Denmark's earliest kings were also pirates
Denmark's earliest kings were also pirates A pirate ship anchored up in the harbor of Copenhagen. (Bente Jonsson/Flickr/Peter Carlsson/Etsa/Corbis)
Denmark's earliest kings were also pirates
Lexile: 1180L

Assign to Google Classroom

Sitting in thrones and brokering powerful alliances. Engaging in pomp and circumstance. Conducting pirate raids? One of these things may not seem like the others, but all four were things that would have seemed familiar to Denmark’s earliest kings. Pirates actually founded Denmark according to ScienceNordic’s Stine Rendrup Johansen.

Johansen writes that looting and piracy were the basis of the earliest Danish kings’ power. After all, the years between 800 and 1400 were the time of the Vikings. Medieval historian Thomas Heebøll-Holm tells Johansen that pirate raids weren’t just a method of robbing. They were also a means of “conventional warfare or revenge” for early Danish leaders.

“Essentially, Viking raids between 800 and 1000 CE funded the building of a Danish royal power,” Heebøll-Holm told Johansen. Viking pirates used expeditions and pirate-approved methods to struggle for power, unite their own warriors and fund their ongoing activity, Johansen reports. In the future, Heebøll-Holm hopes to gain a better understanding of just how piracy affected things like laws and norms around the monarchy.

In case you’re still skeptical about the power of the pirate in days of yore, here’s a sobering description of the impact of Viking pirate raids. Stefan Eklöf Amirell and Leos Müller write that Viking pirates acted “as catalysts for political change and dislocation across Europe.” 

In ninth-century England, they write, “every kingdom but one was destroyed  and up to half the country was occupied by Viking forces.” The Kingdom of Frankia had it even worse, they write, with 14 percent of the entire economy surrendered to Vikings. “Whole regions are recorded as ‘laid waste’ and thousands were killed and enslaved.”

Source URL:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 74 times
Why do you think that Denmark's earliest kings chose piracy as a means to gain power?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • karlised-orv
    8/23/2018 - 11:54 a.m.

    I think that being a pirate in general gives you a lot of power. They probably choose piracy as means to gain power because, being a pirate would mean that their citizens are somewhat afraid of them. This would also mean that other kings would think twice before trying to overpower them.

  • JaymisonB-sto
    10/04/2018 - 11:42 a.m.

    I believe that Denmark's kings chose piracy because many people were afraid of pirates and surrendered to them very quickly.

  • JonathanC-sto2
    10/04/2018 - 11:43 a.m.

    This is an interesting fact that I bet a lot of people don't know about. When I say the article I was surprised that is was a thing.

  • GiavonnaS-dec
    11/15/2018 - 10:56 a.m.

    I think Denmark´s earliest kings chose piracy to gain power because many people were scared of pirates. And being a pirate would mean the most people would do what you say. Doing this also gave them money.This is why I think Denmark's early leaders chose piracy.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment