Sigefrid, King of Denmark

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Sigefrid, King of Denmark

Danish: Sigfred Konge af Danmark
Also Known As: "Sigifridi regis Danorum; Konge af Danerne"
Death: before 804
Immediate Family:

Father of Godfredus

Managed by: Sharon Doubell
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Immediate Family

About Sigefrid, King of Denmark

Godfred/Gudrød king of the Danes came to power someplace around the year 804. Here he is mentioned for the first time in the Frankish annals called Godfredus.
The timeframe would make it nearly impossible for him to be the brother of Sigfred which is already mentioned for the first time in 777, as a King, so at this time he must have been a grown man. Godfred is mentioned for the first time as King of the Danes in 804, if the brother of Sigfred he would have been an old man at that time, also since one of his sons was King until 854. It was unusual to grow very old in the timeframe. So, chronologically it fits that he is the son of Sigfred. It is debated if Sigfred is the same as Sigurd Ring who is the father of Ragnar Lodbrog according to the sagas. If so, that would make Gudrød the nephew of Ragnar Lodbrog but that can not be proven with the sources. But the facts are that he was related to Sigfred. Ragnar is also mentioned as helping the sons of Godfred to power. He was also likely related to Angantyr (Danish king), Danish king in the early 700s, mentioned as Ongendus in Willibrord's writings. The name is passed down in another branch of Gudrøds royal line.
In 845 Count Kobbo of Saxony (who was visiting Horik (The son of Godfred) writes that Regnar Lodbrog (referred to here as "Reginarius") supposedly was paid to leave Paris in 845. The same year that Hamburg was burned down. A fleet of 600 ships had been sent up the Elb. Horik claimed he had nothing to do with it, but many points him being part of it, though it is said that the men that did the deed was apprehended by him. However, a fleet of 600 is no small amount, so it was a large army that arrived at Hamburg at that time.
When Gudrød is murdered in 810, his sons choose to flee to Sweden. It is thought that the murder was done by one of his own instigated by Charlemagne who feared what he would do. Gudrøds nephew Hemming is named king after him and he makes peace with Charlemagne. However, Hemming dies two years later and Gudrøds sons return home from Sweden wanting revenge. One of those sons of five was Horik 1. The other was not named in the stories by name. They pushed out the Kings Harald Klak and Ragnfred. They had been busy fighting a rebellion in the farmost part of their Kingdom in Vestfold in Norway. Upon their return Godfread’s sons attacked them. Though Harald Klak managed to be Co-king for a period of time, he was finally pushed out in 827.
“During the winter, Louis ordered the Saxons Obodrites to prepare for the invasion of Denmark. In May 815 the troops moved northward over the Elbe and reached Sinlendi (in South Jutland). Then they marched for seven days until they reached a shore, three miles from a certain island (possibly Funen). The four brother kings had gathered a fleet of 200 ships and were posted on the island, refusing to offer the imperial troops battle. The imperial envoy Baldrich let his troops ravage the districts in the neighbourhood, took 40 hostages, and returned without having achieved much. “
This event seems to have been proven with archaeology. The place called Erritsø, recently excavated, was a centre of power at the timeframe and was burned down. Perhaps by the imperial forces. The distance fits with this.
The Franks about the Kings Sigfred and that of Godfredus/Gudrød.

Pompous Asses or Ferocious Kings?
“Looking at the epithets attached to these two kings helps us to get a feeling for how the Carolingian court envisaged these men. Fundamentally, they were regarded as savages. Thus, in the poem by Peter of Piso, Sigfred was characterised as a king with more bluster than muster. Pompifer, he is called. Not an adjective often used, it derives from pompa, which means
procession or just in general ‘pomp’ as in ‘Pomps and Circumstances’. Cicero used it to describe a kind of rhetoric, which had gone off the wall. To this should be added the list of adjectives applied to the king by Paul the Deacon, in his poetical reply to the first poem. Here Sigfredd is characterised as truculentus, brutus, indocto and hirsutus, that is as a ferocious, brutish, ignorant and hairy (unkempt) “kind of animal”.
This slightly “insane” quality may also be found in the characterisations dealt out to his son (or brother), Godfred, whom we are variously told was filled with vain ambition (vana spe) as well as pride (superbia) and ostentatious bragging (iactantia); or might even be considered mad (vaesenus). Especially Einhard in his biography of Charlemagne writes of a braggart filled with idle threats, who believed that he was lord of not only Frisia and Saxony but intended to take all Germany.” From medievalist article.
This name-calling is of course due to him being a power they had to consider, on top of the fact that he was not a Christian. In fact, this was the case early on with the first missionaries to the Danish realm. Angantyr was called "more savage than any beast and harder than stone" by the missionary Willinbrord. Though he lived to tell the tale about it.
- 731 Dannevirke extended. Perhaps initiated by Angantyr? Fits the timeframe. At the beginning of the 700s, he was visited by the missionary Wilibrord. Ribe was also founded as a trading town at the beginning of the 8th century. The Kanhave canal at Samsø was built in the same timeframe. A larger unification of the Danish Kingdom largely as we know it today plus north Germany and that of Scania is likely already seen at this point.
- 772-804 The Frankish wars against the Saxons.
- 774. According to the Annals – “When he arrived at Ingelheim, he sent for detachments to Saxony. Three of them fought the Saxons and with God's help had the Victory; The fourth did not see battle but returned home with much booty and no losses.”
According to the Annals “775, While the King spent the winter at the villa of Quierzy, he decided to attack the triecious and treaty-breaking tribe of the Saxons and to persist this war until they were either defeated and forced to accept Christianity or entirely exterminated.”
This entry makes it very clear that the Saxons faced a choice of either be forcefully converted at the tip of the sword or be killed. This attitude was later enforced at the Paderborn.
Widukind is mentioned for the first time in 777. “The lord king Charles for the first time held a general assembly at Paderborn. All the Franks gathered there and from every part of Saxony came Saxons, with the exception of Widukind, who was in revolt with a few others. He fled with his companions into Nordmannia.”
The Franks usually call the Danes for Northmen or the area for Nordmannia, well aware that they speak of the Danes.
- 777-782 Exiled Saxons seek refuge with Sigfred, the Danish king. Widukind the Saxon leader was supposedly related to him by marriage. The Frankish royal annals: About the Danish king Sigfred.
Several revolts are spurred on by Widukind in this timeframe. He continues to be the leader of the Saxons.
From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: “780. Here the Old Saxons and the Franks fought.”
“782. At the time of King Charles crossed the Rhine at Cologne and held at the place where the Lippe rises; To which came all the Saxons except the rebellious Widukind. There were also Normans, King Sigfreds messengers, namely Halfdan and his fellows.”
“In either 782 or 785, the Carolingian ruler issued the Capitulatio de Partibus Saxoniae, an unprecedented series of legal directives which called for the deliberate and forcible conversion of the Saxon people to Christianity on pain of death.”
As can be seen by the entry in 775, the King had already made that decision and the later regulations were merely made to enforce them to the fullest. Not many from the church at this time argued against this forced conversion. Very few raised a voice against it. One such was Alquin, though praising the King in many ways and his counsellor on religious matters, he argued in a letter.
“Faith is a thing of will, not of necessity.”5 Alcuin continues, stating that “a man can be led into faith, not forced; he can be forced to baptism, but it will not help in faith.”
So, Alquin was against the forced conversion, though he supported the King and the wars against the Saxons. Charlemagne also had the full support of the Pope and of other religious leaders of the church. Also, his complaints do not come until 796, which means years after the beginning of the Saxon wars. So, he was not so eager to stop the mission as much as the letter might lead you to believe.
An entry of what leads up to the Massacre at Verden. Here some of the Franks are killed in battle seemingly due to being overconfident.
-“ After Theodoric had pitched camp in this locality, the east Franks, as they had planned with the count, crossed the river, so as to be able to pass more easily around the mountains and pitched up camp at the riverbank. When they discussed matters among themselves, they feared that the honour of the Victory might be Theodoric’s alone if they should fight at his side. Therefore, they decided to engage the Saxons without him. They took up their arms and as if he were chasing runaways and going after booty instead of facing an enemy lined up for battle, everybody dashed as fast as his horse would carry him for the place outside of the Saxon camp where the Saxons were standing in battle array. The battle was as bad as the approach. As soon as the fighting began, they were surrounded by Saxons and slain almost to a man.”
“Two of the Frankish Envoys Adalgis and Gailo, four counts and up to twenty other distinguished nobles had been killed.”
In the entry, it continues.” When he heard of this Lord King Charles rushed to the place with all the Franks that he could gather on short notice and advanced to where the Aller flows into the Weser. Then all the Saxons came together again, submitted to the authority of the King and surrendered the evildoers who were chiefly responsible for this revolt to be put to death -Four thousand five hundred of them. This sentence was carried out. Widukind was not among them since he had fled into Nordmannia.”
So likely it was hostages and other Saxons that were executed at Verden. Many must have followed Widukind to the Danes and taken refuge here. It is also here that we begin to hear more of the Danish king and the Danes. They had had extensive trade with the Franks before this. But basically, the Saxon wars brought the Danes into contact with the Franks in a different way than before. There had been extensive trade between the Danes and Christian Europe. These wars brought the empire of the Franks to the doorstep of the Danes. And apparently, Sigfried was not as easy to handle as Charlemagne would have liked. Of Course, Sigfred would also have been aware that he would be next to be incorporated into the Frankish empire in the same manner as that of the Saxons and would do what he could for it not to be the case.
- 783-787 Known to the court of Charlemagne from 782 when Sigfrid was harbouring both the Saxon rebel Widukind and numerous other fugitives, this Danish king later came to feature in a couple of poems as a pompous or grandstanding (pompifer) man, who waved his spectre over a godless and accursed kingdom and whose comeuppance was secure: in the end, they prophesied, Sigfred was bound to arrive at court with his hands tied behind his back. Neither Thor nor Odin (Thonar et Waten) would help him, they claimed. These two sniggering poems were written sometime between 783 and 787 by Peter of Pisa (AD 744 – 799) and Paul the Deacon (AD 720 – 799). Characterised as occasional poems, their main objective was to stage the authors’ civilised superiority towards this northern king, whom they compare to a wild and hairy “beast”. As an undercurrent, we nevertheless get the impression that Sigfred was regarded as a significant opponent. During the Saxon wars, he seems to have aided and abetted his southern neighbours against Charlemagne. Why else write derogatory and defamatory poetry about him? The Carolingians must have been wary of Sigfred as they came to be of his son Godfred. Charlemagne had demanded that the Danes turn over the refuges. The Danes refused and prepared for war.
-789 The Franks discussed forcefully converting the Danes.
In The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle the first Danish raid is mentioned.
- “789, And his days came first 3 ships of Northmen from Hordaland and then then the reeve rode there and wanted to compel them to go to the king’s town because he did not know what they were, and then they killed him. These were the first ships of the Danish men who sought out the land of the English race.”
Note that they do say Hordaland which is in Norway, but southern parts of Norway were under Danish control in the Viking age, so these might well be connected to the Danish fight with the Franks.
- In 798 Sigfred is mentioned for the last time in the Annals in passing. “They spared only a few to obtain ransom for them. With the others, they also put to death Godescal, the King’s envoy, whom the king a few days before had sent to Sigifrid, king of the Danes.
- 804 Sometime between AD 799 and 804, his son Gudfred must have taken over. In AD 804, we meet him mustering his fleet as well as cavalry at Sliesthorp (the bottom of the Schlei near the future Haithabu). Godfred is undoubtedly prepared to defend his realm against the Carolingian transgressors, who not only intend to control the region north of the Elbe by setting up the Duke of the Abodrites, Thrasco, as a buffer against the Danes but also want to stop the fleeing Saxons to find refuge up north.
“804, At the same time Godofrid, king of the Danes, came with his fleet and his entire cavalry to the border of his kingdom and Saxony. He promised to show up for a conference with the emperor but was made vary by the council of his men and did not venture any closer. Instead, he communicated through envoys what he wanted to say. The emperor stayed at Hollenstedt on the river Elbe and sent an embassy to Godofrid to discuss the return of fugitives.”
- 808 Godfred/Gudrød attacked the Frankish allies the Abodrites, who had previously paid tribute to the Danes, and moved the merchants from Reric to Schleswig and reinforced Dannevirke. The Gate of Dannevirke - At that time, the Danish king Godfred waged war against Charlemagne. The Frankish king's historian tells of how Godfred destroyed the Slavic Baltic port of Reric and built a rampart. "It was to have only one gate, through which horses and carriages could be sent out and received", it says.
- 810 Godfred/Gudfred is murdered by one of his own men. It is speculated that Charlemagne was behind it – His nephew Hemming makes peace with Charlemagne.
- 811 or 812, Hemming Danish king from 810, a time characterized by civil war and several contemporary kings. Hemming was Gudfred's nephew and became king after he was killed. He immediately made peace with Charlemagne in 811; the killing of Gudfred was possibly agreed upon between Hemming and the Franks.
- 812 Two brothers become King of the Danes with Co-rule. Harald and Reginfred
- 812-813 Harald Klak, king. Harald was the nephew of a former King Harald and belonged to the branch of the royal family that came to power after the murder of Godfred in 810. When the sons of Godfred returned home from Sweden, Harald sought Frankish support to retain a share in power; he was baptized in 826 and returned home with Ansgar in his entourage but was expelled finally in 827.
- 813 Godfred’s sons rebelled and Horik 1, son of Godfred became the ruler of the Danes. It is said that Ragnar Lodbrog helped them with this. They did not want to recognize the peace made with the Franks. They wanted revenge. The Franks also helped the throne contester Harald Klak, who had been baptized. A new peace agreement had been made between the Franks and that of the two newly chosen kings, but this peace would not last. Later in the year, Harald and his brother were driven from their kingdom by Godfred's sons, who returned home from exile with the Swedes, accompanied by many nobles. After a failed attempt to regain power, during which Reginfred was killed, Harald appealed to the Franks for help. They had just had a new emperor, Louis the Pious, the only surviving son of Charlemagne who had died in January 814.
- 814 Charlemagne dies.
- 815 The Franks sought a final conquest of the Danish area. Erritsø is believed to be the place they reached. Here a royal hall has been excavated in recent years. in the spring of 815, Louis sent an army of Saxons and Abodrites to occupy Jutland, the army failed to confront Godfred's sons who retreated with the fleet to an island, probably Funen. According to the Frankish royal annals, Emperor Ludwig's troops did not succeed in contacting the Danes' army and navy in 815. After seven days of travel, they reached what we think could be the Little Belt. They waited here for three days while Godfred's sons, with a fleet of 200 ships, had gone 30 miles away, according to the annals "on an island thirty miles from the mainland." So basically, plundering the area. In fact, the Feudal system of the Franks was built that way. They received plunder as payment.
- The forces "returned to the emperor of Saxony" after having ravaged the whole of the surrounding country and had been given forty hostages by the people. " The crucial thing here, however, is that the studies that the Vejle Museums carried out together with the National Museum and funds from the Ministry of Culture's Research Committee and the Beckett Foundation show that the place may have played a role. Either as a defence against the advancing Imperial forces or by the fact that it was burned down at this very time by Emperor Ludwig's troops, who according to the sources ravaged the area.
- 817 A Danish fleet together with an army of both Slavs and Danes made an unsuccessful attack on the Itzehoefort.
- 819 Harald Klak becomes co-king for a while, together with Godfred's sons. The annals of 821 Repeat this statement above.
- 820 Raiders of 13 ships went up the Seine but were defeated.
- 823 Harald asks the emperor to help him against the other kings. He did not receive the help he had hoped for.
- 825 A peace agreement was made between the Danish Kings and of the emperor.
- 827 Harald Klak was baptized.
- 827 Harald Klak was expelled from Denmark.
- 831 became archbishopric under Ansgar and the centre of the mission in the north.
- 814-840 – Louise the Pious whose reign continued the prosperity and stability of the region and who held the Danes at bay through bribes and favours
- 840 – Louis the Pious 3 sons fight for power.
- 841 – First major attack by the Norsemen came in this year. Viking chief Asgeir sacked and burned Rouen and looted the Monastery of Fontenelle and the Abbey of Saint-Denis. The amount of plunder and the number of captives taken was significant. Those prisoners whose families or friends could pay the Vikings a ransom were returned; the others were sold as slaves. Asgeir left the region a wealthy chieftain
- 843 – The 3 sons of Louise divided the empire between them.
- 845 – Danish King Horik I, son of Godfred, conquered Hamburg, ravaged the town and burned down its church, the relics of which Ansgar just managed to save. In March of the same year, the Vikings of Ragnar Lodbrog sailed up the Seine and plundered Paris with 120 ships. He was paid to leave. “The emperor held two assemblies. One was at Nijmegen because Horic, son of Godfrid, had falsely promised to appear before the emperor…In the meantime the kings of the Danes, that is, the sons of Godfrid, deprived Harald of his share in the kingship and forced him to leave Nordmannia (trans. Scholz, p.137)” The Franks, that had not won terrain with the military tried to gain influence by politics and helping contenders that were favourable to them. This is likely the cause of Horik’s attack on Hamburg. The missionary took years to rebuild and for the time after it was moved to Bremen.”
Pictures of a coin found at Ribe and from the timeframe of Godfred.



The RFA’s first mention of Widukind is linked to its first mention of Norsemen. The initial appearance of Widukind in the RFA declares that he was “in revolt along with a few others” and was the only Saxon not to attend the general assembly Charlemagne held at Paderborn in 777. The original entry states that Widukind had “fled with his companions into Nordmannia,” and the revised entry glosses this by saying that he “had fled to Sigifrid, king of the Danes.”

Widukind escaped the mass Saxon execution in 782 by again fleeing into “Nordmannia,” after he was once more the lone Saxon absent from Charlemagne’s assembly, this time “at the source of the River Lippe.” As in the 777 entry, Widukind is linked to the Danes; “Norse emissaries of King Sigifrid, Halptani with his companions, also appeared at this assembly.”

The Saxon-Danish connection continued. In 798, Saxon rebels killed Charlemagne’s envoy as he returned from a visit to Sigifrid, leading to Charlemagne becoming “savagely aroused.” It has been suggested that Charlemagne’s negotiations with the Danes specifically concerned their continued harbouring of Saxon fugitives and that the forced relocation of Saxons from Nordalbingia to closer to the Rhineland area was to prevent them from escaping into Denmark or being encouraged to further rebellion by the Danes. As late as 823, there seems to have been a dispute between Franks and Danes over the Norsemen harbouring Saxon fugitives.

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Sigefrid, King of Denmark's Timeline