Is Vikings: Valhalla Queen Aelfgifu a Real Person?

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Is Vikings: Valhalla Queen Aelfgifu a Real Person?
Credit: Netflix

Vikings: Valhalla is a Netflix original series that first premiered on February 2022.

The show is a franchise of the series Vikings that initially a series on the History Channel which ran for six seasons. The show is heavily inspired by the real history of the Vikings, with many of the main characters dircetly influenced by heroes, such as Lief Erikson, Cnut the Great, and Harald Sigurdson.

One character who has a particularly interesting story is Cnut the Great's first wife, Queen Aelfgifu. Is she a real person like the rest?

Is Vikings: Valhalla's Queen Aelfgifu a Real Person?

Is Vikings: Valhalla's Queen Aelfgifu a Real Person?
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Credit: Netflix
Vikings: Valhalla

Yes! Queen Aelfgifu, who is a prominent character in Vikings: Valhalla, was inspired by a real person who lived in the 11th century, back when conquerors battled conquerors, and women (even those who held positions of power) were not given the recognition they deserve.

Who was the Real Queen Aelfgifu?

The real Queen Aelfgifu was born in Northampton in 990 CE to a powerful and well-respected family in the north. As a loyal Danish ally, Aelfgifu's father was well-connected with the Vikings, which led to her being well-acquainted with the Viking's, eventually marrying the son of the Viking's leader, Cnut.

Sweyn Forkbeard, Cnut the Great's father and Aelfgifu's father-in-law, had decided to invade England to avenge his sister's death and to gain more territory. Cnut and Sweyn succeeded, but Sweyn died soon after.

King Aethelred, the King of England and the one who ordered St Brice's Day massacre where Sweyn's sister was killed, was married to Emma of Normandy. When the Vikings breached their defenses, Aethelred fled to Normandy but was later on betrayed and killed when Cnut returned to conquer Normandy.


As a ruler of a Christian country, Cnut's council advised him to marry a Christian wife and abandon the wife he married through a pagan ceremony, Aelfgifu. The council chose Emma, Aethelred's widow. Cnut married Emma, but didn't abandon Aelfgifu and instead made her his regent in Norway.

When Cnut died, both Emma and Aelfgifu advocated for their children to inherit the throne. Emma questioned the legitimacy of Aelfgifu's children and their claim to the throne, but Aelfgifu's son, Harold Harefoot, was already in England ready to take the throne while Emma's son, Harthacanute, decided to stay and defend Denmark.

For more articles like this, take a look at our Queries and Vikings page.