The Jelling Stone set off a craze for runestones that lasted throughout the 11th century, and into the 12th century in some places. Today, about of these year-old stones can be found all over Scandinavia and the British Isles, and new ones continue to be discovered. During the Viking Age CE , runestones were often painted and the carved lettering filled in with bright colors. Runestones were raised along waterways and property boundaries, by road intersections, and on hilltops so people could find and read them.
Runestones often mention people who have died, but they were never raised next to a grave. Instead, they commemorate people who were deceased. In pop culture, Vikings are depicted as pagans, but the Viking Age was really an age of transition when Scandinavia went from paganism to Christianity. Those who converted to Christianity raised runestones to declare their faith in the face of their pagan neighbors.
More runestones are decorated with crosses and invoke the names of God, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary than the pagan gods of Norse mythology.
Viking Age society was a predominantly oral society; important decisions were made by word of mouth rather than in writing. The runestones demonstrate, however, that there was a literary culture with professional rune carvers who chiseled short, poignant messages in stone. They followed a strict formula: the name of the commissioner, the name of the deceased, what this person achieved in life, a prayer, and the name of the rune carver.
Some runestones follow this formula in verse. Runestones use a later version, the Younger Futhark, containing 16 symbols derived from the letter Older Futhark.
The reduced number of letters made for efficient rune carving, but one downside for modern scholars is that a single symbol can represent several different sounds, so translation of the runestones' messages can be difficult. Medieval texts tend to focus on Vikings from Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, yet most known runestones are located in Sweden. Since the stones were mainly expressions of Christian faith, scholars theorize that the large number in Sweden is evidence of the conflict between the old religion and the new.
We know they made their own decisions and controlled their personal wealth because women commissioned runestones, which was a big and expensive undertaking. Estrid Sigfastsdotter, a rich and powerful woman who lived between and north of modern-day Stockholm, raised several runestones in her own name in commemoration of her husbands and sons. She is also one of the earliest known Swedish Christians. People are mentioned on runestones in relation to family members as a way of explaining who they are.
Because of this practice, we know that Vikings traced their lineage through their mothers and their fathers, depending on which parent had the higher social standing. On one 12th-century runestone from the Swedish region of Uppland, not far from where Estrid Sigfastsdotter lived, a man named Ragnvald declares himself to be the chieftain of a warrior band in the Byzantine Empire, and the son of Fastvi, his mother.
Ragnvald never mentions his father. One thing we can say for certain about the Vikings: They were not humble. If they had achieved something great, they wanted people to know about it. What better way than to carve it on a runestone? A man named Alle told the world—while he was still alive—that he had been a Viking in the British Isles with the Danish king Cnut the Great.
Swedish Vikings, located at the center of a trade and communications network, maintained close ties to civilizations from the Netherlands to the Middle East. It must have been strong and tight-knit, because word of a Viking raid into Central Asia in the s, which ended in disaster, traveled intact to the families waiting back home. There are 30 runestones raised in commemoration of the warriors who never returned. Runestones relay victories in battle and personal triumphs, but the messages can also be surprisingly tender.
When the Viking Age ended, so did the practice of raising runestones, but people continued to use runes. For centuries, runes were carved into everyday objects to claim ownership, cast magical spells, and even make jokes. Scholars have found a wooden stick from the 13th century on which a man named Hagorm carved a magical spell to help with bloodletting, as well as a rib bone from beef cattle carved with the name Eve.
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The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II rubbed elbows with the Hollywood elite, landed on countless tabloid covers, and rarely played by the royal rule book. Beneath the haze of mystery and cigarette smoke was a smart, loving woman who struggled to find her place in a world that was always watching and never satisfied. Since Victoria Eugenie was so far down the line of succession, her Scottish birth is often overlooked. Princess Margaret identified her earliest memory as the time she was told to stop trying to inch her pram forward by squirming around in it.
Perhaps it was because Picasso was nearly 50 years older than her. Since Margaret was not yet 25, the Queen would have to approve her marriage, which both the Church of England and Parliament opposed because Townsend was divorced. As a stall tactic, he was stationed at the British Embassy in Brussels. Upon his return two years later, the couple was informed that if they married, Margaret would forfeit her place in the line of succession.
The couple would divorce in Princess Margaret may have been a rule-breaker by royal standards, but she would never sink so low as to address any of the tabloid rumors about her alleged affairs—so they technically remain just rumors. In , she was linked to nightclub pianist Robin Douglas-Home, who died by suicide 18 months after Margaret reportedly ended their liaison. Princess Margaret adored all the arts, but she said ballet was her favorite; she even served as the first president of The Royal Ballet.
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John Ambulance Brigade. A year after her first stroke in , Princess Margaret sustained severe burns when she accidentally stepped into scalding hot bath water. Her second stroke occurred in , which impaired both her vision and movement. On February 9, , she passed away at age 71 from heart complications following her third stroke. On March 30, —just seven weeks after Margaret passed away—the Queen Mother died peacefully in her sleep.
Princess Margaret left this world much like she entered it—breaking with tradition. BY Mark Mancini. Moore , Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons. By Painted by A.
Subscribe to our Newsletter! BY Erika Harlitz-Kern. Here are some more surprising facts about Viking runestones.
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