Alternate History

Sweyn II of Anglia (The Kalmar Union)

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Sweyn II
Henry I - British Library Royal 20 A ii f6v (detail).jpg
Sweyn II the Crusader
King of Anglia
Reign 14th November, 1074 - 28th May, 1097
Coronation n/a
Predecessor Aelfwine
Successor Harald II Godwinsson
Spouse Edith
Issue Unnamed Son

Unnamed daughter

Full name
Sweyn II Aelfwinesson
House Denmark, or Gorm
Father Aelfwine
Mother Gunhild
Born 15th December, 1058
Nottingham, Anglia
Died 28th May, 1097
Nicea, Byzantine Empire

King Sweyn II the Crusader, was the last king of Anglia from the main branch of the House of Gorm. His largely miserable domestic policies have generally been overshadowed by his participation in the First Crusade.

Born in 1058 Sweyn was the only son of Aelfwine and Gunhild.

In early 1071 he travelled to Denmark alongside his sister Elfleda, possibly to give her away in marriage to one of their Estridsson cousins but the trip is more remembered for his dispute with the Archbishopric of Bremen. The Archbishop was looking to extend its writ over the Anglian diocese just as it had primacy over the various Scandinavian bishops, asking to meet with the 'esteemed young prince' hoping to overawe him and his entourage and dangled the promise of arranging an even more prestigious marriage for Elfleda. Sweyn however would not be taken in by the Archbishop's pageantry and when the tone darkened his men scuffled with those of the Archbishop. Pope Alexander II heard of the fracas and issued a severe rebuke to the prince, although neither did he demand Jorvik's subordination to Bremen. A meeting with Emperor Henry IV later in the year was more auspicious however and helped rescue his reputation.

On succession to the throne Sweyn's church related problems continued. His father had died whilst in the midst of a dispute with Jorvik over land in Northern Anglia. Archbishop Herewald refused to crown him until Sweyn gave way on certain issues. Herewald narrowly avoided exile but support from the monasteries eventually got him his way. On the death Herewald in 1088 Sweyn had his own choice consecrated, a move which should have allowed him much more sway within the church. But the appointment of Leofgar did not go the way he planned. After pilgrimage to Rome Leofgar returned a changed man and began to challenge Sweyn incessantly. This had the side effect of boosting the validity of the nobles' quarrels and from 1090 to 1095 Sweyn had to face a continued succession of rebels, not only from perennially problematic Mercia but Northumbria and East Anglia. Strangely, Jorvik stayed more or less peaceful.


Sweyn 'took the cross' in January 1096, in part hoping it would finally silence Jorvik, but also it seems he was genuinely swept up in the fevour to recapture the Holy Land. Requiring a huge sum of money to pay for the transport of a large group of housecarls he pawned Mercia to Edgar II of Wessex. The temporary sale would prove permanent as it turned out but at a stroke removed all the rebellious parts of Mercia. This would allow a much more peaceful Anglia in subsequent centuries.

Sweyn quickly raised an army and would join the main crusader army at Constantinople in November 1096 long after the other main forces had arrived. Though he was the only crowned head of state in the army his own personal force was comfortably outnumbered by those of the main four princes. Putting humility before ambition he was happy to follow their lead and acted in concert with Bohemond of Taranto with whom he apparently got on with like a house on fire. His own personal crusade was stopped short at Nicea where he was perhaps injured during the battle on 16th May 1097 against Seljuk forces. He would die within a week or two, failing to see the capture of the city. Unsure of what to do next a few of his men travelled back to Rome, with his heart, then returned to Anglia, some via Denmark to relate his death. Meanwhile the rest would continue to Jerusalem.

When news of his death finally filtered back to Anglia in late summer Edgar II seized Mercia outright. Prince Magnus, apparently not the most healthy, or godly, child, had died the previous winter; leaving no obvious heir. The chroniclers decided it was divine justice for Sweyn's 'misdeeds'. With a large part of the experienced nobles on crusade and the potential for war with Wessex many the nobles elected the elderly but respected Harald Godwinsson as their new king. And once news of this reached Cnut IV of Denmark he too raised an army as he considered himself the rightful heir to the crown.

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