Sigrid the Haughty earned her name. She earned it hard.
A phenomenally clever woman of the Viking era, Sigrid had worked herself into a comfy place in life: queen of Sweden. However, come middle age, her jimmies got rustled slightly when her husband had the bad manners to suddenly die1. Newly-awash in marriage proposals, she hurried to publicly establish rule one of courting Sigrid: No scrubs.
She established this rule by setting her suitors on fire. As you do.
She established her ‘no scrubs’ rule by setting her suitors on fire. As you do.
The chroniclers describe her goal in all this as “[making] these small kings tired of coming to court her.” Well, that’s one way to do it.
Sometime thereafter, Sigrid received a come-on from Olaf Tryggvason3, bad boy king of Norway and apparent lover of playing with fire. Olaf used both carrot and stick approaches in wooing her, with equally stunning incompetence. First he gave Sigrid a golden arm ring, which she soon realized was merely copper with a golden coating. He then insisted to the newly-enraged Sigrid that she convert to Christianity when they marry. When she politely declined, he said, “Why should I care to have thee, an old faded woman, and a heathen jade?”, hit her in the face with a glove, and left.
“This may some day be thy death,” she replied.
The rest of the story sees Sigrid changing the “may” in that sentence to “will.” She remarried, this time to a Danish king, and immediately asked for a present: Olaf’s head on a pike4. In short order, the Danes, the Swedes, and several others partnered to ambush and kill Olaf. This resulted in one of the most catastrophically large sea battles of the era, at the end of which Olaf ends up taking a long swim in a mail coat.
Funnily enough, there’s persistent rumors for decades afterwards that Olaf actually survived, and swam to safety. People keep spotting him everywhere. He was like the 11th century Elvis.
Now, did Sigrid actually exist? Did all this go down exactly as described? Not exactly. While much of it’s true – Olaf, Harald, and the Danish husband existed; that big sea battle actually happened – and someone like Sigrid was also around (probably a Polish princess), the primary source for this story was, well, a bit excitable. Sigrid herself is likely an amalgam of several people and possibly legends, as is common when you step back far enough in history. Doesn’t make her much less awesome.
- Some sources indicate he actually divorced her, which would indicate much poorer manners indeed. ↩
- Okay, fine – Kievan Rus. Russia as we know it didn’t exist. The Norse called it Gardariki. ↩
- Son of Tryggvi Olafsson. Who, in my heart, was son of Olaf Tryggvason, son of Tryggvi Olafsson, son of Olaf Tryggvason, on and on. ↩
- Not that her new husband needed much encouragement. Olaf had married the Danish king’s sister without asking – after she’d broken off another arranged marriage. Poor manners all around! ↩
- The description of the big sea battle talked about how Olaf’s men at one point gave up and started diving into the sea. Which made me think of synchronized water dance routines. So I knew what I had to do.
- You can see Sigrid tossing the ring into the water after Olaf. No, she wasn’t actually at the big battle, but hey.
- That house she set on fire is in the background!
Next Time on Rejected Princesses
Who liberates the liberator?