Viking index
In the Netherlands
Rorik's headquarters Famous vikings
Viking settlements
Viking mythology
Female vikings
Viking tressure


Women of influence

Most women's lives were bounded by hearth and home, but they had great influence within this sphere. The keys with which many were buried symbolise their responsibility for, and control over the distribution of food and clothing to the household.

Some women made their mark through exceptional status or achievement. One of the richest burials of Viking Age Scandinavia is that of the Oseberg 'queen', buried in a very grand style with a richly-decorated ship and large numbers of high-quality grave goods in 834. Later in that century, Aud the 'deep-minded' lived a veritable Viking Age odyssey. The daughter of a Norwegian chieftain in the Hebrides, she married a Viking based in Dublin and, when both her husband and son had died, took charge of the family fortunes, organising a ship to take her and her granddaughters to Orkney, Faroe and Iceland. She settled in Iceland, distributing land to her followers, and was remembered as one of its four most important settlers, and as a notable early Christian.

The Christianisation of Scandinavia in the eleventh century gave women new roles which are reflected in the rune stones from this period. On the Dynna stone from Norway, Gunnvor commemorates her daughter Astrid with pictures of the Nativity, while the Stšket stone from Sweden commemorates Ingirun who went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Queen Emma sums up the cultural connections of the Viking Age. Her father was Duke Richard of Normandy, descended from its Viking founder Rollo, while her mother is said to have been Danish. Emma was married to two kings of England, the English ∆thelred and the Danish Cnut, and was the mother of two more. With Cnut, she was a great patron of the Church, and after his death she commissioned the Encomium Emmae, a Latin account of Danish kings in England in the eleventh century, ensuring that her portrait was included in the manuscript.