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For other uses, see Gunhild.

Gunhilde (or Gunnhild) (died 13 November 1002) is said to have been the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, and the daughter of Harald Bluetooth. She was married to Pallig, a Dane who served the King of England, Æthelred the Unready, as ealdorman of Devonshire.[1] She is supposed to have been a hostage in England when she was killed in the St. Brice's Day massacre, ordered by Æthelred. Pallig is reported alternatively to have been killed in the massacre[1] or to have provoked the massacre by deserting Æthelred's service.[2]

Historians are divided about the strength of the evidence that she was Sweyn Forkbeard's sister. She is not mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entries for Sweyn[3] and Æthelred,[4] and Ryan Lavelle is sceptical of the reliability of the later medieval sources, such as the Chronicle of John of Wallingford, which mention her.[2][5] However, Frank Stenton described the claim as a "well recorded tradition", and considered that a desire to avenge her death was probably a principal motive for Sweyn's invasion of England in 1003,[6] leading to the eventual conquest of England by his son Cnut.


  1. ^ a b Cawley, Charles, Medieval Lands Project, Denmark, Kings, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy ,[better source needed]
  2. ^ a b Ryan Lavelle, Aethelred II: King of the English, The History Press, 2008, pp. 104-105
  3. ^ Sweyn, Oxford Online DNB
  4. ^ Æthelred, Oxford Online DNB
  5. ^ The Cawley, Charles, Medieval Lands Project, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy ,[better source needed] describes her as Sweyn's sister, but states that the primary source for the statement has not been identified.
  6. ^ Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 380