Born to Breed: The Estridsen Lectures
The Worth of Svend II Estridsen's Word
regarding faulty memory, the student experience, agricultural studies, burgers vs. burghers, black dishonour, speculation on pragmatism, the worth of the given word, how to spend quality time during a siege, a son, don't drink and sign, a life lesson, bad prince Knud, the immortal bard speaks, the wisest man, the last invasion, a traitorous blow, unlikely last words, a new king.
Welcome back, class.
As you would no doubt remember, were you not still stressed out from the weekend's heavy drinking and partying that makes up most of the student experience of today, the good king Svend II Estridsen had sent his sons off to conquer while he performed agricultural studies but were now, at the middle of 1068, faced with a call for aid from his conquering sons, who were up to their necks in Mecklemburgers. Or Mecklemburghers, as the case might be. Whatever. It is part of the course notes; look it up.
The Wisdom of Svend II Estridsen
Faced with the prospect of fighting an enemy of considerable strength for little gain, Svend took the coward's way out and surrendered, informing the high chief of Mecklemburg that he'd seen the error of his ways and would no longer trample on the rights of heathens just because he could. The lords of the realm bitched and the clergy denounced his actions, but then, they would, wouldn't they?
An Ignominious Surrender, Summer 1068
It seems likely that the three of his sons who were confirmed as rulers of the new Baltic counties looked on the situation more pragmatically, but whatever the case, Svend's reputation had taken a serious hit and he needed to take steps to regain his lost influence.
They were not long in the coming. Scarcely was the ink on the treaty dry and the Mecklemburgers returned home, than Svend declared war on Pomeralia, raising his own levies and taking personal charge of the army.
Svend's Invasion of Pomeralia, Fall 1069
With practised ease the defenders were overrun and the Danes set down to the serious, and seriously boring, task of besieging the heathen strongholds. It should come as no surprise to anybody that with few military tasks to occupy his time in Pomeralia, Svend spent his time doing what he did best, especially with his wife pregnant and unavailable. By summer 1069 Mathilda of Tuscany gave birth to yet another son, Peter.
Yet Another Estridsen Joins the Living, 1069
Apparently the partying to celebrate the birth of yet another of his brood was enough to temporarily deprive him of his senses, for it is known that while recovering from the party he received an emissary of the French King, his son-in-law Phillip Capet, and signed up to join a French Holy War against Emir an-Nasir I of Kabylia for Sardinia. Which would undoubtedly have had serious consequences for the French war, if Svend had known the approximate location of Kabylia or Sardinia, something he forgot to ask the emissary about. In the event, the emissary returned with a verbal promise and a treaty paper signed with a pictogram of a dancing drunk bull with erect penis in place of Svend's official signature, so no real harm was done save to his reputation.
Let this be a life lesson to you, my groggy students: If you are going to join up for something while drunk, do get it on paper. And do stick to the latin alphabet. Less recriminations afterwards.
Be that as it may, as 1069 drew to a close Pomeralia fell and king Svend took a close look at his brood. Had Prince Knud, who'd been the odd prince out during the conquests and not been awarded a county, distinguished himself enough to be awarded a nice Pomeralian county with a good view to the topless beaches where Svend used to hunt as a young man?
In the bard's immortal words from Svend II act III ,
Svend II: “You are a brave warrior, my son, and I've got to admire your lust for life, but you are an ambitious knave and hate my guts. Get thee to a nunnery!”
Knud: “You are too gracious, sire. This is such stuff as dreams are made on. I woulds't be a breeder of sinners!”
Svend II: “My clerk kindly informs me that I used the wrong gender, there... Monastery, that's the word. Latin is such a tricky tongue.”
Knud: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
Prince Knud's future is planned, 1069
Thus it came to pass that the new counties in Pomeralia were kept firmly in the king's grasping hands, ready to be handed over to a worthy son once his younger sons reached maturity. And to ensure that his younger sons would be worthy of the positions rather than turning into wrothful ambitious deceptive men like Knud, he let them be educated by some of the king's top men, men chosen from the ranks of the lesser nobility for their ability and utterly loyal to the man who raised them up. Men such as the faithful Halvor of Kalundborg, known to legend as the wisest man in Denmark, into whose care the education of king Svend's youngest sons were put.
Halvor of Kalundborg, Spring 1070.
The Last Invasion
Spring 1070 brought a new campaign season and the invasion of Courland. Disregarding warnings that he was seriously overextending himself, king Svend led the invasion first of Zemgale, then Kurzine. Taking ruthless advantage of the superior mobility offered by his navy, king Svend managed to draw the Zemmigalians out of position and began besieging their homes while confronting them on the plains of Zmud in Lithuania. The Kurzinians were rushing to their aid, but outnumbered two to one, the combined heathen forces never stood a chance: their time was up.
Battle of Zmud, May 1070
Alas, the same could be said for king Svend, whose mighty career was brought to an end that day as he fell in the battle, the victim of a traitorous blow from one of the many men he had cuckolded.
Modern historicans consider it unlikely that he ever mentioned the famous last words from Svend II act IV, “Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with broadswords”, and certainly Saxo's Gesta Danorum makes no mention of such, but it would be kind of cool if it were true, would it not?
Whatever the case might be, exit Svend II Estridsen and bring on his oldest son and designated heir, Harald III Estridsen, the serene, a.k.a. “Bloody Harry”. The man whose equanimity knew no bounds. Surely, you have heard of HIM, students. Right? RIGHT?
King Harald III Estridsen
Sigh. Class dismissed.