Helena (wife of Inge the Elder)

Queen consort of Sweden
Tenure 1079–1084 and 1088–1105
Born 11th century
Died After 1105
Vreta Abbey, Sweden
Burial Sweden
Spouse Inge the Elder
Issue Christina, Grand Duchess of Kiev
Ragnvald Ingesson
Margaret, Queen of Norway and Denmark
Katarina Ingesdotter
House Stenkil
Father Sigtorn? Prince Ingvar of Sweden?
Religion Roman Catholicism

Queen Helena or Elin, also known as Maer, Mär or (Old Norse for Maiden) (born in the 11th century – Floruit 1105), was a Swedish queen consort, spouse of King Inge the Elder and the sister of King Blot-Sweyn of Sweden.


A 17th century gravestone in Vreta Abbey with a partially incorrect inscription mentions an Ingi and a Helen – their burial somewhere in the church has been accepted as fact.

The background of Queen Helena is unconfirmed. She is believed to have been from Östergötland. Helena is said to have been of the old Swedish royal family, a sideline of the House of Yngling,[1] and the sister of Blot-Sweyn. King Inge, who was King of Sweden and parts of Sweden several times, is famous for being the King who defeated the pagans in the religious wars who took place in Sweden between 1022 and 1088 and abolished freedom of religion, requiring everyone to profess the Christian faith. His greatest opponent in this fight was the Pagan King Blot-Sweyn.

King Inge was said to have married Blot-Sweyn's sister Maer, or ; in Icelandic sources, she is referred to as Mär[1] and officially, she is referred to as Helena. It is also sometimes suggested that she was of Greek or Russian origin, but this is unconfirmed and unlikely. The marriage is well pointed out in history as the wedding between Inge and the sister of Blot-Sweyn, and Sweyn is always referred to as the brother-in-law of Inge*.[2] Because of this it is therefore sometimes believed that Inge was married two times. However, "Maer" is not an actual name, it is simply an old Nordic word for "Maiden"; the other spelling of the name, "Mö", is still well known as an old-fashioned word for "Maiden" or "Virgin". "Helena" is the usual Latin spelling of the Swedish name Elin. This can be assumed to be the same person; the maiden Elin, to Christian foreigners spelled as Helena in Latin, sister to the Pagan King Blot-Sweyn.

The genealogy of the old Viking families is very hard to follow, in spite of the many songs which describe them, but as sister of Blot-Sweyn, she may have been a daughter of Prince Ingvar Vittfarne of Sweden, son of King Emund the Old of Sweden, and the cousin of her spouse. The marriage was likely arranged for political reasons to unite the Pagan and Christian fractions. A runestone raised by a man by the name Sigtorn to the honour of his daughter and his son Sven is suggested to have been raised by the father of Queen Helena and her brother Blot-Sweyn. Helena's full name would in that case have been Helena Sigtornsdotter.

Not many things are confirmed about queen Helena, but she was most likely a Pagan like her brother at the time of her marriage and convinced, willingly or by force, to submit to the Christian faith and convert. She may have received the name Helena by her christening, as her daughters were also given names from Christian Europe: Christina, Margaret and Catherine. It is not known which side she favoured between the Pagans and Christians. In 1087-88, she witnessed the war between her Christian spouse and her Pagan brother and saw the former triumph. Perhaps she mourned the death of her brother and Paganism in 1087–1088, but to the end of her life she was, or gave the impression to be a Christian; after the defeat of the pagans, she founded Sweden's first known nunnery, the Benedictine Vreta Abbey in Östergötland, jointly with her spouse some time between 1090[3] and 1100. She donated twenty estates in Östergötland to the convent upon its foundation,[3] estates believed to have been the queen's, possibly as a dowry, or as an inheritance after her brother Sweyn. After the death of her spouse in c. 1105, Queen Dowager Helena entered the Vreta Abbey as a nun.

Confusion with Helena of Skövde

Queen Helena or Elin has long been confused in history with Saint Helena of Skövde (d.1135), who lived in Sweden during the same period. This is a misconception which has no support from historians now.


  1. Christina, married Grand Duke Mstislav I of Kiev,[4] and ancestress of several Kievan and Novgorod princes.
  2. Ragnvald, who died before his father and who was father of Ingrid, who first was married to the Danish prince Eric Skatelar, and later to the Norwegian king Harald Gille.[4] She was the mother of pretender (and alleged murderer) Magnus Henriksson.
  3. Margaret Fredkulla, married (1) Magnus Barefoot, king of Norway, and later king Niels of Denmark;[4] through her second marriage, she was the mother of King Magnus the Strong of Västergötland and claimant of Denmark.
  4. Catherine, married a Danish "Son of King", Björn Ironside Haraldsson,[4] with whom she had a daughter Christina Bjornsdatter who married the future Eric IX of Sweden.

References and literature

  1. 1 2
    • 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 1 2
    • Sven Rosborn (In Swedish): När hände vad i Nordens historia (When did what happen in the historiy of the Nordic countries) (1997)
  4. 1 2 3 4 The article Inge in Nordisk familjebok (1910).


External links


Helena (Elin), also called Maer/Mär/Mö
Born: 11th century Died: after 1105
Swedish royalty
Preceded by
Last known consort:Gyla
Queen consort of Sweden
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Queen consort of Sweden
Succeeded by
Ingegerd Haraldsdotter
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