Viking Queens: Powerful Women Behind Norse Thrones

viking queens

When we think of the Viking Age, our minds often conjure up images of fierce warriors pillaging and plundering their way through Europe. However, there is an untold story of powerful women who played a significant role in Viking society – the Viking queens.

Behind every Norse throne, there was often a queen who wielded great influence and power. These women were not merely the wives of kings; they were political agents and leaders in their own right. From inheritance to alliances, Viking queens capitalized on various factors to rise to power and leave a lasting legacy in Scandinavian history.

Key Takeaways:

  • Viking queens played a significant role in Viking society and ruled behind Norse thrones.
  • They were not mere wives of kings, but political agents and leaders in their own right.
  • Viking queens capitalized on various factors to rise to power, including inheritance, alliances, and personal skills.
  • Some of the most notable Viking queens include Queen Gunnhild, Queen Lagertha, and Queen Aud the Deep-Minded.
  • The influence of Viking queens can be seen in their impact on political decisions, social dynamics, and the status of women in Viking communities.

Women in Viking Society

Contrary to popular belief, women in Viking society enjoyed a certain degree of freedom and independence that was uncommon for women in other societies during the same period. Viking women were not confined to the domestic sphere and were actively involved in a variety of activities that went beyond household duties.

Women could own property, inherit land, and even divorce their husbands if they wished to do so. They were also involved in trade and commerce, with some women owning their own businesses. This level of economic and legal autonomy afforded by Viking society made it possible for women to rise to positions of power and influence.

It was not uncommon for women to take on important roles in Viking communities, such as being the head of a household or a key member of a chieftain’s retinue. Some women even became warriors and fought alongside men in battles.

The prominent roles that women played in Viking society provided a foundation for Viking queens to emerge as powerful rulers. Unlike in other societies where women were relegated to subservient positions, Viking culture embraced the idea of strong and capable women who were just as deserving of respect and recognition as men.

Rise to Power: Becoming a Viking Queen

Viking queens were not appointed as rulers but rose to power through various means, including inheritance, alliances, and personal skills. Inheritance played a significant role in the accession of Viking queens, where a female heir could inherit the throne if there were no male successors. This practice was prevalent in the Scandinavian societies and created opportunities for women to rule.

Alliances were also crucial, and women who were married to powerful men could hold considerable influence and become de facto rulers. For instance, Queen Thyra of Denmark was married to King Gorm the Old, but she wielded significant power during her husband’s reign and even commissioned one of the most remarkable Viking works of art, the Jelling Stone.

Personal skills were crucial, and women who displayed leadership qualities and strategic thinking could ascend to the throne. Queen Margaret of Denmark was an excellent example of a Viking queen who rose to power through her diplomacy and political shrewdness. She united Denmark, Sweden, and Norway under her rule and established the Kalmar Union, a precursor to the modern Scandinavian states.

The Skilled Queen Margaret

“Above all, she had a talent for diplomacy, knowing how to deal with men, convincing them of the wisdom of her policies, and keeping them on board,” historian Judith Jesch wrote in her book “Women in the Viking Age.”

The process of becoming a Viking queen was not easy, and women had to overcome significant challenges, such as societal expectations and gender stereotypes. Nonetheless, strong and capable women found ways to rise to power and rule behind the Norse thrones.

Notable Viking Queens

Throughout history, numerous Viking queens have left their mark on Scandinavian society. These strong and influential women defied gender norms and shattered glass ceilings, proving that women were just as capable of ruling as men. Here are some notable Viking queens:

Name Reign Notable Contributions
Queen Asa 800-820 AD One of the first female rulers in Norway, known for her wisdom and leadership skills.
Queen Sigrid 1000 AD Played a key role in the spread of Christianity in Sweden, negotiating with Norwegian and Danish rulers to promote the religion.
Queen Thyra 950-985 AD Wife to King Gorm the Old of Denmark, she was known for her generosity and patronage of the arts.
Queen Gunnhild 934-970 AD Known for her sorcery and political cunning, she played a pivotal role in shaping Norwegian politics during her sons’ reigns.
Queen Lagertha 800s AD A legendary shieldmaiden and warrior, she was a queen of Denmark and noted for leading expeditions against the Swedes.
Queen Aud the Deep-Minded 820-900 AD A respected and wise leader, she is known for founding the first parliament in Iceland and influencing the spread of Christianity in the country.

These women were trailblazers, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations of female leaders. Their stories continue to inspire and empower women today.

Queen Gunnhild: The Norse Sorceress

Queen Gunnhild was a powerful Viking queen known for her sorcery and manipulation. Born in the mid-10th century, she was the daughter of a Norwegian earl and married to King Eirik Bloodaxe, who ruled over parts of Norway and England.

Despite her high status, Queen Gunnhild was not well-liked, as she was believed to have used her mystical powers to gain influence over her husband and others. Her reputation as a sorceress and manipulator grew over time, and she was even accused of using her magic to control the king’s mind.

However, Queen Gunnhild was not solely defined by her alleged sorcery. She was also a shrewd politician who worked to advance her own interests and those of her children. In fact, she is credited with helping her sons become kings of Norway after her husband’s death.

Despite her success, Queen Gunnhild’s reign was not without challenges. She faced opposition from other powerful figures in Norse society, including her own brother, Earl Håkon, who eventually overthrew her sons and took the throne for himself.

Queen Gunnhild’s life story remains the subject of much intrigue and speculation. While some accounts portray her as a ruthless villainess, others see her as a victim of patriarchal society who used her wits and skills to survive and thrive. Regardless of one’s interpretation, there is no denying that Queen Gunnhild left a lasting impression on Norse history as a powerful and enigmatic figure.

“All agreed that she was highly gifted in witchcraft.” – The Saga of Harald Fairhair

Queen Lagertha: The Legendary Shieldmaiden

Queen Lagertha is a well-known figure in Viking history for her legendary exploits as a shieldmaiden. She was a fierce warrior who proved herself on the battlefield and rose to become the Queen of Denmark.

According to Viking sagas, Lagertha was the wife of the legendary hero Ragnar Lothbrok. She fought alongside him in many battles and even killed a ferocious bear with her bare hands. After Ragnar’s death, Lagertha took up the mantle of leadership and became a queen in her own right.

As a queen, Lagertha was a skilled strategist and a respected leader. She led her people through many wars and alliances, earning their loyalty and admiration. She was also known for her wisdom and justice, which she dispensed with fairness and compassion.

Lagertha’s legacy as a shieldmaiden has made her an enduring symbol of female empowerment and strength. Her story has been retold in many forms, including the popular television series Vikings. Her courage and determination continue to inspire women around the world.

Overall, Queen Lagertha’s story is a testament to the important role that women played in Viking society. As a shieldmaiden and queen, she defied traditional gender roles and proved that women could be just as capable and powerful as men.

Queen Aud the Deep-Minded: A Legacy of Leadership

Queen Aud the Deep-Minded was a powerful Viking queen known for her wisdom and diplomatic skills. She was a key figure in the settlement of Iceland and played a significant role in shaping the country’s early history.

Born into a noble family in Norway, Aud inherited her father’s wealth and influence. After her husband was killed in battle, she used her resources to fund a voyage to Iceland, where she established a settlement that would later become the town of Hvammur.

Aud was renowned for her leadership and ability to mediate disputes. She established a system of legal and political organization that helped to maintain peace and stability in her community. Under her guidance, Hvammur became a thriving center of trade and commerce.

Despite facing many challenges, including an attack by hostile tribes and the loss of her son, Aud persisted in her mission to build a prosperous and peaceful society. She was widely respected and admired for her courage, intelligence, and compassion.

Today, Aud is remembered as one of the greatest leaders in Viking history. Her legacy continues to inspire people around the world, particularly women, to pursue their own dreams and make a positive impact on their communities.

The influence of Viking queens like Aud on Norse society cannot be overstated. They were pioneers in the field of leadership, breaking down barriers and proving that women were capable of ruling with strength and skill. Today, their stories serve as a testament to the power of women throughout history.

The Influence of Viking Queens on Norse Society

Viking queens played a significant role in shaping the society of their time. Their influence extended beyond their immediate reigns and left a lasting impact on Norse culture. One of the most notable effects of their leadership was the elevation of women’s status in Viking communities. As powerful rulers, Viking queens challenged traditional gender roles and demonstrated that women were capable of leading and making decisions.

Moreover, Viking queens had a significant influence on political decisions. They were often involved in matters of diplomacy, negotiation, and alliance-building. Through their strategic thinking and leadership, they helped shape the course of Norse history. Queen Gunnhild, for example, was known for using her sorcery and manipulation to protect her family and consolidate her power. Queen Aud the Deep-Minded, on the other hand, was respected for her wisdom and ability to secure peace and prosperity for her people.

Viking queens also had a significant impact on social dynamics. Their leadership provided a model for future generations of women to aspire to. Their stories were told in sagas and passed down through generations, inspiring new generations of women to break free from traditional expectations and pursue their ambitions. In doing so, they helped shape the cultural identity of Norse society.

The legacy of Viking queens extends beyond their time. Their impact on Scandinavian history is undeniable, and their stories continue to captivate people to this day. The portrayal of strong women in Viking sagas is a testament to the lasting impression that Viking queens have left on Norse culture. Their influence on modern perceptions of female leadership cannot be overstated. They have helped shape our understanding of what it means to be a powerful woman and have inspired countless individuals to pursue their own paths of leadership.

In conclusion, the influence of Viking queens on Norse society was significant and far-reaching. Their leadership challenged traditional gender roles, helped shape political decisions, and inspired future generations of women. Their legacy continues to inspire people to this day, and their untold tales are a testament to the power and resilience of women throughout history.

Challenges Faced by Viking Queens

The rise of Viking queens to power was not without its challenges. These women faced a number of obstacles during their reigns, which tested their leadership skills and resilience.

One of the biggest challenges faced by Viking queens was the constant threat of internal power struggles. In a society where strength was revered, ambitious individuals were always seeking to gain more power for themselves. Viking queens had to navigate this complex political landscape, building alliances and making strategic decisions to protect their positions of authority.

External threats were also a constant concern for Viking queens. The Viking Age was a time of frequent warfare, raiding, and conquest. Viking kingdoms were often in conflict with one another, and neighboring societies were always potential enemies. Viking queens had to be prepared to protect their people from external threats, even while managing internal conflicts.

Finally, Viking queens often faced the challenge of balancing their personal lives with their public responsibilities. While male rulers were often free to take multiple wives and pursue their own interests, Viking queens were expected to maintain a high level of moral and social decorum. This meant that they had little room for personal indiscretions or mistakes, and were often judged more harshly than their male counterparts.

Despite these challenges, Viking queens proved themselves to be capable and charismatic leaders. They used their personal skills, strategic thinking, and social connections to overcome obstacles and leave lasting legacies in Viking history.

Legacy of Viking Queens

The legacy of Viking queens endures to this day, shaping our perceptions of female leadership and the role of women in history. These powerful women defied the norms of their time and rose to positions of influence and authority, leaving a lasting impact on Scandinavian society.

One of the most significant legacies of Viking queens is their portrayal in sagas and literature. These stories depict strong, independent women who wielded power and earned respect through their intelligence, courage, and leadership skills. By showcasing the achievements of these queens, Viking literature challenged traditional gender roles and highlighted the potential of women to be effective rulers.

Another aspect of the legacy of Viking queens is their influence on Scandinavian politics and society. Many of these women played crucial roles in shaping the policies and decisions of their respective kingdoms, often serving as regents for their underage sons or as advisors to their husbands. They also contributed to the development of trade, diplomacy, and cultural exchange, forging alliances with other kingdoms and strengthening the ties between different parts of Scandinavia.

The impact of Viking queens on women’s status in society cannot be overstated. By demonstrating that women were capable of holding positions of power and making meaningful contributions to their communities, they paved the way for future generations of women to assert themselves and demand greater rights and freedoms. The examples of Queen Gunnhild, Queen Lagertha, and Queen Aud the Deep-Minded, among others, continue to inspire women around the world to pursue their ambitions and overcome obstacles in their path.

In conclusion, the legacy of Viking queens is a testimony to the resilience, intelligence, and leadership skills of women throughout history. Their stories serve as a reminder that women have always been capable of greatness, and that their contributions to society deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated. By uncovering the untold tales of Viking queens, we can inspire future generations to follow in their footsteps and continue the legacy of female leadership.


Uncovering the stories of Viking queens reveals a significant part of Scandinavian history that has long been overlooked. These strong and resilient women played a crucial role in ruling behind the Norse thrones, shaping the political landscape of their societies, and leaving a lasting legacy for future generations.

While the achievements of Viking queens have been largely overshadowed by those of their male counterparts, their untold tales are deserving of recognition. It is important to appreciate the power and influence of these remarkable women and their impact on the status of women in Viking communities.

The challenges faced by Viking queens during their reigns, such as power struggles and external threats, remind us of the resilience required to lead during a tumultuous period in history. The diverse range of Viking queens, from Queen Gunnhild the sorceress to Queen Lagertha the legendary shieldmaiden, showcases the different skills and attributes required for leadership in Viking society.

Overall, understanding the influence of Viking queens on Norse society provides insight into the role of women in history and the significance of female leadership. By bringing their stories to light, we can appreciate the lasting impact of these incredible women and the untold tales they left behind.


Q: What role did Viking queens play in Norse society?

A: Viking queens held significant power and influence behind the Norse thrones. They played key roles in political decision-making, social dynamics, and shaping the status of women in Viking communities.

Q: How did women become Viking queens?

A: Women became Viking queens through various means such as inheritance, strategic alliances, and their own personal skills and abilities. Their rise to power was often influenced by their family connections and their ability to navigate complex political landscapes.

Q: Who were some notable Viking queens?

A: Some notable Viking queens include Queen Gunnhild, known for her sorcery and manipulation, Queen Lagertha, a legendary shieldmaiden and warrior, and Queen Aud the Deep-Minded, revered for her wisdom and diplomatic skills.

Q: What challenges did Viking queens face during their reigns?

A: Viking queens faced numerous challenges during their reigns, including power struggles within their own families, internal conflicts among rival factions, and external threats from neighboring kingdoms or invaders.

Q: How did Viking queens influence Norse society?

A: Viking queens had a significant influence on Norse society. They made crucial political decisions, shaped social dynamics, and played a pivotal role in the status and treatment of women in Viking communities. Their leadership left a lasting impact on Scandinavian history.

Q: What is the legacy of Viking queens?

A: The legacy of Viking queens is multi-faceted. They are celebrated for their strength, resilience, and leadership, as depicted in Viking sagas. Their stories have also contributed to modern perceptions of female empowerment and leadership.