The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway

by Snorri Sturlson | c.1179-1241 | 320,198 words

The "Heimskringla" of Snorri Sturlason is a collection of sagas concerning the various rulers of Norway, from about A.D. 850 to the year A.D. 1177....

Part 24 - Svein Ulfson Created An Earl

One day, as King Magnus sat in his high-seat and many people were around him, Svein Ulfson sat upon a footstool before the king. The king then made a speech:

"Be it known to you, chiefs, and the people in general, that I have taken the following resolution. Here is a distinguished man, both for family and for his own merits, Svein Ulfson, who has entered into my service, and given me promise of fidelity.

Now, as ye know, the Danes have this summer become my men, so that when I am absent from the country it is without a head; and it is not unknown to you how it is ravaged by the people of Vindland, Kurland, and others from the Baltic, as well as by Saxons.

Therefore I promised them a chief who could defend and rule their land; and I know no man better fitted, in all respects, for this than Svein Ulfson, who is of birth to be chief of the country.

I will therefore make him my earl, and give him the government of my Danish dominions while I am in Norway; just as King Canute the Great set his father, Earl Ulf, over Denmark while he was in England."

Then Einar Tambaskelfer said,

"Too great an earl — too great an earl, my foster-son!"

The king replied in a passion,

"Ye have a poor opinion of my judgment, I think. Some consider that ye are too great earls, and others that ye are fit for nothing."

Then the king stood up, took a sword, and girt it on the earl's loins, and took a shield and fastened it on his shoulders, put a helmet upon his head, and gave him the title of earl, with the same fiefs in Denmark which his father Earl Ulf had formerly held. Afterwards a shrine was brought forth containing holy relics, and Svein laid his hand hereon, and swore the oath of fidelity to King Magnus; upon which the king led the earl to the highseat by his side.

So says Thiodolf: —

"Twas at the Gaut river's shore,
With hand on shrine Svein Ulfson swore.
King Magnus first said o'er the oath,
With which Svein Ulfson pledged his troth.
The vows by Svein solemnly given,
On holy bones of saints in heaven,
To Magnus seemed both fair and fast;
He found they were too fair to last."

Earl Svein went thereafter to Denmark, and the whole nation received him well. He established a court about him, and soon became a great man. In winter (A.D. 1043), he went much about the country, and made friends among the powerful chiefs; and, indeed, he was beloved by all the people of the land.

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