Forside DH-Debate
30. Niels the Old

31. Denmark's History - Erik Emune

Introduction - Erik Emune - The Murder of Harald Kesja and his Sons - Erik som Konge af Danmark - Erik's Wife and Child - King Erik's Death and Burial - Links and Literature -

Introduction

Erik emune Painting representing King Erik Emune from around 1575 in the Cathedral of Ribe. Throughout the Middle Ages, a soul prayer was read daily in Ribe Cathedral for his Peace. Probably there is no portrait likeness. There are no descriptions of how he looked like. Foto Orf3us Wikipedia.

Erik Emune became king of Denmark shortly after the battle of Fodevig and the Slesvig citizens' murder of King Niels in 1134. The circumstances of his election as a king is not known, perhaps he simply grabbed the power. He ruled only for three years until he was killed at Urnehoved Ting in Jutland already in 1137.

After Magnus the Strong's murder of Knud Lavard in Haraldsted Forest January 1131, Knud's brothers - Harald Kesja and Erik Emune - the Hvide family, the Bodil sons and other Danish chieftain families rebelled against King Niels and his son Magnus the Strong. They appointed Erik Emune as their king and leader of the rebellion. Svend Aggesen writes: "Erik, who was encouraged on by the finger of the God, burned with eagerness to fight against his uncle, King Niels, and revenge his murdered brother"

Initially, Erik drew the short straw in the civil war, but he displayed an incredible fighting spirit, ingenuity and uncompromisingness. After three years of fierce fighting throughout the country, he had to flee to Norway with his family, where he was held captive by the Norwegian king Magnus. It seemed then that his case was completely lost. But he drank the prison guards drunk, broke hole in the outer wall of his cell, drilled holes in the bottom of the Norwegian ships on the beach and escaped to Denmark with his family.
Royal families or dynasties through Denmark's history
Royal dynasties or line of kings throughout Denmark's history. However, all kings - except Magnus the Good - descended from "Hardegon, son of a certain Sven", who conquered most of Jutland in 917. It provides a good overview to divide the series of kings and thus the history of Denmark into manageable sections.
The Knytlinge Line got its name from Hardecnudth, son of Hardegon. He is also called Knud 1. and was perhaps Gorm the Old father. Magnus the Good in 1047 was the son of the Norwegian saint, King Olav; his time forms a transitional period to Sweyn Estridson's, his sons and grandsons' reign.
The warring kings, Svend, Knud and Valdemar around 1157, were all grandsons of Sweyn Estridson; their time forms as an interregnum to the Valdemars' Era.
Many historians, probably most, include only Valdemar the Great, his son Knud 6. and Valdemar Victory for the Valdemars. But one cannot claim such a definition, and it seems natural and appropriate for the author to include their direct male descendants as well - including Erik 4. Plovpenning, Abel and Christoffer 1. - until Christoffer 2. who was the last king before the kingless time around 1340. Many historians, probably most, include only Valdemar the Great, his son, Knud 6. and Valdemar Sejr in the group of the Valdemars. But one cannot claim such a definition, and it seems natural and appropriate for the author to include their direct male descendants as well - including Erik 4. Plovpenning, Abel and Christoffer 1. - until Christoffer 2. who was the last king before the period without kings around 1340.
Valdemar Atterdag was not king of the Kalmar Union, but it became his grandson Oluf, and his daughter Margrete 1. became Queen of the Scandinavian Union. One can say - with a little good will - that Valdemar Atterdag rebuilt Denmark and thus created the basis for the Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden.
The early Olden kings were also kings of the Union, but only for short periods.
The Civil War, the Count's Feud, in 1536 represents an important turning point in the history of Denmark. As a result of the Lutheran Reformation, the kings took possession of the third part of Denmark's agricultural land that belonged to the church. This immense wealth made it possible to overcome the old nobility and create the absolute monarchy, which was a major cause of Denmark's historic decline. In 1848, a democratic constitution was introduced without outside internal fighting.
The Oldenborg line became extinct in 1863 with the death of the childless Frederik 7. The throne was then given to Christian 9. of Glucksborg.

Miraculously, Erik turned the mood in Scania - probably in collaboration with Archbishop Asser - in favor of his almost lost cause, and they hired or otherwise got the help of an army of armored riders - probably from Germany - that completely overcame King Niels' and Magnus' old-fashioned leding army in the Battle of Fodevig in 1134.

Svend Estridsen was followed by five of his sons and then two grandsons
Sweyn Estridson was followed as king by five of his sons, one after the other. After them came Erik Emune, son of Erik Ejegod, and then Erik Lam, son of Ragnhild, who was a daughter of Erik Ejegod. It was Erik Ejegod, who led Gorm the Old's and Sweyn Estridon's lineage to be kings for generations to come.

Magnus the Strong, King Niels' only son, fell in the battle. Before Niels went to Slesvig, therefore, he appointed Erik Emune's big brother, Harald Kesja, to co-king, as he had changed sides in favor of King Niels. Erik responded uncompromisingly and cruelly by killing the brother and all his twelve sons except one. who escaped in the confusion.

Erik Emune

Saxo reports very laconically about Erik Ejegod: "Erik had three sons, Harald, Knud and Erik, of whom he should have bred the first one with a mistress, the second in his marriage, and the third one with another man's wife.

Erik Ejegod's sons
Erik Ejegod's three sons. Harald Kesja was the oldest. Knud Lavard was born within marriage, which gained increasing importance throughout the Middle Ages. He got Erik Emune with a less distinguished mistress. The chieftains pushed all three aside in favor of Erik Ejegod's brother, Niels, and the principle that Sweyn Estridson's sons should inherit the throne by age.

Many assume that he was born around 1100, and thus was about 34 years old when he became king.

On Erik Ejegod's and Bodil's departure to the Holy Land, it came to the light that the father did not have a very great interest in little Erik. Saxo says: "Then the King determined that his son Harald, who had attained a suitable age and maturity to such an office, should be in charge in his absence, and Skjalm Hvide, who was highly regarded both for his noble birth and his great righteousness, and whom he had made chief not only all over Sjaelland but also over Rugen, that he himself had made taxable, should be entrusted to raise Knud. Erik, on the other hand, who was of inferior descent on the maternal side, and for whom he did not care as much, he gave less respectable custodians."

Knytlinge Saga says that Erik had a bad relationship with King Niels: "King Erik's second son, Erik, was not so much liked by King Nicholas."

He was bynamed Emune. It means the unforgettable, the forever-remembered. Knytlinge Saga says that "because many thought that they would late recover from the cruelty they had endured from him, he was therefore called Erik Emun or the always remembered".

Others called him by the nickname Hare-foot. Helmold's Slavic Chronicle describes that he waged a kind of guerilla war against Magnus: "Then he assumed the name of king and began to fall upon Magnus and fight with him one time after another, but he lost and had to flee. Therefore, Herik was also given the byname Hasenvoth. That is Hare-foot because he was constantly on the run."

Trebuchet at the Medieval center
Trebuchet at the Medieval center, which is located on the northern outskirts of Sundby on the Lolland side of Guldborgsund just opposite Nykoebing Falster.

Erik was energetic and resourceful and certainly not afraid to make unpopular decisions. He used trebuchet for the first time in Denmark and conquered with the help of these Harald Kesja's castle, Haraldsborg, on Sjaelland. In Slesvig, he resisted attacks from the whole of Denmarks leding army until the severe winter caused the attackers to give up. With great ingenuity, he drunk his captors drunk, thereby escaping his captivity in Norway. He obtained armored riders and used them with great success against Niels 'and Magnus' old-fashioned leding army at Fodevig. He introduced that the leding fleet should carry cavalry, namely four horses in each ship, it is said. He captured the Arkona castle on Rugen by draining the castle's well, forcing the defenders to surrender.

But his brutal murder of the brother and his sons testifies that he was also cruel and totally reckless.

Saxo says that when Erik became king he became a terror to the big ones, but loved by the little ones: "He punished the injustices committed by the great chieftains against petty people, spared neither friends nor kinsmen, but chastised the unspeakable undecent greed of the nobles with swords and rope. By his zeal in this respect, he incurred the hatred of the noblemen, but in return won the affection of the common man."

Granite baptismal font in Almind Church
Granite baptismal font in Almind Church north of Kolding.

The Roskilde Chronicle sees the same case from another side: "Erik acted in all things like he was an emperor; he cleared all obstacles of the way and tolerated no equal, let alone superior; reckless, conceited, great in evil, dreadful in all his actions, for he raced forward as a lightning, robbed, despite the weeping and sighing of people whom he might think possessed something, and distributed the stolen goods among greedy and wicket people."

Erik was eloquent, says the Roskilde Chronicle, but full of lies: "Erik was younger than Harald and far more eloquent than him; a shameful man, full of rage and lies"

This is confirmed by Saxo, who believes that he did not always stick to the truth: "By the way, he had the habit of praising so highly his own valiant achievements that he sometimes exceeded the limits of truth."

The Murder of Harald Kesja and his Sons

"Erik Emun was hard and strict against all the people of Denmark as soon as he believed himself sure in government." Knytlinge Saga tells, "He killed his brother Harald Kesia and his two sons and many other friends of King Nicholas."

After the loss of his only son, Magnus the Strong, in the Battle of Fodevig, Niels appointed Harald Kesja as co-king: "He then went to Jutland and put Harald here over half the kingdom, honoring him with name of king," says the Roskilde Chronicle, which is confirmed by Saxo. This was a major cause of Erik's anger against Harald and his sons, for he himself wanted to be king and tolerated no rivals.

Romanesque altar in Roedding Church in Salling
Romanesque altar in Roedding Church in Salling. It is designed like a table with four heavy legs. One leg is shaped like a kneeling worshipper in prayer. Back then, people did not pray with folded hands but with raised hands and open palms. Photo Lennart Larsen.

However, Harald Kesja had twelve sons and not only two, as Knytlinge Sage writes, and Erik killed them all except one.

One of Harald Kesja's sons fell in the Battle of Fodevig in 1134. The Roskilde Chronicle writes: "The twelfth son Magnus had fallen in the battle of Scania."

However, two other sons - the brave Bjoern Ironside, who had saved Erik Emune in the Battle of Onsild Bridge and his brother Erik Diakon - chose to support Erik Emune, which turned out to be unwise. Saxo tells: "During the confusion that ensued as a result of this king-assassination (The killing of Niels), Harald's two eldest sons, Erik and Bjoern, left their father and joined Erik (Emune)." - "For, at night, secret messengers came to them from their father, and they kept silent with what the messengers had told them." - "When asked about what the envoys had told them about their father, they said that he had asked them for advice on what he should do now and that they had advised him to flee to Norway; they did not want to say what they had advised him until they were assured that he had followed their advice." - "Determined to get to know if they had told the truth, Erik ordered that they should be kept in the strictest custody in the castle in Slesvig," - When Erik visited the castle at Slesvig on a later occasion "the two young men stepped forward before him laden with chains, humbly pleading at his feet, assuring him of their innocence, and urging him to release them from their prison." - "and as Erik was mightily intoxicated, he started weeping over their miserable condition, and promised to set them free, because they had spoken the truth."

But, Saxo continues, when Erik became sober the next day, he chose to fail his promise: "When Kristjern (The leader of the Jutland rebellion against Niels, whom Erik had liberated from prison after the victory) having learned this from the courtiers, he met Erik when he went to the chapel in the early morning, and mocked him, because the day before he had been encouraged by drunkenness, and had been too generous and bestowed upon his enemies the kingdom of Denmark." - "Harold's sons would think more on that he had kept them in prison, than that he had released them, and that he would get shame as thanks for letting them free," - "now that he had become sober, he did not refrain from breaking the promise of the gentleness, he had shown when he was drunk, was not ashamed to give up his mercy, when he was encouraged to fury, and let them drown; whom he had given hope that they would stay alive.".

The murder of Bjoern Ironside and his brother by drowning is confirmed by both Svend Aggesen and Roskilde Chronicle, which last one writes: "Bjoern and Erik Diakon had Erik drowned at the castle located at the entrance to Slesvig Fjord years before their father's death."

But it should be even worse.

Erik Emune lets the ships pull over the ice
Erik Emune lets the ships pull over the ice. Drawing by Louis Moe.

"However, Harald (Kesja) Eriksson had returned to Jutland and was named King at Urne Ting," Saxo tells. "When Erik learned this, he let his ships pull over the ice - the water was frozen - out into the open sea and sailed secretly to Jutland. At night, in Skibetorp he took Harald and those of his sons who were still alive by surprise, and at dawn he ordered him dragged out of his bedroom and killed, irrespective of that he was his brother."

Roskilde Chronicle, which was written about 1140, that is, a few years after the events, reports more details on Erik's outrageous murder of his brother and the rest of his sons: "After completing all this, Erik sailed to Scania and spent Christmas there. However, Harald stayed in Jutland and was supported by so many Jutlanders. When Erik heard this, he suddenly came over to Sjaelland, and in severe frost he hurried from here over to Jutland on a ship; the following night he captured his unsuspecting brother, along with his children and wife in a town named Skiping; Erik had him killed by the executioners, and his head was buried by the parishioners from the town there in the far corner of the cemetery. Erik bragged a great deal of his brother's death; he had his sons brought to Skaane and kept them there in chains until August."

Holy relic store
Holy relic Store on display at the National Museum. It contains an arm bone. Relic stores were often designed as the body parts that corresponded to the contents. Foto Lennart Larson.

"Then he made evil plans with the Scanians and sent them to an island called Suer, where he killed them all and threw the bodies into one and the same grave. Their names are these: Sivard, Erik, Sven, Nils, Harald, Benedict, Mistivint and Knud. But Olaf, when his father and brothers were captured, mingled with the beggars and the pilgrims, and thus managed to escape, wearing some of their clothes, and came over to Sverker, the king of Sweden, whom he pleaded for help. When this one had heard the whole sequence of the events: how his father and brothers had been killed, he accepted Olaf, hoping that something good might come of him, and gave him with great benevolence all the days of Erik a part of his kingdom for support."

Svend Aggesen, who also wrote quite a few years after the events, wrote compassionately about the victims: " - and not only that but also his eleven brothers, some of whom were adults, some even small children, he let them all murder. So badly he was related to his Father!"

The reason why Erik did not kill the children on the spot was probably that even at that time such a massacre must have been a hard diet for the Danes. He wanted to let them disappear unnoticed. Therefore, it should take place on the island of Suer without witnesses, who knows - probably at night.

But where was the island of Suer located? Today there are no islands called Suer.

King Frederik 2. himself gives us a valuable hint. He wrote in his diary in 1584: "Today we went to Sur", and five days later: "Today my Soffye went to Roskilde with my two eldest daughters and my son Christian stayed in Sur to study in Jesus name". On the last day of the year, he wrote: "Today I went to Suer to my son Christian". For information, Soffye is Queen Sofie and Christian is the later Christian 4.

Map of Soroe drawn by cartographer Johannes Mejer about 1650
Map of Soroe drawn by cartographer Johannes Mejer around 1650. It shows an island in a lake. At the southern tip of the island, the city is gradually expanding around the church and the former monastery. The curved line is the defense dike that Frederik 3. constructed around the city in 1654 "from the lake to the philosophical walkway". The straight line east-west, from bridge to bridge, is the old royal road across Sjaelland. It may seem that Soroe is connected to the mainland to the north, but here it was also separated from the mainland by a very narrow strip of water.

The oldest place names in Denmark are short names of natural formations, such as lakes, fjords and islands. Perhaps these names originate from the Stone Age. For example, Adam of Bremen wrote about Sprogoe: "Between Sjaelland and Fyen lies a small island called Sprog; rather a robbers nest and a fright for anyone sailing by." Only later was it added -oe (meaning island) so the name became Sprogoe.

The historian Harald Andersen believes that the city Soroe on Sjaelland once was located on an island in a lake, which is also visible on old maps. The island was originally called Suer, but in the course of history in a similar way an -oe (meaning island) has been added so that the name became Soroe. Around 1140, the island was probably covered with forest and perhaps barely inhabited. The common grave, into which the eight children and young people have been tossed, is probably located somewhere under the villas and shopping streets of the modern city of Soroe.

Erik as King of Denmark

At the news of Niels' death in Slesvig in 1134, Erik immediately traveled to there: "When Erik heard this, he went to Slesvig and gave the citizens rich gifts for the disgraceful deed", says the Roskilde Chronicle.

Then - while still in Slesvig - he appointed new bishops instead of the many who fell at Fodevig. It is believed that Asser, who was now about 75-76 years old, stayed in Lund and thus did not directly influence the choice of bishops. But, thanks to his support for Erik at Fodevig, his brother's son Eskild was appointed bishop of Roskilde. Thus, it seems that Erik - just like Niels - sovereignly led the Danish Church.

Relief in Soender Kirkeby Kirke on Lolland.
Relief in Soender Kirkeby Kirke on Lolland. The man on the left is a local chieftain named Toste, perhaps the church's builder. In front is the church's pastor named Konrad; he carries chasuble and altar chalice. Foto Lennart Larsen.

There is very little information on how Erik was elected king. It is said that he was hailed in Scania on Lerbaekshoejen near Lund. There is no mention of a leding gathering at Isoere or formal hailing at other county tings. One can imagine the Roskilde Chronicle's Latin expression "rex tyrannus" covers that he simply took power, supported by his warriors.

Erik killed Harald Kesja and his sons early in the year in 1135. The same year or early the following year, the Norwegian throne-seeker Harald Gille came to Denmark and asked for help against his rival, Magnus; that Magnus, who would later be bynamed "the Blind." Erik was busy consolidating himself in his new kingdom, but gave him some support. The King Saga, Magnus the Blind and Harald Gilles Saga, tells: "King Harald fled east to his ships in Viken and then to Denmark and sought out King Erik Emune for his support; they met south on Sjaelland. King Erik welcomed him, mostly because they had sworn brotherhood; he provided Harald with Halland for support and income and gave him seven equipped longships."

It may have been these Danish longships that burned down a Norwegian city by the name of Oslo: "After Erik got things in order in Denmark, and there again was peace in the country, he again thought about taking care of his friend's affairs, which he had to postphone because of the difficulties he himself had faced, and to help him, he sacked and burned the city of Oslo, which was devoted to Magnus."

In the same eventful year, a large Vendic army burned and destroyed the thriving market city of Kongshelle, founded by Sigurd Jorsalfar. The army had already plundered and raged in Denmark. The saga says: "Erik Dane-king and Oessur Archbishop both sent messages to Kongshelle and asked them to take care of the city; they said that the Vends had a large army out that ravaged widely among Christian men and constantly won victory." But the citizens of Kongshelle could hardly believe that the Vends would come this far north: "The townspeople paid too little attention to the case, and the more they neglected and forgot about it, the longer time passed from the horror that had befallen them. Lars-mass-day (August 10) When high mass was preached, Ratibor Vend-king came to Kongshelle with five and a half hundred Vendic longships, and on each ship there were 44 men and two horses." The Vends had already learned how to carry horses with them on the ships.

The battle between the merchants and the Vends in Kongshelle
The first battle in Kongshelle between the merchants and the Vends. The townspeople shoot from the quay. Illustration in Snorre Sturlason King Sagas - Nationaludgaven.

"Nine merchant ships, bound for the east, which belonged to merchants, floated in the river in front of the quay" The saga continues, "The Vends first made their way to there and fought the merchants. The merchants seized weapons and defended themselves long and well; it was a tough battle before the merchants succumbed." - "When the battle was at its peak, the townspeople stood on the quay and shot at the heathens, but as the battle subsided, the townspeople fled first into the city and then all to the castle." - "The Vends attack the citadel, but the king and the leaders stayed out of the fight." - "Then an interpreter, who understood Vendish understood what was said by the chief named Unibur; He said, "This people is evil and dificult to overcome, and even if we got hold of all the treasures that are in this city, we would have given as much for not coming here - so many people and chieftains we have lost. Earlier today, when we started fighting at the castle, they had arrows and spears in defense, then they threw stones at us, and now they hit us like dogs with sticks. That is why I think their supply of weapons decreases." - It was true "In the first battle they had used too many arrows, spears and stones." - "During one of the rests, the king again offered them peace, so that they could keep their weapons and clothing" - "This was the worst advice, for the heathens did not keep their word, and seized all - men, women and children - and killed many; all the wounded and young ones and those they found difficult to take with them." - "The market town in Kongshelle has never since risen to what it was before."

There are no corresponding descriptions of Vendic lootings in Denmark, but one can imagine that they have played out in a very similar way.

Harald Gille succeeded in overcoming his rival King Magnus and mutilated him in such a way that he would not in the future be able to be king.

King Magnus is blinded, castrated and mutilated
The Norwegian Harald Gille had his thralls blind, castrate and mutilate his rival, King Magnus. The King Saga says: "He was then given into the hands of the king's thralls, and they mistreated him, stuck out his eyes and cut one foot from him. Eventually, he was castrated." Hence his name Magnus the Blind. Saxo does not think highly about Harald Gille: "By the way, except that he was generous, Harald had no gifts of the spirit, but in bodily terms he had many excellent qualities" Illustration in Snorre Sturlasons Kongesagaer - Nationaludgaven.

In the following year, 1136, Erik sailed with the leding army to Venden. But his attack on Arkona was not at all comparable to the Vends' attack on Denmark in strength and cruelty. Knytlinge Saga writes: "It was one year after King Nicholas's fall that Harald Kesia was killed, but the following year King Erik went with his army to Vindland, and ravaged there far and wide, causing great destruction. He conquered the city of Arkun, inhabited by heathens. King Erik did not leave the city until all the heathens, who had not been killed, had accepted Christianity, and the king let all the people of the city become Christians." - "But as soon as the king was gone from there, they again rejected Christianity, and maintained since sacrifices and pagan customs."

Saxo gives more details about Erik Emune raid on Venden in 1136: "The fleet consisted of eleven hundred ships. The Danes landed at Rygen, where they found the city of Arkona strongly fortified. To cut it off from the neighbors' rescue, they dug the strip of land that lies between Arkona's area and the rest of Rygen, and erected a fairly high defence dike across it." - "Now that the Arkona people were not strong enough to hold the city against the enemy and saw no hope of rescue, they bowed to the necessity and surrendered to the Danes on the condition that they should save life against accepting Christianity, but the image of the God, they worshiped, they should be allowed to keep."

The Vendic main god Svantevit
A modern re-creation of the Slavic main god Svantevit with the four heads in the Teterower See in Rostock, Mecklenburg - Western Pomerania. In Poland, a Svantevit-like figure with four faces three meter tall has been found. It is believed to date from about the year 1000. Arkona on Rugen was a main site for the cultivation of Svantevit. Foto Ralph Wedhorn Wikipedia.

"A priest was also deployed in Arkona," continues Saxo, "who should guide them to a new and better life and teach them the beginnings of the new faith, but as soon as Erik had departed, they chased the pastor out of the gate and Christianity with him."

Many historians believe that Harald Gille ruled Norway only to 1136, when he was killed in the arms of his mistress, Tora, and not in the arms of his lawful wife, who was the Ingerid, who had been married to Henrik Skadelaar in Denmark until he fell at Fodevig.

The King's Saga describes the murder: "Sigurd Slumpedegn came with some men to the house where the king slept; they broke open the door and went in with drawn weapons. Ivar Kolbeinson first shopped to King Harald. The king had gone to bed drunk and slept deeply, but he woke up by the men attacking him and said senselessly: "Now, you are mean to me - Tora!"

After this murder, Norway again fell into chaos, and this must have tempted Erik to order leding once again in 1137, this time against Norway.

Knytlinge Saga says: "And since King Erik was eager for even greater honor and dignity than he had before, this pleased him very well, and he then went after Magnus the Blind's (?) encouragement with the Danish army to Norway, and had very considerable manpower." - "The king burned the city of Oslo and likewise the Church of Halvard; but Thjostolf gathered people, and prepared himself for battle against them, for he was at that time the leader of all chieftains in Norway, and the kings were so young that Thjostolf bore King Inge in his mantle in the battle. The Danes immediately fled to the ships, and set sail, and then sailed back to Denmark, and it is a common saying that no worser raid has been made with such big an army against another king's kingdom.

Erik Emune coin
Coin minted by Erik Emune. On the front, he holds a stick adorned with the French lily, which represents the Trinity, the true Catholic faith. With the left, he greets his people, as Erik Ejegod also did on his coins. The backside shows an armored rider, which also meant a lot to Erik. Photo Bruun Rasmussen Aktioner.

In this year, 1137, a rebellion broke out on Sjaelland led by Bishop Eskild. Knytlinge Saga says: "When the bishop had got Peder Bodilsen on his side, he aroused with the great reputation he enjoyed among the Sjaelland people, these to hatred against the king, and the rebellion became so strong that it enabled him to chase Erik out of Sjaelland. Then he made all the people of the country join the rebellion on the pretext that he would give them freedom".

We can believe that a contributing cause of the unrest was the extensive useless leding expeditions. The rebellion lost momentum because Skjalm Hvide's sons would not join. Erik returned with a Jutland fleet and regained control of Sjaelland. Peter Bodilsoen died of natural causes before the king returned, and strangely, Eskil was allowed to keep his life and office but was fined twenty mark gold.

Eriks' Wife and Child

Erik Emune was married to Malmfred, who was the daughter of Mstislav of Kiev.

Erik Emune coin
Coin minted by Erik Emune. He is clean-shaved with a kind of crown on his head. Photo Vad er det vaerd.

Malmfred was a widow of King Sigurd Jorsalfar of Norway. The Saga of the Magnus Sons states that: "Sigurd married Malmfrid - daughter of King Harald Valdemarson in the east in Holmgaard." But this is a Scandinavian name for Mstislav of Kiev.

As a very young man, Sigurd went on a very long journey to the Holy Land where he stayed "long time" (although the saga says that the whole journey only lasted 3 years). Therefore, we can assume that Sigurd was about 25 years old when he married Malmfred. Then the wedding might have taken place around 1114. Malmfred may then have been 17 years old, which was very common. This leads to her being born around 1097. King Sigurd died in 1130, and then she might have been 33 years old. She had thus been a mature and experienced woman when she married Erik Emune perhaps in 1131-32.

King Sigurd Jordsalfar was a good king for Norway but had some mental problems. It is said in the Saga of the Magnus Sons: "But when the king was in the bath, and there was a cover over the tub, it appeared to him that a fish was swimming in the bath with him, and then he came so loudly in laughter that madness followed, and it came very often since over him." Probably, for this reason, the Danish Biographical Lexicon writes: "At the end of his life, Sigurd, who suffered from seizures of insanity, displaced Malmfrid and took another wife." and the Great Norwegian Lexicon mentions that Sigurd "would not know of her". This suggests the possibility of Malmfrid joined Erik Emune earlier than 1131-32.

Relief from Landet Church
Medieval relief in the Landet Church. Photo J. Kornerup Wikipedia.

Helmold's Slavic Chronicle tells that Erik had a son named Svend: "Herik became king of Dania, and with his mistress Thunna he got a son named Svejn."

When Erik fled from his Norwegian captivity in 1133 with Malmfred and a few servants, he initially forgot to bring his little son, Svend. With the increased danger that the escape would be revealed too soon, he went back to his room and picked up the boy, who was probably asleep, as children do.

Already after Erik's violent death in 1137 the new king, Erik Lam, sent the young Svend to the Imperial Court. One would think that such a boy should be at least 14-15 years before he was sent away to strangers, and thus should have been born about 1123-24, that is, before his father married Malmfred. It is confirmed by the historian J.G.F. Raeder, who writes: "- who must have been quite young at that time, but no longer being a child, he already appears as participating in the establishment of praebende in Lund that Erik Emune made in January, the 1135."

Svend was later bynamed Grathe and became king of part of Denmark.

King Erik's Death and Burial

Erik Emune was killed by a man called Black Ploug while he was judging on a ting in Southern Jutland. The date is quite well witnessed in the gift books of Lund - Saturday, September 18, 1137 - but disagreement about the place prevails.

The Roskilde Chronicle writes that the place was a ting near Ribe: "When he once met at a ting near Ribe, a man named Plog got up and stretched the unsuspecting king to the ground with a deadly wound." Saxo and Knytlinge Saga say nothing about the place, but Sven Aggesen states that the killing took place at Urnehoved County Ting: " for there was one called Ploug, commonly called Black-Ploug, who felled the king with his lance on the Urnehoved Ting, where he stood in the flock of his warriors" Svend Aggesen was associated with Erik Emune through his father and grandfather; he is probably the best source.

Granite face in Todbjerg Church
Romanesque medieval granite head in Todbjerg Church between Aarhus and Randers from about 1130. Sten Porse Wikipedia.

Roskilde Chronicle writes that "Plog was a hideous, stocky man who did nothing of his own accord, but the Lord was in the plow and in the lance, just as the Lord was in the sling and in the stone." It is quite clear what is meant: The sling and the stone are an indication of how David killed Goliath with his sling. Goliath did not fall because of David's strength or skill with his sling, he fell because it was God's will. Similarly, King Erik did not fall because of the Black Plow's courage or skill, the tyrant fell because it was God's will, which is also clearly stated in the phrase: "who, by his own power, accomplished nothing."

Roskilde Chronicle is in Latin. It describes Black Ploug "vir deformis, breuis stature", "a deformed and stocky man", but this putting down of Ploug's appearance and body building may largely be designed to highlight that in reality, it was God, who led his hand. Furthermore, several sources state that Ploug was in Erik's Household Troop, the hird. It is highly unlikely that the hird would count dwarves and deformed men.

Furthermore, several sources state that Ploug was Erik's hird-man. It is highly unlikely that the Household troops would count dwarves and deformed men. Saxo says: "At the same time a Jutlander of high birth named Plow secretly strove to take the life of the king, despite the fact that he was in his hird" (household troop, lifeguard)."

Black Ploug was probably a young man, as Knytlinge Saga tells us that "This Plov's father King Erik let kill for no other reason than speaking against him on a ting". Although this should have happened during the civil war, we must believe that Ploug was relatively young, having a father at this time. Furthermore, it was mainly young men, who served in the hird. The byname "Black" may indicate that he has been dark-haired. Maybe he has not been quite as tall as his peers in the hird.

The Haraldsborg Treasure
The Haraldsborg Treasure was found in the location of the ancient castle Haraldsborg North of Roskilde in three lots. In 1841 the first part of the treasure, the altar-chalice and the disk, was found by plowing the old castle hill. Most of the treasure was found when excavating part of the bank's west side in 1854. On this occasion, the gilded silver vessel was found along with a lid, 600 coins and parts of a shrine. The bowl and lid are decorated in a way that points to Russia, the Balkans or Iran as the country of origin. In 1896, a gold ring was found, which had stuck to a tooth on a harrow. The treasure is believed to have been buried during the Civil War 1131-1134. Photo Romu.

The murder of the king was not an impulsive act, Ploug prepared himself thoroughly. Knytlinge Saga tells: "But when King Erik was South in Jutland, he had tings with the peasants, and when Plov learned this, he went to a priest and asked him to prepare himself. "Why do you want this?" the priest asked, "I do not think you are sick." Then Plov said, "Do as I say, or I will kill you!". "Why do you ask for this?" the priest asked further. Plov said he did not want to inform him and that it did not concern him. Then the priest gave him the sacrament. Then he took a finger ring from his hand, and gave it to the priest, and asked him for forgiveness for threatening him."

Another testimony to his thorough preparation was that his spear-tip was protected by a sheath. The Saga says: "Then Plov went on to the ting; he had in his hand a large spear, on whose head was a wooden sheath, he turned the spearhead downward. He asked permission to go to the King and said he had errands for him. He had no more weapons than the spear, and when he came there, he stepped the sheath off the spearhead, and then stuck the spear through the king, giving him a deadly wound. Plov stuck so hard that the King fell forward as the spear went through him." His spear has probably been honed as sharp as a razor blade, and therefore it had to be protected with a wooden scabbard.

Romanesque granite relief in Eiby Church near Koege
Romanesque granite relief in Eiby Church near Koege. Photo J Kornerup Wikipedia Commons.

Everything happened very quickly, causing confusion and panic: "Then there was a great alarm, and people did not pay close attention to who the perpetrator was, for it happened in a trice," the saga continues.

Saxo says that after the killing, Ploug shouted to the assembly "that he had killed the King, and urged the common people to kill his warriors." It shows that Erik was generally hated - probably especially in Jutland - and it might be expected that the common people would follow Ploug's brave example.

It is noteworthy that the hird did not fight for Erik. It was perhaps because it was quite clear that he was already dead, and the case thus settled in seconds. Saxo tells: "While the household troops now in their horror spread to all sides, Erik Hagensson, who, by virtue of his patience, was nicknamed Lam, gave a glorious test of his bravery; for he guarded the King's body long time with his sword, and was the only one who stood brave and calm while all his many comrades in arms ran away."

Decoration of chancel chairs at Dalby church in Scania
Decoration of chancel chairs at Dalby church in Scania. One of the enigmatic embellishments found in our medieval churches. Photo J. Kornerup Wikipedia Commons.

Erik Lam had been Erik's Emune close comrade in arms through the civil war. But he was a completely different type. Saxo writes: "Erik Hagensson, who, due to his patience, had been nicknamed Lam." He became king after Erik Emune.

The sources tell little about Black Ploug's later fate. According to Saxo, he should have joined the followers of Knud Magnusson, and during the fighting in Frisia, Erik's son, Svend Grathe, got him in his power, but let him go free, as he had already given safe conduct. Knytlinge Saga reports that Svend Grathe, by his faithful man, Yngvar Kveisa, let Black Ploug kill.

The killing of King Erik must have aroused much attention at the time since a Faroe ballad, which undoubtedly has its origins in this event, has been preserved until modern times.

Links og Literatur

Roskildekroeniken Heimskringla
Svend Aggesen Heimskringla
Knytlinge Saga Oldnordiske Sagaer Bind 11
Saxo Grammaticus Heimskringla
Full text of "Danmark under Svend Estridsen og hans Soenner" J. G. F. Raeder - Archive.com
Ryd Klosters Kroenike Heimskringla
Helmolds Slaverkroenike som kilde til Danmarks, Vendens og Nordtysklands historie Stefan Pajung og Lone Liljefalk
Venderkroeniken archieve.com
Venderkroeniken Crassus
Asser - Dansk Biografisk Leksikon Den Store Danske
Udgravningen ved Ribe Domkirke sydvestjyske Museer
Magnus den Blindes og Harald Gilles saga Heimskringla
Full text of "Venderne og de danske foer Valdemar den Stores tid" Archieve.org
Om nogle af de gaadefulde Menneske- og Dyreskikkelser, som forekomme i vor Middelalders Konst. Heimskringla.
Saxo Grammaticus oversat af Fr. Winkel Horn - Sesam.
Skalk nr. 6 December 2002 "En oe som hedder Suer" af Harald Andersen.
Snorre Sturlasson Kongesagaer - National udgaven.

Tilbage til start af artikel

20190915

Passed W3C Validation