Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2002-09 > 1031544685

From: "Stewart Baldwin" <>
Subject: Danish Haralds in 9th century Frisia
Date: Sun, 8 Sep 2002 23:32:41 -0500

In 1996, I made up an outline of the early (pre 887) Danish kings
which I posted to this newsgroup, and a minor revision of that posting
has been available at the GEN-MEDIEVAL/soc.genealogy.medieval website
for several years:

Over the last few years, I have become aware of other recent accounts
giving the basic genealogy of these ninth century kings, two of them
(by Sawyer and Maund) from the early 1990's of which I was unaware
when I wrote my account, and two others (by Coupland and Cutler) that
have appeared more recently (and I thank Jack Brown for giving me the
URL for Cutler's article and for providing me with a copy of
Coupland's and Sawyer's articles).

The are some differences between my own version and the other ones, of
which the most important will be discussed in more detail below. The
only major difference bewteen Sawyer's genealogical account and the
one that I gave is that he routinely interpreted "nepos" as "nephew",
whereas I left "nepos" with a more ambiguous interpretation in my

In addition to some genealogical differences, Maund's account was very
different from the others in that she argued that Denmark was
generally not a united monarchy during this period and that there were
usually several joint kings at any one time. While this was certainly
true for part of the period, I think that she overstates her case by
representing certain individuals as possible joint monarchs on too
little evidence. There probably would have been numerous local lords
in Denmark who were effectively independent within there own little
fiefdoms and owed only nominal allegiance to the king (as was the case
throughout most of "Carolingian" Europe as well), but I don't accept
that such individuals who might be found acting on their own ought to
be accepted as joint kings without good evidence to that effect. I
think that the events of 812 show that the kingship of the Danes was
an office that could be fought over, but that it could also be shared
if that became necessary. I also have some genealogical qualms about
Maund's article, as I believe that she was too quick to identify
individuals of the same name as the same person. (For example, she
identifies Godefrid son of Harald, active in the 850's, with the
Godefrid who was active in the 880's.)

It is the papers by Coupland and Cutler that has required me to make a
significant change in my opinion about the relationship of Rorik and
the Harald who was baptized in 826. The key point that both Coupland
and Cutler (independently) make is that there appear to have been two
Danish Haralds (one a "nepos" of the other) who were involved in
Frisia in the middle of the ninth century (i.e., not counting the
obscure earlier Harald who is briefly mentioned only in the Frankish
annals for 812), with Rorik being a "nepos" of the well known Harald
who was baptized in 826, and a brother of the other (overlooked)
Harald. While I see some weaknesses to the "two Haralds" theory that
were evidently overlooked, which will be mentioned below, I believe
that the evidence is still strong enough that they have made the case.

The main problem has been noticed on numerous occasions. The Annals
of St. Bertin for 850 refer to Rorik as a "nepos" of Harald, whereas
the Annals of Fulda for the same year, in a retrospective entry,
mentions Rorik and his brother Harald and mentions the previous death
of Rorik's brother (clearly intended to indicate the same Harald, from
context). It is clear that either there is a contradiction here, or
that the Haralds mentioned were two different men.

Three additional pieces of evidence point in the direction of the
latter. One is that there is another apparently retrospective entry
in the Annals of Fulda for 852 that indicates that the well known
Harald who was baptized in 826 died in that year. A weakness of this
evidence is that both Fulda entries (850, 852) are narrative entries
that also mention earlier events, indicating the possibility that
these entries are not contemporary, but rather retrospective entries
that may have accidently recorded the same death in two different
places (and in the wrong year in the 852 entry).

Another piece of evidence is that Rorik (who was still living in 873)
appears to be in a later generation than the Anulo who died in 812
(who was a brother of the Harald baptized in 826). This is a valid
argument, but hardly conclusive, because a younger brother of Anulo
might still be a young child in 812, and could easily live until 873
without even reaching the age of seventy.

In addition, the activities reported about the Danish pirate Harald in
the Annals of St. Bertin in the year 841 show a hostile Viking who
seems quite different from the man who had been so friendly to the
Franks in other accounts. It would certainly simplify matters if
these were two different men, but this evidence would also have to be
regarded as nonconclusive.

One weakness of the "two Haralds" theory which both Coupland and
Cutler appear to have overlooked is that one could assume that Rorik
was a brother of the Harald who was baptized in 826, and STILL have it
be consistent with all of the relationships given in the Frankish
sources, with the sole exception of the 852 entry for the annals of
Fulda. The reason for this is that there was a yet earlier Harald
(the one mentioned in the phrase "Anulo nepos Herioldi" of the annal
of 812) who is known, and that if Rorik was a brother of the well
known Harald (a brother of Anulo), then he would also be a "nepos" of
this obscure earlier Harald, so that references to Rorik as "nepos
Herioldi" would still not be contradictory even in this case.

Despite the above comments, I think that the case that was made
independently by Coupland and Cutler is a good one, and I believe that
the "two Haralds" solution is probably correct (actually, three
Haralds of you also count the obscure earlier person of that name).
However, it is still true that the case relies more heavily than they
acknowledged on the two apparently retrospective annals for 850 and
852 in the Annals of Fulda.

The genealogical table below shows the "two Haralds" solution, and is
subject to the usual warning that it has to be displayed using a
constant-width font with a line length of at least 70 characters, or
it won't look right. Rather than assume a specific English
translation for "nepos", I have left the term untranslated, and have
used a slanted line like the following figure


to describe the case where B is described as a "nepos" of A without
any other information to allow a more precise affiliation. The
authors cited below generally translate "nepos" as "nephew". If that
is the case here, the eldest Harald and Halfdan would be brothers, and
Rorik and the youngest Harald would be sons of one of the middle
Harald's brothers (but not necessarily one of the three shown here,
and I see no good reason for assigning their father as Hemming, as
Cutler does). This table assumes that the Hemming who was mentioned
as a brother of Harald and Reginfrid in 812 was the same man as the
Hemming son of Halfdan who died in 837. (This widely made assumption
is the only evidence for the name of the father of the four brothers
of the 812 annal.) The father of Godefrid is clearly identified as
the Harald who was baptized in the time of Louis the Pious (Annals of
St. Bertin, 852), and Rodulf (called son of an unspecified Harald on a
few occasions) is also called a "nepos" of Rorik (Annals of St.
Xanten, 873), placing him as the son of the youngest Harald. I am
assuming (in agreement with all of the authors mentioned here except
Maund) that the Godefrid of the 850's was different from the Godefrid
of the 880's, although the possibility that they were the same man
cannot be completely ruled out. (Cutler's placement of the younger
Godefrid as son of the elder Godefrid is almost certainly wrong, as
Vikings were not generally named after their fathers.) Although his
genealogical affiliation in uncertain, I have included the younger
Godefrid on this table with an unknown parentage, because the fact
that he held lands formerly held by Rorik suggests that they were of
the same family. I have done the same with Otto the Great's
grandmother Reinhilda, since her description as Frisian/Danish
suggests at least a reasonable possibility of being connected to this
family. I have not included the other Danish rulers who have no
proven connection to these individuals, although a more distant
relationship between them cannot be ruled out. [And, just in case
somebody asks, I regard Belaiew's theory that the Danish/Frisian Rorik
was the same man as the famous Russian Rurik to be unconvincing.]

Stewart Baldwin


d. bef. 804?
\ Halfdan
\ "Northmannorum dux"
\[nepos] living 807
\ ______________|__________________________
\ | | | |
Anulo Harald Reginfrid Hemming
claimed joint king joint king killed at
Danish of the Danes of the Danes Walcheran,
throne 812-3, 819-27 812-3, d. 814 837
in 812, held benefice
d. 812 in Rüstringen
826-, d. 852
| \
________| \
| \[nepos]
| \ __________________
| \ | |
Godefrid Rorik, d. 873×882 Harald
fl. 852-5 held Dorestad and held Dorestad
raider, held other parts of with Rorik,
Dorestad with Frisia for many d. bef. 850
Rorik, had years, joined |
unsuccessful Godefrid in 855 |
bid for Danish for unsuccessful |
throne in 855, bid for Danish Rodulf (Rolf)
later history throne, but held Viking raider,
unknown part of Denmark d. 873
for short period
beginning 857

Godefrid, d. 885
Danish raider,
granted lands
in Frisia in 882
that had been held
earlier by Rorik
m. 882, Gisela,
dau. of Lothair II,
king of Lorraine
Reinhilda, "Fresonum
Danorumque genere
progrediens", maternal
grandmother of
Otto the Great


Simon Coupland, "From poachers to gamekeepers: Scandinavian warlords
and Carolingian kings", Early Medieval Europe 7 (1998), 85-114.

K. Cutler, "Danish Exiles in the Carolingian Empire--the Case for Two

K. L. Maund, "'A Turmoil of Warring Princes': Political leadership in
ninth-century Denmark", The Haskins Society Journal 6 (1994), 29-47.

Peter Sawyer, "Kings and Royal Power", Jysk Arkæologisk Selskabs
Skrifter 22 (1991), 282-8.

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