Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sweyn Forkbeard

England's shortest reigning King?

Did you know that Sweyn Forkbeard was England's shortest reigning King? On Christmas Day 1013 he was declared king of England, and it was the Lincolnshire town of Gainsborough that became his capital. It was here that Forkbeard began to organise his new kingdom, but he died on 3 February 1014, having ruled England for only forty days. With the support of his son Cnut, he waged war on the English people. He is said to have been a brutal man, burning people alive and impaling them on lances. Historian Darron Childs says of Forkbeard brutality "It is perhaps one of the reasons why he has been largely forgotten. It's hard to make a big thing of someone so bad. It's a difficult thing to try and overcome." It is more than likely that the main reason this man is forgotten is because of the lack of evidence. 

There is one fortification in Gainsborough, on the site of what is now the Old Hall, that had a moat fed from the nearby River Trent , that is thought to have been where Forkbeard made his centre of his operations. Mr Child's believes that Gainsborough could have been where Forkbeard's son, Cnut, attempted to hold back the waves, not on the coast like we all imagine but at the Trent Aegir, a tidal bore, which takes its name from the Viking God of the Sea. After Forkbeards death his embalmed body was returned to Denmark and the council of England sent for the deposed Aethelred to return as king. He arrived in the spring of 1014 and drove Cnut out of England. Cnut soon returned to became King of England in 1016.

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