King of Sweden
Reign 1060–1066
Predecessor Emund the Old
Successor Eric and Eric
Born Västergötland, Sweden
Died 1066
Svitjod, Sweden
Spouse Ingamoder Emundsdotter
Issue Halsten Stenkilsson
Håkan the Red
Inge the Elder
House Stenkil
Father Ragnvald Ulfsson
Windows created by Stenkil's dynasty in Vreta Abbey.

Stenkil (Old Norse: Steinkell) was a King of Sweden who ruled c. 1060 until 1066.[1][2][3] He succeeded Emund the Old and became the first king from the House of Stenkil.[4] He was not from Uppsala, but probably from Västergötland[1] and related to the previous dynasty by marriage to Emund's daughter.[2]

He supported the Christianization of Sweden[2] and cooperated with bishops from the Archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen.[3] However, when Adalvard the Younger at Sigtuna wanted to destroy the Temple at Uppsala, Stenkil stopped Adalvard's plans, as he feared a pagan insurgence.[3] The fears were probably justified. According to the Hervarar saga, Stenkil's son Inge the Elder was deposed and exiled for wanting to cancel the pagan sacrifices at the temple.[5][6]

Stenkil resided mainly in Västergötland where he was long remembered as the king who "loved West Geats before all his other subjects", and he was lauded as a great archer whose hit marks were long shown with admiration.[1][2]

The tradition that Stenkil was beloved by the Geats appears to be supported by Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla. In a speech by Thorvid, the lawspeaker (lagman) of Västergötland before a battle with Harald Hardrada, the lawspeaker expresses the Geats' (Gautland people) loyalty to Stenkil:

The lagman of the Gautland people, Thorvid, sat upon a horse, and the bridle was fastened to a stake that stood in the mire. He broke out with these words: "God knows we have many brave and handsome fellows here, and we shall let King Steinkel hear that we stood by the good earl bravely. I am sure of one thing: we shall behave gallantly against these Northmen, if they attack us; but if our young people give way, and should not stand to it, let us not run farther than to that stream; but if they should give way farther, which I am sure they will not do, let it not be farther than to that hill."[7]

According to a legend Stenkil was buried in the "royal hill" near Levene in Västergötland.[2] His two sons Halsten and Inge the Elder would both become kings of Sweden.

The Hervarar saga has a great deal to tell about Stenkil:

Steinkell hét ríkr maðr í Svíaríki ok kynstórr; móðir hans hét Ástríðr, dóttir Njáls Finnssonar ins skjálga af Hálogalandi, en faðir hans var Rögnvaldr inn gamli. Steinkell var fyrst jarl í Svíþjóð, en eptir dauða Eymundar konungs tóku Svíar hann til konungs. Þá gekk konungdómr ór langfeðgaætt í Svíþjóð inna fornu konunga. Steinkell var mikill höfðingi. Hann átti dóttur Eymundar konungs. Hann varð sóttdauðr í Svíþjóð nær því, er Haraldr konungr fell á Englandi. Ingi hét sonr Steinkels, er Svíar tóku til konungs næst eptir Hákon.[8]

There was a great man of noble family in Sweden called Steinkel. His mother's name was Astrith, the daughter of Njal the son of Fin the Squinter, from Halogaland; and his father was Rögnvald the Old. Steinkel was an Earl in Sweden at first, and then after the death of Emund the Old, the Swedes elected him their King. Then the throne passed out of the line of the ancient kings of Sweden. Steinkel was a mighty prince. He married the daughter of King Eymund. He died in his bed in Sweden about the time that King Harold fell in England. Steinkel had a son called Ingi, who became King of Sweden after Haakon.[5]

The Hervarar saga describes Stenkil as the son of a Ragnvald and later historians have identified this father as Ragnvald Ulfsson who was the earl of Staraja Ladoga and the grandson of the legendary Viking Skagul Toste. But this presumed family-connection is not supported by any other sources and must therefore be regarded as very uncertain. The Icelandic sagas mention a wife and two sons to Ragnvald Ulfsson but none are identical with Stenkil and his mother Astrid.

Notes and references

Born: 1030 Died: 1066
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emund the Old
King of Sweden
Succeeded by
Eric and Eric
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