Sigrid the Haughty, Queen Consort of Four Countries and Owner of a Strong Personality
In Norse sagas, Sigrid appears as the wife of Eric the Victorious of Sweden, then Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. She's also known as a famous Polish queen of the Vikings, who was called Świętosława.
Sigrid was born between 960 and 972 AD, as a daughter of Mieszko I of Poland and Doubravka of Bohemia. She was born in the capital city of Poland, Gniezno. Her brother was Bolesław I Chrobry, the first king of Poland. She grew up knowing that she came from a royal family. Her father decided that Poland should be a Baptist country in 966 AD, which improved their position in Europe.
Sigrid was a childhood in a country where pagan traditions began to be dominated by Christianity, but it seems that she was never been able to break away from pagan culture and religion herself. She was a warrior who didn't want to wait for God’s fate. Sigrid was a daughter of a man whose roots were in the pre-Christian tribe called Polanie. Due to their political and warfare skills, this tribe dominated the land of modern Poland and created the country which exists today.
A Mother of Kings
The chronicler Adam of Bremen noted that she was the wife of Eric the Victorious and the mother of Olof Skotkonung of Sweden. Sigrid’s unusual personality made her life adventurous. Her story was so vibrant that she became a character of Nordic sagas. Some modern Scandinavian researchers have suggested that Sigrid could be a myth, but resources from Poland and England confirm her existence. Due to Sigrid’s intelligence of as a mother, all of her sons became influential rulers.
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Eric praying to Odin. ( Public Domain )
When she married Sweyn Forkbeard, Sigrid gave birth to two sons - later known as Cnut the Great and Harold II of Denmark. The Gesta Cnytonis regis , known also as Encomium Emmae Reginae, brings some of the best knowledge about Sigrid. It is an 11th century Latin piece of writing dedicated to Queen Emma of Normandy, wife of Cnut the Great. The text was written in 1041 or one year later, and it provides information on Sweyn Forkbeard and Cnut the Great.
Sweyn Forkbeard. ( Public Domain )
Sigrid was said to be beautiful and very powerful. When Eric the Victorious died, she was living with her son Olof Skotkonung of Sweden, known also as Olav the Swede. With her beauty and position, the widow became very attractive for other rulers. However, when Harald Grenske, a king of Vestfold, asked for Sigrid’s hand, she burned him to death in a great hall following a feast to discourage other suitors. After this situation she started to be known as Sigrid the Haughty.
Sigrid eventually married Sweyn Forkbeard, king of Denmark, in 996 AD, but the marriage wasn't happy and in 1002 Sweyn banished her. She escaped back to Poland, where she lived for many years in the court of her brother Bolesław I Chrobry.
She was an influential adviser of the Polish king, and her authority amongst other noble persons of the world was thriving. In 1013, Sweyn became the king of England. He died soon after, and Sigrid’s sons took power. They asked their mother to return to Denmark. She left Gniezno, and supported the reign of her sons. When in 1016 Cnut conquered England, she went with him to the new land, where she lived and perhaps died.
Bolesław I the Brave statue at Gniezno. ( Public Domain )
Searching for Sigrid the Haughty
It is unknown where Sigrid was buried. Some believe that her grave is in Scandinavia, but many researchers say that she may be buried in England instead. Polish researchers asked for a permit to explore Westminster Cathedral, but the English authorities told them that they didn't have enough proof to confirm that Sigrid is buried there.
In Jutland in 1835, archaeologists found the remains of a woman dated to the 11th century. The body is known as the Haraldskær Woman, and she was previously associated with Sigrid. However, radiocarbon dating proved that the body comes from the pre-Roman Iron Age, circa 490 BC. Currently, the body is exhibited on permanent display in an ornate glass-covered sarcophagus inside St. Nicolai Church in central Vejle, Denmark.
Haraldskær Woman on display in a glass-covered sarcophagus in Vejle, Denmark. ( Public Domain )
If one searches for the footsteps of Sigrid, it is possible to find places where she was, but none of her personal objects. The story of the queen of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and England has only been enhanced by the artifacts of her husbands and sons.
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The Memory of Sigrid
Nowadays, Sigrid is counted as one of the forgotten princesses in Poland, whose name isn't spoken much anymore. Her name is much better known in Scandinavia and England, where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow composed a poem in her memory:
''Queen Sigrid the Haughty sat proud and aloft
In her chamber, that looked over meadow and croft.
Why dost thou sorrow so?''
The story of Sigrid is a tale of a rebel queen, who lived as a strong woman for her times. Although she appears as independent and as having a strong personality, her biography still contains many intriguing and mysterious gaps, which will hopefully be filled in in the future.
Featured image: Olaf Tryggvason proposes marriage to Sigrid, imposing the condition that she must convert to Christianity. Source: Public Domain
Jakub Morawiec, Knut Wielki. Król Anglii, Danii i Norwegii (ok. 995-1035), 2013.
Kazimierz Jasiński, Rodowód pierwszych Piastów, 1992.
Philip Earl Steele, Nawrócenie i Chrzest Mieszka I,2005.
Andrzej Feliks Grabski, Bolesław Chrobry. Zarys dziejów politycznych i wojskowych, 1964.