Cnut I
Cnut I
King of Anglia
Reign 1016 - 1032
Coronation 25th December 1016, London
Predecessor n/a
Successor Harald I
King of Denmark
Reign 1018 - 1032
Predecessor Harald II
Successor Harthacnut (Cnut III)
King of Viken
Predecessor Harald II
Successor Sveinn I
Born c. 985 - 995
Died 12th August, 1032
Lincoln, Anglia
Spouse Aelgifu of Northampton

Emma of Normandy

Issue Sveinn I Knutsson

Harald I Harefoot
Harthacnut (Cnut III)

Full name
Cnut Sweynsson
House House of Gorm
Father Sweyn I Forkbeard
Mother Gunhild/Swietoslawa?

Cnut I of Anglia, also Cnut II of Denmark, Cnut I of Viken, was the first king of a sovereign Anglia (effectively the Old English Danelaw plus additions). He would go on to reconquer his father's realm, uniting Anglia with Denmark and Viken into a 'North Sea Empire'.

Little is known about Cnut's early life. It is not even certain when he was born, sometime between 985 and 995 is most likely. His parents were Sweyn I Forkbeard and a Polish princess, possibly called Gunhild or Swietoslawa. He is likely however that he was old enough to campaign with his father on his first invasion of England in 1013 and may have been trained in the retinue of Thorkell the Tall, the great Jomsviking and scourge of England in 1012.

After Sweyn's death ended his brief rule over England Cnut was elected by the Danish nobles in the Danelaw as king. Denmark meanwhile reverted to his older brother Harald II. The English nobles however decided to recall Aethelred II. A series of defeats by the re-energised English resulted in Cnut retreating to his brother's court back in Denmark. Here he gathered new troops, including Svealandeic and Polish allies, and with a new large fleet set upon a new invasion. For over a year Cnut and his army fought close battles with the English, who were mostly led by Edmund II Ironside. Cnut's forces were hampered by defections especially as they increasingly fought other Scandinavians under English pay.

On the 18th October 1016 the pair clashed again at Assandun, a battle which changed the Danes' fortunes. Cnut was victorious and would continue to best the English at the few battles after it. Edmund negotiated a peace a few days later at Deerhurst, arranging the division of England between his Wessex and Cnut's Anglia, each other's lands to revert to the other upon their death. Cnut was given the Danelaw, Jorvik, Northumbria and London. He would be crowned in London on Christmas Day and would receive the full backing of the new Anglian nobility at Lincoln the following April.

While Edmund II had trouble taxing his share of England in order to retain support and launch a reconquest, Cnut systematically stripped Anglia of wealth. Aethelred II's harsh taxes seemed light in comparison. But the trouble was worth it. Flush with funds he could pay off his allies whilst maintaining a significant army and navy of his own. He quickly dealt with any Anglo-Saxon noble whom he did not trust. He also married Aethelred II's wife, Emma of Normandy, in part to see off any potential threat from her Norman family but also reconcile the English lords to his rule. A trade of hostages with Edmund kept the peace.

In 1018 his elder brother Harald II died, possibly murdered, and Cnut immediately made preparations to claim Denmark and Viken. Cnut renegotiated his peace with Edmund; now if either died their lands would not automatically revert to the the other. Cnut meanwhile swore to prevent viking raids on Wessex. In the end his claim to the throne held and Denmark was peacefully taken. He made his and Emma's young son Harthacnut his successor there and made his sister Estrid's husband Ulf regent. In Viken he set his son Sveinn as his successor, with his first wife Aelgifu as regent, although this was not a happy reign and Cnut would be forced to intervene twice. By 1020 however he was back in Anglia.

Anglia was enjoying the fruits of Cnut's labours. He had restored the old Danelaw constitution, spreading it to the rest of Anglia and created new earldoms for his most trusted men who by and large governed justly and fairly. The coinage was reformed and thanks to the cessation of viking raids no more large taxations to leverage danegeld were needed. Cnut lavished attention on the church safeguarding his reputation amongst the devout who handily overlooked his bigamy and bloody conquests.

Fully at ease in his reign he travelled to Rome in 1027 to witness the coronation of Emperor Conrad. The pilgrimage was an unqualified success and Cnut managed to extract several concessions out of the papacy and arranged the marriage of his daughter Gunhilda to Conrad's son Henry. He would have to quash a rebellion in Viken on his return however.

He would die at Lincoln in 1032 after returning from a visit to the tomb of his old rival Edmund II. Harald Harefoot succeeded him in Anglia, Harthacnut (Cnut III) in Denmark and Sveinn Knutsson in Viken.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.