Many people are familiar with the story of Joan of Arc but few are aware of the most powerful and dangerous woman of Middle Ages: Świętosława of Poland. This is the tale of a princess born around the year 966, the granddaughter of Wyszymir, the King of Lechia, and the daughter of Mieczysław I. Her sons ruled Scandinavia and Britain, and she herself burned alive those who opposed her.
Scandinavian warriors had trouble pronouncing her beautiful name, which is why in Sweden they called her Sigríd Storråda, and Gunhild in Denmark. The daughter of Dobrawa Przemyślidka and Mieszko I, she was raised in a new religion whose adoption caused the ancient Lechia to be renamed Poland. She grew up alongside her brother, the Viking Bolesław, who was called “Burisleif/Burislafr, the mighty konung of Windlandia/Vandals”. When Świętosława became queen of Sweden, she persuaded her brave husband Eric to go to war with Denmark, ending in its conquest. Soon after the wedding, the resolute queen gave birth to two children.
The cunning Laszka
In 995, Eric defeated Strybiorn, his greatest enemy, and went down in the annals as Eric the Victorious. He died one year later, leaving Świętosława to rule alone. The Vikings were reluctant to be ruled by a woman, but the proud queen quickly put them in their place. The cunning Laszka organized an engagement meeting to choose a husband, then got everyone drunk and – when the warriors fell asleep – she ordered the hall to be burned down along with the candidates. Word quickly spread through Europe and the courting of the Queen of the North stopped. Świętosława created a coalition of all the Nordics against the Norwegian king Olaf. Taking part were her second husband, Swen Widłobrody, her son (now the king), vicar of Norway (the husband of her daughter) and Bolesław. Świętosława’s warriors – with their 70-plus ships against Olaf’s 11 – overwhelmed the Norwegians and the king himself was beheaded.
The escape and a great return
When in 1002 the war came to an end, Swen Widłobrody realized that he was used by his wife to defeat the enemy of her heart, and banished her from the country. Her children, however, he decided to keep at his side: Herald II Svensonn and Kanut II the Great as well as daughters Estryda and Świętosława II. Świętosława found shelter with her loving brother Bolesław.
He soon sent the Christening group to Scandinavia. In 1014 those, who survived have been baptized. After the war the loving sons brought their mother from Poland to home. The older one became the king of Denmark, and the younger one – Kanut, the merciless King of England. Świętosława, the Queen of Britain and Scandinavia, was still alive in 1016, when records of her disappear from history. But we know that she gave birth to and raised great conquerors, baptized bearded warriors, taught them hardened metal processing and developed the economies of the Scandinavian countries. She brought thousands of Slavic people to the Scandinavian peninsula, where they settled and built their cities, governing all of Scandinavia and England. That is how Queen Świętosława of Poland was.
By Kamil Lemieszewski
Photo: Wikipedia “Świętosława Swatawa” Jan Matejko 1886