Håkan the Red

Håkan the Red (Swedish: Håkan Röde) was a king of Sweden, reigning for about half a decade in the second half of the 11th century.[1] There is little information on him, and it is mostly contradictory.[1] Nothing is known about his reign.[2]

Runestone U 11 on Adelsö island in Lake Mälaren, probably carved at Håkan the Red's request.

Swedish historian Adolf Schück has asserted that, rather than Blot-Sweyn being an individual king, there are indications that that may have been an epithet for King Håkan.[3]

His cognomen the Red comes from the regnal list of the Westrogothic law, written in early 13th century. The same source claims that he was born in Levene, in Västergötland.[1]

Succession sequenceEdit

Despite contradiction in the sources, Håkan's position as a successor of Stenkil in the line of Swedish kings is generally accepted as correct.[2] Perhaps he reigned from c. 1066/1070 in some areas of Sweden (succeeding Stenkil or Halsten Stenkilsson), and from c. 1075 in Uppland as well (succeeding Anund Gårdske).[4] The regnal line in Nationalencyklopedin omits Anund Gårdske and presents Håkan as successor of Halsten Stenkilsson.[5] Nationalencyclopedin also suggests that he may have ruled jointly with Inge the Elder in the 1080s.[1] A papal letter from Gregory VII is addressed to Inge together with either Håkan or Halsten Stenkilsson as kings of the västgötar, ordering them to collect tithe and send priests to Rome to educate themselves.[6]

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, "[a]t the end of the Viking Age [approximately 1050], Sweden remained a loose federation of provinces. The old family of kings died out in 1060; after the death of the last of these kings' son-in-law, Stenkil, in 1066, a civil war broke out. Around 1080 Stenkil's sons, Ingi and Halsten, ruled, [...]."[7] If "civil war" is an appropriate characterisation of the period from 1066 to 1080, the rulers of that epoch would be in the grey area between "king" and "warlord". Describing this period for Sweden as a whole in a linear translatio imperii kind of regnal succession, can then only be achieved at least partially based on speculative historical reconstruction, which appears to have happened in diverging directions from the early 13th century on, at the latest.

Adam of BremenEdit

A scholion in Adam of Bremen's History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen (written 1070s–early 1080s) says that Håkan was elected king after Stenkil's son Halsten had been deposed, and after Anund Gårdske also had been rejected.[2][8] At his enthronement he was obliged to "take the mother of young Olof in marriage". It is not clear from Adam's text which Olof is meant, but it has been suggested that he might be King Olav Kyrre of Norway, whose mother Tora Torbergsdatter was a cognatic descendant of the Norwegian branch of the Yngling dynasty. While this remains unproven, the marriage was probably a politically well-planned act to gain support for Håkan's rule.[9] Historian Sture Bolin has argued that the passage about Olof's mother in fact refers to Tora Torbergsdotter marrying the Danish King Sweyn Estridsen, and has nothing to do with Håkan.[10] However, while Adam of Bremen mentions a Tora at Sweyn's court, he characterises her as his concubine rather than wife.[citation needed]

Regnal list of the Westrogothic lawEdit

According to the regnal list of the Westrogothic law, Håkan the Red would have ruled 13 years, as Stenkil's predecessor.[2] He was born in Levene in Viste Hundred in Västergötland, and was buried there after his demise.[11] The Levene estate is also associated with King Stenkil, suggesting that Håkan might have sprung from the same kin group. Another Swedish king list from the 13th century has the sequence Stenkil - Halsten - Näskonung - Blot-Sweyn - Håkan the Red (Haquinus rufus) - Inge the Elder.[12]


In Magnus Barefoot's Saga, a part of Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla (1225), he is given as the successor of Stenkil (who died in 1066):[2]

Steinkel, the Swedish king, died about the same time as the two Haralds fell, and the king who came after him in Svithjod was called Håkan. Afterwards Inge, a son of Steinkel,

was king, [...][13]

Similarly, in Hervarar saga (13th century):

Steinkel had a son called Ingi, who became King of Sweden after Håkan.[14]


Detail from U 11 showing the word kunungi or "king."

Presumably it was Håkan the Red who ordered the carving of a runestone found in Hovgården (Adelsö island in Lake Mälaren, Uppland, Sweden). The Rundata catalog number of this runestone is U 11.[15]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Håkan Röde in Nationalencyklopedin:
      Håkan Röde, svensk kung på 1070-talet. [...] I Västgötalagens kungakrönika från 1200-talet anges att Håkan Röde hade tillnamnet "Röde" och att han regerade i tretton år; han skall ha varit född i Levene i Västergötland och även blivit begravd där. Möjligen regerade Håkan Röde under en period på 1080-talet tillsammans med Inge d.ä.   Håkan Röde, Swedish king in the 1070s. [...] In the regnal chronicle of the Westrogothic law it is said that he had the cognomen "Röde" [the Red] and that he ruled for thirteen years; he was supposedly born in Levene in Västergötland and also buried there. It is possible that Håkan Röde ruled for a period in the 1080s together with Inge the Elder.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Håkan" article in Nordisk familjebok (1910):
      H. Röde omtalas i den gamla vid Västgötalagen fogade konungalängden som konung före Stenkil (omkr. 1060-66).

    Enligt samma källa regerade han i 13 vintrar samt var både född och begrafven vid Lifvine i Västergötland. Ett scholion till Adams af Bremen historia uppgifver däremot, att sedan Stenkils son Halsten blifvit fördrifven och dennes efterträdare, den från Ryssland inkallade Anund, likaledes blifvit afsatt, valdes H. till konung. I Magnus Barfots saga omtalas H. som konung efter Stenkil, och där plägar man också vanligen inpassa honom i konungalängden. Om hans regering är intet bekant.

      H. Röde is mentioned in the regnal list added to the Westrogothic law as king before Stenkil (c. 1060-66). According to the same source, he ruled for 13 winters and was both born and buried at Lifvine in Västergötland. A scholion to the history of Adam of Bremen says instead that H[åkan] was elected after Stenkils son Halsten was driven out and his successor Anund, who had been summoned from Russia, also had been deposed. In the Saga of Magnus Barefoot, H[åkan] is mentioned as king after Stenkil, which is also where it is most common to put him in the line of kings. Nothing is known of his reign.
  3. ^ Adolf Schück, Saga och sed Kungl. Gustav Adolf Akademien, Uppsala 1957 p. 16
  4. ^ Sveriges hundra konungar. Stockholm: Biblioteksböcker, 1956, p. 115. This source dates Håkan's reign c. 1075-79, adding that he might have been a natural son of Stenkil who was proclaimed after the death of the latter in 1066. This would explain the 13 regnal years allotted to him by the brief chronicle in the Westrogothic law.
  5. ^ "Sverige" in Nationalencyklopedin:
      ca 1060–ca 1066 Stenkil

    död ca 1070 Halsten
    ca 1070 Håkan Röde
    död ca 1100 Inge d.ä.

      ca 1060–ca 1066 Stenkil

    dead ca 1070 Halsten
    ca 1070 Håkan Röde
    dead ca 1100 Inge the Elder

  6. ^ Inge in Nationalencyklopedin:
      I ett annat påvligt brev kallas I "västgötarnas" (latin wisigothorum) kung tillsammans med en kung "A". Härmed avsågs antingen Inges bror Halsten eller en viss Håkan Röde [...] Påven beordrar "I" och "A" att pålägga folket tionde samt ombesörja att präster sänds till Rom för att inhämta lärdom.   In another papal letter, I[nge] is called king of the "västgötar" (latin wisigothorum) together with a king "A". This would mean either Inge's brother Halsten or a certain Håkan Röde [...] The pope orders "I" and "A" to collect tithe and to make sure that priests are sent to Rome to become more learned.
  7. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica (15th edition, 1984). Macropedia vol. 16: "History of Scandinavia: I. Scandinavia to 1523: From 1050 to the Union of Kalmar: Sweden", p.308.
  8. ^ Adam of Bremen, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, English translation by F.J. Tschan, Columbia University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-231-12575-5.
  9. ^ Sven Tunberg, Sveriges historia till våra dagar. Andra delen. Äldre medeltiden. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, 1926, pp. 26-8.
  10. ^ Sture Bolin, "Kring Mäster Adams text", Scandia 4, 1932.
  11. ^ Sven Tunberg, Sveriges historia till våra dagar. Andra delen. Äldre medeltiden. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, 1926, pp. 26.
  12. ^ Sture Bolin, Om Nordens äldsta historieskrivning: Studier över dess metodik och källvärde. Lund, 1931. Näskonung means "king over an isthmus", "petty king", and occupies the place held by Anund Gårdske in Adam's account.
  13. ^ "Saga Magnús konungs berfœtts" Archived 2007-05-08 at the National and University Library of Iceland, in Heimskringla (W. Schultz, 1869–1872) at Norrøne Tekster og Kvad. English translation: "Magnus Barefoot's Saga" Archived May 7, 2005, at the Wayback Machine from Heimskringla at the Online Medieval & Classical Library.
  14. ^ "Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks", Guðni Jónsson's and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson's edition at Norrøne Tekster og Kvad. English translation by N. Kershaw: "The Saga of Hervör and Heithrek" Archived December 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine in Stories and Ballads of the Far Past, translated from the Norse (Icelandic and Faroese). Cambridge University Press, 1921.
  15. ^ U 11, Hovgården, Adelsö by Ingrid Karlmar and Urban Fredriksson, 27 February 1996.
Håkan Röde
 Died: c. 1079
Regnal titles
Preceded by
as King of Sweden
(possibly) King of Gothenland
c. 1066/70–c. 1075
Succeeded by
as King of whole Sweden
Preceded by
as King of Gothenland
King of Sweden
c. 1075–c. 1079
Succeeded by
Inge the Elder
& Halsten
Preceded by
Anund Gårdske