Saturday, January 25, 2014

Harold Harefoot, Sweyn Forkbeard, Æthelred the Unready & Queen Emma

While amusing myself with the names of the Viking kings, 
I came across Viking queen Emma!

Emma (985 – 6 March 1052) was born in Normandy. Emma may have been the first woman called Emma in England, so the name's entry into English usage has been attributed to her.

Emma of Normandy with Cnut or Knut or Canute. Cnut the Great was a Viking king of England, Denmark, Norway of some of Sweden .

Through her marriages to Æthelred the Unready (1002-a1016) and Cnut the Great (1017-1035), she became the Queen Consort of England, Denmark, and Norway. A queen consort, as the wife of a reigning king usually shares her husband’s rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king’s titles.

Emma is the "first of the early medieval queens" portrayed visually and she is the central figure within the Encomium Emmae Reginae, a critical source for the history of early 11th-century English politics.

Queen Emma of Normandy receiving the Encomium Emmae Reginaefrom the author (kneeling), with her sons Harthacnut and Edward the Confessor in the background.
The illustration is found in the extant 11th-century copy of the Encomium.

The Encomium is divided into three books. The first deals with Sweyn Forkbeard and his conquest of England. The second deals with his son, Cnut the Great, his reconquest of England, marriage to Emma and period of rule. The third deals with events after Cnut's death; Emma's troubles during the reign of Harold Harefoot and the accession of her sons, Harthacnut and Edward the Confessor to the throne.

Queen Emma and her sons being received by Duke Richard II of Normandy.

Further reading:

Fictional representation:

Emma features in Noah Gordon's The Physician, (1986) a novel set in the early eleventh century.

Harriet O'Brien's Queen Emma and the Vikings: power, love and greed in eleventh century England is a serious historical work but she begins each chapter with a vignette to set the scene for its contents. In these sections she combines imagination with historical reconstruction.

Emma also features in the historical novel, King hereafter, (1983) by Lady Dorothy Dunnett, a reconstruction of the life of Macbeth of Scotland. In the narrative, Macbeth served as one of Emma's house-carls. Emma is depicted as a central figure in the history of her era, although more of a behind-the-scenes manipulator of others. Macbeth says to her, on one occasion, that she might be able to secure the "succession of England" (for which he thought she had William in mind) but that the real question was who would succeed "Emma of England?"

Helen Hollick's A Hollow Crown (2004) is a historical novel about Queen Emma of Normandy, explaining why she was apparently indifferent to the children of her first marriage.