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Svein Knutsson

Sveinn Knútsson

King of Norway
Reign 1030 - 1046 

(As Cnut's regent until 1035, with Einar Thambarskelfir) (With Cnut Sveinsson after 1045)

Predecessor Cnut the Great

(Hákon Eiríksson, Sweyn Knutsson, Einar Thambarskelfir)

Successor Magnus the Good

(1043 - 1045)

Harald Hardrada

King of Denmark
Reign 1042 - 1076
Predecessor Harthacnut
Successor Cnut IV of Denmark
Spouse Gytha Thorkelsdóttir
House House of Knýtlinga
Father Cnut the Great
Mother Ælfgifu of Northampton
Born c. 1008
Died 1076 

Søderup, Denmark

Svein Knutsson (Old Norse: Sveinn Knútsson) was a son of Cnut the GreatKing of DenmarkNorway, and England, and his first wife Ælfgifu of Northampton, a Mercian noblewoman. Born around the year 1008, Cnut sent Svein to serve as regent of Norway in 1030, with his power partially delegated to nobleman Einar Thambarskelfir. When Cnut died in 1035, Svein assumed full control of Norway, which he ruled until 1045, aside from a period of time from 1043 to 1045 when Magnus the Good usurped the throne. In 1042 the king of England and Denmark, Harthacnut, Svein's brother, died and Svein assumed the throne of Denmark. Svein left his son Cnut as regent of Norway in 1045, which he held until 1046, when he was usurped by Harald Hardrada, one of Magnus' kinsmen.



Under Cnut the GreatEdit

The Danish king Cnut the Great ruled over the Kingdom of Norway, first until 1029 through the regent Haakon Ericsson, until his death in 1035. With Haakon's death in 1029, Cnut next sent his eldest son Svein to Norway to serve as regent. Under the regent Svein the Kingdom of Norway underwent heavy political change, including greater royal involvement in national affairs, as well as stricter regulations in some areas. Einar Thambarskelfir, an influential Norwegian noble famous for his leadership during the Battle of Svolder, criticized the appointment of Svein, believing that he was a better candidate for the regency after the death of the Jarl of Lade. Einar had grown in power after the Battle of Svolder divided Norway into a number of regions. Another noble who profited from this division, Erling Skjalgsson, allied with Einar and Norwegian regent Sveinn Hákonarson against Olaf Haraldsson at the Battle at Nesjar.

Olaf had formed an uneasy alliance with Erling after the battle, with Erling forced to accept lesser terms compared to what could have been offered to him by Olaf Tryggvason or the jarl Svein. Erling's power remained along the western coast of Norway, extending roughly from Rogaland to Sogn. Olaf attempted to split up Erlings power by granting lands to lesser nobles, but Erling and his supporting faction pushed back the king's attempts. Asbjørn Selsbane, the son of Erling's sister, was arrested by Olaf for murder, and in response Erling raised 1,000 men to surround the king at Avaldsnes. Olaf released Erling's nephew, but not before their relationship was greatly damaged. As a result Erling support Cnut against Olaf in the coming war. Erling raised an army an attacked Olaf in 1028 by sea, but was trapped near Bokn in Rogaland and captured. Before the king could pardon him, Erling was cleaved in the head with an axe by Aslak Fitjaskalle. The uproar from Erling's death, timed with Cnut's invasion, led to Olaf being driven from Norway. Two years later in 1030 he would be killed at the Battle of Stiklestad.

During this time Einar Thambarskelfir remained an opponent of the king, and fought alongside Cnut in the 1028 invasion. As the oldest supporter of Cnut's invasion, Einar expected the regency to turn to him, and in 1030 Cnut relented and appointed him regent for his son Svein, effectively making him regent of Norway. Einar helped to keep the Norwegian jarldoms in balance, advising the young Svein away from harsh taxation and injustices. Consequently Einar also manured to enable his own power, becoming de facto ruler of Norway for a time. In 1033 Tryggvi the Pretender, a Viking chieftain from the British Isles, arrived in Norway, claiming to be a son of the late Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason, by his wife Gyda. These claims were dismissed by Svein and his supporters, but others believed the claim, and called Olaf's relatives in Viken Tryggvi's kinsmen. The royal army was raised, alongside the armies of Halogaland, Trondheim, and Einar's levies. With this combined force Svwin marched south to Agder, believing that Tryggvi planned to slip through the Skagerrak and join those who supported his claim in Viken. Instead Tryggvi landed in Hordaland, then sailed toward Rogaland where he made contact with Svein's navy. Despite his bravery in battle, Tryggvi was overwhelmed by Svein's navy, and was killed in the battle.

King of NorwayEdit

A succession crisis ensued across Cnut the Great's extensive empire upon his death in 1035. As the eldest child of Cnut, Svein attempted to claim ownership of the empire, or at least its main component, the Kingdom of Denmark, despite already in control of Norway. Cnut had left his third son Harthacnut as his primary successor, who was crowned King of Denmark, and claimed the throne of England. With neither side willing to waste resources invading the other, Svein and Harthacnut allied with one another, acknowledging the other's positions as King of Norway and King of Denmark respectively. In England Cnut's second son Harold was appointed regent in the absence of Harthacnut, as the English favored a joint kingship between the two kings.

Svein was wed to Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, the daughter of Thorgil Sprakling, father of Cnut's steward Ulf. With whom he had about eight children. His eldest son Cnut would be appointed his heir in Norway, while his second son Harold became King of England following the death of Harthacnut in 1042. Unknown to Svein a son of Olaf Haraldsson, Magnus, remained in exile. Magnus had escaped Norway in 1028, travelling over the mountains and through the Eidskog during the winter, where he entered Värmland. Olaf's family had found refugee in Närke, where they stayed for a few months, before they reached the Swedish king at Sigtuna. Olaf led his family by ship to the Kievan Rus', where he traveled south to the city of Novgorod, where he sought the assistance of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise. Yaroslave refused to become directly involved in the Scandinavian power struggles, and Olaf was left without his support. In 1030 Olaf returned to Norway, where he was killed, leaving Magnus and the rest of his family in the east. Magnus was fostered by Yaroslav and his wife Ingegerd, where he received extensive training and tutoring.

In 1043 the Norwegian chieftain Kalf Arnesson was forced out of Norway by Einar Thambarskelfir, after the latter's attempts to usurp Einar as the most powerful noble under Svein Knutsson. Kalf traveled to Novgorod, where he collected Magnus and sought to return to Norway and push Magnus' claim to the throne. Magnus and his party arrived in Sigtuna, where they received the backing of the Swedish king. An army of Swedish warriors and Magnus' Norwegian supporters was raised, and an invasion was launched into Norway that year. Svein fled Norway for his Denmark, after a rebellion among the Norwegian nobles grew in support of Magnus and his supporters. Magnus was crowned king of Norway, but his power was largely limited by the vast network of jarls created under Svein. In 1045 Svein returned to Norway with an army from Denmark and England, under the command of his son Cnut. At the Battle of Oskarström Magnus would be killed, allowing Svein to return to the throne of Norway. Now in control of Norway and Denmark, Svein appointed his son Cnut as regent in Norway. Svein and his son Cnut remained in power until 1046, when one of Magnus' kinsman named Harald Hardrada usurped the throne of Norway.

King of DenmarkEdit

After his usurpation from the throne of Norway in 1046 by Harald Hardrada, the culmination of years of fighting with the Fairhair Dynasty, particularly with Harald's nephew Magnus the Good, Svein Knutsson continued to rule as King of Denmark, fighting often with Harald in Scania and on the coast. Peace was not concluded between Svein and Harald until 1064, when both monarchs recognized each other's claims, and Harald began preparing for his expedition to claim the throne of England, an invasion that would eventually lead to his death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge two years later. With Svein's son on the throne of England as Harold II, Svein enjoyed amicable relations with England, and trade prospered across the North Sea, especially in the absence of a strong Norwegian rival power to the north.

Finding himself in control of a different political landscape after departing from Norway, Svein sought to consolidate his rule over Denmark at a time when royal authority was wavering. Svein successfully sought good relations with the popes, in an effort to link his rule to that of the church. Svein also petitioned for the sanctification of Harald Bluetooth, Denmark's first Christian king, to this same end. Svein formed strong alliances, particularly with Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor, fighting against Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, and alongside Gottschalk in the Liutizi Civil War. Upon the death of Harald Hardrada in 1066, Svein renewed hostilities against Norway the following year. A swift invasion against the weakened Norwegian forces resulted in the Scanian possessions being expanded, as well the concession of Ranrike and Viken to Denmark. The invaders were paid a heavy tribute, and in exchange left the remainder of Norway.

In Denmark Svein's influence over ecclesiastical matters resulted in his appointment of Danish clergy from England into the upper ranks of Denmark's churches, as Svein feared the Archbishop of Hamburg would fill these positions with his own men from Germany. Denmark's churches remained largely independent, and in 1060 Svein saw them divided into eight dioceses to cover the nation. Large tracts of land were donated to the newly created bishops, with the Diocese of Roskilde becoming the most favored and influential. Upon the death of the incumbent Archbishop of Hamburg Svein began dealing with the Holy See directly, further separating Denmark from the authority of the church in Germany. Svein promoted the education of Danish nobles in Latin and other European customs, to better converse with European elite. Clergymen from Germany later noted that Svein had built more churches than any other northern king, and his embracing of European customs were well received.