English political refugees at the court of Sveinn Ástríðarson, king of Denmark (1042-76)

English political refugees at the court of Sveinn Ástríðarson, king of Denmark (1042-76)

By Timothy Bolton

Medieval Scandinavia, Vol.15 (2005)

19th century depiction of Sveinn Ástríðarson

Introduction: After the Norman conquest in 1066 and the failed rebellions in 1069-71, some sections of the aristocracy of Anglo-Saxon England fled as far afield as the Mediterranean, the Crimea, and the Byzantine court. Other crucial members of the Anglo-Saxon elite can be found in exile, somewhat closer to home, in Denmark.

Through much of the eleventh century close ties were built between the aristocracies of these two countries. After conquering England in 1017, King Knutr inherited his patrimonial kingdom of Denmark and held both this and England for approximately sixteen years (circa 1019-35). After Knutr’s death, and until 1042, the English throne was held by two of his sons: Harold Harefoot from 1035 to 1040, who had probably spent some part of his childhood in Denmark, and Harthacnut from 1040 to 1042, who concurrently held the thrones of England and Denmark.

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During these reigns we can observe the introduction of a considerable number of Scandinavian personnel to the English administration. Simon Keynes, in an article on Knutr’s earls, has counted some nine Scandinavians introduced as early in 1015×1017. These must have moved into their earldoms with their own retinues and followers.

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