King Cnut the Great of England, Denmark and Norway 994 – 1035

King Cnut the Great

Father – King Sweyn Forkbeard
Mother – Gunhilda
Spouse – Aelfgifu of Northampton, Emma of Normandy
Children – Sweyn, Harold, Harthacnut, Gunhilda
King of England – 1016 – 1035
Predecessor – King Edmund Ironside
Successor – King Harold Harefoot



994 (during)
A son, Cnut, was born to Sweyn Forkbeard and his wife, the Polish princess, Gunhilda.
994 (during)
Cnut’s father, Sweyn Forkbeard and his ally Olaf Trygvasson sailed up the River Thames and put London under siege. King Aethelred was forced to pay them £16,000 (5.3 kg of silver) to make them leave.
995 (during)
Cnut’s brother, Harald, was born to Sweyn Forkbeard and his wife, the Polish princess, Gunhilda.
c1000 (exact date unknown)
Cnut’s father, Sweyn divorced Cnut’s mother Gunhilda and married Sigrid known as ‘The Haughty’
1000 (during)
Cnut’s father Sweyn defeated and killed his Norwegian rival Olaf Trygvasson and took control of Norway.
1001 (during)
Cnut’s father, Sweyn Forkbeard, made a series of raids along the South coast of England.
1002 (during)
St Brice’s Day Massacre
King Aethelred ordered the massacre of all Danes living in England. He hoped that by ridding England of Danes he would minimise the risk of attack from within. A significant number of Danes were killed including Cnut’s aunt Gunhilde, the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard.
1002 (during)
Cnut’s father, Sweyn Forkbeard and a party of Vikings raided the South coast retaliation for the St Brice’s day massacre. They gained control of land from Exeter to Hampshire.
1002 (during)
King Aethelred was forced to pay Sweyn Forkbeard £24,000 (8kg of silver) to make him leave England.
1004 (during)
Cnut’s father, Sweyn Forkbeard returned to England and destroyed the town of Norwich.
1005 (during)
Sweyn Forkbeard returned to Denmark to deal with problems caused by a severe famine.
1006 (July)
Cnut’s father, Sweyn Forkbeard and the Vikings returned to England and made a series of raids on Kent and Sussex.
1007 (during)
King Aethelred of England was again forced make another Danegeld payment of £36,000 (12 kg of silver) to make the Vikings leave.
1010 (during)
The Danes invaded East Anglia. A battle was fought near Ipswich which left the Danes in control of the town.
1013 (during)
Cnut accompanied his father, Sweyn Forkbeard to England where they took Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria. London alone held out against them.
1013 (around)
Cnut met Aelfgifu, daughter of the former ealdorman of Northumbria. They were married soon afterwards. It is likely that they married by Danish custom of handfasting.
1013 (December)
Having conquered the majority of England Sweyn Forkbeard proclaimed himself King of England. King Aethelred, Emma and their children fled to Normandy.
1014 (3rd February)
Sweyn Forkbeard died possibly following a fall from his horse in Gainsborough. He nominated his son, Cnut to succeed him.
1014 (Spring)
The English nobles were not happy about having Cnut as King and so called for King Aethelred to return as King. The people of Lindsey, however, gave their support to Cnut.
1014 (Spring)
Cnut returned to Denmark to raise an invasion force.
1015 (around)
A son, Sweyn was born to Cnut and Aelfgifu daughter of the Earldorman of Northampton.
1015 (August)
Cnut was determined to take the English throne and invaded England with a large Danish force.
1016 (around)
A son, Harold was born to Cnut and Aelfgifu daughter of the Earldorman of Northampton.
1016 (Spring)
Cnut took Northumberland then marched towards London.
1016 (23rd April)
King Aethelred died, He was succeeded by his son, Edmund Ironside as King Edmund II.
1016 (c. 9th May)
Battle of Brentford
Cnut’s force was defeated by Edmund Ironside.
1016 (18th October)
Battle of Assandun
 This battle fought between Cnut and Edmund Ironside saw the Dane victorious and left Edmund in control of only Wessex.
1016 (after 18th October)
King Edmund had no choice but to agree to share rule with Cnut. Cnut ruled Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia while Edmund ruled Wessex. It was agreed that on the death of either party the other would rule all of England.
1016 (30th November)
Edmund Ironside died and Cnut seized the throne of England.
1016 (December)
Edmund Ironside’s two children were taken to Hungary as it was feared that they would be murdered by Cnut.
1016 (December)
The three children of Aethelred the Unready by Emma of Normandy were taken to Normandy as it was feared their lives were in danger.
1017 (During
Cnut divided England into four earldoms: Wessex – controlled by Cnut himself, Mercia controlled by Eadric Streona, Northumbria controlled by Erik of Hlathir and East Anglia controlled by Thorkell the Tall.
1017 (6th January)
Cnut was crowned King of England at St Paul’s Cathedral.
1017 (2nd July)
Cnut married Aethelred’s widow, Emma. This was a political marriage to gain the support of Normandy as well as the English over whom Emma had been queen for the last 15 years. It was agreed that the succession would be with the children of Emma and Cnut.
1017 (December)
Cnut had the Earl of Mercia, Eadric Streona executed for treachery. He was replaced by Leofric.
1018 (during)
Cnut collected a Danegeld from the Kingdom. The sum collected, more than £80,000 was used to pay off his Danish army and send them back to Denmark.
1018 (during)
A son, Harthacnut was born to Cnut and Emma.
1018 (during)
Cnut inherited the throne of Denmark when his brother, King Harold, died.
1018 (during)
Earl Godwin, the most powerful noble, allied himself to Cnut by marrying his sister in law, Gytha.
1019 (Summer)
Cnut went to Denmark to claim the Kingdom.
1020 (during)
A daughter, Gunhilda, was born to Emma and Cnut.
1021 (during)
Thorkell the Tall fell from favour and was exiled. The exact reason for his fall from favour are unknown.
1026 (during)
Battle of Helgea
A combined Norwegian and Swedish force launched an attack on Denmark. Cnut responded by sending a combined English and Danish fleet. Despite heavy casualties the battle was won by Cnut.
1027 (Easter)
Emma was left in England when Cnut travelled to Rome to witness the coronation of Conrad II as Holy Roman Emperor
1028 (during)
Cnut became King of Norway. He was now King of England, Denmark and Norway and became referred to as Cnut the Great. Cnut left Hakon Eirksson as regent in Norway.
1028 (late Summer)
Harthacnut, son of Emma and Cnut, was made regent of Denmark.
1030 (around)
Earl Godwin was given control of Wessex.
1030 (around)
Cnut’s regent in Norway, Hakon Eriksson, died. Cnut named his eldest son by Aelfgifu, Sweyn, as King of Noway and sent him and Aelfgifu to Norway.
1035 (Autumn)
The rule of Aelfgifu and Sweyn in Norway had not been popular. They had tried to introduce Danish laws to Norway and and imposed heavy taxation. The people of Norway rose against their rule and they fled to Denmark. Magnus the Good took over as King of Norway.
1035 (12th November)
King Cnut died. He was succeeded by his son by Emma, Harthacnut, who was in Denmark as regent.
12th Century
The story of Cnut and the Tide was first recorded in the Historia Anglorum written by Henry of Huntingdon. It states that “..he ordered his chair to be placed on the sea-shore as the tide was coming in. Then he said to the rising tide, “You are subject to me, as the land on which I am sitting is mine, and no one has resisted my overlordship with impunity. I command you, therefore, not to rise on to my land, nor to presume to wet the clothing or limbs of your master.” But the sea came up as usual, and disrespectfully drenched the king’s feet and shins. So jumping back, the king cried, “Let all the world know that the power of kings is empty and worthless, and there is no king worthy of the name save Him by whose will heaven, earth and sea obey eternal laws.”



Published Aug 4, 2016 @ 17:59 – Updated – Mar 22, 2018 @ 5:25 pm


Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2016 – 2018). Cnut the Great of England, Denmark and Norway 994 – 1035. Available: Last Accessed August 19th, 2019