Her Majesty The Queen’s speech at the opening of the 18th Viking Congress The National Museum of Denmark on 6 August 2017

Offentliggjort den 6. august 2017

Vikings here, Vikings there – Vikings almost everywhere. That certainly seems to be the case these days. And people really like them; they look forward to being invaded, to take part in fierce battles running the risk of getting really hurt, or to engage themselves in life à la Viking, making and eating Viking food – not to mention such other specialities as mead, beer and even wine.

From the finds in Viking Age Haithabu we know that wine was imported in great barrels from the Rhineland, surely not only for ecclesiastic purposes, one may assume. According to rather recent investigations, the Vikings may even have enjoyed fresh grapes or raisins at their festive meals in the great hall at Tissø in Western Sealand. A magnate of great importance kept his residence there on the basis of what may have been his ancestral rights to rule and to perform pre-Christian rites to the benefit of his household and its dependents, his associates and friends.

Land had to be kept fertile under the auspices of the gods, and so did people in order to secure life for future generations across the Viking world and to let tradesmen, all kinds of craftsmen and farmers practice their skills. The Viking Age was a most successful and evident eruption of Northern Culture and social power – comparable in fact only to the parallel arrival of European Christian culture to the far North. It all took some centuries but then the base for the Northern medieval kingdoms was stable and durable.

However – I personally find it hard to believe that the tales of the good old days of the Vikings were not heard and felt among young men and women in Scandinavia and all the other countries settled or “visited” by people from Scandinavia. Being a true warrior was still held in high esteem when the chroniclers of the time around 1200 built up their picture of their past and present, and for generations ships in Viking tradition still brought people far and wide.

When talking about the Vikings and their fantastic deeds today we must consider the very necessity of research of all kinds which must form the basis of our stories and interpretations. The Norse sagas and evocative Scaldic poetry captured the minds of early scholars, offering tales of momentous events, beliefs and the daily life of individual people. Archaeology brought new material evidence, such as the golden hoard from Fæsted east of Ribe which is on display in the National Museum as part of last year’s treasure trove – “Danefæ” we call it.

Today we see a far wider range of sources, data and research techniques. Among them DNA and strontium isotope analysis which are able to bring us much closer to the individual – what colour did their eyes and hair have? were they in good health, sick or marked by battle?, where did they travel during their life time? Future research will no doubt reveal much more than we can imagine today.

Investigation is the exact way to obtain still more knowledge about our Viking past and to make us all much wiser – to combine every new research possibility through excavations and other relevant studies and analyses, and not least bring results and researchers together. This is the backbone and goal of the long series of Viking Congresses which have taken place since 1950, by turns in Scandinavia and the British Isles – to create a common forum for the most current research and theories within Viking-Age studies, and to enhance collaboration between scholars, crossing geographical and disciplinary borders.

This Sunday morning we face the 18th Viking Congress, opening here at the National Museum in Copenhagen and continuing in the old Viking Town of Ribe in South Western Jutland. During the coming week you will visit a row of classical Viking Age monuments, including Jelling, not least, and you will hear many papers touching upon a wide variety of subjects and countries.

Of course I feel envious, not being able to listen to more than this morning’s papers. But I still want to express my sincere appreciation of the whole initiative and the very busy organizers taking care of all problems behind the official scene of the Viking Congress. I am certain that much new knowledge and many future projects will evolve out of these coming days at the Congress. I wish you all a most successful and enjoyable experience and please do not forget also to let your imagination be inspired by all the facts. Just as the old Saga writers did when telling their fabulous tales.

I hereby declare the 18th Viking Congress officially open.