King Canute (Cnut) King of England 1016-1035

King Canute (Cnut) was King of England 1016-1035. He later became King of Denmark and Norway, giving him control of a huge northern empire.

drawing of horse battle

Battle of Assandun, with Edmund Ironside (left) and Canute, by our old friend Matthew Paris in Chronica Majora

Canute used strong English and Danish earls, such as Leofric in Mercia, to help run the country while he was abroad.

He ran a mercenary army, paid for through the Heregeld tax collected from landowners per hide of land (the abbey of Coventry held three hides). The largest single collection of the Heregeld tax came in 1018 and totalled £82,500, of which £10,500 came from London.

Christian conversion

A Christian for reasons of politics as well as faith, Canute went on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1027. His Christianity made him reject his courtiers’ flattery by showing that he could not stop the waves. Later hostile writers said it showed madness.

Canute was buried at Winchester. His empire failed to survive due to fights between his sons and the factions led by the strong earls of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex.


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