Ulvhild Håkansdotter

Ulvhild Håkansdotter (Swedish: Ulfhild, English: Wulfhild, Wolfhild), (c. 1095–c. 1148), was twice Queen of Sweden (c. 1117–25 and c. 1134–48) and once Queen of Denmark (c. 1130–34) through her successive marriages to Inge II of Sweden, Niels of Denmark, and Sverker I of Sweden. Ulvhild had an important role in the Nordic dynastic connections of her time, but the sources are insufficient on detailed circumstances. She is mentioned as a femme fatale of medieval Scandinavia, as well as a benefactor of the Catholic Church.

Ulvhild Håkansdotter
Queen consort of Sweden
Tenurec. 1117–c. 1125
c. 1134–c. 1148
Queen consort of Denmark
Tenurec. 1130–c. 1134
Bornc. 1095
Diedc. 1148 (between 1143 and 1150)
SpousesInge II of Sweden
Niels of Denmark
Sverker I of Sweden
IssueHelena of Sweden
Jon Sverkersson of Sweden
Charles VII of Sweden
Ingegerd Sverkersdotter
FatherHaakon Finnsson

Early lifeEdit

Ulvhild originated from Norway. The Norse saga manuscript Fagrskinna mentions her as the daughter of the Norwegian magnate Haakon Finnsson, of the Thjotta family. The name of her mother has not been preserved to later centuries. In modern times it has been suggested that her mother was the former Norwegian and Danish queen Margaret Fredkulla, daughter of Inge I of Sweden.[1] However, this hypothesis cannot be substantiated.


Ulvhild was firstly married to King Inge II of Sweden, in about 1116/17. They appear not to have had children. Inge was the junior of two reigning brothers. The elder brother, King Philip died in 1118 under unknown circumstances, leaving Inge as the sole ruler. The short chronicle in the Westrogothic law says that King Inge died of an evil drink in Östergötland. Some later sources place the assassination in Vreta Abbey. The year is not known, but it was no later than c. 1129.[2] The writer Åke Ohlmarks has speculated that Ulvhild became acquainted with her future husband, the East Geatic magnate Sverker, and made him poison Inge.[3]

Some time after the death of King Inge, Ulvhild moved to Denmark, rather than returning to Norway. Perhaps she did so to claim asylum: she seems to have had relatives and allies in Denmark, whereas political turbulence plagued Sweden.[4] She married King Niels of Denmark after the death of his first queen, Margaret Fredkulla of Sweden, in c. 1130. The marriage more or less coincided with Niels's son Magnus the Strong being accepted as king in parts of Sweden. However, Ulvhild egged her stepson Magnus against his cousin and rival Canute Lavard.[5] Canute was eventually murdered by Magnus in 1131. Civil war now broke out in Denmark, where Niels and Magnus stood against the claimant Eric Emun. Moreover, the marriage was not harmonious, and Niels was some 20–30 years older than his spouse. The chronicler Saxo Grammaticus informs us of the dramatic dissolution:

"Meanwhile the Swedes, when they heard that Magnus was busy with war in Denmark, took a fellow countryman called Sverker, a man of low origins, as their king; not since they valued him that much, but since they would not stand under a foreigner. Since they were used to having one of their own at the head, they could not accept having a foreigner as chief. Niels had married Ulvhild from Norway after Margaret's death. Sverker sent errands to her and asked for her love. Shortly afterwards he clandestinely brought her from her husband and made her marry him. With this mistress whom he falsely called his wedded wife, he sired a son Charles who became king after him."[6]
Composite showing the location of Sverker's family grave at Alvastra Abbey where Queen Ulvhild has been assumed to be buried

The event is not dated but must have taken place between 1132 and 1134. The curious elopement story may be explained by Ulvhild's position. Being the widow of Inge II, she represented the estates and influences of the extinct House of Stenkil. Marriage to Ulvhild legitimated the enthronement of the non-royal grandee Sverker, now when her stepson Magnus had been evicted from Sweden. As far as known, no objections (apart from the partial Saxo) were made against her third marriage or against the legitimacy of her children. On the contrary, Ulvhild is praised by clerical sources as a benefactor to the church. The Cistercians were called in on Ulvhild's initiative, and founded the abbeys of Alvastra and Nydala in 1143.[7] Alvasta was even founded on ground which was part of Sverker's bridal gift to Ulvhild.[8]

After at least a decade of queenship, Ulvhild died, some time between 1143 and 1150. Sverker married secondly with Rikissa of Poland, widow of Magnus, king of Gothenland, Sverker's earlier rival and opponent. This, too, was a politically motivated marriage which may have aimed to draw the last remains of Magnus's party to Sverker.[9]

Children and familyEdit

Ulvhild was married three times; to King Inge II of Sweden in c. 1117, to King Niels of Denmark in c. 1130, and to King Sverker I of Sweden in c. 1134. She had at least two surviving sons and two surviving daughters, all born of her third marriage with Sverker:

Some genealogies have Sune Sik (see him) as a younger son of King Sverker, being the father of Ingrid Ylva; it is not known if also was a son of Ulvhild.


  1. ^ Adolf Schück, "Drottning Ulvhilds härkomst", Personhistorisk tidskrift, 1953, pp. 29-30. http://personhistoriskasamfundet.org/1950-1970/
  2. ^ Peter Sawyer. När Sverige blev Sverige. Alingsås: Viktoria, 1991, pp. 38-9.
  3. ^ Åke Ohlmarks, Alla Sveriges kungar. Stockholm; Gebers, 1972, p. 36.
  4. ^ Dick Harrison, Sveriges historia 600-1350. Stockholm: Norstedts, 2009, p. 210.
  5. ^ Adolf Schück, "Drottning Ulvhilds härkomst", Personhistorisk tidskrift, 1953, p. 27. http://personhistoriskasamfundet.org/1950-1970/
  6. ^ Saxo Grammaticus, Danmarks krønike. København; Asschenfeldt's Stjernebøger, 1985, II, pp. 81.
  7. ^ Sven Tunberg, Sveriges historia till våra dagar. Andra delen. Äldre medeltiden. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, 1926, p. 41; Dick Harrison, Sveriges historia 600-1350. Stockholm: Norstedts, 2009, p. 174.
  8. ^ Sven Tunberg, Sveriges historia till våra dagar. Andra delen. Äldre medeltiden. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, 1926, p. 41.
  9. ^ Sawyer, Peter. När Sverige blev Sverige. Alingsås: Viktoria, 1991, p. 42.

Further readingEdit

  • Sven Tunberg, "Ulfhild", in Nordisk Familjebok, 2nd Edition, [1]
  • Lars O. Lagerqvist (1982). "Sverige och dess regenter under 1.000 år",("Sweden and its rulers during 1000 years") (in Swedish). Albert Bonniers Förlag AB. ISBN 91-0-075007-7.
  • Gunnar Hedin, Sveriges kungar och drottningar under 1000 år (The kings and Queens of Sweden during 1000 years) (In Swedish). Borås: Företagsgruppen, 2002 (ISBN 91-631-2020-8).
Ulvhild Håkansdotter
House of Thjotta
Born: c. 1095 Died: c. 1148
Royal titles
Preceded by Queen consort of Sweden
c. 1117–c. 1125
Succeeded by
Preceded by Queen consort of Sweden
c. 1134–c. 1148
Preceded by Queen consort of Denmark
c. 1130–c. 1134
Succeeded by