Ulf the Earl

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Ulf (or Ulf Jarl) (Ulf Thorgilsson) was a Danish earl (jarl). As a Viking chieftain he participated in Cnut the Great's conquest of England as one of his most trusted men. He married Cnut's sister Estrid Svendsdatter and from c. 1024 he was his appointee as regent of Denmark, probably as the guardian of Cnut's young son Harthacnut. After Ulf joined Olaf II of Norway and Anund Jacob of Sweden in a coalition against Cnut, Cnut had him killed in Roskilde. He was the father of Sweyn II of Denmark, King of Denmark from 1047 to 1074.[1]

Ulf Jarl was the son of Thorgils Sprakalägg, his brother was Eilaf, an Earl of King Cnut the Great, and his sister was Gytha Thorkelsdóttir who married Godwin, Earl of Wessex.

Ulf joined Cnut the Great's expedition to England. In 1015-16, he married Cnut's sister Estrid[2] and was appointed the Jarl of Denmark, which he ruled when Cnut was absent. He was also the foster-father of Cnut's son Harthacnut.

When the Swedish king Anund Jakob and the Norwegian king Olaf II took advantage of Cnut's absence and attacked Denmark, Ulf convinced the freemen to elect Harthacnut king, since they were discontented at Cnut's absenteeism. This was a ruse on Ulf's part since his role as Harthacnut's guardian would make him the ruler of Denmark.

When Cnut learnt what had happened in 1026, he returned to Denmark and with Earl Ulf's help, defeated the Swedes and the Norwegians at the Battle of the Helgeå. Ulf's assistance did not, however, cause Cnut to forgive Ulf for his coup.[3] At a banquet in Roskilde, the two brothers-in-law were playing chess and started arguing with each other. The next day, the Christmas of 1026, Cnut had one of his housecarls kill Earl Ulf in Trinity Church, the predecessor of Roskilde Cathedral. However, accounts contradict each other.

Ulf was the father of Sweyn Estridson and Beorn, and thus the progenitor of the House of Estridsen, which would rule Denmark from 1047 to 1375, which was also sometimes, specially in Swedish sources, referred to as the Ulfinger dynasty to honor him.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Ulf Jarl". Gyldendal. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  2. ^ M. K. Lawson, Cnut: England's Viking King (2004), p. 94, says that the identification of Ulf with the husband of Estrith (Estrid) is commonly made but not certain.
  3. ^ Havhingsten fra Glendalough: The battle of the throne of England