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Monument over King Ingi's family grave (with a 16th century stone for his son Reginald) at Vreta Abbey


Inge Stenkilsson (Old Norse Ingi Steinkelsson) was a king of Sweden. He was the son of the former king Stenkil and died c. 1100.[1] He shared the rule of the kingdom with his probably elder brother Halsten Stenkilsson,[2][3] but little is known with certainty of Inge's reign.[2] According to the contemporary chronicler Adam of Bremen and the writer of his scholion, the former king Stenkil had died and two kings named Eric had ruled and been killed.[2] Then an Anund Gårdske was summoned from Kievan Rus', but rejected due to his refusal to administer the blóts at the Temple at Uppsala.[2] A hypothesis suggests that Anund and Inge were the same person, as several sources mention Inge as a fervent Christian, and the Hervarar saga describes how Inge also was rejected for refusing to administer the blóts and that he was exiled in Västergötland:[2]

Steinkel had a son called Ingi, who became King of Sweden after Haakon. Ingi was King of Sweden for a long time, and was popular and a good Christian. He tried to put an end to heathen sacrifices in Sweden and commanded all the people to accept Christianity; yet the Swedes held to their ancient faith. King Ingi married a woman called Mær who had a brother called Svein. King Ingi liked Svein better than any other man, and Svein became thereby the greatest man in Sweden. The Swedes considered that King Ingi was violating the ancient law of the land when he took exception to many things which Steinkel his father had permitted, and at an assembly held between the Swedes and King Ingi, they offered him two alternatives, either to follow the old order, or else to abdicate. Then King Ingi spoke up and said that he would not abandon the true faith; whereupon the Swedes raised a shout and pelted him with stones, and drove him from the assembly. [...] They drove King Ingi away; and he went into Vestergötland. Svein the Sacrificer was King of Sweden for three years.[3]

In a letter to Inge from Pope Gregory VII, from 1080, he is called "king of the Swedes", but in a later letter probably dated to 1081, to Inge and his brother Halsten, they are called kings of the West Geats.[1][2] Whether this difference reflects a change in territory is not certain since the two letters concern the spreading of Christianity in Sweden and the paying of tithe to the Pope.[2]

However, he returned after three winters to kill Blot-Sweyn and reclaim the throne:[1][2]

King Ingi set off with his retinue and some of his followers, thought it was but as small force. He then rode eastwards by Småland and into Östergötland and then into Sweden. He rode both day and night, and came upon Svein suddenly in the early morning. They caught him in his house and set it on fire and burned the band of men who were within. There was a baron called Thjof who was burnt inside. He had been previously in the retinue of Svein the Sacrificer. Svein himself left the house, but was slain immediately. Thus Ingi once more received the Kingdom of Sweden; and he reestablished Christianity and ruled the Kingdom till the end of his life, when he died in his bed.[3]

A similar story also appears in the Orkneyinga saga, but in this account, Sweyn stays indoors and is burnt to death:

Christianity was then young in Sweden; there were then many men who went about with witchcraft, and thought by that to become wise and knowing of many things which had not yet come to pass. King Ingi was a thorough Christian man, and all wizards were loathsome to him. He took great pains to root out those evil ways which had long gone hand in hand with heathendom, but the rulers of the land and the great freeholders took it ill that their bad customs were found fault with. So it came about that the freemen chose them another king, Sweyn, the queen’s brother, who still held to his sacrifices to idols, and was called Sacrifice-Sweyn. Before him king Ingi was forced to fly the land into West-Gothland; but the end of their dealings was, that king Ingi took the house over Sweyn’s head and burnt him inside it. After that he took all the land under him. Then he still went on rooting out many bad ways.[4]

Inge and the Norwegian king Magnus Barefoot were at war, but they signed a peace agreement at Kungahälla[1][2] in 1101 together with Eric Evergood of Denmark.[2] At this meeting he gave his daughter Margareta as wife to king Magnus.[2] In Snorri's Magnus Barefoot's Saga, a part of the Heimskringla, there is a description of the appearance of Inge:

King Inge was the largest and stoutest, and, from his age, of the most dignified appearance. King Magnus appeared the most gallant and brisk, and King Eirik the most handsome. But they were all handsome men; stout, gallant, and ready in speech.[5]

According to the Westrogothic law, Inge ruled Sweden with virility and he never broke the laws that had been accepted in the districts.[2] The Hervarar saga, tells that he died of old age,[3] but the date of his death is not known.[2]

Together with his wife Helena, Inge founded the monastery of Vreta.[2] Helena's origin is unknown.

An Icelandic skald named Markús Skeggjason was one of his court poets, according to Skáldatal. Markús was later the lawspeaker of Iceland.

He was succeeded by his two nephews Philip and Inge the Younger.[3]

Inge the Elder
Died: 1105
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Håkan the Red
King of Sweden
1079–1084
with Halsten Stenkilsson
Succeeded by
Blot-Sweyn
Succeeded by
Himself
as King of Gothenland
Preceded by
Himself
as King of Sweden
King of Gothenland
1084–1088
Succeeded by
Himself
as King of Sweden
Preceded by
Erik Årsäll
King of Sweden
1088–1105
Succeeded by
Filip
Preceded by
Himself
as King of Gothenland

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d Dick Harrison, "Inge den äldre", Nationalencyklopedin, http://databas.bib.vxu.se:2057/jsp/search/article.jsp?i_art_id=211578  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n The article Inge in Nordisk familjebok (1910).
  3. ^ a b c d e The Saga of Hervör and Heithrek, in Stories and Ballads of the Far Past, translated from the Norse (Icelandic and Faroese), by N. Kershaw.Cambridge at the University Press, 1921.
  4. ^ The Orkneyingers Saga, translated by Sir G. W. Dasent, D.C.L. (1894), at Northvegr.
  5. ^ Magnus Barefoot's Saga, from Heimskringla (English translation), at the Online Medieval & Classical Library.

Bibliography

  • Soloviev, Sergei. The History of Russia from the Most Ancient Times, 1959–1966
  • William, Abbot of Ebelholt. Scriptores Historiae Danicae Minores, 1195
  • Hervarar saga [1]
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