with those of Snorri Sturluson. Based on Grammaticus, many heroic Scandinavian figures have Finnic (or rather Kven) roots.

1219 - 1227

A Danish fleet is led by Valdemar II to attack the trading town of Reval in North Estonia on 15 June. The battle is a hard-fought one and the Danes are close to retreating and admitting defeat when, according to tradition, a red cloth with a white cross falls from the sky, inspiring them to fight on and conquer the town. The Danes adopt the flag as their own, and it remains the world's oldest national flag. They also establish a stone castle overlooking Tallinn, and Valdemar appoints Bishop Andreas Sunonis as the first regent of Tallinn, with the king's bastard son, Canute, being granted the title 'Duke of Reval'. Over the course of the next eight years the Danes set about consolidating their hold on the country.

1227 - 1238

In the same year in which they lose the overlordship of Pomerania to the Holy Roman empire, and are defeated at the Second Battle of Bornhved which loses them parts of the principality of Rgen, the Danes are temporarily eclipsed in North Estonia by the Livonian Order of Knights. In 1238,North Estonia is returned to the Danes under the terms of the Treaty of Stensby, which is mediated by the Pope.

1229

The young King Eric XI of Sweden, who is still a minor, is overthrown at the Battle of Olustra. He flees to the protection of his uncle, King Valdemar II, while his former regent, Knut Holmgersson, is crowned king in his place.

1241 - 1250

Eric IV

1250 - 1252

Abel

1252 - 1259

Christopher I

1259 - 1286

Eric V

1286 - 1319

Eric VI

1320 - 1332

Christopher II

1326 - 1329

Valdemar III

King in opposition to Christopher II.

1332 - 1340

The ruler of Denmark is unknown.

1340 - 1375

Valdemar IV

1343

The St George's Day Uprising in Estonia sees a revolt defeated by the Livonian Knights, using a mixture of treachery and battle. Three years later, the Danish king sells North Estonia to the Knights. All of Estonia is now ruled by a German nobility class.

1359 - 1361

Valdemar seeks the return of Scania, which has been mortgaged to Sweden since 1332. With diplomacy and politics taking too long to achieve this, he invades Scania in June 1359, under the guise of supporting King Magnus II of Sweden against Eric XII, rival for the throne and also duke of Finland. Eric's death in the same year ends the pretence of being an ally of Magnus, but Valdemar does not withdraw. Instead he proceeds to invade the island of Gtaland, the key to controlling the Baltic Sea. A counter-attack by the island's natives (not aided by the governing German nobility) is defeated on 27 July 1361. After a failed attempt to take Helsingborg, the joint Swedish and Hanseatic army has to give up, and Magnus is forced to accept the situation.

1375

Upon Valdemar's death his daughter immediately secures the election of her infant son as his successor. The daughter is Margaret, wife of Haakon VI of Norway, having been engaged to him since the age of six. As Olaf is a baby, Margaret rules in his stead, proving to be an able and accomplished queen regnant.

1376 - 1387

Olaf V

Son of Margaret I. Also king Olaf IV of Norway. Died aged 17.

1376 - 1387

Queen Margaret I

Mother and regent. De facto ruler of Denmark.

1380

Queen Margaret's husband, Haakon VI of Norway dies. Margaret ensures that their son, Olaf, is proclaimed king there, adding Norway to his territories. This creates the Union of Denmark and Norway, while Denmark also gains Greenland and Iceland. In reality, Margaret is again the de facto ruler, as Olaf is still a minor.

1387 - 1388

Olaf's sudden and unexpected death at the age of seventeen puts Margaret firmly in the driving seat as queen regent of Denmark and Norway. In effect, Norway is ruled as an appendage of Denmark. The nobility of Sweden, already unhappy with their own King Albert, invite Margaret to invade and take the throne. In 1388 she is accepted, at her own insistence, as 'Sovereign Lady and Ruler' of Sweden.

1387 - 1389

Queen Margaret I

Daughter of Valdemar IV. Queen of Denmark, Norway & Sweden.

1389

Having promised to find a ruling king for the Scandinavian nations under her control, Margaret proclaims her great-nephew, Bogislaw of Pommern-Stolp, king of Norway with her ruling alongside him as specifically agreed for Norway. He receives the more acceptable Scandinavian name of Eric as he takes up his new position, although he is still a minor, so Margaret returns to the role of regent.

1389 - 1439

Eric VII

Also Eric III of Norway, XIII of Sweden. and I of Pommern-Stolp.

1389 - 1412

Queen Margaret I / Margarethe I

Regent and former queen. Remained de facto ruler.

1397

In order to fully unite the three kingdoms under her control and promote her aim of securing peace and prosperity for Scandinavia, Margaret convenes the Congress of the Realm at Kalmar in June 1397. Eric is crowned king of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under the terms of the Union of Kalmar. Margaret remains regent for the rest of her lifetime so that even when Eric reaches his majority, she remains in control. (Eric is removed by the nobles in 1439 and returns to Pommern-Stolp.)

1438

The island of Rgen is lost by Denmark.

1439 - 1448

Christopher III

Son of Eric VII. Also Christopher of Norway and Sweden.

1448

Christopher dies suddenly. In Norway, Sigurd Jonsson becomes regent in Norway for the second time while the nobles of the three nations decide who to elect as the new king. Sweden selects Karl while Denmark chooses Christian of Oldenburg. Norway debates selecting a third candidate for its own throne but eventually it also goes with Christian of Oldenburg (in 1450), although a portion elects Karl in opposition to Christian. Karl and Christian now jostle for supremacy in Scandinavia, and Karl is soon forced by the nobility to relinquish his claim on Norway.

1448 - 1481

Christian I of Oldenburg

King of Norway, and also of Sweden (1457-1463).

1457 - 1463

In Sweden, Karl is deposed by a rebellion, led by Archbishop Jns Bengtsson (of the powerful Oxenstierna family) and a nobleman by the name of Erik Axelsson Tott. Karl is forced into exile, leaving for Danzig in Poland. The ringleaders take control while they organise the election of Christian of Oldenburg as king. Christian soon finds himself unhappy with the taxation policies being used by Archbishop Bengtsson and the two fall out. The archbishop is imprisoned, causing his powerful relatives to rebel, and Christian himself is driven out of the country.

1470 - 1497

The Swedish throne remains vacant following the death of Karl, apparently because Christian of Oldenburg still retains a valid claim on it despite being rebuffed in battle in 1471 by the regent, Sten Sture, but also because Sweden had agreed to elect his son, John, following Christian's death. That death comes in 1481 but John is not accepted as king in Sweden. Instead, Sten Sture retains control.

1472

Christian's daughter, Margaret, marries King James III of Scotland. Her dowry includes Orkney and Shetland, so these are handed over by the Danish crown to Scotland.

1481 - 1513

John / Hans

Son. Also John of Norway and II Sweden.

1497

In his efforts to preserve the Scandinavian unity that had been established by the Union of Kalmar, King John finally secures the Swedish throne following a short, decisive campaign. Regent of Sweden, Sten Sture, is defeated at the Battle of Rotebro, and surrenders himself in Stockholm, where he and the new king are reconciled.

1500 - 1501

John attempts to conquer Dithmarschen (now in Schleswig-Holstein). The region is one that Denmark has long seen as its own but which in fact is an independent peasant republic which loosely accepts the overlordship of the prince-archbishopric of Bremen. The fighting becomes dirty, with John's mercenary Black Guard being trapped at Hemmingstedt. Defeated and damaged, in the following year Sweden renounces John as its king. Despite fighting an increasingly bitter war against the restored regent, Sten Sture, and his successor Svante Nilsson, John is never able to return to Stockholm.

1509

Sweden agrees to a declaration which recognises John as king of Sweden in principle, although he is still not permitted entry into the land. His successor, Christian, is also nominal king of Sweden, but he is also prevented from taking the throne by the country's regents.

1513 - 1523

Christian II

Son. King of Norway, and of Sweden (1520-1523).

1520

Christian decides to force the issue in terms of Sweden's refusal to accept him into the country as its ruler. He invades, and Regent Sten Sture the Younger is mortally wounded at the Battle of Bogesund on 19 January 1520. Christian is enthroned and many of his enemies are killed in the Stockholm Bloodbath later in the same year.

1523

Initiating sweeping reforms in Denmark and throughout the Union, Christian is seem by some as an old-fashioned monarch by divine right rather than an elected king, and his subjects don't take to this kindly. Sweden revolts, leaving the Union of Kalmar in order that it might be in complete control of its own affairs. Denmark retains governance over Norway.

1523 - 1533

Frederick I

1534 - 1558

Christian III

1558 - 1588

Frederick II

1559 - 1562

During the Livonian Wars (1558-1583) the bishopric of Courland falls into Danish hands, and control of both it and the bishopric of sel-Wiek are handed to Prince Magnus of Denmark. In 1562, Courland is acquired by Lithuania.

1572

The former principality of sel is transferred to the direct administration of Denmark.

1588 - 1648

Christian IV

1645

One of the first acts of Queen Christina of Sweden is to negotiate the peace with Denmark. She does so successfully, gaining all of modern Estonia when the Danes hand over the island of sel (Saaremaa) under the Treaty of Brmsebro, along with the island of Gtaland. As a constituent of Danish holdings, Norway also has to concede territory, this being the districts of Hrjedale and Jmtland which remain part of Sweden to this day.

1648 - 1670

Frederick III

1658

The Treaty of Roskilde sees Denmark-Norway hand over Bohusln in south-eastern Norway and Skneland (Scania) in southern Sweden to the kingdom of Sweden. At least part of Bohusln had formerly been part of the Norwegian pre-unification kingdom of Alfheim, while Scania had been a Danish minor kingdom.

1670 - 1699

Christian V

1699 - 1730

Frederick IV

1721

The settlement in Greenland had since died out, so re-colonisation begins.

1730 - 1746

Christian VI

1746 - 1766

Frederick V

1766 - 1808

Christian VII

1807

Denmark is threatened with invasion by Napoleonic France, with the French army massed on its southern border. Napoleon Bonaparte wants the Danish fleet after losing his own at Trafalgar in 1805, so to prevent this, Britain mounts a raid on Copenhagen and captures the fleet.

1808 - 1839

Frederick VI

1814

FeatureFor having supplied forces to France's Napoleon Bonaparte (despite not having any real choice), Denmark loses Norway to Sweden at the end of the Napoleonic Wars under the terms of the Treaty of Kiel. However, it gains the minor duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg.

1839 - 1848

Christian VIII

1848 - 1863

Frederick VII

1862

The authoritarianism and poor standing amongst Greeks of King Otto of Greece leads to him being dethroned by the Greek National Assembly while he is in the countryside and a replacement is selected. The young Prince William of Denmark ascends the throne as George I.

1863 - 1906

Christian IX

1874

Iceland is granted autonomy.

1906 - 1912

Frederick VIII

Younger brother of King George I of Greece.

1905

Tension has been building between Sweden and Norway, which are joined in personal union under the king. The possibility of war is in the air, so it is with tactful negotiation and understanding that Sweden withdraws from the union on 7 June 1905. King Oscar of Sweden renounces his claim to the Norwegian throne, formally dissolving the union. Prince Carl of Denmark, son of Frederick VIII, is elected to the Norwegian throne, acceding on 18 November under the name Haakon VII.

1912 - 1947

Christian X

Son. Injured after fall from horse 1942-43, son acted as regent.

Prince Carl

Brother. Became King Haakon VII of Norway in 1905.

1914 - 1918

When the First World War erupts on Continental Europe, all three of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, remain neutral. Sweden asserts its right to continue trading with the countries of its choice, whatever side they have taken in the war. In practice this favours Germany so the Allies, especially Great Britain's Royal Navy, blockade Sweden, causing a severe food shortage in 1916. At the end of the war, in 1918, Iceland becomes administratively independent, but still recognises the Danish crown as its head of state.

1940 - 1945

As in the previous war, Sweden manages to remain neutral throughout the Second World War. Despite this, there are unofficial breaches of that neutrality on behalf of both sides in the war. German troops are shipped along Sweden's railways during their invasion of Russia in 1941, while the Allies are allowed to use Swedish airbases from 1944. There are several further examples. Neighbouring Denmark and Norway are both invaded and occupied by the Nazi Germans. With Denmark under occupation, in 1944 Iceland declares its independence and recreates its republic.

1942 - 1943

Crown Prince Frederick

Son of Christian X and temporary regent.

1947 - 1972

Frederick IX

Former crown prince and regent.

1953

Once it becomes apparent to all that King Frederick is unlikely to produce a male heir, an amendment is made to the constitution which permits female offspring to inherit the throne. Frederick's daughter is Margaret, and upon her accession as Queen Margarethe II she becomes the country's first queen since her earlier namesake in 1412.

1972 - Present

Queen Margaret II / Margarethe II

Daughter and queen regnant.

Crown Prince Frederik

Son and heir. Born May 1968.