bridenapped — helena sverkersdatter

Doing some Norsk-side genealogy research, I learned how one of my 21st great-grandmothers, Helena of Sweden SVERKERSDATTER, was a victim of bride-kidnapping.  While this horrified 😮 me, it is a practice that goes on yet today in numerous countries.

Although “in most nations, bride kidnapping is considered a sex crime rather than a valid form of marriage,” it continues yet today “in Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and parts of Africa, and among peoples as diverse as the Hmong in Southeast Asia, the Tzeltal in Mexico, and the Romani in Europe.”[1]

Per some sources, honeymoons are in fact, “a relic of marriage by capture, based on the practice of the husband going into hiding with his wife to avoid reprisals from her relatives, with the intention that the woman would be pregnant by the end of the month.”

But on to my very own way-back Great-Grandmama Helena of Sweden SVERKERSDATTER (circa 1190 Denmark1247)[2], daughter of King of Sweden (reign, from 1196–1208) Sverker The Younger KARLSSON — “Sverker den yngre KARLSSON” in Swedish; “Sörkvir KARLSSON” in Old Norse — born circa 1164died July 17, 1210 Battle of Gestilren, Sweden, &, his first wife, Benedicta EBBESDATTER (circa 1165/’70–1200).[3]

Helena “was the first of the three prominent victims of the Maid Abduction from Vreta[*], others being her daughter Benedicta of Bjelbo and granddaughter Ingrid SVANTEPOLKSDOTTER.  Helen SVERKERSDOTTER, the only daughter of the deposed king, was educated at Vreta Abbey at the time of her father’s death.  Her relatives would not even hear the proposal of young Sune FOLKASON ( –1247), son of an earl who had been among Sverker’s opponents in the battle in which he himself fell.  Sune FOLKESSON was of one of the two dynasties that been rivals for the Swedish throne since 1130, and Helen was from the other, the Sverker dynasty.”[2]


* Vreta Convent aka “Vreta Abbey, Swedish Vreta Kloster, in operation from the beginning of the 12th century to 1582, was the first nunnery in Sweden, initially Benedictine and later Cistercian, and one of the oldest in Scandinavia.  It was located in the present-day municipality of Linköping in Östergötland.”  “The original buildings burned down in the early 13th century, but were rebuilt, and a new church was dedicated…in 1289.  Vreta Abbey was a house of Benedictine nuns until 1162, when it was turned into a Cistercian nunnery.”  “It was a prestigious establishment, and the church is the burial place of…kings…”[5]

In those times, “Marriage was an alliance contract and also had many economical repercussions.  A man was not allowed to marry a woman from an enemy clan unless it was to senal a treaty between the clans.  On the other hand, a man might want to marry an heiress from a rival clan in order to impose his own power upon that clan.[6]

“Abduction of 1210
“Around 1210, Helena SVERKERSDOTTER, the only daughter of the deposed King Sverker II, was studying at the Vreta convent when her father fell in battle.  The young Sune FOLKASON, son of an earl who had been among Sverker’s opponents in that battle and had also fallen, wished to marry her, but her relatives would not hear his proposal.  FOLKASON abducted Helena and, according to folklore, took her to the castle of Ymseborg.  They married and had two daughters.”

“In 1216, Helen’s brother became King John I of Sweden.  When he died childless in 1222, Helen and her daughters became heirs of the Sverker dynasty.[2]

“One of her daughters, Catherine, in 1243 was married to King Eric XI, thus finally uniting the two Swedish dynasties.

“Abduction of 1244
“Around 1244, Benedikte [Bengta] SUNADOTTER, the younger daughter of Sune FOLKASON and Helena SVERKERSDOTTER, was being educated at the Vreta convent.  Laurens PEDERSSON, Justiciar ofn Östergötland, abducted her.  One theory is that PEDERSSON may have been a grandson of a king of the St. Eric dynasty and wished to unite that dynasty with Benedikte’s Sverker dynasty.  He may also have had designs on the throne.  In any case, Benedikte was released and soon married high noble Svantepolk KNUTSSON, Lord of Viby, with whom she had several daughters and a son, Knut, who died childless.[6]

“Abduction of 1288
“In 1288, Ingrid SVANTEPOLKSDOTTER, one of the daughters of Benedikte and Svantepolk, was being educated at the Vreta convent.  Her father had intended her to marry a Danish nobleman, the future High Justiciar David THORSTEINSEN.  Folke ALGOTSSON, a knight from Gothenland (and, according to myth, a descendent of Algaut), abducted her with the help of some of his brothers and fled with her to Norway.  King Magnus III, reportedly livid about the wilful breach of women’s safety in convents, had one of the brothers executed.”

“Late in life, [Helena] is said to have become the Abbess of Vreta Abbey.”[2]

Supposedly, “many” poems have been inspired by the Vreta abductions, although I could turn up none in a Google search.  If you do, please share with me! 🙂

My line to Helena SVERSDATTER, on up from my maternal grandmother’s father, Carl Johan EILERTSEN Fjelse (1848 Fjelse nedre Br.74, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–after Apr., 1911), goes thusly:
> Kristine DANIELSDTR Fjelse (1808 Fjelse Nedre Br.1., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–aft. 1864)
Daniel SIVERTSEN Fjelse (1764 Fjelse nedre Br.1.VI., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–Fjelse nedre Br.1. VII., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Sivert DANIELSEN Fjelse (1735 Fjelse nedre Br.1. V., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–before Dec. 16, 1772 Fjelse nedre Br.1. VI., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Daniel SIVERTSEN Fjelse (1702 Fjelse nedre Br.1. IV., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–bef. May 3, 1755 Fjelse nedre Br.1. IV., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Kirsten DANIELSDTR Djupvik (1682 Djupvik Br.1. I., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway–aft. Dec. 15, 1739)
> Anna HANSDTR Kvelland (? Kvelland, Hidra, Vest Agder, Norway–aft. Dec. 15, 1739 Djupvik Br.1.I., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Anna STEINARSDTR Reppen (? Reppen Br.1., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway– )
> Birgitte TARALDSDTR Reppen (? Reppen Br.1.V., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway– )
> Tarald SVENSEN Reppen (about 1590 Reppen BR.1. II., Nes, Vest Agder, , Norway–1661 Reppen Br.1. IV., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
Sven OLUFSEN Reppen (abt 1559– Reppen Br.1.II., Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Karen BERGSDTR Egeland (1520 Egeland ytre, Kvinesdal, Vest Agder, Norway– Reppen Br.1.I, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Unknown GUNNERSDTR Tengs (?–?)
> Gunnar ASBJØRNSEN Tengs (1470 Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway–1546 Drangeid Br.4.IV, Nes, Vest Agder, Norway)
> Unknown GUNBJØRNSDTR Tengs (? Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway–Tengs, Bjerkreim, Rogaland, Norway)
> Gunnbjørn TORDSEN Tengs (? Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway–aft. 1486 Tengs, Egersund, Rogaland, Norway)
> Tore GARDSEN Garå (abt 1400 Norway–abt 1454 Norway)
> Ramborg KNUTSDTR Lejon (abt 1360 Sweden–aft. 1408 Norway)
> Knut ALGOTSEN Lejon Folkunge IX (bef. 1330 Sweden– )
> Algot BRYNJULFSON Sweden
> Ingegerd SVANTEPOLKSDTR Sweden

1. Wipikedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Bride kidnapping,” at , accessed Jan., 2018.
2. Wipikedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Helen of Sweden (13th century),” at , accessed Jan., 2018.
3., “Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias,” at , accessed Jan., 2018.
4. PHOTO — Attribution per Wikimedia Commons for use of this photo on the web is as follows:  “By No machine-readable author provided.  Xauxa assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided.  Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY 2.5, ;” accessed Jan., 2018.
5. Wipikedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Vreta Abbey,” at , accessed Jan., 2018.  Redirected from “Vreta convent.”
6. Wipikedia, “the free encyclopedia,” “Vreta abductions,” at , accessed Jan., 2018.
7. Most of the data on my Norsk ancestral lines is from Signe Elisabeth Zidjemans, Flekkefjord, Norway; data obtained from bydgeboker.  Some is from cousin Vivian (Unhammer) Moulder.  I cannot thank either woman enough.


tell me again about our great-grandpapa whose skull was made into a silver drinking cup, grandmama

I like to imagine an eagerly interested great-grandchild one day finally sharing my interest in family history, perhaps asking with most genuine enthusiasm, Tell me again about our great-grandpapa whose skull was made into a silver drinking cup, grandma??

At which I will launch into the tale of my 31st great-grandfather Prince Svyatoslav I Suitislaus of Kiev[1], so appreciative of this wee grandboy or girl who shares my interest in the family tree.

Prince Svyatoslav I Suitaslav of Kiev [2]

Well, I will say beaming, According to Nestor the monk in the Russian Primary Chronicle, Prince Svyatoslav I, son of Grand Prince of Kiev Great-Grandpapa Igor the Wise, “was a skilled warrior who overthrew the Khazars (Turks of the North Caucasus).  While on an expedition along the river Dneiper he and his men were set upon by Patzinaks, a tribe of hostile Slavs.  After fierce fighting Syvantoslav was killed, his skull then used to make a silver mounted drinking cup.”[3]

Ohhh! my rapt audience will exclaim wide-eyed.  Poor great-grandpapa!

No kidding! my rolling eyes would most certainly respond.

Reads the 14th-century Russian Primary Chronicle,

“Beginning of the reign of Svyatoslav, Igor’s son.  In the year 6454 (946). Olga and her son Sviatoslav attracted many brave warriors and went on Derevskoy ground.  …  And when the clash between the two armies to battle, Svyatoslav threw a spear in Drevlyane and the spear flew between the horse’s ears and struck the horse’s legs, for he was still a child Svyatoslav.  And they said Sveneld and Asmud:  ‘The prince has already begun, follow, the squad, for the prince.’  And won Drevlyane.  Drevlyans also ran and shut in their cities.”[4]

Here I will pause to share sadly with my young audience the fact that, Svyatoslav’s mother, Olga, Regent of Kiev, was a very wicked woman who murdered — I lower my voice — hundreds, hundreds of men, because she was mad at them for her husband’s murder.  Dramatic pause.  But of course, I add, Two wrongs don’t make a right, correct? as my imaginary, open-mouthed-at-this-point great-grandchild shakes his/her head.

But an amazing thing happened, I relate.  Olga later turned very very good and, became a saint!

And then,

“Olga lived as with [her] son Svyatoslav, and taught him to be baptized, but he did not think to listen to this; …only sneered…”  “And Olga used to say:  ‘I know God, my son, and rejoice; and you will …too…’ ”  But Svyatoslav would not listen, “saying, ‘How can I accept another faith alone And my squad will scoff?’ ”  His mother Olga kept hopefully encouraging him to be baptized but, “He did not listen to his mother, continuing to live by the customs of the heathen,…”[4]

As if unaware that the child who fails to listen to their mother “falls into trouble, as it is written:  ‘If the [child does not listen to the] father or mother does not listen, then death will,’ ” Svyatoslav continued to ignore his mum…[4]

Olga “prayed for his son and for the people every day and night, bringing up his son to manhood and to his age.”[4]

“In the year…964…when Svyatoslav grew and matured, he began to collect a lot of brave warriors,…and [do] a lot of fighting.  In campaigns [there] drove behind him no carts, no boilers, not boiled meat, but thinly sliced horse meat, or animals, or beef and roasted on coals, [to] eat; He did not have a tent,” and he slept in crude conditions, “as [did] the rest of his men,…”[4]

Our way-back great-grandpapa Svyatoslav is said to have fought “incessant campaigns” [<- fancy words for fighting lots & lots of wars, just one after the other, after the other].

Until, at only age 28 years of age,

“in the year…972…when spring came, Svyatoslav went to the rapids…Prince Pecheneg…killed Svyatoslav, and took his head, and took the cup from the skull,…and drank from it.”[4]

Eyes ever-astonished at this, my imaginary great-grandchild concurs, So young…  Tsk tsk…  He should have listened to his mother…

He rEally should have, I murmur in agreement. 😉

The Death of Prince Svyatoslav I Suitaslav of Kiev [2]


An illustrated audio called, “The Life And Death Of Sviatoslav I of Kiev,” now at YouTube, may appeal to interested adults. 😉  (Exactly who uploaded it is not clear to this blogger, but, it’s quite good.)[5]



1. Norwegian genealogist and historian Signe Elisabeth Zijdemans, “Ahnentafel of Sally Marie Eilertsen Fjelse,” prepared 23 Oct., 2001; in possession of Susan M. Buckner.

2. Public domain photo; artist unknown.  [Educate me.]

3. Merlindale Diorama Company website [apparently no longer in existence]:  text accompanying [THE most WONDERFUL!] diorama poses of Prince Svyatoslav I Suitislaus.

4. Russian Primary Chronicle [author historically presumed to be Nestor, a monk], at, , accessed July, 2016.

5. “The Life And Death Of Sviatoslav I of Kiev,” YouTube [contributor not known to me], accessed July, 2016.