Swedish jarls

In Sweden, members of medieval royal families, such as the House of Stenkil and House of Bjelbo, held the title of jarl before their accession to the throne. Since the early 12th century, there usually was only one holder of the title at a time, second only to the King of Sweden.

For special occasions, regional jarls outside of Sweden could be nominated as well. An example of this is Jon Jarl, who allegedly conducted pirate operations against Novgorod in the east.


According to Procopius, the Heruli, after having raided the European continent for several generations, returned to Scandinavia in 512 as a result of military defeats. As their old territory was now occupied by the Danes, they settled next to the Geats in present-day Sweden. No elaborate theory exists to explain how the word came to be used as a title. Arguably, their knowledge in interpreting runes also meant they were gifted in martial arts and, as they gradually integrated, eril or jarl instead came to signify the rank of a leader.[1] As described in the Icelandic sagas, such as Rígsthula,[2] a jarl was a sort of chieftain next in rank to the king in the function of Marshal or Duke of the King's Army. Under any circumstance, when jarls are finally mentioned in medieval documents, it clearly was a title signifying a leader ranked directly under the king.[1]

In Swedish history, Jarls are described as either local rulers or viceroys appointed by a king, ruling one of the historical Swedish provinces, such as Västergötland, Östergötland, or Svitjod. In Norway, the jarls apparently kept this role and the kings attempted to introduce one in each Fylke before the title was used exclusively on the Orkney Islands in the 14th century. In Sweden, however, the title was replaced by "duke" (Swedish 'hertig') in the 13th century. Before the title was discontinued, Swedish jarls were powerful men, such as Birger Brosa, Ulf Fase, and Birger Jarl (original patronym Magnusson), often the true rulers of the Swedish kingdom.[1]

Jarls of SwedenEdit

From the House of Bjelbo:

Regional jarlsEdit

Jarls of VästergötlandEdit

From the House of Stenkil:


In popular cultureEdit

  • In the History Channel's historical drama television series Vikings, actor Thorbjørn Harr plays the character of Jarl Borg, a Jarl of Götaland.
  • In the video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the rulers of the various cities and their respective regions, called within the game as the nine holds, are known as Jarls.
  • In the NRK television series Norsemen, there are two jarls: Jarl Varg, the primary antagonist of the show, and Jarl Bjorn, a character in Season 3.


  1. ^ a b c Lindström, p 113-115
  2. ^ Wikisource - Rigstula, verse 34 (in Swedish)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Lindström, p 267, "Jarls from the late 12th century to 1266"


  • Lindström, Fredrik; Lindström, Henrik (2006). Svitjods undergång och Sveriges födelse (in Swedish). Albert Bonniers förlag. ISBN 978-91-0-010789-5.