Emma of Normandy, the Multinational Viking Queen

If Rollo could be called the ‘Father of Royal Europe’, then you would have to look at his great granddaughter Emma of Normandy as the first prominent woman of modern monarchy.  If being Queen of England, Denmark and Norway through two different marriages and at different times throughout her life was not good enough she was also mother to a King of England, a King of England and Denmark and a Holy Roman Empress.   Emma is also the link to the English throne that gave William ‘the Conqueror’ (her great nephew) his claim to the title of King.

Emma (b.985) was the daughter of Richard the Fearless, Duke of Normandy and his mistress Gunmora.  Her parents went on and later married this then legitimised the birth.

In 1000-01 Normandy gave shelter to a Viking Army that threatened England and it is believed that Aethelred King at the time may have attempted an invasion to try and surpass the threat.  This then could of led to the alliance between England and Normandy with the marriage of Emma to Aethelred in 1002.  She then had three children with Aethelred, Edward the Confessor (future King of England), Alfred Aetheling, and Goda (future Countess of Boulogne).  In 1013 Emma and her children were sent to Normandy to escape the invasion on Sweyn where they were shortly joined by Aethelred.

When Sweyn died they returned to England where Aetheling was restored as King of England. On his death Edmund Ironside from his first marriage to Aelfgifu of York became the next King of England.  Within the matter of months at the Battle of Ashingdon on 18th October 1016 this was all to change as Edmund signed a treaty with Sweyn’s son Cnut giving up all of England except for Wessex.  Edmund died soon after this on 30th November.  Cnut then seized control of Wessex as well and the crown of England moved back into the hands of the House of Denmark.

In what could have been a marriage of convenience and to guarantee the safety of her sons following Cnut’s campaign to rid himself of all other possible threats, Emma became again the second wife to the second wife to the King of England once more.  Cnut went on to become King of Denmark and also the Norway and some of the Swedes.

On Cnut’s death in 1035 the throne of England jumped around a little between the next generation first it went to Harold his son to Aelfgifu of Northampton his first wife.  Then to Harthacnut , Emma’s first son with Cnut.  Harthacnut suddenly died in 1042 aged only roughly 23-24.  Upon his death Edward Emma’s son to Aethelered was made King and the house of Wessex was restored once more to the throne of England.  Emma thou during his reign was cast aside setting her support for Magnus the Noble who was son of the dethroned Olaf, King of Norway.  It was believed that she had no love for the children from her first marriage and that is why her support went behind Magnus.

Emma died in Winchester, Hampshire on 6th March 1052.  Her life twisted between three different branches of the throne of England.  England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Normandy she clearly shows already how intertwined the thrones of Europe where becoming at such an early age.

Cnut and Emma of Normandy, from the Liber Vitae of the New Minster, Winchester (1031).


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