Emma of Normandy was born, the daughter of Richard I, Duke of Normandy and Gunnora. Her mother was the granddaughter of the Viking
Rollo who founded Normandy. Nothing is known of her life before her marriage.
1002 (5th April)
Emma of Normandy married Aethelred (known as the Unready)
, King of England. The marriage was part of an alliance treaty with Normandy. England was subject to continual Viking raids and Aethelred hoped the Normans would help keep the Vikings out of the English Channel.
St Brice’s Day Massacre
Emma’s husband 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 the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard
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.
King Aethelred had no choice but to pay the Danes to leave his land alone. The Danegeld demanded was £24,000 (8kg of silver).
A son, Edward, was born to Emma and Aethelred at Islip, Oxfordshire. He would become known to history as Edward the Confessor
A daughter, Godgifu, was born to Emma and Aethelred.
A second son, Alfred
was born to Emma and Aethelred
Sweyn Forkbeard and the Vikings returned and made a series of raids on Kent and Sussex.
King Aethelred was unable to raise sufficient forces to defeat the Vikings and so was forced to make another Danegeld payment to keep the Vikings away. The sum demanded was £36,000 (12 kg of silver).
The Danes invaded East Anglia and took control of Ipswich.
Aethelred made another Danegeld payment of £48,000 (17 kg of silver) to stop the destruction being caused by the Vikings.
Sweyn Forkbeard had conquered the majority of England and proclaimed himself King of England. Emma, Aethelred and their three children fled to Normandy.
1014 (3rd February)
Sweyn Forkbeard died. He nominated his son, Canute
to succeed him.
The English nobles were not happy about having Canute as King and so called for King Aethelred to return as King. The people of Lindsey, however, gave their support to Canute.
Emma, Aethelred and their children returned to England.
Determined to claim the English throne, Canute invaded England with a large Danish force.
1016 (early January)
Canute began attacking more regions of England. King Aethelred’s son from his first marriage, Edmund Ironside
, summoned an army but the men refused to fight without authorisation from Aethelred. Aethelred summoned an army but was warned that his son may betray him and returned to London.
Canute took Northumberland then marched towards London.
Edmund Ironside marched to London to try to stop Canute from taking the city.
1016 (23rd April)
King Aethelred died leaving Emma a widow. He was succeeded by his son, Edmund Ironside as King Edmund II
1016 (c. 9th May)
Battle of Brentford
Edmund Ironside managed to defeat the Danish army led by Canute at Brentford. Emma sent her eldest son, Edward to fight at the side of his half-brother.
1016 (18th October)
Battle of Assandun
This battle fought between Edmund Ironside and Canute saw the Dane victorious and left Edmund in control of only Wessex. Emma’s eldest son, Edward was present at the battle.
1016 (after 18th October)
King Edmund had no choice but to agree to share rule with Canute. Canute 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 unexpectedly of natural causes. Canute seized the throne of England.
Emma sent her three children from her marriage to Aethelred – Edward, Godgifu and Alfred – to her family in Normandy. She chose not to go with them but to remain in England, most likely to try to safeguard her lands and properties or to avoid being sent to a convent. Also, while her children were a threat to Canute and therefore in danger of being murdered, she was not such a threat.
Edmund Ironside’s two children were send abroad. The eldest, Edward, known as Edward the exile
, later married a Hungarian princess and had three children, a son Edgar Aetheling
and two daughters, Margaret and Cristina.
1017 (6th January)
Canute was crowned King of England at St Paul’s Cathedral.
1017 (2nd July)
Emma married Canute. It was agreed that the succession would be with the children of Emma and Canute.
Canute inherited the throne of Denmark when his brother died.
, the most powerful noble, allied himself to Canute by marrying his sister, Gytha
Canute went to Denmark to claim the Kingdom.
A daughter, Gunhilda, was born to Emma and Canute.
Battle of Helgea
A combined Norwegian and Swedish force launched an attack on Denmark. Canute responded by sending a combined English and Danish fleet. Despite heavy casualties the battle was won by Canute.
Emma was left in England when Canute travelled to Rome to witness the coronation of Conrad II as Holy Roman Emperor
Canute became King of Norway.
1028 (late Summer)
Harthacnut, son of Emma and Canute, was made regent of Denmark.
Emma’s nephew, Robert
, died on crusade. His eight year old son, William became Duke of Normandy.
Canute lost the Kingdom of Norway to Magnus the Good.
1035 (12th November)
King Canute died. Emma announced that Canute had nominated her son, Harthacnut, who was in Denmark as regent, to succeed to the English throne and took control of the treasury in his absence.
Earl Godwin, the most powerful nobleman in England, did not support Emma and allied himself to Aelfgifu’s and Canute’s son Harold who was in England.
1035 (late December)
Emma’s sons by her marriage to Aethelred, Edward and Alfred, arrived in England. Edward landed at Southampton and Alfred in Kent. It is thought that they had come to take the throne back for their family. Alfred was met at Guildford by Earl Godwin, the most powerful nobleman. However, Earl Godwin had not come to meet Alfred since he had allied himself to Harold Harefoot, Canute’s son from his first marriage. Instead he seized Alfred, blinded him and then sent him to the monastery at Ely. On hearing of his brother’s capture, Edward returned ot Normandy.
1036 (5th February)
Emma’s son, Alfred, died from his injuries.
Emma’s son, Harthacnut had been unable to return to England due to problems in Denmark. Canute’s son by his first marriage, Harold, took the throne as King Harold I
Following the decision of the Witan at Oxford to accept Harold I as King, Emma left England and went to the court of Count Baldwin V of Flanders
Emma’s son by Aethelred, Edward, who was living in Normandy, paid his mother a visit in Bruges.
Emma’s son by Canute, Harthacnut, King of Denmark and usurped King of England, paid his mother a visit in Bruges.
1040 (17th March)
King Harold I died. Emma’s son, Harthacnut was proclaimed King of England.
1040 (17th June)
Emma and her son by Canute, Harthacnut, returned to England.
Harthacnut was not popular with the English people due to the fact that he had raised taxation to levels the people found unacceptable.
Emma’s son by Aethelred, Edward, known as Confessor, returned to England. He was named as heir to Harthacnut.
The Encomium Emmae Reginae was commissioned
This manuscript is believed to have been commissioned by Emma and details the conquest of England by Sweyn Forkbeard, the reign of Canute and the events after Canute’s death. The book, which seeks to portray Emma and Canute in positive terms is thought to have been commissioned by Emma as a safeguard against her place in history which she feared may be portrayed negatively by her enemies.
1042 (8th June)
King Harthacnut died. Emma’s eldest son from her marriage to Aethelred the Unready, Edward the Confessor, became King.
1042 (3rd April)
Edward visited Emma at Winchester, where she spent much of her time. He told her that she had too many possessions for her status and confiscated much of her property and lands. It is thought that Edward may have felt bitterness towards his mother for the fact that she did little to help him or his siblings while they were in Normandy. He may also have blamed her in part for Alfred’s death. After this action Emma’s royal status was significantly reduced.
Edward and Emma were reconciled and Emma regained some of her lost status.
1045 (23rd January)
Edward married Edith
, daughter of the most powerful noble, Godwin. Edward needed the support of the nobles to remain in power since Harthacnut’s cousin, Swein, King of Denmark was seen by many as the natural successor of Harthacnut.
Emma retired from the public, probably living quietly in her manor in Winchester.
1052 (6th March)
Emma of Normandy died at the age of 66. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral by the side of Canute and Harthacnut.
First published 2016; updated and re-published Apr 04 2021 @ 11:05 am – Updated –