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I am King! Really, why and how?

I am King

All of the above men are or were Kings in our Vikings saga, the exception being young Erlandeur…his chance at King being thwarted by Ragnar Lothbrok! I have included Harald Finehair in the portrait as he will be arriving next season as King of Norway.  What I hope to do with this series of articles is shed some light on the hows, the whys of Kingship, and give some brief historical insight on each of these men and their claim to Kingship.  I will also look at a recent discovery of a Leadership gene, right to rule and divine destiny and how these concepts relate to these men becoming King. *Note* This is part one of a series that will look at each of these Kings and their claims or right to rule!

First, before anything else, we need to explore the concept of King, or monarchy in general.

A monarchy is a form of government in which sovereignty is  one or several individual(s) reigning until death or abdication. They are called the monarchs.  Forms of monarchy differ widely based on the method of selection of the monarch, and any predetermined limits on the length of their tenure. When the monarch has no or few legal restraints in state and political matters, it is called an absolute monarchy. Cases in which the monarch’s discretion is formally limited (most common today) are called constitutional monarchies. In hereditary monarchies, the office is passed through inheritance within a family group, whereas elective monarchies use some system of voting. Each of these has variations: in some elected monarchies only those of certain pedigrees are eligible, whereas many hereditary monarchies impose requirements regarding the religion, age, gender, mental capacity, and other factors. Occasionally this might create a situation of rival claimants whose legitimacy is subject to effective election.

Tribal kingship is often connected to sacred functions, so that the king acts as a priest, or is considered of Divine ancestry. The sacred function of kingship was transformed into the notion of “Divine right of kings” in the Christian Middle Ages.  In Germanic antiquity, kingship was primarily a sacral function, and the king was elected from among eligible members of royal families by the thing.

Monarchies are associated with  hereditary rule, in which monarchs rule for life and pass the responsibilities and power of the position to their child or another member of their family when they die. Most monarchs, both historically and in the modern day, have been born and brought up within a royal family, the center of the royal household and court. Growing up in a royal family,  future monarchs are often trained for the responsibilities of expected future rule.

 Different systems of succession have been used, such as proximity of blood, primogeniture, and agnatic seniority (Salic law). While most monarchs have been male, many female monarchs also have reigned in history; the term queen regnant refers to a ruling monarch, while a queen consort refers to the wife of a reigning king. The principal advantage of hereditary monarchy is the immediate continuity of leadership (as seen in the classic phrase “The King is dead. Long live the King!“).

 

Monarchy, especially absolute monarchy, sometimes is linked to religious aspects; many monarchs once claimed the right to rule by the will of a deity (Divine Right of Kings, Mandate of Heaven), a special connection to a deity (sacred king). Many European monarchs have been styled Fidei defensor (Defender of the Faith); some hold official positions relating to the state religion or established church.

  In a hereditary monarchy, the position of monarch is inherited according to a statutory or customary order of succession, usually within one royal family tracing its origin through a historical dynasty or bloodline. This usually means that the heir to the throne is known well in advance of becoming monarch to ensure a smooth succession.

Primogeniture, in which the eldest child of the monarch is first in line to become monarch, is the most common system in hereditary monarchy. The order of succession is usually affected by rules on gender. Historically “agnatic primogeniture” or “patrilineal primogeniture” was favoured, that is inheritance according to seniority of birth among the sons of a monarch or head of family, with sons and their male issue inheriting before brothers and their issue, and male-line males inheriting before females of the male line. 

Before primogeniture was enshrined in European law and tradition, kings would often secure the succession by having their successor (usually their eldest son) crowned during their own lifetime, so for a time there would be two kings in coregency – a senior king and a junior king. Examples include Henry the Young King of England and the early Direct Capetians in France. In Saxon history, King Ecbert did similar with his son Aethelwulf. We will delve into that later.

aethelwulf and ecbert

 Sometimes, however, primogeniture can operate through the female line. In some systems a female may rule as monarch only when the male line dating back to a common ancestor is exhausted.  This is how Kwentirith has managed to achieve her current rule of Mercia…

Just a hint here Kwentirith when everyone throws empty cups at you you may have a few friend problems!

Just a hint here Kwentirith when everyone throws empty cups at you you may have a few friend problems!

In the case of the absence of children, the next most senior member of the collateral line (for example, a younger sibling of the previous monarch) becomes monarch. In complex cases, this can mean that there are closer blood relatives to the deceased monarch than the next in line according to primogeniture. This has often led, especially in Europe in the Middle Ages, to conflict between the principle of primogeniture and the principle of proximity of blood.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarchy

For our purposes in this discussion, we are going to deal mainly with the Hereditary Monarchy, because for the most part all of the Kings in our saga have achieved their crown via that sucession. Even Ragnar Lodbrok as we will see in tracing his limited history, probably did have a sort of blood link to the crown of Denmark. The only one that there is some doubt or question of will be King Aelle of Northumbria. We just do not know enough about him to make any detailed or accurate assumption as to his right or claim to that Kingdom.

Before looking at each man’s history and personal claim to Kingship, we should also look at some other more general theories and concepts regarding Kingship and it’s history. This will help to better understand each particular man’s role in this career choice…

Right to Rule and Divine right of Kings

The divine right of kings or divine right  asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including the Church. According to this doctrine, only God can judge an unjust king. The doctrine implies that any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute a sacrilegious act. It is often expressed in the phrase “by the Grace of God,” attached to the titles of a reigning monarch.

While this concept would seem on the surface only to apply to European Kings of later centuries, the basis for the principle goes much further back and ties into the idea or concept that Kings were descended from God, or Gods… That they had a direct connection to that higher power and therefore had a right or claim to rule because of that connection. Denmark had a history for following this principle of right to rule dating as far back as to a point when it was inhabited by the Angles, who then eventually migrated to Britain and brought the concept with them.

The Dacians settled in a region that includes modern Denmark and the northwest region of Germany.  The Dacians named this region Dacia, in honor of their homeland.  In Dacia, the Dacians displaced the native peoples.  Undoubtedly, some level of integration happened between the Thracians, Dacians, and native populations.  Dr. David Faux offers a compelling argument that while the Dacians clearly displaced the Celtic Cimbrians, the Angles are likely to have partially integrated with them.

Right to Rule

Claimants to power in Angle were from a ruling family, with preference given to the eldest male most closely related to the prior ruler.  This tradition reduced the likelihood of conflict during times of transition and served to concentrate wealth and power.  This tradition continued in Russia, Scotland, Flanders, Normandy, post-conquest England and other regions controlled by the Angles, likewise serving to enable the formation of powerful governments and military capabilities.  Conflicts were reduced to situations where the lack of an immediate male heir led to contested claims by paternal cousins.

The origin of this behavior is perhaps based on the very ancient notion that the royal family descends from the gods.  Perhaps this concept was borrowed by the Dacians and Thracians from the Romans.  The family of Julias Caesar (gens Julia), for example, claimed to descend by Venus through Aeneas.  The original royal family of Norway were said to be descended from Odin.  Frey was the main god of kingship among the Swedes and the royal family (the Ynglings) were believed to have descended from him.

http://romanianhistoryandculture.webs.com/daciansindenmark.htm

The remote origins of the theory are rooted in the medieval idea that God had bestowed earthly power on the king, just as God had given spiritual power and authority to the church, centering on the pope. The immediate author of the theory was Jean Bodin,  who based it on the interpretation of Roman law.  This principle and theory would and did directly apply to King Charles and King Ecbert- who used the church to back his claim to power. King Aelle who deemed himself a Christian would have used such theory to some extent to validate his Kingship, though I think he achieved his crown by might and then would have tried to justify it in some way.  As to the Scandinavian Kings, we would assume that this principle would not have applied… but, when we look closer at their histories, we will see that while they may not have used the Christ God to justify their claims, they did claim connections to their own Gods to back up their rule once they established it.  For the Danes, they were long linked to the Frankish Empire and even back to Roman cultures so those ancient concepts would have made way into their own culture even if they did not ascribe to Christianity per say. As far back as the Romans were using links to the Gods to justify their claims to rule. Julius Caesar claimed connection to Venus.

The theory went back to those earliest Christians who advocated allegiance to Caesar even though he was a Pagan ruler.

  1. The New Testament, in which the first pope, St. Peter, commands that all Christians shall honour the Roman Emperor (1 Peter 2:13–17), even though, at that time, he was still a pagan emperor. Likewise, Jesus Christ proclaims in the Gospel of Matthew that one should “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”; that is at first, literally, the payment of taxes as binding those who use the imperial currency (See Matthew 22:15–22). Jesus told Pontius Pilate that his authority as Roman governor of Judaea came from heaven according to John 19:10–11.
  2. The endorsement by the popes and the church of the line of emperors beginning with the Emperors Constantine and Theodosius, later the Eastern Roman emperors, and finally the Western Roman emperor, Charlemagne and his successors, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_right_of_kings

The basic theory and premise of such divine right goes all the way back to Egypt with the Pharaohs linking themselves to the Gods. The future Christian interpretation of it just set down a different set of rules to follow. This principle and concept ties in well with the practice of hereditary monarchy and succession according to bloodline. Once one has established rule of a Kingdom, it is always wise to have some other means besides just might to back up one’s claim! This principle ensures that your hard fought for Kingdom will remain in the family for future generations and it also gives you an added cushion of authority in the eyes of your subjects who might think twice about rebelling against you if they believe you have some connection to the Gods!  It’s fine to achieve a Kingship and Kingdom by force, but eventually people will tire of fighting on your behalf and you will need some other means to control and lead them into your way of thinking. What better means of control than convincing them that you have supreme right from the Gods above to rule them!

I know, I know, you’re getting bored with all of this and want to get to the more interesting stuff… I just have one last theory to bring up before we get to our Viking era Kings. This theory is a recent development and discovery related to genetics.  Now you’re probably groaning to self- yes, you are, I can hear you! You’re thinking, What the Hell does current genetic research have to do with any of this! Well, please stick with me and let me explain!

In the past few years, there has been a vast amount of research done on genetics, DNA and how it might relate to us in various ways. Some of it has to do with genealogy and the ability now to better trace our ancestry, and of course that would include tracing Royal lineages- should some Royal ever require some need of proof that they are indeed part of Royal bloodline- or for those who just want to be able to say, Hey I am descended from Ragnar, Rollo, or others of historic fame. That in itself is quite interesting and I do plan to participate in that endeavor sometime soon.

If you are so inclined and interested, you can get more information about that research on these sites:

AncestryDNA project at Ancestry.com

http://dna.ancestry.com/

TribeCode DNA Ancestry testing

http://www.tribecode.com/

Although that genetic progress is interesting, it is not what we are most interested in with regards to this discussion. The discovery that pertains more to us is that of a specific gene called the Leadership gene!  A GENE has been uncovered that may help to create born leaders, or possibly trace the pattern in past leaders.

The leadership gene, known as rs4950, is an inherited DNA sequence associated with people taking charge.Scientists accept that leadership skills are also learned. But the gene may provide the vital push needed to make someone into a manager rather than a minion.  Researchers found the gene after analysing DNA samples from around 4000 individuals and matching them to information about jobs and relationships. Workplace supervisory roles were used as a measurement of leadership behavior.  The study showed that a quarter of the observed variation in leadership traits between individuals could be explained by genetics.

Lead scientist Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, from University College London, said: ‘‘We have identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations.   ‘‘The conventional wisdom – that leadership is a skill – remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait.’’

Some of the greatest leaders in recent history include Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Sir Winston Churchill.  Leaders do not necessarily have to be heroic or good though. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Genghis Khan were also great leaders in their own way.

The new research suggests at least the possibility that some of these historic figures were blessed with the leadership gene. Despite the importance of the gene, acquiring a leadership position still mostly depends on developing the necessary skills, say the researchers.

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/leadership-is-in-the-gene-say-scientists-20130115-2cs7c.html

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115111553.htm

Now if I have completely confused you as to the relevance of this genetic discovery to our topic of Kings and their claims of divine right, let me try to put some perspective on it.  The Royal dynasties now and in the past are based on some principle that their bloodline enables or allows them to rule. Granted, their claim is that it comes from God, the Gods, that divine connection or link. They knew nothing about genetics or DNA, they attributed their ability to a higher power. But, given the discovery of this gene, it would be fascinating to find this gene in some of those ancient rulers! Perhaps it was not God who destined or determined their fate or ability, but it may have been something in their bloodline from the beginning that allowed for the earliest of these rulers to be leaders and then pass that predisposition down to their offspring and future rulers! The research does conclude that this gene does not completely determine one’s ability or success but merely predisposes them toward that. It also states that having such gene does not equate to heroics or good, it could also enable a person with worst of intentions or morals to succeed in leading people in their direction.

As a genetic trait, it might be responsible for that certain charisma, charm or bearing that a person  innately presents which would allow for people to follow them- good or bad! It may come across as an overall appearance, a self confidence, an air natural inborn Royalness such as some of our Kings and their offspring display.  It could also be some inborn ability convince or sway people to your side, to your beliefs… some people are natural born salesmen! Ragnar certainly has it.

ragnar2

And, he has passed it down to his son Bjorn who is not King yet, but will be one day.

Can you do that Bjorn can you lead with your head and set your heart aside

If Ragnar is gifted with such a gene then in our saga, his brother Rollo would probably carry the gene as well. Rollo does not achieve Kingship in history nor probably in our version of it, but he comes close in founding his own dynasty of Normandy. And, great Monarchs will descend from his line in history so we could probably assume that Rollo did indeed have this gene!

what will the future hold for rolloPortrait of Rollo's destiny. Credit to Ines Jagger of Vikings Aftermath group and to lindamarieanson of deviant art.

Whether we like him or not, Ecbert does have this innate trait, this ability to charm and control…

Vikings-Ecbert-King-of-Wessex-played-by-Linus-Roache1ecbert has been disobeyed

King Horik most likely  had the gene bit it  is one of those cases where he used none of it for good!

horik sends rollo to jarl borg while he stays at kattegathorik and wife Gunhild who was once a great sheild maiden herself

Does King Aelle have it? I would say, possibly but as in Horik’s case, it’s not been a case of any good coming from it? The only reason that I suspect he might possibly carry the gene is for the fact that daughter Judith appears to have it and presents a better side of it! This is of course in our fictional version of the history. Later we will attempt to look at Aelle in the context of actual history and what his claim or justification may have been. As I have mentioned previously, I suspect that he may have come by his rule and his Kingdom more by might than by any true right, but he may have had the gene, which would have enable him to sway people to his line of thinking…

King-Aelle1Aelle and judith

Now for the moment, that leaves us with new comer Harald Finehair of Norway… we know next to nothing about him and can only gauge any thought or assumption on a limited vision of his outward appearance? But, from that appearance, I would say that yes he probably does have this gene.

peter franzen4

I am going to include one other person of interest in this list because while he does not have royal blood as far as we know at this time, he does display this trait and characteristic. That would be Kalf!

Kalf tries to remain unphased and calm through Ragnar's tiradeKalf says his own last minute prayer to the gods

And, if one bases the succession of their reign on such bloodline or ability, there may always come a point where a successor has not inherited such gene from his parent. That would leave your dynasty with a weak, ineffective leader such as our Frankish King Charles! In the case of Charles, any of the Charles that he may be representing in our version of history, we also need to take into account one other thing that may have affected their genes. With the principle and practice of hereditary monarchy comes a somewhat disturbing side affect. In order to keep your Royal bloodline continuing, your descendants must marry within a severely limited group of others who would presumably share this royal blood. This practice results in a great deal of inbreeding with close relatives. The early Christian church realized this and did put forth a number of rules regarding who one could marry. This might have been looked at as some sort of extreme Papal control and Bureaucracy but in reality, it was their means of dealing with the affects of  such close inbreeding that led to much hereditary illnesses, instabilities and insanities being passed down through generations or ruling families.

charles I must prove myself better than my brothers and these Northmen have provided just the event

Charles and other members of his Frankish dynasty were thought to be afflicted by various forms of such instability. So, while Charles may or may not have inherited the leadership gene, (my personal thought is that he probably did not!) he most likely did inherit some of the other instabilities of his family.

As long as we’re looking at Charles, let us quickly look at his daughter, Gisla… who may or may not be a real person. In our fictional account, she is quite young but she does seem to have moments where she displays such a leadership gene.

charles leaves but the people still rejoice around the real hero of the day gisla

gisla raises the banner and reminds the men of what they fight for

gisla raises the banner and reminds the men of what they fight for

Since we have brought up the realities of inbreeding and instability, there is one other person to look at in relation to the leadership gene and to claims of right to rule. That person would of course be the Princess Kwentirith in our saga, who is said to be a daughter of Offa and who is now Queen of Mercia. Kwentirith is based loosely on some real women of that time period who did have some claim to rule. It was very rare that a woman would be allowed to rule but there were some early instances of it in Saxon history. It would have been due to the early practice of following the blood line and a woman being the last and only direct relative left to take over. That was the case of Kwentirith when her brother so conveniently died.  We will deal with the history of Mercia and their rule later. For now let us just look at Kwentirith in respect to whether she might have the leadership gene and whether she also carries some inherited family instability! At her best, Kwentirith can present a charming and engaging personality and a regal bearing.  She may have the gene which would allow her to put forth an initial image and presence that people would pay some attention to. Unfortunately, she also displays such an irratic and volatile range of instability that people quickly realize her instability! Is this instability inherited or due merely to her childhood environment? My thought is that it is probably a bit of both. She refers to the behaviors of her Father and her uncle, as well as brothers so I would think that some of the insanity is inherited, probably from a long line of inbreeding before the family might have converted and followed rules of the church!

Kwenthrith1

the return of kwentrith

the return of kwentrith

kwentirith enjoys the snack and Rollo thinks to enjoy his own snackKwentirith unleashing her savagery on Uncle britwulf's head

I have given you some basic overall theories and reasons on the hows and whys of Kingship in general, and how they relate to our Royalty in the Vikings saga.  In my next posts, I will deal with each King separately. Because all of these people have some real life historical basis, I will look at them in that historical context rather than the fictional one. Where ever possible, I will attempt to explore the fictional relationship as it might relate to the real one. The only people who do not seem to have any real life basis as yet would be Kalf, and Aelle’s daughter Judith. But, seeing as they are not yet rulers in any way, we will not look into their histories as it relates in this way!  Also, I have already dealt with both of them in previous posts so we will leave it at that for the time being!

You can find my thoughts on Kalf in the previous post about Hedeby:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/vikings-lagertha-kalf-and-why-is-hedeby-so-important/

Judith’s story is detailed here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/viking-saga-judiths-story/

Based on the historical fact that Horik’s and Ragnar’s claims are both tied to the Crown and history of Denmark, I will look at them together in relation to that history. In looking at that history, it may also lead us to exploring Aelle’s limited history in Northumbria… mainly because when we look closer at the history of the Danes and the Angles who resided in that country prior to the Danes taking over, we will see the migration of them to places in Britain such as Northumbria, York, and East Anglia. I will also look at where the ruling line went after Ragnar in history because historically he did not rule for very long and his sons did not take his place in succession. Because of that, we will look at who did come afterwards, and what happened to his sons in history. This will include a look at Sweden where Bjorn Ironside eventually become a King.

We will look at Ecbert’s path to his rule and his claim in relation to Saxon history and in relation to the church because they backed his initial claim to his throne. That Church connection will also be a connection to the rule of Charles. We will also see in this history, the claim of one woman who bears some similarity to our Kwentirith.

We will look at Harald Finehair and his connection or claim to the rule of Norway in a separate discussion because while we all tend to look at the Vikings and Scandinavia as one inclusive entity, they were very separate kingdoms much further back than the Viking age! As they all migrated to Britain during various time periods, they located themselves in different localities and did not identify themselves under that one umbrella of “Viking” They did not even particularly like each other and would not have chosen to band together or associate with each other unless it was for such purpose of defeating a common enemy such as the Saxon English!

I hope that you will join me and enjoy the upcoming journey as we explore the rights and claims to Kingship!

Danish right to rule and history: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/horik-and-ragnar-part-of-the-oldest-monarchy-in-europe/

This article includes Horik, Ragnar, as well as Ragnar’s sons Bjorn, Ivar and Sigurd!

Horik and Ragnar their paths to ruling a dynasty

Ecbert’s claim to Wessex:

The beginnings of Egbert's power plots

The beginnings of Egbert’s power plots

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/from-charlamagne-to-egbert-and-wessex/

 

 

Viking adventure: Last thoughts before I embark!

 

 

 

 

Previous related post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/reflections-wishes-and-suggestions-for-the-new-year/

I am so excited, nervous, and just a little overwhelmed with all of the preparations for this trip! There are still a few final details to get worked out with the travel arrangements and a bit of last minute research, but Mrs. Graham assures me that we are almost ready for my departure. While she and her staff are seeing to the final travel details, I am trying to cram in as much history and varied information as possible and go over notes on what Mrs. Graham and her associates want me to pay most attention to as far as documentation?  They want me to keep a close eye on a man named Rollo? It seems they are concerned about his behaviors and are wondering if he truly is destined for greatness? They also want more information on Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons… there is so much controversy on all of them that it would be helpful to sort out the myths from fact.

mrs graham and tea leaves2

Ahhhh Mrs. Graham, I am so grateful to her for this opportunity! I only hope I make it back to see her again, and don’t end up regretting taking her up on this offer, or cursing her name and existence at some point in the future during this experience! Let’s pray that her tea leaf readings are not just a bunch of fanciful imagination!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/category/mrs-graham-of-outlander/

tea leaf reading2

 

Before I leave on my adventure, I do have a few last thoughts and research notes I would like to share.

First of all, my thoughts on how one chooses to look at history and learn it? There is much debate and criticism over the methods used to learn history… Many historians and intellectuals look down on the history information provided in fiction as in books, movies and television. I keep seeing the comments on how inaccurate all of this information is and how it does more harm than good to be presented in such formats. These academics insist that if one wants the truest picture of history, then they need only concern themselves with non-fictional accounts and documents. Every time a historical novel or show arrives on the scene it is picked apart and criticized for all of it’s inaccuracies, frowned upon as a misleading or misrepresentation of what actually happened.  Yes, I do agree in some part with those observations. There are any number of books and shows that so blatantly disregard the facts and misrepresent the events and as a result, can not be considered as any form of historical representation at all. I have read and viewed more than my share of those, and do not bother to comment on them or share them here!

My disagreement with such academics and historians is in terms of  what is accurate, what is the truth? There is a much common phrase that, History is written by and colored by the victors. For that reason, the so called documentation and accurate evidence cited is often written in terms of what the victorious side wanted portrayed. With the more ancient past, much of the time, the losing sides were so decimated as not to even leave behind any trace as to what their side of the story or event might have been. So, by all rights, even the most supposedly accurate accounts of an historical event are colored by the writer’s viewpoint and perspective at that time.

My other personal thought on the subject is that any book or show that sparks an interest finding out more about history is well worth the reading or the viewing! I hear so often from so many people that they don’t like history, it’s sooo boring and does not interest them at all? I usually ask them what they do like to read or watch, and then explain to them that everything from sci-fi, fantasy, horror or  suspense and  mystery… what ever genre they have mentioned, has already been written about throughout history. When put that way, it sparks their curiosity in history. An example of this is the horror genre. Now, I am not a fan of this genre by any means but a recent conversation with a group of young people who are fans led to my suggestion that if they want some short horror stories, they should perhaps try reading the original Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales!

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/index2.html

Another example of generating interest in history; I recently watched an old movie with a young co-worker.  The movie was Gypsy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsy_(musical), it was an entertaining musical about the life of Gypsy Rose Lee. My young co-worker enjoyed the movie and was surprised when I mentioned that it was about a real woman. She then asked me for more information so she could find out more.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it spurred her interest in a past time period- and sometimes, that is all it takes!  My only slight concern on this particular occasion is the thought of not hoping that my young co-worker is not considering a change of careers now? Ahhhh well, I guess if she chooses this path, at least she will be an entertainer with some class!

Gypsy_Rose_Lee_NYWTS_1 Gypsy-Rose-Lee-photo

 

When history is presented in a way that people can relate to, it becomes more real, more personal and so much more interesting and valuable to them! If one begins their journey and education through history because of a so called frivolous book or silly show, what does it really matter as long as they are motivated to pick up a book, to search for  knowledge in any way that keeps them interested and wanting to learn more? Eventually their path will take them to the more truthful and accurate facts such as they exist.

 

Now back to our Vikings related research!

As I mentioned, I am finishing up some of the last minute research regarding the general time period. In a previous post, I mentioned a few book suggestions for additional information and insight into the importance of this time period and some of the historical figures related to it.  One book is of particular importance even though it deals with a much later time frame?

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9223563-i-am-the-chosen-king?ac=1

I finished the book and have nothing but praise for Helen Hollick’s representation of all the characters involved in this historically important event! She gave an excellent portrayal of all the people, and presented them on a well even playing field. What she does for this event in history is provide us with a sense and feeling of their emotions, she gives us a well thought out picture of who they were and why they made the choices they did. Even though I knew perfectly well how it was going to end, she held my interest and my concern for all of them until the very end. She gave a detailed, but not overly bogged down and boring account of that final battle between the two men who would be King at Hastings. In those final pages and moments, she gave us some much appreciated and welcome thoughts on how each of the men might have felt at the end, knowing the importance of the outcome and what their fates would be if they lost the battle. She made me care about both men, see the event and the history from each of their perspectives.  The book  gave me insight into each of their possible personalities, their character traits and caused me to think more on how each of their past histories brought them to this point in time!

The reason I feel this book and these two men are so important to our journey to an earlier time is due to who and where they each came from. If you trace each of their ancestries, you will see the irony and the twist of fate or what ever you want to call it that led these two men to face each other in a final battle for the future of England.

Harold Godwinson, the chosen King of England

harold godwinnson

Harold Godwinson

Harold II (or Harold Godwinson) (Old English: Harold Godƿinson; c. 1022 – 14 October 1066), was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.  Harold reigned from 6 January 1066  until his death at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror during the Norman conquest of England. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England.

Harold was a powerful earl and member of a prominent Anglo-Saxon family with ties to King Cnut. Upon the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066, the Witenagemot convened and chose Harold to succeed; he was crowned in Westminster Abbey. In late September he successfully repulsed an invasion by rival claimant Harald Hardrada of Norway, before marching his army back south to meet William the Conqueror at Hastings some two weeks later.

On the surface, it may not seem that Harold had any real tie or connection to that earlier time of the Vikings, the one which we will be soon visiting. If you look closer into his family’s history however, you will find them closely tied to those Vikings and their eventual dynasty.

This is a quick, abbreviated history of Harold’s family and their ties to the history of Denmark. I do not want to overwhelm you or bog you down with excessive details on this. I do want to point out that if you are interested in how this matters, you should pay most attention to his Mother’s lineage and connections. His Mother, Gytha Thorkelsdottir was the one who brought the historical tie and passed it down to her son.

Harold was a son of Godwin, the powerful Earl of Wessex, and Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, sister-in-law of King Cnut the Great of England and Denmark. Gytha’s brother was Ulf Jarl, who was married to Cnut’s sister Estrith. This made Ulf the son-in-law of King Sweyn Forkbeard,  and the father of King Sweyn II of Denmark. Godwin was the son of Wulfnoth, probably a thegn and a native of Sussex.Godwin remained an earl throughout Cnut’s reign, one of only two earls to survive to the end of Cnut’s reign. On Cnut’s death, Godwin originally supported Harthacnut instead of Cnut’s initial successor Harold Harefoot, but managed to switch sides in 1037, although not without becoming involved in the murder of Alfred Aetheling, half brother of Harthacnut and younger brother of the later King Edward the Confessor.  When Harold Harefoot died, Harthacnut became king and Godwin’s power was imperiled by his earlier involvement in Alfred’s murder, but an oath and large gift secured the new king’s favour for Godwin.   Harthacnut’s death in 1042 likely involved Godwin in a role as kingmaker, helping to secure the English throne for Edward the Confessor. In 1045, Godwin was at the height of his power, when his daughter Edith was married to the king.

To make a very long history and story short, Gytha brought with her to Saxon England, the connection and loyalties to the Danish dynasty of Cnut and his father, Sweyn Forkbeard… why is this so important, you might ask? Well, because Sweyn Forkbeard’s lineage traces back to one important  member of  Ragnar Lodbrok’s founding family!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweyn_Forkbeard

Sweyn_Forkbeard Swen_Widlobrody_ubt

 

If you trace Sweyn Forkbeard’s lineage back, you will find him to be a descendant of one Harthacnut of Denmark… Harthacnut or Cnut I (Danish: Hardeknud) (born c. 880) was a legendary King of Denmark. Adam of Bremen makes him son of an otherwise unknown king Sweyn, while the saga Ragnarssona þáttr makes him son of the semi-mythic viking chieftain Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, himself one of the sons of the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok!

Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, as we will eventually come to find out is the son of Ragnar Lodbrok and second  wife, Aslaug.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigurd_Snake-in-the-Eye

sigurd snake in the eye

ragnar and aslaug1 ragnar and aslaug4 VIKINGS2_09-final

Aslaug in Norse mythology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aslaug

Aslaug and her father the king painting of Aslaug the legend

 

So, while Harold may not be a direct descendent of Ragnar Lodbrok by blood and he may be looked on as a Saxon King… the last Saxon King for that matter, his family history and his character has it’s roots bound deep in this Viking dynasty. In fact, after his death, his Mother Gytha eventually returned to Scandinavia, taking with her one of Harold’s daughters.

William the Conqueror

The other key player and claimant for the throne of England in 1066 was of course, William the Conqueror. William I (Old Norman: Williame I; c. 1028[ – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard,  was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. The descendant of Viking raiders, he had been Duke of Normandy since 1035 under the style William II. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.

William the Conqueror AKA William I

William the Conqueror AKA William I

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror

William’s lineage traces him back to one other person of note in Viking history… Rollo (c. 846 – c. 932), baptised Robert and so sometimes numbered Robert I to distinguish him from his descendants, was a Norse Viking who was founder and first ruler of the Viking principality which soon became known as Normandy. His descendants were the Dukes of Normandy, and following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, kings of England; he is the 33rd-great-grandfather of Elizabeth II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo

Rollo_statue_in_falaise

*****Warning**** I do need to clarify and be very clear here on one point… for the purposes of our upcoming Viking Adventure and travel back in time, it is as yet uncertain whether the “Rollo” we will be observing is indeed the same person as this most famous one of history? We can only speculate or guess on this right now! It has been leaked that members of the Lodbrok family will travel to France and encounter a few people who would make this guess a plausible one….

                            Vikings Season 3 spoiler and preview: Charles Emperor of France and daughter, Gisela will make their appearance. Canadian actor Lothaire Bluteau will portray Emperor Charles of France and French actress Morgane Polanski (daughter of Roman Polanski) will be Princess Gisla, the Emperor’s daughter and his main advisor.

Lothaire Bluteau

Lothaire Bluteau

Morgane Polanski

Morgane Polanski

The appearance of these two characters does much to link the Lodbrok dynasty’s Rollo to the historical Rollo.  According to accurate history, Rollo is traditionally referenced to as marrying Gisela, the daughter of Charles III of France.

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Simple

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gisela_of_France

 

Now that you are thoroughly overwhelmed with history and confused even more, let’s go back to the original topic of William the Conqueror! I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, Please do get to the point of this already, we’re tired of the extra history lessons!”

 

Ok, the whole point of this history lesson and it’s comparisons to the Vikings legacy is that while Saxon England assumed it was being conquered by Normandy, in a sense it was actually being conquered once again by a Viking descendent that in many ways, still fought and thought like a Viking Warrior.

Rollo’s words can just as easily be attributed to how William the Conqueror felt and acted.

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-34231469-1000-561

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-

In a last thought on Helen Hollick’s portrayal of Harold Godwinson and William, her presentation of the two men could also very well represent the two founding characters of the Lodbrok legacy. After many generations of violence and battles for England, Harold Godwinson comes across as one similar to Ragnar Lodbrok in his beliefs, his reasonings, and his actions. He is caught in the middle of a for the most part, an un-winnable situation but tries to put the future of his country and his people as a whole above his personal wishes. In another ironic symbolism or reversal of it… Harold sets aside his long time love and handfasted wife in order to marry within the church and possibly provide a legitimate heir to the throne. Ragnar Lodbrok sets aside his long time love and wife (though, to his credit, he does offer to keep her as wife? She soundly refuses to share!) in preference for a wife who can bear him more sons. 

Then there is William, who is a bastard son and must fight for everything he feels is his. He is determined to win at all costs, willing to do what ever he has to in order to achieve his goals. He is volatile, uneducated in a scholarly sense but he is a Warrior and thinks like one in all instances. His goal is not so much one for the long range future of his people, but more of a personal vendetta. He is angry with Harold, whom he considered a friend- an ally… he feels betrayed by Harold and acts on it. In Helen’s representation of him, he also acts on it as part of a one time promise he made to his wife- that he would make her a Queen… and so he will, no matter what the cost to others. It is not until the end when he faces his final battle with one that he realizes is an equal on all levels, that he thinks about the possible consequences, about the future for all, not just for himself. Her portrayal of William, his character and his flaws closely parallels that of  Ragnar’s brother Rollo. Rollo, who acts before thinking much of the time, who questions and resents, who battles with himself so constantly.  It often seems impossible that this struggling and often failing Rollo could be the forefather, the founder of such a dynasty as Normandy? Yet, we see that same struggle for worthiness in William I as he battles for what he thinks is his by right.

In the final battle at Hastings, it was an evenly matched battle that by all accounts, Harold should have been able to win? But, by a twist of fate or luck, William won the battle for England. This event resembles much of what happens with Rollo’s life in the Vikings Saga. He  makes grevious errors in judgement, is  at the point of failing miserably but is always the warrior in the end. He is usually on the brink of following the wrong path but for some reason or twist of fate, he succeeds- often surprising himself!

portrait of Rollo in history

portrait of Rollo in history

Old ways of yule

 

I know this has been a rather lengthy, involved and more in depth look at some of the history that will take place after the Vikings initially invade England but I think it’s important to know the legacy that the Vikings such as Ragnar Lodbrok and his brother leave for us in the future!

And, yes, while many will scoff at the Vikings Saga as it is presented on the history channel, throw up their hands in disgust and cries of  “That’s not what really happened”,  I applaud Michael Hirst’s representation of history. He has worked hard to incorporate as much actual history as possible into the show and as a result, the show and the subject of Viking and Saxon era history has reached millions of viewers. Many of those viewers develop a deeper interest in the history of the time period,  go on to do their own research into it and come away with more knowledge and understanding of the past. Is that such a bad thing?

Historical accuracy

Some critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the series’ depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator, criticized its portrayal of Viking Age government (in the person of Earl Haraldson) as autocratic rather than essentially democratic.  Joel Robert Thompson criticized the show’s depiction of the Norse peoples’ supposed ignorance of the existence of Britain and Ireland, and the use of the death penalty instead of outlawry (skoggangr) as a punishment for heinous crimes.

Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the show’s depictions of Viking Age clothing, but went on to state that fictional shows like Vikings could still be a useful teaching tool.   The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that the series incorrectly depicted the temple at Uppsala as a stave church in the mountains, whereas the historical temple was situated on flat land and stave churches were a hallmark of later Christian architecture in Scandinavia.   The temple as depicted in the show does have similarities with the reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof on the other hand. The show also portrays a crucifixion of a prominent character instigated by a Christian bishop near Wessex, apparently as a standard punishment for apostasy – however, Emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in the 4th century  and no crucifixions were documented to have taken place in Europe thereafter.

Other errors include the presence of window glasses, XVI-XVIIth century helmets used by King Ecbert´s soldiers, the mention of “Russia” as the land the Vikings aim to plunder in the first episode, although the episode takes place in 793 A.D. and Russia would not exist until 860 A.D. (as the Kievan Rus’), as well as the scenery where Ragnar Lodbrok lives, which shows great mountains although there are no mountains in Denmark. One could assume Ragnar lives in Norway because of the presence of fjords and that Uppsala can be reached by land while Horik arrives always by sea. However, Lagertha seems to be able to ride from Hedeby to Kattegat without crossing a sea which would be impossible at the time.

Regarding the historical accuracy of the show, showrunner Michael Hirst comments that “I especially had to take liberties with ‘Vikings’ because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages” and that “we want people to watch it. A historical account of the Vikings would reach hundreds, occasionally thousands, of people. Here we’ve got to reach millions.”  When Katheryn Winnick was asked why she licked the seer’s hand she answered “It wasn’t originally in the script and we just wanted to come up with something unique and different”.

 

As I pointed out in the beginning of this discussion, my personal thought is that whether it is a book or a show, if it sparks one’s interest in learning more about history then it is well worth the time spent on it! To disregard a particular genre or format, as being just fiction and not authentic or accurate causes those who would look down on it or negate it’s value to miss the whole point that history has to be made interesting and relative to those learning from it. If you can not get people to read it, view it or listen to it, then it’s accuracies really make no difference anyway.  In sharing history and it’s lessons, one needs to make it interesting enough for the audience to want more of it! Such is the case for Vikings, which will embark upon it’s third season this winter. People are interested in the show, and as a result, are more interested in the real history presented in it!

So with that thought in mind, I will end this long winded discussion and be off to finish my last minute preparations for heading into the past with the Vikings.

If you missed my previous discussions regarding travel plans, you can catch up on it here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/crag-na-dun-time-tours-update/

I will be traveling to Lindholm Hoje near Aalborg Denmark

With the assistance of Mrs. Graham and her Time travel associates, I will be attempting to go through some stones in this area to the past and then travel to Kattegat where I will find the founding family of Ragnar Lodbrok!

Upon my arrival there, I will then proceed to document events of their lives from their humble beginnings as farmers and sometime raiders to their eventual rise to power and rulers of the Viking era!

vikings_gallery8_3-P