Sigrid the Haughty

Sigrid the Haughty

Sigrid the Haughty, also known as Sigrid Storråda, was a Nordic queen of contested historicity. She is generally held to be apocryphal in modern scholarship, see e.g. Birgitta Fritz.citation |author=Birgitta Fritz |contribution=Sigrid Storråda|title=Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon |volume=32 |year=2004 ]

She has been variously identified as Świętosława, Saum-Aesa, Gunnhilda, daughter of Mieszko I, sister to Bolesław I Chrobry, King of Poland.

She is a character who appears in many sagas and historical chronicles. It is unclear if she was a real person or a compound person (with several real women's lives and deeds attributed to one compound person).

It is possible that some accounts confuse one Sigríð, second wife to King of Denmark, Sweyn Forkbeard, and the daughter of Toste, with Saum-Aesa (Świętosława) of Poland, his first wife, also known as Gunhilda in her marriage.

Sigríð married the first time, wedding Eiríkr the Victorious (King Eiríkr VI Sigrsæll) of Sweden. She had one son by this marriage: King Óláf II Eiríksson of Sweden, also called Olof Skotkonung. It was in 994 she wed Sweyn Forkbeard under her Scandinavian name, Sigrid Storråda, and the marriage bore five daughters, half-sisters of Danish princes Harald and Canute the Great.

One daughter, Astrid Margaritte was the second wide of Richard II of Normandy (married 1017) after his first wife Judith (mother of three daughters & three sons, one of whom was Robert I, father of King William I, the Conqueror). Astrid later married Ulf Jarl, son of Thorgils Spragalaeg (the last king of Danish Scania (Ohlmarks), died at Svold 1005), great-grand son of Harald Bluetooth, King of Denmark. They had two sons: Bjorn and Sweyn II of Denmark.

The most commonly-held understandingFact|date=November 2007 is that Harald and Canute brought back Świętosława from Poland after their stepmother Sigrid left upon the death of their father.

Contemporary chroniclers

Theories hold that Sigrid was the daughter of a mythical Burislav (possibly Mieszko I of Poland and Dubrawka). The medieval chroniclers who were Sigrid's contemporaries seem to support the hypothesis that her father was Mieszko, though recent analysis suggests they confused her with Gunhild, the Polish princess who changed her name from Świętosława when she married Swein Forkbeard.

Several medieval chronicles state that the mother of Harald II of Denmark and Canute the Great was either a Pole or possibly a member of a closely related Slavic tribe. Arguments which support this assertion include:

*Thietmar mentions that the daughter of Mieszko I of Poland and sister of Boleslaw I of Poland married Sweyn Forkbeard and gave him two sons, Canute the Great and Harold II of Denmark, but he does not mention her name. Thietmar is probably the best informed of all medieval chroniclers, since he was contemporary with described events and well-informed about the events in Poland and Denmark.

*Adam of Bremen writes that a Polish princess was the wife of Eric the Victorious and that she was the mother of Canute the Great and Harold II of Denmark. Adam's information here is considered unreliable by some historians.

*"Gesta Cnutonis regis" mentions in one short passage that Canute and his brother went to the land of the Slavs, and brought back their mother, who was living there. This does not necessarily mean that his mother was Slavic, but nevertheless this chronicle strongly suggests that she was.

*There is an inscription in "Liber vitae of the New Minster and Hyde Abbey Winchester", that king Canute's sister's name was "Santslaue" ("Santslaue soror CNVTI regis nostri"), which without doubt is a Slavic name. J. Steenstrup suggests that Canute's sister may have been named after her mother, hence coining (the now generally agreed upon) hypothesis, that her Slavic name is "Świętosława", but only as a reconstruction based on a single mention of her daughter's name and the hypothesis that she named her daughter after herself. This statement also supports the theory that Sigrid was the daughter of Mieszko I.

The information in Scandinavian sources is different from that of contemporary chroniclers, which suggest, Sigrid was a Slav, yet confusion amongst contemporaries should tend to lean historians towards the corroborative sources.

Additionally, the things we can see the monastic scribes do to the facts surrounding the two wives conundrum should be seen as putting the 'contemporary chronicles' under a heavy cloud of unreliability on such matters. King Knutr and the two Aelfgifus being the perfect example, with obvious contrivance over the legitimacy of the children the marriages bore. Similarly, "Scandinavian sources" are mainly the sagas, which are famous for twisting the names and facts, having been written almost two centuries after the events.

The mother of Harald and Canute?

The assertion that Harald and Canute's mother was Boleslaw's sister may explain some mysterious statements which appear in medieval chronicles, such as the involvement of Polish troops in invasions of England.

The idea that Swiatoslawa's name changes twice is ingenuous, and the Scandinavian sources refer to Sigrid the Haughty alone - this is a name which does not appear in any other source than later sagas, though. Gunhild then was the name given the Polish princess to take the slurs away from Danish pronunciations. However, some historians find it hard to accept the idea that saga writers living many generations later were better informed than contemporary chroniclers, leading them to conclude that "Sigrid" is simply a name invented by saga writers who could not pronounce or write her Slavic name.

candinavian sources

According to the theory based on Norse sagas, Sigrid the Haughty was the daughter of the powerful Swedish Viking Skoglar Toste. She married Eric the Victorious, King of Sweden, and together they had a son Olof Skötkonung. She later divorced Eric and was given Götaland as a fief. After Eric's death, she married Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark.

The Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus confirms some of the information from the Norse sagas, when he writes that Eric the Victorious' widow Syritha had married Sweyn Forkbeard after having spurned Olaf Trygvasson.

Refusal to marry Olaf Trygvasson

In 998, when it was proposed that Sigrid, daughter of the Swedish king, marry Olaf Trygvasson, the king of Norway, she rebelled because it would have required that she convert to Christianity. She told him to his face, "I will not part from the faith which my forefathers have kept before me." In a rage, Olaf hit her. It is said that Sigrid then calmly told him, "This may some day be thy death." [] Sigrid proceeded to avoid the marriage, and created instead a coalition of his enemies to bring about his downfall. She accomplished this by allying Sweden and Denmark against Norway. She achieved her purpose when Olaf fell fighting against Sweden and Denmark in the year 1000 during the Battle of Swold. Queen Sigríð won her vengeance that day, for King Óláf saw his Norwegian forces defeated and he himself leapt into the sea to drown rather than face capture by his enemies.

The cognomen "Haughty"

Sigrid got the Scandinavian style cognomen "Haughty" when she had Harald Grenske burnt to death in order to discourage other petty kings from proposing to her.

Polish sources

The vast majority of Polish historians consider Sigrid and Swiatoslawa to be the same person. In Polish encyclopedias, "Sigrid" is presented as another name for "Swiatoslawa". More specialised (Polish) history books mostly agree that Swiatoslawa was Polish, and consider the Swedish "Sigrid" to be a fantasy created by Scandinavian saga writers


From 1835 to 1977, the Haraldskær Woman, discovered in a peat bog in Jutland, was mistaken as the body of a woman from the 1000s, thought to be Sigrid (or Gunhild). The advent of radiocarbon dating proved this theory incorrect. This mistake was intertwined with numerous episodes of Scandinavian intrigue, as the theory was elaborated to serve a variety of agendas of kings and nobles during that era.

In literature

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow composed a poem with the title "Queen Sigrid the Haughty" of which this is the first verse.

:Queen Sigrid the Haughty sat proud and aloft:In her chamber, that looked over meadow and croft.:Heart's dearest,:Why dost thou sorrow so?

Karen Blixen, in the short story "The Deluge at Norderney" in "Seven Gothic Tales", refers to Sigrid, claiming that she invited all her suitors to her house and burned them in to discourage other suitors.

External links

* [ The Viking Answer Lady]


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