Gorm the Old (c. 936 – c. 958)
Gorm the Old is counted as the first king in the lineage of Danish royalty that still rules today. Little is known with certainty about this king, but the larger of the rune stones in Jelling, raised by Harald Bluetooth, states that it was raised “in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Thyra, his mother,” thus making visible a lineage of rulers beginning with Gorm.
The inscription on the aforementioned runestone further states that Harald Bluetooth “won all of Denmark”, making it plausible that his father Gorm only ruled over part of Denmark.
Harald Bluetooth (c. 958 – c. 986)
Son of Gorm the Old and grandfather of Cnut the Great, Harald Bluetooth is credited with introducing the Danes to Christianity, as stated on the large runestone. As written above, Harald also credits himself with winning all of Denmark (and Norway), and although the Danish rule of kings had been established in Jutland, the power centre shifted east during the rule of Harald Bluetooth; by combining the rule of Jutland with a firm grasp of the Danish Isles to the east as well as that of Scania in what is now Southern Sweden, Harald paved the way for his successors to consolidate Denmark as a stronger and more viable unity.
Sweyn Forkbeard (986 – 1014)
Sweyn Forkbeard was the elder son of Harald Bluetooth and Tove. In the 980’s Sweyn led a rebellion against his Christian father and seized the throne when he fled to Wendland, where he died shortly after.
Sweyn led campaigns against England and King Æthelred multiple times during his reign, where he acquired massive sums of Danegeld – the form of forced taxes the Vikings would impose on the invaded lands. King Æthelred sent his sons Edward and Alfred to Normandy, and he himself retreated to the Isle of Wight, but soon followed them into exile. Sweyn was declared King of England on Christmas Day 1013.
Very little is known with certainty about his reign in Denmark, but he has been regarded as the orchestrator of the conquest of England and thus a highly capable commander. He died on 3 February 1014 after only months on the throne. After Forkbeard’s death Æthelred returned and succeeded in driving Forkbeard’s youngest son Cnut out of England to reclaim the throne.