King Canute the Great, was born to Sweyn Forkbeard
and his wife, the Polish princess, Gunhilda. He was the couple’s second son, his elder brother Harald had been born in 994.
Canute’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.
Canute’s brother, Harald, was born to Sweyn Forkbeard and his wife, the Polish princess, Gunhilda.
Canute’s father, Sweyn divorced Canute’s mother Gunhilda and married Sigrid known as ‘The Haughty’
Sweyn Forkbeard defeated and killed his Norwegian rival Olaf Trygvasson and took control of Norway.
Canute’s father, Sweyn, made a series of raids along the South coast of England.
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 Canute’s aunt Gunhilde, 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 was forced to pay Sweyn Forkbeard £24,000 (8kg of silver) to make him leave England.
Canute’s father, Sweyn Forkbeard returned to England and destroyed the town of Norwich.
A famine in Denmark had led to unrest and hunger. Sweyn Forkbeard returned to Denmark to restore order.
Sweyn Forkbeard and his Viking force returned to England and made a series of raids on Kent and Sussex.
King Aethelred of England was again forced make another Danegeld payment of £36,000 (12 kg of silver) to make the Vikings leave.
The Danes invaded East Anglia. A battle was fought near Ipswich which left the Danes in control of the town.
Canute accompanied his father, Sweyn Forkbeard to England where they took Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria. London alone held out against them.
Canute 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.
Having conquered the majority of England Sweyn Forkbeard proclaimed himself King of England. King Aethelred, his wife 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, 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.
Having been denied the kingship of England, Canute returned to Denmark to raise an invasion force.
A son, Sweyn was born to Canute and Aelfgifu.
Canute was determined to take the English throne and invaded England with a large Danish force.
A son, Harold was born to Canute and Aelfgifu.
Canute 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
Canute’s force was defeated by Edmund Ironside.
1016 (18th October)
Battle of Assandun
This battle, fought between Canute 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 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 and Canute seized the throne of England.
Edmund Ironside’s two children, Edward and Edmund, were taken to Hungary as it was feared that they would be murdered by Canute.
The three children of Aethelred the Unready by Emma of Normandy
, Edward, Alfred and Godgifu, were taken to Normandy as it was feared their lives were in danger.
Canute divided England into four earldoms: Wessex – controlled by Canute himself, Mercia controlled by Eadric Streona, Northumbria controlled by Erik of Hlathir and East Anglia controlled by Thorkell the Tall.
1017 (6th January)
Canute was crowned King of England at St Paul’s Cathedral.
1017 (2nd July)
Canute married Aethelred’s widow, Emma of Normandy. 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 Canute.
Canute had the Earl of Mercia, Eadric Streona executed for treachery. He was replaced by Leofric.
Canute 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.
Canute inherited the throne of Denmark when his brother, King Harald, died.
, the most powerful noble, allied himself to Canute by marrying Canute’s sister in law, Gytha
Canute went to Denmark to claim the Kingdom.
A daughter, Gunhilda, was born to Emma and Canute.
Thorkell the Tall fell from favour and was exiled. The exact reason for his fall from favour is unknown.
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. He was now King of England, Denmark and Norway and became referred to as Canute the Great. Canute left Hakon Eirksson as regent in Norway.
1028 (late Summer)
Harthacnut, son of Emma and Canute, was made regent of Denmark.
Earl Godwin was given control of Wessex.
Canute’s regent in Norway, Hakon Eriksson, died. Canute named his eldest son by Aelfgifu, Sweyn, as King of Noway and sent him and Aelfgifu to Norway.
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 Canute died. He was succeeded by his son by Emma, Harthacnut
, who was in Denmark as regent. However, when Harthacnut could not return from Denmark, his half-brother, Harold Harefoot became King of England.
The story of Canute 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.”