According to the Icelandic sagas and written sources from the medieval period, Lejre was supposed to have been the location where the first Danish royal family, the Scyldings, had their royal seat. However, these stories about the Scyldings should be regarded as fanciful myths and legends. Nevertheless, significant evidence now indicates that Lejre was in fact the headquarters of a royal family. Archaeological excavations have shown that Lejre has origins stretching back into the Iron Age, to the 6th century AD, and that it was already an important place at this time.
Furthermore, archaeologists have found a huge Viking settlement at Lejre, extending over an area of c. 125, 000 m2 and including a magnate’s residence. This consisted of a hall of royal dimensions - 48 m long and 11m wide. The hall is the largest known Viking building in Denmark. Official activities are likely to have taken place here.
A number of other buildings were also associated with the magnate’s residence – some up to 42 m long. The large houses are likely to have been for the magnate and his retinue, together with the guests who came to the visit him. These people may have been members of his family, his housecarls (soldiers) and magnates attending councils. The magnate’s residence and associated buildings were located on higher land, and were surrounded by a sturdy fence or palisade. Outside this area were workshops and another small settlement.
At the end of the 900s much evidence suggests that the royal power base on Zealand was supplanted by the Jelling dynasty led by Harald Bluetooth. Harald took over the magnate’s residence at Lejre, only later to move his headquarters on Zealand to Roskilde. Changing political and personal circumstances meant that another location was soon preferred.