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Title: Canute the Great - The Rise of Danish Imperialism during the Viking Age
Author: Larson, Laurence Marcellus
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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995 (_circa_)-1035







The Knickerbocker Press


Heroes of the Nations


Dr. W.C. Davis


[Illustration: CANUTE AND EMMA--(The King and Queen are presenting a
golden cross to Winchester Abbey, New Minster.) From a miniature
reproduced in _Liber Vitæ_ (Birch).]




Toward the close of the eighth century, there appeared in the waters of
Western Europe the strange dragon fleets of the Northmen, the "heathen,"
or the vikings, as they called themselves, and for more than two hundred
years the shores of the West and the Southwest lived in constant dread
of pillage and piracy. The viking invasions have always been of interest
to the student of the Middle Ages; but only recently have historians
begun to fathom the full significance of the movement. The British Isles
were pre-eminently the field of viking activities. English historians,
however, have usually found nothing in the invasions but two successive
waves of destruction. As an eminent writer has tersely stated it,--the
Dane contributed nothing to English civilisation, for he had nothing to

On the other hand, Scandinavian students, who naturally took great pride
in the valorous deeds of their ancestors, once viewed the western lands
chiefly as a field that offered unusual opportunities for the
development of the dormant energies of the Northern race. That Christian
civilisation could not fail to react on the heathen mind was clearly
seen; but this phase of the problem was not emphasised; the importance
of western influences was minimised.

Serious study of the viking age in its broader aspects began about fifty
years ago with the researches of Gudbrand Vigfusson, a young Icelandic
scholar, much of whose work was carried on in England. Vigfusson's work
was parallelled by the far more thorough researches of the eminent
Norwegian philologist, Sophus Bugge. These investigators both came to
the same general conclusion: that Old Norse culture, especially on the
literary side, shows permeating traces of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon
elements; that the Eddic literature was not an entirely native product,
but was largely built up in the viking colonies in Britain from borrowed

Some years earlier, the Danish antiquarian, J.J.A. Worsaae, had begun to
study the "memorials" of Norse and Danish occupation in Britain, and had
found that the islands in places were overlaid with traces of
Scandinavian conquest in the form of place names. Later Worsaae's
countryman, Dr. J.C.H.R. Steenstrup, carried the research into the
institutional field, and showed in his masterly work, _Normannerne_
(1876-1882), that the institutional development among the Anglo-Saxons
in the tenth and eleventh centuries was largely a matter of adapting and
assimilating Scandinavian elements.

Studies that embodied such differing viewpoints could not fail to call
forth much discussion, some of which went to the point of bitterness.
Recently there has been a reaction from the extreme position assumed by
Professor Bugge and his followers; but quite generally Norse scholars
are coming to take the position that both Sophus Bugge and Johannes
Steenstrup have been correct in their main contentions; the most
prominent representative of this view is Professor Alexander Bugge.
Where two vigorous peoples representing differing types or different
stages of civilisation come into more than temporary contact, the
reciprocal influences will of necessity be continued and profound.

The viking movement had, therefore, its aspects of growth and
development as well as of destruction. The best representative of the
age and the movement, when considered from both these viewpoints, is
Canute the Great, King of England, Denmark, and Norway. Canute began as
a pirate and developed into a statesman. He was carried to victory by
the very forces that had so long subsisted on devastation; when the
victory was achieved, they discovered, perhaps to their amazement, that
their favourite occupation was gone. Canute had inherited the
imperialistic ambitions of his dynasty, and piracy and empire are
mutually exclusive terms.

It is scarcely necessary to say anything further in justification of a
biographical study of such an eminent leader, one of the few men whom
the world has called "the Great." But to write a true biography of any
great secular character of mediæval times is a difficult, often
impossible, task. The great men of modern times have revealed their
inner selves in their confidential letters; their kinsmen, friends, and
intimate associates have left their appreciations in the form of
addresses or memoirs. Materials of such a character are not abundant in
the mediæval sources. But this fact need not deter us from the attempt.
It is at least possible to trace the public career of the subject
chosen, to measure his influence on the events of his day, and to
determine the importance of his work for future ages. And occasionally
the sources may permit a glimpse into the private life of the subject
which will help us to understand him as a man.

The present study has presented many difficulties. Canute lived in an
age when there was but little writing done in the North, though the
granite of the runic monument possesses the virtue of durability. There
is an occasional mention of Canute in the Continental chronicles of the
time; but the chief contemporary sources are the _Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle_, the _Encomium Emmæ_, and the praise lays of the Norse and
Icelandic scalds. The _Chronicle_ was written by a patriotic Englishman
who naturally regarded the Danes with a strong aversion. The _Encomium_,
on the other hand, seems to be the product of an alien clerk, whose
chief purpose was to glorify his patroness, Queen Emma, and her family.
The lays of the scalds are largely made up of nattering phrases, though
among them are woven in allusions to historic facts that are of great

The Anglo-Norman historians and the later monastic annalists in England
have not very much to add to our information about Canute; but in their
accounts they are likely to go to the other extreme from the
_Chronicle_. Too often the monkish writers measured excellence by the
value of gifts to churches and monasteries, and Canute had learned the
value of donations properly timed and placed.

Adam of Bremen wrote a generation later than Canute's day, but, as he
got his information from Canute's kinsmen at the Danish court, his
notices of Northern affairs are generally reliable. There is no Danish
history before the close of the twelfth century, when Saxo wrote the
_Acts of the Danes_. It is evident that Saxo had access to a mass of
sources both written and of the saga type. The world is grateful to the
Danish clerk for preserving so much of this material; but sound,
critical treatment (of which Saxo was probably incapable) would have
enhanced the value of his work.

The twelfth century is also the age of the sagas. These are of uneven
merit and most of them are of slight value for present purposes.
However, the sources on which these are in a measure based, the
fragments of contemporary verse that are extant and much that has not
survived, have been woven into a history, the equal of which for
artistic treatment, critical standards, and true historical spirit will
be difficult to find in any other mediæval literature. Wherever
possible, therefore, reference has been made in this study to Snorre's
_Kings' Sagas_, commonly known as "Heimskringla," in preference to other
saga sources.

In the materials afforded by archæology, the Northern countries are
peculiarly rich, though, for the purposes of this study, these have
their only value on the side of culture. An exception must be made of
the runic monuments (which need not necessarily be classed with
archæological materials), as these often assist in building up the
narrative. More important, perhaps, is the fact that these inscriptions
frequently help us to settle disputed points and to determine the
accuracy of accounts that are not contemporary.

One of the chief problems has been where to begin the narrative. To
begin in the conventional way with childhood, education, and the rest is
not practicable when the place and the year of birth are unknown and the
forms and influences of early training are matters of inference and
conjecture. At the same time it was found impossible to separate the man
from his time, from the great activities that were going on in the lands
about the North Sea, and from the purposes of the dynasty that he
belonged to. Before it is possible to give an intelligent account of how
Canute led the viking movement to successful conquest, some account
must be given of the movement itself. The first chapter and a part of
the second consequently have to deal with matters introductory to and
preparatory for Canute's personal career, which began in 1012.

In the writing of proper names the author has planned to use modern
forms whenever such exist; he has therefore written Canute, though his
preference is for the original form Cnut. King Ethelred's by-name,
"Redeless," has been translated "Ill-counselled," which is slightly
nearer the original meaning than "unready"; "uncounselled" would
scarcely come nearer, as the original seems rather to imply inability to
distinguish good from bad counsel.

In the preparation of the study assistance has been received from many
sources; especially is the author under obligation to the libraries of
the Universities of Illinois, Chicago, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and of
Harvard University; he is also indebted to his colleagues Dean E.B.
Greene, Professor G.S. Ford, and Professor G.T. Flom, of the University
of Illinois, for assistance in the form of critical reading of the

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill., 1911.















THE LAST YEARS--1031-1035






   CANUTE AND EMMA _Frontispiece_
   (The King and Queen are presenting a golden cross to Winchester Abbey,
   New Minster.) From a miniature reproduced in _Liber Vitæ_ (Birch.)
   (Runic monument raised to Gyrth, Earl Sigvaldi's brother.)
   (Runic monument showing viking ship ornamented with beasts' heads.)
   (Harl. MS. 603.)
   (Harl. MS. 603.)
   (From a manuscript in the British Museum, reproduced in _Norges
   Historie_, i., ii.)
   (From the Bayeux Tapestry.)
   (Monument from the Island of Gotland showing viking ships.)
   (From the Bayeux Tapestry.)
   (Altar decoration from about 1100. Danish National Museum.)
   (From the closing years of heathendom.)
   (Monument from the Island of Gotland. The stone shows various
   mythological figures; see below.)
   THE CHURCH AT URNES (NORWAY) (From about 1100.)
     OF ULF
   (Model of the Gokstad ship on the waves.)
   STIKLESTEAD (From a photograph.)
   (Monument from the first half of the eleventh century; raised to a
   Christian as appears from the cross.)
   (Showing blending of Celtic and Northern art.)
   (Illustrates the transition from heathendom to Christianity; shows a
   mixture of elements, the serpent and the cross.)
   (Representations of scenes from the Sigfried Saga.)
   (Norse-Irish ornamentation.)
   (Norse-Irish ornamentation.)
   (From a manuscript in the British Museum, reproduced in _Norges
   Historie_, i., ii.)
   (Longitudinal sections.)
   (Shows types of ornamentation in Canute's day.)
   (Initial in the Flat-isle Book.)




Among the many gigantic though somewhat shadowy personalities of the
viking age, two stand forth with undisputed pre-eminence: Rolf the
founder of Normandy and Canute the Emperor of the North. Both were
sea-kings; each represents the culmination and the close of a great
migratory movement,--Rolf of the earlier viking period, Canute of its
later and more restricted phase. The early history of each is uncertain
and obscure; both come suddenly forth upon the stage of action, eager
and trained for conquest. Rolf is said to have been the outlawed son of
a Norse earl; Canute was the younger son of a Danish king: neither had
the promise of sovereignty or of landed inheritance. Still, in the end,
both became rulers of important states--the pirate became a constructive
statesman. The work of Rolf as founder of Normandy was perhaps the more
enduring; but far more brilliant was the career of Canute.

Few great conquerors have had a less promising future. In the early
years of the eleventh century, he seems to have been serving a military
apprenticeship in a viking fraternity on the Pomeranian coast,
preparatory, no doubt, to the profession of a sea-king, the usual career
of Northern princes who were not seniors in birth. His only tangible
inheritance seems to have been the prestige of royal blood which meant
so much when the chief called for recruits.

But it was not the will of the Norns that Canute should live and die a
common pirate, like his grand-uncle Canute, for instance, who fought and
fell in Ireland[1]: his heritage was to be greater than what had fallen
to any of his dynasty, more than the throne of his ancestors, which was
also to be his. In a vague way he inherited the widening ambitions of
the Northern peoples who were once more engaged in a fierce attack on
the West. To him fell also the ancient claim of the Danish kingdom to
the hegemony of the North. But more specifically Canute inherited the
extensive plans, the restless dreams, the imperialistic policy, and the
ancient feuds of the Knytling dynasty.[2] Canute's career is the history
of Danish imperialism carried to a swift realisation. What had proved a
task too great for his forbears Canute in a great measure achieved. In
England and in Norway, in Sleswick and in Wendland, he carried the plans
of his dynasty to a successful issue. It will, therefore, be necessary
to sketch with some care the background of Canute's career and to trace
to their origins the threads of policy that Canute took up and wove into
the web of empire. Some of these can be followed back at least three
generations to the reign of Gorm in the beginning of the tenth century.

In that century Denmark was easily the greatest power in the North. From
the Scanian frontiers to the confines of modern Sleswick it extended
over "belts" and islands, closing completely the entrance to the Baltic.
There were Danish outposts on the Slavic shores of modern Prussia; the
larger part of Norway came for some years to be a vassal state under the
great earl, Hakon the Bad; the Wick, which comprised the shores of the
great inlet that is now known as the Christiania Firth, was regarded as
a component part of the Danish monarchy, though in fact the obedience
rendered anywhere in Norway was very slight.

In the legendary age a famous dynasty known as the Shieldings appears to
have ruled over Danes and Jutes. The family took its name from a
mythical ancestor, King Shield, whose coming to the Daneland is told in
the opening lines of the Old English epic _Beowulf_. The Shieldings
were worthy descendants of their splendid progenitor: they possessed in
full measure the royal virtues of valour, courage, and munificent
hospitality. How far their exploits are to be regarded as historic is a
problem that does not concern us at present; though it seems likely that
the Danish foreworld is not without its historic realities.

Whether the kings of Denmark in the tenth century were of Shielding
ancestry is a matter of doubt; the probabilities are that they sprang
from a different stem. The century opened with Gorm the Aged, the
great-grandfather of Canute, on the throne of Shield, ruling all the
traditional regions of Denmark,--Scania, the Isles, and Jutland--but
apparently residing at Jelling near the south-east corner of the
peninsula, not far from the Saxon frontier. Tradition remembers him as a
tall and stately man, but a dull and indolent king, wanting in all the
elements of greatness.[3] In this case, however, tradition is not to be
trusted. Though we have little real knowledge of Danish history in
Gorm's day, it is evident that his reign was a notable one. At the close
of the ninth century, the monarchy seems to have faced dissolution; the
sources tell of rebellious vassals, of a rival kingdom in South Jutland,
of German interference in other parts of the Jutish peninsula.[4] Gorm's
great task and achievement were to reunite the realm and to secure the
old frontiers.

Though legend has not dealt kindly with the King himself, it has
honoured the memory of his masterful Queen. Thyra was clearly a superior
woman. Her nationality is unknown, but it seems likely that she was of
Danish blood, the daughter of an earl in the Holstein country.[5] To
this day she is known as Thyra Daneboot (Danes' defence)--a term that
first appears on the memorial stone that her husband raised at Jelling
soon after her death. In those days Henry the Fowler ruled in Germany
and showed hostile designs on Jutland. In 934, he attacked the viking
chiefs in South Jutland and reduced their state to the position of a
vassal realm. Apparently he also encouraged them to seek compensation in
Gorm's kingdom. To protect the peninsula from these dangers a wall was
built across its neck between the Schley inlet and the Treene River.
This was the celebrated Danework, fragments of which can still be seen.
In this undertaking the Queen was evidently the moving force and spirit.
Three years, it is said, were required to complete Thyra's great
fortification. The material character of the Queen's achievement
doubtless did much to preserve a fame that was highly deserved; at the
same time, it may have suggested comparisons that were not to the
advantage of her less fortunate consort. The Danework, however, proved
only a temporary frontier; a century later Thyra's great descendant
Canute pushed the boundary to the Eider River and the border problem
found a fairly permanent solution.

In the Shielding age, the favourite seat of royalty was at Lethra
(Leire) in Zealand, at the head of Roeskild Firth. Here, no doubt, was
located the famous hall Heorot, of which we read in _Beowulf_. There
were also king's garths elsewhere; the one at Jelling has already been
mentioned as the residence of Gorm and Thyra. After the Queen's death
her husband raised at Jelling, after heathen fashion, a high mound in
her honour, on the top of which a rock was placed with a brief runic

     Gorm the king raised this stone in memory of Thyra his wife,
     Denmark's defence.[6]

The runologist Ludvig Wimmer believes that the inscription on the older
Jelling stone dates from the period 935-940; a later date is scarcely
probable. The Queen evidently did not long survive the famous "defence."

A generation later, perhaps about the year 980, Harold Bluetooth, Gorm's
son and successor, raised another mound at Jelling, this one,
apparently, in honour of his father. The two mounds stand about two
hundred feet apart; at present each is about sixty feet high, though the
original height must have been considerably greater. Midway between them
the King placed a large rock as a monument to both his parents, which in
addition to its runic dedication bears a peculiar blending of
Christian symbols and heathen ornamentation. The inscription is also
more elaborate than that on the lesser stone:

     Harold the king ordered this memorial to be raised in honour of
     Gorm his father and Thyra his mother, the Harold who won all
     Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christians.[7]



In one sense the larger stone is King Harold's own memorial. It is to be
observed that the inscription credits the King with three notable
achievements: the unification of Denmark, the conquest of Norway, and
the introduction of Christianity. The allusion to the winning of Denmark
doubtless refers to the suppression of revolts, perhaps more
specifically to the annihilation of the viking realm and dynasty south
of the Danework (about 950).[8] In his attitude toward his southern
neighbours Harold continued the policy of Gorm and Thyra: wars for
defence rather than for territorial conquest.

It is said that King Harold became a Christian (about 960) as the result
of a successful appeal to the judgment of God by a zealous clerk named
Poppo. The heated iron (or iron gauntlet, as Saxo has it) was carried
the required distance, but Poppo's hand sustained no injury. Whatever be
the truth about Poppo's ordeal, it seems evident that some such test
was actually made, as the earliest account of it, that of Widukind of
Corvey, was written not more than a decade after the event.[9] The
importance of the ordeal is manifest: up to this time the faith had made
but small headway in the Northern countries. With the conversion of a
king, however, a new situation was created: Christianity still had to
continue its warfare against the old gods, but signs of victory were
multiplying. One of the first fruits of Harold Bluetooth's conversion
was the Church of the Holy Trinity, built at Roeskild by royal
command,[10]--a church that long held an honoured place in the Danish
establishment. In various ways the history of this church closely
touches that of the dynasty itself: here the bones of the founder were
laid; here, too, his ungrateful son Sweyn found quiet for his restless
spirit; and it was in this church where Harold's grandson, Canute the
Great, stained and violated sanctuary by ordering the murder of Ulf, his
sister's husband.

In the wider activities of the tenth century, Harold Bluetooth played a
large and important part. About the time he accepted Christianity, he
visited the Slavic regions on the south Baltic coasts and established
his authority over the lands about the mouth of the Oder River. Here he
founded the stronghold of Jomburg, the earls and garrisons of which
played an important part in Northern history for more than two
generations. The object of this expansion into Wendland was no doubt
principally to secure the Slavic trade which was of considerable
importance and which had interested the Danes for more than two
centuries.[11] As the Wendish tribes had practically no cities or
recognised markets, the new establishment on the banks of the Oder soon
grew to be of great commercial as well as of military importance.



During the same period Harold's attention was turned to Norway where a
difficult situation had arisen. Harold Fairhair, the founder of the
Norse monarchy, left the sovereignty to his son Eric (later named
Bloodax); but the jealousies of Eric's many brothers combined with his
own cruel régime soon called forth a reaction in favour of a younger
brother, Hakon the Good, whose youth had been spent under Christian
influences at the English court. King Hakon was an excellent ruler, but
the raids of his nephews, the sons of Eric, caused a great deal of
confusion. The young exiles finally found a friend in Harold Bluetooth
who even adopted one of them, Harold Grayfell, as his own son.[12]

The fostering of Harold Grayfell had important consequences continuing
for two generations till the invasion of Norway by Canute the Great.
With a force largely recruited in Denmark, the sons of Eric attacked
Norway and came upon King Hakon on the island of Stord where a battle
was fought in which the King fell (961). But the men who had slain their
royal kinsman found it difficult to secure recognition as kings: the
result of the battle was that Norway was broken up into a number of
petty kingdoms and earldoms, each aiming at practical independence.

A few years later there appeared at the Danish court a young, handsome,
talented chief, the famous Earl Hakon whose father, Sigurd, earl in the
Throndelaw, the sons of Eric had treacherously slain. The King of
Denmark had finally discovered that his foster-son was anything but an
obedient vassal, and doubtless rejoiced in an opportunity to interfere
in Norwegian affairs. Harold Grayfell was lured down into Jutland and
slain. With a large fleet the Danish King then proceeded to Norway. The
whole country submitted: the southern shores from the Naze eastward were
added to the Danish crown; the Throndelaw and the regions to the north
were apparently granted to Earl Hakon in full sovereignty; the rest was
created into an earldom which he was to govern as vassal of the King of

A decade passed without serious difficulties between vassal and
overlord, when events on the German border brought demands on the earl's
fidelity to which the proud Norseman would not submit. It seems
probable that King Harold in a vague way had recognised the overlordship
of the Emperor; at any rate, in 973, when the great Otto was celebrating
his last Easter at Quedlingburg, the Danish King sent embassies and
gifts.[14] A few weeks later the Emperor died and almost immediately war
broke out between Danes and Saxons.



Hostilities soon ceased, but the terms of peace are said to have
included a promise on Harold's part to introduce the Christian faith
among his Norwegian subjects. Earl Hakon had come to assist his
overlord; he was known to be a zealous heathen; but King Harold seized
him and forced him to receive baptism. The earl felt the humiliation
keenly and as soon as he had left Denmark he repudiated the Danish
connection and for a number of years ruled in Norway as an independent
sovereign.[15] King Harold made an attempt to restore his power but with
small success. However, the claim to Norway was not surrendered; it was
successfully revived by Harold's son Sweyn and later still by his
grandson Canute.

Earl Hakon's revolt probably dates from 974 or 975; King Harold's raid
along the Norse coasts must have followed within the next few years. The
succeeding decade is memorable for two notable expeditions, the one
directed against King Eric of Sweden, the second against Hakon of
Norway. In neither of these ventures was Harold directly interested;
both were undertaken by the vikings of Jom, though probably with the
Danish King's approval and support. The Jomvikings were in the service
of Denmark and the defeat that they suffered in both instances had
important results for future history. The exact dates cannot be
determined; but the battles must have been fought during the period

In those days the command at Jomburg was held by Styrbjörn, a nephew of
the Swedish King. Harold Bluetooth is said to have given him the earl's
title and his daughter Thyra to wife; but this did not satisfy the
ambitious prince, whose desire was to succeed his uncle in Sweden.
Having induced his father-in-law to permit an expedition, he sailed to
Uppland with a strong force. The battle was joined on the banks of the
Fyris River where King Eric won a complete victory. From that day he was
known as Eric the Victorious.[16]

Styrbjörn fell in the battle and Sigvaldi, the son of a Scanian earl,
succeeded to the command at Jomburg. In some way he was induced to
attack the Norwegian earl. Late in the year the fleet from the Oder
stole northwards along the Norse coast hoping to catch the earl
unawares. But Hakon's son Eric had learned what the vikings were
planning and a strong fleet carefully hid in Hjörunga Bay lay ready to
welcome the invader.

The encounter at Hjörunga Bay is one of the most famous battles in Old
Norse history. During the fight, says the saga, Earl Hakon landed and
sacrificed his young son Erling to the gods. The divine powers promptly
responded: a terrific hailstorm that struck the Danes in their faces
helped to turn the tide of battle, and soon Sigvaldi was in swift flight

As to the date of the battle we have no certain knowledge; but Munch
places it, for apparently good reasons, in 986. Saxo is probably correct
in surmising that the expedition was inspired by King Harold.[18] As to
the significance of the two defeats of the Jomvikings, there can be but
one opinion: northward expansion of Danish power had received a decisive
check; Danish ambition must find other fields.

The closing years of Harold's life were embittered by rebellious
movements in which his son Sweyn took a leading part. It is not possible
from the conflicting accounts that have come down to us to determine
just why the Danes showed such restlessness at this time. It has been
thought that the revolts represented a heathen reaction against the new
faith, or a nationalistic protest against German influences; these
factors may have entered in, but it is more likely that a general
dissatisfaction with Harold's rule caused by the ill success of his
operations against Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians was at the bottom of
the hostilities. The virile personality of the young prince was
doubtless also a factor. To later writers his conduct recalled the
career of Absalom; but in this instance disobedience and rebellion had
the victory. Forces were collected on both sides; battles were fought
both on land and on sea. Finally during a truce, the aged King was
wounded by an arrow, shot, according to saga, from the bow of Toki, the
foster-father of Sweyn. Faithful Henchmen carried the dying King across
the sea to Jomburg where he expired on All Saints' Day (November 1),
probably in 986, the year of the defeat at Hjörunga Bay. His remains
were carried to Roeskild and interred in the Church of the Holy

Of Harold's family not much is known. According to Adam of Bremen his
queen was named Gunhild, a name that points to Scandinavian
ancestry.[20] Saxo speaks of a Queen Gyrith, the sister of
Styrbjörn.[21] On a runic monument at Sönder Vissing, not far from the
garth at Jelling, we read that

     Tova raised this memorial,
       Mistiwi's daughter,
       In memory of her mother,
       Harold the Good
       Gorm's son's wife.[22]

Tova might be a Danish name, but Mistiwi seems clearly Slavic. It may be
that Harold was thrice married; it is also possible that Tova in
baptism received the name Gunhild. Gyrith was most likely the wife of
his old age. The question is important as it concerns the ancestry of
Canute the Great. If Tova was Canute's grandmother (as she probably was)
three of his grandparents were of Slavic blood.

Of Harold's children four are known to history. His daughter Thyra has
already been mentioned as the wife of the ill-fated Styrbjörn. Another
daughter, Gunhild, was the wife of an Anglo-Danish chief, the ealdorman
Pallig. Two sons are also mentioned, Sweyn and Hakon. Of these Sweyn, as
the successor to the kingship, is the more important.

The accession of Sweyn Forkbeard to the Danish throne marks an era in
the history of Denmark. Harold Bluetooth had not been a weak king: he
had enlarged his territories; he had promoted the cause of the Christian
faith; he had striven for order and organised life. But his efforts in
this direction had brought him into collision with a set of forces that
believed in the old order of things. In Harold's old age the Danish
viking spirit had awakened to new life; soon the dragons were sailing
the seas as of old. With a king of the Shielding type now in the
high-seat at Roeskild, these lawless though energetic elements found not
only further freedom but royal favour and leadership.

It would seem that the time had come to wipe away the stain that had
come upon the Danish arms at Hjörunga Bay; but no immediate move was
made in that direction. Earl Hakon was still too strong, and for a
decade longer he enjoyed undisputed possession of the Norwegian
sovereignty. Sweyn did not forget the claims of his dynasty, but he
bided his time. Furthermore, this same decade saw larger plans
developing at the Danish court. Norway was indeed desirable, but as a
field of wider activities it gave no great promise. Such a field,
however, seemed to be in sight: the British Isles with their numerous
kingdoms, their large Scandinavian colonies, and their consequent lack
of unifying interests seemed to offer opportunities that the restless
Dane could not afford to neglect.

The three Scandinavian kingdoms did not comprise the entire North: in
many respects, greater Scandinavia was fully as important as the home
lands. It is not necessary for present purposes to follow the eastward
stream of colonisation that transformed the Slavic East and laid the
foundations of the Russian monarchy. The southward movement of the Danes
into the regions about the mouth of the Oder will be discussed more in
detail later. The story of Sweyn and Canute is far more concerned with
colonising movements and colonial foundations in the West. Without the
preparatory work of two centuries, Canute's conquest of the Anglo-Saxon
kingdom would have been impossible.

The same generation that saw the consolidation of the Norse tribes into
the Norwegian kingdom also saw the colonisation of the Faroe Islands and
Iceland. A century later Norsemen were building homes on the bleak
shores of Greenland. Less than a generation later, in the year 1000,
Vineland was reached by Leif the Lucky.[23] Earlier still, perhaps a
century or more before the Icelandic migration, the Northmen had begun
to occupy parts of the British Isles. The ships that first sought and
reached North Britain probably sailed from two folklands (or shires) in
Southwestern Norway, Hordaland and Rogaland, the territories about the
modern ports of Bergen and Stavanger. Due west from the former city lie
the Shetland Islands; in the same direction from Stavanger are the
Orkneys. It has been conjectured that the earliest Scandinavian
settlements in these parts were made on the shores of Pentland Firth,
on the Orkneys and on the coast of Caithness. Thence the journey went
along the north-western coast of Scotland to the Hebrides group, across
the narrow straits to Ireland, and down to the Isle of Man.[24]

The Emerald Isle attracted the sea-kings and the period of pillage was
soon followed by an age of settlement. The earliest Norse colony in
Ireland seems to have been founded about 826, on the banks of the
Liffey, where the city of Dublin grew up a little later, and for
centuries remained the centre of Norse power and influence on the
island. Other settlements were established at various points on the east
coast, notably at Wicklow, Wexford, and Waterford, which names show
clearly their Norse origin. About 860 a stronghold was built at

Toward the close of the eighth century the vikings appeared in large
numbers on the coasts of Northern England. Two generations later they
had destroyed three of the four English kingdoms and were organising the
Danelaw on their ruins. Still later Rolf appeared with his host of
Northmen in the Seine Valley and founded the Norman duchy.

It must not be assumed that in these colonies the population was
exclusively Scandinavian. The native elements persisted and seem, as a
rule, to have lived on fairly good terms with the invaders. It is likely
that wherever these energetic Northerners settled they became the
dominant social force; but no feeling of contempt or aloofness appears
to have been felt on either side after the races had learned to know
each other. Intermarriage was frequent, not only between Dane and Angle,
but between Celt and Norseman as well. In time the alien was wholly
absorbed into the native population; but in the process the victorious
element underwent a profound transformation which extended to social
conventions as well as to race.[26]

The largest of these colonies was the Danelaw, a series of Danish and
Norse settlements extending from the Thames to the north of England.
According to an English writer of the twelfth century, it comprised York
and fourteen shires to the south.[27] The area controlled was evidently
considerably larger than the region actually settled; and in some of
the shires the Scandinavian population was probably not numerous. Five
cities in the Danelaw enjoyed a peculiar pre-eminence. These were
Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, and Stamford. It has been
conjectured that these were garrison towns held and organised with a
view to securing the obedience of the surrounding country.[28] If this
be correct, we should infer that the population beyond the walls was
largely Anglian. The Five Boroughs seem to have had a common
organisation of a republican type: they formed "the first federation of
boroughs known in this island, and in fact the earliest federation of
towns known outside of Italy."[29] Part of the Danelaw must have
contained a large Scandinavian element, especially the shires of Lincoln
and York.[30] There were also Danish and Norwegian settlements in
England outside the Danelaw in its narrower sense: in the north-western
shires and in the Severn Valley, perhaps as high up as Worcestershire.[31]

Danish power in England seems to have centered about the ancient city of
York. It would be more nearly correct to speak of Northumbria in the
ninth and tenth centuries as a Norse than as a Danish colony; but the
Angles made no such distinction. The population must also have contained
a large English element. A native ecclesiastic who wrote toward the
close of the tenth century speaks with enthusiasm of the wealth and
grandeur of York.

     The city rejoices in a multitude of inhabitants; not fewer than
     30,000 men and women (children and youths not counted) are numbered
     in this city. It is also filled with the riches of merchants who
     come from everywhere, especially from the Danish nation.[32]

In some respects the Danelaw is the most important fact in the history
of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy: it was the rock on which Old English
nationality foundered. By the middle of the tenth century, Saxon England
was practically confined to the country south of the Thames River and
the western half of the Midlands, a comparatively small area surrounded
by Scandinavian and Celtic settlements. If this fact is fully
appreciated, there should be little difficulty in understanding the
loss of English national freedom in the days of Sweyn and Canute. The
English kings did, indeed, exercise some sort of suzerain authority over
most of the neighbouring colonies, but this authority was probably never
so complete as historians would have us believe.

It is worth noting that the scribe whom we have quoted above speaks of
the Danes, not as pirates but as merchants. The tenth century was, on
the whole, so far as piratical expeditions are concerned, an age of
peace in the North. The word viking is old in the mediæval dialects, and
Scandinavian pirates doubtless visited the shores of Christian Europe at
a very early date. But the great viking age was the ninth century, when
the field of piratical operations covered nearly half of Europe and
extended from Iceland to Byzantium. The movement culminated in the last
quarter of the century and was followed by a constructive period of
nearly one hundred years, when society was being reorganised or built
anew in the conquered lands. The Icelandic republic was taking form. The
Norman duchy was being organised. The Northmen in the Danelaw were being
forced into political relations with the Saxon kings. Trade began to
follow new routes and find new harbours. The older Scandinavian cities
acquired an added fame and importance, while new towns were being
founded both in the home lands and in the western islands.


This lull in the activities of the sea-kings gave the western rulers
an opportunity to regain much that had been lost. In England the
expansion of Wessex which had begun in the days of Alfred was continued
under his successors, until in Edgar's day one lord was recognised from
the Channel to the Forth. But with Edgar died both majesty and peace.
About 980 the viking spirit was reawakened in the North. The raven
banner reappeared in the western seas, and soon the annals of the West
began to recount their direful tales. Among all the chiefs of this new
age, one stands forth pre-eminent, Sweyn with the Forked Beard, whose
remarkable achievement it was to enlist all this lawless energy for a
definite purpose, the conquest of Wessex.

In 979 Ethelred the Ill-counselled was crowned king of England and began
his long disastrous reign. If we may trust the Abingdon chronicler, who,
as a monk, should be truthful, England was duly warned of the sorrows to
come. For "in that same year blood-red clouds resembling fire were
frequently seen; usually they appeared at midnight hanging like moving
pillars painted upon the sky." The King was a mere boy of ten summers;
later writers could tell us that signs of degeneracy were discovered in
the prince as early as the day of his baptism. On some of his
contemporaries, however, he seems to have made a favourable impression.
We cannot depend much on the praises of a Norse scald who sang in the
King's presence; but perhaps we can trust the English writer who
describes him as a youth of "elegant manners, handsome features, and
comely appearance."[33]

That Ethelred proved an incompetent king is beyond dispute. Still, it is
doubtful whether any ruler with capabilities less than those of an
Alfred could have saved England in the early years of the eleventh
century. For Ethelred had succeeded to a perilous inheritance. In the
new territorial additions to Wessex there were two chief elements,
neither of which was distinctly pro-Saxon: the Dane or the half-Danish
colonist was naturally hostile to the Saxon régime; his Anglian
neighbour recalled the former independence of his region as Mercia, East
Anglia, or Northumbria, and was weak in his loyalty to the southern
dynasty. The spirit of particularism asserted itself repeatedly, for it
seems unlikely that the many revolts in the tenth century were Danish
uprisings merely.

It seems possible that Ethelred's government might have been able to
maintain itself after a fashion and perhaps would have satisfied the
demands of the age, had it not been that vast hostile forces were just
then released in the North. These attacked Wessex from two directions:
fleets from the Irish Sea ravaged the Southwest; vikings from the East
entered the Channel and plundered the southern shores. It is likely that
in the advance-guard of the renewed piracy, Sweyn Forkbeard was a
prominent leader. We have seen that during the last years of Harold's
reign, there were trouble and ill-feeling between father and son. These
years, it seems, the undutiful prince spent in exile and piratical
raids. As the Baltic would scarcely be a safe refuge under the
circumstances, we may assume that those seven years were spent in the

In the second year of Ethelred's reign the incursions began: "the great
chief Behemoth rose against him with all his companions and engines of
war."[35] In that year Chester was plundered by the Norsemen; Thanet and
Southampton were devastated by the Danes. The troubles at Chester are of
slight significance; they were doubtless merely the continuation of
desultory warfare in the upper Irish Sea. But the attack on Southampton,
the port of the capital city of Winchester, was ominous: though clearly
a private undertaking it was significant in revealing the weakness of
English resistance. The vikings probably wintered among their countrymen
on the shores of the Irish Sea, for South-western England was again
visited and harried during the two succeeding years.

For a few years (983-986) there was a lull in the operations against
England. The energies of the North were employed elsewhere: this was
evidently the period of Styrbjörn's invasion of Sweden and Sigvaldi's
attack on Norway with the desperate battles of Fyris River and Hjörunga
Bay. But, in 986, viking ships in great numbers appeared in the Irish
Sea.[36] Two years later a fleet visited Devon and entered Bristol
Channel. It is probable that Norman ships took part in this raid; at any
rate the Danes sold English plunder in Normandy.

In 991, the attack entered upon a new phase. Earlier the country had
suffered from raids in which no great number of vikings had taken part
in any instance; now they came in armies and the attack became almost an
invasion. That year a fierce battle was fought near Maldon[37] in Essex
where one of the chief leaders of the vikings was an exiled Norwegian
prince, Olaf Trygvesson, who four years later restored the Norwegian
throne. It is likely, therefore, that the host was not exclusively
Danish but gathered from the entire North.

The fight at Maldon was a crushing defeat for the English and
consternation ruled in the councils of the irresolute King. Siric, the
Archbishop of Canterbury, and two ealdormen were sent as an embassy to
the viking camp to sue for peace. A treaty was agreed to which seems to
imply that the host was to be permitted to remain in East Anglia for an
undefined time. The vikings promised to defend England against any other
piratical bands, thus virtually becoming mercenaries for the time being.
In return Ethelred agreed to pay a heavy tribute and to furnish
provisions "the while that they remain among us."[38] Thus began the
Danegeld which seems to have developed into a permanent tax in the reign
of Canute.

The next year King Ethelred collected a fleet in the Thames in the hope
of entrapping his new allies; but treason was abroad in England and the
plan failed.[39] The following year the pirates appeared in the Humber
country; here, too, the English defence melted away. After relating the
flight of the Anglian leaders, Florence of Worcester adds significantly,
"because they were Danes on the paternal side."[40]

The next year (994) King Sweyn of Denmark joined the fleet of Olaf and
his associates and new purposes began to appear. Instead of seeking
promiscuous plunder, the invaders attempted to reduce cities and
strongholds. Once more the English sued for peace on the basis of
tribute.[41] Sweyn evidently returned to Denmark where his presence
seems to have been sorely needed. For two years England enjoyed
comparative peace. The energies of the North found other employment: we
read of raids on the Welsh coast and of piratical expeditions into
Saxony; interesting events also occurred in the home lands. To these
years belong the revolt of the Norsemen against Earl Hakon, and perhaps
also the invasion of Denmark by Eric the Victorious.

Thirty years of power had developed tyrannical passions in the Norwegian
Earl. According to the sagas he was cruel, treacherous, and licentious.
Every year he became more overbearing and despotic; every year added to
the total of discontent. Here was Sweyn Forkbeard's opportunity; but he
had other irons in the fire, and the opportunity fell to another. About
995 a pretender to the Norse throne arrived from the West,--Olaf
Trygvesson, the great-grandson of Harold Fairhair.

Our earliest reliable information as to Olaf's career comes from English
sources; they tell of his operations in Britain in 991 and 994 and the
circumstances indicate that the intervening years were also spent on
these islands. While in England he was attracted to the Christian faith,
a fact that evidently came to be known to the English, for, in the
negotiations of 994, particular attention was paid to the princely
chieftain. An embassy was sent to him with Bishop Alphege as leading
member, and the outcome was that Olaf came to visit King Ethelred at
Andover, where he was formally admitted to the Christian communion,
Ethelred acting as godfather.[42]

At Andover, Olaf promised never to come again to England "with unpeace";
the Chronicler adds that he kept his word. With the coming of spring he
set out for Norway and never again saw England as friend or foe. We do
not know what induced him at this time to take up the fight with Hakon
the Bad; but doubtless it was in large measure due to urging on the part
of the Church. For Olaf the Viking had become a zealous believer; when
he landed in Norway he came provided with priests and all the other
necessaries of Christian worship. It is not necessary to tell the story
of the Earl's downfall,--how he was hounded into a pig-sty where he died
at the hands of a thrall. Olaf was soon universally recognised as king
and proceeded at once to carry out his great and difficult purpose: to
christianise a strong and stubborn people (995).[43]

As to the second event, the invasion of Sweyn's dominions by the King of
Sweden, we cannot be so sure, as most of the accounts that have come
down to us are late and difficult to harmonise. Historians agree that,
some time toward the close of his reign, King Eric sought revenge for
the assistance that the Danish King had given his nephew Styrbjörn in
his attempt to seize the Swedish throne. The invasion must have come
after Sweyn's accession (986?) and before Eric's death, the date of
which is variously given as 993, 995, 996.[44] If Eric was still ruling
in 994 when Sweyn was absent in England, it is extremely probable that
he made use of a splendid opportunity to seize the lands of his enemy.
This would explain Sweyn's readiness to accept Ethelred's terms in the
winter of 994-995.[45]

After the death of King Eric, new interests and new plans began to
germinate in the fertile mind of Sweyn the Viking. Late in life the
Swedish King seems to have married a young Swedish woman who is known to
history as Sigrid the Haughty. Sigrid belonged to a family of great
wealth and prominence; her father Tosti was a famous viking who had
harvested his treasures on an alien shore. Eric had not long been dead
before wooers in plenty came to seek the hand of the rich dowager. So
importunate did they become that the Queen to get rid of them is said to
have set fire to the house where two of them slept. Olaf Trygvesson was
acceptable, but he imposed an impossible condition: Sigrid must become a
Christian. When she finally refused to surrender her faith, the King is
said to have stricken her in the face with his gauntlet. The proud Queen
never forgave him.

Soon afterwards Sigrid married Sweyn Forkbeard who had dismissed his
earlier consort, Queen Gunhild, probably to make room for the Swedish
dowager. We do not know what motives prompted this act, but it was no
doubt urged by state-craft. In this way the wily Dane cemented an
alliance with a neighbouring state which had but recently been

The divorced Queen was a Polish princess of an eminent Slavic family;
she was the sister of Boleslav Chrobri, the mighty Polish duke who later
assumed the royal title. When Gunhild retired to her native Poland, she
may have taken with her a small boy who can at that time scarcely have
been more than two or three years old, perhaps even younger. The boy was
Canute, the King's younger son, though the one who finally succeeded to
all his father's power and policies. The only information that we have
of Canute's childhood comes from late and not very reliable sources: it
is merely this, that he was not brought up at the Danish court, but was
fostered by Thurkil the Tall, one of the chiefs at Jomburg and brother
of Earl Sigvaldi.[47] The probabilities favour the accuracy of this
report. It was customary in those days to place boys with
foster-fathers; prominent nobles or even plain franklins received
princes into their households and regarded the charge as an honoured
trust. Perhaps, too, a royal child would be safer among the warriors of
Jomburg than at the court of a stepmother who had employed such drastic
means to get rid of undesirable wooers. The character of his early
impressions and instruction can readily be imagined: Canute was trained
for warfare.

When the young prince became king of England Thurkil was exalted to a
position next to that of the ruler himself. After the old chief's death,
Canute seems to have heaped high honours on Thurkil's son Harold in
Denmark. We cannot be sure, but it seems likely that this favour is to
be ascribed, in part, at least, to Canute's affection for his
foster-father and his foster-brother.

In those same years another important marriage was formed in Sweyn's
household: the fugitive Eric, the son of Earl Hakon whose power was now
wielded by the viking Olaf, had come to Denmark, where Sweyn Forkbeard
received him kindly and gave him his daughter Gytha in marriage. Thus
there was formed a hostile alliance against King Olaf with its directing
centre at the Danish court. In addition to his own resources and those
of his stepson in Sweden, Sweyn could now count on the assistance of the
dissatisfied elements in Norway who looked to Eric as their natural

It was not long before a pretext was found for an attack. Thyra, Sweyn's
sister, the widow of Styrbjörn, had been married to Mieczislav, the Duke
of Poland. In 992, she was widowed the second time. After a few years,
perhaps in 998, Olaf Trygvesson made her queen of Norway. Later events
would indicate that this marriage, which Olaf seems to have contracted
without consulting the bride's brother, was part of a plan to unite
against Sweyn all the forces that were presumably hostile,--Poles,
Jomvikings, and Norsemen.[48]

The saga writers, keenly alive to the influence of human passion on the
affairs of men, emphasise Sigrid's hatred for Olaf and Thyra's anxiety
to secure certain possessions of hers in Wendland as important causes of
the war that followed. Each is said to have egged her husband to the
venture, though little urging can have been needed in either case. In
the summer of 1000, a large and splendid Norwegian fleet appeared in the
Baltic. In his negotiations with Poles and Jomvikings, Olaf was
apparently successful: Sigvaldi joined the expedition and Slavic ships
were added to the Norse armament. Halldor the Unchristian tells us that
these took part in the battle that followed: "The Wendish ships spread
over the bay, and the thin beaks gaped with iron mouths upon the

Sweyn's opportunity had come and it was not permitted to pass. He
mustered the Danish forces and sent messages to his stepson in Sweden
and to his son-in-law Eric. Sigvaldi was also in the alliance. Plans
were made to ambush the Norse King on his way northward. The
confederates gathered their forces in the harbour of Swald, a river
mouth on the Pomeranian coast a little to the west of the isle of Rügen.
Sigvaldi's part was to feign friendship for Olaf and to lead him into
the prepared trap. The plan was successfully carried out. A small part
of King Olaf's fleet was lured into the harbour and attacked from all
sides. The fight was severe but numbers prevailed. Olaf's own ship,
the famous _Long Serpent_, was boarded by Eric Hakonsson's men, and the
King in the face of sure capture leaped into the Baltic.[50]


[Illustration: THE SJÆLLE STONE (Runic monument raised to Gyrth, Earl
Sigvaldi's brother.)]

The victors had agreed to divide up Norway and the agreement was carried
out. Most of the coast lands from the Naze northwards were given to Earl
Eric. The southern shores, the land from the Naze eastwards, fell to
King Sweyn. Seven shires in the Throndhjem country and a single shire in
the extreme Southeast were assigned to the Swedish King; but only the
last-mentioned shire was joined directly to Sweden; the northern regions
were given as a fief to Eric's younger brother Sweyn who had married the
Swede-king's daughter. Similarly Sweyn Forkbeard enfeoffed his
son-in-law Eric, but the larger part he kept as his own direct

The battle of Swald was of great importance to the policies of the
Knytlings. The rival Norse kingdom was destroyed. Once more the Danish
King had almost complete control of both shores of the waterways leading
into the Baltic. Danish hegemony in the North was a recognised fact.
But all of Norway was not yet a Danish possession--that ambition was
not realised before the reign of Canute. And England was still



[1] Saxo Grammaticus, _Gesta Danorum_, 321.

[2] The saga writers call the members of the Danish dynasty the
Knytlings, from its foremost representative Canute (Knut).

[3] Saxo, _Gesta Danorum_, 318.

[4] Wimmer, _De danske Runemindesmærker_, I., ii., 71-72.

[5] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 293.

[6] Wimmer, _De danske Runemindesmærker_, I., ii., 15.

[7] Wimmer, _De danske Runemindesmærker_, I., ii., 28-29.

[8] _Ibid._, 72.

[9] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 335-336. Saxo, _Gesta Danorum_, 338.
Saxo places the ordeal in the reign of Harold's successor.

[10] Adamus, _Gesta Hammenburgensis Ecclesicæ Pontificum_, ii., c. 26.

[11] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 322-324.

[12] Snorre, _Saga of Hakon the Good_, cc. 3, 4, 5, 10.

[13] Snorre, _Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, c. 15. See also Munch, _Del
norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 53.

[14] Thietmar, _Chronicon_, ii., c. 20.

[15] Snorre, _Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, cc. 24, 26-28.

[16] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 340-341.

[17] Snorre, _Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, cc. 35-52.

[18] _Gesta Danorum_, 327.

[19] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 26. Saxo, _Gesta_, 332.

[20] _Gesta_, ii., cc. 3, 26.

[21] _Gesta_, 325.

[22] Wimmer, _De danske Runemindesmærker_, I., ii., 78 ff.

[23] The American shores were evidently too far distant for successful
colonisation; but the visits to the far West clearly did not cease with
the journeys of Leif and his associates. Vineland is mentioned in a
runic monument from the eleventh century which records an expedition to
the West that seems to have ended disastrously:

"They came out [upon the ocean] and over wide stretches [of land] and in
need of dry clothes for changes and of food toward Vineland and over icy
wastes in the wilderness. Evil may deprive one of good fortune so that
death comes early."

This inscription, which is the earliest document that mentions the New
World, was found at Hönen in South-eastern Norway. The original has been
lost, but copies are extant. The translation is from Bugge's rendering
into modern Norse. (_Norges Historie_, I., ii., 285.)

[24] Bugge, _Vihingerne_, i., 135 ff.

[25] "All along the Irish coast from Belfast to Dublin and Limerick
there still remains an unbroken series of Norse place names, principally
the names of firths, islands, reefs, and headlands, which show that at
such points the fairway has been named by Northmen." _Norges Historie_,
I., ii., 87; see also pp. 73-76. (Bugge.)

[26] Of this process and its results Normandy furnishes the best
illustration. The population of Rollo's duchy soon came to be a mixture
of races with French as the chief element, though in some sections, as
the Cotentin and the Bessin, the inhabitants clung to their Scandinavian
speech and customs for a long time. Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, i.,

[27] Simeon of Durham, _Opera Omnia_, ii., 393. The area varied at
different periods; but the earlier Danelaw seems to have comprised
fifteen shires. See Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iv., 36-37.

[28] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iv., 40-43.

[29] _Saga Book of the Viking Club_, VI., i., 23 (Bugge). See also
Collingwood, _Scandinavian Britain_, 109. The federation was later
enlarged till it included Seven Boroughs. _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1015.

[30] The Danish antiquarian Worsaae found more than four hundred Norse
place names in Yorkshire alone. While his list cannot be regarded as
final, it will probably be found to be fairly correct. The subject of
English place names has not yet been fully investigated. Recent studies
are those by F.M. Stenton, _The Place Names of Berkshire_ (Reading,
1911), H.C. Wyld and T.O. Hirst, _The Place Names of Lancashire_
(London, 1911), and F.W. Moorman, _The Place Names of the West Riding of
Yorkshire_ (Leeds, 1910).

[31] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iii., 228.

[32] _Historians of the Church of York_, i., 454.

[33] _Historians of the Church of York_, i., 455. For a fragment of a
lay in praise of Ethelred see _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., iii.

[34] Saxo gives the period as seven years (_Gesta_, 337). But his
account is confused and unreliable; seven must be taken as a round
number. Still, the period between the renewal of the raids in England
and Sweyn's accession covers nearly seven years.

[35] _Historians of the Church of York_, i., 455.

[36] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iii., 221.

[37] The English were led by the East Anglian ealdorman Byrhtnoth, whose
valour and death are told in what is perhaps the finest poem in Old
English literature. See Grein-Wülker, _Bibliothek der angelsächsischen
Poesie_, i., 358-373.

[38] For the treaty see Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i.,

[39] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 992, 993. As the betrayer, Alfric, had a
part in the treaty-making of the year before, he may have looked on the
new plans as dishonourable.

[40] _Chronicon_, i., 150-151.

[41] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 994.

[42] Taranger, _Den angelsaksiske Kirkes Indflydelse paa den norske_,

[43] Snorre, _Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, cc. 47-50.

[44] Steenstrup favours the earlier date (_Danmarks Riges Historie_, i.,
371); Munch sees reasons for a later year (_Det norske Folks Historie_,
I., ii., 102).

[45] That serious business was awaiting Sweyn in his own country is
evident from two runic inscriptions that have been found in the Jutish
borderland: the Heathby (or Vedelspang) Stone and the Danework Stone.
The former was raised by "Thorolf, Sweyn's housecarle" in memory of a
companion "who died when brave men were besieging Heathby." The second
was raised by Sweyn himself in memory of Skartha, his housecarle, "who
had fared west to England but now died at Heathby." The expedition to
the West may have been the one that Sweyn undertook in 994. One stone
mentions the siege of Heathby, but Heathby was destroyed shortly before
1000. The siege therefore probably dates from 995 or one of the
following years; but whether the enemy was a part of Eric's forces
cannot be determined. For the inscriptions see Wimmer, _De danske
Runemindesmærker_, I., ii., 113, 117.

[46] Snorre, _Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, cc. 43, 60-61, 91.

[47] _Flateyarbók_, i., 203.

[48] Snorre tells us (_Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, c. 92) that Thyra had
fled from her husband, who is mistakenly called Boleslav, and had come
as a fugitive to Olaf's court. So attractive did she prove to the
sympathetic King that he promptly married her. The account is evidently
largely fiction; there seems to have been a good understanding between
Olaf and Boleslav when the Norse Beet came south in 1000. In the account
given above I have followed Bugge (_Norges Historie_, I., ii., 271).

[49] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 101 (Vigfusson's translation).

[50] The chief authorities on the battle of Swald are Snorre and Adam of
Bremen. There seems also to be an allusion to the fight in an
inscription on a runic monument, the Aarhus Stone, which was raised by
four men, presumably warriors, in memory of a comrade "who died on the
sea to the eastward when the kings were fighting." Wimmer, _De danske
Runemindesmærker_, I., ii., 133

[51] _Norges Historie_, I., ii., 285-286.




During the five years of rivalry between Olaf and Sweyn (995-1000),
England had enjoyed comparative peace. Incursions, indeed, began again
in 997; but these were clearly of the earlier type, not invasions like
the movements led by Olaf and Sweyn. Who the leaders were at this time
we do not know; but the Northern kings were in those years giving and
taking in marriage and busily plotting each other's destruction, so we
conclude that the undertakings continued to be of the private sort, led,
perhaps, by Norse chiefs who had found life in Norway uncongenial after
King Olaf had begun to persecute the heathen worshippers.

The English had now come to realise the importance of the upper Irish
Sea as a rendezvous for all forms of piratical bands; and the need of
aggressive warfare at this point was clearly seen. Accordingly, in the
year 1000, Ethelred collected a fleet and an army and harried the Norse
settlements in Cumberland and on the Isle of Man. The time was
opportune for a movement of this sort, as no reinforcements from the
North could be expected that year. The expedition, however, accomplished
nothing of importance; for the fleet that Ethelred had hoped to
intercept did not return to the western waters but sailed to
Normandy.[52] Ethelred was angry with Duke Richard of Normandy for
sheltering his enemies, and proceeded to attack his duchy with his usual
ill success.[53]

Nevertheless, the hostilities terminated favourably for Ethelred, as the
Norman duke offered his beaten enemy not only peace, but alliance.
Recent events in the North may have caused Richard to reflect. The
diplomacy of Sweyn, culminating in the partition of Norway, had made
Denmark a state of great importance. Sweyn's designs on England were
probably suspected; at any rate, Normandy for the moment seemed willing
to support England. In early spring, 1002, the bond was further
strengthened by a marriage between Ethelred and Duke Richard's sister
Emma, who later married her husband's enemy, the Danish Canute. That
same year England was once more rid of the enemy through the payment of

The prospects for continued peace in England were probably better in
1002 than in any other year since the accession of Ethelred. But toward
the end of the year, all that gold and diplomacy had built up was ruined
by a royal order, the stupidity of which was equalled only by its
criminality. On Saint Brice's Day (November 13), the English rose, not
to battle but to murder. It had been planned on that date to rid the
country of all its Danish inhabitants. How extensive the territory was
that was thus stained with blood, we are not informed; but such an order
could not have been carried out in the Danelaw. In justification of his
act, Ethelred pleaded that he had heard of a Danish conspiracy, directed
not only against his own life, but against the lives of the English
nobility as well.

It is likely that, when England bought peace earlier in the year, a
number of the vikings remained in the land, intending, perhaps, to
settle permanently; such arrangements were by no means unusual. The
massacre of Saint Brice's may, therefore, have had for its object the
extermination of the raiders that came in 1001. But these were not the
only ones slain: among the victims were Gunhild, King Sweyn's sister,
and her husband, the ealdorman Pallig.[55] It is probable that Pallig,
though a Saxon official, was a Dane living among the Danes in some
Scandinavian settlement in South-western England.[56] We are told that
Ethelred had treated him well, had given him lands and honours; but he
did not remain faithful to his lord; only the year before, when the
vikings were in Devon, he joined them with a number of ships. Pallig no
doubt deserved the punishment of a traitor, but it would have been
politic in his case to show mercy. If he was, as has been conjectured
from the form of his name, connected with the family of Palna Toki, the
famous Danish archer and legendary organiser of the Jomburg fraternity,
he was bound to Sweyn by double ties, for Palna Toki was Sweyn's reputed

Sweyn Forkbeard at once prepared to take revenge for the death of his
kinsfolk. The next year (1003), his sails were seen from the cliffs of
the Channel shore. But before proceeding to the attack, he seems to have
visited his Norman friend, Duke Richard the Good. For some reason,
displeasure, perhaps, at the shedding of noble Scandinavian blood on
Saint Brice's Day, the duke was ready to repudiate his alliance with his
English brother-in-law. The two worthies reached the agreement that
Normandy should be an open market for English plunder and a refuge for
the sick and wounded in the Danish host.[58] Evidently Sweyn was
planning an extended campaign.

Having thus secured himself against attacks from the rear, Sweyn
proceeded to Exeter, which was delivered into his hands by its faithless
Norman commander Hugo.[59] In the surrender of Exeter, we should
probably see the first fruit of the new Danish-Norman understanding.
From this city the Danes carried destruction into the southern shires.
The following year (1004), East Anglia was made to suffer. Ulfketel, the
earl of the region, was not prepared to fight and made peace with Sweyn;
but the Danes did not long observe the truce. After they had
treacherously attacked Thetford, the earl gathered his forces and tried
to intercept Sweyn's marauding bands on their way back to the ships; but
though the East Anglians fought furiously, the Danes escaped. The
opposition that Sweyn met in the half-Danish East Anglia seems to have
checked his operations. The next year he left the land.[60]

The forces of evil seemed finally to have spent their strength, for the
years 1007 and 1008 were on the whole comparatively peaceful. Those same
years show considerable energy on the part of the English: in the
Pentecostal season, May, 1008, the King met his "wise men" at Eanham,
and a long legislative enactment saw the light.[61] It was hoped that by
extensive and thorough-going reforms the national vigour might be
restored. Among other things provisions were made for an extensive naval
establishment, based on a contribution that grew into the ship money of
later fame. A large number of ships were actually assembled; but the
treacherous spirit and the jealous conduct of some of the English nobles
soon ruined the efficiency of the fleet; the new navy went to pieces at
a moment when its service was most sorely needed. For in that year,
1009, a most formidable enemy appeared in the Channel: the vikings of
Jom had left their stronghold on the Oder and were soon to re-establish
themselves on the Thames.[62]

For about two decades Sigvaldi ruled at Jomburg; but after the battle of
Swald he disappears from the sagas: all that we learn is that he was
slain on some expedition to England. Perhaps he was one of the victims
of Saint Brice's (1002); or he may have perished in one of the later
raids. His death must, however, be dated earlier than 1009; for in that
year his brother Thurkil came to England, we are told, to take revenge
for a slain brother.[63]

Thurkil's fleet appeared at Sandwich in July. Associated with the tall
Dane was a short, thick-set Norwegian, Olaf the Stout, a young viking of
royal blood who later won renown as the missionary King of Norway and
fell in war against Canute the Great. In August came a second fleet,
under the leadership of Eglaf and Heming, Thurkil's brother. The fleets
joined at Thanet; this time nearly all the southern counties had to
suffer. The host wintered on the lower Thames and during the winter
months plundered the valley up as far as Oxford. Ethelred tried to cut
off its retreat but failed.[64]

During the Lenten weeks the vikings refitted their ships, and on April
9, 1010, they set sail for East Anglia. Ulfketel was still in control of
that region and had made preparations to meet the invader. On May 5, the
Danes met the native levies at Ringmere in the southern part of Norfolk.
The fight was sharp, with final victory for the sea-kings. The English
sources attribute the outcome to the treasonable behaviour of Thurkil
Mareshead, who was evidently a Dane in Ulfketel's service. The Norse
scalds ascribe the result to the valour of Olaf the Stout, who here won
the "sword-moot" for the seventh time.[65]

During the remaining months of the year and all through the following
summer, the vikings rode almost unresisted through Southern England,
plundering everywhere. Finally the King and the "wise men" began to
negotiate for peace on the usual basis. But so often had Danegelds been
levied that it was becoming difficult to collect the money and the
payment was not so prompt as the vikings desired. In their anger they
laid siege to Canterbury, and, after a close investment of twenty days,
by the assistance of an English priest were enabled to seize the city.
Many important citizens were held for ransom, among them the Archbishop
Alphege, who remained a prisoner for nearly six months. His confinement
cannot have been severe; the Prelate was interested in the spiritual
welfare of the Scandinavian pirates, and seems to have begun a mission
among his keepers. But he forbade the payment of a ransom, and after a
drunken orgy the exasperated Danes proceeded to pelt him to death with
the bones of their feast. Thrym, a Dane whom he had confirmed the day
before, gave him the mercy stroke.[66]

During the closing days of the archbishop's life, an assembly of the
magnates in London had succeeded in raising the tribute agreed upon,
48,000 pounds. Not merely were the invaders bought off,--they were
induced to enter Ethelred's service as mercenaries; there must have been
reasons why it would be inadvisable to return to Jomburg. The English
King now had an army of some four thousand or perhaps five thousand men,
a splendid force of professional warriors led by the renowned viking
Thurkil the Tall. According to William of Malmesbury, they were
quartered in East Anglia,[67] which seems plausible, as Wessex must have
been thoroughly pillaged by 1012.

When the year 1013 opened, there were reasons to hope that the miseries
of England were past. For a whole generation the sea-kings had infested
the Channel and the Irish Sea, scourging the shores of Southern Britain
almost every year. Large sums of money had been paid out in the form of
Danegeld, 137,000 pounds silver, but to little purpose: the enemy
returned each year as voracious as ever. Now, however, the pirate had
undertaken to defend the land. The presence of Danish mercenaries was
doubtless an inconvenience, but this would be temporary only. It was to
be expected that, as in the days of Alfred, the enemy would settle down
as an occupant of the soil, and in time become a subject instead of a
mercenary soldier.

But just at this moment, an invasion of a far more serious nature was
being prepared in Denmark. In the councils of Roeskild Sweyn Forkbeard
was asking his henchmen what they thought of renewing the attack on
England. The question suggested the answer: to the King's delight
favourable replies came from all. It is said that Sweyn consulted his
son Canute with the rest; and the eager youth strongly urged the
undertaking.[68] This is the earliest act on Canute's part that any
historian has recorded. In 1012, he was perhaps seventeen years old; he
had reached the age when a Scandinavian prince should have entered upon
an active career. His great rival of years to come, Olaf the Stout, who
can have been only two years older than Canute, had already sailed the
dragon for six or seven years. It is likely that the young Dane had also
experienced the thrills of viking life, but on this matter the sagas are
silent. But it is easy to see why Canute should favour the proposed
venture: as a younger son he could not hope for the Danish crown. The
conquest of England might mean not only fame and plundered wealth, but
perhaps a realm to govern as well.

The considerations that moved the King to renew the attempts at conquest
were no doubt various; but the deciding factor was evidently the
defection of Thurkil and the Jomvikings. An ecclesiastic who later wrote
a eulogy on Queen Emma and her family discusses the situation in this

     Thurkil, they said, the chief of your forces, O King, departed with
     your permission that he might take revenge for a brother who had
     been slain there, and led with him a large part of your host. Now
     that he rejoices in victory and in the possession of the southern
     part of the country, he prefers to remain there as an exile and a
     friend of the English whom he has conquered by your hand, to
     returning with the host in submission to you and ascribing the
     victory to yourself. And now we are defrauded of our companions and
     of forty ships which he sailed to England laden with the best
     warriors of Denmark.[69]

So the advice was to seize, the English kingdom as well as the Danish
deserter. No great difficulty was anticipated, as Thurkil's men would
probably soon desert to the old standards.

The customs of the Northmen demanded that an undertaking of this order
should first be approved by the public assembly, and the Encomiast tells
us that Sweyn at once proceeded to summon the freemen. Couriers were
sent in every direction, and at the proper time the men appeared, each
with his weapons as the law required. When the heralds announced the
nature of the proposed undertaking--not a mere raid with plunder in view
but the conquest of an important nation--the host gave immediate

In many respects the time was exceedingly favourable for the
contemplated venture. A large part of England was disposed to be
friendly; the remainder was weak from continued pillage. Denmark was
strong and aggressive, eager to follow the leadership of her warlike
king. Sweyn's older son, Harold, had now reached manhood, and could
with comparative safety be left in control of the kingdom. Denmark's
neighbours in the North were friendly: Sweyn's vassal and son-in-law
controlled the larger part of Norway; his stepson, Olaf, ruled in
Sweden. Nor was anything to be feared from the old enemies to the south.
The restless vikings of Jom were in England. The lord of Poland was
engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the Empire. The Saxon dynasty,
which had naturally had Northern interests, no longer dominated Germany;
a Bavarian, Henry II., now sat on the throne of the Ottos. In the very
year of Sweyn's invasion of England, the German King journeyed to Italy
to settle one of the numberless disputes that the Roman see was involved
in during the tenth and eleventh centuries. He remained in Italy till
the next year (1014), when the victorious Pope rewarded him with the
imperial crown.

Something in the form of a regency was provided for the Danish realm
during Sweyn's absence. Harold seems to have received royal authority
without the royal title. Associated with him were a few trusted magnates
who were to give "sage advice," but also, it seems, to watch over the
interests of the absent monarch.[70] A part of the host was left in
Denmark; but the greater part of the available forces evidently
accompanied the King to England.

About midsummer (1013), the fleet was ready to sail. The Encomiast, who
had evidently seen Danish ships, gives a glowing description of the
armament, which apart from rhetorical exaggeration probably gives a
fairly accurate picture of an eleventh-century viking fleet of the more
pretentious type. He notes particularly the ornamentation along the
sides of the ships, bright and varied in colours; the vanes at the tops
of the masts in the forms of birds or of dragons with fiery nostrils;
and the figureheads at the prows: carved figures of men, red with gold
or white with silver, or of bulls with necks erect, or of dolphins,
centaurs, or other beasts. The royal ship was, of course, splendid above
all the rest.[71]

The customary route of the Danish vikings followed the Frisian coast to
the south-eastern part of England, the shires of Kent and Sussex.
Ordinarily, the fleets would continue the journey down the Channel,
plundering the shore lands and sending out larger parties to harry the
interior. Sweyn had developed a different plan: Wessex was to be
attacked from the old Danelaw. Following the ancient route, his ships
appeared at Sandwich on the Kentish coast early in August. Sandwich was
at this time a place of considerable importance, being the chief port in
Southern England.[72] Here Sweyn and Canute remained for a few days, but
soon the fleet turned swiftly northwards up the eastern coast to the
Humber. Sweyn entered and sailed up this river till he came to the
mouth of the Trent, which stream he ascended as far as Gainsborough.
Here his men disembarked and preparations were made for the war.

Sweyn had evidently counted on a friendly reception in the Scandinavian
settlements of the Danelaw, and he was not disappointed. Recruits
appeared and his forces increased materially. Uhtred, the earl of
Northumbria, who was probably of Norse ancestry, soon found it to his
advantage to do homage to the invader. Sweyn's lordship was also
accepted by "the folk of Lindsey, and afterwards by the folk in the Five
Boroughs, and very soon by all the host north of Watling Street, and
hostages were given by every shire."[73] In addition to hostages, Sweyn
demanded horses and provisions for the host.

The summer was probably past before Sweyn was ready to proceed against
Ethelred. But finally, some time in September or a little later, having
concluded all the necessary preliminaries, he gave the ships and the
hostages into the keeping of his son Canute, and led his mounted army
southward across the Midlands with Winchester, the residence city of the
English kings, as the objective point. So long as he was still within
the Danelaw, Sweyn permitted no pillaging; but "as soon as he had
crossed Watling Street, he worked as great evil as a hostile force was
able." The Thames was crossed at Oxford, which city promptly
submitted and gave hostages. Winchester, too, seems to have yielded
without a struggle. From the capital Sweyn proceeded eastward to London,
where he met the first effective resistance.

[Illustration: THE TULSTORP STONE. (Runic monument showing viking ship
ornamented with beasts' heads.)]

In London was King Ethelred supported by Thurkil the Tall and his viking
bands. It seems that Olaf the Stout had entered the English service with
Thurkil the year before, and did valiant service in defence of the city;
the story given by Snorre of the destruction of London Bridge apparently
belongs to the siege of 1013 rather than to that of 1009. Sweyn
approached the city from the south, seized Southwark, and tried to enter
London by way of the bridge, which the Danes had taken and fortified. It
is said that Olaf the Stout undertook to destroy the bridge. He covered
his ships with wattle-work of various sorts, willow roots, supple trees,
and other things that might be twisted or woven; and thus protected from
missiles that might be hurled down from above, the ships passed up the
stream to the bridge, the supports of which Olaf and his men proceeded
to pull down. The whole structure crashed into the river and with it
went a large number of Sweyn's men,[74] who drowned, says the
Chronicler, "because they neglected the bridge."

Sweyn soon realised that a continued siege would be useless: the season
was advancing; the resistance of the citizens was too stubborn and
strong. For the fourth time the heroic men of London had the
satisfaction of seeing a Danish force break camp and depart with a
defeated purpose: the first time in 991; then again in 994 when Sweyn
and Olaf Trygvesson laid siege to it; the third time in 1009, when
Thurkil the Tall and Olaf the Stout were the besiegers; now once more in
1013. The feeling that the city was impregnable was doubtless a factor
in the stubborn determination with which the townsmen repelled the
repeated attacks of the Danish invaders, though at this time the skill
and valour of the viking mercenaries were an important part of the

Leaving London unconquered, Sweyn marched up the Thames Valley to
Wallingford, where he crossed to the south bank, and continued his
progress westward to Bath. Nowhere, it seems, did he meet any
mentionable opposition. To Bath came the magnates of the south-western
shires led by Ethelmer who was apparently ealdorman of Devon; they took
the oaths that the conqueror prescribed and gave the required hostages.
From Bath, Sweyn returned to his camp at Gainsborough; it was time to
prepare for winter. Tribute and provisions were demanded and doubtless
collected, and the host went into winter quarters on the banks of the
Trent. "And all the nation had him [Sweyn] for full king; and later the
borough-men of London submitted to him and gave hostages; for they
feared that he would destroy them."[75]

The submission of London probably did not come before Ethelred's
cowardly behaviour had ruined the hopes of the patriots: he had fled the
land. Earlier in the year (in August, according to one authority)[76]
Queen Emma, accompanied by the abbot of Peterborough, had crossed the
Channel, and sought the court of her brother, the Norman duke. Whether
she went to seek military aid or merely a refuge cannot be determined;
but the early departure and the fact that she was not accompanied by her
children would indicate that her purpose was to enlist her brother's
interest in Ethelred's cause. Assistance, however, was not forthcoming;
but Emma remained in Richard's duchy and a little later was joined by
her two sons, Edward and Alfred, who came accompanied by two English
ecclesiastics. Ethelred, meanwhile, continued some weeks longer with
Thurkil's fleet; but toward the close of December we find him on the
Isle of Wight, where he celebrated Christmas. In January, he joined his
family in Normandy. Duke Richard gave him an honourable reception; but
as he was having serious trouble with another brother-in-law, Count Odo
of Chartres, he was probably unable to give much material assistance to
the fugitive from England.

Ethelred's flight must have left Thurkil and the Jomvikings in a
somewhat embarrassing position. They had undertaken to serve the King
and defend his country; but now Ethelred had deserted the kingdom, and
his subjects had accepted the rule of the invader. In January, however,
the sea is an unpleasant highway, so there was nothing for the tall
chief to do but to remain faithful and insist on the terms of the
contract. While Sweyn was calling for silver and supplies to be brought
to Gainsborough, Thurkil seems to have been issuing similar demands from
Greenwich. No doubt his men were also able to eke out their winter
supplies by occasional plundering: "they harried the land as often as
they wished."[77]

Then suddenly an event occurred that created an entirely new situation.
On February 3, 1014, scarcely a month after Ethelred's departure from
Wight, the Danish conqueror died. As to his manner of death, the
Chronicle has nothing to say; but later historians appear to be better
informed. The Encomiast, who was indeed Sweyn's contemporary, gives an
account of a very edifying death: when Sweyn felt that the end of all
things was approaching, he called Canute to his side and impressed upon
him the necessity of following and supporting the Christian faith.[78]
The Anglo-Norman historians have an even more wonderful story to relate:
in the midst of a throng of his henchmen and courtiers, the mighty
viking fell, pierced by the dart of Saint Edmund. Sweyn alone saw the
saint; he screamed for help; at the close of the day he expired. It
seems that a dispute was on at the time over a contribution that King
Sweyn had levied on the monks who guarded Saint Edmund's shrine.[79] The
suddenness of the King's death was therefore easily explained: the
offended saint slew him.

If it is difficult to credit the legend that traces the King's death to
an act of impiety, it is also hard to believe that he died in the odour
of sanctity. Sweyn was a Christian, but his religion was of the passive
type. He is said to have built a few churches, and he also appears to
have promoted missionary efforts to some extent[80]; but the Church
evidently regarded him as rather lukewarm in his religious professions.
The see of Hamburg-Bremen, which was charged with the conversion of the
Northern peoples, did not find him an active friend; though in this case
his hostility may have been due to his dislike for all things that were
called German.

Sweyn's virtues were of the viking type: he was a lover of action, of
conquest, and of the sea. At times he was fierce, cruel, and vindictive;
but these passions were tempered by cunning, shrewdness, and a love for
diplomatic methods that were not common among the sea-kings. He seems to
have formed alliances readily, and appears even to have attracted his
opponents. His career, too, was that of a viking. Twice he was taken by
the Jomvikings, but his faithful subjects promptly ransomed him. Once
the King of Sweden, Eric the Victorious, conquered his kingdom and sent
him into temporary exile. Twice as a king he led incursions into England
in which he gained only the sea-king's reward of plunder and tribute.
But in time fortune veered about; his third expedition to Britain was
eminently successful, and when Sweyn died, he was king not only of
Denmark but also of England, and overlord of the larger part of Norway

As to his personality, we have only the slight information implied in
his nickname. Forkbeard means the divided beard. But the evident
popularity that he enjoyed both in the host and in the nation would
indicate that he possessed an attractive personality. That Sweyn
appreciated the loyalty of his men is evident from the runic monument
that he raised to his housecarle Skartha who had shared in the English

By his first-wife, the Polish princess who was renamed Gunhild, Sweyn
had several children, of whom history makes prominent mention of three:
Harold, Canute, and Gytha, who was married to Earl Eric of Norway. In
the Hyde _Register_ there is mention of another daughter, Santslaue,
"sister of King Canute,"[82] who may have been born of the same
marriage, as her name is evidently Slavic. His second wife, Sigrid the
Haughty, seems to have had daughters only. Of these only one appears
prominently in the annals of the time--Estrid, the wife of Ulf the Earl,
the mother of a long line of Danish kings.

At the time of his death Sweyn is thought to have been about fifty-four
years old and had ruled Denmark nearly thirty years. His body was taken
to York for interment, but it did not remain there long. The English did
not cherish Sweyn's memory, and seemed determined to find and dishonour
his remains. Certain women--English women, it appears--rescued the
corpse and brought it to Roeskild some time during the following summer
(1014)[83], where it was interred in the Church of the Holy Trinity,
which also sheltered the bones of Sweyn's father whom he had wronged so
bitterly thirty years before.


[52] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1000.

[53] William of Jumièges, _Historia Normannorum_, v., c. 4.

[54] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1002.

[55] Richard of Cirencester, _Speculum Historiale_, ii., 147-148.

[56] As there seems to have been a Danish settlement in the Severn
Valley, it seems probable that Pallig's home was in that region.

[57] The story of Palna Toki is told in various sagas, particularly
_Jómsvikingasaga_. Of his exploits in archery Saxo has an account in his
tenth book. Having once boasted that no apple was too small for his
arrow to find, he was surprised by an order from the King that he should
shoot an arrow from his son's head. The archer was reluctant to display
his skill in this fashion, but the shot was successful. It is also told
that Palna Toki had provided himself with additional arrows which he had
intended for the King in case the first had stricken the child. Saxo
wrote a century before the time of the supposed Tell episode.

[58] William of Jumièges, _Historia Normannorum_, v., c. 7.

[59] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1003.

[60] _Ibid._, 1004-1005.

[61] Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 246-256.

[62] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1009.

[63] _Encomium Emmæ_, i., c. 2. It is barely possible that the brother
was Gyrth, whose name appears on a runic monument (Wimmer, _De danske
Runemindesmærker_, I., ii., 138 ff.). But in the absence of information
to the contrary we shall have to assume that Gyrth was buried where his
monument was placed and was therefore not the brother who fell in

[64] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 160-161.

[65] _Ibid._, 160-163. Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 14. Storm in his
translation of Snorre (Christiania, 1900) locates Ringmere in East
Wretham, Norfolk, (p. 239).

[66] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1011. Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_,
i., 163-165.

[67] _Gesta Regum_, i., 207.

[68] _Encomium Emmæ_, i., c. 3.

[69] _Encomium Emmæ_, i., c. 2.

[70] _Encomium Emmæ_, i., c. 3.

[71] _Encomium Emmæ_, i., c. 4.

[72] _Ibid._, i., c. 5.

[73] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1013.

[74] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc. 12-13. The story in the saga has
the appearance of genuineness and is based on the contemporary verses of
Ottar the Swart. Snorre's chronology, however, is much confused.

[75] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1013.

[76] William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, i., 209.

[77] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1013.

[78] _Encomium Emmæ_, i., c. 5; see also Saxo, _Gesta_, 342.

[79] _Memorials of Saint Edmund's Abbey_, i., 34 ff.

[80] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 39.

[81] Wimmer, _De danske Runemindesmærker_, I., ii., 117.

[82] _Liber Vitæ_, 58. Steenstrup suggests that the name may be Slavic
and calls attention to the Slavic form Svantoslava (_Venderne og de
Danske_, 64-65).

[83] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 3. The rescue and removal of Sweyn's
remains by English women is asserted by the contemporary German
chronicler Thietmar (_Chronicon_, vii., c. 26).



The death of Sweyn was the signal for important movements throughout the
entire North. Forces that had been held in rein by his mighty
personality were once more free to act. In Denmark, his older son Harold
succeeded at once to the full kingship. Three years later a national
ruler re-established the Norwegian throne. But in England the results
were most immediate and most evident: the national spirit rose with a
bound and for three years more the struggle with the invader continued.

The host at Gainsborough promptly recognised the leadership of Canute
and proclaimed him king. This, however, gave him no valid claim to the
Saxon crown; England was, in theory at least, an elective monarchy, and
not till the assembly of the magnates had accepted him could he
rightfully claim the royal title. The Danish pretender was young and
untried--he was probably not yet twenty years old. He must, however,
have had some training in matters of government as well as in warfare:
that his great father trusted him is evident from the fact that he left
him in charge of the camp and fleet at Gainsborough, when Sweyn set out
on his march into Wessex. Doubtless the Danes surmised that the youthful
chief possessed abilities of a rare sort; but the English evidently
regarded him as a mere boy whose pretensions did not deserve serious

During the winter months of 1014, the most prominent leader among the
English was evidently Thurkil, the master of the mercenary forces. It
seems safe to infer that he had much to do with the events of those
months, though we have nothing recorded. In some way the English lords
were called into session; at this meeting preparations were made to
recall the fugitive Ethelred. No lord could be dearer to them than their
native ruler, the magnates are reported to have said; but they added
significantly, "if he would deal more justly with them than
formerly."[84] The lords who attended this gemot were probably the local
leaders south of the Thames; that the chiefs of the Danelaw were in
attendance is very unlikely.

Ethelred, however, was not willing to leave Normandy immediately. He
first sent an embassy to England under the nominal leadership of his son
Edward; these men were to negotiate further, and probably study the
sentiment of the nation. Edward was a mere boy, ten or eleven years old
at the highest; but his presence was important as evidence of the King's
intentions. The Prince brought friendly greetings and fair promises:
Ethelred would be a kind and devoted king; all the requests of the
magnates should be granted; the past should be forgiven and forgotten.
The English on their part pledged absolute loyalty; and, to emphasise
the covenant, the assembly outlawed all Danish claimants. Sweyn had died
in the early part of February; the negotiations were probably carried on
in March; Ethelred returned to England some time during Lent, most
likely in April, as the Lenten season closed on the 25th of that month.

The moment to strike had surely come. Canute was in England with a good
army, but his forces doubtless had decreased in numbers since the
landing in the previous August, and further shrinkage was inevitable. On
the other hand, recruiting would be found difficult. The inevitable
break-up of Sweyn's empire in the North would mean that the invader
would be deprived of resources that were necessary to the success of the
venture. Nor could assistance be expected from the Scandinavian colonies
on the western shores of Britain or about the Irish Sea. In the very
days when the reaction was being planned in England, Celts and Norsemen
were mustering their forces for a great trial of strength on Irish soil.
On Good Friday (April 23), the battle of Clontarf was fought on the
shores of Dublin Bay.[85] The Norsemen suffered an overwhelming defeat,
the significance of which, for English history, lies in the fact that
the viking forces of the West had now been put on the defensive. Raids
like those of the early years of Ethelred's reign were now a thing of
the past.

Meanwhile, Canute had not been idle. For aggressive movements the winter
season was, of course, not favourable; but preparations seem to have
been made looking toward offensive operations immediately after Easter.
The men of Lindsey, Danish colonists no doubt, had promised horses and
were apparently to share in a joint expedition. But before Canute's
arrangements had all been made, Ethelred appeared in the north country
with a formidable host, and Canute was compelled to retire to his ships.
The men of Lincoln were made to suffer for their readiness to join in
Canute's plans: Ethelred marched his men into the Lindsey region, and
pillage began.

It was hardly an English army that Ethelred brought up to the Trent in
May, 1014. Englishmen no doubt served in it; but its chief strength was
probably the mercenary contingent under Thurkil's command, which, as we
have seen, had wintered at Greenwich. It was fortunate for Ethelred that
an organised force was at hand on his return and ready for warfare. Its
service, however, was expensive: that year another Danegeld of 21,000
pounds was levied to pay Thurkil and his vikings for their assistance in
driving Canute out of the land.[86]

But Thurkil was not the only great chief of the viking type that
assisted in expelling the Danes: Olaf the Stout once more appears in
Ethelred's service. It will be recalled that, in the siege of London the
autumn before, he assisted vigorously in its defence. He seems to have
left the English service shortly afterwards to assist in warfare on
French soil. Duke Richard of Normandy was engaged in a controversy with
his brother-in-law, Count Odo of Chartres, on the matter of his sister's
dowry. In the warfare that ensued, Olaf, serving on the Norman side,
ravaged the northern coast of Brittany and took the castle of Dol. This
must have occurred late in the year 1013 or during the winter of
1013-1014. When, on the mediation of King Robert, peace was made between
the warring brethren, Olaf returned to Rouen, where he was received with
signal honours. It was probably on this occasion that the mighty
Sea-king, on the urgent request of Archbishop Robert, accepted the
Christian faith and received baptism. It is stated that many of his men
were baptised at the same time.[87]

In Rouen, Olaf evidently met the fugitive Ethelred; for when the King
returned to England, Olaf accompanied him. Instead of coming as a
returning exile, Ethelred appeared in his kingdom with ships and men.
The Norse poets, who later sang in King Olaf's hall, magnified his
viking exploits far beyond their real importance. In their view, Olaf
was Ethelred's chief support. Snorre quotes the following lines from
Ottar the Swart:

     Thou broughtst to land and landedst,
     King Ethelred, O Landward,
     Strengthened by might! That folk-friend
     Such wise of thee availèd.

     Hard was the meeting soothly,
     When Edmund's son thou broughtest
     Back to his land made peaceful,
     Which erst that kin-stem rulèd.[88]

The emergency was too great for Canute. With the generalship of
experienced warriors like Thurkil and Olaf, supported by the resources
of a roused people, he could not be expected to cope. Presently, he
determined to flee the country. His men embarked, and the hostages given
to his father (some of them at least) were also brought on board. The
fleet sailed down the east coast to Sandwich, where an act of barbarity
was committed for which there can be little justification. The hostages
were mutilated--their hands, ears, and noses were cut off--and landed.
The men were personal pledges given to Sweyn, but not to his son.
Canute, however, probably looked at the matter in a different light; to
him they may have seemed a pledge given to the dynasty; terror must be
stricken into the hearts of the oath-breakers. After disposing of the
hostages, the young King continued his journey to Denmark.

What Canute's plans were when he arrived in his native land we do not
know. According to the Encomiast, he assured his surprised brother that
he had returned, not because of fear, but for love of his brother, whose
advice and assistance he bespoke. But he requested more than this:
Harold, he thought, ought to share Denmark with him; the two kings
should then proceed with the conquest of England; when that was
accomplished, there might be a new division of territory on the basis of
a kingdom for each. He proposed to spend the succeeding winter in
preparation for the joint attack.[89]

The proposal to share the rule of Denmark evidently did not appeal to
King Harold; he is represented as stoutly rejecting it. Denmark was his,
given to him by his father before he left for England. He would assist
Canute to win a kingdom in Britain, but not a foot should he have of
Denmark. Realising the futility of insisting, Canute promised to
maintain silence as to his supposed hereditary rights to Danish soil. He
put his trust in God, the good monk adds; and the Encomiast was perhaps
not the only one who regarded Harold's early death as a providential

The problem of Norway was one that the brothers must have discussed,
though we do not know what disposition they made of the Danish rights
there. In addition to the overlordship over at least a part of Eric's
earldom, Sweyn had had direct royal authority over the southern shores,
though it is not believed that he exercised this authority very rigidly.
There is a single circumstance that suggests that Norway was assigned to
Canute: when the young prince called on his brother-in-law, Earl Eric,
to assist him in England, the Norse ruler seems to have obeyed the
summons without question.[90]

During the course of the year, the two brothers united in certain acts
of a filial nature, one of which is worthy of particular notice.
Together they proceeded to the Slavic coast, Poland most likely, where
their mother, Queen Gunhild, was still in exile. After twenty years, she
was restored to her honours at the Danish court. Sigrid the Haughty had
evidently taken leave of earthly things; for peace and good-will
continued between the Swedish and Danish courts, an impossible
condition with Sigrid in retirement and her old rival in the high-seat.
That same year the brothers gave Christian burial to the remains of
their father Sweyn.[91]

We are told that Canute continued his preparations for a descent upon
England; still, it may be doubted whether he actually had serious hope
of conquering the country at that time. Then suddenly there occurred in
England a series of events that placed the fate of Ethelred in Canute's

The saga that relates the exploits of the Jomvikings tells somewhat
explicitly of an English attack on two corps of "thingmen," as the
Danish mercenaries were called in Northern speech, the corps in London
and Slesswick.[92] The latter locality has not been identified, but it
seems hardly necessary to seek it far north of the Thames--the saga
locates it north of London. It is asserted that the massacre was planned
by Ulfketel, and that in Slesswick it was thoroughly carried out: from
this we may infer that the place was in East Anglia, or Ulfkellsland, as
the scalds called it. The garrisons, we are told, were located by Sweyn;
this is doubtless an error,--the corps were probably divisions of the
viking forces in Ethelred's service. No doubt there were other similar
corps, for Thurkil was apparently connected with neither of the two.

Canute was out of the country and no hostile force was in sight. There
could then be small need of retaining the thingmen who were furthermore
a source of expense, perhaps of danger. As in 1002, it was determined to
fall upon them and slay them. If it is true that Thurkil's men were
originally quartered in East Anglia,[93] we can readily understand why
Ulfketel might take the lead in such an undertaking. In London, where
resistance had been so persistent and successful, the mercenaries must
have been regarded with strong aversion. It was planned to strike during
the Yule festivities when the vikings would probably not be in the best
possible state of vigour and sobriety. In London armed men were smuggled
into the stronghold in waggons that were ostensibly laden with
merchandise for the midwinter market. But the corps was warned in time
by a woman who wished to save her lover Thord. Eilif, who was in command
here, escaped to Denmark. In Slesswick, the plan succeeded, none
escaping; among the fallen was the chief, Heming, the brother of Thurkil
the Tall. The attack is thought to have been made some time during the
early part of January, 1015.[94]

It is evident that something of a serious nature occurred in England in
those days, and while some of the details in the saga tale are probably
fictitious, in substance the account is perhaps correct. Heming
disappears from the English sources, while Eilif is prominent in English
politics for another decade. Most significant of all, a few weeks later
Thurkil appears in Denmark to urge upon Canute the desirability of an
immediate attack on England. He now had another brother to avenge.
Thurkil's desertion of the English cause must have done much to
stimulate Danish ambition. Help was secured from Olaf of Sweden. Eric,
the Norse earl, was also summoned to the host. Great preparations must
have gone forward in Denmark, for all writers agree that Canute's fleet,
when it finally sailed, was immense in the number of ships. Thurkil's
position in Denmark appears to have been a trifle uncertain at first.
Canute could hardly be expected to give cordial greeting to a man who
had recently sent him out of England in full flight; but after some
discussion the two were reconciled, and Thurkil joined the

In all the North there was none more famous for successful leadership in
warfare than Earl Eric of Norway. He had fought in the battles of
Hjörunga Bay and Swald; in both these encounters the highest honours
were his. It is, therefore, not strange that Canute was anxious to have
his assistance. Eric was no longer young and had no direct interest in
the proposed venture; still, when the mandate came, he showed no
reluctance, so far as we know. He called together the magnates of the
realm and arranged for a division of his earldom between his brother
Sweyn and his young son Hakon.[96] It need not be assumed that Eric at
this time made a final surrender of his own rights; most likely it was
the administration during the period of his absence only that was
provided for in this way.

As Hakon was yet but a youth, Eric gave him a guardian in his kinsman,
the famous Thronder chief, Einar Thongshaker. In his day, Einar was the
best archer in Norway; hence his nickname, the one who makes the
bow-thong tremble. He, too, had fought at Swald, but on King Olaf's
ship; twice did his arrow seek Eric's life; the third time he drew the
bow it was struck by a hostile shaft, and broke. "What broke?" asked the
King. "Norway from your hands," replied the confident archer.[97] After
Eric and his brother had become rulers in Norway, they made peace with
Einar, married him to their sister, the generous Bergljot, and endowed
him greatly with lands and influence. Of the three men to whom Norway
was now committed, he was clearly the ablest, if not of the greatest

Turning again to England, we find a situation developing that was
anything but promising. Some time during the first half of the year, a
gemot was summoned to meet at Oxford, near the border of the Danelaw.
Evidently an attempt was to be made in the direction of a closer union
between the North and the South. Among others who attended were two
Scandinavian nobles from the Seven Boroughs, Sigeferth and Morcar. So
far as names show the nationality of the bearers, they might be either
Angles or Northmen; but the name of their father, Arngrim, is
unmistakably Norse. During the sessions of the gemot, the brothers were
accused of treason and slain in the house of Eadric, the Mercian
earl.[98] The result was a riot; the followers of the murdered men
called for revenge, but were repulsed and driven into the tower of Saint
Frideswide's Church, which the English promptly burned. Such a violation
of the right of sanctuary could not be overlooked even in those
impassioned times; and only through penance on the part of the luckless
King was the stain removed.[99]

The sources are at one in laying the blame for this trouble on Earl
Eadric. William of Malmesbury says that he desired the wealth of the two
Danes, and we find that Ethelred actually did exact forfeiture. But it
may also be that Eadric was endeavouring to extend and consolidate his
Mercian earldom; to do this he would have to devise some method to
deprive the Seven Boroughs of their peculiarly independent position in
the Danelaw or Danish Mercia. Whatever his purpose, he seems to have
had the approval of the ill-counselled King.

Sigeferth's widow, Aldgyth, was taken as a prisoner to Malmesbury, where
Edmund, Ethelred's virile son, saw her and was attracted by her. But
Ethelred objected to his son's matrimonial plans; the reasons are not
recorded, but one of them, at least, can be readily inferred: callous of
heart as the old King doubtless was, he probably did not enjoy the
thought of having in his household as daughter-in-law a woman who could
not help but be a constant reminder of a deed that was treacherous,
stupid, and criminal. Passion, however, was strong in Edmund Ironside;
he married the widow in spite of his father's veto; more than that, he
demanded her slain husband's forfeited official position. Ethelred again
refused, whereupon the Prince proceeded to the Danish strongholds and
took possession.[100]

Edmund's act was that of a rebel; but in the Danelaw it was probably
regarded in large part as proper vengeance. Thus fuel was added to the
old fire that burned in the hearts of Dane and Saxon. The spirit of
rebellion, so general in the kingdom, had now appeared in the royal
family itself. Most significant of all, the Prince had probably thwarted
a great ambition: how much of Mercia was under Eadric's control at this
time we do not know; but a man of the ealdorman's type could scarcely
be satisfied with anything less than the whole. And here was the King's
son actually governing the strongholds of the earldom. Would he not in
time supplant the low-born Eadric? We have in these transactions the
most plausible explanation of Eadric's treachery a little later, when
Canute was again in the land.

It was late in the summer,--some time between August 15th and September
8th, according to Florence of Worcester,--when Edmund appeared as
claimant in the Danelaw. Those very same weeks must have seen the
departure of Canute's fleet from Denmark. The expedition that now
arrived in England was a most formidable one; statements vary as to the
number of ships[101] and we know nothing as to the strength of the host;
but it seems likely that twenty thousand men is not an extreme estimate.
The entire North assisted in its make-up, though it may be that the
Norse contingent under Earl Eric did not arrive till later in the
year.[102] The distance to the earl's garth in the Thronder country was
long; the Norwegian chiefs lived scattered and apart; a large force
could, therefore, not be collected in haste.

Again the Encomiast seizes the opportunity to describe a Northern
fleet. He mentions particularly the gleaming weapons of the warriors on
board; the flaming shields that hung along the gunwales; the figureheads
bright with silver and gold--figures of lions, of men with threatening
faces, of fiery dragons, and of bulls with gilded horns. And he asks who
could look upon such an armament and not fear the King at whose bidding
it came. The warriors, too, were carefully selected:

     Moreover, in the whole force there could be found no serf, no
     freedman, none of ignoble birth, none weak with old age. All were
     nobles, all vigorous with the strength of complete manhood, fit for
     all manner of battle, and so swift on foot that they despised the
     fleetness of cavalry.[103]

There is evidently some exaggeration here; the numerous "nobles" were
probably plain freemen; still, it is clear that Canute led a valiant,
well-equipped host.

But Canute was not the only adventurer who sailed in quest of kingship
in 1015. While the youthful Prince was mustering his fleet in the
straits of Denmark, Olaf the Stout was in Britain preparing to sail for
Norway on a similar errand--to win a crown. But here all similarity
ceases; two merchant ships and fewer than two hundred men made up the
force that began the Norse revolt. Still, Olaf Haroldsson, too, was
successful and bore the crown of Norway till he fell in war with Canute
in 1030.

After the expulsion of the Danes from England the year before, Olaf
seems to have returned to piracy; there is some evidence that he took
part in an expedition of this sort along the coasts of Gaul as far as
Aquitaine. On his return he seems to have visited Normandy, where he may
have learned of Canute's intentions and preparations. The probability is
strong that he was also informed of the part that Eric was to have in
the venture, for he seems carefully to have timed his departure so as to
reach Norway just after the earl had left the country to join Canute. He
first sailed to England, stayed for a time in Northumberland, where he
made the necessary preparations, and thence proceeded to the west coast
of Norway.[104]

Fortune smiled on the bold adventurer. Soon after he had landed he
learned that Hakon was in the neighbourhood and set out to capture him.
In this he was successful: Olaf's ships were merchant ships, and the
young unsuspecting earl rowed into a sound where the enemy was waiting
for him and passed in between the supposed merchant vessels. Olaf had
stretched a rope from ship to ship, and when the earl's boat was
directly between them, Olaf's men pulled the rope till Hakon's boat
capsized. The young chief and a few of his followers were saved. Olaf
gave him quarter on condition that he should leave Norway, surrender
his rights to sovereignty, and swear never more to fight against his
stout opponent. Hakon took the required oaths and was permitted to
depart. He hastened to England and reported the matter to his uncle
Canute. But the English campaign had only fairly begun, so Canute was in
no position to interfere. Hakon remained long with Canute, and in time
was invested with an English earldom.[105]

Meanwhile, the Danish fleet had arrived at Sandwich; but from Kent,
Canute did not sail north to his former friends in the Humber lands; he
reverted to the old viking practices of harrying the Southwest, Dorset,
Wilts and Somerset.[106] Whether this was his original plan cannot be
known: it may be that the news of Edmund's activity in the Danelaw was
to some extent responsible for this move. It was now autumn of the year
1015; but if England hoped that the host would soon follow viking
customs and retire into winter quarters, the country was doomed to
bitter disappointment; for the enemy now had a leader who saw no need of
rest, who struck in winter as well as in summer.

Canute also differed from earlier chiefs in his ideas of conduct on the
battle-field. The viking band, as a development of the Teutonic
comitatus, was naturally inspired with its ideas of honour and valour.
When the challenge to combat had been accepted, it was the duty of the
warrior to conquer or perish with his leader; and it was the chief's
duty to set an honourable example for his men. It was this spirit that
animated King Olaf Trygvesson at Swald when his men urged the
feasibility of flight before the battle had really begun. "Strike the
sails," he commanded. "My men shall not think of flight; never have I
fled from combat."[107]

The young Dane brought no such ideas to the campaign that he was now on
the point of beginning. Being by race more a Slav than a Dane, it may be
that he did not readily acquire Germanic ideas. His training with the
Jomvikings, perhaps in his early youth, at least now in his British
camp, where veterans from Jom were numerous and Thurkil the Tall was the
chief warrior, ran counter to such notions. The Jomvikings would
retreat, sometimes they would even take to flight, as we infer from a
runic inscription that reads like a rebuke for cowardly retreat.[108]

[Illustration: THE HÄLLESTAD STONE.]

To add to the difficulties of England, Ethelred was stricken with an
illness that ended his life a few months later. The hope of England now
lay in the rebellious Edmund, who was still in the North country. He and
Eadric were both gathering forces in Mercia; but when they joined
disagreements seem to have arisen; for soon the Earl again played the
traitor, deserted the Etheling, and with "forty ships" repaired to
Canute and joined his host.

In the language of the day, the term "ship" did not necessarily refer to
an actual sea-going craft; it was often used as a rude form of reckoning
military forces, somewhat less than one hundred men, perhaps. It has
been thought that Eadric's deserters were the remnant of Ethelred's
Danish mercenary force[109]; but it is unlikely that so many vikings
still remained in the English service. The chances are that they were
Mercians, possibly Danish Mercians. Wessex now gave up the fight,
accepted Canute as king, and provided horses for the invading army.

It must have been about Christmas time when Eadric marched his men down
into the South to join the Danes. A few days later the restless Prince,
with Eadric in his train, started northward, crossed the Thames at
Cricklade in Wiltshire, and proceeded toward the Warwick country. Edmund
had apparently come south to meet him, but the militia were an unwilling
band. They suddenly became sticklers for legal form and regularity, and
refused to go on without the presence of the King and the aid of London.
As neither was forthcoming, the English dispersed. Once more the summons
went abroad, and once more the men insisted that the King must be in
personal command: let him come with what forces he could muster.
Ethelred came, but the hand of death was upon him. Evidently the old
King had neither courage nor strength. Whispers of treason came to him:
"that they who should be a help to him intended to betray him"[110]; and
he suddenly deserted the army and returned to the fastness of London.

The second attempt at resistance having failed, Edmund left the South to
its fate, and rode into Northumbria to seek Earl Uhtred. No better
evidence can be found of the chaos that existed in England at the time.
The Saxon South accepts the invader, while a prince of the house of
Alfred is looking for aid in the half-Scandinavian regions beyond the
Humber that had once so readily submitted to Sweyn Forkbeard. What
agreements and promises were made are not known; but soon we have the
strange spectacle of Edmund and his new ally harrying English lands, the
Mercian counties of Stafford, Salop, and Chester. Doubtless the plan was
to punish Eadric, but it was a plan that did not lead to a united

The punishment of the deserters was probably incidental; evidently the
allies were on the march southward to check Canute. Here was an
opportunity for the young Dane to show some generalship, and the
opportunity was improved. Turning eastward into Bucks, he marched his
army in a northeasterly direction toward the Fenlands, and thence
northward through Lincoln and Nottingham toward York. When Earl Uhtred
learned of this attack on his territories, he hastened back to
Northumbria. But he was not in position to fight, and, therefore,

     driven by necessity, he submitted, and all Northumbria with him,
     and gave hostages. Nevertheless, on the advice of Eadric, he was
     slain, and with him Thurkil, the son of Nafna. And after that the
     king made Eric earl of Northumbria with all the rights that Uhtred

The Chronicler seems to believe that Uhtred was slain soon after his
submission, and it could not have been very much later. Simeon of Durham
tells us that the Earl was slain by an enemy named Thurbrand[112]; but
it seems clear that Canute approved the act and perhaps desired it. It
is extremely probable that Uhtred was removed to make room for Eric.
When young Hakon arrived as a fugitive, Eric doubtless realised that his
Norwegian earldom was slipping away. All through the fall and winter
Olaf had been travelling along the shores and up through the dales;
wherever it was practicable he had summoned the peasantry to public
assemblies and presented his case. His appeal was to national Norse
pride and to the people's sense of loyalty to Harold Fairhair's dynasty.
Almost everywhere the appeal was successful.

But the men who loved the old order were not willing to yield without a
struggle. While Canute was making his winter campaign from the Channel
to York, both parties were active in Norway, Sweyn and Einar in the
Throndelaw, Olaf in the South. All through Lent the fleets were
gathering. Finally on Palm Sunday, March 25, 1016, the dragons
encountered each other at the Nesses, near the mouth of the Christiania
Firth. Neither force was great, though that of Sweyn and Einar was
considerably larger than the pretender's host. It has been estimated
that Olaf had fewer than 2000 men, his opponents nearly twice as many.
At the Nesses for the first time the cross figured prominently in
Norwegian warfare: golden, red, or blue crosses adorned the shining
shields of the kingsmen. After mass had been sung and the men had
breakfasted, Olaf sailed out and made the attack. The outcome was long
uncertain, but finally victory was with the King.[113]

From the Nesses Einar and Sweyn fled to Sweden. Here they were offered
assistance and were planning an expedition against King Olaf for the
following year, when Earl Sweyn suddenly died. As there was no one in
Norway around whom the dissatisfied elements could rally, all attempts
to dislodge the new King were given up for the time. Some of the
defeated chiefs may have sought refuge with Canute; at any rate the news
of the Nesses could not have been long in reaching the York country. As
Eric had come to England at Canute's request, the Prince doubtless felt
that he owed his brother-in-law some compensation. Furthermore, with the
Norse earl in control at York, Canute could feel more secure as to
Northumbrian loyalty. There thus existed in the spring of 1016 a double
reason for removing Uhtred.

Another Northumbrian magnate, Thurkil the son of Nafna, is mentioned as
sharing the strong earl's fate. Who Thurkil was is not known; but it is
clear that he must have been a noble of considerable prominence, as he
would otherwise hardly be known to a chronicler in Southern England. His
name gives evidence of Northern blood; but thus far his identity has
been a mystery, and the following attempt at identification can claim
plausibility only. King Olaf Trygvesson had a younger half-brother who
was known to the scalds as Thurkil Nefja or "Nosy." In the expedition to
Wendland in 1000, he commanded the _Short Serpent_. At Swald he fought
on King Olaf's own ship, and was the last to leap overboard when Eric
and his men boarded and seized it. Of him sang Hallfred Troublous-scald:

     Strong-souled Thurkil
     Saw the Crane and the Dragons
     Two float empty
     (Gladly had he grappled),

     Ere the arm-ring wearer,
     Mighty in warfare,
     Leaped into the sea, seeking
     Life by swimming.[114]

The inference is that he actually escaped, and it seems possible that we
find him again in England after sixteen years. As all the rulers of the
North had conspired against Olaf, he would be compelled to seek refuge
in other lands, preferably in one of the Scandinavian colonies in the
West. But for Thurkil now to serve loyally and peaceably under the man
who drove his brother to death and seized his kingdom might be
difficult; and he may therefore have been sacrificed to Eric's security.
The statement that his father's name was Nafna presents a difficulty;
but the Chronicler may not have been thoroughly informed on the subject
of Norse nicknames and may have mistaken the by-name for the name of his

After the submission of Northumbria, Canute returned to the South. This
time he carefully avoided the Danelaw; evidently he wished that his
friends in Danish Mercia should suffer no provocation to rise against
him; the route, therefore, lay through the West. The campaign was
swiftly carried through, for by Easter (April 1), Canute was again with
his ships. Wessex and Northumbria were now both pacified. In the
Midlands there can have been but little active hostility. London alone
showed the old determination to resist; here were Ethelred and Edmund
with a number of the English magnates. Canute immediately began
preparations for a last descent upon the stubborn city; but before his
dragons had actually left harbour, England had lost her king.

April 23, 1016, Ethelred died. To say anything in real praise of the
unfortunate King is impossible. The patriotic monk who chronicled the
sad events of this doleful period can only say that "he kept his realm
with great trouble and suffering the while that he lived."[115] Any
striking abilities Ethelred cannot have possessed. He was easily
influenced for evil--perhaps he was faithless. But to lay all the blame
for the downfall of England tipon the incapable king would be missing
the point. The Old English monarchy was, after all, a frail kingdom. The
success of Edgar in reducing the Scandinavian colonies to unquestioned
obedience was probably due in large part to his sterling qualities as
king; but in still greater measure, perhaps, to the fact that, during
his reign, the viking spirit was at its lowest ebb: consequently the
stream of reinforcements having ceased to flow across the North Sea, the
Anglo-Danes were forced to yield. But now the situation was totally
different. In the early years of the eleventh century only statesmanship
of the highest order could have saved the dynasty; but England had
neither statesmen nor statesmanship in Ethelred's day.


[84] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1014.

[85] For a brief account of the Norse colonies in Ireland and the events
that culminated in the battle of Clontarf, see _Norges Historie_, I.,
ii., 292-310. (Bugge.)

[86] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1014.

[87] William of Jumièges, _Historia Normannorum_, v., cc. 11-12.

[88] _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 13. (Translation by William Morris.)

[89] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 2.

[90] The conjecture of Norse historians that he left Norway because of
disagreements with his brother Sweyn has little in its favour. Eric
believed in peace, but scarcely to the point of expatriation.

[91] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., cc. 2-3. The banishment of Gunhild is also
mentioned in Thietmar's _Chronicle_ (vii., c. 28).

[92] _Jómsvikingasaga_, cc. 50-52.

[93] William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, i., 207.

[94] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 383.

[95] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 3.

[96] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 24.

[97] _Ibid._, _Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, c. 108.

[98] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1015; Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_,
i., 170-171. The Five Boroughs had by this time become the Seven

[99] William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, i., 213.

[100] William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, i., 213.

[101] The Encomiast counts two hundred ships (_Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c.
4). The _Jómsvikingasaga_ reports 960 (c. 52). Adam of Bremen puts the
number at 1000 (_Gesta_, ii., c. 50). The Encomiast is doubtless nearest
the truth.

[102] The _Knytlingasaga_ seems to indicate that Eric came late (c 13).

[103] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 4.

[104] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc. 28-29.

[105] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc. 30-31.

[106] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1015.

[107] Snorre, _Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, c. 102.

[108] The Hällestad Stone, raised in memory of Toki, Canute's
gran-uncle, who fell in the battle of Fyris River:

Askell raised this monument in memory of Toki, Gorm's son his beloved

He did not flee At Upsala. Henchmen have raised To their brother's
memory On the firm-built hill This rock with runes. To Gorm's son Toki
They walked nearest.

Wimmer, _De danske Runemindesmærker_, I., ii. 86, ff.

[109] Thus Steenstrup (_Normannerne_, iii., 287-289) and Oman (_England
before the Norman Conquest_, 577) on the authority of Florence of
Worcester (_Chronicon_, i., 171) who speaks of these men as Danish
warriors. But the contemporary writer of the _Chronicle_ speaks of
Eadric's forces as the "fyrd," a term which is always used for the
native levy, "here" being the term used for alien troops.

On the theory of serious disagreements with Edmund, whose accession to
the throne seemed imminent, Eadric's treason becomes perfectly
intelligible. For a selfish, ambitious man like the earl, there was
scarcely any other course to take.

[110] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1016.

[111] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1016.

[112] _Opera_, ii., 148.

[113] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc. 46-51.

[114] Snorre, _Olaf Trygvesson's Saga_, c. iii., _Corpus Poeticum
Boreale_, ii., 92.

[115] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1016.




The Old English kingship was elective: on the death of a ruler, the
great lords and the high officials of the Church, the "witan" or wise,
would meet in formal assembly to select a successor. Usually the nearest
male heir of the house of Alfred would be chosen; but circumstances
might dictate a different selection, and in such cases the "wise men"
seem to have possessed plenary powers. In the spring of 1016, however, a
free choice was impossible; nearly the whole kingdom was pledged to the
invader. In his camp were the Saxon hostages; and the great Dane had
shown on an earlier occasion that he could be cruel when he thought a
pledge was broken.

During the winter months the Danish fleet had apparently been moored at
the old viking rendezvous, the Isle of Wight, or in some neighbouring
harbour. In April, Canute was back from his march to York and was
getting his ships in readiness for further operations, when the death of
Ethelred checked his movements. With remarkable promptness the notables
(perhaps those of Southern England only) came together at some point
unknown, awarded the kingship to Canute, and proscribed all the
descendants of Ethelred. This done, they adjourned to Southampton to
give their pledges of loyalty. It was a body of great respectability
that thus gathered to pay homage, containing, as it did, both laymen and
churchmen, lords, bishops, and abbots. The election must have been held
some time about the close of the month, for by the seventh of May,
Canute was at Greenwich with his fleet.[116]

In London, too, an assembly had met and a king had been chosen. Edmund
was in the city when his father died. The chiefs present, "all the witan
who were in London and the citizens of London," as the Chronicler
carefully puts it, at once proclaimed Edmund king. Thus both the peace
party and the war party had acted. It is clear, however, that neither of
these elections could lay any claim to legality; neither assembly could
pretend to represent the entire kingdom; between the death of Ethelred
in April and the accession of Canute at the following Christmas, England
had no lawful ruler.

Canute at once proceeded to the siege of London. His plan was to isolate
the city completely, to block the Thames both above and below the town,
and to prevent all intercourse with the country to the north. To
accomplish this investment, a canal was dug around London Bridge wide
enough to permit the long but narrow viking ships to pass into the
stream west of the city. On the north side a ditch was dug enclosing the
entire town, "so that no man could come either in or out."[117] Vigorous
efforts were made from time to time to storm the fortifications, "every
morning the lady on the Thames bank sees the sword dyed in blood"[118];
but the townsmen held their own. The siege continued through the month
of May and perhaps till late in June, when it seems to have been
interrupted by disquieting news from the West.

On the approach of the fleet, or at least before the investment had
become complete, Edmund left London. We are told that his departure was
secret, which is probable, as it was surely to his interest to keep
Canute in the dark as to his whereabouts. We do not know who directed
the defence of London during his absence; a year or two later, Thietmar,
the bishop of Merseburg, introduced into his _Chronicle_ a confused
account of these events, in which Queen Emma is made to play an
important part in the resistance of 1016.[119] It may be that the Queen
had returned with Ethelred, but it is doubtful. When Canute heard that
his enemies were mustering in the Southwest, he seems to have detached a
part of his force and sent it westward to look for Edmund. At
Penselwood, near Gillingham in Dorset, the Danes came upon the Saxon
forces. Edmund's success in raising the West had not been great; but,
"trusting in the help of God," he gave battle and won a victory.[120] It
is likely that the affair at Penselwood was little more than a skirmish,
for it seems to have made small difference in the relative positions of
the contending forces. But it gave Edmund what he sorely needed--the
prestige of success. A month later, battle was again joined at
Sherstone, a little farther to the north near Malmesbury in the upper
part of Wiltshire.

The encounter at Sherstone was a genuine battle fiercely fought, one
that lived long in the memories of Englishmen. It occurred after the
feast of Saint John, probably in the early days of July. The earlier
sources do not mention Canute in connection with this fight; with Eric
he was apparently continuing the siege of London. The western campaign
was evidently in Thurkil's hands; the sources also mention three
prominent Englishmen, Eadric, Almar Darling, and Algar, as fighting on
the Danish side.[121] The Encomiast, who speaks of a Danish victory at
Sherstone, gives the entire credit to Thurkil, whom he naively describes
as a fervent believer "continuously sending up silent prayers to God for

[Illustration: ANGLO-SAXON WARRIORS (Harl. MS. 603.)]

[Illustration: ANGLO-SAXON HORSEMEN (Harl. MS. 603.)]

Sherstone was at best a drawn battle, neither side claiming a victory.
The Anglo-Norman historians, true to their habit of looking for some
traitor on whom to blame the outcome, could not overlook Eadric; he is
said to have picked up the head of a soldier who bore some resemblance
to Edmund and thus to have deceived the Saxons into believing that their
leader was dead.[123] The tale is obviously mythical; if Henry of
Huntingdon is to be trusted, the trick was played again later in the
year at Ashington.

After the encounter at Sherstone, Thurkil seems to have joined Canute
before London; but his whole force did not return with him. Eadric once
more had shifted his allegiance; he had made peace with Edmund and had
joined him against the invader. Whatever his motives may have been,
there can be no dispute as to the importance of his new move. Edmund's
army was strengthened, as was doubtless his prestige in the Midlands.
For the third time he had an army at his command, gathered, it seems,
from the region north of the Thames. With this host he marched to the
relief of London. On the appearance of this force, Canute found himself
in a difficult situation: to maintain a siege and fight a vigorous
foeman at the same time, required forces greater than those at the
Dane's command. Prudence was Canute's greatest virtue, and he promptly
raised the siege and withdrew to his ships. Edmund seems to have come
up with his forces to Brentford, just as the Danes were busy crossing to
the south bank. The enemy fled; but many of the English were drowned
"because of their own heedlessness, as they rushed ahead of the main
force to get at the booty."[124] Evidently the whole Danish force had
not left London, as the fight at Brentford was two days after the city
had been relieved.

With the relief of London, the English seem to have considered their
duty done, and soon Edmund found himself once more without an army.[125]
It may, of course, be that the apparent lack of patriotism was due to
the necessities of the harvest season, which must have arrived by this
time. The tireless Edmund next made a visit to Wessex to raise the
militia there. While he was seeking recruits, the Danes returned to
London, resumed the siege, and attacked the city furiously by land and
sea, but as usual failed to take it.

The supply of provisions was probably running low in the Danish camp,
for we next hear of a pillaging expedition into Mercia. Ordinarily that
region was spared; but Eadric's defection had made it hostile territory
and, furthermore, it was probably the only neighbouring section that had
not been drained to the limit. Whether the entire army took part in the
foray is uncertain; but the probabilities are that it was the raid
mentioned by the Encomiast as undertaken by Eric with Canute's
permission. Part of the host may have remained on the Isle of Sheppey in
the mouth of the Medway, where a camp appears to have been established.

The fleet sailed north to the Orwell in Suffolk, and thence the host
proceeded westward into Mercia, "slaying and burning whatever they came
across, as is their wont."[126] As the crops had just been garnered, the
raiders did not return empty-handed. Laden with plunder they began the
return to the Medway, the footmen in the ships, the horsemen by land,
driving the plundered flocks before them.[127]

With the forces of the enemy thus divided, Edmund's opportunity had
come. With his fourth army, collected from "all parts of England," he
crossed the Thames at Brentford and dashed after the Danes, who,
encumbered with booty, were hurrying eastward through Kent. At Otford,
in the western part of Kent, Edmund came up with the raiders and slew a
number of them; but much fighting there could not have been, as the
Danes were apparently unwilling to make a stand and hurried on to
Sheppey. If Edmund had been free to make use of the advantage that was
his, it seems that he might have destroyed a considerable part of the
Danish host; but at Aylesford he was evidently detained by a quarrel
with Eadric and the raiders escaped.[128]

Canute's position in the autumn of 1016 must have been exceedingly
difficult and serious, even critical. After a year of continuous
warfare--marches, battles, sieges--he seemed as far as ever from
successful conquest. Edmund had, indeed, won no great victories; still,
he had been able to relieve London, to stay the current of Danish
successes, to infuse hope and patriotic fervour into the hearts of the
discouraged English. But too much must not be inferred from the fact
that Canute, too, had been only moderately successful on the
battle-field; he was one of those commanders, who are not attracted by
great battles. In two respects he possessed a decided advantage: he had
a splendid army that did not desert; he had a great fleet to which he
could retire when too hotly pursued. In the autumn of 1016, Edmund had
come with a strong force to the lower Thames; the enemy, however, was
out of reach on the Isle of Sheppey. It was not to be expected that
Canute would long lie idle; but operations in the direction of London
were impossible in the presence of Edmund's army. Canute accordingly
embarked his men, crossed the estuary once more, and proceeded to
devastate East Anglia.

Edmund started in pursuit, and on the 18th (or 19th) of October he came
upon the Danes at Ashington in Essex, as they were on their way back to
their ships. There seem to have been divided counsels among the English
as to the advisability of making an attack, Eadric in particular
advising against it.[129] But Edmund was determined to strike, and about
the middle of the afternoon the battle began. The English had the
advantage of numbers; but there was a traitor in camp: Eadric sulked
and refused to order his forces of men from Hereford into battle. The
fight continued till nightfall, and did not cease entirely even then.
Darkness finally put an end to the carnage, and the Angles fled from the

It is said that Canute was not eager to fight; but the feeling in his
army must have been different. The banner of the invaders was the
ancient Raven Banner, the raven being Woden's own bird. It is said of
this banner that it was made of plain white silk and bore no image of
any sort; but, when battle began, Woden's bird appeared upon its folds,
its behaviour indicating the outcome. In the presence of victory it
showed great activity in bill and wings and feet; when defeat was
imminent, it hung its head and did not move. We are told that it was
reported in Canute's army that the raven had appeared and showed unusual
excitement.[130] Perhaps of even greater importance was military skill
and experienced generalship. The tactics employed seem to have been such
as the Northmen frequently used: at the critical moment, the Danes
pretended to retreat; but when the lines of the pursuing English were
broken, they closed up the ranks and cut the Saxon advance in pieces.
During the night, the Danes encamped on the battle-field; the next day
they buried their fallen comrades and removed all articles of value from
the bodies of their Saxon adversaries, the corpses being left to the
wolf and the raven.

[Illustration: THE RAVEN BANNER (From the Bayeux Tapestry.)]

[Illustration: ANGLO-SAXON WARRIORS. (From a manuscript in the British
Museum, reproduced in _Norges Historie_, i., ii.)]

The English aristocracy suffered heavily at Ashington. The sources
mention six magnates among the slain: Godwin the ealdorman of Lindsey;
an ealdorman Alfric whose locality is unknown; Ulfketel, ealdorman of
East Anglia; Ethelwerd, son of an earlier East Anglian ealdorman; also
the bishop of Dorchester and the abbot of Ramsey.[131] It is a
noteworthy fact that nearly all these are from Eastern England; so far
as we know not one of them came from below the Thames. It may be true
that all England was represented in Edmund's host at Ashington; but we
are tempted to conclude that perhaps the army was chiefly composed of
East Anglians summoned by the doughty Earl Ulfketel.

By far the most prominent of all the slain was this same Earl, the ruler
of Saint Edmund's kingdom. Ulfketel is said to have been Edmund's
brother-in-law. As his name is unmistakably Norse, it is more than
likely that his ancestry was Scandinavian. In his earldom he appears to
have been practically sovereign. So impressed were the Norse scalds with
the power and importance of the Earl that they spoke of East Anglia as
Ulfkelsland.[132] The sagas accuse him of having instigated the
slaughter of the thingmen, especially of having destroyed Heming's
corps at Slesswick. Thurkil is naturally mentioned as his banesman.[133]

Eadric's behaviour at Ashington furnishes an interesting but difficult
problem. To the Saxon and Norman historians it was the basest treachery,
premeditated flight at the critical moment. Still, after the battle he
appears in the councils of the English in apparently good standing, even
as a leader. From the guarded statements of the Encomiast, we should
infer that Eadric had advised against the battle, that his counsel had
been rejected, that he therefore had remained neutral and that he had
withdrawn his forces before the battle was joined.[134]

From Ashington Edmund fled westward to the Severn Valley; Canute
returned to the siege of London. Once more Edmund tried to gather an
army, this time, however, with small success; England was exhausted; her
leaders lay on the field of Ashington. Soon the Danes, too, appeared in
Gloucestershire. Some sort of a council must have been called to
deliberate on the state of the country, and the decision was reached to
seek peace on the basis of a divided kingdom. Eadric seems particularly
to have urged this solution. Edmund reluctantly consented, and
ambassadors were sent to Canute's camp to offer terms of peace.

It seems at first sight rather surprising that Canute should at this
time be willing even to negotiate; apparently he had Edmund in his
power, and England showed no disposition to continue the war. Still,
the situation in his own host was doubtless an argument for peace. After
more than a year of continued warfare, his forces must have decreased
appreciably in numbers. Recruiting was difficult, especially must it
have been so on the eve of winter. Without a strong force he could do
little in a hostile country. The campaign had been strenuous even for
the vikings, and the Danes are represented as thoroughly tired of the
war.[135] Canute therefore accepted the offer of the English, with the
added condition that Danegeld should be levied for the support of his
army in Edmund's kingdom as well as in his own.

On some little island near Deerhurst in Gloucestershire,[136] the two
chiefs met and reached an agreement which put an end to the devastating
war and pillage that had cursed England for more than a generation. It
was agreed that Edmund should have Wessex and Canute Mercia and
Northumbria; or, in a general way, that the Thames should be the
dividing line between the two kingdoms. As to the disposition of East
Anglia and Essex there is some doubt: Florence holds that these
territories with the city of London were assigned to Edmund. So far as
London is concerned, this seems to be erroneous: Canute took immediate
possession of the city and made preparations to spend the winter there,
which seems a strange proceeding if the place was not to be his. The
kingdom of England was thus dissolved. There is no good evidence that
Canute understood his position to be that of a vassal king; he had
without doubt complete sovereignty in his own domains. On the other
hand, the fact that Edmund agreed to levy Danegeld in his own kingdom of
Wessex looks suspiciously like the recognition of Canute as overlord of
the southern kingdom.

The compact of Olney, says Florence of Worcester, was one of "peace,
friendship, and brotherhood." Other writers state that the two kings
agreed to become sworn brothers and that the survivor should inherit the
realm of the other brother.[137] We cannot affirm that such a covenant
was actually made, as the authority is not of the best. There is,
however, nothing improbable in the statement; the custom was not unusual
in the North. Twenty years later, Canute's son, Harthacanute, entered
into a similar relationship with his rival, King Magnus of Norway, who
had been making war on Denmark. In Snorre's language,

     it was agreed that the kings should take the oath of brotherhood
     and should maintain peace as long as both were on earth; and that
     if one of them died sonless, the survivor should inherit his realm
     and subjects. Twelve men, the most eminent of each kingdom, took
     the oath with the kings that this agreement should be kept as long
     as any of them lived.[138]

It is possible that some such qualification in favour of male heirs was
also inserted in the Severn covenant; still, the whole matter would have
been of slight importance had the magnates on Edmund's death been in
position to insist on the ancient principle and practice of election.
Witnesses similar to those mentioned in the later instance there seem to
have been at Deerhurst; for, after the death of Edmund, Canute summoned
those to testify before the assembly, "who had been witnesses between
him and Edmund" when the agreement was made, as to the details of the

The reign of Edmund as king of Wessex was destined to be brief. The
covenant of Deerhurst was probably made in the early days of November
(it could scarcely have been earlier, as the battle of Ashington was
fought on October 18) and by the close of the month (November 30) he was
dead. Florence of Worcester tells us that he died in London, which is
improbable, as it seems strange that he should have ventured into the
stronghold of his late enemy. Other writers give Oxford as the place,
which also seems unlikely, if Eadric, who apparently resided at
Oxford,[140] had played the traitor's part at Ashington. It seems clear
that these writers have placed Edmund's death at Oxford because they
believed that Eadric was in some way the author of it.[141]

For so opportunely did the end come, that the suggestion of foul play
was inevitable, and coarse tales were invented to account for the manner
of death. There is, however, not the least hint in any contemporary
source that Canute was in any way guilty of his rival's untimely
decease. The simple-minded Encomiast again sees an illustration of
Providential mercy:

     But God, remembering his teaching of olden time, that a kingdom
     divided against itself cannot long endure, very soon afterwards led
     Edmund's spirit forth from the body, having compassion on the realm
     of the English, lest if, perchance, both should continue among the
     living, neither should reign securely, and the kingdom be daily
     annihilated by renewed contention.[142]

It is difficult to form a just estimate of Edmund Ironside, as our
information is neither extensive nor varied. It is possible that he was
born of a connection that the Church had not blessed; at least such
seems to have been the belief when William of Malmesbury wrote.[143] A
late writer tells us that his mother was the daughter of Earl
Thoretus[144]; an earl by such a name actually did flourish in the
closing decade of the tenth century; he was one of the chiefs to whom
Ethelred entrusted his fleet in 992. From his name we should judge that
he was of Norse ancestry. There can be no doubt as to Edmund's bravery
on the battle-field; perhaps he was also in possession of some talent in
the way of generalship. But on the whole, his military exploits have
been exaggerated: we know them chiefly from an ecclesiastic who was
doubtless honest, but warmly patriotic and strongly partisan; it was
natural for him to magnify skirmishes into battles. Edmund was the
victor in several important engagements, but in no great battle. There
was no heavy fighting at Penselwood; Sherstone was at best a drawn
battle; Brentford and Otford seem to have been partly successful attacks
on the rear of a retreating foe; Ashington was a decisive defeat. We
cannot tell what sort of a king he might have become but the glimpses
that we get of his character are not reassuring. We get sight of him
first about 1006 when he sought to come into possession of an estate in
Somerset: "and the monastic household dared not refuse him."[145] His
rebellious behaviour in the Danelaw, his raid into English Mercia, give
little promise of future statesmanship. Edmund Ironside was an English
viking, passionate, brave, impulsive, but unruly and uncontrollable.

When the year closed there was no question who should be the future
ruler of England. Fate had been kind to Canute; still, the outcome must
be ascribed chiefly to the persistent activity of the invader. But while
the name of the young King is necessarily made prominent in the
narrative, we should not forget that he was surrounded and assisted by a
group of captains who probably had no superiors in Europe at the time.
There was the tall and stately Thurkil with the experience of more than
thirty years as a viking chief; the resourceful Eric with a brilliant
record as a successful general; the impetuous and volcanic Ulf;
doubtless also Ulf's brother, Eglaf the Jomviking. These were the men
who helped most to win the land for the Danish dynasty; they also formed
Canute's chief reliance in the critical years following the conquest.

The gain in Britain was, however, in a measure counterbalanced by the
loss of Norway in the same year, though in this Canute was not directly
interested at the time. After the battle of the Nesses, King Olaf sailed
north to Nidaros (Throndhjem) where he now received unquestioned
allegiance. He rebuilt the city and made it the capital of his kingdom.
The ruined Church of Saint Clemens, the patron saint of all seafaring
men, was raised again and became in a sense the mother church of Norse
Christianity. Without delay he began his great work as legislator,
organiser, and missionary, a work of enduring qualities. But Canute did
not forget that in this way his dynasty was robbed of one of its
earliest possessions outside the Dane-lands. A clash between the great
rivals was inevitable. For the present, however, Olaf's throne was safe;
there was much to do before Canute could seriously think of proceeding
against his virile opponent, and more than a decade passed before the
young King of England could summon his chiefs and magnates into solemn
imperial councils in the new capital of Nidaros.

[Illustration: VIKING RAIDS IN ENGLAND 980-1016]


[116] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 173.

[117] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1016.

[118] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 108: the Lithsmen's Song.

[119] Book vii., c. 28.

[120] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 174.

[121] _Ibid._, i., 175.

[122] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 6. See also Thietmar, _Chronicon_, vii.,
c. 28.

[123] The story is first told by Florence of Worcester (_Chronicon_, i.,

[124] If the skirmishers who were seeking booty were in advance of the
rest and by a rally of the Danes were driven into the Thames, the main
force must still have been on the north bank. The "battle" must
therefore have been fought on the north bank while a fragment of
Canute's army was on the retreat, perhaps on the point of fording the
stream. At any rate, we seem hardly justified in calling the engagement
at Brentford a "pitched battle." See Oman, _England before the Norman
Conquest_, 579.

[125] Oman (_ibid._) seems to believe that Edmund retained his forces
but went into Wessex to get reinforcements. But unless Edmund's
victorious army had to a large extent melted away, it is difficult to
account for Canute's prompt return to the siege of London.

[126] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1016. On this raid Eric seems to have met
and defeated Ulfketel, who "gat ugly blows from the thingmen's weapons,"
as we are told by Thorrod in the _Eric's Praise_. _Corpus Poeticum
Boreale_, ii., 105. The raid seems also to be alluded to in the
Lithsmen's Song (_ibid._, 107).

[127] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 176.

[128] The account in the _Chronicle_ of what occurred at Aylesford is
ambiguous and has been variously interpreted: "and the King slew as many
as he could come upon; and Eadric ealdorman turned against [or toward?]
the king at Aylesford. Nor was there ever worse counsel adopted than
that was." Some writers have interpreted this to mean that Eadric joined
Edmund at Aylesford and not after Sherstone, as stated by Florence. But
the Saxon _gewende ongean_ has a hostile rather than a favourable
colour. The probabilities are that Eadric opposed Edmund's plans at
Aylesford and thus rendered further pursuit impossible. Such is Florence
of Worcester's version (_Chronicon_, i., 177). For a different view see
Hodgkin (_Pol. Hist. of Eng._, i., 397) and Oman (_England before the
Norman Conquest_, 580).

[129] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 12.

[130] The Encomiast admits that the tale is hard to believe, but avers
that it is true (ii., c. 9). The story of the raven is old and occurs
earlier in the English sources.

[131] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1016. Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_,
i., 178.

[132] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 14.

[133] _Jómsvikingasaga_, c. 52.

[134] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 12.

[135] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 13.

[136] Probably not the isle of Olney, but some other islet that has
since disappeared. See Oman, _England before the Norman Conquest_, 581.

[137] Henry of Huntingdon, _Historia Anglorum_, 185; _Knytlingasaga_, c.
16. The saga says distinctly that there was to be inheritance only if
either died without children.

[138] _Saga of Magnus the Good_, c. 6.

[139] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 179.

[140] Sigeferth and Morcar were slain in Eadric's house at the Oxford
gemot. (_Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1015.)

[141] See Freeman (_Norman Conquest_, i., Note xx) whose argument seems

[142] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 14.

[143] _Gesta Regum_, i., 213-214. The author merely tells us that
Edmund's mother was of ignoble birth; but a woman of low degree would
scarcely be made queen of England.

[144] Ethelred of Rievaux. See Freeman, _Norman Conquest_, i., Note ss.

[145] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 1302.




For eight months after the death of Ethelred there was no king of
England. Neither Edmund nor Canute had an incontestable claim to the
royal title, as neither had been chosen by a properly constituted
national assembly. There is some evidence that Edmund was crowned,
perhaps in May, 1016[146]; but even consecration could hardly remove the
defect in the elective title. And after the agreement of Olney, there
was, for a few weeks, no English kingdom. But, in December, it was
possible once more to reunite the distracted land. In the North of
England there was no vacant kingship; only Wessex and East Anglia needed
a ruler. As the latter region possessed a strong Scandinavian element
that might be depended upon to declare for Canute, the only doubtful
factor in the situation was the attitude of the nobility south of the
Thames. Wessex, however, had more than once showed a desire to give up
the struggle: the old spirit of independence was apparently crushed.
London, the great rallying point of the national party, was in Canute's
hands. Beyond the Thames were the camps of the dreaded host that had
come from the North the year before. The Danish fleet still sailed the
British seas. No trusted leader appeared to take up the fight for the
house of Alfred; Ethelred's many sons seem nearly all to have perished,
and only children or princes of doubtful ability remained as possible
candidates for the kingship. In addition there was no doubt a feeling
that England should be one realm. The accession of Canute was therefore

The Dane evidently realised the strength of his position. There was
consequently little need of hasty action; it was clearly best to observe
constitutional forms and to give the representatives of the nation ample
time to act. It was a Northern as well as a Saxon custom to celebrate
the Yule-tide with elaborate and extended festivities; and there was
every reason why Canute and his warriors in London should plan to make
this year's celebration a memorable event. To these festivities, Canute
evidently invited the magnates of England; for we learn that a midwinter
gemot was held in London, at which the Danish pretender received
universal recognition as king of all England.[147]

       *       *       *       *       *

To say that this assembly elected a king would be incorrect; Canute gave
the lords no opportunity co make an election. In a shrewd fashion he
brought out the real or pretended fact that in the agreement of
Deerhurst it was stipulated that the survivor should possess both
crowns. Those who had witnessed the treaty were called on to state what
had been said in the conference concerning Edmund's sons and brothers;
whether any of them might be permitted to rule in England if Edmund
should die first. They testified that they had sure knowledge that no
authority was left to Edmund's brothers, and that Canute was to have the
guardianship of Edmund's young sons until they were of sufficient age to
claim the kingship. Florence of Worcester believes that the witnesses
were bribed by Canute and perjured themselves grossly; but the
probabilities are, that their statement was accurate. Canute's object in
submitting the problem of the succession in the South to the witan seems
to have been, not exactly to secure his own election, but rather to
obtain the highest possible sanction for the agreement with Edmund.

To the Northern mind the expedient adopted was both legal and proper. We
know very little about the constitutional framework and principles of
the Scandinavian monarchies at this period; but, so far as we can
discern, the elective principle played an incidental part only; the
succession was in fact hereditary. To the Anglo-Saxons the whole must
have resolved itself into finding some legal form for surrender and
submission. Oaths were taken and loyalty was pledged. Once more the
Saxon began to enjoy real peace and security. At the same time, all the
rejoicing can scarcely have been genuine; for English pride had received
a wound that for some years refused to heal. It must also be said that
the opening years of the new reign were not of such a character as to
win the affections of unwilling subjects.

The task that the young monarch undertook in the early months of 1017
was one of peculiar difficulty. It must be remembered that his only
right was that of the sword. Important, too, is the fact that at the
time England was his only kingdom. As a landless prince, he had crossed
the sea, landless except for possible rights in Norway; had led with him
a host of adventurers most of whom were probably heathen; had wrested
large areas from the native line of English Kings; and now he was in
possession of the entire kingdom.

Something of a like nature occurred in 1066, when William of Normandy
conquered England; but there are also notable differences. William was
the lord of a vigorous duchy across the narrow Channel, in which he had
a storehouse of energy that was always at his disposal. Young Canute had
no such advantages. Before he was definitely recognised as king in the
Danelaw, he had no territorial possessions from which to recruit and
provision his armies. Not till 1019 did he unite the crowns of England
and Denmark.

Historians generally have appeared to believe that in governing his
English kingdom, Canute pursued a conscious and well-defined course of
action, a line of political purposes originating early in his reign. He
is credited with the purpose of making England the central kingdom of an
Anglo-Scandinavian empire, of governing this kingdom with the aid of
Englishmen in preference to that of his own countrymen, of aiming to
rule England as a king of the Saxon type. It is true chat before the
close of his reign Canute made large use of native chiefs in the
administration of the monarchy; but such was not the case in the earlier
years. There were no prospects of empire in 1017 and 1018: his brother
Harold still ruled in Denmark; the Norsemen were still loyal to the
vigorous Olaf. And at no time did the kingdoms that he added later
consider themselves as standing in a vassal relation to the English
state. In Canute's initial years, we find no striving after good
government, no dreams of imperial power. During these years his chief
purpose was to secure the permanence and the stability of his new title
and throne.

Nor should we expect any clear and definite policy in the rule of a king
who was still inexperienced in dealing with the English constitution. At
the time of his accession, Canute is thought to have been twenty-one or
twenty-two years old.[148] Younger he could scarcely have been, nor is
it likely that he was very much older. Ottar the Swart in the _Canute's
Praise_ is emphatic on the point that Canute was unusually young for a
successful conqueror: "Thou wast of no great age when thou didst put
forth in thy ship; never younger king set out from home."[149] As
Ottar's other patron, Olaf the Stout, was only twelve when he began his
career as a viking, we should hardly expect the poet to call attention
to Canute's youth if he had already reached manhood when he accompanied
his father to England. The probabilities favour 995 as the year of his
birth; if the date be correct he would be about seventeen in 1012, when
the invasion was being planned, nineteen at the death of his father in
1014; and twenty-one (or twenty-two, as it was late in the year) when he
became king of all England. But whatever his age, he was young in
training for government. So far as we know, he could have had but little
experience as a ruler before the autumn of 1016, when the battle of
Ashington secured his position in England. His training had been for the
career of a viking, a training that promised little for the future.

It seems, therefore, a safe assumption that in shaping his policy the
King's decision would be influenced to a large degree by the advice of
trusted counsellors. In the first year of Canute's reign, there stood
about the throne three prominent leaders, three military chiefs, to whom
in great measure the King owed his crown. There was the sly and jealous
Eadric the Mercian, a man with varied experience in many fields, but for
obvious reasons he did not enjoy the royal confidence. Closer to the
King stood Eric, for fifteen years earl and viceroy in Norway, now the
ruler of Northumbria. Eric was a man of a nobler character than was
common among men of the viking type; but he can have known very little
of English affairs, and for this reason, perhaps, Canute passed his
kinsman by and gave his confidence to the lordly viking, Thurkil the
Tall. For a stay of nearly ten years in England as viking invader, as
chief of Ethelred's mercenaries, and as Canute's chief assistant in his
campaign against the English, had surely given Thurkil a wide
acquaintance among the magnates of the land and considerable insight
into English affairs.

Whatever the reason for the King's choice, we seem to have evidence
sufficient to allow the conclusion that for some years Thurkil held a
position in the kingdom second only to that of the King himself.
Wherever his name appears in Canute's charters among the earls who
witness royal grants, it holds first place. In a royal proclamation that
was issued in 1020, he seems to act on the King's behalf in the general
administration of justice, whenever royal interference should become

     Should any one prove so rash, clerk or layman, Dane or Angle, as to
     violate the laws of the Church or the rights of my kingship or any
     secular statute, and refuse to do penance according to the
     instruction of my bishops, or to desist from his evil, then I
     request Thurkil the Earl, yea, even command him, to bend the
     offender to right, if he is able to do so.[150]

In case the Earl is unable to manage the business alone, Canute promises
to assist. There is something in this procedure that reminds one of the
later Norman official, the justiciar, who was chief of the
administrative forces when the King was in England and governed as the
King's lieutenant when the ruler was abroad. That Thurkil's dignity was
not a new creation at the time of the proclamation is evident from the
preamble, in which Canute sends "greetings to his archbishops and
bishops and Thurkil earl and all his earls and all his subjects." The
language of the preamble also suggests that Thurkil may have acted as
the King's deputy during Canute's absence in Denmark. It is further to
be noted that of all the magnates he alone is mentioned by name. In the
account of the dedication of the church at Ashington later in the same
year, Thurkil is again given prominent mention. In this instance general
reference is made to a number of important officials, but Earl Thurkil
and Archbishop Wulfstan are the only ones that the Chronicler mentions
by name.[151] It is evident that the English, too, were impressed by the
eminence of the tall earl.

The first and the most difficult problem that Canute and Thurkil had to
solve was how to establish the throne among an unfriendly people; for
the conquered Saxons cannot have regarded the Danish usurper with much
affection. It is generally believed that Canute took up his residence in
the old capital city of Winchester, though we do not know at what time
this came to be the recognised residential town. It may be true, as is
so often asserted, that Canute continued, even after other lands had
been added to his dominions, to make England his home from personal
choice; but it may also be true that he believed his presence necessary
to hold Wessex in subjection. The revolutionary movements that came to
the surface during the first few years of his reign had probably much to
do with determining Canute's policies in these directions. It is a fact
of great significance that during the first decade of his rule in
England he was absent from the island twice only, so far as we know, and
then during the winter months, when the chances of a successful uprising
were most remote.[152]

Like the later William, Canute had his chiefs and followers to reward,
and the process of payment could not be long delayed. The rewards took
the form of actual wages, paid from new levies of Danegeld; confiscated
lands, of which we do not hear very much, though seizure of land was
doubtless not unknown, as it was not a Scandinavian custom to respect
the property of an enemy; also official positions, especially the earl's
office and dignity, which was reserved for the chiefs who had given the
most effective aid. The payment of Danegeld was an old story in English
history and the end was not yet. When we consider the really vast
tribute that was levied from time to time and the great value of the
precious metals in the Middle Ages, it becomes clear that many of the
vikings who operated in England must have become relatively wealthy men.
A large number evidently served in successive hosts and expeditions. A
Swedish runic monument found in Uppland (the region north of Stockholm)
relates that one Ulf shared three times in the distribution of Danegeld:

     But Ulf has in England thrice taken "geld," the first time Tosti
     paid him, then Thurkil, and then Canute paid.[153]

Ulf was evidently one of the vikings who composed Thurkil's invading
force and finally passed with their chief into Canute's service.

The earl's office was ancient in Scandinavia and counted very desirable.
It did not quite correspond to that of the English ealdorman, as it
usually implied a larger administrative area, a greater independence,
and a higher social rank for the official thus honoured. The office was
not new in England; for more than a century it had flourished in the
Danelaw. In Ethelred's time such magnates as Uhtred in Northumbria and
Ulfketel in East Anglia were earls rather than ealdormen.

The first recorded act of the new sovereign was the division of the
kingdom into four great earldoms. Much has been made of this act in the
past; the importance of the measure has been over-rated; the purpose of
the King has been misunderstood. The act has been characterised as the
culmination of a certain tendency in English constitutional development;
as the expression of self-distrust on the part of the monarch; and much
more. It seems, however, that Canute at this time did little more than
to recognise the _status quo_. England was during the later years of
Ethelred's reign virtually divided into four great jurisdictions, three
of which, Northumbria, Mercia, and East Anglia, were governed by the
King's sons-in-law, Uhtred, Eadric, and Ulfketel. How much authority was
assigned to each cannot be determined; but practically the earls must
have enjoyed a large measure of independence. In the fight against the
Danes, Uhtred seems to have taken but small part; Ulfketel comes into
prominence only when East Anglia is directly attacked.

This arrangement, which was not accidental but historic, Canute had
accepted before the reputed provincial division of 1017. Eadric had long
been a power in parts of Mercia; any attempt to dislodge him at so early
a moment would have been exceedingly impolitic. Eric was already earl of
Northumbria, having succeeded the unfortunate Uhtred, perhaps in the
spring of 1016. It is only natural that Canute should reserve the rule
of Wessex to himself, at least for a time. Provision naturally had to be
made for Thurkil; and as the earl of East Anglia had fallen at
Ashington, it was convenient to fill the vacancy and honour the old
viking at the same time.[154]

It seems never to have been Canute's policy to keep England permanently
divided into four great provinces; what evidence we have points to a
wholly different purpose. During the first decade of the new reign,
fifteen earls appear in the charters as witnesses or otherwise. Three of
these may, however, have been visiting magnates from elsewhere in the
King's dominions, and in one instance we may have a scribal error. There
remain, then, the names of eleven lords who seem to have enjoyed the
earl's dignity during this period. Of these eleven names, seven are
Scandinavian and four Anglo-Saxon; but of the latter group only one
appears with any decided permanence.[155]

Thurkil, while he was still in England, headed the list. Thurkil was a
Dane of noble birth, the son of Harold who was earl in Scania. He was a
typical viking, tall, strong, and valorous, and must have been a
masterly man, one in whom warriors readily recognised the qualities of
chieftainship. He had part in the ill-fated expedition that ended in the
crushing defeat of Hjörunga Bay. He also fought at Swald, where he is
said to have served on the ship of his former enemy, Eric the Earl.[156]
In 1009 he transferred his activities to England and from that year he
remained almost continuously on the island till his death about fifteen
years later.

The old viking had several claims on the King's gratitude. Had he not
deserted Ethelred at such an opportune moment, Canute might never have
won the English crown. The statement of the sagas that Thurkil was
Canute's foster-father has been referred to elsewhere. The
foster-relationship, if the sagas are correct, would not only help to
explain how Thurkil came to hold such eminent positions in Canute's
English and Danish kingdoms, but may also account for the confidence
that Canute reposed in Thurkil's son Harold, who may have been the
King's foster-brother. The battles of Sherstone and Ashington no doubt
also had a share in securing pre-eminence for the tall pirate.
Sherstone, says the Encomiast, gained for Thurkil a large share of the
fatherland.[157] He is prominently mentioned as one of those most eager
to fight at Ashington, especially after it was reported that the raven
had appeared with proper gestures on the Danish banner.[158]

In his old age Thurkil married an Englishwoman, Edith, probably one of
Ethelred's daughters, the widow of Earl Eadric.[159] He ruled as English
earl from 1017 to 1021. After Canute's return from Denmark in 1020, some
misunderstanding seems to have arisen between him and the old war-chief;
for toward the close of the next year Thurkil was exiled. The cause for
this is not known; perhaps Canute feared his growing influence,
especially after his marriage to the former King's daughter. A
reconciliation was brought about a year later; but for some reason the
King preferred to leave him as his lieutenant in Denmark, and he was
never restored to his English dignities.

Eric, Earl of Northumbria, governed this region from 1016 to 1023. He
seems to have been Earl Hakon's oldest son, and is said to have been of
bastard birth, the son of a low-born woman, who had attracted the Earl
in his younger years. He grew up to be extremely handsome and clever,
but never enjoyed his father's good-will.[160] The circumstances of
Eric's promotion to the Northern earldom have been discussed in an
earlier chapter. As the Scandinavian colonies north of the Humber were
Norwegian rather than Danish, the appointment of a Norse ruler was
doubtless a popular act.

Eadric was allowed to continue as governor of Mercia. Whether all the
old Mercian region made one earldom is uncertain; most likely it did not
extend to the western limits, as several smaller earldoms appear to have
been located along the Welsh border. For one year only was Eadric the
Grasper permitted to enjoy his dignities; at the first opportunity
Canute deprived him not only of honours but of life.

Eglaf, Thurkil's old companion in arms, seems to have been given
territories to rule in the lower Severn Valley.[161] Eglaf was one of
the leaders in the great expedition of 1009. He was evidently one of
those who entered Ethelred's service when peace was made; but during the
closing years of the conflict, he was doubtless fighting for Canute. He
was consequently one of the chiefs who might claim a particular reward.
He was also of high lineage, the son of a powerful Danish chief,
Thorgils Sprakaleg, and the brother of Ulf, who was married to Canute's
sister Estrid.

In the Worcester country an Earl Hakon was placed in control. He was
evidently Eric's son and Canute's nephew, the young Hakon whom King Olaf
drove out of Norway in the autumn of 1015. The youthful earl (he was
probably not more than twenty years old in 1017, perhaps even younger)
is described as an exceedingly handsome man with "hair that was long and
fair like silk"[162]; but warfare was evidently not to his taste. For a
decade or more he remained in Canute's service in England. In 1026,
hostilities broke out between Norway and Denmark; the result was the
final expulsion of King Olaf and the restoration of Hakon to his Norse
vice-royalty. Soon afterwards he perished in shipwreck.

Godwin is the first English earl of importance to appear among Canute's
magnates. From 1019 to the close of the reign his name appears in almost
every charter, and invariably as earl or with some corresponding title.
The fact that Godwin found it possible to be present so frequently when
grants were to be witnessed would indicate that he could not have been
located far away from the local court; perhaps he was closely attached
to it. Though his ancestry is a matter of doubt, he was probably not
connected with the Old English aristocracy. This defect Canute remedied
by giving him a noble Danish woman of his own household for wife.[163]
Godwin was consequently closely associated with the new dynasty.

Of the remaining magnates, Ethelwerd, Leofwine, Godric, Ulf, and Ranig,
little is really known. Ethelwerd seems to have had some authority in
the extreme Southwest. Ranig's earldom was the modern shire of Hereford.
There is nothing to indicate what territories were controlled by Godric
and Ulf. Leofwine probably succeeded to Eadric's position as chief ruler
in Mercia. In the list we should probably include Eadulf Cudel who seems
to have succeeded to some power north of the Tees after the murder of
his brother Uhtred[164]; but whether he was under the lordship of Eric
or held directly from Canute cannot be known.

These were the men with whom Canute shared his authority during the
first ten years of his reign. It will be seen that the more important
places in the local government were given to Danes and Northmen. So far
as we know, only two of Ethelred's ealdormen were retained in their
offices[165]; of these the one soon suffered exile, while the other
appears to have played but a small part in the councils of Canute. Two
appointments were made from the native population, those of Godwin and
Leofwine. In the case of Godwin it is to be observed that he was bound
to the new dynasty by the noble ties of marriage. As to Leofwine's
ancestry we are not informed; but there are indications that some of his
forefathers may have been Northmen.[166]

The more prominent of Canute's earls were drawn from three illustrious
families in the North, one Norwegian and two Danish. Thurkil's descent
from the Scanian earls has already been noted. Eric and his son Hakon
represented the lordly race of Earl Hakon the Bad. A great Danish chief,
Thorgils Sprakaleg, had two sons who bore the earl's title in England,
Ulf and Eglaf, a son-in-law, Godwin, and a few years later a nephew,
Siward the Strong, the lord of Northumbria. Two of these earls were
married to sisters of Canute: Eric to Gytha, and Ulf to Estrid. Godwin
was married to Canute's kinswoman. Hakon was the King's nephew. Thurkil
was his reputed foster-father. It seems that Canute at first had in
mind to establish in England a new aristocracy of Scandinavian origin,
bound to the throne by the noble ties of kinship and marriage. To this
aristocracy the North contributed noble and vigorous blood.

In the King's household, so far as we can learn anything about it, we
find the same preference for men of Northern ancestry. Ordinarily, the
thegns who witnessed royal grants may be taken to have been warriors or
officials connected with the royal court. The signatures of more than
half of these show names that are unmistakably Scandinavian. Usually,
the Northmen sign before their Saxon fellows. The Old Norse language was
probably used to a large extent at court; at least we know that the
scalds who sang in praise of the "greatest king under heaven" composed
their lays in Canute's native language.[167]

The year 1017, which witnessed the exaltation of the foreigners into
English officialdom, also beheld a series of executions that still
further weakened the English by removing their natural leaders. Most of
these are associated with a Christmas gemot, when Canute was celebrating
the first anniversary of his rule as king of England. Of the victims the
most famous was Eadric, the Earl of Mercia. For ten years he had been a
power in his region, though at no time does it appear that his word of
honour or his pledge of loyalty could have had any value. In all the
English sources he is represented as endowed with the instincts of
treason, though the Encomiast, is careful to apply no term stronger than
turncoat. At the same time, it is clear that Eadric the Grasper was a
man of real abilities; in spite of the fact that he held allegiance
lightly, he seems to have retained his influence to the last. He was,
says one writer,

     a man of low origin, one whom the tongue had brought riches and
     rank, clever in wit, pleasant in speech, but surpassing all men of
     the time in envy, perfidy, crime, and cruelty.[168]

The murder of Eadric was directly in line with Canute's policy of
building up a new Scandinavian aristocracy, devoted to himself, and
endowed with large local authority. The new order could not be built on
such men as Eadric; by his marriage to Ethelred's daughter he was too
closely connected with the old order of things. Furthermore, a man who
found it so easy to be disloyal could not safely be entrusted with such
great territorial authority as the earlship of Mercia. There had been in
this same year extensive plotting among the survivors of the Anglian
nobility, and it is likely that Eadric was involved in this. It is also
related that the Earl was not satisfied with the King's reward,[169]
which may mean that he objected to having independent earldoms carved
out of Western Mercia. At any rate, Canute was not reluctant to remove
him. Eric appears to have acted as executioner; and the career of the
Grasper came to a sudden end. The murder, so far as we can see, was
popular; among the men of power Eadric can have had few friends or
perhaps none at all.

Three other lords are mentioned as having suffered death on the same
occasion: Northman, the son of Leofwine, and two lords from the
Southwest.[170] There can be little doubt that these men were convicted
of treacherous plotting and that the punishment was regarded as merited.
It is a remarkable fact that Northman's death did not alienate his
family from the new dynasty: his father Leofwine succeeded to Eadric's
dignities and his brother Leofric to Northman's own place of influence;
"and the king afterwards held him very dear."[171]

Some of these executions should probably be placed in connection with
certain measures taken against the former dynasty. Here again we have
anxious care to secure the new throne. Six sons appear to have been born
to Ethelred before his marriage to the Norman Emma; but of these only
two or at most three seem to have survived their father. After Edmund
Ironside's death, Edwy alone remained[172]; he is said to have been
Edmund's full brother and a youth of promise. Evidently Canute intended
to spare his life, but ordered him to go into exile. But the Etheling
secretly returned to England and hid for a time in Tavistock monastery.
He was evidently discovered, and Canute procured his death.[173] As
Tavistock is in Devonshire, the execution of the two magnates from the
Southwest may readily be explained on the supposition that they were
plotting in Edwy's favour.

The London assembly seems to have assumed that certain rights were
reserved to the infant sons of Edmund, but that the guardianship of the
children had been given to Canute. They were scarcely a problem in 1017;
still, it was necessary to make them permanently harmless. It will be
remembered that Edmund married Sigeferth's widow some time in the year
1015, perhaps in early summer. It is, therefore, extremely doubtful
whether the two boys, Edward and Edmund, were both the sons of the
unfortunate Aldgyth; if they were they must have been twins, or the
younger must have been born a posthumous child, some time in 1017, the
year of their banishment. But if Florence's account is trustworthy, the
status of the two was discussed at the Christmas gemot following
Edmund's death in 1016.

To slay the children of a "brother" who had committed them to his care
and protection must have seemed to Canute a rude and perhaps risky
procedure; it was therefore thought best to send them out of the land.
Accordingly the ethelings were sent to the "king of the Slavs,"[174] who
was instructed to remove them from the land of the living. This
particular king was evidently Canute's maternal uncle, the mighty
Boleslav, duke and later king of Poland. Boleslav took pity on the poor
children and failed to dispose of them as requested. In 1025, he was
succeeded by his son Mieczislav, who entered into close relations with
King Stephen of Hungary.[175] It was probably some time after 1025,
therefore, that the ethelings were transferred to the Hungarian court,
where they grew to manhood. After forty years of exile, one of them
returned to England, but died soon after he had landed.

It seems to have been Canute's purpose finally to destroy the house of
Alfred to the last male descendant. The two most dangerous heirs were,
however, beyond his reach: the sons of Ethelred and Emma were safe with
their mother in Normandy. There was close friendship between the lords
of Rouen and the rulers of the North; still, Duke Richard could not be
expected to ignore the claims of his own kinsmen. So long as the
ethelings remained in Normandy, there would always be danger of a Norman
invasion combined with a Saxon revolt in the interest of the fugitive
princes, Alfred and Edward.

Canute was a resourceful king: these princes, too, could be rendered
comparatively harmless. If their mother Emma should be restored to her
old position as reigning queen of England, her Norman relatives might
find it inconvenient to support an English uprising. This seems to be
the true motive for Canute's seemingly unnatural marriage. Historians
have seen in it a hope and an attempt to conciliate the English people,
as in this way the new King would become identified with the former
dynasty. But such a theory does scant justice to the moral sense of the
Anglo-Saxons. Furthermore, neither Ethelred nor Emma had ever enjoyed
real popularity. There is no doubt that a princess of the blood royal
could have been found for a consort, if the prime consideration had been
to contract a popular marriage. It seems rather that in this matter
Canute acted in defiance of English public sentiment and for the express
purpose of averting a real danger from beyond the Channel. Apparently,
Emma took kindly to Canute's plans, for she is said to have stipulated
that if sons were born to them, they should be preferred to Canute's
older children[176]; thus by inference the rights of her sons in
Normandy were abandoned.

Earlier in his career, Canute had formed an irregular connection with an
English or Anglo-Danish woman of noble birth, Elgiva, the daughter of
Elfhelm, who at one time ruled in Deira as ealdorman. Her mother's name
is given as Ulfrun, a name that is Scandinavian in both its component
parts.[177]The family was evidently not strictly loyal to the Saxon
line, for in 1006, just after Sweyn's return to Denmark, Elfhelm was
slain and his two sons blinded by royal orders.[178] Elgiva must have
had relatives at Northampton, for the Chronicler knows her as the woman
from Northampton. She was a woman of great force of character, ambitious
and aggressive, though not always tactful, as appears from her later
career in Norway. She was never Canute's wife; but, in the eleventh
century, vague ideas ruled concerning the marriage relation, even among
Christians. Her acquaintance with Canute doubtless began in 1013, when
he was left in charge of the camp and fleet at Gainsborough. Two sons
she bore to him, Harold Harefoot and Sweyn. On Emma's return to
England, Elgiva seems to have been sent with her children to Denmark. We
find her later taking an active part in the politics of Wendland,
Norway, and probably of England.

The Queen, who now came back from Normandy to marry her husband's old
enemy, was also a masterful woman. If heredity can be stated in
arithmetical terms, she was more than half Danish, as her mother Gunnor
was clearly a Danish, woman while her father had a non-Danish mother and
also inherited some non-Danish blood on the paternal side. She was
evidently beautiful, gifted, and attractive: her flattering Encomiast
describes her as of great beauty and wisdom.[179] But the finer
instincts that we commonly associate with womanhood cannot have been
highly developed in her case; what we seem to find is love of life, a
delight in power, and an overpowering ambition to rule. At the time of
her second marriage she was a mature woman; it is not likely that she
was less than thirty years old, perhaps she was nearer forty. At all
events, she must have been several years older than Canute. Two children
were born to this marriage: Harthacanute, who ruled briefly in Denmark
and England after the death of his father and of his half-brother
Harold; and Gunhild, who was married to the Emperor Henry III. Emma
lived to a ripe old age and died in 1052, fifty years after her first

The wedding was celebrated in July, 1017, the bride presumably coming
from Normandy. The object sought was attained: for more than ten years
there seems to have been unbroken peace between England and Normandy.
When trouble finally arose after the accession of Robert the Devil,
Canute was strong enough to dispense with further alliances.

One of the chief necessities was some form of a standing army, a force
that the King could depend upon in case of invasion or revolt. Much
reliance could obviously not be placed on the old military system; nor
could the army of conquest be retained indefinitely. In 1018, or perhaps
late in the preceding year, steps were taken to dismiss the Scandinavian
host.[180] It has been conjectured that this was done out of
consideration for the Saxon race; the presence of the conquerors was an
insult to the English people. It had clearly become necessary to disband
the viking forces, but for other reasons. A viking host was in its
nature an army of conquest, not of occupation, except when the warriors
were permitted to seize the land, which was evidently not Canute's
intention. In a land of peace, as Canute intended England to be, such a
host could not nourish. It should also be remembered that a large part
was composed of borrowed troops furnished by the rulers of Denmark,
Norway, and Sweden; these could not be kept indefinitely. Another
Danegeld was levied, 82,500 pounds in all, to pay off the host; and
most of the Northmen departed, to the evident satisfaction of all

The dismissal of one host was followed by the immediate reorganisation
of another. Far more important than the departure of the fleet is the
fact that the crews of forty ships remained in the royal service: this
would mean a force of between three thousand and four thousand men. But
the North knew no continuous body of warriors except the military
households of chiefs and kings; such a household was now to be
organised, but one that was far greater and more splendid than any
organisation of the sort known in Scandinavia. According to Sveno's
history, Canute had it proclaimed that only those would be admitted to
his new guard who were provided with two-edged swords having hilts
inlaid with gold.[181] Sveno also tells us that the wealthy warriors
made such haste to procure properly ornamented weapons that the sound of
the swordsmith's hammer was heard all through the land. In this way, the
King succeeded in giving his personal guard an aristocratic stamp.

The guard of housecarles or "thingmen," as they were called in the
North, was organised as a guild or military fraternity, of which the
King ranked as a member, though naturally a most important one. In many
respects its rules remind us of the regulations enforced in the Jomburg
brotherhood, though its organisation was probably merely typical of the
viking fraternities of the age. The purpose of the guild laws, as
reported by Sveno and Saxo, was to promote a spirit of fellowship among
the members, to secure order in the guard, and to inculcate proper
behaviour in the royal garth. When the housecarles were invited to the
King's tables, they were seated according to their eminence in warfare,
priority of service, or nobility of birth. To be removed to a lower
place was counted a disgrace. In addition to daily fare and
entertainment, the warriors received wages which were paid monthly, we
are told. The bond of service was not permanent, but could be dissolved
on New Year's Day only. All quarrels were decided in an assembly of the
housecarles in the presence of the King. Members guilty of minor
offences, such as failing to care properly for the horse of a fellow
guardsman, were assigned lower places at the royal tables. If any one
was thrice convicted of such misdeeds, he was given the last and lowest
place, where no one was to communicate with him in any way, except that
the feasters might throw bones at him if they were so disposed. Whoever
should slay a comrade should lose his head or go into exile. Treason was
punished by death and the confiscation of the criminal's property.[182]

These laws were put into writing several generations after the guard
was formed, and it is not likely that all existed from the very
beginning. There is, however, nothing in the rules that might not have
applied in Canute's own day. It is said that the King himself was the
first who seriously violated the guard-laws, in that he slew a
housecarle in a moment of anger. Repentance came swiftly; the guard was
assembled; kneeling the King confessed his guilt and requested
punishment. But the laws gave the King the power of judgment in such
cases, and so it must be in this instance as in others. Forty marks was
the customary fine, but in this case the King levied nine times that
amount and added nine marks as a gift of honour. This fine of 369 marks
was divided into three parts: one to go to the heirs of the deceased;
one to the guard; and one to the King. But Canute gave his share to the
Church and the poor.[183]

Though the housecarles are presumed to have possessed horses, the guard
was in no sense a cavalry force. Horses were for use on the march, for
swift passage from place to place, not for charging on the field. The
housecarles were heavily armed, as we know from the description of a
ship that Earl Godwin presented to Harthacanute as a peace offering a
few years after Canute's death. Eighty warriors, housecarles no doubt,
seeing that it was a royal ship, manned the dragon,

     of whom each one had on each arm a golden arm-ring weighing sixteen
     ounces, a triple corselet, on the head a helmet in part overlaid
     with gold; each was girded with a sword that was golden-hilted and
     bore a Danish ax inlaid with silver and gold hanging from the left
     shoulder; the left hand held the shield with gilded boss and
     rivets; in the right hand lay the spear that the Angles call the

It is not to be supposed that the whole guard was always at the
court--it was distributed in the strong places throughout the
kingdom,[185] especially no doubt in the South. It seems likely that
individual housecarles might have homes of their own; at any rate, many
of them in time came into possession of English lands as we know from
Domesday.[186] No doubt Anglo-Saxon warriors were enrolled in the guard,
but in its earlier years, at least, the greater number must have been of
Scandinavian ancestry. In the province of Uppland, Sweden, a runic
monument has been found that was raised by two sons in memory of their
father, who "sat out west in thinglith."[187] As thinglith was the Old
Norse name for Canute's corps of housecarles, we have here contemporary
mention of a Swede who served in the guard. Another stone from the same
province records the fact that Ali who raised it "collected tribute for
Canute in England."[188] Housecarles were sometimes employed as tax
collectors, and it seems probable that Ali, too, was a member of the
great corps. It is likely that housecarles are also alluded to in the
following Scanian inscription:

     Sweyn and Thurgot raised this monument in memory of Manna and
     Sweyn. God help their souls well. But they lie buried in

The sagas are evidently correct in stating that the force of housecarles
"had been chosen from many lands, though chiefly from those of the
Danish [Old Norse] tongue."

So long had the wealth of England been regarded as legitimate plunder,
that the Scandinavian pirates found it difficult to realise that raids
in South Britain were things of the past. They now had to reckon, not
merely with a sluggish and disorganised militia, but with a strong force
of professional warriors in the service and pay of a capable and
determined king. In the year 1018, says the German chronicler Thietmar
of Merseburg,

     the crews of thirty viking ships have been slain in England, thanks
     be to God, by the son of Sweyn, the king of the English; and he,
     who earlier with his father brought invasion and long-continued
     destruction upon the land, is now its sole defender.[190]

       *       *       *       *       *

This seems to have been the first and last attempt at piracy in England
during the reign of Canute. So far as his dominions extended, viking
practices were outlawed. The check that the movement received in 1018
was the beginning of a rapid decline in its strength, and before the
close of Canute's reign, the profession of the sea-king was practically

The Welsh, too, seem to have found it hard to repress their old habits
of raiding the English frontier. It was probably this fact that induced
Canute to establish so many earldoms in the Southwest, particularly in
the Severn Valley. A few years after the signal defeat of the viking
fleet, apparently in 1022, Eglaf, one of the earls on the Welsh border,
harried the lands of Southwestern Wales.[191] As the sources nowhere
intimate that Canute ever planned to conquer Wales, and as this was
evidently the year of Canute's absence in the Baltic lands, the
conclusion must be that this expedition was of a punitive character. The
Angles and Saxons were soon to learn that the new régime meant a
security for the property as well as the persons of loyal and peaceful
citizens, such as they had not enjoyed for more than a generation.


[146] The evidence is late and not of the best; the earliest authority
to mention it is Ralph de Diceto who lived a century and a half later.
But see Freeman, _Norman Conquest_, i., Note tt.

[147] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 179.

[148] Steenstrup places his age at twenty-two (_Danmarks Riges
Historie_, i., 385). Munch thinks that he was several years older. (_Det
norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 126-127).

[149] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 155. (Vigfusson's translation.)

[150] Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 274.

[151] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1020.

[152] The first recorded absence was in the winter of 1019 and 1020;
Canute returned in time for the Easter festivities. The Chronicler tells
of another return from Denmark in 1023; as this return was earlier than
the translation of Saint Alphege in June, the absence must have been
during the winter months. See the _Chronicle_ for these years.

[153] Von Friesen, _Historiska Runinskrifter_ (Fornvännen, 1909), 58.
Von Friesen suggests that the chief Tosti who paid the first geld may
have been Skogul-Tosti, the father of Sigrid the Haughty (pp. 71-72).
For other monuments alluding to the Danegeld, see _ibid._, 58, 74-75;
Montelius, _Kulturgeschichte Schwedens_, 267: the Össeby Stone.

[154] The statement of the _Chronicle_ (1017) that he divided England
into four parts may imply that some sort of sanction was sought from the
witan; but such an act would merely recognise accomplished facts.

[155] For the evidence see the author's paper in _American Historical
Review_, xv., 725.

[156] Munch, _Det norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 392.

[157] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 7.

[158] _Ibid._, ii., c. 9.

[159] Florence tells us that Thurkil's wife bore the name Edith
(_Chronicon_, i., 183). The _Jómsvikingasaga_ (c. 52) has Thurkil marry
Ethelred's daughter Ulfhild, Ulfketel's widow. However, Ethelred had a
daughter Edith who was married to Eadric. (Florence, _Chronicon_, i.,
161.) For a discussion of the subject see Freeman, _Norman Conquest_,
i., Notes nn and ss.

[160] Snorre, _Saga of Earl Hakon_, c. 3.

[161] _American Historical Review_, xv., 727.

[162] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 30.

[163] She was sister of the earls Ulf and Eglaf. Her Danish name was
Gytha, which the Saxons changed to Edith.

[164] Simeon of Durham, _Opera Omnia_, ii., 197.

[165] Ethelwerd and Godric. Ethelwerd was exiled in 1020.

[166] Leofwine had a son named Northman, and it is possible that his
father also bore that name. See Freeman, _Norman Conquest_, i., Note
ccc. The occurrence of the name "Northman" in a family living in or near
the Danelaw may indicate Norse ancestry.

[167] For the court poetry of the scalds see Vigfusson and Powell,
_Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii. Their verses have in part come down to
us. See below, pp. 292 ff.

[168] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 160.

[169] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 15.

[170] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1017.

[171] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 182.

[172] Excepting the two sons of Emma who were now in Normandy, there
seems to be no record of any other surviving son. Florence of Worcester
speaks of Edmund's "brothers" in narrating the discussions at the gemot
of Christmas, 1016; but he may have thought of Queen Emma's children.
(_Chronicon_, i., 179.)

[173] William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, i., 218.

[174] Florence's writing _ad regent Suanorum_ was probably due to an
error of information or of copying; _ad regent Sclavorum_, or some such
form, is probably the correct reading (i., 181).

[175] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iii., 303-308. Mieczislav's father was
married to Stephen's sister.

[176] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 16.

[177] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 190. On the subject of
proper names ending in _run_, see Björkman, _Nordische Personennamen in
England_, 194.

[178] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 158.

[179] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 16.

[180] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1018.

[181] _Historiola Legum Castrensum Regis Canuti Magni_, c. 2. The
_Historiola_ is found in Langebek, _Scriptores Rerum Danicarum_, iii.

[182] Sveno, _Historiola_, cc. 5-9. Saxo, _Gesta Danorum_,351 ff.

[183] Langebek, _Scriptores_, iii., 151 (note). The story is probably
mythical; but I give it as a fitting companion to the English stories of
Canute and the tide, and of his improvised verses inspired by the chants
of the monks of Ely.

[184] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 195.

[185] Saxo, _Gesta Danorum_, 351.

[186] Larson, _The King's Household in England_, 163-167.

[187] The Kolstad Stone. Montelius, _Kulturgeschichte Schwedens_, 267.

[188] The Össeby Stone. Montelius, _ibid._.

[189] The Valleberga Stone. Wimmer, _De danske Runemindesmærker_, iii.,

[190] _Chronicon_, viii., c. 5. Thietmar's account is strictly

[191] _Annales Cambriæ_, 23.




The first three or four years of Canute's government in England can have
given but little promise of the beneficent rule that was to follow. To
the conquered Saxon they must have been a season of great sorrow. On the
throne of Alfred sat an alien king who had done nothing as yet to merit
the affectionate regard of his subjects. In the shire courts ruled the
chiefs of the dreaded Danish host, chiefs who had probably harried those
same shires at an earlier date. A heavy tax had been collected to pay
the forces of the enemy, but a large part of those forces still
remained. The land was at peace; but the calm was the calm of
exhaustion. The young King had shown vigour and decision; thus far,
however, his efforts had been directed toward dynastic security rather
than the welfare of his English subjects.

But with Canute's return from Denmark in 1020 begins the second period
in the history of the reign. After that date, it seems that more
intelligent efforts were made to reconcile the Saxons to foreign rule.
For one thing, Canute must have come to appreciate the wonderful power
of the Church; for an attempt was made to enlist its forces on the side
of the new monarchy. Perhaps he had also come to understand that
repression could not continue indefinitely.

This change in policy seems to be the outgrowth principally of the new
situation created by Canute's accession to the Danish throne. Harold,
his older brother, king of Denmark, appears to have died in 1018.[192]
Little is known of Harold; he died young and evidently left no heirs.
For a year there seems to have been no recognised king in Denmark, as
Canute did not leave England before 1019. In that year he sailed to the
Baltic to claim the throne in person, taking with him nine ships, fewer
than one thousand men; the rest of the new force of housecarles was
doubtless left in Britain as a matter of security. Thurkil, Earl of East
Anglia, seems to have been left behind as English viceroy.

Various reasons may be assigned for this delay in securing the ancestral
crown. Harold died in the year when Canute was reorganising the military
forces of the realm; before his great corps of housecarles was complete,
it would not have been safe to leave the country. Perhaps the King also
felt that he must take some steps to reconcile the two racial elements
of his kingdom. He may have concluded that with two kingdoms to govern
it would be impossible to give undivided attention to English affairs
and movements. To prevent rebellion in his absence, it might be well to
remove, so far as possible, all forms of hostility; we read, therefore,
of a great meeting of the magnates, both Danes and Angles, at Oxford in
1018, where the matter of legislation was evidently the principal
subject. At this assembly, it was agreed to accept Edgar's laws as the
laws for the whole land.[193] It is significant that the comparatively
large body of law that was enacted in Ethelred's day was ignored or
rejected. The chief reason for this may have been that Canute was not
yet willing to enforce the rigid enactments against heathen practices
that were such a distinctive feature of Ethelred's legislation. There
can be small doubt that in the Scandinavian settlements and particularly
in the alien host heathendom still lingered to some extent.

The delay was also due, perhaps, in large part to a serious trouble with
Scotland. The term Northumbria is variously used; but in its widest
application it embraced territories extending from the Humber to the
Forth. The northern part of this kingdom, the section between the Tweed
and the Forth, was known as Lothian; on this region the kings of
Scotland had long cast covetous eyes. In 1006, while the vikings were
distressing England, King Malcolm invaded Lothian, crossed the Tweed,
and laid siege to Durham. The aged Earl Waltheof made practically no
attempt at resistance; but his young son Uhtred placed himself at the
head of the Northumbrian levies and drove the invader back into
Scotland.[194] Uhtred succeeded to his father's earldom and was
apparently recognised as lord throughout the entire ancient realm. While
Uhtred lived and ruled, the neighbours to the north seem to have kept
the peace; but in 1016, as we have seen, the great warrior was slain,
probably at Canute's instigation and his earldom was assigned to Eric.
Whatever Canute's intentions may have been, it seems likely that the new
Earl did not come into immediate and undisputed control of the entire
earldom; for we find that in the regions north of Yorkshire, the old
kingdom of Bernicia, Uhtred's brother, Eadulf Cudel, "a very sluggish
and timid man," sought to maintain the hereditary rights of the family.

Two years after Uhtred's death, Malcolm the son of Kenneth reappeared in
Lothian at the head of a large force gathered from the western kingdom
of Strathclyde as well as from his own Scotia. The Northumbrians had had
ample warning of troubles to come: for thirty nights a comet had blazed
in the sky; and after the passage of another period of thirty days, the
enemy appeared. An army gathered mainly from the Durham country met the
Scotch forces at Carham on the Tweed, near Coldstream, but was almost
completely destroyed.[195] There is no record of any further resistance;
and when Malcolm returned to the Highlands he was lord of Lothian,
Eadulf having surrendered his rights to all of Northumbria beyond the

Canute apparently acquiesced in this settlement. So far as we know, he
made no effort to assist his subjects in the North, or to redeem the
lost territory. We cannot be sure of the reason for this inactivity; but
the general situation on the island appears to offer a satisfactory
explanation. It will be remembered that 1018 was the year when Canute
disbanded his Scandinavian army. As we are told that the bishop of
Durham, who died in 1019, took leave of earth a few days after he had
heard the news of the great defeat,[196] it seems likely that the battle
of Carham was fought late in the year 1018, and after the host had
departed for Denmark. Canute, therefore, probably had no available army
that he could trust; to call out his new subjects would have been a
hazardous experiment. There is also the additional fact that the
sluggish Eadulf was in all probability regarded as a rebel, whom Canute
was not anxious to assist.

As to the terms of the surrender of Lothian, nothing definite is known.
Our only authority in the matter puts the entire blame on Eadulf, and
apparently would have us believe that Malcolm merely stepped into the
earl's position as vassal of Eric or Canute. If such were the case,
Canute could hardly have been left in ignorance about the cession, and
he may have cherished certain pretensions to overlordship, which Malcolm
evidently did not regard very seriously. In one way the cession of
Lothian was a great loss to England; on the other hand, it added an
Anglian element to the Caledonian kingdom, which in time became the
controlling factor, and prepared the northern state for the union of the
kingdoms that came centuries afterwards.

The following year, Canute was finally in position to make the deferred
journey to Denmark. The Danish situation must have had its difficulties.
In a proclamation issued on his return, the King alludes to these,
though in somewhat ambiguous terms:

     Then I was informed that there threatened us a danger that was
     greater than was well pleasing to us; and then I myself with the
     men who went with me departed for Denmark, whence came to you the
     greatest danger; and that I have with God's help forestalled, so
     that henceforth no unpeace shall come to you from that country, so
     long as you stand by me as the law commands, and my life

Most probably, the difficulty alluded to was some trouble about the
succession. There may have been a party in Denmark to whom the thought
of calling a king from England was not pleasant; or it may be that a
conservative faction was hoping for a ruler of the old faith. Any form
of invasion from Denmark at this time, when the nation was even
kingless, is almost beyond the possible. But no doubt there had been a
likelihood that Canute would have to call on his English subjects for
military and financial support in the effort to secure his hereditary
rights in the North.

Canute chose to spend the winter in Denmark, as during the winter season
there was least likelihood of successful plots and uprisings. As early
as possible in the spring of 1020, he returned to England. Evidently
certain rebellious movements had made some headway during his absence,
for Canute immediately summoned the lords to meet in formal assembly at
the Easter festival. The plotting was apparently localised in the
south-western shires, as we infer from the fact that the gemot sat in an
unusual place, Cirencester in the Severn country. Its chief act seems to
have been the banishment of Ethelwerd, earl in the Devon country, and of
a mysterious pretender whom the Chronicler calls Edwy, king of
churls.[198] It seems natural to associate the destinies of these two
men and to conclude that some sort of conspiracy in the pretender's
favour had been hatching, but we have no definite information.

It was probably at this gathering that Canute issued his proclamation to
the English nation; at least there seems to be no doubt that it was
given in 1020. It is a remarkable document, a message to a restless
people, an apology for the absence in Denmark, and a promise of future
good government. It hints darkly at what may have been the disturbances
in the Southwest and the measures taken at Cirencester in the following

     Now I did not spare my treasures while unpeace was threatening to
     come upon you; with the help of God I have warded this off by the
     use of my treasures.[199]

In a measure the Proclamation of 1020 contains the announcement of a new
governmental policy in England, one that recognises the English subjects
as citizens who may be trusted with some share in the administration of
the realm, and not merely as conquered provincials whose rebellious
instincts can be kept down by a continuous policy of coercion only.
There was, it is true, little need of coercion after 1020; the natural
leaders of the native population were gone. But the importance of the
union with Denmark with respect to politics in England must not be
overlooked: it removed what fear had remained as to the stability of
Canute's conquered throne. At the first indication of an uprising, it
would be possible to throw a Danish force on the British coast, which,
combined with the King's loyal partisans in England, could probably
stifle the rebellion in a brief campaign.

The purpose to make larger use of the native energies is indirectly
shown in the command to the local functionaries that they heed and
follow the advice of the bishops in the administration of justice:

     And I make known to you that I will be a kind lord and loyal to the
     rights of the Church and to right secular law.

     And also my ealdormen I command that they help the bishops to the
     rights of the Church and to the rights of my kingship and to the
     behoof of all the people. And I also command my reeves, by my
     friendship and by all that they own, and by their own lives, that
     they everywhere govern my people justly and give right judgments by
     the witness of the shire bishop, and do such mercy therein as the
     shire bishop thinks right and the community can allow.[200]

The significance of this appears when we remember that the local
prelates were probably English to a man.

There is, however, no evidence for the belief so frequently expressed,
that Canute by this time, or even earlier, had concluded to dispense
with his Scandinavian officials, and to rule England with the help of
Englishmen only. In the Proclamation the King speaks of Danes and
Angles, not of Angles and Danes. Among the thegns who witnessed his
charters, Danes and Saxons continue to appear in but slightly changed
ratio till the close of the reign. The alien guard was not dismissed.
Local government continued in the hands of Norse and Danish earls. Time
came when these disappeared from their respective earldoms, but for
reasons that show no conscious purpose of removal because of nationality
or race. As the field of his operations widened, as the vision of empire
began to take on the forms of reality, Canute found it necessary to use
his trusted chiefs in other places and in other capacities. Consequently
the employment of native Englishmen in official positions became more
common as the years passed.

The following year about Martinsmas (November 11, 1021), came the first
real break in Canute's political system: Thurkil the Tall, who stood
second to the King only in all England, was outlawed. Florence of
Worcester adds that his wife was exiled with him.[201] The reason for
this act is not clear; but we may perhaps associate it with a lingering
dislike for the old dynasty. If Edith was actually Ethelred's daughter,
Thurkil's marriage may have been a source of irritation or even supposed
danger to Canute and possibly also to the lady's stepmother, the callous
Queen Emma.

It is also possible that the King in this case simply yielded to
pressure from the native element, particularly from the Church.
Thurkil's prominence in the kingdom can hardly have been a source of
pleasure to the men who recalled the part that he had played in the
kingdom at various times. In the Proclamation he is entrusted with the
task of enforcing the laws against heathen and heretical practices. But
to assign such a duty to the man who was in such a great measure
responsible for the martyrdom of Saint Alphege must have seemed a
travesty upon justice to the good churchmen of the time. The conjecture
that the banishment of the Earl was not wholly the result of royal
disfavour receives some support from the fact that, a few months later,
Canute and Thurkil were reconciled, and the old Earl was given a
position in Denmark analogous to the one that he had held in
England.[202] Canute still found him useful, but not in the western
kingdom. At the same time, the shrewd King seems not to have felt
absolutely sure of the Earl's loyalty, for we read that he brought
Thurkil's son with him to England, evidently as a hostage.

In 1023 another great name disappears from the documents: Earl Eric is
mentioned no more. Later stories that he, too, suffered exile are not
to be believed. Eric seems to have died in possession of all his
Northumbrian dignities and of the King's favour at a comparatively
advanced age; for the warrior who showed such signal bravery at Hjörunga
Bay nearly forty years before could not have been young. In all
probability he had passed the sixtieth milestone of life, which was
almost unusual among the viking chiefs of the period. We are told that
in his last year he contemplated a visit to Rome which was probably
never made. Most reliable is the story that he died from the effects of
primitive surgery. Just as he was about to set out on the Roman journey,
it was found necessary for him to have his uvula treated. The surgeon
cut too deep and a hemorrhage resulted from which the Earl died.[203]
That the story is old is clear, for some of the accounts have the
additional information that the leech acted on the suggestion of one who
can be none other than Canute. This part of the story is probably

The spirit of chivalry was not strong in the viking; but, so far as it
existed, it found its best representative in Eric, the son of Hakon the
Bad. He was great as a warrior, great as a leader in the onslaught. He
possessed in full measure the courage that made the viking such a
marvellous fighter; the joy of the conflict he seems to have shared with
the rest. But when the fight was over and the foeman was vanquished,
nobler qualities ruled the man; he could then be merciful and large of
soul. As a statesman, on the other hand, he seems to have been less
successful; in Norway he permitted the aristocracy to exercise local
authority to a greater extent than the welfare of Norse society could
allow. As to his rule in Northumbria we know nothing.

The next year we have the closing record of still another Scandinavian
earl in England: Eglaf signs a grant for the last time in 1024.[204]
Doubtless some trouble had arisen between him and the King, for two
years later he appears to be acting the part of a rebel. Still later, he
is said to have joined the Varangian guard of Scandinavian warriors at
Byzantium, where he closed his restless career in the service of the
Greek Emperor.[205]

There still remained Norse and Danish earls in England, such as Ranig
and Hakon; but the men who were most intimately associated in the
English mind with conquest and cruel subjection were apparently out of
the land before the third decade of the century had finished half its
course. It is probable that Hakon succeeded his father in the
Northumbrian earldom, as Leofwine of Mercia seems to be in possession of
Hakon's earldom in Worcestershire in 1023,[206] the year when Hakon's
father presumably died.

After the banishment of Thurkil, we should expect to find Eric, while he
still lived, as the ranking earl in the kingdom and the chief adviser to
the King. But Eric's earldom was in the extreme north; his subjects were
largely Norwegian immigrants and their descendants, as yet, perhaps, but
imperfectly Anglicised; he was himself an alien and his circle of ideas
scarcely touched the field of Saxon politics. He could, therefore, be of
small assistance in governing the kingdom as a whole. Furthermore, it is
doubtful whether Canute really felt the need of a grand vizier at this
time. An excellent assistant, however, he seems to have found in the
Saxon Godwin. It has been thought that Godwin's exalted position of
first subject in the realm belongs to a date as early as 1020[207] But
this is mere conjecture. It is evident that his influence with Canute
grew with the passage of time; still, it is likely that historians have
projected his greatness too far back into his career.

A position analogous to that of the tall earl he could not have held
before the closing years of the reign. If Canute left any one in charge
of the kingdom during his absences after 1020, it could not have been
Godwin. When the fleet sailed against the Slavs on the south Baltic
shores in 1022, Godwin appears to have accompanied the host. Tradition
tells us that he fought valiantly in the Swedish campaign of 1026. A
Norse runic monument records his presence in some expedition to Norway,
presumably that of 1028.[208] Canute did not employ English forces to a
large extent in any of his foreign wars, possibly because he was
distrustful of them: only fifty English ships made part of that vast
armada that overawed the Norwegians in 1028. Canute's probable
reluctance about arming the Saxons after the battle of Carham and the
consequent loss of Lothian has already been referred to. The presence of
Godwin as a chief in Canute's host may, therefore, be taken as a mark of
peculiar confidence on the King's part.

Godwin was never without his rival. In the Midlands Leofwine and after
him his son Leofric were developing a power that was some day to prove a
dangerous barrier to the ambitions of the southern Earl and his many
sons. The family of Leofwine had certain advantages in the race for
power that made for stability and assured possession of power once
gained: it was older as a member of the aristocracy; it seems to have
had Anglo-Danish connections, presumably Danish ancestry; it was
apparently controlled by a spirit of prudence that urged the acceptance
of de-facto rule. But in the matter of aggressive abilities and
statesmanlike ideas the Mercians were far inferior to their Saxon
rivals; the son and grandsons of Leofwine never attained the height of
influence and power that was reached by Godwin and his son Harold.

While these changes were going on in England, an important advance had
been made in the direction of empire. In his message from Rome to the
English people (1027) Canute claims the kingship of England, Denmark,
Norway, and parts of Sweden. The copies of the document that have come
down to us are, however, not contemporary, and it is not likely that the
sweeping claim of the salutation was found in the original. For at no
time was Canute lord of any Swedish territory as the term was understood
and the frontier drawn in the eleventh century. It has been pointed out
that in this case we probably have a scribal error of Swedes for
Slavs.[209] As King of Denmark, Canute inherited pretensions to
considerable stretches of the south Baltic shore lands, and consequently
could claim to rule a part of the Slavic lands. Early in his reign he
made an expedition to these regions, of which we have faint echoes in
both English and Scandinavian sources.


From the Elbe eastward along the Baltic shores, at least as far as the
Vistula, where the Lithuanian settlements appear to have begun,[210]
Slavic tribes were evidently in full possession all through the viking
age. There was, however, no consolidated Slavic power, no organised
Slavic state. The dominions of Bohemia and Poland were developing but
neither had full control of the coast lands. The non-Slavic peoples who
were interested in this region were the Danes and the Germans. The
eastward expansion of Germany across and beyond the Elbe had begun; but
in Canute's day Teutonic control of Wendish territories was very slight.

We find the Danes in Wendland as early as the age of Charlemagne, when
they were in possession of a strong and important city called Reric, the
exact location of which is not known.[211] The Danish interest appears
to have been wholly a commercial one: horses, cattle, game, fish, mead,
timber products, spices, and hemp are mentioned as important articles of
the southern trade.[212] There was also, we may infer, something of a
market for Danish products. At all times, the intercourse seems to have
been peaceful; Danes and Wends appear to have lived side by side on the
best of terms. The Germans, on the other hand, were not regarded with
much favour by their Slavic neighbours. The feeling of hostility and
hatred that the Wend cherished was reciprocated on the German side; the
German mind scarcely thought of the Slav as within the pale of humanity.

The most famous of all Danish settlements in these regions was Jom, a
stronghold near the mouth of the Oder, sometimes called Jumne, Jumneta,
or Julin. In the eleventh century Jom was a great city as cities went in
those days, though it was probably not equal to its reputation. The good
Master Adam, who has helped us to so much information regarding Northern
lands and conditions in his century, speaks of the city in the following

     It is verily the greatest city in Europe. It is inhabited by Slavs
     and other peoples, Greeks and barbarians. For even the Saxons who
     have settled there are permitted to live with the rest in the
     enjoyment of the same rights; though, indeed, only so long as they
     refrain from public profession of their Christian faith. For all
     the inhabitants are still chained to the errors of heathen
     idolatry. In other respects, especially as to manners and
     hospitality, a more obliging and honourable people cannot be

The city was located on the east side of the island of Wollin, where the
village of Wollin has since been built. For its time it enjoyed a very
favourable location. Built on an island, it was fairly safe from land
attacks, while its position some distance from the sea secured it from
the common forms of piracy.[214] Back into the land ran the great river
highway, the Oder, while a few miles to the north lay the Baltic with
its long coast line to the east, the west, and the north.

To secure Danish influence in the city, Harold Bluetooth built the
famous fortress of Jomburg and garrisoned it with a carefully chosen
band of warriors, later known as the Jomvikings. According to saga,
Palna Toki, the viking who is reputed to have slain King Harold, was the
founder and chief of the brotherhood; but the castle probably existed
before Toki became prominent in the garrison, if he ever was a member.
The fortress was located north of Jom near the modern village of Wollin,
where abundant archæological evidence has definitely identified the
site.[215] The harbour or bay that served as such has since filled with
the rubbish of time; but in the tenth century it is reported to have had
a capacity of three hundred dragons.

The existence of a military guild at Jomburg seems well attested. Only
men of undoubted bravery between the ages of eighteen and fifty years
were admitted to membership; and, in the admission, neither kinship nor
friendship nor considerations of exalted birth should be taken into
account. As members of the brotherhood, all the Jomvikings assumed the
duties of mutual support and the revenge of a fallen comrade. Strict
discipline was enjoined in the fortress; absence for more than three
days at a time was forbidden; no women were to be admitted to the
castle. There was to be no toleration of quarrelsome behaviour; plunder,
the fruitful source of contention, was to be distributed by lot. In all
disputes the chief was the judge.[216]

It seems evident that the chief of these vikings was something more than
the captain of a garrison; he bore the earl's title and as such must
have had territorial authority in and about the city. Supported by the
Jomvikings he soon began to assert an independence far beyond what the
Danish kings had intended that he should possess. However, till the
death of Harold Bluetooth, the brotherhood appears to have been fairly
loyal to their suzerain; it was to Jomburg that the aged King fled when
his son rebelled against him; it was there that he died after the
traitor's arrow had given him the fatal wound. The rebel Sweyn was not
immediately recognised by the Earl at Jom; the vikings are said to have
defied him, to have captured him and carried him off. Only on the
promises of marriage to Gunhild, the sister of Earl Sigvaldi's wife, and
of the payment of a huge ransom, was he permitted to return to his
throne. The saga story has probably a great measure of truth in it.
Sweyn seems to have been determined on the destruction of the
fraternity, and most likely had some success; for toward the close of
his reign, we find the Jomvikings no longer terrorising the Baltic
shores, but plundering the western isles.

[Illustration: THE STENKYRKA STONE (Monument from the Island of Gotland
showing viking ships.)]


In 1021, toward the close of the year, we read of the exile of Thurkil
the Tall, who will be remembered as an old Jomviking, the brother of
Earl Sigvaldi, and the leader in the descent of these vikings upon
England in 1009. We do not know where the exile sought a new home, but
one is tempted to conjecture that he probably returned to the old haunts
at the mouth of the Oder. It is an interesting fact that a few months
later Canute found it advisable to make a journey to that same region.

In the entry for 1022, the Chronicler writes that "in this year King
Canute fared out with his ships to Wiht," or, as one manuscript has it,
to "Wihtland." Apparently, the movement, whatever it was, did not
interest the scribe; far more important in his eyes was the news that
Archbishop Ethelnoth, when in Rome to receive the pallium, was invited
to say mass in the papal presence, and was afterwards permitted to
converse with the Holy Father. Historians have thought with the monk
that the journey with the fleet can have had but little importance, that
it was merely a mobilisation of the navy at the Isle of Wight, perhaps
for the purpose of display.

It was the Danish historian Steenstrup who first suggested that Wiht or
Wihtland probably did not mean Wight in this case, but the old Witland
that we read of in the writings of Alfred: Wulfstan the wide-farer
informed the royal student that "the Vistula is a mighty stream and
separates Witland from Wendland and Witland belongs to the
Esthonians."[217] Evidently the Angles understood Witland to be the
regions of modern Prussia east of the Vistula. That Canute's expedition
actually went eastward seems extremely probable for we read that the
next year he returned from Denmark and had become reconciled with Earl

There were Danish colonies at the mouths of the Oder, the Vistula, and
the Düna[219]; all these, no doubt, submitted to the conqueror from
England. The expedition probably first went to Jom in Wendland; thence
eastward to the Prussian regions of Witland and the still more distant
Semland, a region near the Kurisches Haff that is reported to have been
conquered by one of Harold Bluetooth's sons.[220] Canute's possessions
thus extended along the Baltic shores from Jutland almost to the eastern
limits of modern Germany; he may also have had possessions farther up
the eastern coast of the sea. It is not likely that these possessions
were anything more than a series of stations and settlements; but these
would serve as centres of influence from which Danish power would
penetrate into the interior to the protection of Danish trade and

Later English writers have a story to tell of this expedition,
especially of the valorous part that was played by the Earl Godwin. In
the expedition against the Vandals, Godwin, without first informing the
King, made a night attack on the enemy and put them to rout. When Canute
prepared to make an attack early in the morning, he missed the English
and feared that they had fled or deserted. But when he came upon the
enemy's camp and found nothing there but bloody corpses and plunder,
light dawned on the King, and he ever afterward held the English in high

Jomburg apparently retained its old pre-eminence as the centre of Danish
control on the southern shore. The King's brother-in-law, Ulf, seems to
have been left in control, probably with the title of earl. But after
the death of Thurkil, who had been left as viceroy of Denmark, Ulf was
apparently transferred to that country and Canute's son Sweyn, under the
guidance of his mother Elgiva, was appointed the King's lieutenant in

The extension of Danish influence among the Wends brought Denmark into
closer contact and relations with the Empire. Two years after Canute's
expedition to the Slavic lands, Henry the Saint passed to his reward,
and Conrad the Salic succeeded to the imperial dignities. On the death
of Henry II. the great Polish Duke Boleslav hastened to assume the regal
title, and evidently planned to renounce the imperial suzerainty. This
policy of hostility to the Empire was continued by his son and
successor, Mieczislav, who also may have hoped to interest his cousin
King Canute in the welfare of the new kingdom.

Conrad also felt the need of a close alliance with the Danish conqueror,
and called upon Archbishop Unwan of Hamburg-Bremen for assistance as a
mediator. Unwan was Canute's friend and succeeded in bringing about the
desired understanding. Possibly the price of the alliance may have
appealed to Canute as much as the Archbishop's arguments; for Conrad
bought the friendship of his Northern neighbour with the Mark of
Sleswick to the Eider River.[223]

The exact date of this alliance is a matter of doubt, but the
probabilities appear to favour 1025, when the Emperor Conrad was in
Saxony. Some historians believe that the mark was not ceded at this time
but ten years later, when Canute's daughter Gunhild was betrothed to
Conrad's son Henry, as Adam of Bremen seems to associate these two
events.[224] But Adam's chronology is confused on these matters.
Canute's friendship was surely more difficult to purchase in 1025 when
his star was rapidly ascending than in 1035 when his empire had begun to
collapse. While we cannot be sure, it seems extremely likely that the
boundary of Denmark was extended to the Eider in 1025.

[Illustration: Danish coins from the reign of Canute, minted at Lund,
Roeskilde, Ringsted]


[192] Langebek, _Scriptores_, i., 159 (note).

[193] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1018.

[194] Simeon of Durham, _Opera Omnia_, i., 216. The account of the siege
of Durham is not by Simeon but by some writer whose identity is unknown.

[195] Simeon of Durham, _Opera Omnia_, i., 84.

[196] _Ibid._

[197] Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 273 (sec. 5).

[198] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1020.

[199] Sec. 4.

[200] Sees. 2, 8, and 11. For a translation of the entire document see
Appendix i.

[201] _Chronicon_, i., 183.

[202] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1023. The story given by later writers
that Thurkil was slain by a Danish mob soon after his exile cannot be
credited. It doubtless originated in a desire that the persecutor of
Saint Alphege should suffer retribution. See especially the life of this
saint in Langebek, _Scriptores_, ii., 453.

[203] One of the sagas (_Fagrskinna_, c. 24) tells us that Eric actually
made the pilgrimage and died soon after the return. That such a journey
was at least planned seems probable; Eric's brother-in-law, Einar, is
said to have made a pilgrimage during the earlier years of the decade;
they may have planned to make the journey together. The earliest English
writers who account for Eric's disappearance on the theory of exile are
William of Malmesbury (_Gesta Regum_, i., 219), and Henry of Huntingdon
(_Historia Anglorum_, 186).

[204] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 741.

[205] _Jómsvikingasaga_, c. 52.

[206] In an agreement of that year involving lands in Worcester and
Gloucester, Leofwine ealdorman signs as a witness. Kemble, _Codex
Diplomaticus_, No. 738.

[207] Freeman, _Norman Conquest_, i., 285.

[208] _Afhandlinger viede Sophus Bugge's Minde_, 8.

[209] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iii., 326-328.

[210] Steenstrup, _Venderne og de Danske_, 3.

[211] _Ibid._, 24-25.

[212] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 322-323.

[213] _Gesta_, ii., c. 19.

[214] Steenstrup, _Venderne og de Danske_, 33-34.

[215] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 325-326. Steenstrup, _Venderne og
de Danske_, 49.

[216] _Jómsvikingasaga_, c. 24.

[217] _Normannerne_, iii., 322-325.

[218] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1023.

[219] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, i., 195-199; iii., 322-325.

[220] Saxo, _Gesta Danorum_, 328. The Sembrians are described by Adamus
in his history (iv., c. 18) as a very barbarous but humane race.

[221] Henry of Huntingdon, _Historia Anglorum_, 187. The author dates
this expedition in 1019, which is probably incorrect. An expedition to
Wendland earlier than 1022 is quite unlikely.

[222] Steenstrup, _Venderne og de Danske_, 66.

[223] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 54

[224] See Manitius, _Deutsche Geschichte unter den sächsischen und
salischen Kaisern_, 370.




The English Church enjoyed Canute's favour from the very beginning: the
King was a Christian; furthermore, he no doubt saw in the Church a
mighty force that should not be antagonised. At the same time, there is
no evidence of any close union between church and monarchy before 1020;
and even then it was more like an _entente cordiale_ than an open
aggressive alliance, as it later came to be. Canute was a Christian, but
he was also a shrewd statesman and a consummate politician. The
religious situation among his Danish supporters in England as well as
the general religious and political conditions in the North probably
made it inexpedient, perhaps impossible, to accede to the full demands
of the Church without danger to his ambitions and probable ruin to his
imperialistic plans.

When the eleventh century opened, the North was still largely heathen.
Missionaries had been at work for nearly two centuries--ever since
Saint Ansgar entered the Scandinavian mission field in the days of
Louis the Pious--and the faith had found considerable foothold in
Denmark, especially on the Jutish peninsula. Canute's father Sweyn had
been baptised; but other indications of his Christian faith are
difficult to find. His queen, Sigrid the Haughty, was almost violent in
her devotion to the old gods. Sweden remained overwhelmingly heathen for
some years yet, while the progress of the Church in Norway depended on
royal mandates supported by the sword and the firebrand. Only five years
before the death of Canute, Norse heathendom won its last notable
victory, when Saint Olaf fell before the onslaught of the yeomanry at
Stiklestead (1030).

[Illustration: POPPO'S ORDEAL (Altar decoration from about 1100. Danish
National Museum).]

Bayeux Tapestry.)]

The army that conquered England for Canute was no doubt also largely
heathen. It seems, therefore, safe to assume that during the early years
of the new reign, the worship of the Anse-gods was carried on in various
places on English soil; surely in the Danish camps, perhaps also in some
of the Danish settlements. This situation compelled the Christian King
to be at least tolerant. Soon there began to appear at the English court
prominent exiles from Norway, hot-headed chiefs, whose sense of
independence had been outraged by the zealous missionary activities of
Olaf the Stout.[225] Canute had not been lord of England more than six
or seven years before the Norwegian problem began to take on unusual
interest. Before long the missionary King found his throne completely
undermined by streams of British gold. The exiles who sought refuge at
Winchester and the men who bore the bribe-money back to Norway were
scarcely enthusiastic for the faith that frowned on piracy; consequently
it continued to be necessary for Canute to play the rôle of the
tolerant, broad-minded monarch, who, while holding firmly to his own
faith, was unwilling to interfere with the religious rites of others. In
his later ecclesiastical legislation, Canute gave the Church all the
enactments that it might wish for; but it is a significant fact that
these laws did not come before the Northern question had been settled
according to Canute's desires and his viceroy was ruling in Norway.
Edgar's laws, which were re-enacted in 1018, at the Oxford assembly,
deal with the matter of Christianity in general terms only. The more
explicit and extensive Church legislation of Ethelred's day was set
aside and apparently remained a dead letter until it was in large
measure re-enacted as a part of Canute's great church law late in the

The early surroundings of the King had not been such as to develop in
him the uncompromising zeal that characterised the typical Christian
monarch in mediæval times. We do not know when he was baptised; it may
have been in childhood, and it must have been before the conquest of
England, as the Christian name Lambert, which was added in baptism to
the heathen name by which we know him, would suggest that the rite was
administered by a German ecclesiastic.[226] It is believed that he was
confirmed by Ethelnoth the Good, the English churchman who later became
Archbishop of Canterbury.[227] We do not know when the rite of
confirmation was administered, but the probabilities point to the winter
months of 1015-1016; for during these months Canute was several times in
South-western England where Ethelnoth lived at the time.

The subjection of England to an alien, half-heathen aristocracy must
have caused many difficulties to the English Church. How the problems
were met we do not know. The Mediæval Church, however, was usually to be
found on the side of power: the Church loved order and believed in
supporting good and efficient government whenever circumstances would
permit it. Soon after the meeting at Oxford, apparently in 1019,
Archbishop Lifing made a journey to Rome; we may conjecture that he went
to seek counsel and to obtain instructions as to what attitude the
English clergy should assume toward the new powers, but we do not know.
It is clear, however, that the subject was seriously discussed at the
papal court, for the archbishop brought back a letter to Canute
exhorting him to practise the virtues of Christian kingship. It must
have nattered the young Dane to receive this, for he refers to it in his

     I have taken to heart the written words and verbal messages that
     Archbishop Lifing brought me from the pope from Rome, that I should
     everywhere extol the praise of God, put away injustice, and promote
     full security and peace, so far as God should give me

That same year the venerable Primate died, and Ethelnoth the Good was
appointed to succeed him as Archbishop of Canterbury.[229] The choice
was evidently the King's own and the two men seem to have laboured
together in singular harmony. But though Ethelnoth was primate, the
dominant influence at court seems to have been that of an abbot in
Devonshire. When Abbot Lifing was yet only a monk at Winchester, he
seems to have attracted the King's attention; at any rate, we are told
by the historian of Malmesbury that he became an intimate friend of
Canute and exerted great influence with him.[230] It may have been this
friendship that secured to Lifing the abbacy of Tavistock, perhaps in
1024, in which year he witnessed charters for the first time as abbot.

Lifing's advance to power was rapid. Two years after his first
appearance in the documents as abbot, we find that he had been elevated
to the episcopal office, having probably been advanced to the see of
Crediton.[231] The Devonshire country had been the centre of a
persistent anti-Danish movement, it appears, and it was surely a prudent
move to place a strong partisan of the new order in control of the
Church in the southwestern shires. In the same year, the King further
honoured him with landed estates in Hampshire. This must have been just
prior to the Holy River campaign in Sweden, on which expedition the
bishop probably accompanied his royal master (William of Malmesbury
tells us that he frequently went to Denmark with Canute); at all events,
when Canute without first returning to England made his journey to Rome,
in the early months of 1027, the bishop of Crediton was an important
member of the King's retinue. It was Bishop Lifing who was sent back to
England with Canute's famous message to the English Church and people,
the King himself going on to Denmark. William of Malmesbury describes
him as a violent, wilful, and ambitious prelate; when he died (in 1046)
the earth took proper notice and trembled throughout all England.[232]

The year 1020 was one of great significance for English history in the
reign of Canute. In that year he returned to England as Danish king; in
that same year he issued his Proclamation to his Anglian subjects and
announced his new governmental policy; the same year saw the appointment
of a new and friendly primate of the Anglican Church; in that year, too,
began a series of benefactions and other semi-religious acts that made
Canute's name dear to the English churchmen and secured him the favour
of monastic chroniclers. These took various forms: new foundations were
established and many of the older ones received increased endowments;
monasteries that had been defiled or destroyed in the Danish raids were
repaired or rebuilt; the fields where the Lord of Hosts had given the
victory to Canute's armies were adorned with churches where masses were
said for the souls of the slain; saints were honoured; pilgrimages were
made; heathen practices were outlawed.

The series properly begins with the consecration of the church on
Ashington field in 1020. The church itself was apparently a modest
structure, but the dedication ceremonies were elaborate. As the primacy
was evidently vacant at the time, Archbishop Lifing having died about
mid-year (June 12),[233] the venerable Wulfstan of the northern province
was called on to officiate. With him were numerous ecclesiastics,
bishops, abbots, and monks. King Canute and Earl Thurkil also graced the
occasion with their presence.[234] It is interesting to note that the
office of chapel priest at Ashington was given to a clerk of Danish
blood, the later prelate Stigand, one of the few Danes who have held
ecclesiastical offices in England. Stigand for a time sat on the
episcopal throne in the cathedrals of Winchester and Canterbury.
Doubtless a Dane could perform the offices on this particular field with
a blither spirit than a native Englishman. If the intention was to
impress the English Church, Canute clearly succeeded. Though details are
wanting, it is understood that similar foundations soon graced the other
fields where Canute had fought and won.

In that same year, apparently, monks were substituted for secular clerks
as guardians of Saint Edmund's shrine. Grievously had the Danes sinned
against the holy East Anglian King. Five generations earlier he had
suffered ignominious martyrdom at the hands of the vikings. The saint
had again suffered outrage in the closing months of King Sweyn's life by
what seemed to be petty persecution of the priests who served at his
sacred shrine. As we have already seen, the King's sudden death while
the matter of tribute was still unsettled gave rise to the legend that
Saint Edmund struck down the Dane "in like manner as the holy Mercurius
slew the nithing Julian."

It was charged that the priests of the holy place led disorderly lives,
and on the advice of the neighbouring bishop, Elfwine of Elmham, it was
determined to eject them. Earl Thurkil's consent was asked and received.
Monks to the number of twenty were brought from Saint Benet Hulme and
Ely.[235] The same year a new church was begun, that the relics of the
martyr might have a more suitable home. The monks naturally organised
themselves into a monastic community, which seems to have enjoyed full
immunity from the very beginning: a trench was run around Saint Edmund's
chapel on the edge of which all tax-gathering was to stop. In addition
it is said that the Lady Emma pledged an annual gift of tour thousand
eels from Lakenheath, though this was probably a later contribution. The
brethren of the monastery also claimed that Canute granted them
extensive jurisdiction over the manors that belonged to the new
foundation.[236] It is evident that large endowments were given and
Canute in this way became in a sense the founder of one of the most
important sanctuaries of mediæval England.

William of Malmesbury tells us that Canute disliked the English saints,
but the evidence indicates the contrary. The only instance of ill-will
recorded is in the case of Saint Edith, King Edgar's holy daughter.
Saint Edith rested at Wilton, where there was a religious house for
women that had enjoyed her patronage. Canute expressed a doubt as to the
sanctity of a daughter of the immoral Edgar and ordered the shrine to be
opened. The offended princess arose, we are told, and struck the impious
King in the face.[237] Canute acknowledged his error and did penance.
There may be some truth in the story so far as it relates to the King's
hostility or incredulity, for Saint Edith was the sister of Canute's old
enemy, King Ethelred.

It may have been the vigorous argument of Saint Edith, or genuine piety,
or political considerations that wrought the change, but it is clear
that Canute soon developed a profound respect for the saints that rested
in England. He caused the relics of Saint Wistan to be translated from
Repingdon to a more suitable home in the honoured abbey of Evesham.[238]
The remains of Saint Felix were brought back to Ramsey in the face of
strong opposition from the jealous monks of Ely.[239] On one of his
northern journeys the King turned aside to Durham to adore the bones of
the mighty Saint Cuthbert. Five miles did the King walk with bare feet
to the Durham sepulchre, and after showing proper respect and
veneration, he concluded his visit with a royal gift of lands, two
manors, we are told, with all their belongings.[240] Toward the close of
his reign, by legislative act, he gave the strenuous Dunstan a place on
the calendar of English saints.[241]

By far the most famous act of homage of this sort was the translation of
Saint Alphege from London to Canterbury in 1023, famous not because of
its peculiar importance, but because certain literary monks saw fit to
write long accounts of it. This, too, was an act of expiation: so far as
the sins of Canute's people were concerned the case of Bishop Alphege
was much like that of the martyred King Edmund. Alphege was from Western
England and became a monk at Deerhurst in Gloucestershire. He was for a
time abbot of Bath and later bishop of Winchester. It was he who
confirmed Olaf Trygvesson and thus indirectly began the work that
resulted in the conversion of Norway. As Archbishop of Canterbury he
seems to have taken a pastoral interest in the Danish besiegers, for
which he was rewarded with indignities and death. His bones had been
laid at rest at Saint Paul's in London; but Canterbury was naturally
anxious to have her first martyred bishop in her own house, while
London, on the other hand, is said to have watched over the sacred
remains with a jealous care that bore the marks of avarice rather than
of veneration.

We are told that Canute earlier had formed the purpose of translating
the relics and that certain calamities had recalled the intention to his
mind. He suggested the project to Archbishop Ethelnoth, who doubted the
feasibility of the venture. According to the highly-coloured report of
the monk Osbern who claims to have his information from an eye-witness,
the King and the Archbishop secretly removed the body from its
resting-place and gave it to a monk who bore it to the Thames where the
King's ship lay ready to receive it. The attention of the Londoners was
diverted to other parts of the city by feigned excitement at the farther
gates, for which the King's housecarles were responsible. Meanwhile, the
royal ship, with Canute himself at the rudder, was conveying the remains
to Southwark, where they were given into the keeping of the Archbishop
and his companions, who bore them joyfully on to Rochester. Here the
party was joined by Queen Emma and the five-year-old princeling
Harthacanute accompanied by a strong force of housecarles. The
translation was effected in June and occupied seven days.[242]

The Dane's interest in the Church also expressed itself in frequent and
important endowments. While it is not always possible to verify these
grants, there can be little doubt that the monastic records are usually
correct on the points of possession and donors, though the extant
charters are frequently forgeries produced at a time when titles were
called into question. In some of these gifts, too, we see clearly a
desire to atone for past wrongs. Canterbury, which had suffered heavy
losses at the hands of Thurkil and his wild comrades, was assured of its
liberties and immunities early in the reign.[243] Another act of
expiation was the visit and gift to Glastonbury, the famous monastery
that had received the bones of Edmund Ironside. A century after Canute's
time Edmund's grave was covered with a "pall of rich materials,
embroidered with figures of peacocks." Legend ascribes the gift to
Canute, and may in this case be trustworthy. With the King at Edmund's
grave stood Archbishop Ethelnoth, who was at one time a monk at
Glastonbury.[244] The visit seems to have been made in 1026, perhaps on
the eve of Canute's expedition against the Norwegians and Swedes.

Perhaps Canute's most famous gift was the golden cross at Winchester.
Some time in the early years of his reign, apparently in 1019, probably
just before his visit to Denmark, he gave to the New Minster a
"magnificent golden cross, richly ornamented with precious stones"; in
addition to this, "two large images of gold and silver, and sundry
relics of the saints."[245] It seems to have been a gorgeous present,
one that was keenly appreciated by the recipients, and the history of
which was long recounted. The gift was apparently accompanied by a
donation of valuable lands.[246]

Canute also showed an interest in the monastery of Saint Benet Hulme, to
which three manors were given.[247] It is claimed that he granted
certain immunities to the church of Saint Mary Devon in Exeter, but the
evidence is not trustworthy.[248] The great abbey of Evesham was not
forgotten: the blessed Wistan was given a black chasuble and other
ornaments, probably at the time of his translation.[249] It may be that
in making this gift the King wished to show his appreciation of the
abbot as well as to honour the saint: Abbot Elf ward is said to have
been Canute's cousin; if such was the case he must have been the son of
the ill-starred Pallig.

Gifts there also were of a more personal character, gifts to various
ecclesiastics, monks, and priests whom the King wished to honour;
especially may we mention the grants to Bishop Burhwold and to Bishop
Lifing.[250] But such donations were not numerous; Canute seems to have
preferred to honour foundations, probably because in mediæval times the
institution was of greater consequence than the individual.

The gifts enumerated were made during the first half of the reign.
Grants were made in the second period as well: Abingdon claims to have
enjoyed his favour[251]; the Old Minster at Winchester was endowed with
lands and adorned with specimens of the goldsmith's art[252]; a
considerable gift of lands was made to York cathedral[253]; but these
seem to reveal a different spirit and purpose in the giver. Before his
career closed the great Dane became an ardent Christian; but in his
earlier years, the politician left little room to the churchman: the
Church was a factor merely, though a great factor, in the political
situation. Other kings have gloried in new foundations as monuments to
religious zeal; Canute selected the long-established, the
widely-influential shrines and houses and gave his favour chiefly to
them. In return he doubtless expected the favour of Saints Cuthbert,
Alphege, Edmund, Felix, and Dunstan, and the support of Canterbury,
Evesham, Winchester, and the other great institutions that he endowed.
It is to be noted that nearly all the institutions that shared the royal
bounty were located in the Anglo-Saxon South where Canute especially
needed to build up a personal following. The exceptions were York,
Durham, and Coventry where the faithful rejoiced in an arm of Saint
Augustine, a relic of peculiar value that Canute is said to have
bestowed on the city.[254]

Whatever his motives were, it is clear that Canute showed an interest in
matters ecclesiastical far beyond what the Church might reasonably
expect from a king whose training had scarcely been positively
Christian, and who still kept in close touch with the non-Christian
influences that dominated so much of the North. Still, one desire
remained unsatisfied: thus far the King had done nothing to make the
Christian faith compulsory in England. The Proclamation of 1020 looks in
that direction; but it contains no decree of the desired sort. It is a
peculiar document, remarkable more for what it omits than for what it
actually contains. God's laws, by which the rules of the Church are
doubtless meant, are not to be violated; but the important task of
bringing the violators to justice is committed to the old pirate,
Thurkil the Tall, whose appreciation of Christian virtues and divine
commandments cannot have been of the keenest.[255] Certain
characteristically heathen sins are to be avoided: among the things
forbidden is to consort with witches and sorceresses.[256] But the only
crime of this nature for which the document prescribes a specific
penalty is that of marrying a nun or any other woman who has taken
sacred vows:

     And if any one has done so, let him be an outlaw before God and
     excommunicated from all Christendom, and let him forfeit all his
     possessions to the king, unless he quickly desist from sin and do
     deep penance before God.[257]

It is evident, however, that Canute believed that the process of
education in the church from Sunday to Sunday would eventually solve the
problem of heathenism in England; for he closes his Proclamation with an
exhortation to all his subjects to attend faithfully the divine

     And further still we admonish all men to keep the Sunday festival
     with all their might and observe it from Saturday's noon to
     Monday's dawning; and let no man be so bold as to buy or sell or to
     seek any court on that holy day.

     And let all men, poor and rich, seek their church and ask
     forgiveness for their sins and earnestly keep every ordained fast
     and gladly honour the saints, as the mass priest shall bid us,

     that we may all be able and permitted, through the mercy of the
     everlasting God and the intercession of His saints, to share the
     joys of the heavenly kingdom and dwell with Him who liveth and
     reigneth forever without end. Amen.[258]


[225] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc. 130, 131, 139.

[226] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 50: schol. 38. It seems to have been
customary to add a Christian name in baptism.

There is an allusion to Canute's conversion in the Chronicle of Adémar
de Chabannes (ii., c. 55), who seems to believe that Canute became a
Christian after the conquest of England. But the authority of the
Aquitanian chronicler, though contemporary, cannot be so weighty as that
of the records of the church of Bremen which the Scholiast seems to have
used in the entry cited above. For Adémar's statement see Waitz,
_Scriptores (M.G.H.)_, iv., 140.

[227] Langebek, _Scriptores_, ii., 454: Osbern's tract concerning the
translation of Saint Alphege. Osbern tells us that Ethelnoth was dear to
Canute because he had anointed him with the sacred chrism. This cannot
refer to his coronation, nor is it likely to have reference to his
baptism, as Ethelnoth, would scarcely have given Canute a German name.
It seems, therefore, that it must allude to his confirmation.

[228] Liebermann, _Geschichte der Angelsachsen_, i., 273.

[229] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 183.

[230] _Gesta Pontificum_, 200.

[231] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 743. Florence of Worcester,
_Chronicon_, i., 185. To this he afterwards added the see of Worcester,
to which he was appointed by Harold in 1038. _Ibid._, 193.

[232] _Gesta Pontificum_, 200-201.

[233] Stubbs, _Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum_, 31.

[234] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1020.

[235] _Memorials of Saint Edmund's Abbey_, I., xxvii, 47, 126.

[236] _Ibid._, i., 343.

[237] William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Pontificum_, 190.

[238] _Chronicon Abbatiæ de Evesham_, 325-326.

[239] _Historia Rameseiensis_, 127-128.

[240] Simeon of Durham, _Opera Omnia_, i., 90.

[241] Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 298.

[242] Most of these details are from Osbern's tract on the life and
translation of Saint Alphege. See Langebek, _Scriptores_, ii., or
Wharton's _Anglia Sacra_, ii. The account in the _Chronicle_ is briefer
but more reliable.

[243] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, Nos. 727 and 731; of these the
former is scarcely genuine.

[244] William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, i., 224.

[245] _Liber de Hyda_, xxxvi.

[246] _Ibid._, 324.

[247] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 740.

[248] _Ibid._, No. 729.

[249] _Chronicon Abbatiæ de Evesham_, 83.

[250] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, Nos. 728, 743.

[251] _Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon_, i., 434 ff.

[252] _Annales Monastici_, ii., 16.

[253] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 749.

[254] Gervase of Canterbury, _Historical Works_, ii., 56. The arm was
brought to England from Rome by Archbishop Ethelnoth. William of
Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, i., 224.

[255] Sec. 9.

[256] Sec. 15. As the term used for sorceress seems to be Norse, this
prohibition was evidently aimed at practices in the Danelaw.

[257] Sec. 17.

[258] Secs. 18-20.



The question what attitude to assume toward the organised English Church
may have caused Canute some embarrassment; but the English problem was
simple compared with the religious complications that the young King had
to face in the North. England was Christian, at least officially, while
Scandinavia was still largely heathen; though every day saw the camps of
Christendom pitched a little farther toward the Arctic. In all the
Northern kingdoms missionaries were at work planting the seeds of the
new faith. By the close of the millennium Christianity had made great
progress in the Danish kingdom; it was firmly rooted in Jutland and had
found a foothold on the islands and in Scania. Among the Norwegians the
new worship had also made some progress; but in Sweden the darkness of
heathendom still hung heavy and low.

Norse Christianity doubtless filtered in with the viking raids: with the
plunder of the Catholic South and West, the sea-kings also appropriated
many of the forms and ideas of Western civilisation, and it is not
to be supposed that the fields of religious thought were neglected or
overlooked. King Hakon the Good became a Christian at the court of his
foster-father, Ethelstan, the grandson of Alfred.[259] The sons of Eric
Bloodax were also baptised in England, where their father had found an
exile's refuge.[260] Olaf Trygvesson found his faith and his mission
while fighting as viking in England. Olaf the Saint received baptism in
Rouen on his return from a raid as viking mercenary. Thus Norway had
been in close touch with the new faith for nearly a century; and yet,
Christianity had made but little actual progress. During the reign of
Canute the Danish Church reached the stage of effective organisation,
while in Norway the religious activities were still of the missionary

[Illustration: HAMMERS OF THOR (From the closing years of heathendom).]

The forces of the Anse-gods were in retreat all along the religious
frontier; but it is not to be supposed that they were panic-stricken. To
their zeal for the ancestral worship was added a love for the conflict
which inspired the faithful to contest every inch of the Christian
advance. The challenge of Thor has a sort of historic reality in it: in
a sense the issue of religion was settled in the North by wager of
battle. In his admiration for strength and force, many a Northman seemed
willing to follow the lead of the stronger cult.

The Anse-faith of the viking age seems to have been a development of an
ancient form of heaven worship or possibly of sun worship, traces of
which have been found in the North from the days of the stone age.[261]
In time the deity came to be viewed from various angles, and each
particular aspect was individualised and made the object of separate
worship. Thus, apparently, arose the three great divinities, Thor,
Woden, and Frey. Thor is the god of strength, the mighty defender of
gods and men. His name (O. Eng. _Thunor_), his flaming beard, the crash
of his hammer-stroke show that the Thor-conception was closely
associated with early notions of thunder and lightning. Similarly, the
name of Woden[262] associates his divinity with the untamed forces of
nature, the fury of the tempest, the wrath of the storm. He is,
therefore, the god of the battle rush, the divine force that inspires
the athletic frenzy of the berserk. Thor is armed with a hammer, Woden
with a spear. Thor rides in a cart drawn by rams; Woden's mount is a
swift eight-footed horse. But Woden is more than a mere god of conflict;
he is wise and cunning and knows the mysteries of the world. Frey is the
god of fruitfulness, the sun-god as giver of life and growth. He should
be worshipped by tillers of the soil.

In the course of time, new deities were admitted to the Scandinavian
pantheon; some of these were no doubt developed from older conceptions;
others were evidently introduced from neighbouring cults. Gradually the
old, rude beliefs came to be overlaid with myths, a series of strange
tales, bold, strong, and weird. Recent scholars have held that many of
these were borrowed from the bulging storehouse of Christian faith and
legend--the result of intellectual contact between the old races and the
Norse immigrant on the Western Islands.[263] But even where this
borrowing can be clearly traced, the modifying touches of the Norse
imagination are clearly in evidence.

The Northern peoples also developed a system of ethics of which we have
a remarkable statement in the Eddic poem, the "Song of the High One."
While of a lower character than that associated with Christianity, it
was, when we consider the soil from which it sprang, a remarkable
growth. Candour, honesty, courage, strength, fidelity, and hospitality
were enjoined and emphasised. The Northman was impressed with the fact
that all things seem perishable; but he hoped that the fame of a good
life would continue after death.

    Cattle die, kinsmen die,
    Finally dies one-self;
    But never shall perish the fame of him
    Who has won a good renown.

    Cattle die, kinsmen die,
    Finally dies one-self;
    But one thing I know that always remains,
    Judgment passed on the dead.[264]

But the duties toward the hostile and the weak, that Christianity strove
to inculcate, the Northman did not appreciate: slavery was common; weak
and unwelcome children were often exposed at birth; revenge was a sacred

It is not the intention to enter upon a full discussion of Old Northern
faith and morals: in the conversion of a people that had reached the
particular stage of culture that the Norsemen occupied in the eleventh
century, neither is of prime importance. It is doubtful whether the
vikings were much interested in the intricacies of dogma, be it heathen
or Christian. It also seems unlikely that Christian morals as practised
at the time could have proved very attractive. In the life of Saint
Olaf, for instance, there was little that we should regard as saintly,
but much that was cruel, sinful, and coarse. The Celtic Church, with
which the Norwegians first came into close contact, seems to have put a
somewhat liberal construction on the ten commandments. The forms of
worship, however, were of the first importance: in the gorgeous ritual
of the mediæval Church the heathen could not fail to see a tangible
excellence that his own rude worship did not possess.

The Anse-faith knew no priesthood: the various local officials were
charged with the duty of performing the ancient rites, though some
evidently had peculiar responsibilities in this matter. In the family
the father had certain sacerdotal duties. The gods were worshipped in
temples, though not exclusively so; sacred groves and fountains were
also used for such purposes. Frequently, also, the great hall of a chief
was dedicated to the gods and used for sacrificial feasts.[265]

Most famous of all the Old Scandinavian sanctuaries was that at Upsala
in Eastern Sweden, built, we are told, by the god Frey himself. It was a
large wooden structure, highly ornamented with gold. Within were rude
images of the three major divinities, Thor, Woden, and Frey, with Thor's
image in the chief place. Near the temple there grew, according to the
account in Adam's chronicle, an exceedingly large tree that always kept
its verdure, in winter as well as in summer. There was also a fountain
where the victims were sometimes drowned; if the corpse did not
reappear, the favour of the gods was assured. In the sacred grove about
the sanctuary, the sacrificial victims were hung--horses, dogs, and
other beasts, frequently also human beings. The corpses were not removed
but permitted to hang from the trees. Adam reports that an eye-witness
once counted seventy-two such sacrificial victims.[266]

Every ninth year the entire Swedish nation was summoned to sacrifice at
Upsala. The feast was celebrated shortly before the vernal equinox and
continued nine days. At least one human being was sacrificed each day.
Great multitudes were in attendance--king and people all sent their
offerings to Upsala. It seems, however, that Christians were released
from the duty of attendance on the payment of money.[267] It is clear
that the gathering had a national as well as a religious significance.
Elaborate festivities were combined with the sacrifices.

Three times in the year did the Northmen gather in this manner to feast
and to invoke the gods: at Yule-tide in January, at the vernal equinox,
and late in the autumn. Of these gatherings the sagas speak somewhat
explicitly and seem to give reliable information.

     It was the old way, when a sacrifice was to be, that all the
     franklins should come to the place where the temple was, and carry
     thither the victuals that they wished to have as long as the feast
     lasted. All were to have a drinking together, and there were also
     slaughtered all kinds of cattle and also horses.

     And all the blood that came thereof was then called
     sortilege-blood, and sortilege-bowls those wherein the blood stood,
     and sortilege-twigs that were made like a sprinkler. With this
     blood were all the altars to be sprinkled withal, and also the
     walls of the temple without and within, and also sprinkled on the
     people, but the meat was seethed for the entertainment of the

     There had to be fires in the midst of the floor of the temple, and
     kettles over them, and the toasts were carried across the fire.

     And he that made the feast or was chief had to make a sign over the
     toast and the sanctified meat.

     First must come Woden's toast: that was drunk to victory and power
     of the king; and then Niard's toast; and Frey's toast for good
     seasons and peace.

     It was many men's wont to drink Brage's toast after that.

     Men also would drink a toast to their kinsmen that had been laid in
     their barrows, and that was called the memory toast.[268]

This description applies more especially to the great Yule-festivities,
but its more prominent features, the gathering, the sacrificial
slaughter, the blood-sprinkling, the toasts, and the feasting, were
evidently common usages, though places and occasions probably developed
varieties of customary worship. On the same occasions, the will of the
gods was ascertained by the casting of lot or other processes of
sortilege. Vows were pledged and oaths were registered.

     A ring of two-ounce weight or more must lie on the altar in every
     head temple. This ring every _godë_ (temple-official) must carry in
     his hand to any law-moot that he himself was to preside over, and
     he must first redden it in the blood of the sacrificial beast which
     he sacrificed there himself.[269]

In the myth Ragnarok the Sibyl has told of the end of all things, even
of the divinities; how the twilight shall settle down upon the life of
the Anses; how their strength shall wither and age steal upon them; and
how at last Swart, the lord of the fire-world, shall come to the attack
wrapped in flames.

    Swart from the south comes
    With flaming sword;
    Bright from his blade
    The sun is blazing.
    Stagger the stony peaks,
    Stumble the giants;
    Heroes fare Helward
    And heaven yawns.[270]

It is an awful picture that the prophetess unrolls for us of all the
personified forces of destruction mustering to do battle against the
gods. The forces of evil win, for weakness has stolen upon the world
in the "twilight" preceding the final conflict: "an age of lust, of ax
and sword, and of crashing shields, of wind and wolf ere the world
crumbles."[271] Then comes the end of all things:

    Swart is the sun,
    Earth sinks in the ocean,
    The shining stars
    Are quenched in the sky.
    Smoke and steam
    Encircle the Ash-tree,
    Flame-tongues lick
    The lofty heaven.[272]

[Illustration: THE TJÄNGVIDE STONE (Monument from the Island of Gotland.
The stone shows various mythological figures; see below, page 302.)]

The prophecy of destruction as well as an expressed hope of future
regeneration shows quite clearly the result of Christian influence on
thought and imagery. The poem must consequently have been produced after
the North had come under the spell of Western culture, some time,
perhaps, in the tenth century. Less than a century later the "twilight
of the gods" had set in.

The union of the Anglo-Saxon to the Danish crown could not fail to
affect missionary operations in the North. It would seem at first sight
as if the work would be strengthened and hastened, for now the
Christianising energies of Britain would be added to those of Germany.
As a matter of fact the situation became more complex and difficult:
the union brought out the question whether the primacy of the new
church should belong to Hamburg-Bremen or to Canterbury. It seems that
Canute at one time held out hopes to Archbishop Ethelnoth of rising to
metropolitan authority of the Danish as well as of the English nation.
Such an arrangement would seem natural and highly desirable: the empire
that Canute ruled from Winchester could be more readily held together if
its ecclesiastical concerns were all directed from the cathedral at

These new plans with respect to the young Danish Church apparently date
from the years immediately following Canute's return to England as
Danish king (1020). His new interest in English ecclesiastical matters
has been discussed elsewhere. In 1022, Ethelnoth consecrated three
bishops for Danish sees: Gerbrand for Zealand (Roeskild); Reginbert for
Funen (Odense); and Bernhard for the Scanian lands.[273] The sources
also state that many other English bishops were sent to Denmark from
England, but no names are given. It is to be noted that the names given
above are not Anglo-Saxon but German. It has therefore been thought that
these bishops were from Flanders or Lorraine, in which regions there was
an ecclesiastical movement of some importance in the days of

Of these three the most important was doubtless Gerbrand, whose
cathedral was located at Roeskild, the royal residential city. At this
time Unwan was archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. Unwan was an aggressive and
ambitious prelate; it was not with pleasure that he learned of the new
bishops from the West; without the North as its mission-field, Bremen
would be a sorry province. Bishop Gerbrand on his journey to his new
parish,--he was probably sailing along the German coast according to
custom,--was captured and brought before Archbishop Unwan who forced him
to do proper homage. Apparently the German Prelate made a favourable
impression on Bishop Gerbrand for through his influence the Archbishop
induced Canute to agree that future bishops should be consecrated at

Tradition is doubtless correct in ascribing to Canute considerable
activity in the endowment of churches. The statement that he established
monasteries in Denmark is probably an error; if he attempted to do so,
his efforts failed[276]; some time still had to pass before the viking
could find contentment in the cloister. Danish monasticism dates from
the closing years of the century, when twelve monks from Evesham on the
Avon came on request of King Eric to found a monastery at Odense. It
seems likely that the payment of Peter's pence dates from this reign. As
to the amount of this tax nothing is known; but it is probable that the
sum was a very modest one, as the Danes in England seem to have been
specially favoured in this matter, the tax in the Danelaw being half as
large as in the rest of England.[277]

Across the Sound in Scania, the introduction of Christianity was a
slower process. We learn that in Sweyn's time an Englishman, Godebald,
was appointed bishop there, and that he occasionally preached in the
neighbouring sections of Sweden and Norway.[278] The results were
evidently meagre, but it is significant that the preacher came from

The Norwegian Church is in a peculiar sense a daughter of the English
Church. The first serious attempt at mission work in Norway was made
about the middle of the tenth century, when King Hakon built a few
churches and sent for English priests to officiate in them. One of these
apparently bore the episcopal title, Sigfrid, a monk of
Glastonbury.[279] The yeomanry gathered and slew the missionaries and
the work came to nought.

When Olaf Trygvesson seized the kingship (995), he came accompanied by
English priests. Among these was Bishop Sigurd, who was probably a
Northumbrian of Norse ancestry, and evidently a man of strength and
discretion. After the battle of Swald he seems to have continued his
labours in Sweden. English missionaries also came with Olaf the Stout.

     He was accompanied by a number of priests and bishops from England
     through whose doctrine and instruction he prepared his heart for
     God, and to whose guidance he entrusted the people who were subject
     to him. Among these were men who were famous for learning and
     virtue, namely Sigfrid, Grimkell, Rudolf, and Bernhard.[280]

[Illustration: THE CHURCH AT URNES (NORWAY) (From about 1100.)]

It is to be observed once more that none of these bears an Anglo-Saxon
name: Sigfrid and Grimkell were doubtless natives of the Danelaw, of
Norse blood, but English in culture and faith; Bernhard may have been a
German from the country of the lower Rhine; Rudolf is said to have been
a kinsman of Edward the Confessor; as his name is Norman, we shall have
to conclude that he was a relative of Queen Emma, Edward's mother. Late
in life he received from the Confessor an important appointment as abbot
of Abingdon (1050).[281] So long as King Olaf lived Grimkell seems to
have held the office of chief bishop.

These were the men who laid the foundation of the Norwegian Church;
later missionaries from Britain continued the work along the earlier
lines. The result was that the new Church came largely to be organised
according to English models. Its ceremonial came to reflect Old English
practices. Its terminology was formed according to Anglo-Saxon
analogies.[282] Characteristic of both the English and the Norse Church
was an extensive use of the vernacular. And many remarkable parallels
have been found in the church legislation of King Ethelred and the
ecclesiastical laws attributed to Saint Olaf.[283]

It would seem most fitting that a church so intimately connected with
English Christianity should pass under the metropolitan jurisdiction of
the see at Canterbury, and such may have been Saint Olaf's original
intention. But the establishment of Danish power at Winchester, the
appointment of Canute's friend Ethelnoth to the primacy, and Canute's
designs on the Norwegian throne made such an arrangement impractical.
There was consequently nothing to do but to enter into relations with
the see of Bremen. Adam tells us that Olaf sent an embassy[284] headed
by Bishop Grimkell

     with gifts to our archbishop and bearing the request that he
     receive these [English] bishops favourably and send others of
     his own consecration that the rude Norwegian people might be
     strengthened in the Christian faith.



It is difficult to appreciate the tremendous social changes that the
introduction of Christianity worked among the Northmen of the eleventh
century. There was so much that was new in Christian practice that the
adjustment was a difficult matter. The rigid observance of the seventh
day; the numerous holidays; the frequent fasts and the long abstentions
of Lent; the duties of confession and penance; the support of a new
social class, the priests; all these things the unwilling convert found
exceedingly irksome. In addition to this, there were certain
prohibitions that also worked hardships: marriage within certain degrees
of kinship; the exposure of children (except such as were born with
deformities, who might be exposed after baptism); the eating of
horseflesh, and other honoured Northern customs. Much that was heathen
could not be rooted out. The churches were frequently built near the old
sanctuaries and the new worship unavoidably came to be associated in
many minds with much that was heathen.[285]

While Canute was organising the Church in Denmark, Olaf was striving to
reshape Norwegian society and uproot the old faith. With force and fair
words he won many for the new order, but many more refused to receive
baptism. Ten years passed with growing discontent; so long as the nation
was still heathen in morals and view of life, resistance was inevitable.
Finally the partisans of the old rites and practices turned to Canute,
the great Christian King. And he who should have been a defender of the
faith heard their complaints with unfeigned joy.


[259] Snorre, _Saga of Harold Fairhair_, c. 41. Hakon's dates according
to saga are 935-961. The earlier date should probably be corrected to
945 or a later year, perhaps 947. See _Norges Historie_, I., ii., 139.

[260] Snorre, _Saga of Hakon the Good_, c. 3. Eric Bloodax was Hakon's
half-brother. For a time he ruled Northumbria as vassal of the English
King. _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 952. The vassal relationship is asserted
in the sagas.

[261] Montelius, _Kulturgeschichte Schwedens_, 312. Two symbols of sun
worship, the wheel and the axe (the symbol of lightning which later
developed into Thor's hammer), can be traced back to the close of the
stone age. _Ibid._, 55. The worship of the bright sky may have preceded
that of the sun.

[262] German _Wotan_. Cf. Mod. Ger. _Wuth_.

[263] Particularly the late Sophus Bugge in _The Home of the Eddic
Poems_ and elsewhere.

[264] _Hávamál_, 39-40. (_Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, i, 8.)

[265] Montelius, _Kulturgeschichte Schwedens_, 321.

[266] _Gesta_, iv., c. 27 and schol. 134, 137.

[267] _Ibid._

[268] Vigfusson and Powell, _Origines Islandicæ_:, i., 309-310. From the
_Hakonar Saga_.

[269] Vigfusson and Powell, _Origines Islandicæ_, i., 311. From the

[270] Voluspá, II. 155-158. (_Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, i., 199.)

[271] Voluspá, II. 133-134.

[272] _Ibid._, II. 175-178.

[273] Stubbs, _Registrant Sacrum Anglicanum_, 33.

[274] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iii., 383.

[275] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 53.

[276] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 403, 500-501.

[277] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 403.

[278] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 39.

[279] Taranger, _Den angelsaksiske Kirkes Indflydelse paa den norske_,

[280] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 55.

[281] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1050. _Anglia Sacra_, i., 167.

[282] An illustration of this appears on a runic monument at Odderness
in Southern Norway raised in memory of a godson of Saint Olaf: "Oivind,
Saint Olaf's godson [_kosunr_ or _gosunr]_ raised this church on his
allodial land."

[283] For the account of the Anglo-Saxon missionaries I am indebted to
Taranger's work on the influence of the Anglo-Saxon on the Norwegian
Church: _Den Angelsaksiske Kirkes Indflydelse paa den norske_.

[284] _Gesta_, ii., c. 55; iv., c. 33. The embassy was probably sent
some time during the years 1020-1023, and perhaps shortly before Canute
accepted the supremacy of Hamburg-Bremen in Denmark.

[285] This paragraph is summarised from Professor Bugge's discussion in
_Norges Historie_, I., ii., 379-381.




The sons of Earl Hakon, Eric and Sweyn, who ruled Norway for fifteen
years after the fall of Olaf Trygvesson, were not aggressive rulers.
They were not of the blood royal, they were vassals of alien kings, both
seem by nature to have been of an easy-going disposition; hence they
were not able to command obedience to the extent that a strong monarchy
demanded. As a result, the Norwegian aristocracy arrogated to itself a
great measure of independence. The peasantry resumed their old habits
and practices; in many places the old worship was wholly restored,
including the sacrificial festivals. The Earls were Christians, but did
not interfere.

Of a different type was King Olaf Haroldsson. He was determined and
forceful, equipped with a vigorous intellect and a will that could brook
no opposition. Though his policies extended far beyond the religious
field, his chief anxiety was to make Norway a Christian kingdom. His
zeal was that of the convert, the passion of the devotee; but it was
more than that: it was the purpose of the far-seeing statesman. In his
viking adventures he had become acquainted with the advantages of the
European political system. He wished to introduce this into his own
kingdom, to Europeanise Norway. This was the great king-thought for
which Saint Olaf lived and fell. But at the basis of the European system
lay Christianity. In his proselyting endeavours, he met opposition from
the very beginning; but for a time he was able to overcome all
resistance. However, the spirit of rebellion was silenced only; after
five years of missionary effort, King Olaf found that Christian progress
was apparent rather than real. He also found that the devotees of the
old worship were still determined and that a group of chiefs were
organising an opposition that might overturn his throne.

The opposition was of two sorts: on the one hand the Christian was
opposed by the partisan of the old gods; on the other hand Olaf's strong
kingship was disliked by the chiefs who recalled the freedom that they
had enjoyed in the days of the two earls. Distances were great in
Norway; travel was difficult; the ocean was the best highway. But with
sail and oar it took time to reach the settlements on the long coast
line, and the King soon learned that promises to renounce the Anses were
easily forgotten or broken. Then followed crop failures in the far
North: it was clear that Frey was angry and wished to punish the
apostacy of his people.[286]

In the aristocratic opposition five chieftains bear special prominence.
At Soli on the wide plains of Jæderen in South-western Norway, not far
from the modern city of Stavanger, lived Erling, the son of Skjalg.
Erling had sailed with King Olaf to Wendland, but had had no part in the
fight at Swald. Later the Earls found it advisable to make peace with
the Soli family and gave Erling Skjalgsson a magnificent fief in the
South-west. From the Naze to the Sogn Firth his was the ruling
influence. Of all the Norwegian magnates Erling was unquestionably the
most powerful; and though both Earl Eric and King Olaf had looked
askance at his power, he maintained his position for a quarter of a
century. Five active sons and a spirited daughter grew up in Erling's
house. The lord of Soli never was an ideal subject; but after his nephew
Asbjörn slew one of King Olaf's servants in the royal presence during
the Easter festivities, a quarrel broke out that had fatal

The island of Giski some distance north of Cape Stadt was the ancestral
seat of the famous Arnung family, which for several generations held a
prominent place in the councils of Norway. According to tradition the
family was founded by one Finnvid who was found in an eagle's nest, and
hence was known as Finnvid Found. The family took its name from Arne, a
prominent chief in Saint Olaf's day and a good friend of the King. Seven
sons and a daughter were born to Arne and his good wife Thora. The
oldest of the sons married the only daughter of the mighty Erling.
Arne's daughter became the wife of another prominent lord and enemy of
Olaf, Harek of Tjotta. For a time all the sons of Arne supported the
King and Kalf alone finally joined his enemies. Olvi of Egg, a wealthy
Thronder, was found to have continued the old sacrificial practices in
secret, and on the King's orders was slain. Kalf Arnesson married his
widow, and from that day his loyalty was shaken.[288]

Far to the north lived two chiefs who were also counted among the King's
opponents: Harek of Tjotta and Thor the Dog. Thor was the ill-fated
Asbjörn's uncle and the brother-in-law of the slain Olvi. He lived on
the Bark-isle beyond the Arctic Circle and was easily the most powerful
man in those regions.[289] Harek lived on the isle of Tjotta, a little
to the south of the Polar Circle. He seems to have had something of a
monopoly of the Finnish trade and from this and other sources amassed
great wealth. In the Norse nobility few stood higher than Harek: he
counted among his kinsmen the reigning King as well as his predecessors
the Earls.[290] In the rebellion that finally cost King Olaf his life,
Thor and Harek were prominent leaders.

In the Throndelaw, some distance south of Nidaros, dwelt Einar
Thongshaker. Einar, the strongest and most athletic Norseman of his day,
the archer who could pierce a damp ox-hide with a blunt shaft, was also
a man of great personal influence. Married to Earl Eric's sister, he was
naturally in sympathy with the dynastic claims of the Earl's family. For
some years after the defeat at the Nesses, he had lived in exile in
Sweden; but finally he was reconciled to King Olaf and was permitted to

It does not appear that any of these leaders had any enthusiasm for the
old faith; Erling Skjalgsson and Einar Thongshaker seem to have been
zealous Christians. But among their kinsmen were many who clung to the
worship of Woden and Thor. Wherever the King found heathen rites
celebrated in open or secret, harsh measures were employed--loss of
property, of limb, and even of life. Thus the chiefs saw many a kinsman
dishonoured or dead, and to their disinclination to obey the royal
mandate was joined the motive of private revenge. Soon dissatisfaction
was rife everywhere, and over the North Sea fled yearly a band of exiles
who had resisted the royal will.

Among those who went west was Einar Thongshaker, though he went
ostensibly as a pilgrim, not as a plotter. Soon after his return from
Sweden he found it advisable to seek expiation at Rome for earlier sins,
and in 1022 or 1023 he left for the Eternal City. It seems probable that
his brother-in-law Eric joined him in this expedition or planned to do
so, for the sagas persist in connecting Eric's death, which must have
occurred about 1023, with a pilgrimage to Rome, at least projected and
perhaps carried out. In England Einar is said to have visited young Earl
Hakon, possibly in his earldom in the Severn Valley; he also had an
interview with Canute "and was given great gifts."[292] Einar's visit
was probably just after Canute's return from his expedition to the
Slavic lands. Whether the pilgrimage was more than a mere pretext we do
not know, though it probably was made in good faith. After his return to
Norway he was not active in King Olaf's service, though he showed no
open hostility.

     Many magnates or sons of prominent franklins had fared to Canute on
     various errands; but all who came to King Canute were given their
     hands full of wealth. There one could see greater splendour than
     elsewhere, both as to the multitude of people in daily attendance
     and in the other arrangements on the manors that he possessed and
     occupied. Canute the Mighty gathered tribute from the lands that
     were the richest in the North; but in the same measure as he had
     more to receive than other kings, he also gave much more than any
     other king....

     But many of those who came from Norway lamented the loss of their
     liberties and hinted to Earl Hakon and some to the King himself,
     that the men of Norway were now surely ready to renew their
     allegiance to King Canute and the Earl, and to receive their old
     liberties from them. These speeches suited the Earl's mind, and he
     suggested to Canute that Olaf be called on to surrender the kingdom
     to them, or to agree to divide it.[293]

Snorre attributes Canute's delay in claiming the Norse kingship to a
difference between himself and his cousin, Earl Hakon, as to who should
possess and rule the country. It is evident, however, that before 1023
Canute was hardly in a position to press a claim of such a doubtful
character. But in that year the situation was more favourable: he was in
uncontested possession of the English and Danish crowns; he had
successfully fought and subdued the Slavs to the south of Denmark; his
prestige was consequently greater than ever before. That year, the
subject of Norse conquest must have been discussed quite seriously at
Winchester, for as soon as the winter was past, an embassy was on its
way to King Olaf's court to demand the kingdom of Norway for Canute.

Among the various regions that composed the Norwegian realm, two enjoyed
a peculiar prominence: the Wick and the Throndelaw. The Throndelaw was
a group of "folks" or shires about the Throndhjem Firth, a region that
had developed considerable solidarity and in one sense was reckoned as
the heart of the kingdom. Here was for some time the capital of the
nation, as it has remained in ecclesiastical matters to this day, at
least nominally. The Wick was the country that bordered on the great
"Bay" in the extreme south. It was this region that first came into
contact with European civilisation and where culture and Christianity
had perhaps taken firmest root. In a sense the Wick was disputed
territory: it had earlier been under Danish overlordship, and a part of
it had also for a brief period been subject to Sweden; national feeling
was therefore not strong on these shores. For this reason, perhaps, King
Olaf had established a royal residence at Tunsberg near the mouth of the
Firth on the western shore. Here the King held his court in the winter
of 1024-1025; it was here that he received the English embassy.

It was a splendid company that Canute sent to Norway, but Olaf was not
pleased with their errand. For several days he kept them waiting before
he was willing to grant them an audience.

     But when they were permitted to speak with him they brought into
     his presence Canute's writ and recited their message, that Canute
     claims all of Norway as his possession and asserts that his
     ancestors have possessed the realm before him; but whereas King
     Canute offers peace to all lands, he will not fare to Norway with
     war shields if another choice is possible. But if King Olaf
     Haroldsson wishes to rule Norway, let him fare to King Canute and
     receive the land from him as a fief and become his man and pay such
     tribute as the earls had earlier paid.[294]

Such a proposal was an insult to the Norse nation, and it is not likely
that Canute expected a favourable reply. But in its apparent moderation,
in its appeal to historic rights, the demand served well the intended
purpose: to extort a challenge that would make hostilities unavoidable
and make Olaf appear as the aggressor. King Olaf's anger did not permit
a diplomatic reply:

     "I have heard tell in olden story that Gorm the Dane-king was an
     excellent ruler, but he ruled Denmark only; but the Dane-kings who
     have come since his day do not seem to have been satisfied with
     that. It has come to this now that Canute rules Denmark and England
     and in addition has subjected a large part of Scotland. Now he
     challenges my inheritance. He should, however, learn to be moderate
     in his avarice,--or does he plan to govern all the Northlands
     alone? Or does he intend to eat alone all the cabbage in England?
     He will be able to accomplish that before I shall pay him tribute
     or do him any sort of homage. Now you shall tell him these my
     words, that I will defend Norway with point and edge as long as
     life days are granted me; but never shall I pay tribute for my
     kingdom to any man."[295]

Such is Snorre's account. The speeches are doubtless the historian's
own; but they reveal a keen insight into the shrewd diplomacy of Canute
and the impetuous methods of Olaf. The ambassadors soon prepared to
retire, little pleased with the outcome. It is reported that in
conversation with Sighvat the Scald they expressed their surprise at the
Norse King's rashness. The lord of England was gentle and forgiving.

     Only recently two kings came from north in Scotland, from Fife, and
     he laid aside his wrath and let them keep all the lands that they
     had earlier possessed and gave them great gifts of friendship in

The poet later put his reply into verse:

    Able kings have carried
    Their heads to Canute, coming
    From Fife in the far north
    (Fair was the purchase of peace).
    Olaf has never sold
    (Oft has the stout one conquered)
    Here in the whole world
    His head to any man.[296]

There could be no question about unpeace after Olaf's defiance had been
repeated to Canute. It is said that Norsemen looked on cabbage eaters
as naturally stupid; hence the taunt, if given, had a sharp point. The
great King is said to have remarked that Olaf should find something
besides cabbage within his ribs. That summer two of Erling's sons, Aslak
and Skjalg, appeared at the English court. "And King Canute gave the
brothers large revenues."[297]

During the succeeding summer (1025) King Olaf remained in the South.
Rumour had it that Canute was coming from England with a powerful host,
and the Norwegian King made preparations to meet him. The chiefs were
summoned to the Wick and seem to have appeared with their retainers in
large numbers. Olaf's spies were everywhere on the lookout for the
English fleet. Merchant ships were eagerly sought for news. But Canute
was not yet ready to fight and did not appear before autumn. He spent
the winter in Denmark but mainly for precautionary purposes; hostile
activities were evidently to be postponed to a more favourable

That same autumn Olaf approached the King of Sweden on the subject of an
alliance against the ambitious King of Denmark. The young Anund Jacob,
King Olaf's brother-in-law and admirer, was now on the Swedish throne.
It was easy to convince the youthful King that his realm would not long
be left in peace should Canute succeed in adding Norway to his
dominions. An alliance was accordingly concluded: the king who should
first need assistance should have the other's help. A conference was
also arranged for, as more definite plans would have to be agreed upon.
That year King Olaf prepared to winter at Sarpsborg, just across the
firth from Tunsberg. King Anund made a winter journey into Gautland
toward the Norse frontier, and tarried there for some months. During his
stay there, envoys appeared from Canute with gifts and fair words. Anund
was assured of peace and security if he would renounce his alliance with
the Norsemen. But this embassy also had to return with unsatisfactory
reports: Anund intended to be faithful to his pledge; no friendship for
Denmark was to be looked for in Sweden.[299]

Spring came (1026) and developments were looked for; but the unexpected
happened: Canute returned to England, leaving his young son
Harthacanute, a boy of eight or nine years, as regent in Denmark under
the guardianship of Ulf, Canute's brother-in-law, who seems to have
succeeded Thurkil the Tall as viceroy in Denmark. The allied kings now
proceeded to hold their projected conference at Kingscrag, near the
south-east corner of Olaf's kingdom. In this conference a new agreement
seems to have been reached; the defensive alliance was apparently
changed to an offensive one and an attack on Canute's Danish
possessions was planned.[300]


Why Canute failed to attack Norway in the autumn of 1025, or in the
following spring, is not known. It seems, however, a fairly safe
conjecture that he felt unprepared to meet the allied forces. He
evidently preferred to wait until the spirit of disaffection and
rebellion had spread more widely in Norway; for thus far only the great
house of Soli had openly espoused the pretender's cause; most of the
dissatisfied lords were in King Olaf's host. Doubtless he also hoped
that by diplomatic means or otherwise dissension might be sown between
the confederated kings, and their alliance dissolved.

Gold was the power that Canute depended upon to prepare rebellion in
Norway. That the Danish King employed bribery in these years to a large
extent is a well-attested fact. Florence of Worcester who wrote three
generations later recounts how gold was distributed among the Norwegian
chiefs in the hope that they would permit Canute to rule over them,
though Florence is clearly misinformed when he tells us that the
Norsemen had renounced their allegiance to King Olaf because of his
simplicity and gentleness.[301] Olaf was a saint when the scribe at
Worcester wrote his history; but he was not a saint of the ideal sort,
and hence Florence is led into error. Richard of Cirencester, too, has
heard of these proceedings and the "great supply of gold and silver that
was sent to the magnates of that country."[302] Both writers represent
the Norsemen as eager for the bribes. The sagas, of course, give fuller
details. The result was that King Olaf's forces to some extent were made
up of men whose loyalty had been undermined, who were in the pay of the
enemy. The following year (1027), the year when the most Christian
monarch made his pilgrimage to the tomb of Peter, seems to have seen the
greatest activity in this direction; out the probabilities are that
large sums of Danegeld had found their way to Norway also in the earlier
two or three years.


[286] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 106.

[287] _Ibid._, cc. 22, 23, 116 ff.

[288] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc. 106-110.

[289] _Ibid._, c. 106.

[290] _Ibid._, c. 104.

[291] On the subject of the Norse chiefs in King Olaf's day, see Munch,
_Det norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 659-670; _Norges Historie,_ I.,
ii., 340-348.

[292] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 121. According to Snorre's
reckoning, he left in the summer of 1023 and returned the following

[293] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 130.

[294] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 131.

[295] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 131.

[296] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 133-134.

[297] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 131.

[298] _Ibid._

[299] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 132. The legendary _Olafs-saga_
tells us that the gifts were two golden candlesticks, a golden dish
highly jewelled for the table service, and two gold rings. Anund is said
to have remarked that he did not wish to sell Olaf for a dish.

[300] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 134.

[301] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 184.

[302] _Speculum Historiale_, ii., 178.




One of the notable results of the expedition to the South Baltic in 1022
was that a reconciliation was effected with Thurkil the Tall. "And he
gave Denmark into the keeping of Thurkil and his son; and the King
brought Thurkil's son with him to England."[303] The son who was thus
made regent was probably Sweyn; it was scarcely Harthacanute, as this
Prince was present at the translation of Saint Alphege from London to
Canterbury that same year (1023); of Canute's other son, Harold
Harefoot, we hear nothing until after the King's death. The hostage that
Canute took with him to England may have been Harold who played an
important part in Northern history two decades later. Thurkil cannot
have lived long after his promotion to the vice-royalty, for three years
later (1026), we find Harthacanute representing royal authority in
Denmark with Earl Ulf as guardian and actual wielder of power. This
change in the regency we may, perhaps, ascribe to the activities of
Queen Emma, one of whose chief purposes in life was to disinherit her
husband's illegitimate offspring.

The next few months seem to have witnessed a revolution in Denmark: Earl
Ulf appears to have summoned a national assembly at Viborg, an old
sanctuary in the north central part of Jutland, where he announced that
it was Canute's desire to have his young eight-year-old son chosen and
proclaimed King of Denmark. With evident success he argued that the
ancient kingdom, which always had had a ruler within its borders, was
poorly served by the present arrangement of subjection to an
absentee-king. He also called attention to the threatened invasion from
the allied kingdoms of Norway and Sweden. The sagas assert that Queen
Emma had plotted with Earl Ulf to secure the royal name for her son and
that she had even forged a document to support the move. The assembly
assented and Harthacanute was proclaimed King.[304]

There are suggestions that Ulf at this time was in communication with
the allied monarchs and that he had even encouraged them to invade the
Danish territories. Evidence is wanting, but it is clear that Ulf's
activities in 1026 were not of the proper sort.[305] The Earl was an
ambitious and turbulent man, closely connected with both the Danish and
the Swedish dynasties. He was a man of the type that finds service
difficult; it is clear that Canute suspected him of treason.

After Canute's departure for England the Northern kings had their
conference at Kingscrag where a closer alliance was formed and offensive
operations were probably determined upon. Soon afterwards King Olaf was
on his way to his northern capital to raise the host for a grand effort.
It seems that the chiefs quite generally obeyed the summons; of the
leaders in the northern shires Einar Thongshaker alone remained at home
on his estates. A considerable fleet gathered at the rendezvous at the
mouth of Throndhjem Firth; as it sailed southward there were constant
additions, till it finally counted 480 ships. The royal flagship was the
_Bison_, a longship that had been built the winter before, the prow of
which bore the head of a bison adorned with gold.

On the journey southward, King Olaf learned that Canute was still in
England, but that he was making preparations for a grand attack. He also
learned that Erling Skjalgsson was now with his sons in the enemy's
service. But no one knew when the English host might be expected; time
passed and the Norsemen began to tire of inaction. Accordingly King Olaf
dismissed the least effective part of his forces and with the remainder,
sixty large and well-manned ships, sailed for the coast of Zealand,
expecting later to join the Swedish armament that had gathered on the
Scanian coast.[306]

Meanwhile, Canute had hastened his preparations. One of his Scanian
subjects, Hakon of Stangeby, had, when the plans of the enemy had become
evident, hastened to England to warn his King. It is said that Canute
rewarded him with an estate in Scania for his loyalty and
promptness.[307] It was a mighty fleet that sailed from southern England
that summer; Canute led the expedition in person with Earl Hakon
apparently as second in command. Snorre reports that Canute's ship had
one hundred and twenty oars, while that of the Earl had eighty. Both
ships were provided with golden figureheads; but their sails were
counted particularly splendid with their stripes of blue and red and

Earl Ulf had by this time come to realise that Denmark could not afford
to ignore the Lord of England. There was evidently much dissatisfaction
with the Earl's régime, for we find that the Danes in large numbers
accepted the invaders. Ulf and Harthacanute soon retreated to Jutland,
and left the islands and Scania to the enemy.

The situation that Canute found when he sailed into the Lime Firth was
perhaps not wholly a surprise; he must have known something about what
his deputy had been plotting and doing. That he was angry is evident;
that his wrath was feared is also clear. Harthacanute was advised to
submit; he knelt before his father and obtained forgiveness, as the King
realised that no responsibility could lodge with a witless boy. Ulf also
tried to make terms with the offended monarch, but was merely told to
collect his forces and join in the defence of the kingdom; later he
might propose terms.

Such is Snorre's account[308]; it may be inaccurate in details, but the
main fact that Earl Ulf was faithless to his trust seems to be correctly
stated. Elsewhere, too, Ulf is accused of opposition to his King: Saxo
charges him with treason[309]; and an entry in the _Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle_ tells us that Canute went east to fight Ulf and Eglaf.[310]
There has been some dispute as to the identity of these chiefs, but
unless evidence to the contrary is forthcoming, we shall have to
conclude that they were the two brothers who were earls in England in
the early days of Canute as English king. Shortly before this (1024),
Eglaf's name disappears from the English sources. The Chronicler was
evidently not informed as to the situation in the North; but he knew
that the two brothers were among the opponents of the King and recorded
what he knew.

Meanwhile, Olaf was on the shores of Zealand with his longships. Saxo
relates that one day while he was addressing the Danes at a public
assembly with a view to winning them to his own allegiance, spies rushed
up and reported that they had seen several ships approaching. An aged
Dane assured the King that the ships were merchantmen only; but when
sails in growing numbers began to cross the horizon, he added that they
were merchantmen who had come to buy Denmark with iron.[311]

From the Lime Firth, Canute must have sailed his fleet southeastward to
the upper entrance of the Sound; at any rate, King Olaf soon discovered
that the homeward route had been effectually blocked. There was now
nothing to do but to continue the journey eastward and to form a
junction with King Anund's fleet which was harrying the Scanian coast.
Canute must have followed in hot pursuit, for before the enemies could
form a junction he seems to have found and defeated a part of the
Swedish fleet at Stangeberg.[312] A little later, he came up with the
combined strength of the allied Kings near the mouth of Holy River.

Holy River is a short stream in the eastern part of Scania that serves
as the outlet of a group of lakes not far inland. Between these lakes
and the sea the forest was heavy enough to conceal any activities
inland. When the Kings learned that the Danish fleet was approaching,
they took counsel and decided to draw up their ships in battle order
east of the river mouth, but to act on the defensive. King Anund was to
remain in charge of the fleet while King Olaf, who is reputed to have
been something of a military engineer, went inland to prepare a trap for
the enemy. Where the river left the lakes he is said to have built a
temporary dam of trees and turf, and he also improved the outlets of
some of the smaller lakes, so as to increase the water masses behind the
dam. Many days the work continued under Olaf's direction. Then came the
message that Canute had arrived and the Norsemen hastened to their

It was late in the afternoon when Anund's spies finally caught sight of
the great armament approaching from the west. Swift-footed couriers at
once left for the lakes to inform Olaf, who immediately prepared to
break the dam, at the same time filling the course with large trees.
Canute saw the enemy drawn up in line and ready for the fight; but it
was then too late to proceed to the attack; moreover, the enemy had the
advantage of a carefully chosen position. The Dane therefore refused
battle that day. Finding the harbour at the river mouth empty, he sailed
into it with as many ships as could be accommodated; the remainder were
left just outside.

     At dawn the next morning, a large part of Canute's forces was found
     to have landed; some were conversing, others seeking amusement.
     Then without the least warning the waters came down in torrents,
     dashing the floating trees against the ships. The ships were
     injured and the waters overflowed the river banks, drowning the men
     who had gone on land and also many who were still on the ships.
     Those who were able to do so cut the ropes and allowed their ships
     to drift, each in its own direction. The great dragon that Canute
     himself commanded was among these; it was not easily managed by the
     oars alone and drifted out toward the hostile fleet. But when the
     allies recognised the ship, they immediately surrounded it; but it
     was not easily attacked, for the ship was high like a castle and
     had a number of men on board, who were carefully chosen, thoroughly
     armed, and very reliable. It was not long before Earl Ulf came up
     alongside with his ships and men and the battle was now joined in
     earnest. Canute's forces now came up from all sides. Then the Kings
     Olaf and Anund realised that they had now won as much as fate had
     allowed them for this time; so they ordered a retreat, withdrew
     from Canute's fleet, and separated from the fight.[313]

In its disorganised condition Canute's host could make no effective
pursuit. The Danes and English had suffered heavy losses, while those of
the Swedes and Norsemen were slight; still their combined forces were
yet inferior to those of Canute. It was, therefore, agreed to avoid
further battle. Eastward the course continued, the intention being to
stop for the night in the harbour of Barwick on the coast of Bleking.
However, a large part of the Swedish fleet did not enter the harbour,
but continued the journey eastward and northward; nor were the sails
lowered before the chiefs had reached their respective homes.

Early the following morning, King Anund ordered the signal to be sounded
for a council of the remaining chiefs. The entire army landed and the
assembly proceeded to discuss the situation. King Anund announced that
of 420 ships that had joined him in the preceding summer only 120 were
now in the harbour. These with the sixty Norwegian ships did not make a
force sufficient for successful operations against Canute. The Swedish
King therefore proposed to Olaf that he should spend the winter in
Sweden, and in the spring, perhaps, they might be able to renew
hostilities. Olaf demurred: the former viking could not surrender his
purposes so readily; it would still be possible, he argued, to defeat
Canute as his large fleet would soon be compelled to scatter in search
of provisions, his eastern coasts having been too recently harried to
afford much in the way of supplies. But the outcome was that Olaf left
his ships in Sweden and returned to Norway overland.

Canute kept informed as to the situation in the enemies' fleet and army
but did not attempt pursuit. It would seem that a great opportunity was
thus permitted to slip past; but the King probably did not so regard it.
To fight the Swedes was not a part of his present plan; his hope was to
detach King Anund from his more vigorous ally. When he learned that the
hostile fleet was about to dissolve, he returned to Zealand and blocked
the Sound, hoping, no doubt, to intercept the Norwegian King on his
return northward. As we have seen, however, Olaf appreciated the danger
and refused to risk an ambush. That same season saw him on the march
through south-western Sweden to his manors on the shores of the great
Firth. On his arrival in his own land, he dismissed the larger part of
his host; only a small body of trusted men including several prominent
magnates remained with him at Sarpsborg, where he prepared to spend the

Of this campaign we have, broadly speaking, but one detailed
account,--the one given in the sagas. As these are far from
contemporary, doubts have been cast upon the story, but in the main it
seems reliable. That there was a battle at Holy River we know from the
_Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, which states that Canute was defeated at that
place by Ulf and Eglaf supported by a large force of Swedes. As to the
strategic device of King Olaf, we cannot be so sure; but the account in
the sagas reveals a topographical knowledge so specific as to argue
strongly for the belief that the authors must have had access to
reliable sources. There is also a question as to the date of the battle:
Snorre seems to place it in 1027; the _Old English Chronicle_ has it in
1025. The battle seems to have been fought some time in September, 1026.
It evidently occurred before Canute made his pilgrimage to Rome, where
we find him at Easter, 1027.

Though Canute suffered a defeat at Holy River, the outcome gave no
advantage to his enemies. The Swedes were discouraged and tired of a
conflict which, after all, did not seem to concern them. King Olaf was
discredited: a King who had abandoned his ships was not in position to
claim a victory. From that day he found disloyalty everywhere. The
pretender had only to appear on the Norwegian coasts with ships and men
to secure the enthusiastic allegiance of the rebellious Norsemen.

Canute was not prepared, however, to move against Olaf at this time.
Autumn was coming on, a season that was far too short for naval
operations. And soon a tragedy was enacted at the Danish court, the
consequences of which probably caused a complete rearrangement of
Canute's immediate plans. The day before Michaelmas the King proceeded
to Roeskild, where Earl Ulf had prepared an elaborate entertainment for
him and his train. According to the sagas Ulf was aggressive, vigorous,
and brave; but he was also tactless and careless in speech, and
possessed a temper that was not easily controlled. The festivities did
not seem to please the King--he was moody and silent. In the evening Ulf
suggested a game of chess, hoping, no doubt, that the play would help
to restore the royal good humour.

     But as they were playing at chess, King Canute and Earl Ulf, the
     King made a wrong move and the Earl took one of his knights. The
     King moved his opponent's chessman back and told him to make
     another play; this angered the Earl; he overturned the chessboard,
     rose, and left the table. Then said the King, "Are you running away
     now, timid Wolf!" The Earl turned in the doorway and replied,
     "Farther you would have run at Holy River, if you had been able.
     You did not then call Ulf timid, when I rushed up to help you, when
     the Swedes were threshing you and your men like dogs." With that
     the Earl left the room and went to sleep.[315]

It is not likely, however, that the Earl's rest was wholly undisturbed
that night, for in the morning he was found to have sought sanctuary in
Holy Trinity Church. Nor did sleep appease the King's anger; while he
was dressing the next morning, he ordered his shoe-swain to go at once
and slay Ulf. But the servant dared not strike him within the sacred
precincts. Then the King called Ivar White, one of his guardsmen, a
Norseman who is said to have been Earl Eric's nephew,[316] and sent him
with similar orders. Ivar soon returned to the King with a bloody sword
as evidence that his sister's husband was no more.

[Illustration: Lines from the oldest fragment of Snorre's History
(written about 1260). The fragment tells the story of the battle of Holy
River and the murder of Ulf.]

[Illustration: A LONGSHIP--Model of the Gokstad ship on the waves.]

Tales of chess games that have resulted seriously for at least one of
the players appear elsewhere in mediæval literature; hence it would not
be safe to accept this account without question. Still, there is nothing
improbable about the tale; the insult that Ulf offered was evidently
seized upon by the King as a pretext for ridding himself of a man whom
he believed to be a traitor. An independent English tradition credits
Canute with a passion for the game: the historian of Ramsey tells us
that Bishop Ethelric once found him "relieving the wearisomeness of the
long night with games of dice and chess."[317] Nor is there any reason
to doubt that Ulf was actually assassinated at the time; his name
disappears from the sources.

A life had been taken in God's own house; blood had been shed before the
very altar; even though the King had ordered it, the Church could not
overlook the crime. The priests immediately closed the church; but on
the King's command, it was again opened and mass was said as before. It
is recorded that large possessions were added to the church when
services were resumed. To his sister the widowed Estrid, the King also
owed satisfaction; we are told that she, too, received large landed
estates. But her young son Sweyn, who was at this time scarcely more
than eight years old, she prudently seems to have removed from her
brother's kingdom; for twelve years the future King of Denmark was a
guest at the Swedish court.[318]

It seems that the scene of his recent guilt had small attraction for
Canute after that fateful Michaelmas season. He is said to have left the
city and to have taken up his abode on his longship. But not many months
later we find him on a pilgrimage to the capital of Christendom. The
journey must have been planned during the autumn of 1026; it was
actually undertaken during the early months of the following year;
apparently the pilgrims arrived in Rome toward the end of March.

We cannot be sure what induced King Canute to make this journey at this
particular time. In his message to the English people he says that he
went to seek forgiveness for his sins; but this pious phrase is almost a
rhetorical necessity in mediæval documents and must not be regarded too
seriously. Nor can we trust the statement that the King had earlier
vowed to make such a pilgrimage, but had hitherto been prevented by
business of state; for the year 1027 had surely but little to offer in
the way of leisure and peace. The motive must be sought in the political
situation that had developed in the North in the year of the Holy River
campaign, and in the strained relations that must have arisen between
the King and the Church.

No doubt the eyes of the Christian world looked approvingly on the
persistent efforts that Olaf of Norway, who was canonised four years
later, was making to extirpate heathendom in the North. Especially must
the English priesthood have looked with pride and pleasure on the
vigorous growth of the Norse daughter Church. But here comes the
Christian King of England with hostile forces to interfere in behalf of
King Olaf's enemies. Canute probably protested that he would carry on
the work; but it is clear that an absent monarch with wide imperial
interests could scarcely hope to carry out successfully a policy that
implied revolution both socially and religiously. His hand had also been
raised against the Christian ruler of Sweden, which was yet a heathen
land, against a prince in whom the Church doubtless reposed confidence
and hope. Perhaps worst of all, Canute's hand was red with the blood of
his sister's husband, his support at Holy River, whose life had been
taken in violation of the right of sanctuary and sacred peace. The
mediæval Church was a sensitive organism and offences of this sort were
not easily atoned for. It was time to pray at Saint Peter's tomb. It is
also likely that Canute hoped to gain certain political advantages from
the journey: in a strife with the Northern powers it would be well to
have the Emperor a passive if not an active ally; and this was the year
of the imperial coronation.

Norse tradition remembers Canute's pilgrimage as that of a penitent: "he
took staff and scrip, as did all the men who travelled with him, and
journeyed southward to Rome; and the Emperor himself came out to meet
him and he accompanied him all the way to the Roman city."[319] Sighvat
the Scald, who was both Canute's and Olaf's friend, also mentions the
pilgrim's staff in his reference to the royal pilgrimage.[320] Still, it
is not to be thought that gold was overlooked in preparing for the
journey: the saga adds that "King Canute had many horses with him laden
with gold and silver," and that alms were distributed with a free hand.

The Encomiast, who saw the King in the monastery of Saint Bertin in the
Flemish city of Saint-Omer, also gives us a picture, though one that is
clearly exaggerated, of a penitent who is seeking forgiveness and
reconciliation. With humble mien the royal pilgrim entered the holy
precincts; his eyes cast down and streaming with tears, he implored the
suffrages of the saints; beating his breast and heaving sighs, he passed
from altar to altar, kissed the sacred stones, and left large gifts upon
each, even upon the smallest. In addition alms were distributed among
the needy.[321]

The route followed was the old one from Denmark south-westward along the
German coast to Flanders, whence the journey went southward through
Lorraine and the Rhone country. It seems to have been Canute's
intention to visit King Rudolf of Burgundy on the way; but he was found
to have departed on a similar journey to the Eternal City. The progress
was one that was doubtless long remembered in the monasteries along the
route. Important institutions at some distance from the chosen route
seem also to have been remembered in a substantial way; it may have been
on this occasion that a gift was sent to the monastic foundation at
Chartres, of which we have grateful acknowledgment in the Epistles of
Bishop Fulbert[322]; and another to the church at Cologne, a costly
psalter and sacramentary which some time later found their way back to

On Easter Day (March 26), King Canute assisted at the imperial
coronation ceremony; on that day King Conrad and Queen Gisela received
the imperial crowns in the Church of the Holy Apostles.[324] The
assembly was large and splendid and the visiting sovereigns held places
of conspicuous honour. When the Emperor at the close of the ceremony
left the Church, Canute and Rudolf walked beside him. It was a day of
great rejoicing among Conrad's German followers, ending, as was
customary, with a fight between them and their Roman hosts.

On the 6th of April, a great synod met at the Lateran to consider
various weighty matters and to settle certain important controversies.
It may have been at this meeting, though preliminary negotiations must
have prepared the matter to some extent, that King Canute or his
spokesman stated the complaints of the English Church. For one thing he
urged that the price extorted from the English archbishops for the
pallium was too high. The Pope promised to reduce the charges on
condition that Peter's pence be regularly paid. Apparently the curia
urged reform in church dues generally, for a little later Canute sent
his English subjects a sharp reminder on this point. The Pope also
agreed to exempt the English school at Rome from the customary tribute.
On the whole it seems, however, that the more substantial results of the
negotiations remained with the Roman curia.

The English King had another set of grievances which seem to have been
discussed in the same synod, but which particularly interested the ruler
of Burgundy. English and Danish pilgrims, he asserted, were not given
fair and considerate treatment on their journeys to Rome: they were
afflicted with unjust tolls and with overcharges at the inns; evidently
Canute also felt that the highways should be made safer and justice
more accessible to those who travelled on holy errands. In the matter
of undue charges, the Burgundians appear to have been especially guilty.
The reasonableness of Canute's request was apparent to the synod, and it
was decreed that the treatment of pilgrims should be liberal and just:

     and all the princes have engaged by their edict, that my men,
     whether merchants or other travellers for objects of devotion,
     should go and return in security and peace, without any constraint
     of barriers or tolls.[325]

From Rome, Canute hurried back to Denmark, following the same route, it
seems, as on the journey south. Soon after his return he sent a message
to the English clergy and people, advising them as to his absence and
doings in Italy.[326] From the use of the phrase, "here in the East" in
speaking of the Scandinavian difficulties, it seems likely that the
message was composed in Denmark or somewhere on the route not far from
that kingdom. It was carried to England by Bishop Lifing of Crediton. In
this document Canute also recounts the honours bestowed upon him in
Italy; especially does he recall the presents of Emperor Conrad: "divers
costly gifts, as well in golden and silver vessels as in mantles and
vestments exceedingly precious."

The document also asks that the lawful church-dues be regularly
paid,--Peter's pence, plough alms, church scot, and tithes of the
increase of animals and of farm products. This admonition was later
enacted into law. At the same time he forbids his sheriffs and other
officials to do injustice to any one, rich or poor, either in the hope
of winning the royal favour or to gain wealth for the King. He has no
need of wealth that has been unjustly acquired. But this lofty assertion
of principle looks somewhat strange in the light of the fact that the
King was in those very days engaged in bribing a nation.

There can be no doubt that the visit to the Eternal City was of
considerable importance for the future career of the Anglo-Danish King.
Doubtless Rome began to realise what a power was this young monarch who
up to this time had probably been regarded as little better than a
barbarian, one of those dreaded pirates who had so long and so often
terrorised the Italian shores. Here he was next to the Emperor the most
redoubtable Christian ruler in Europe. Probably Canute returned to the
North with the Pope's approval of his plans for empire in
Scandinavia,--tacit if not expressed. John XIX. was a Pope whose ideal
of a church was one that was efficiently administered and he may have
seen in Canute a ruler of his own spirit.


[303] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1023.

[304] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 148.

[305] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iii., 349.

[306] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 144.

[307] Saxo, _Gesta Danorum_, 347-348. There seems to be no reason to
doubt that Saxo here reports a reliable tradition.

[308] _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 148.

[309] _Gesta Danorum_, 347 ff.

[310] Entry for the year 1025; this should be corrected to 1026.

[311] _Gesta Danorum_, 348.

[312] _Ibid._

[313] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 150.

[314] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc. 154-159.

[315] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 153.

[316] Munch, _Det Norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 737.

[317] _Historia Rameseiensis_, 137.

[318] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 71.

[319] _Fagrskinna_, c. 33.

[320] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 136. The statement in _Fagrskinna_
is probably based on Sighvat's verses.

[321] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 20.

[322] Migne, _Patrologia Latina_, cxli, col. 231. As to its date the
letter furnishes no clue. Bishop Fulbert died, according to Migne's
calculations, in April, 1029, two years after Canute's journey.

[323] Wharton, _Anglia Sacra_, ii., 249; William of Malmesbury's _Vita
Wulstani_. The manuscripts were illuminated by Erven, scholasticus of

[324] Giesebrecht, _Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit_, ii., 241-243.
For a collection of the relevant texts, see Bresslau's _Jahrbücher des
deutschen Reichs unter Konrad II._, i., 139.

[325] See Appendix ii.: Canute's Charter of 1027.

[326] The Anglo-Saxon original of Canute's Charter has been lost. Our
oldest version is a Latin translation inserted into the Chronicle of
Florence of Worcester (see Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i.,
276, 277). Most of our information as to Canute's pilgrimage comes from
this document.




Canute was still in the Eternal City on the 6th of April, but it is not
likely that he remained in the South much later than that date. With the
opening of spring, hostilities might be renewed in Scandinavia at any
moment. That Canute expected a renewal of the war is clear from the
language of his message to Britain:

     I therefore wish it to be made known to you that, returning by the
     same way that I departed, I am going to Denmark, for the purpose of
     settling, with the counsel of all the Danes, firm and lasting peace
     with those nations, which, had it been in their power, would have
     deprived us of our life and kingdom....

After affairs had been thus composed, he expected to return to England.

His plans, however, must have suffered a change. So far as we know,
warlike operations were not resumed that year; and yet, if any overtures
for peace were made, they can scarcely have been successful. Some time
later in the year Canute set sail for England; but with his great
purpose unfulfilled: for he had promised in his "Charter" to return to
Britain when he had "made peace with the nations around us, and
regulated and tranquillised all our kingdom here in the East." Not till
next year did he return to the attack on King Olaf Haroldsson. Hostile
movements across the Scottish border seem to have been responsible for
the postponement of the projected conquest. It is told in the
_Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ that as soon as Canute had returned from Rome he
departed for Scotland; "and the King of Scots submitted to him and also
two other kings, Mælbeathe and Jehmarc."

Malcolm, the son of Kenneth, was at this time ruler of Scotia, a kingdom
composed chiefly of the region between the Forth and the river Spey,
with various outlying dependencies. We do not know what called forth
hostilities between Malcolm and Canute at this time; but it is possible
that the inciting force may have been the Norwegian King, as
difficulties in Britain might lead Canute to abandon his Norse
pretensions. As overlord of the Orkneys and probably also of the
neighbouring Scotch coast lands, King Olaf naturally would be drawn into
diplomatic relations with the kings of Scone. The _Chronicle_ gives the
year of the expedition to Scotland as 1031; but it also places it in the
year of Canute's pilgrimage, which we know to have been made in 1027.

Malcolm rendered some sort of homage in 1027, but for what territories
we do not know. That he became Canute's vassal for all his possessions
is unlikely; he had already for a decade been the man of the English
King for Lothian; and the probabilities are that the homage of 1027 was
merely the renewal of the agreements entered into after the battle of
Carham in 1018. With the Northern war still unfinished, Canute cannot
have been in position to exact severe terms. Furthermore, the
acquisition of the Norwegian crown would bring to Canute important
possessions to the north and north-west of Malcolm's kingdom and place
him in a more favourable position for conquest at some future time.
Whether Malcolm realised it or not, further victories for Canute in
Scandinavia would mean serious dangers for the Scottish realms.

The identity of the other two kings, Mælbeathe and Jehmarc, is a matter
of conjecture. Mælbeathe was probably Macbeth, who as earl ruled the
country about Moray Firth, the Macbeth whom we know from Shakespeare's
tragedy. Skene believes that Jehmarc, too, must have ruled in the
extreme north or north-west, the region that was under Norse influence.
But the language of the _Chronicle_ need not mean that these kings were
both from Scotland; Munch's conjecture that Jehmarc was Eagmargach, the
Celtic King of Dublin after the Irish victory at Clontarf,[327] is at
least plausible. That Canute counted Irishmen among his subjects
appears from a stanza by Ottar the Swart:

    Let us so greet the King of the Danes,
    Of Irish, English, and Island-dwellers,
    That his praise as far as the pillared heaven
    May travel widely through all the earth.[328]

If Munch's identification is correct, it reveals a purpose of combining
all the Scandinavian West with the older kingdoms, a policy that must
have seemed both rational and practical. The homage of Malcolm and
Macbeth seems to be mentioned by Sighvat though here again the
chronology is defective, the submission of the kings "from far north in
Fife" being dated before 1026.

In the meantime Norway was not forgotten. During the year 1027, while
Canute was absent in Rome or busied with North British affairs, his
emissaries were at work in Norway still further undermining the
tottering loyalty of the Norwegian chiefs. No attempt was made at
secrecy--it was bribery open and unblushing. Says Sighvat the Scald:

    Jealous foes of King Olaf
    Tempt us with open purses;
    Gold for the life of the lordly
    Ruler is loudly offered.

The poet was a Christian and seems to have taken grim satisfaction in the
teachings of the new faith regarding future punishment:

    Men who sell for molten
    Metal the gentle ruler
    In swart Hell (they deserve it)
    Shall suffer the keenest torture.[329]

The activities of the Danish envoys appear to have extended to all parts
of the country, though it seems likely that their success was greatest
in the West and South-west where they enjoyed the protection and
assistance of the mighty nobleman Erling Skjalgsson, who thus added
dishonour to stubborn and unpatriotic wilfulness. After Holy River
Canute apparently dismissed his fleet for the winter, in part at least,
and Erling returned to his estates at Soli.

     With Erling Canute's envoys came north and brought much wealth with
     them. They fared widely during the winter, paying out the money
     that Canute had promised for support in the autumn before; but they
     also gave money to others and thus bought their friendship for
     Canute; and Erling supported them in all this.[330]

Evidence of this activity appears in a remarkable find of English coins
to the number of 1500 near Eikunda-sound, not far from Soli. The
treasure was brought to light in 1836; most of the coins bear the
effigies of Ethelred and Canute; all are from Canute's reign or
earlier.[331] The next year (1028) Canute sailed his fleet into
Eikunda-sound and remained there for some time; but there seems no
reason why English money should be secreted on that occasion. More
probably the treasure was part of the bribe money; the fact that it was
hidden would indicate that Canute's agents found the business somewhat
dangerous after all.

Gold alone does not account for Saint Olaf's downfall. There were other
reasons for the defection of the aristocracy, but these have been
discussed in an earlier chapter: there was dissatisfaction with the new
faith; there was dissatisfaction with a régime that enjoined a firm
peace everywhere, that aimed at equal justice for all without respect to
birth or station, and that enforced severe and unusual punishments;
there was also the memory of the days of the earls, when the hand of
government was light and the old ways were respected.

In 1028, Canute was ready to strike. Soon the news spread that a vast
armament was approaching Norway. "With fifty ships of English
thegns,"[332] the King sailed along the Low German shores to the western
mouth of the Lime Firth. Among the chiefs who accompanied him from
England were the two earls, Hakon and Godwin. One of Godwin's men found
his death in Norway, as we learn from a runic monument raised by one
Arnstein over the grave of his son Bjor, "who found his death in
Godwin's host in the days when Canute sailed [back] to England."[333]

The ships that the King brought from England were doubtless large and
well-manned: Canute's housecarles may have made up a considerable part
of the crews. At the Lime Firth an immense Danish fleet was waiting:
according to the sagas 1440 ships made up the fleet that sailed up to
the Norwegian capital Nidaros. Twelve great hundreds is evidently merely
a round number used to indicate unusual size; but that the armament was
immense is evident from the ease with which it accomplished its work. So
far as we know, the awe-stricken Norsemen made no resistance. In
addition to the English and Danish ships, there were evidently not a few
that were manned by the housecarles of disaffected Norwegian chiefs.

Olaf was informed of Canute's intentions and did what he could to meet
the invasion. Men were dispatched to Sweden to bring home the ships that
had been abandoned there nearly two years before. This was a difficult
undertaking, for the Danes kept close guard over the passages leading
out of the Baltic. Part of the fleet the Norsemen burned; with the rest
they were able to steal through the Sound after Canute had begun his
advance toward Norway. King Olaf also summoned the host, but there came

    Few folk and little dragons.
    What a disgrace that landsmen
    Leave our lord royal
    Unsupported. (For money
    Men desert their duties.)

What forces the Norwegians were able to collect sailed up into Oslo
Firth, where King Olaf prudently remained till Canute had again departed
from the land.[334]

The northward progress of Canute's armament is told in a poem by
Thorarin Praise-tongue, who had composed an earlier lay to the King's
honour.[335] "The lord of the ocean" sailed from the Lime Firth with a
vast fleet. Canute seems to have cut across the strait to the
southwestern part of Norway, where the "war-trained men of Agdir saw in
terror the advance of the hero," for Canute's dragon gleamed with steel
and gold. "The swart ships glide past Lister" and soon fill
Eikunda-sound. And so the journey goes on past the Hornel-mount and the
promontory of Stadt, till the "sea-falcons glide into the Nid River."

At important points Canute landed and summoned the franklins to formal
assemblies. The summons were generally obeyed: the franklins swore
allegiance to the new King and gave the required hostages. Wherever
there was occasion to do so, the King appointed new local officials
from the elements whose loyalty he believed he could trust. He spent
some time in Eikunda-sound where Erling Skjalgsson joined him with a
large force. The old alliance was renewed and Erling received promise of
all the region between the great headlands of Stadt and the Naze, with a
little additional territory to the east of the latter point. This was
more than the lord of Soli had ever controlled before. The terms have
not been recorded, but Canute was always liberal in his promises.[336]

When Nidaros was reached, the eight shires of the Throndelaw were
summoned to meet in a grand assembly, the Ere-thing, which met on the
river sands at the mouth of the Nid. As Throndhjem was counted the most
important region of the kingdom, the Ere-thing throughout the middle
ages enjoyed a prominence of its own as the assembly that accepted and
proclaimed the Norwegian kings. Here then, Canute was formally
proclaimed the true King of Norway, and the customary homage was

There was no need of going beyond Nidaros. Thor the Dog, Harek of
Tjotta, and other great lords from the farther North were present at the
Ere-thing and took the oaths of allegiance. Thor came in Canute's fleet;
Harek joined the King at Nidaros. On these two chiefs the King depended
for support in the Arctic regions. In return for their allegiance they
received enlarged franchises and privileges, among other things the
monopoly of the trade with the Finnish tribes.[338]

The conclusions of the Ere-thing concerned Norway alone. A little later
a larger assembly was called, a joint meeting of the chiefs of Norway
and of the invading army--magnates from England, Denmark, and Norway;
possibly the warriors, too, had some voice in this assembly. Here then,
in the far North on the sands of Nidaros, was held the first and only
imperial assembly, so far as our information goes, that Canute ever
summoned. It was called to discuss and decide matters of interest common
to all the three realms--especially was it to hear the imperial will,
the new imperial policy.

Canute was yet a young man--he had not advanced far into the
thirties--but prudence, perhaps also wisdom, had developed with the
years. He realised that his own person was really the only bond that
held his realms together; but he also understood that direct rule was
impracticable. The Norse movement was essentially a revolt from Olaf,
not a popular demand for union with Denmark. Among the Danes, too, there
was opposition to what smacked of alien rule, as is shown by the
readiness with which the magnates had received the revolutionary plans
of Earl Ulf. No doubt it was with reluctance that Canute announced a
system of vassal earls and kings; however, no other solution can have
seemed possible.

To his nephew Hakon he gave the vice-royalty of Norway with the earl's
title and dignity. Whether the entire kingdom was to be included in
Hakon's realm may be doubted; Southern Norway, the Wick, which was as
yet unconquered, was an old possession of the dynasty of Gorm and may
have been excepted. "Next he led his son Harthacanute to his own
high-seat and gave him the kings-name with the government of the Danish
realms."[339] As Harthacanute was still but a child a guardian must be
found, and for this position Canute seems to have chosen Harold, the son
of Thurkil the Tall,[340] his own foster-brother, if tradition can be
trusted. Harold at this time was apparently in charge at Jomburg, where
he had probably stood in a similar relation to Canute's older son Sweyn
who was located there. It is significant that the only one who is
awarded the royal title is Harthacanute, the youngest of the King's
three sons; but he was also the only one who was of legitimate birth.
There can be little doubt that Canute intended to make Harthacanute the
heir to all his realms. Of these arrangements Thorarin Praise-tongue
sings in his lay:

    Then gave the wise
    Wielder of Jutland
    Norway to Hakon
    His sister's son.

    And to his own son
    (I say it) the old dark
    Halls of the ocean,
    Hoary Denmark.[341]

Among the Norwegian chiefs who thus far had remained neutral was Einar
Thongshaker, the archer of Swald. But now that the Ere-thing had acted
and had renounced its allegiance to Olaf, Einar promptly appeared and
took the required oaths. King Canute felt the need of binding the proud
magnate closely to the new order of things, and along with gifts and
increased feudal income went the flattering phrases that next to those
who bore princely titles Einar should be the chiefest in the kingdom,
and that he or his son Eindrid seemed, after all, most suited to bear
the rule in Norway, "were it not for Earl Hakon."[342]

There remained the formality of taking hostages, sons, brothers, or near
kinsmen of the chiefs, "or the men who seemed dearest to them and best
fitted." The fleet then returned to the South. It was a leisurely sail,
we are told, with frequent landings and conferences with the yeomanry,
especially, no doubt, in the shires where no assemblies had been
summoned on the northward journey. When King Olaf heard of Canute's
return, he moved farther up the Oslo Firth and into one of its arms, the
Drammen Firth. Here he apparently left his ships while he and his men
withdrew some distance into the interior. King Canute did not pursue
him. He sailed along the south shores to the Oslo Firth and up to
Sarpsborg, where an assembly of the freemen accepted him as King. From
Sarpsborg he returned to Denmark, where he seems to have spent the
winter. Not till the following year did he care to risk a return to
England; but at that time his Norse rival was treading the path of exile
across the Baltic (1029).


While Canute was being hailed as King at Sarpsborg, Olaf was in hiding
two or three days' march distant, probably in the Ring-realm. When he
learned of the enemy's departure, he promptly returned to Tunsberg and
tried to resume his sway. The situation was desperate, but he wished to
make a last appeal to the Norsemen's feeling of loyalty to Harold's
dynasty. And now another fleet sailed up the western shores, this time
the King's own. Only thirteen ships steered out of Tunsberg harbour and
few joined later. The season was the beginning of winter, a most
unfavourable time for aggressive operations. When King Olaf had rounded
the Naze, he learned that his old enemy, Erling Skjalgsson, had been
levying forces in considerable numbers. Olaf managed, however, to
intercept Erling's ship and overpowered the old chief after a furious
struggle. "Face to face shall eagles fight; will you give quarter?"
Erling is reported to have said when Olaf remarked on his bravery. The
King was disposed to reconciliation; but during the parley one of his
men stepped up and clove the rebel's head. "Unhappy man," cried the
King, "there you struck Norway out of my hand!" But the overzealous
housecarle was forgiven.[343]

The news of Erling's death fired the whole coast. The magnates realised
at once that retreat was now impossible: they must maintain the cause of
Canute. Nowhere could King Olaf land, everywhere the yeomanry called for
revenge. From the south came the sons of the murdered man in vigorous
pursuit; in the north Earl Hakon was mustering the Thronder-folk.
Finally King Olaf was forced into one of the long inlets that cut into
the western coast. Here he was trapped; flight alone was possible; but
before him lay wild mountain regions, one of the wildest routes in
Norway. It was midwinter, but the crossing was successful, though the
sufferings and difficulties must have been great. Exile was now the only
choice; the journey continued to the Swedish border and thence across
that kingdom and the Baltic Sea to Russia.[344]

When Canute returned to England, Norway was apparently loyal, peaceful,
and obedient. So far as we know, he never again visited the North.

The rule of Earl Hakon was brief: a year and a half at most. Of the
character of his government we have no information; but the
good-natured, easy-going son of Earl Eric was not a man to antagonise
the Norwegian aristocracy. His lack of aggressive energies was
thoroughly appreciated at Winchester: it is difficult to determine
whether Canute's attitude toward his nephew is to be ascribed to bad
faith or lack of faith; at all events, the King seems anxiously to have
sought a pretext to remove him.

Among the noble families of Thronde-land, perhaps none ranked higher
than the house of the Arnungs. Arne Armodsson was a mighty chief and,
while he lived, a good friend of King Olaf. Of his five surviving sons
four were faithful to the King till he fell at Stiklestead. As we have
noted elsewhere, the family also had connections with Olaf's enemies:
Arne's daughter was the wife of Harek; his son Kalf was married to the
widow of Olvi who had been executed at the King's orders for practising
heathen rites; somewhat later Olvi's son Thorir was slain for treason
(1027?). When Olaf left Norway, Kalf deserted him and not long
afterwards made peace with Earl Hakon and became his man. The sagas
attribute this step to the influence of his wife Sigrid and her brother,
Thor the Dog. Sigrid is represented as a woman of the legendary type,
possessed of a demon of revenge. She had lost much: a husband for his
fidelity to the old gods; a son for suspected treason; another in an
effort to take vengeance for his brother. To this motive was added that
of ambition, which was, perhaps, that which chiefly determined Kalf's
actions. Canute seems to have been anxious to secure the active support
of this influential noble and probably had expressed a desire for an
interview; for in the spring following the conquest (1029), Kalf
prepared his ship and sailed to England.[345]

It must have been clear to Canute that continued peace in the North was
not to be hoped for. That King Olaf Haroldsson, who had begun his career
as a viking while he was yet a mere boy and who was still young, strong,
and virile, would be content with permanent exile was unthinkable.
Canute must further have realised that his power in Norway had no secure
foundation: bribery could not be employed forever; heathendom was a
broken reed. His representative was weak, or, as Canute is said to have
put it, too "conscientious"; in a crisis he was not to be trusted. Einar
Thongshaker was of doubtful loyalty and furthermore had nearly passed
the limits of active life. But here was Kalf, young and influential,
wealthy and strong.

Canute therefore proposed to Kalf that if Olaf should reappear in Norway
he was to raise the militia and lead the host against him. He thus
became, in a way, Canute's personal, though unofficial, representative
in the kingdom, with a higher title in prospect:

     I will then give you the earl's dignity and let you govern Norway;
     but my kinsman Hakon shall fare back to me; and for that he is
     best suited, as he is so conscientious that I scarcely believe he
     would do as much as hurl a single shaft against King Olaf, if they
     were to meet.[346]

Kalf listened joyfully; Canute's speech appealed to him; "and now he
began to yearn for the earlship." An agreement was made, and soon Kalf's
ship, laden with gifts, was again sailing eastward over the North Sea.
Bjarne the Poet recalls these gifts and promises in a praise-lay of
which we have fragments:

    The lord of London made promise
    Of lands ere you left the westlands
    (Since there has come postponement):
    Slight was not your distinction.[347]

A few months later the vice-royalty was vacant. Soon after Kalf's return
to Norway, Hakon sailed to England; Canute had apparently sent for him.
The sources are neither clear nor wholly agreed on this matter; but
practically all place the journey in some relation to Hakon's betrothal
to Gunhild, Canute's niece, the daughter of his sister Gunhild and a
Slavic prince, Witigern. It was late in the year before Hakon was ready
to return--sometime after Martinsmas (November 11th); says Florence of
Worcester.[348] His ship never reached Norway; it went down in a
tempest in the Pentland Firth, probably in January, 1030.

The English sources have it that Canute in fact exiled Hakon, though
formally he sent him on a personal mission; but the chroniclers are
evidently in error in this matter. When these writers speak of outlawry,
they mean exile from England; and Hakon was no longer an English
resident. Still, it is extremely probable that Hakon had been deprived
of his ancestral dignities, that he had been transferred to a new field.
Two possibilities appear to fit into the situation: the Earl may have
been transferred to the north-western islands or to Jomburg. The
Norwegian dependencies along the Scottish shores, the Orkneys and other
possessions, passed to Canute when he assumed the Norwegian crown. The
fact that Hakon's ship went under on the shores of the Orkneys may
indicate that he had an errand in those waters, that Canute had created
a new jurisdiction for his easy-going nephew.

Still more is to be said for the alternative possibility. Canute had
clearly decided to supersede Hakon in Norway. He had already, it seems,
selected his illegitimate son Sweyn for the Norse governorship. The
promotion of Sweyn would create a vacancy in Jomburg; perhaps Hakon was
intended as Sweyn's successor at that post. At any rate, the King was
planning a marriage between the Earl and a kinswoman of his own who was
of the Slavic aristocracy, a marriage that would secure for the Earl a
certain support among the Wendish nobility. The prospective bride was
probably in Wendland with her kinsmen at the time; at any rate she was
not on the ship that went down in the Swelchie of Pentland Firth; for a
few years later we find Gunhild the widow of one whose history is
closely associated with Jomburg, Harold, the son of Thurkil the Tall,
the Harold who in 1030 was administering Danish affairs in the name of
Harthacanute. Florence tells us that in 1044, Gunhild was exiled from
England with her two sons, Thurkil and Heming.[349] Two fierce brothers,
it will be recalled, led the Jomvikings into England in 1009,--Thurkil
and Heming. No doubt the exiled boys were Harold's sons, named in honour
of their stately grandfather and his valiant brother.

Once more Norway was without a ruler. The news of Hakon's death was not
long in reaching the Throndelaw, and the leaders of the various factions
seem to have taken prompt measures to provide a satisfactory régime.
Einar Thongshaker, mindful of Canute's earlier promises, got out his
ship and repaired to England. As usual the diplomatic King was prodigal
with promises and professions of friendship: Einar should have the
highest place in the Norse aristocracy, a larger income, and whatever
honours the King could give except the earl's authority,--that had been
assigned to Sweyn, and messengers had already been dispatched to
Jomburg with instructions to the young prince to assume control at

The old warrior cannot have been pleased. It is likely that his loyalty
received a violent shock. Knowing that an attempt would be made to
restore Olaf to the throne, he apparently decided to assume his
customary neutral attitude; at any rate, he would not fight under Kalf
Arnesson's banner. So he lingered in England till the trouble was over
and Sweyn was in charge of the kingdom.

Kalf did not go to England; he was busy carrying out his promises to
Canute. For hardly had the merchant ships brought rumours of Earl
Hakon's death, before Olaf's partisans took measures to restore their
legitimate King. Some of the chiefs set out for Russia; and when
midsummer came, King Olaf's banner was advancing toward the Norwegian
capital. Kalf was prepared to meet him. As it was not known what route
Olaf might choose to take or in what region he would set up his
standard, the forces of the yeomanry were divided, the southern magnates
under the leadership of the sons of Erling undertaking to meet the King
if he should appear in the south-east, while the northern host under
Kalf, Harek, and Thor the Dog was preparing to hold the Throndelaw.

[Illustration: STIKLESTEAD (From a photograph.)]

The host that gathered to oppose the returned exile was wholly Norse: no
Dane or Englishman seems to have fought for Canute at Stiklestead, The
only alien who is prominently mentioned in this connection is Bishop
Sigurd, a Danish ecclesiastic who had served as Hakon's court bishop and
was a violent partisan of Canute. All the western coast as far as to the
Arctic seems to have been represented in the army of the franklins,
which is said to have numbered 14,400, four times the number that fought
for the returned King.

Still, the disparity of forces was not so great after all. Most of the
kingsmen were superb warriors, and all were animated with enthusiasm for
Olaf's cause. It was otherwise in the host of the yeomanry; many had
small desire to fight for King Canute, and among the chiefs there was an
evident reluctance to lead. Kalf had, therefore, no difficulty in
securing authority to command--it was almost thrust upon him.

The battle was joined at Stiklestead farm, about forty miles north-east
of the modern Throndhjem. The summer night is short in the Northlands
and the long morning gave opportunity for careful preparation. At noon
the armies met and the battle began. For more than two hours it raged,
King Olaf fighting heroically among his men. Leading an attack on the
hostile standard, he came into a hand-to-hand conflict with the chiefs
of the yeomanry and fell wounded in three places.[351]

Saint Olaf's day is celebrated on July 29th, and it is generally held
that the battle was fought on that date. Some historians have thought
that it was really fought a month later on the last day of August.
Sighvat was that year on a pilgrimage to Rome, and was consequently not
an eye-witness; but his lines composed after his return are,
nevertheless, one of the chief sources used by the saga-men. The poet
alludes to an eclipse of the sun on the day of the battle:

    They call it a great wonder
    That the sun would not,
    Though the sky was cloudless,
    Shine warm upon the men.[352]

Such an eclipse, total in that very region at the hour assigned to the
climax of the fight, actually occurred on August 31st. It is generally
held, however, that the eclipse came to be associated with the battle
later when the search for miracles had begun.

The reaction was successfully met, but without any assistance from
Canute. Sweyn had prepared a large force of Danes, commanded it seems by
Earl Harold, and had hastened northward; but had only reached the Wick
when the battle of Stiklestead was fought. It seems strange at first
thought that no English fleet was sent to assist Kalf and his
associates. It is not likely that Canute depended much on the fidelity
of the Northmen--he understood human nature better than most rulers of
his time; nor had he any means of knowing how widely the revolt would
spread when the former King should issue his appeal. The key to his
seeming inactivity must be sought in the international situation of the
time: England was just then threatened with an invasion from the south,
a danger that demanded a concentration of military resources on the
shores of the Channel.

The accounts that have come down to us of the relations of England and
Normandy during the latter half of Canute's reign are confused and
contradictory; but a few facts are tolerably clear. Some time after the
murder of Ulf (1026), Canute gave the widowed Estrid in marriage to
Robert the Duke of Normandy (1027-1035).[353] It may be that on his
return from Rome in the spring of 1027 Canute had a conference with
Robert, who had succeeded to the ducal throne in the previous February.
But whether such a meeting occurred or not, Robert had serious trouble
before him in Normandy and no doubt was eager for an alliance with the
great King of the North. The marriage must have taken place in 1027 or
1028; a later date seems improbable. The father of William Bastard is
not famous for conjugal fidelity and may not have been strongly
attracted by the Danish widow; at any rate, he soon repudiated her,
perhaps to Estrid's great relief, as Duke Robert the Devil seems not to
have borne his nickname in vain. The characteristics of the Duke that
most impressed his contemporaries were a ferocious disposition and
rude, untamed strength.

It is likely, however, that the break with Canute is to be ascribed not
so much to domestic infelicity as to new political ambitions; at the
court of Rouen were the two sons of King Ethelred, Edward and Alfred,
who had grown to manhood in Normandy. It apparently became Robert's
ambition to place these princes on English thrones, which he could not
hope to accomplish without war. An embassy was sent to Canute (perhaps
in 1029), somewhat similar to the one that Canute had sent to Norway a
few years before, bearing a similar errand and equipped with similar
arguments. Evidently the Norman ambassadors did not receive kind
treatment at the English court. Their report stirred the Duke to great
wrath; he ordered a fleet to be prepared for an invasion of
England.[354] Most likely that was the time, too, of the Duchess
Estrid's disgrace.

The expedition sailed, but a storm sent, as William of Jumièges
believes, by an overruling Providence, "who had determined that Edward
should some day gain the crown without the shedding of blood," drove the
fleet in a westerly direction past the peninsula of Cotentin to the
shores of Jersey. Robert was disappointed, but the fleet was not
prepared in vain: instead of attacking England, the Duke proceeded
against Brittany and forced his enemy Duke Alain to seek peace through
the mediation of the Church at Rouen.[355]

These events must have occurred after Canute's return from the
North,--in the years 1029 and 1030. No other period seems possible; it
is not likely that the threatened hostilities could have been later than
1030, for in 1031 a new King, Henry I., ascended the French throne and
Robert the Devil became involved in the resulting civil war.[356]

If our chronology is correct, the summer of 1030 saw the Northern Empire
threatened from two directions; in Norway it took the form of revolt; in
Normandy that of threatened invasion. In both instances legitimate
claimants aimed to dislodge a usurper. The danger from the South was by
far the greater; Olaf's harsh rule had not yet been forgotten by the
Norsemen, nor had they yet experienced the rigours of alien rule.
England was quiet and apparently contented; but what effect the
pretensions of the Ethelings would have on the populace no one could
know. We may be sure that Canute was ready for the invader; but so long
as the Norwegian troubles were still unsettled, he wisely limited
himself to defensive operations.

It is also related, though not by any contemporary writer, that Canute
was dangerously ill at the time of the Norman trouble, and that he at
one time expressed a willingness to divide the English kingdom with the
Ethelings.[357] Whether he was ill or not, such an offer does not
necessitate the inference either of despair or of fear for the outcome.
The offer if made was doubtless a diplomatic one, on par with the
promises to the Norwegian rebels, made for the purpose of gaining time,
perhaps, until Norway was once more pacified.

But fortune had not deserted the great Dane. When autumn came in 1030,
the war clouds had passed and the northern skies were clear and
cheerful. Canute's Norwegian rival had gone to his reward; his Norman
rival was absorbed in other interests. Without question Canute was now
Emperor of the North.


[327] _Det norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 673.

[328] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 157 (Vigfusson's translation with
slight changes).

[329] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 134.

[330] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 161.

[331] Munch, _Det norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 741.

[332] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1028.

[333] _Afhandlinger viede Sophus Bugges Minde_, 8.

[334] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 168.

[335] _Ibid._, c. 172.

[336] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 170.

[337] _Ibid._

[338] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 170.

[339] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 171.

[340] _Ibid._, c. 183.

[341] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 159.

[342] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 171.

[343] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc. 174-176.

[344] _Ibid._, cc. 177 ff.

[345] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 183.

[346] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 183.

[347] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii.,163.

[348] _Chronicon_, i., 184-185.

[349] _Chronicon_, i., 199.

[350] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 194.

[351] For details of the battle see Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, cc.

[352] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 142.

[353] The evidence for this marriage is discussed by Freeman in _Norman
Conquest_, i., Note ppp.

[354] William of Jumièges, _Historia Normannorum_, vi., c. 10.

[355] William of Jumièges, _Historia Normannorum_, vi., cc. 10, 11.

[356] This was followed by a famine in the duchy (1033) which probably
induced the Duke to make his pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre on the
return from which he died (1035).

[357] William of Jumièges, _Historia Normannorum_, vi., c. 12.



When the eleventh century began its fourth decade, Canute was, with the
single exception of the Emperor, the most imposing ruler in Latin
Christendom. Less than twenty years earlier he had been a landless
pirate striving to dislodge an ancient and honoured dynasty; now he was
the lord of four important realms and the overlord of other kingdoms.
Though technically Canute was counted among the kings, his position
among his fellow-monarchs was truly imperial. Apparently he held in his
hands the destinies of two great regions; the British Isles and the
Scandinavian peninsulas. His fleet all but controlled two important
seas, the North and the Baltic. He had built an empire.

It was a weak structure, founded too largely on the military and
diplomatic achievements of a single man; but the King was young--in the
ordinary course of nature he should have lived to rule at least thirty
years longer--and with careful diplomatic effort, of which he was a
master, he might be expected to accomplish great things in the way of
consolidating his dominions. But instead of thirty years, the fates had
counted out less than half a dozen. In this period he was able to do
almost nothing to strengthen the bonds of empire. Canute's power did not
long remain at its zenith--the decline began almost immediately. In this
there is nothing strange; the marvel is in the fact that such an empire
was actually built.

Of Canute's many dominions, the kingdoms of Denmark, England, and Norway
had fairly distinct boundaries. Lothian might be in question between
England and Scotland; the Norwegian kings had claimed certain
territories across the Scandinavian watershed, Jemteland, a Norse colony
in Swedish possession; but otherwise the limits were tolerably definite.
The fourth division, the Slavic lands on the southern rim of the Baltic,
was a more indefinite area. Its limits are unknown; perhaps it should be
called a sphere of influence rather than a province. There were,
however, certain evident nuclei; the regions about the lower course of
the Oder with Jomburg as the chief city were doubtless the more
important part; in addition there was Semland in the extreme east of
modern Prussia, Witland a trifle farther west where the Vistula empties
into the sea; and doubtless some of the intervening territories. There
are indications that Danish settlements had also been planted in the
region of the modern city of Riga[358]; but as to their probable
relation to Canute's empire the sources are silent.

In addition to England, Canute possessed important territories elsewhere
in the British archipelago. The King of Scotland was his vassal, at
least for a part of his dominions; and we have seen that at least one
other Scottish king, probably from the extreme north of the island, had
done homage to Canute. It has also been shown that the Norse-Irish
kingdom of Dublin should, perhaps, be counted among his vassal states.
As King of Norway, Canute was lord of the Shetlands and the Orkneys,
perhaps also the Hebrides, and other Norse colonies on the west shores
of Scotland. The Faroes were not wholly subject and the Icelandic
republic still maintained its independence; but the straggling
settlements in far-off Greenland seem to have acknowledged their
dependence on the Norwegian crown.[359]

Any definite imperial policy Canute seems never to have developed. In
his own day the various units were nominally ruled by earls or
sub-kings, usually chosen from the King's own immediate family; but the
real power was often in the hands of some trusted chief whom the King
associated with the lord who bore the title. If time had been granted,
some form of feudalism might have developed out of this arrangement; but
it had few feudal characteristics in Canute's own day. It was evidently
Canute's intention to continue the scheme of one king for the entire
group of dominions, for at the imperial assembly at Nidaros, he placed
Harthacanute in the high-seat and gave him the administration of
Denmark, which was, after all, the central kingdom. The Encomiast bears
further testimony as to Canute's intention when he tells us that all
England had taken an oath to accept Harthacanute as king.[360] It seems
that Canute, to secure the succession to his legitimate son, had adopted
the Capetian expedient of associating the heir with himself in the
kingship while he was still living.

So long as obedience, especially in matters of military assistance, was
duly rendered, few difficulties were likely to arise between the supreme
lord of Winchester and his subordinates in Nidaros, Roeskild, or
Jomburg. As the union was personal, each kingdom retained its own laws
and its own system of assemblies, though this must have been true to a
less extent in the Slavic possessions, as these seem to have been
regarded almost as a Danish dependency. When the reign closed,
Harthacanute was governing Denmark; Sweyn assisted by his mother Elgiva
had charge of Norway, though at that moment the Norwegian rebels were in
actual control. Canute ruled England himself, not because it was
regarded as the chief or central kingdom, but more likely because it
could not with safety be entrusted to any one else.

So far as the Empire had any capital, that distinction appears to have
belonged to the ancient city of Winchester. Here in the heart of Wessex
was the seat of English government, the royal and imperial residence. We
naturally think of Canute's household as an English court; but it is
difficult to determine what racial influences were in actual control.
Nor do we know what was the official language in Canute's royal garth;
but the probabilities are that both Old English and Old Norse were in
constant use. The housecarles who guarded the royal person and interests
were in large part of Scandinavian birth or blood. The Norse poets who
sang praise-lays in the royal hall at Winchester sang in their native
dialects. Of the King's thegns who witnessed Canute's land grants, as a
rule about one half bear Scandinavian names; there can be little doubt
that most of these were resident at court, at all events those whose
names appear in more than one document.

Other nationalities, too, were represented at Winchester. In the
enrolment of housecarles, the King asked for strength, valour, wealth,
and aristocratic birth; not, it seems, for Danish or English ancestry.
The bishops that Canute sent from England to Denmark appear to have been
Flemings or Lotharingians. William who in a later reign became bishop of
Roeskild is said to have come to Denmark as Canute's private secretary
or chancellor; but William is neither a Northern nor a Saxon but a
Norman name. And thus with Dane and Angle, Norman and Norseman, Swede
and Saxon, Celt and German thronging the royal garth the court at
Winchester must have borne an appearance that was distinctly
non-English. As at other courts, men came and went; and the stories of
the splendours at Winchester were given wide currency. The dissatisfied
Norsemen who sought refuge in England found at Canute's court

     greater magnificence than in any other place, both as to the number
     in daily attendance and as to the furnishings and equipments of the
     palaces that he owned and occupied.[361]

Sighvat the Scald, who had seen Rouen and visited Rome, was so deeply
impressed with the glories of Canute's capital that in his praise-lay he
introduced the refrain:

    Canute was under heaven
    The most glorious King.[362]

There seems also to have been a notable Slavic element in Canute's
retinue. Attention has been called to the King's Slavic ancestry: the
Slavic strain was evidently both broader and deeper than the Danish. One
of the King's sisters bore a Slavic name, Santslave[363]; another
sister, Gunhild, married a Slavic "king," Wyrtgeorn or Witigern,[364]
who may have been the Wrytsleof who witnessed an English land grant in
1026[365]; possibly he was visiting his English kinsfolk at the time.
Among the chiefs of the imperial guard was one Godescalc, the son of a
Slavic prince, though Danish on the maternal side; he, too, married into
the Danish royal family.[366]

The affairs of each separate kingdom were evidently directed from the
national capitals and administered largely by native functionaries. At
the same time, it seems to have been Canute's policy to locate Danish
officials in all his principal dominions, at least in the higher
offices. The appointment of Danes to places of importance in England has
been noted in an earlier chapter. With the subjection of Norway, a
number of Danes received official appointments in that kingdom. A
leading cause of the Norwegian revolt in 1034-1035 was the prominence
given to aliens in the councils of the regent Sweyn: "Danish men had in
those days much authority in Norway, but that was liked ill by the men
of the land."[367] On the other hand, no Englishman seems to have
received official responsibilities in the North except in the Church;
and it may be doubted whether Canute sent many Anglian prelates to his
realms in the east: the bishops that we have record of seem to have been
Normans, Flemings, or clerks from the Danelaw. When a court bishop was
to be found for the household of Earl Hakon, the choice fell upon
Sigurd, a Dane and a violent friend of Danish rule.

Of Canute's diplomacy the sources afford us only an occasional glimpse;
but the information that we have indicates that he entered into
diplomatic relations with almost every ruler of importance in Northern
and Western Europe. The King of Scotland became his vassal. The sagas
tell of an embassy to Sweden in the years preceding the attack on
Norway. During the same period Canute's cousin, the King of Poland,
apparently sought his alliance against the Germans. With the Emperor he
maintained the closest relations. The Norman dukes were bound to the
Danish dynasty by the noble ties of marriage. On his visit to Rome the
English King came into personal contact with the King of Burgundy and
His Holiness the Pope. Even to distant Aquitaine did the mighty monarch
send his ambassadors with messages of good-will in the form of
substantial presents. In a panegyric on William the Great, the Duke of
Aquitaine, Adémar of Chabannes writes that every year embassies came to
the Duke's court with precious gifts from the kings of Spain, France,
and Navarre, "and also from Canute, King of the Danes and the Angles";
and the chronicler adds that the messengers brought even more costly
presents away.[368] On one occasion "the King of that country [England]
sent a manuscript written with letters of gold along with other
gifts."[369] As this statement seems to have been written in 1028, and
as the author emphasises the fact that this beautiful codex had arrived
"recently," it seems probable that this embassy should be associated
with Canute's pilgrimage to Rome the year before. It is not strange that
Canute should wish to honour a prince like William; and it is only
natural that he should wish to placate a people who had suffered so
much, as the Aquitanians had, from the raids and inroads of his former
associates and his allies, the vikings and the Normans.

With respect to his immediate neighbours, Canute's policy was usually
absorption or close friendship. What he felt he could add to his
dominions, he added; where this was not possible, he sought peace and
alliance. His diplomacy must have concerned itself especially with three
states: Normandy, Sweden, and the Empire. As to his relations with
Sweden after the encounter at Holy River, history is silent; but war was
evidently avoided. Canute probably regarded any effort to extend his
territories eastward as an unwise move, so long as the disappointed
Norwegian chiefs continued to show signs of unrest and rebellion.

With Normandy he lived in continuous peace for more than a decade, until
Robert the Devil took up the cause of the exiled princes. That Canute
feared a move in this direction seems evident; and as Queen Emma's
influence at Rouen was probably weakened by the death of Richard the
Good (1027), it was no doubt in the hope of strengthening his position
at the ducal court that Canute sought the title of duchess for his
widowed sister. As we have seen, his success was only temporary, and for
a time war seemed imminent. But the confused situation in the French
kingdom at this time proved Canute's salvation. In the civil war that
followed the accession of Henry I. to the French throne in 1031, Robert
of Normandy took a leading part on the King's side; and it was largely
due to his efforts that Henry finally overcame his enemies.[370]
Meanwhile, the sons of Ethelred and Emma had to wait several years
before another opportunity appeared with sufficient promise to tempt the
exiles back across the Channel. For soon after the French King was
safely enthroned, famine came upon Normandy, an affliction that led
Robert the Devil to think of a visit to the grave of Christ. The journey
was undertaken but on the return the Duke died in Asia Minor (1035).
His successor was William who finally conquered England; but William was
a child and Canute had no longer any fears from that direction. A few
months after Robert's death the King of England also closed his earthly
career. Had Robert survived Canute, it is likely that some of the
results of Hastings might have come thirty years earlier than they did.

After 1019, when Canute ascended the Danish throne, the attitude and
plans of the Emperor became an important factor in Northern diplomacy.
The Empire was a dangerous neighbour; the Ottos had apparently been
ambitious to extend their authority throughout the entire Jutish
peninsula. But during Canute's reign neither power could afford to
offend the other; and the Danes were therefore able to keep continued
peace along the southern borders of the kingdom. At one time, when the
Emperor found himself in serious difficulties, Canute was able to drive
a hard bargain and exchange his friendship for a strip of imperial

It is not likely that the German kings looked with much favour on Danish
expansion at the mouths of the Vistula and the Oder, but they were not
in position to prevent it. In 1022, when Canute made his expedition to
Wendland, the Emperor Henry II. was absent in Italy, striving, as usual,
to reduce disorder.[371] Two years later he died, and Conrad of
Franconia was chosen King of the Germans. His election was the signal
for uprisings and plots almost along the whole length of the border, in
Poland, in Lorraine, and in Lombardy.[372] Boleslav, King of the Poles,
died in the following year (1025), but his successor continued the
policy of hostility to the Germans and seems to have sought the alliance
of his cousin Canute against the Teutonic foes.[373] Conrad, too, sought
Canute's friendship and was able to outbid his Polish rival. It was
agreed that there should be perpetual peace between Conrad and Canute,
and to cement the good understanding and secure its continuance in years
to come, Canute's little daughter Gunhild, who could not yet have been
more than five or six years old, was betrothed to Conrad's son Henry,
who was, perhaps, three years older.[374] The covenant was kept, and
Henry received his bride about ten years later (1036), after the death
of Canute. The bridegroom was the mighty Emperor Henry III., though he
did not attain to the imperial dignity before the death of Conrad in
1039. Gunhild was crowned Queen of Germany and as a part of the ceremony
received the more honoured German name Kunigund; but she never became
empress, as she died in 1038.[375]

In return for his friendship, Canute received the mark of Sleswick, a
strip of land between the Schley and the Eider, that Henry the Fowler
had taken from the Danes a century before. Thus the Eider once more
became the boundary of the Danish kingdom. But apart from territorial
acquisitions, Canute was doubtless glad to conclude the treaty, as he
was just then planning the conquest of Norway. The negotiations with
Conrad were probably concluded in the year 1025 or 1026, though more
likely in the former year.[376]

Perhaps at the same time the German King invited his ally to participate
in his coronation as Emperor; for in 1027 Canute journeyed to Rome to
witness the great event. There can be little doubt that on this occasion
the pledges were renewed. But even in the absence of formal treaties
there was small occasion for Conrad to make trouble for his neighbour to
the north. The years following his coronation in Rome saw four serious
revolts in Germany; not till 1033 was real order restored in Conrad's

There was another power that Canute could not afford to antagonise or
even ignore: no mediæval monarch could long flourish if he overlooked
the needs of the Church. During the first years of his English kingship,
Canute does not seem to have sought to conciliate the clergy; but after
a few years he apparently adopted a new policy and strove to ally
himself with the priesthood. It was as king of England that he first
succeeded in forming such an alliance; in his other kingdoms, the
ecclesiastical problem assumed a somewhat different form.

With the head of Christendom, Canute's relations seem to have been
cordial throughout his entire reign. It was the papacy that made the
first move to establish such relations: in 1019 Archbishop Lifing
brought a message back from Rome replete with good advice which seems to
have nattered the young Dane. The pilgrimage to Rome doubtless
strengthened the bond; especially must the King's later efforts to see
that the proper church dues were collected have pleased the Popes of
that period. For the papacy had fallen low in that age: the Pope whom
Canute visited was only a layman up to the day of his election to the
sacred office; his successor Benedict is said to have been a mere boy
when he was elevated to the papal dignity, though authorities differ as
to his age. There was, therefore, little likelihood of any conflict so
long as the Peter's pence were regularly transported to Rome. A new
papacy was to come; but Hildebrand had not quite reached manhood when
Canute went to his rest.

Canute's ecclesiastical policy in England, at least during the closing
years of his reign, seems to have aimed at greater control than had been
the case earlier. The friendship and active good-will of the Church
could best be secured by carefully choosing the rulers of the Church. As
a Christian court, the royal household at Winchester had in its
employment a regular staff of priests, nine of whom are mentioned in the
documents. Canute honoured his priests; he seems to have invited them to
seats in the national assembly; he called them in to witness grants of
land. Finally, he honoured several of them still further by appointing
them to episcopal office: at least three of Canute's clerks received
such appointments before the reign closed.[377] His successor inherited
his policy and several more of Canute's chapel clerks were honoured in
Edward's time. The policy was not new: even in Carolingian times the
royal chapel had been used as a training school for future prelates, and
there are traces of a similar practice in England long before Canute's
time. But so far as the Dane was concerned, the plan was probably
original: we cannot suppose him to have been very well informed as to
precedents more than two centuries old.

In Norway the problem was how to christianise and organise the land, and
Canute had no great part in either. The Danish Church, however, was
growing in strength and developing under conditions that might produce
great difficulties: it was the daughter of the German Church; it was
governed by an alien prelate.

The primacy of the Northern churches belonged to the see of Bremen, the
church from which the earliest missionaries had gone forth into Denmark
and Sweden. While this primacy was in a way recognised, in practice,
the Northern kings in the early years of the eleventh century paid small
regard to the claims of the archbishop. The two Olafs depended mainly on
England and the neighbouring parts of the Continent for priests and
prelates; and Canute, as King of England, seems to have planned to make
the Danish Church, too, dependent on the see of Canterbury. At this time
Unwan was Archbishop of Bremen; for sixteen years he ruled his province
with a resolute hand and for the most part with strength and wisdom.

Unwan was displeased when he learned that Canute was sending bishops
from England to Denmark; we have already seen how he managed to make a
prisoner and even a partisan of Gerbrand, who, like Unwan himself, was
doubtless a German. This must have been in 1022 or 1023, more likely in
the former year. Aided by Gerbrand, who acted as mediator, Unwan was
able to make Canute recognise his primacy. Adam of Bremen mentions great
gifts that Unwan sent to Canute,[378] but these were probably not the
determining consideration. In 1022, Canute was fighting the Slavs and
adding territory that would naturally belong to the mission fields of
Bremen, and it would hardly be wise to make an enemy of one whose
historic rights had been admitted by earlier Danish kings. Till Unwan's
death in 1029, the King and the Archbishop were fast friends. Unwan
served as mediator between Canute and the Emperor when the alliance
was formed in 1025 (?)[379] and otherwise served the Danish King. It
seems probable that a personal acquaintance was formed, for Adam tells
us that Unwan rebuilt Hamburg and spent considerable time there,
"whither he also invited the very glorious King Canute ... to confer
with him."[380]

[Illustration: THE HYBY STONE (Monument from the first half of the
eleventh century; raised to a Christian as appears from the cross.)]

The _entente_ that was thus formed seems also to have affected mission
operations in Norway. It is likely that Unwan demanded that King Olaf
should no longer be allowed to recruit his ecclesiastical forces in
England; for soon after the date that we have assumed as that of the new
treaty, Bishop Grimkell appeared as King Olaf's ambassador at Unwan's
court. The Bishop, who was evidently a Northman from the Danelaw,
brought the customary gifts and the prayer that Unwan would accept the
Anglian clerks and prelates then in Norway as of his province and that
he would further increase the clerical forces of the kingdom.[381] Thus
in the years 1022-1023, the rights of Hamburg-Bremen were recognised

Unwan was succeeded in the province by Libentius, the nephew of an
earlier Libentius who had held the metropolitan office in Bremen before
Unwan's day. He was of Italian blood and therefore not likely to be
burdened with German sympathies. Before everything else, says the good
Master Adam, he entered into friendly relations with the King of the
Danes.[382] But during Libentius' as well as Unwan's primacy Canute
seems to have selected the bishops for his Danish as well as for his
English sees.

During the closing years of his life, Canute's policy was completely
identified with that of the mediæval Church as regards his attitude
toward heathen and un-Christian practices. So long as the Norwegian
problem was unsettled, the King dared not take a decided stand against
the old faith, as he was too much dependent on heathen or semi-heathen
assistance against King Olaf. But after the conquest there was no reason
for further delay, and the English Church got its desired legislation.
In two comparatively long enactments, one ecclesiastical and one
secular, all the old and important church laws were re-enacted and
various new provisions added.[383] Archbishop Dunstan was canonised and
given May 13th as his mass day.[384] Added protection was given to
churches and to the ministers of the altar: outlawry was to be the
punishment for slaying a priest.[385] It was carefully explained that
the privileges of the priesthood were due to the exalted character of
the divine office; for

     great is the exorcism and glorious the consecration that cast out
     devils and put them to flight whenever baptism is celebrated or the
     host is consecrated; and holy angels are present to watch over the
     sacred act and through the power of God to assist the priests so
     long as they worthily serve Christ.[386]

Sundays and other church holidays were to be properly kept; and no
commercial transactions were to be tolerated on Sundays, nor were the
public courts to hold sessions on those days except in cases of extreme
necessity.[387] Due attention was to be given to the seasons when the
Church prescribed fasting; but it was explicitly stated that except in
the case of penitents, no fasting was to be required between Easter and
Pentecost, or from Christmas to the close of the week following
Epiphany,[388] the joyous period of the Northern Yule-tide.

It seems clear that enactments of this sort would be necessary only in
regions where there might still be a considerable number of recent
converts with whom the observance of Christian rites and customs had not
yet become a habit. It may be, therefore, that these laws were
particularly intended for certain parts of the Danelaw. Perhaps it was
the need of improving the religious conditions in the Danish settlements
that inspired the royal demand for general instruction in the
fundamentals of the Christian faith.

     And we order every Christian to learn at least so much that he can
     understand clearly the teachings of the true faith, and to learn
     thoroughly the Pater Noster and the Credo.[389]

Some attention is also paid to ecclesiastical finance. Fines were
provided for neglect in the payment of church dues; part of these were
to be paid to the bishop. The Anglo-Saxons were in the habit of making
contributions for church lights at the feast of the Purification
(Candlemas, February 2d), at Easter Eve, and on All Saints' day
(November 1st). A fortnight after Easter plough alms were to be paid. A
tithe of young beasts was due at Pentecost. Peter's pence were
contributed on Saint Peter's day (August 1st). A tithe of the harvested
crops was due at All Saints' day. The last tax of the year was the
church scot which was paid at Martinsmas (November 11th). All these
contributions are specifically mentioned and urged in Canute's laws for
the English Church.[390]

The second part of Canute's legislation, the secular laws, is a document
of considerable length, of which only a comparatively small part is
copied from the earlier "dooms." It deals with a variety of subjects,
several of which may be classed as religious rather than secular. A very
important act was the definition and prohibition of heathendom and
heathen practices.

     Heathendom is the worship of idols, namely the worship of heathen
     gods, and the sun or moon, fire or flood, fountains or rocks or
     forest trees of any sort; also to practise witchcraft or to commit
     murders in any manner, whether in sacrifices or in auguries, or to
     busy oneself with any such delusion.[391]

As it is not customary to forbid what is never performed, we have in
this enactment evidence for a persisting heathendom on English soil. In
the Scandinavian colonies pagan practices were probably hard to uproot;
at the same time, it is not likely that the old faith was a force that
needed to be considered any longer.

The matter of Christian marriage is dealt with in both the secular and
the ecclesiastical laws. It was difficult to enforce the regulations of
the Church on this subject and particularly among the vikings, whose
ideas as to the binding force of marriage were exceedingly vague.[392]
Canute forbade clandestine marriages; to the old law that a man should
have but one wife he added the important provision that "she should be
his legally espoused wife."[393] He also gave the protection of the
state to widows and virgins who preferred to remain unmarried.[394]

Other important enactments deal with matters of finance, especially with
the King's share in the fines assessed in the courts, his income from
his estates, and coinage and counterfeiting; there are also important
laws that look toward the security of persons and of property. The
principle of equality before the law is distinctly stated: the magnates
were to have no unusual privileges in the courts of justice.

     Many a powerful man will, if he can and may, defend his man in
     whatever way it seems to him the more easy to defend him, whether
     as freeman or as _theow_ (serf). But we will not suffer that

With the legislation of Canute, the development of Old English law comes
to a close. Various tracts or customals of considerable importance were
composed in the eleventh century, some of which may have been put into
form after the close of Canute's reign; but of these we know neither the
authors nor the date. The "Laws of Edward" that the Norman kings swore
to maintain were in reality the laws of Canute; for when the
Anglo-Norman lawyers of the early twelfth century began to investigate
the subject of Old English law, they found its most satisfactory
statement in the legislation of the mighty Dane. In the _Quadripartitus_
these laws occupy the most prominent place; while the compilations that
Liebermann has called the _Instituta Cnuti_ and the _Consiliatio Cnuti_
are scarcely more than translations of Canute's legislation for church
and state.[396]

So great was the Danish King's reputation as a lawmaker in the twelfth
century that he was even credited with enactments and institutional
experiments with which he never had any connection. Toward the close of
that century an official of the royal forest, as it seems, drew up an
elaborate law for the King's hunting preserves which he tried to give
currency and authority by ascribing it to Canute.[397] The Dane was not
indifferent to the chase, but he did not find it necessary to make it
the subject of extensive legislation. In his secular laws the subject is
disposed of in a single sentence: "And let every man forego my hunting,
wherever I wish to have it free from trespass, under penalty of the full

In the so-called "Laws of Edward the Confessor" it is stated that the
_murdrum_ fine originated in the reign of Canute. It is well-known that
William the Conqueror found it necessary to take special measures for
the protection of his Normans from assassination at the hands of
Englishmen who were seeking vengeance; he decreed, therefore, that the
hundred where the murder of a Norman was committed should see that the
criminal was given proper punishment or pay a heavy fine in case of
default. The twelfth-century lawyer who drew up the "Laws of Edward"
evidently believed that in this matter William was following a precedent
from Danish times.[399] But though it seems that Canute was obliged to
legislate for the protection of his Danish officials and subjects in
Norway, there is no good evidence for any corresponding decree in

A similar conclusion has been reached as to Canute's responsibility for
the institution known as frankpledge. Tithing and surety, two Old
English institutions which were the roots of the later frankpledge, are
mentioned in the laws of Canute; but they were still distinct. The
tithing, normally a group of ten, was charged chiefly with the duty of
assisting in the pursuit of criminals; not until its members had been
pledged to a duty of mutual suretyship, each being held responsible in
certain respects for the behaviour of all his associates in the group,
did the tithing develop into the pledge.[400]

In Canute's empire there were at least two institutional systems, those
of England and of the North. In some respects both had attained a high
development. The question how far these systems influenced each other as
the result of the union is a difficult one: the union of the crowns was
of short duration and the institutional changes that seem to indicate
borrowing may be due in large part to earlier contact through the
Danelaw. With the Northmen came a new conception of personal honour and
a new term for criminality of the most dishonourable type, the _nithing_
name. Norse rules were introduced into court procedure. Administrative
areas came to bear Norse appellations, as the wapentake in the Danelaw
generally and the riding in Yorkshire.[401] These facts, however, belong
in large measure to the earlier development, though it doubtless
continued through the reign of Canute and longer.

But though Scandinavian ideas of law had long flourished on English
soil, it was not till Canute's day that they were formally accepted as a
part of the Anglo-Saxon legal system. In penal legislation a new spirit
appeared: there was less mercy and punishments became more
severe--exile, mutilation, and forfeiture of life more common. If the
ordeal should convict a man of a second offence, the penalty might be
the loss of the hands or the feet, or of both. Still further mutilation
was decreed if the criminal should continue to commit grave offences;
"but let the soul be spared."[402] The same penalties were not always
provided for both sexes: a faithless husband might have to pay the
ancient money fine for man-slaughter; a sinning wife was to suffer the
loss of all her property and her ears and nose.[403] Certain
institutions of Scandinavian origin took on a peculiar form during
Canute's reign: for instance, the guard of housecarles in its English
and later Danish form, and the office of staller or the King's spokesman
at the popular assemblies, which office seems to have been introduced
into England in Canute's day.[404]

It is still more difficult to determine what results the union had for
the institutional development of Denmark. On only one point have we
clear evidence: Canute was the first Danish King to begin a systematic
coinage of money. Coins were stricken in Denmark before his day, but
there was no organised system of mints. Canute supplied this need, using
the English pattern. He brought moneyers from his western kingdom and
located them in the chief cities of Denmark; coins have come down to us
that were stricken by these moneyers in the cities of Roeskild,
Ringsted, Odense, Heathby (Sleswick), and Lund.[405]

On the other hand, Canute's Norwegian legislation shows clear traces of
Anglo-Saxon influence. Of his three kingdoms, Norway, doubtless, had the
least efficient constitution. In Norway there was much liberty, but also
much disorder; emphasis was placed on personal rights, especially on
those of the aristocracy; but such emphasis is too frequently subversive
of good government. The Dane was a believer in strong, orderly
administration: it was his purpose to introduce European principles
into the Norse constitution. Had he been personally in control he might
have succeeded but his deputies at Nidaros were unequal to the task;
discontent and rebellion were the result.

For the laws that the new regents proclaimed in Norway, the Norsemen
were inclined to lay all blame on Sweyn's mother, Elgiva (Alfiva, the
Northmen called her), Canute's mistress of olden time. But there can be
little doubt that in this matter she and her son merely carried out the
King's instructions. The laws fall into three classes: revenue
legislation, police and military ordinances, and a new definition of

A new tax that apparently affected the entire population was the demand
that at Christmas time every hearth should contribute certain "gifts": a
measure of malt, the leg of a full-grown ox, and as much unspun flax as
could be held between the thumb and the middle finger. This reminds one
somewhat of the English ferm, a contribution that was due from the
various counties. It was also enacted that the franklins should assist
in erecting buildings on the royal estates, and that merchants and
fishermen and all who sailed to Iceland should pay certain dues to the

A law that was clearly aimed at the ancient practice of blood feud
provided that murder should entail the loss of lands as well as of
personal property; also that the King alone should take inheritance
after an outlaw. In those same years Canute decreed in England that
whoever committed a deed of outlawry should forfeit his lands to the
King. The new Norse laws also forbade any subject to leave the land
without permission, on pain of outlawry. Parallel to this is the English
law that ordered forfeiture for leaving one's lord, with the difference
that in Norway the King himself was the lord. It was also decreed that
the testimony of a Dane should outweigh that of ten Norsemen, the
purpose of which was clearly to secure the lives of Danish officials and

It was further provided that every male above the age of five years
should be counted one of seven to equip a soldier. It may be that this
provision was suggested by the Old English custom of grouping five hides
of land (originally the lands of five households) for similar purposes.
Snorre believes that these laws were Danish in origin; but it is more
likely that they grew out of Canute's experience with Anglo-Saxon custom
and the principles of Continental feudalism, though it is possible that
some of them had been introduced into Denmark earlier in the reign and
came to Norway from the southern kingdom.

[Illustration: RUNIC MONUMENT FROM UPLAND, SWEDEN (Shows blending of
Celtic and Northern art.)]


[358] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, i., 195-199.

[359] Munch, _Det norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 704, 705.

[360] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 19. The Encomiast is intensely partisan
and much given to exaggeration; but we cannot reject the statement as to
the English oath without convicting him of a worse fault for which there
was scarcely a sufficient motive at the time when the _Encomium_ was

[361] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 130.

[362] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 135-136.

[363] Steenstrup, _Venderne og de Danske_, 64-65. The name occurs in the
_Liber Vibæ_ of Winchester in a list of benefactors. See above p. 57.

[364] Steenstrup, _Venderne og de Danske_, 65. Florence of Worcester,
_Chronicon_, i., 199.

[365] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 743.

[366] After Canute's death, Godescalc returned to his native country and
took up the cause of Christian mission effort among the heathen Wends.
Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., cc. 64, 75.

[367] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 247.

[368] _Mon. Ger. Hist., Scriptores_, iv., 134; Adémar's _Chronicle_,
ii., c. 41.

[369] Migne, _Patrologia Latina_, cxli., col. 122: sermon by Adémar.
Migne considers the sermon of doubtful genuineness, possibly because he
thought its delivery should go back to 998, when in reality 1028 seems
to be the correct date.

[370] Lavisse, _Histoire de France_, II., ii., 162.

[371] Manitius, _Deutsche Geschichte_, 322-323.

[372] Manitius, _Deutsche Geschichte_, 360-361, 365, 389 ff.

[373] _Ibid._, 369-370.

[374] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 54.

[375] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 409.

[376] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 54. Manitius (_Deutsche Geschichte_, 370)
believes the cession was not made before 1035.

[377] Larson, _The King's Household, in England_, 140-142.

[378] _Gesta_, ii., c. 53.

[379] _Gesta_, ii., c. 54.

[380] _Ibid._, c. 58.

[381] _Ibid._, c. 55; iv., c. 33.

[382] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 62.

[383] Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 278 ff.

[384] _Canute_, c. 17, I.

[385] _Ibid._, cc. 3, 4; _II. Canute_, c. 39.

[386] _I. Canute_, c. 4, 2.

[387] _Ibid._, c. 15.

[388] _Ibid._, c. 17.

[389] _I. Canute_, c. 22.

[390] _Ibid._, cc. 8-10.

[391] _II. Canute_, c. 5, 1.

[392] On this point the Norse sources furnish evidence everywhere. For
the condition among the Scandinavians in Britain, see the account of the
"Siege of Durham" published among the writings of Simeon of Durham
(_Opera Omnia_, 215-220).

[393] _I. Canute_, c. 7, 3.

[394] _II. Canute_, cc. 52, 52, I, 74.

[395] _II. Canute_, c. 20, I.

[396] For the text of these compilations (including the forged forest
law) see Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 529-546, 612-626.
The documents have been made the subject of a series of studies by F.
Liebermann, the results of which are summed up in Pollock and Maitland,
_History of English Law_, i., 100-101.

[397] Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 620.

[398] _II. Canute_, c. 80, I.

[399] Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 642; _Leges Edwardi
Confessoris_, c. 16.

[400] On this subject see Morris, _The Frankpledge System_, c. i.

[401] On this subject the most important work is Steenstrup's _Danelag_
(_Normannerne_, iv.); see especially pp. 75-76, 85-92, 175 ff.; also
_Normannerne_, iii., 366-368.

[402] _II. Canute_, c. 30, 5.

[403] _Ibid._, c. 50 ff.

[404] Larson, _The King's Household in England_, c. 7.

[405] _Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 404-405.

[406] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 239.



To present an adequate discussion of the state of culture among Canute's
subjects in the space of a single chapter would be impossible. So far as
the western realm is concerned it would also be unnecessary, as the
subject of Anglo-Saxon culture is an old study and discussions in
English are readily accessible. This chapter will therefore be chiefly
concerned with the civilisation of the Northern lands, and especially
with the great transformations that came with the viking age and were
becoming most evident toward its close.

The two controlling types of civilisation in the Anglo-Scandinavian
Empire, the English and the Norse, were both fundamentally Germanic; but
English culture had for centuries been permeated with Christian thought,
while in the North the ideals of heathendom were still a force to be
taken into account. It is difficult to characterise Northern society in
the earlier decades of the eleventh century: all the various regions
were not in the same stage of development; all were not subject to the
same modifying influences. But it was a growing organism, showing
change in almost every fibre. Scandinavian civilisation was gradually
approaching the European type. There is danger that we may place the
Northman on a too high plane of culture; but the error is more
frequently on the other side.[407] Measured by the standards of his own
age, the Northman was not a barbarian. He had great energy of mind and
much intellectual curiosity. He sailed everywhere and frequently
included European ideas in his plunder or merchandise.

The population throughout Scandinavia was overwhelmingly rural; cities
were few and insignificant, when we consider the number of houses and
inhabitants, though it appears that the urban element was rapidly
developing in the eleventh century. As early as the ninth century we
find mention of Birca, an island city in Lake Maelar in eastern Sweden;
of Heathby near the modern city of Sleswick on the southern border of
Denmark; and of Skiringshall in southern Norway.[408] These and other
cities evidently originated in the need of definite market places. Roads
were poor in the middle ages and the sea was often a dangerous highway;
commerce was therefore largely limited to the more favourable seasons of
the year, and hence the importance of periodic markets. These were
often held in connection with the great sacrificial festivals and it is
therefore not strange that the earlier cities grew up on or near the
sites of the ancient sanctuaries.[409]

In such localities grew up Odense on the island of Funen, Wisby on the
island of Gotland, and Skiringshall on the great Bay.[410] Nidaros
(Throndhjem) is said to have been founded by the first King Olaf, but
its great importance dates from the canonisation of Saint Olaf whose
bones were buried there. Kingscrag (Konungahelle) at the mouth of the
Gaut River, and Tunsberg on the western shore of Folden Bay seem to have
had their origin as landing places for merchants and vikings. On the
other hand, Sarpsborg across the inlet from Tunsberg evidently grew up
around a stronghold established in the days of Saint Olaf. Urban
developments can also be traced in the western colonies: old cities in
England, especially in the Danelaw, passed into the control of the
Northmen; new cities rose on the shores of the Irish Sea.

This commercial movement began to gather strength during the quiet
decades of the tenth century but it must have progressed rapidly during
the peaceful reign of Canute. From Novgorod in Russia to Bristol and
Limerick in the British Isles the ships of the North sailed every
summer laden with the products of all Northern Europe: furs from Norway
and Russia; the teeth of the walrus from the Arctic waters; cured fish
from the Scandinavian seas; honey from the Baltic shores; Norwegian
hawks for the English sportsmen; and numerous other products. In return
for these the Northmen received the luxuries of the South, especially
wine, wheat, and silk; but numerous thralls were also imported,
particularly from the Celtic lands.[411]

These foreign products were chiefly consumed in the homes of the
Scandinavian aristocracy. In material comforts the Northmen were
probably not far behind the corresponding classes elsewhere in Europe.
When the god Righ came to the chieftain's house,

    Then the housewife thought of her arms,
    Smoothened her linen, pleated her sleeves.
    Broad was her headgear, a brooch on her breast;
    She wore trailing sashes and a blue-dyed sark.

When her son was born, "she swaddled him in silk"; and when her
daughter-in-law came to the hall as a bride, "she walked under the veil
of fine linen."[412] The sudden consciousness of rare finery was not
limited to the women; rich and highly coloured clothing also delighted
the men.

The influence of alien culture was also shown in the entertainment
provided for the visiting god:

    Then took Mother a markèd[413] cover
    Of bleached linen and laid upon the board.
    Next she laid out the thinnest loaves
    Of wheaten flour on the white cover.
    She set the table with silver-mounted dishes
    Heaped with roasted birds and ham.
    The wine brightened the mounted beakers.
    They drank and talked till the day was done.[414]

"The Lay of Righ" was composed, it is believed, in the days of Canute's
grandfather; but the civilisation that it describes was not new; even a
century earlier the ruling classes in the North had reached a high stage
of culture, as we know from the large number of articles indicating a
refined and cultivated taste that were found when the Oseberg ship was
discovered and excavated a few years ago.[415]

As in early Saxon times before the clergy had monopolised learning, the
higher forms of cultured life saw their finest fruitage in the halls of
kings and chiefs. The old Scandinavian house was a wooden structure of
rectangular shape, its length being considerably greater than the width.
In its general lines it doubtless bore close resemblance to the
Anglo-Saxon dwelling of the same period. In the number and arrangement
of the rooms the individual houses showed some, though not great,
variety; but a large living-room seems to have been characteristic of
all. In the middle of this room a long trough lined with stones was sunk
into the floor; this served as fireplace, the smoke finding its way out
through an opening in the roof. On either side of this long fireplace
ran a row of pillars that served to support the roof; these also gave
opportunities for the carver's art. Between the pillars and the wall
stood the benches where the feasters sat with portable tables before
them. The walls were ornamented with shields and weapons and with the
trophies of the chase. At the middle of the long north wall, facing the
entrance door on the opposite side, stood the high-seat of the lord of
the hall. The size and splendour of the room would depend on the wealth
and importance of the owner: some of the larger halls were planned for
the entertainment of several hundred guests and henchmen.[416]

There were many other buildings besides the hall, the number depending
on the needs of the estate. The king's garth probably differed very
little from those of the wealthier chiefs. In England, too, even as late
as the year 1000, the palace architecture must have been of the same
modest type. In his homily on Saint Thomas, Alfric (who wrote his
sermons in the decade of Canute's birth) tells the story of how the
Apostle went to India to build a palace for a king, and, by the way,
used the money for building churches:

  Then he examined the grounds where it was to be builded.
  And Thomas went about measuring the place with a yardstick,
  And said that he would build the hall first of all
  At the east end of the grounds, and the other buildings
  Behind the hall: bath house and kitchen
  And winterhouse and summerhouse and winsome bowers,--
  Twelve houses altogether with good arches--
  But such it is not customary to build in England
  And therefore we do not mention them particularly.[417]


During the reign of Canute, however, there must have been material
advancement in the direction of greater magnificence in the royal garth.
The sagas testify to a splendour at Winchester that was greater than
what was to be seen anywhere else.[418]

The men of the viking age usually associated the royal hall with the
thought of elaborate festivities. The greatest moment in such an
occasion was when the scald rose to sing the praises and recite the
exploits of his host. It has been thought that the activities of the
court poet show Celtic influence,[419] and it may be that the scald had
learned freely from the bard; but the institution itself is most
probably of native origin. Like the Irish singer his chief theme was
praise; but we need not suppose that the scald confined himself wholly
to contemporary themes: the gleeman in Beowulf sang of the great hero
that sat beside the King; but he also told the tales of the Volsungs and
the still older story of creation; before the onslaught at Stiklestead
one of Saint Olaf's scalds recited the ancient Bjarkamál, the Old Norse
version of Beowulf's last fight. The holy King seems to have enjoyed the
inspiriting strains of heathen heroism; he thanked the poet, as did all
the host.

Old Norse poetry had its beginnings in the ninth century; but its
greater bulk belongs to the tenth and eleventh. It begins with a
wonderful series of mythical poems, most of them belonging to the period
of lull in the viking activities (900-980). The series culminates in the
Sibyl's Prophecy (Voluspá), one of the grandest monuments of mediæval
literary art and thought. It tells the story of the creation, the
destruction, the regeneration of the world in heathen terms with heathen
gods, giants, and demons as the actors. But it contains unmistakable
Christian elements and the poet must have had some acquaintance with the
faith that ruled in the Western Islands. The poem seems to have been
composed a generation or two before the days of Canute; but it was
doubtless widely current during the years of his kingship. That the
later scalds knew and appreciated the poem is evident from the fact that
it was quoted by Christian poets in the following century.[420] No doubt
it was an important number in their repertoire of song and story, and
perhaps we may believe that it was gladly heard by Canute and his
henchmen in the royal hall at Winchester.

[Illustration: THE VIK STONE (Illustrates the transition from heathendom
to Christianity; shows a mixture of elements, the serpent and the

[Illustration: THE RAMSUND ROCK (Representations of scenes from the
Sigfried Saga.)]

The four decades that the Norns allotted to Canute (995?-1035) are a
notable period in the history of Northern literature: it was the grand
age of Old Norse poetry. The advance of Christianity had made the myths
impossible as poetic materials, but new themes were found in the deeds
and virtues of the old Teutonic heroes and of the mighty war lords of
the viking age. The saga materials of the heroic age, the stories of
Helgi and Sigrun, of Sigurd and Brunhild, of Gudrun's grief and Attila's
fury, had long been treasured by the Northern peoples. Just when each
individual tale was cast into the form that has come down to us is
impossible to say; the probabilities are, however, that a considerable
number of the heroic lays were composed in the age of Canute.

When we come to the court poetry we are on firmer ground: unlike the
other poems, the dirges and praise-lays are not anonymous and their
dates can be determined with some definiteness. The scald found the age
great with possibilities. Those were the days of Hakon and Erik, of
Sweyn and Canute, of Erling and Thurkil,--men who typified in their
warlike activities the deified valour of the old faith. It was also a
period of famous battles: Swald, Ringmere, Clontarf, Ashington, and
Stiklestead, to mention only the more prominent. About twenty scalds are
known to have sung at the courts of the viking princes, but the
compositions of some of them have been wholly lost or exist in mere
fragments only. In the reign of Canute three poets stood especially high
in the royal favour: Thorarin Praise-tongue, Ottar the Swart, and
Sighvat the Scald.

The three were all Icelanders and were of a roving disposition as the
scalds usually were. They all visited Canute's court, presumably at
Winchester. Sighvat came to England on the return from a trading journey
to Rouen in 1027, it seems, just after the King's return from his Roman
pilgrimage, which the poet alludes to in his Stretch Song. Ottar seems
to have visited Winchester the same year: his poem, the Canute's Praise,
closes with a reference to the Holy River campaign in 1026. Thorarin
Praise-tongue had his opportunity to flatter the King a year or two
later, most likely in 1029: his Stretch Song deals with the conquest of
Norway in 1028.

Canute appears to have attached considerable importance to the literary
activities of these Icelanders. When he learned that Thorarin had
composed a short poem on himself, he became very angry and ordered him
to have a complete lay ready for the following day; otherwise he should
hang for his presumption in composing a short poem on King Canute.
Thorarin added a refrain and eked the poem out with a few additional
stanzas. The refrain, "Canute guards the land as the lord of Greekland
[God] the kingdom of heaven," evidently pleased the King. The poet was
forgiven and the poem rewarded with fifty marks of silver. Thorarin's
poem came to be known as the Head Ransom.[421]

It is said that when Ottar came to the King's hall he asked permission
to recite a poem, which the King granted.

     And the poem was delivered to a great gathering at the next day's
     moot, and the King praised it, and took a Russian cap off his head,
     broidered with gold and with gold knobs to it, and bade the
     chamberlain fill it with silver and give it to the poet. He did so
     and reached it over men's shoulders, for there was a crowd, and the
     heaped-up silver tumbled out of the hood on the moot-stage. He was
     going to pick it up, but the King told him to let it be. "The poor
     shall have it, thou shaft not lose by it."[422]

Of the court poets of the time Sighvat was easily the chief. Canute
recognised his importance and was anxious to enroll him among his
henchmen. But Sighvat, who had already sworn fidelity to King Olaf,
excused himself with the remark that one lord at a time was sufficient.
Canute did not press the matter but permitted the poet to depart with a
golden arm-ring as the reward for his poem, the Stretch Song, whose
ringing refrain, "Canute is the mightiest King under heaven," is high
praise from one who had travelled so widely and had probably visited all
the more important courts in northern and western Europe.

Did Canute also patronise Anglo-Saxon literature? We do not know, but
the chances are that he did not, as during his reign very little was
produced in the Old English idiom that could possibly appeal to him. The
Anglo-Saxon spirit was crushed; and out of the consciousness of failure
and humiliation can come no inspiration for literary effort. Even that
fierce patriot, Archbishop Wulfstan, accepted the conquest and came down
from York to assist at the dedication of the church at Ashington where
Saxon rule had perished. After the appearance of the splendid poem that
tells the story of Byrhtnoth's death at Maldon in 991, the voice of
Anglo-Saxon poetry is almost silent for nearly two centuries. Early in
the eleventh century Saxon prose, too, entered upon its decline.
Alfric's best work was done before the close of the tenth century; he
seems to have written his last important work, a pastoral letter, just
before the accession of Canute to the English throne.[423] In the
English cloisters the monks were still at work and valuable manuscripts
were produced; but Canute can hardly have taken much interest in
grammars, glossaries, Biblical paraphrases, and pastoral letters. It
seems evident that he did nothing to encourage the monastic annalist:
the entries for Canute's reign in the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ are
extremely meagre and disappointing; it seems probable that they were not
written till after the King's death. The disappearance of Old English
literature, both prose and poetic, dates from a time more than half a
century earlier than the Norman conquest,--from the time when the Danish
hosts filled the homes of Wessex with gloom and horror. The coming of
the Normans did not put an end to literary production in the speech of
the conquered English: it prevented its revival.

It is not to be inferred, however, from this lack of literary
originality and productiveness, that the age had lost all appreciation
of the poet's art. Two of the greatest monuments of Old English culture,
the so-called Vercelli Book and the Exeter Codex, were apparently
produced during the earlier decades of the eleventh century, possibly as
late as the accession of Canute. In these manuscripts the Anglo-Saxon
scribes have preserved to us some of the earliest literary productions
of the English race. The Vercelli Book takes us back in the writings of
Cynewulf to the eighth century; the Exeter manuscript looks back even
farther and introduces us to the singers of heathen or semi-heathen
times. Canute may not have shared the enthusiasm of the scribes for the
Old English past; but he seems to have appreciated the work of a skilled
copyist. In those days the exchange of presents was an essential part of
diplomatic negotiations; and good manuscripts made very acceptable
presents. Mention has already been made of the beautiful codex, written
with golden letters, that made a part of the gift that Canute is said to
have sent to Duke William of Aquitaine. As the Duke was renowned as a
patron of the literary art, there can be no doubt that the present was
properly appreciated. It will be remembered that Canute's gift to the
church at Cologne was also in the form of manuscripts.

One of the most important contributions of the West to Northern
civilisation was the written book. Writing was not a new art in the
Scandinavian lands; but neither the symbols nor the materials in use
were such as did service in the Christian lands. The men of the North
wrote on wood and stone; they used characters that had to be chiseled
into the tablet to be inscribed. These symbols were called runes; and
graven into granite the runic inscriptions have defied the gnawing tooth
of time. The large number of runic monuments that have come down to us
would indicate that the art of writing was widely known, though it also
seems likely that it was the peculiar possession of the "rune-masters,"
men of some education who knew the runes and were skilled in the art of

The runes were of divine origin and were taught mankind by Woden
himself. The term "run," which probably means "secret," reveals the
attitude of the Germanic mind toward this ancient alphabet: thoughts
were hidden in the graven lines, but that was not all: the characters
were invested with magical properties. Graven on the sword hilt they
were runes of victory; on the back of the hand, runes of love; on the
palm, runes of help; the sailor cut sea runes into the rudder blade; the
leech traced runes on "the bark and on the stock of a tree whose
branches lean eastward."[424] There were also ale runes, speech runes,
and mind runes, which "thou shalt know if thou wilt be wiser than all
other men."[425]

The runic alphabet was originally a common Germanic possession; but
among the Scandinavian peoples alone did its use become extensive and
long-continued. Some of the Northern inscriptions are of a very early
date, the earliest going back, perhaps, to the fourth century or
possibly to the third.[426] They are of necessity terse and brief; but
to the student of culture and civilisation they give some valuable
information. These runes reveal a time when all the Northern tribes
spoke the same language and were one people, though clearly not
organised into a single state.[427] The inscriptions also show the rise
of dialects and the development of these into idioms, though this is a
growth of the later centuries. Doubtless the changes in language bear
some relation to a parallel political development, a grouping of tribes
into states, until in the tenth century three dynasties claimed kingship
in the North. In that century the monuments begin to have great value
for narrative history. Members of the Knytling dynasty are mentioned on
several important stones, as earlier pages of this volume have shown.

The runes that were in use in the tenth and eleventh centuries are the
younger series, an alphabet of sixteen characters selected and developed
from the older series of twenty-four. As the number of elementary sounds
in the language was greater than the number of letters, several of the
runes were used to represent more than one sound, a fact that has made
reading and interpretation somewhat difficult. The runes were used
especially for monumental purposes: a large number of the many hundred
extant mediæval inscriptions (Sweden alone has more than fifteen
hundred)[428] are epitaphs recording the death of some friend or
kinsman. But the runes were also found useful for other purposes. They
were used in making calendars; articles of value very often bore the
owner's name in runic characters; in early Christian times we find runic
characters traced on church bells and baptismal fonts; in later
centuries attempts were even made to write books in the runic alphabet.
Wherever Northmen settled in the middle ages, inscriptions of this
type are still to be found; some of the most interesting Scandinavian
monuments were raised on the British Isles; even classic Piræus once had
its runic inscription.

ornamentation)--CARVED PILLAR FROM URNES CHURCH (Norse-Irish

Sometimes the scribe did more than chisel the letters. Like the
Christian monk who illumined his manuscript with elaborate initials and
more or less successful miniatures, the rune-master would also try his
hand at ornamentation. In the earlier middle ages, Northern art, if the
term may be used, was usually a barbaric representation of animal forms,
real and imaginary, the serpent and the dragon being favourite subjects.
But in the western colonies the vikings were introduced to a new form of
ornamentation, the Celtic style, which was based on the curving line or
a combination of curved interlocking lines that seemed not to have been
drawn in accordance with any law of regularity or symmetry, but traced
sinuously in and out as the fancy of the artist might direct.[429] This
form was adopted by the Norse colonists and soon found its way to the
mother lands. In the North it suffered an important modification: the
Norse artists added an element of their own; the old motives were not
entirely abandoned for the winding body of the serpent or the dragon
readily fitted into the new combinations. It was this modified form of
Irish ornamentation that ruled among the Northmen in the days of Canute
and later. It appears wherever decoration was desired: on runic
monuments, on articles of personal adornment, and even on the painted
walls of the early Scandinavian churches.

While these early efforts at pictorial representation are frequently
associated with runic inscriptions and incidental to them, such is not
always the case. The Northern countries possess a number of "pictured
rocks," on which the picture is the chief and often the only matter of
importance. As many of these belong to the heathen period, the themes
are often mythological or suggestive of warfare: the coming of the
fallen warrior to Walhalla on the Tjängvide Stone[430]; viking ships on
the Stenkyrka Stone. The comparatively new sport of hawking is
represented on a stone at Alstad in Southern Norway.[431] Themes from
the heroic age seem to have attained an early popularity: especially do
we find frequent pictorial allusions to the story of Wayland Smith and
the adventures of the wonderful Sigfried. With Christianity came a
wealth of new subjects that could be used in artistic efforts. One of
Canute's contemporaries, the Norwegian woman Gunvor, raised (about 1050)
a memorial rock bearing a series of pictures from the story of Christ's
nativity.[432] The work rarely shows much originality on the part of
the artist, though frequently a surprising skill is
displayed--surprising when the time and materials are taken into
consideration. Many of the pictures are clearly copied from Western,
perhaps Anglo-Saxon originals; in some instances the workman was
evidently reproducing the embroidered figures on imported tapestries.
The Sigfried pictures on the Ramsund rock in Southern Sweden seem to be
of this type.[433] But even though the art of the viking age does not
testify to much creative imagination, it serves to prove that the men
whom we think of as mere pirates were not wholly wanting æsthetic


Evidence of a cultivated taste is also seen in the large number of rich
and elegant articles of personal adornment in the form of rings,
necklaces, brooches, and the like that have come to light from time to
time. It was long thought that these all represented plunder or purchase
from other lands; but recent opinion seems inclined to regard the larger
part of them as articles of native manufacture.[434] If this be correct,
they reveal considerable skill in the finer industrial arts and also
suggest that certain forms of industry must have formed an important
factor in the economic life of the people.

The archæologist has unearthed many varieties of jewelry, but the
written sources tell chiefly of rings, doubtless because of their
ancient use for monetary purposes. Even in the days of Canute, the ring,
especially the large arm-ring, was commonly used in rewarding the
kingsmen. Saint Olaf once stroked the arm of a henchman above the elbow
to determine whether Canute had bribed him.[435] Canute's officials
procured the allegiance of Björn, Saint Olaf's spokesman, for English
silver and two heavy gold rings.[436] Canute's ring gift to Sighvat has
been noted elsewhere; Bersi, the poet's companion, received "a mark or
more and a keen sword."[437]

Northern industrial art of the later heathen age found its best and
highest expression in the shipbuilder's trade. Merchant ships as well as
ships for warfare were built, but the builder's pride was the ship that
the King sailed when he sought the enemy. The ships that bore Canute's
warriors to England were no doubt mainly of the so-called long ship
type, a form that was developed during the second half of the tenth
century. The long ship was built on the same general plan as the dragon
ship of the century before, of which type we have a remarkably
well-preserved example in the ship that was found in a burial-mound at
Gokstad near Sandefjord in Southern Norway. The Gokstad ship is nearly
eighty feet long from stem to stern, and a little less than one fourth
as wide. The builders of the long ship increased the length of the
dragon, but did not increase the width proportionally. Oak timbers and
iron rivets were the materials used. It is likely that by the close of
the viking age the shipbuilder's art was as highly developed in the
North as anywhere else in Christian Europe.

The long ship was built with pointed prow and stern. The gunwales
generally ran parallel to the water line, but in the prow the timbers
curved sharply upward to join the stern, which projected above the body
of the ship and frequently terminated in some carved image like those
described by the Encomiast.[438] The stern was built in much the same
fashion. The ribs were supported and held in place by strong
cross-beams, which also served as supports for the deck. In the fore-end
the deck was high; here stood the stem-men, the best warriors on board.
From a similarly raised deck in the stern, the chief directed the
movements of the ship and the men when battle was joined. But in the
middle portion of the ship the deck was low; here the oarsmen sat, each
on a chest containing his clothes and other belongings. The number of
pairs of oars would usually indicate the size of the ship; fifteen or
twenty pairs were the rule; but larger ships were sometimes built: the
_Long Serpent_ had thirty-four pairs. A rudder or "steering board" was
fastened to the after-part of the vessel, on the side that has since
been known as starboard.

The long ship was also equipped with a mast and a sail. The mast was
planted amidships, but in such a way that it could be lowered when not
in use. The sails were generally made of coarse woollen stuff; they
often bore stripes, blue, red, or green, and such striped sails were
counted highly ornamental. The ship was painted and the gunwales
frequently hung with shields, alternately yellow and red. An awning was
provided to protect the vessel from rain and sunshine.[439] The average
long ship had, perhaps, eighty or ninety men on board, the oarsmen
included. The number varied, of course, with the size of the ship: The
_Long Serpent_ is said to have had a crew of three hundred men.[440]

[Illustration: ANGLO-SAXON TABLE SCENE (From a manuscript in the British
Museum reproduced in _Norges Historie_, i., ii.)--MODEL OF THE

In culture the later viking age was emphatically one of transition. The
movement that transformed Northern into European civilisation culminated
in the reign of Canute and was no doubt given great impetus by the fact
of his imperial authority in the Christian West. The seeds of the new
culture had been gathered long before and in many lands: the German, the
Frank, the Celt, and the Saxon had all contributed to the new fruit-age.
But in the North as elsewhere in the middle ages, the mightiest of all
the transforming forces was the mediæval Church. In one sense the poetic
activities of the tenth century had made the transition to Christian
worship easier than in other lands: the author of the Sibyl's Prophecy
had, unintentionally, no doubt, bridged the gap between the contending
faiths. The intelligent Northmen found in the teachings of Christianity
conceptions very similar to those in the great poem, only in a different
historical setting. In the outward symbolism, too, the Northman found
similarities that made the step easier: he had already learned to pour
water over the new-born infant; in the cross of Christ he may have seen
a modification of Thor's hammer; the Christian tree of life reminded him
of the ash Yggdrasil that symbolised the unity of the worlds; the Yule
festival of midwinter tide was readily identified with the Christian
celebration of the Nativity on December 25th. Too much importance must
not be assigned to these considerations, but they doubtless had their

But even the Church was not able to make its conquest of the North
complete. The Scandinavian peoples never entirely severed their
connection with the historic past. The bridge that was built by the
Sibyl's Prophecy was never demolished. The poet purged the old
mythology of much that was revolting and absurd and thus made the old
divinities and the old cosmic ideas attractive and more easily
acceptable. Even when the new cult became compulsory and even
fashionable, it was hard for the Northman to desert his gods. Hallfred
Troublousscald, who flourished in the years of Canute's childhood, gives
expression to this feeling in one of his poems:

    'Tis heavy to cherish hatred
    For Frigg's divine husband
    Now that Christ has our worship,
    For the scald delighted in Woden.

But Olaf Trygvesson has commanded that the old faith be renounced and
men have obeyed, though unwillingly:

    Cast to the winds all men have
    The kindred of mighty Woden;
    Forced to renounce Njord's children
    I kneel to Christ in worship.

After several verses of regretful and half-hearted renunciation the
scald continues:

    I will call upon Christ with love words
    (I can bear the Son's wrath no longer;
    He rules the earth in glory)
    And God the Father in prayer.[441]

[Illustration: THE LUNDAGÅRD STONE (Shows types of ornamentation in
Canute's day.)]

The gods continued to live in the popular imagination as great heroic
figures that had flourished in the earlier ages of the race. Much
that belonged to the worship of the Anses was carried over into the
Christian life. The Scandinavian Christians on the Isle of Man evidently
found nothing incongruous in placing heathen ornamentations on the cross
of Christ. Sometimes the attributes of the ancestral divinities were
transferred to the Christian saints. The red beard with which Christian
artists soon provided the strong and virile Saint Olaf was probably
suggested by the flaming beard of the hammering Thor.

[RUNIC ALPHABET: f u th o r k h n i a s t b l m -r]


[407] See Montelius, _Kulturgeschichte Schwedens_, 251-252.

[408] Birca is mentioned in an early life of Saint Ansgar (_ca._ 850);
Langebek, _Script. Rer. Danic._, i., 444. Heathby and Skiringshall are
alluded to in King Alfred's _Orosius_ (Journeys of Ottar and Wulfstan).

[409] Bugge, _Studier over de norske Byers Selvstyre og Handel_, 4-5.

[410] _Ibid._ The great Bay (Folden Bay) is the modern Christiania

[411] On the commerce of the viking age see Montelius. _Kulturgeschichte
Schwedens_, 266 ff.; Olrik, _Nordisk Aandsliv_, 52-53; _Norges
Historie_, I., ii., 223 ff. (Bugge).

[412] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, i., 239-241: "The Lay of Righ."

[413] Embroidered with colours.

[414] "The Lay of Righ," II., 114-122.

[415] _Norges Historie_, I., ii., 56-60.

[416] For brief descriptions of the Northern halls in the viking age see
Bugge, _Vikingerne_, ii., 156-157; Montelius, _Kulturgeschichte
Schwedens_, 282-283; Olrik, _Nordisk Aandsliv_, 15-16.

[417] Alfric's _Lives_, ii., 404.

[418] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 130.

[419] Bugge, _Vesterlandenes Indflydelse paa Nordboernes Kultur_, 65.

[420] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, i., 193.

[421] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 172.

[422] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 151.

[423] _Cambridge History of English Literature_, i., 127.

[424] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, i., 40-41.

[425] _Ibid._, 41.

[426] von Friesen, _Om runskriftens härkomst_, 10-12.

[427] Bugge, _Vikingerne_, i., 8.

[428] Montelius, _Kulturgeschichte Schwedens_, 355.

[429] Olrik, _Nordisk Aandsliv_, 58.

[430] The Tjängvide Stone probably dates from about the year 900. The
warrior represented may be Woden on his eight-footed horse. Bugge,
_Vesterlandenes Indflydelse_, 323.

[431] Bugge, _Vikingerne_, ii., 234.

[432] _Norges Historie_, I., ii., 322, 323.

[433] Schück, _Studier i nordisk Litteratur- och Religions-historia_,
i., 203 ff.

[434] Montelius, _Kulturgeschichte Schwedens_, 296.

[435] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 165.

[436] _Ibid._, c. 185.

[437] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 133.

[438] _Encomium Emmæ_, i., c. 4.

[439] For brief descriptions of Northern ships of the viking age, see
_Danmarks Riges Historie_, i., 256-257, 318-322; Montelius,
_Kulturgeschichte Schwedens_, 260-264.

[440] English writers seem inclined to estimate a ship's crew at not
more than 50 or 60 on the authority of Heremannus, who wrote the
"Miracles of Saint Edmund" toward the close of the eleventh century
(_Memorials of Saint Edmund's Abbey_, i., 72, 92). But on the question
of viking ships and crews his statements cannot be used as evidence: his
ships are merchant ships, not viking ships, and they are not
Scandinavian. It should also be noted that one of the ships (c. 50) in
addition to "nearly 60" passengers carried 36 beasts (heads of cattle?)
and 16 horses heavily laden with merchandise.

[441] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 96-97.




After the passing of the Norman war-cloud and the failure of the Norse
reaction in 1030, Canute almost disappears from the stage of English
history. The _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ which gives us so much information
on his earlier career in England has but little to tell of his
activities as king; for the closing years of the reign the summaries are
particularly meagre. Evidently the entries for this reign were written
from memory some years after the death of the great King; and the scribe
recalled but little. It is also likely that the closing years in Britain
were peaceful and quiet, such as do not give the annalist much to
record. Of the larger European movements, of the Norse secession, of
movements on the Danish border, and of the renewed compact with the
Emperor, the cloister was probably not well informed.


As the Chronicler thinks back upon the passing of a King who was still
in his best and strongest years, there comes to him the memory of
certain strange natural phenomena which suddenly take on meaning. In
1033, two years before the King's death, "appeared the wild fire," such
as none could remember the like of. There could be no doubt as to the
interpretation: it was an omen giving warnings of great changes to come,
the end of alien rule, even as a fiery heaven announced its imminence in
the days of the boy Ethelred.

Later writers report that during the last years of his life Canute was
afflicted with a long and severe illness, and it has been inferred that
this may account for the uneventful character of this period. There may
be an element of truth in this, but he was not too ill to take an active
interest in political affairs. His legislation evidently belongs to one
of these years. In one of the manuscripts of Canute's code he is spoken
of as King of Angles, Danes and Norwegians, a title that he could not
claim before 1028. As he did not return from his expedition to Norway
before the following year, the earliest possible date for the enactment
of Canute's laws is Christmas, 1029.[442] For they were drawn up at a
meeting of the national assembly "at the holy midwinter tide in

There are reasons for believing, however, that the laws are of a still
later date. Little need there was, it would seem, for extensive
ecclesiastical legislation in those years when paganism was in full
retreat and Christianity had become fashionable even among the vikings.
Some condition must have arisen that made it necessary for the King to
take a positive stand on the side of the English Church. Such a
condition may have grown out of the canonisation of Saint Olaf in 1031.
He was the first native saint of the North and the young Scandinavian
Church hailed him with a joy that was ominous for those who had pursued
him to the grave. It may have been in the hope of checking the spread of
the new cult in England that the witenagemot, the same that ratified
Canute's legislation, canonised the imperious Archbishop who had
governed the English Church two generations earlier. The method of
canonisation was probably new; but the nobles and prelates of England
were surely as competent to act in such a matter as the youthful church
at Nidaros.

Canute showed an interest in the welfare of the Church to the last
months of his life. It was apparently in this period that he initiated
the policy of advancing his own chapel priests to episcopal
appointments: in 1032 Elfwine became Bishop of Winchester; the following
year Duduc, another chapel priest, was promoted in the same manner.[443]
The church of York was remembered with a large gift of lands to
Archbishop Alfric.[444] Gifts to some of the larger monasteries are also
recorded for these same years: to Sherburne, Winchester, Abingdon, and
Croyland.[445] These usually took the form of land, though ornaments and
articles intended for use in the church service were also given.
Abingdon received lands and bells and a case of gold and silver for the
relics of "the most glorious martyr Vincent of Spain" whose resting
place was in this church.[446] It is worth noting that Abbot Siward who
ruled at Abingdon during the last few years of the reign bore a Danish

Canute's last recorded gift was to the Old Minster at Winchester in
1035, the year of his death. This comprised a landed estate, a bier for
the relics of Saint Brice, a large image, two bells, and a silver
candlestick with six branches.[447] It may be that he had premonitions
of coming death, for in this abbey he chose to be buried.

We do not know what efforts Canute may have made to improve the material
conditions in his Anglo-Saxon kingdom, but it appears that such
undertakings were not wholly wanting. The King showed great favour to
the religious establishments in the Fenlands and was evidently impressed
with the difficulty of travel from abbey to abbey. An attempt was made
to remedy this:

     and that same road through the marshes between Ramsey and the
     borough that is called King's Delf he caused to be improved that
     the danger of passing through the great swamps might be

Matthew Paris, our authority for this statement, wrote nearly two
centuries after Canute's day, but it is likely that he is reporting a
correct tradition; if the work had been done at the instance of one of
the later kings, it is not probable that it would have been associated
with the name of the Danish ruler.

The Norwegian sources have little to say of Canute after the battle of
Stiklestead; but they follow the troubles of the Norse regency in some
detail. It was thought best, when Sweyn was sent to Norway, to give him
the royal title; but as he was a mere youth, the actual power was in the
hands of his mother, Elgiva, who was probably associated with Earl
Harold of Jomburg, Harthacanute's minister and guardian in Denmark, who
seems to have acted as Canute's personal representative in his eastern
kingdoms.[449] Mention has already been made of the opposition that soon
arose to the Danish régime. It was not long before the dissatisfied
elements formed an alliance with the partisans of the old dynasty who
were assiduously disseminating the belief that the fallen Olaf was a

All through the winter that followed the King's martyrdom stories were
current of miracles performed by the holy relics: wounds had been healed
and blindness removed by accidental contact with the royal blood. At the
same time much ill-feeling developed against Bishop Sigurd who had shown
such a partisan spirit on the eve of the tragedy at Stiklestead. Sigurd
was a Dane who had served as chaplain at the English court[450] and had
therefore a double reason for preferring Canute. Under the regency he
had continued as chief of the Norwegian Church, but soon the murmur
became so loud that the zealous prelate had to withdraw to England.

Einar Thongshaker now came forward to lead the opposition to the
regents. He was the first of the chiefs to express his belief in Olaf's
sanctity and many were ready to follow his lead. Bishop Grimkell, who
since Olaf's flight in 1029 had remained in comparative quiet in the
Uplands, was asked to come and investigate the current rumours of
miraculous phenomena. The Bishop responded very promptly. On the way he
visited Einar, by whom he was gladly welcomed. Later the prelate
appeared at Nidaros and began extended investigations into the matter of
the reported wonders. Einar was next summoned to conduct the
negotiations with the regency. The plans of the national faction seem
to have been carefully laid; it was probably not accidental that the
city suddenly was thronged by incoming Norsemen.

Having secured permission from King Sweyn to act in the matter, Einar
and Grimkell, followed by the multitude, proceeded to the spot where
Olaf's remains were said to have been buried. According to the legend
that Snorre in part follows, the coffin was found to have risen toward
the surface and looked new as if recently planed. No change was observed
in the remains except that the hair and nails showed considerable
growth; the cheeks were red as those of one who had just fallen asleep.
But the Queen-mother was not easily convinced:

     "Very slowly do bodies decay in sand; it would have been otherwise
     if he had lain in mould." Then the Bishop took a pair of shears and
     clipped off a part of the King's hair and beard,--he wore a long
     moustache, as custom was in those days. Then said the Bishop to the
     King and Alfiva: "Now is the King's hair and beard as long as when
     he died; but it has grown as much as you see I have cut off." Then
     replied Alfiva: "I believe hair to be sacred if it is not consumed
     in fire; often have we seen whole and uninjured the hair of men who
     have lain in the earth longer than this man." So the Bishop placed
     fire in a censer, blessed it, and added the incense. Then he laid
     Olaf's hair in the fire. But when the incense was consumed, the
     Bishop took the hair from the fire, and it was wholly unburnt.
     The Bishop showed it to the King and the other chiefs. Then Alfiva
     requested them to place the hair in unblessed fire; but Einar
     Tremblethong spoke up, bade her keep silence, and used many hard
     words. Then by the Bishop's decision, the King's consent, and the
     judgment of the entire assembly, it was decreed that King Olaf was
     in truth a holy man.[451]

[Illustration: THE FALL OF SAINT OLAF (Initial in the Flat-isle Book.)]

Whatever the procedure employed, there can be no doubt that King Olaf
was canonised in the summer of 1031 (August 3d is the date given) by
popular act; nor can it be doubted that Elgiva resisted the act--she
must have seen that the canonisation meant her own and her son's
undoing. For she must surely have realised that political considerations
were an important element in the devotion of the Norsemen to their new

There was later a tradition among the monks of Nidaros that Canute at
one time planned to establish a monastery in the northern capital.[452]
If such an attempt was made, it evidently failed; but it would not be
strange if the King should try to establish an institution where loyalty
to the empire might be nursed and which might assist in uprooting
nationalistic tendencies. If the attempt was made, it was probably soon
after the canonisation, when it became important to divert attention
from the new cult.

For the worship of Saint Olaf spread with astonishing rapidity not only
through Norway but through the entire North and even farther. The Church
had saints in great number; but here was one from the very midst of the
Scandinavian people. Moreover, Saint Olaf was a saint whom the men of
the day could appreciate: he was of their own type, with the strength of
Thor and the wisdom of Woden; they had seen him and felt the edge of his
ax. So all along the shores that Olaf the Stout had plundered in his
earlier heathen days churches arose dedicated to the virile saint of the

There were other difficulties, too, that the regents had to contend
with. Hunger stalked over the land. The Norwegian people had always been
accustomed to hold their kings responsible for the state of the harvest;
they were to secure the favour of the gods; a failure of crops meant
that this duty had been shirked. The feeling lingered for some time
after the disappearance of heathendom. Sweyn was only a youth and was
not held responsible; the blame fell upon the hated Queen-mother and the
hard years of her rule were known as the "Alfiva-time." The general
discontent is expressed in a contemporary fragment attributed to

    Alfiva's time our sons will
    Long remember; then ate we
    Food more fit for oxen,
    Shavings the fare of he-goats.

    It was not thus when the noble
    Olaf governed the Norsemen;
    Then could we all boast of
    Corn-filled barns and houses.[454]

And Thorarin Praise-tongue in the Shrine-song addressed to Sweyn the son
of Canute urges the young regent to seek the favour of the new saint,
"the mighty pillar of the book-language":

    Pray thou to Olaf that he grant thee
    (He is a man of God) all his land rights;
    For he can win from God himself
    Peace to men and good harvests.[455]

In 1033, a revolt broke out in Norway in the interest of one Trygve, a
pretended son of Olaf Trygvesson and an English mother. The attempt
failed; the Norse chiefs had other plans. In Russia was Magnus, the
illegitimate son of the holy King, now about nine or ten years old; him
had the chiefs determined upon as their future leader. Early the next
year an embassy was sent to Russia led by the two magnates Einar and
Kalf. Here oaths were sworn and plans were laid, and in the following
spring (1035) Magnus Olafsson appeared in Norway as the foster son of
Kalf who had led his father's banesmen at Stiklestead.

From the moment when Magnus set foot on his native soil Norway was lost
to the empire. Sweyn was farther south in his kingdom when news came of
revolt in the Throndelaw. He promptly summoned the yeomanry, but feeling
that their devotion to him was a matter of grave doubt, he gave up his
plans of resistance and fled to his brother Harthacanute in Denmark,
where he died less than a year later.[456] His mother Elgiva evidently
withdrew to England, where the death of Canute the following November
doubtless gave her another opportunity to play the politician.

So far as we know, Canute made no effort to dislodge Magnus. It may be
true that he was ill; or perhaps the power of the Church restrained him:
Magnus was the son of a saint; would not the martyred King enlist the
powers of heaven on the side of his son? But it was probably want of
time and not lack of interest and purpose that prevented reconquest.
There is an indication that Canute was preparing for important
movements: at Whitsuntide, 1035, while the imperial court was at
Bamberg, he was renewing his friendship with the Emperor and arranging
for the marriage of his daughter Gunhild to the future Henry III.[457]
Perhaps we should see in this a purpose to secure the southern frontier
in anticipation of renewed hostilities in the North.

But whatever may have been Canute's plans, they were never carried
out--the hand of death came in between. On Wednesday, November 12,
1035, the great Dane saw the last of earth at Shaftesbury, an old town
on the Dorset border, a day's journey from the capital. The remains were
brought to Winchester and interred in the Old Minster,[458] an ancient
abbey dedicated to the chief of the Apostles, which Canute had
remembered so liberally earlier in the year.

We have already noted the tradition reported by both Norse and English
writers that his death was preceded by a long and serious illness; one
of the sagas states that the fatal disease was jaundice.[459] There
would be nothing incredible in this, but the evidence is not of the
best. The fact that death came to him not in the residential city but in
the neighbouring town of Shaftesbury seems to indicate that he was at
the time making one of his regular progresses through the country, as
seems to have been his custom.[460] In that case the illness could
hardly have been a protracted one.

It is likely, however, that Canute was not physically robust; he died in
the prime of manhood, having scarcely passed the fortieth year; and he
seems not to have transmitted much virility to his children. Three sons
and a daughter were born to him, but within seven years of his own death
they had all joined him in the grave. Sweyn, who seems to have been the
oldest, died a few months after his father, perhaps in the early part
of 1036. Gunhild followed in 1038; Harold in 1040; and Harthacanute in
1042. With Harthacanute passed away the last male representative of the
Knytling family; after a few years the crown of Denmark passed to the
descendants of Canute's sister Estrid, to the son of the murdered Ulf.

None of Canute's children seems to have attained a real maturity: Harold
and Harthacanute probably reached their twenty-fourth year; Sweyn died
at the age of perhaps twenty-two; Gunhild could not have been more than
eighteen when she laid down the earthly crown. There is no reason for
thinking that any of them was degenerate with the exception of Harold
Harefoot, and in his case we have hostile testimony only; at the same
time, they were all surely lacking in bodily strength and vigour.

Nor is there any reason for thinking that these weaknesses were maternal
inheritances, for the women that Canute consorted with were evidently
strong and vigorous and both of them survived him. We know little of the
concubine Elgiva except that she was proud and imperious, on fire with
ambition for herself and her sons. Emma was a woman of a similar type.
Canute apparently found it inconvenient to have the two in the same
kingdom, and when the mistress returned to England after the Norse
revolt, we seem to see her hand in the consequent intrigues. Queen Emma
survived her husband more than sixteen years; "on March 14 [1052], died
the Old Lady, the mother of King Edward and Harthacanute, named Imme,
and her body lies in the Old Minster with King Canute."[461] At the time
of her death she must have been in the neighbourhood of seventy years of

Of Canute's personality we know nothing. The portraits on his coins, if
such rude drawings can be called portraits, give us no idea of his
personal appearance. Nor is the picture in the _Liber Vitæ_ likely to be
more than an idealistic representation. Idealistic, too, no doubt, is
the description of Canute in the _Knytlingasaga_, composed two centuries
or more after his time:

     Canute the King was large of build and very strong, a most handsome
     man in every respect except that his nose was thin and slightly
     aquiline with a high ridge. He was fair in complexion, had an
     abundance of fair hair, and eyes that surpassed those of most men
     both as to beauty and keenness of vision.[462]

The writer adds that he was liberal in dealing with men, brave in fight,
favoured of fortune, but not wise. Except for the details as to the
nose, which give the reader the feeling that the writer may, after all,
have had some authentic source of information at his disposal, this
picture would describe almost any one of the heroic figures of the time.

On his own contemporaries Canute made a profound impression which
succeeding generations have shared. In Britain he was called the Great;
in Scandinavia the Rich, the Mighty or the Powerful. The extent of his
possessions, the splendour of his court, the size of his navy, his
intimate relations with Pope and Emperor--all these things gave him a
position and a prestige that was unheard of in the Northlands. And it
was indeed a marvellous achievement for a pirate chief from a nation
just emerging from heathendom to gather into his power the realms and
territories that made up the Knytling empire.

To analyse a character such as that of Canute is a difficult task, as
character analysis always must be. There was so much that was derived
from a heathen time and ancestry, and also so much that had been
acquired by contact with Christian culture and influences, that the
result could be only a strange composite out of which traits and
characteristics, often contradictory and hostile, would come to the
surface as occasion would suggest. Canute was a Christian, probably
baptised in his youth by some German ecclesiastic, as the Christian name
Lambert, which in harmony with custom was added to the one that he
already possessed, seems distinctly German. But the new name was
evidently not much employed, except, perhaps, on occasions when the King
wished to emphasise his Christian character. He seems to have entered
into some sort of fraternal relations with the monks of Bremen: in the
book of our brotherhood, says Adam the monk, he is named Lambert, King
of the Danes.[463]

The historians of Old English times, both Saxon and Norman, were
ecclesiastics and saw the reign of Canute from their peculiar
view-point. To them the mighty Dane was the great Christian King, the
founder of monasteries, the giver of costly gifts and valuable
endowments to the houses of God. To the undisputed traits of Christian
liberality, they added those of piety and humility, and told stories of
the visit to the monks of Ely and of Canute's vain attempt to stem the
tides and compel their obedience. The former is probably a true story;
there is no reason why the King, who seems to have taken great interest
in the abbeys of the Fenlands, should not have visited the cloisters of
Ely, and he may have been attracted by the chants of the monks, which is
more doubtful. But the tale of how Canute had to demonstrate his
powerlessness before his admiring courtiers is a myth too patent to need
discussion.[464] There was nothing of the Oriental spirit in the
Northern courts.

That Canute was religious cannot be denied. Nor should we doubt that he
was truly and honestly so, as religion passed among the rulers of the
age. The time demanded defence and support of the priesthood, and this
Canute granted, at least toward the close of his life. Perhaps in real
piety, too, he was the equal of his contemporaries whom the Church has
declared holy: Saint Stephen of Hungary, Saint Henry of Germany, and
Saint Olaf of Norway. Still, it becomes evident as we follow his career
that at no period of his life, unless it be in the closing years of
which we know so little, did Canute permit consideration for the Church
or the Christian faith to control his actions or determine his policies.
The moving passion of Canute's life was not a fiery zeal for the
exaltation of the Church, but a yearning for personal power and imperial

In the Northern sources written by laymen, especially in the verses of
the wandering scalds, we get a somewhat different picture of Canute from
that which has been painted in the English cloisters. Little emphasis is
here placed on Canute's fidelity to the new faith; here we have the
conqueror, the diplomat, the politician whose goal is success, be the
means what they may. The wholesale bribery that he employed to the ruin
of Saint Olaf, the making and breaking of promises to the Norwegian
chiefs, and the treatment of his sister's family suggest a sense of
honour that was not delicate, a passion for truth that was not keen. In
his preference for devious ways, in the deliberate use that he made of
the lower passions of men, he shows a characteristic that is not
Northern. All was not honest frankness in the Scandinavian lands; but
the pirates and their successors, as a rule, did not prefer bribery and
falsehood to open battle and honest fight.

Slavic ancestry, Christian culture, Anglo-Saxon ideas, and the
responsibilities of a great monarchy did much to develop and modify a
character which was fundamentally as much Slavic as Scandinavian. Still,
deep in his strong soul lay unconquered the fierce passions that ruled
the viking age--pitiless cruelty, craving for revenge, consuming hatred,
and lust for power. As a rule he seems to have been humane and merciful;
he believed in orderly government, in security for his subjects; but
when an obstacle appeared in the path of his ambitions, he had little
scruple as to the means to be employed in removing it. The mutilation of
the hostages at Sandwich, the slaughter and outlawry of earls and
ethelings in the early years of his rule in England, the assassination
of Ulf in Roeskild church suggest a spirit that could be terrible when
roused. Something can be said for Canute in all these instances: Ulf was
probably a traitor; the hostages represented broken pledges; the
ethelings were a menace to his rule. But why was the traitor permitted
to live until he had helped the King in his sorest straits; and what was
to be gained by the mutilation of innocent Englishmen; and was there no
other way to make infants harmless than to decree their secret death in
a foreign land?

Canute possessed in full measure the Scandinavian power of adaptation,
the quality that made the Northmen such a force in Normandy and Naples.
He grasped the ideals of mediæval Christianity, he appreciated the value
of the new order of things, and undertook to introduce it among the
Northern peoples. But he did not permit the new circumstances and ideals
to control him; only so long as they served his purpose or did not
hinder him in the pursuit of that purpose did he bow to them. When other
means promised to be more effective, he chose accordingly.

The empire that he founded did not survive him; it had begun to crumble
in his own day; the English crown was soon lost to the Danish dynasty.
It would appear, therefore, as if the conqueror accomplished nothing
that was permanent. But the achievements of genius cannot be measured in
such terms only: the great movement that culminated in the subjection of
Britain was of vast importance for the North; it opened up new fields
for Western influences; it brought the North into touch with Christian
culture; it rebuilt Scandinavian civilisation. These are the more
enduring results of the reign and the preceding expeditions to the West.
At the same time, Canute's reign minimised the influence that was
working northward from the German outposts. The connection with England
was soon interrupted; but while it endured the leavening process made
rapid spread and the Northern countries were enabled to absorb into
their culture much that has remained a native possession.

To England Canute brought the blessings of good government. For nearly
twenty years England had peace. Troubles there were on the Scotch and
Welsh borders; but these were of slight importance compared with the
earlier ravages of the vikings. It is true, indeed, that the Danish
conquest paved the way for the later invasion by the Normans; but this
was a result that Canute had not intended. It was not a part of his plan
to have the sons of his consort educated in Normandy; at the same time,
he was not in position to take such steps in their case as he may have
wished, for they were the sons of his own Queen.

In his early years Canute was a viking; when he died the viking age had
practically come to its close. Various influences contributed to this
result: the new creed with its new conceptions of human duty; new
interests and wider fields of ambition in the home lands; and the
imperial position of Canute. We do not know that Canute at any time
issued any decree against the practice of piracy; but he gained the same
end by indirect means. The viking chiefs evidently entered his service
in large numbers either in the English guard or in the government of the
eastern domains. Furthermore, as the dominant ruler of the northern
shores, as the ally of the Emperor and the friend of the Norman duke, he
was able to close fairly effectually the Baltic, the North, and the
Irish Seas together with the English Channel to viking fleets; and the
raven was thus forced to fly for its prey to the distant shores beyond
Brittany. Piracy continued in a desultory way throughout the eleventh
century; but it showed little vigour after Canute's accession to the
Danish kingship.


[442] The author has discussed this subject further in the _American
Historical Review_, xv., 741-742.

[443] Larson, _The King's Household in England_, 141.

[444] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 749.

[445] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, Nos. 748, 750, 751, 1322. The
Croyland charter is clearly a forgery, but Canute may have made the
grant none the less as the forged charters frequently represent an
attempt to replace a genuine document that has been lost or destroyed.

[446] _Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon_, i., 443.

[447] _Annales Monastici_, ii., 16.

[448] Matthew Paris, _Chronica Majora_, i., 509.

[449] Munch, _Det norske Folks Historie_, I., ii., 814.

[450] Taranger, _Den angelsaksiske Kirkes Indflydelse paa den norske_,

[451] Snorre, _Saga of Saint Olaf_, c. 244. For the preliminary steps
see cc. 239-243.

[452] Matthew Paris, _Chronica Majora_, v., 42.

[453] Daae, _Norges Helgener_, 48-60.

[454] _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, ii., 144.

[455] _Ibid._, 161.

[456] Snorre, _Saga of Magnus the Good_, cc. 4, 5.

[457] Manitius, _Deutsche Geschichte_, 411-412.

[458] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_,1035; _Encomium Emmæ_, iii., c. I.

[459] _Knytlingasaga_, c. 18.

[460] _Historia Rameseiensis_, 135.

[461] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1052.

[462] C. 20.

[463] _Gesta_, schol. 38.

[464] The story must have arisen soon after the Danish period; it is
first told by Henry of Huntingdon who wrote two generations later.
_Historia Anglorum_, 89.




King Canute was dead, but the great king-thought that he lived for, the
policy of his dynasty, their ambition to unite the Northern peoples in
the old and new homes under one sceptre persisted after his death.
Historians have generally believed that Canute had realised the
impossibility of keeping long united the three crowns that he wore in
his declining years, and had made preparation for a division of the
empire among his three sons. In the year of his death one son is found
in England, one in Denmark, and one in Norway; hence it is believed that
like Charlemagne before him he had executed some sort of a partition, so
as to secure something for each of the three. Such a conclusion,
however, lacks the support of documentary authority and is based on a
mistaken view of the situation in the empire in 1035.

We should remember in the first place that when Harthacanute and Sweyn
received the royal title (in 1028 and 1030), Canute cannot have been
more than thirty-five years old, and at that age rulers are not in the
habit of transferring their dominions to mere boys. In the second place,
these two sons were sent to the North, not to exercise an independent
sovereignty, but to represent the royal authority that resided at
Winchester. Finally, there is no evidence that Canute at any time
intended to leave England or any other kingdom to his son Harold. The
probabilities are that he hoped to make the empire a permanent creation;
perhaps he expected it to become in time wholly Scandinavian, as it
already was to a large extent, except in the comparatively small area of

Canute's policy is revealed in the act at Nidaros, discussed in an
earlier chapter, when in the presence of lords from all his realms, he
led Harthacanute to the high seat and thus proclaimed him a king of his
own rank. That Denmark was intended for the young King is undisputed.
England was to be added later. The Encomiast tells as that when
Harthacanute had grown up (evidently toward the close of Canute's reign)
all England was bound by oath to the sovereignty of Harthacanute.[465]
The early promise that Canute made to Queen Emma was apparently to be
kept. Most likely, the loyalty that Godwin and other West Saxon magnates
showed to the King's legitimate heir is to be explained, not by assuming
a pro-Danish sentiment, but by this oath, surely taken in England,
perhaps earlier at Nidaros.

The situation in Norway, however, made it difficult to carry out
Canute's wishes. On the high seat in the Throndelaw sat Magnus the son
of Saint Olaf. To be the son of a saint was a great asset in the middle
ages; in addition Magnus had certain native qualities of the kingly type
and soon developed into a great warrior. Knowing that war was
inevitable, Magnus began hostilities and carried the warfare into Danish
waters.[466] It was this difficulty that prevented Harthacanute from
appearing promptly in England in the winter of 1035-1036, when Harold
Harefoot was planning to seize the throne.

After the flight of her son Sweyn in the summer of 1035, Elgiva is
almost lost to history. Apparently she retired to England, where she
played the part of Queen-mother during the reign of her son Harold: in a
will of Bishop Alfric we find the testator giving two marks of gold to
King Harold and one mark to my lady.[467] As we do not find that the
King had either wife or children the presumption is that the lady was
his mother, the woman from Northampton.

We may then conjecture that the struggle for the English crown in the
winter following Canute's death was at bottom a fight between the two
women who bore Canute's children, each with a son to place in the high
seat, each with a party devoted to her cause, each with a section of the
country ready to follow her lead. Elgiva had her strength in the
Danelaw; there were her kinsmen, and there her family had once been
prominent. Queen Emma was strongest in the south; on her side were Earl
Godwin and the housecarles.[468]

The sources that relate the events of these months are anything but
satisfactory and their statements are sometimes vague or ambiguous. But
it is clear that soon after the throne became vacant (thirteen days, if
the Chronicler is accurate)[469] a meeting of the "wise men" was held at
Oxford, the border city where Danes and Saxons had so frequently met in
common assembly. At this meeting, as the _Chronicle_ has it, the
northern magnates led by Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and supported by the
Danes in London, "chose Harold to hold all England, him and his brother
Harthacanute who was in Denmark." To this arrangement Godwin opposed all
his influence and eloquence; but though he was supported by the lords of
Wessex, "he was able to accomplish nothing." It was finally agreed that
Queen Emma and the royal guard should continue to hold Wessex for
Harthacanute.[470] The north was evidently turned over to Harold.

The decision reached at Oxford has been variously interpreted. At first
glance it looks as if the kingdom was again divided along the line of
the Thames valley. The statement of the Chronicler that Harold "was full
King over all England" seems not to have been strictly contemporary but
written after the King had seized the whole. What was done at Oxford was
probably to establish an under-kingship of the sort that Canute had
provided for Norway and Denmark. The overlordship of Harthacanute may
have been recognised, but the administration was divided. This did not
necessarily mean to the Scandinavian mind that the realm was divided; in
the history of the North various forms of joint kingship are quite

For one year this arrangement was permitted to stand; but in 1037,
Harold was taken to king over all England--the nation forsook
Harthacanute because he tarried too long in Denmark.[471] Emma was
driven from the land, perhaps to satisfy the jealousy of her rival
Elgiva. The cause for the revolution of 1037 is unknown; but we may
conjecture that intrigue was at work on both sides. Possibly the
appearance of Emma's son Alfred in England the year before may have
roused a sense of fear in the English mind and may have hastened the

Sorrows now began to fall heavily upon England. In 1039, the Welsh made
inroads and slew several of the Mercian lords. A "great wind" scattered
destruction over the land. A remarkable mortality appeared among the
bishops, four dying in 1038 and one more in 1039. The following year
died Harold, whose unkingly and un-Christian behaviour was no doubt
regarded as the cause of these calamities. He died at Oxford and was
buried at Westminster. The same year Harthacanute joined his mother at
Bruges, whither she had fled when exiled from England.[472]

It was neither listless choice nor lack of kinglike interest that had
detained Harthacanute in Denmark; it was the danger that threatened from
Norway. Hostilities seem to have begun in the spring of 1036 and to have
continued for about two years. The war was finally closed with an
agreement at the Brenn-isles near the mouth of the Gaut River in
south-western Sweden. According to this the two young kings became sworn
brothers, and it was stipulated that if the one should die leaving no
heirs, the other should succeed him.[473] It was not so much of a treaty
on the part of the kings as of the chief men of the kingdoms, as both
peoples were evidently tiring of the warfare.

Perhaps that which most of all determined the Danes to seek peace was
the news that Harold had seized the government of all England the
previous year. This must have happened late in the year, as the
Chronicler tells us that Queen Emma was driven out of England "without
pity toward the stormy winter." In Norway there was no party that still
favoured the Knytlings; the situation in England looked more favourable.
Evidently Harthacanute's counsellors had concluded that his inherited
rights in Britain should be claimed and defended.

Harthacanute came to Bruges with a small force only; but it was probably
the plan to use Flanders as a base from which to descend upon England.
Nothing seems to have been done in 1039, however, except, perhaps, to
prepare for a campaign in the coming spring. But for this there was no
need: before the winter was past, Harold lay dead at Oxford. History
knows little about the fleet-footed Prince; but from what has been
recorded we get the impression of a violent, ambitious youth, one to
whom power was sweet and revenge sweeter. So far as we know, government
in his day was poor both in state and church. Oxford, it seems, was his
residential city.

After Harold's death messengers came from England to Bruges to summon
Harthacanute. The succession was evidently not settled without some
negotiations, for Harthacanute must have waited two months or more
before he left Flanders. No doubt the chiefs who had placed his
half-brother on the throne were unwilling to submit without guarantees;
their behaviour had not been such as to render their future secure. Just
before midsummer Harthacanute finally arrived in England with sixty
ships; he was crowned probably on June 18th.[474] For two years he ruled
the country but "he did nothing kinglike."[475] Partly as a punishment,
perhaps, he made England pay for the expedition that he had just fitted
out, and consequently forfeited what favour he had at the very

Harthacanute is described as a sickly youth, and a Norman historian
assures us that on account of his ill-health he kept God before his mind
and reflected much on the brevity of human life.[476] He seems to have
been of a kindly disposition, as appears from his dealings with his
half-brother Edward. His sudden death at a henchman's wedding is not to
be attributed to excesses but to the ailment from which he suffered. But
the drunken laugh of the bystanders[477] indicates that the world did
not fully appreciate that with Harthacanute perished the dynasty of

Three men now stood forth as possible candidates for the throne of
Alfred: Magnus the Good, now King of Denmark and Norway, Harthacanute's
heir by oath and adoption; Sweyn, the son of Canute's sister Estrid, his
nearest male relative and the ranking member of the Danish house, a
prince who was probably an Englishman by birth, and whose aunt was the
wife of Earl Godwin; and Edward, later known as the Confessor, who
strangely enough represented what national feeling there might be in
England, though of such feeling he himself was probably guiltless. It
may be remarked in passing that all these candidates were sons of men
whom Canute had deeply wronged, men whom he had deprived of life or
hounded to death.

There is no good evidence that Edward was ever formally elected King of
England. Harthacanute died at Lambeth, only a few miles from London.
"And before the King was buried all the folk chose Edward to be King in
London," says one manuscript of the _Chronicle_. If this be true, there
could have been no regular meeting of the magnates. The circumstances
seem to have been somewhat in the nature of a revolution headed no doubt
by the anti-Danish faction in London.

That Edward was enabled to retain the crown was due largely, we are
told, to the efforts of Canute's two old friends, Earl Godwin and Bishop
Lifing.[478] The situation was anything but simple. The election of
Magnus would restore Canute's empire, but it might also mean English and
Danish revolts. To elect Sweyn would mean war with Magnus, Sweyn
claiming Denmark and Magnus England. At the time the Danish claimant was
making most trouble, for Sweyn seems to have arrived in England soon
after Edward was proclaimed. All that he secured, however, was the
promise that he should be regarded as Edward's successor.[479] It was
doubtless well known among the English lords that the new King was
inclined to, and probably pledged to a celibate life. We do not know
whether Englishmen were at this time informed of the ethelings in
Hungary. To most men it must have seemed likely that Alfred's line would
expire with Edward; under the circumstances Sweyn was the likeliest

With the accession of Edward, the Empire of the North was definitely
dissolved. Fundamentally it was based on the union of England and
Denmark, a union that was now repudiated. Still, the hope of restoring
it lingered for nearly half a century. Three times the kings of the
North made plans to reconquer England, but in each instance
circumstances made successful operations impossible. After the death of
Magnus in 1047, the three old dynasties once more controlled their
respective kingdoms, though in the case of both Denmark and Norway the
direct lines had perished. The Danish high seat alone remained to the
Knytlings, now represented by Sweyn, the son of Estrid and the violent
Ulf for whose tragic death the nation had now atoned.


[465] _Encomium Emmæ_, ii., c. 19.

[466] Snorre, _Saga of Magnus the Good_, c. 6.

[467] Kemble, _Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 759.

[468] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1035.

[469] The _Chronicle_ (Ann. 1039 [1040]) states that Harold died March
17, 1040, and that he ruled four years and sixteen weeks. This would
date his accession as November 25, 1035.

[470] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1036 [1035].

[471] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1037.

[472] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1039 [1040].

[473] Snorre, _Saga of Magnus the Good_, c. 6.

[474] Steenstrup, _Normannerne_, iii., 421.

[475] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1040.

[476] Duchesne, _Scriptores_, 179 (William of Poitiers).

[477] _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, 1042.

[478] Florence of Worcester, _Chronicon_, i., 196-197.

[479] Adamus, _Gesta_, ii., c. 74.



1. Canute the King sends friendly greetings to his archbishops and
suffragan bishops and to Thurkil the Earl and all his earls and to all
his subjects in England, nobles and freemen, clerks and laymen.

2. And I make known to you that I will be a kind lord and loyal to the
rights of the Church and to right secular law.

3. I have taken to heart the word and the writing that Archbishop Lifing
brought from Rome from the Pope, that I should everywhere extol the
praise of God, put away injustice, and promote full security and peace
by the strength that God should give me.

4. Now I did not spare my treasures while unpeace was threatening to
come upon you; with the help of God I have warded this off by the use of
my treasures.

5. Then I was informed that there threatened us a danger that was
greater than was well pleasing to us; and then I myself with the men who
went with me departed for Denmark, whence came to you the greatest
danger; and that I have with God's help forestalled, so that henceforth
no unpeace shall come to you from that country, so long as you stand by
me as the law commands, and my life lasts.

6. Now I give thanks to God Almighty for His aid and His mercy in that I
have averted the great evil that threatened us; so that from thence we
need fear no evil, but may hope for full aid and deliverance if need be.

7. Now I will that we all humbly thank Almighty God for the mercy that
He has done to our help.

8. Now I command my archbishops and all my suffragan bishops that they
take due care as to the rights of the Church, each one in the district
that is committed to him; and also my ealdormen I command, that they
help the bishops to the rights of the Church and to the rights of my
kingship and to the behoof of all the people.

9. Should any one prove so rash, clerk or layman, Dane or Angle, as to
violate the laws of the Church or the rights of my kingship, or any
secular statute, and refuse to do penance according to the instruction
of my bishops, or to desist from his evil, then I request Thurkil the
Earl, yea, even command him, to bend the offender to right, if he is
able to do so.

10. If he is not able, then will I that he with the strength of us both
destroy him in the land or drive him out of the land, be he of high rank
or low.

11. And I also command my reeves, by my friendship and by all that they
own and by their own lives, that they everywhere govern my people justly
and give right judgments by the witness of the shire bishop and do such
mercy therein as the shire bishop thinks right and the community can

12. And if any one harbour a thief or hinder the pursuit, he shall be
liable to punishment equal to that of the thief, unless he shall clear
himself before me with full purgation.

13. And I will that all the people, clerks and laymen, hold fast the
laws of Edgar which all men have chosen and sworn to at Oxford;

14. for all the bishopssay that the Church demands a deep atonement for
the breaking of oaths and pledges.

15. And they further teach us that we should with all our might and
strength fervently seek, love, and worship the eternal merciful God and
shun all unrighteousness, that is, slaying of kinsmen and murder,
perjury, familiarity with witches and sorceresses, and adultery and

16. And further, we command in the name of Almighty God and of all His
saints, that no man be so bold as to marry a nun or a consecrated woman;

17. and if any one has done so, let him be an outlaw before God and
excommunicated from all Christendom, and let him forfeit all his
possessions to the King, unless he quickly desist from sin and do deep
penance before God.

18. And further still we admonish all men to keep the Sunday festival
with all their might and observe it from Saturday's noon to Monday's
dawning; and let no man be so bold as to buy or sell or to seek any
court on that holy day.

19. And let all men, poor and rich, seek their church and ask
forgiveness for their sins and earnestly keep every ordained fast and
gladly honour the saints, as the mass priest shall bid us,

20. that we may all be able and permitted, through the mercy of the
everlasting God and the intercession of His saints, to share the joys of
the heavenly kingdom and dwell with Him who liveth and reigneth for ever
without end. Amen.


[480] Liebermann, _Gesetze der Angelsachsen_, i., 273-275. For an
earlier translation see Stubbs, _Select Charters_, 75-76.


Canute, King of all England and Denmark and of the Norwegians and of
part of the Slavic peoples,[482] to Ethelnoth the Metropolitan and
Alfric of York, and to all bishops and primates, and to the whole nation
of the English, both nobles and freemen, wishes health.

I make known to you that I have lately been to Rome, to pray for the
redemption of my sins, and for the prosperity of the kingdoms and
peoples subject to my rule. This journey I had long ago vowed to God,
though, through affairs of state and other impediments, I had hitherto
been unable to perform it; but now I humbly return thanks to God
Almighty for having in my life granted to me to yearn after the blessed
apostles, Peter and Paul, and every sacred place within and without the
city of Rome, which I could learn of, and according to my desire,
personally to venerate and adore. And this I have executed chiefly
because I had learned from wise men that the holy apostle Peter had
received from the Lord the great power of binding and loosing, and was
key-bearer of the celestial kingdom; and I, therefore, deemed it
extremely useful to desire his patronage before God.

Be it now known to you, that there was a great assembly of nobles at the
Easter celebration, with the Lord Pope John, and the Emperor Conrad, to
wit, all the princes of the nations from Mount Gargano to the nearest
sea, who all received me honourably, and honoured me with magnificent
presents. But I have been chiefly honoured by the Emperor with divers
costly gifts, as well in golden and silver vessels as in mantles and
vestments exceedingly precious.

I have therefore spoken with the Emperor and the Lord Pope, and the
princes who were there, concerning the wants of all my people, both
Angles and Danes, that a more equitable law and greater security might
be granted to them in their journeys to Rome, and that they might not be
hindered by so many barriers, nor harassed by unjust tolls; and the
Emperor and King Rudolf, who has the greater number of those barriers in
his dominions, have agreed to my demands; and all the princes have
engaged by their edict, that my men, whether merchants or other
travellers for objects of devotion, should go and return in security and
peace, without any constraint of barriers or tolls.

I then complained to the Lord Pope, and said that it greatly displeased
me, that from my archbishops such immense sums of money were exacted,
when, according to usage, they visited the apostolic see to receive the
pall; and it was agreed that such exactions should not thenceforth be
made. And all that I have demanded for the benefit of my people from the
Lord Pope, from the Emperor, from King Rudolf, and from the other
princes, through whose territories our way lies to Rome, they have
freely granted, and also confirmed their cessions by oath, with the
witness of four archbishops and twenty bishops, and an innumerable
multitude of dukes and nobles, who were present.

I therefore render great thanks to God Almighty that I have successfully
accomplished all that I desired, as I had proposed in my mind, and
satisfied to the utmost the wishes of my people. Now then, be it known
to you, that I have vowed, as a suppliant, from henceforth to justify in
all things my whole life to God, and to rule the kingdoms and peoples
subjected to me justly and piously, to maintain equal justice among all;
and if, through the intemperance of my youth, or through negligence, I
have done aught hitherto contrary to what is just, I intend with the aid
of God to amend all.

I therefore conjure and enjoin my counsellors, to whom I have intrusted
the counsels of the kingdom, that from henceforth they in no wise,
neither through fear of me nor favour to any powerful person, consent
to, or suffer to increase any injustice in my whole kingdom; I enjoin
also all sheriffs and reeves of my entire kingdom, as they would enjoy
my friendship or their own security, that they use no unjust violence to
any man, either rich or poor, but that every one, both noble and
freeman, enjoy just law, from which let them in no way swerve, neither
for equal favour, nor for any powerful person, nor for the sake of
collecting money for me, for I have no need that money should be
collected for me by iniquitous exactions.

I, therefore, wish it to be made known to you, that, returning by the
same way that I departed, I am going to Denmark, for the purpose of
settling, with the counsel of all the Danes, firm and lasting peace
with those nations, which, had it been in their power, would have
deprived us of our life and kingdoms; but were unable, God having
deprived them of strength, who in His loving-kindness preserves us in
our kingdoms and honour, and renders naught the power of our enemies.
Having made peace with the nations round us, and regulated and
tranquillised all our kingdom here in the East, so that on no side we
may have to fear war or enmities, I propose this summer, as soon as I
can have a number of ships ready, to proceed to England; but I have sent
this letter beforehand, that all the people of my kingdom may rejoice at
my prosperity; for, as you yourselves know, I have never shrunk from
labouring, nor will I shrink therefrom, for the necessary benefit of all
my people.

I therefore conjure all my bishops and ealdormen, by the fealty which
they owe to me and to God, so to order that, before I come to England,
the debts of all, which we owe according to the old law, be paid; to
wit, plough-alms, and a tithe of animals brought forth during the year,
and the pence which ye owe to Saint Peter at Rome, both from the cities
and villages; and in the middle of August, a tithe of fruits, and at the
feast of Saint Martin, the first-fruits of things sown, to the church of
the parish, in which each one dwells, which is in English called
church-scot. If, when I come, these and others are not paid, he who is
in fault shall be punished by the royal power severely and without any
remission. Farewell.


[481] This translation (with slight changes) is that of Benjamin Thorpe:
Lappenberg, _History of England_, ii., 212-215.

[482] The original has Swedes; but see above p. 152. The statement that
Canute was King of the Norwegians is doubtless an addition by the
chronicler; Norway was not conquered before 1028.


_Aarböger for nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie_, udg. af det Kongelige
Nordiske Oldskriftsselskab. 1866-1885. 2. Række, 1886-. Copenhagen.
Continuation of _Annaler_.

_Ælfric's Lives of Saints_, ed. W.W. Skeat. 2 vols. London, 1881-1900.
(Early English Text Society.)

_Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, ed. Benjamin Thorpe. 2 vols. London, 1861.
Rolls Series, No. 23.

_Annaler for nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie_, udg. af det Kongelige
Nordiske Oldskriftsselskab. 1836-1863. Copenhagen, 1836-1865.

These volumes and the _Aarböger_ are of great value for the study of
Scandinavian culture in the Middle Ages; for the career of Canute,
however, they are of slight importance.

_Annales Cambriæ_, ed. J.W. ab Ithel. London, 1560. Rolls Series, No.

_Annales Monastici_, ed. H.R. Luard. 5 vols. London, 1864-1869. Rolls
Series, No. 36.

_Baltische Studien_, herausgegeben von der Gesellschaft für pommersche
Geschichte und Alterthumskunde. 1835-1892. Stettin.

Especially important are Nos. 7, 13, and 25: articles on the early
relations of the Danes and the Wends.

_Bibliothek der Angelsächsischen Poesie_, ed. C.W.M. Grein (revised
edition by R.P. Wülker). 3 vols. Cassel, 1883-1898.

BJÖRKMAN, ERIK, _Nordische Personennamen in England in alt- und
frühmittel-englischer Zeit_. Halle, 1910. (Morsbach's _Studien zur
englischen Philologie_, xxxvii.)

BREMEN, ADAM OF, _Gesta Hammenburgensis Ecclesiæ Pontificum_, ed. J.M.
Lappenberg. Hanover, 1846. (Mon. Ger. Hist., Scriptores, vii.)

BRESSLAU, H., _Jahrbücher des Deutschen Reichs unter Konrad II._
Leipsic, 1879-1884.

BUGGE, ALEXANDER, et al., _Norges Historie fremstillet for det norske
Folk_. To be published in 6 volumes. Vol. i., part ii. (Christiania,
1910) deals with Norwegian history to 1030.

----_Studier over de norske Byers Selvstyre og Handel_. Christiania,

----_Vesterlandenes Indflydelse paa Nordboernes og särlig Nordmændenes
ydre Kultur, Levesæt, og Samfundsforhold i Vikingetiden_. Christiania,

----_Vikingerne_. 2 vols. Copenhagen, 1904-1906.

A series of brilliant essays on Scandinavian colonisation and culture in
the western islands (Britain).

_Cambridge History of English Literature_. Edited by A.W. Ward and A.R.
Waller. (In process of publication.) I. Cambridge, 1907.

CANTERBURY, GERVASE OF, _The Historical Works of Gervase of Canterbury_,
ed. William Stubbs. 2 vols. London, 1879-1880. Rolls Series, No. 73.

CHABANNES, ADÉMAR DE, _Historiarum Libri iii_, ed. G. Waitz. Hanover,
1841. (Mon. Ger. Hist., Scriptores, iv.)

_Chronicon Abbatiæ de Evesham ad Annum_ 1418, ed. W.D. Macray. London,
1863. Rolls Series, No. 29.

_Chronicon Abbatiæ Rameseiensis_, ed. W.D. Macray. London, 1886. Rolls
Series, No. 83.

_Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon_, ed. Joseph Stevenson. 2 vols.
London, 1858. Rolls Series, No. 2.

CIRENCESTER, RICHARD OF, _Speculum Historiale de Gestis Regum Angliæ_.,
ed. J.E.B. Mayor. 2 vols. London, 1863-1869. Rolls Series, No. 30.

_Cnutonis Regis Gesta sive Encomium Emmæ_, ed. G.H. Pertz. Hanover,
1866. (Mon. Ger. Hist., Scriptores, xix.)

COLLINGWOOD, W.G., _Scandinavian Britain_. London, 1908.

_Corpus Poeticum Boreale_. Edited by Gudbrand Vigfusson and F. York
Powell. 2 vols. Oxford, 1883.

DAAE, LUDVIG, _Norges Helgener_. Christiania, 1879.

DICETO, RALPH OF, _Opera Historica_, ed. William Stubbs. 2 vols. London,
1876. Rolls Series, No. 68.

Duchesne, André (editor), _Historiæ Normannorum Scriptores Antiqui_.
Paris, 1619.

DURHAM, SIMEON OF, _Opera Omnia_, ed. Thomas Arnold. 2 vols. London,
1882-1885. Rolls Series, No. 75.

_Encomium Emmæ_. See _Cnutonis Regis Gesta_.

_Eulogium Historiarum_, ed. F.S. Haydon. 3 vols. London, 1858-1863.
Rolls Series, No. 9.

_Fagrskinna_, ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen, 1902-1903. Brief saga of
the Norwegian kings. Earlier edition by P.A. Munch and C.R. Unger
(Christiania, 1847).

_Flateyarbók_. Edited by Gudbrand Vigfusson and C.R. Unger. Christiania,
1860. The Flat-isle Book is a late and not very reliable collection of
sagas, but it cannot be wholly ignored.

FLOM, GEORGE T., _Scandinavian Influence on Southern Lowland Scotch_.
New York, 1900. (Columbia University Germanic studies, i., No. 1.)

FREEMAN, E.A., _History of the Norman Conquest of England_, 6 vols. New
York, 1873.

FRIESEN, OTTO VON, _Historiska Runskrifter_. (Fornvännen, 1909.)

----_Om Runskriftens Härkomst_. (Sprokvetenskapliga Sällskapets
Förhandlinger, 1904-1906.)

GIESEBRECHT, W. VON, _Geschichte der Deutschen Kaiserzeit_. 3 vols.
Brunswick and Leipsic, 1855-1868.

HILDEBRAND, B.E., _Anglosachsiska Mynt i svenska Kongliga Myntkabinettet
funna i Sveriges Jord_. Stockholm, 1881.

HILDEBRAND, HANS O.H., _Svenska Folket under Hednatiden_. Stockholm,

_Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops_, ed. James Raine.
3 vols. London, 1879-1894. Rolls Series, No. 71.

HODGKIN, THOMAS, _The History of England from the Earliest Times to the
Norman Conquest_. London, 1906. (Hunt-Poole, _Political History of
England_, i.)

HUNT, WILLIAM, _The English Church, A.D. 597-1066_. London, 1899.
(Stephens-Hunt, _A History of the English Church_, i.)

HUNTINGDON, HENRY OF, _Historia Anglorum_, ed. Thomas Arnold. London,
1879. Rolls Series, No. 74.

_Jómsvíkingasaga ok Knytlinga_, ed. C.C. Rafn. Copenhagen, 1828.

Jumièges, William of, _Historiæ Nomannorum Libri viii_, ed. André
Duchesne. Paris, 1619. (Hist. Norm. Scriptores.)

KEMBLE, J.M., _Codex Diplomaticus Ævi Saxonici_. 6 vols. London,
1839-1848. (Eng. Hist. Soc.)

_Knytlingasaga_. See _Jómsvíkingasaga_.

KÖBKE, P., _Om Runerne i Norden_. Copenhagen, 1890. A brief popular
account of the runes; valuable for its translation of important

LANG, ANDREW, _A History of Scotland_. 4 vols. Edinburgh, 1903-1907.

Langebek, Jacob (editor), _Scriptores Rerum Danicarum Medii Ævi_. 9
vols. Copenhagen, 1772-1878.

LAPPENBERG, J.M., _History of England under the Anglo-Saxon Kings_.
Translated by Benjamin Thorpe. 2 vols. London, 1845.

LARSON, LAURENCE M., _The King's Household in England before the Norman
Conquest_. Madison, 1904. (Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin.)

----_The Political Policies of Cnut as King of England. American
Historical Review_, xv., No. 4 (July, 1910).

LAVISSE, ERNEST, _Histoire de France depuis les origines jusqu'à la
révolution_. 9 vols. Paris, 1903-1911.

LIEBERMANN, F., _Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen_. 2 vols. Halle,

----_Ungedrückte anglo-normannische Geschichtsquellen_. Strasburg, 1879.

_Liber Monasterii de Hyda_, ed. Edward Edwards. London, 1866. Rolls
Series, No. 45.

_Liber Vitæ: Register and Martyrology of New Minster and Hyde Abbey_,
ed. W. de Gray Birch. London, 1892. (Hampshire Record Society.)

_Lives of Edward the Confessor_, ed. H.R. Luard. London, 1858. Rolls
Series, No. 3.

MALMESBURY, WILLIAM OF, _De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum Libri Quinque_,
ed. N.E.S.A. Hamilton. London, 1870. Rolls Series, No. 52.

----_De Gestis Regum Anglorum Libri Quinque_, ed. William Stubbs. 2
vols. London, 1887-1889. Rolls Series, No. 90.

MANITIUS, M., _Deutsche Geschichte unter den sächsischen und salischen
Kaisern_. Stuttgart, 1889. (Bibliothek deutscher Geschichte.)

_Memorials of Saint Edmund's Abbey_, ed. Thomas Arnold. 3 vols. London,
1890-1896. Rolls Series, No. 96.

MERSEBURG, THIETMAR OF, _Chronicon_, ed. J.M. Lappenberg. Hanover, 1839.
(Mon. Ger. Hist., Scriptores, iii.)

MIGNE, J.P., _Patrologiæ Cursus Completus_. Series Latina. 221 vols.
Paris, 1844-1864. Vol. cxli. contains the sermons of Adémar and the
letters of Fulbert.

MONTELIUS, OSCAR, _Kulturgeschichte Schwedens von den ältesten Zeiten
bis zum elften Jahrhundert nach Christus_. Leipsic, 1906. An excellent
account of Northern antiquity based largely on archæological evidence.

MORRIS, WILLIAM A., _The Frankpledge System_. New York, 1910. (Harvard
Historical Series, xiv.)

MUNCH, P.A., _Det norske Folks Historie_. 8 vols. Christiania,

Napier, A.S., and Stevenson, W.H. (editors), _The Crawford Collection of
Early Charters and Documents_. Oxford, 1895.

_Olafs Saga hins Helga_. Edited by R. Keyser and C.R. Unger.
Christiania, 1849. A saga of Saint Olaf; largely legendary.

OLRIK, AXEL, _Nardisk Aandsliv i Vikingetid og tidlig Middelalder_.
Copenhagen, 1907. An excellent popular discussion of mediæval culture in

OMAN, C.W.C., _England Before the Norman Conquest_. New York, 1910.
(Oman, _History of England in Seven Volumes_, i.)

_Origines Islandicæ_. Edited by Gudbrand Vigfusson and F. York Powell. 2
vols. Oxford, 1905.

PALGRAVE, FRANCIS, _History of Normandy and England_. 4 vols. London,

PARIS, MATTHEW, _Chronica Majora_, ed. H.R. Luard. 7 vols. London,
1872-1883. Rolls Series, No. 57.

Pertz, G.H., et al. (editors), _Monumenta Germaniæ Historica,
Scriptores_. 30 vols. Hanover, 1826-1896.

POITIERS, WILLIAM OF, _Gesta Willelmi Ducis Normannorum et Regis
Angliæ_, ed. André Duchesne. Paris, 1619. (Hist. Norm. Scriptores.)

POLLOCK, F., and MAITLAND, F.W., _The History of the English Law Before
the Time of Edward I_. 2 vols. Cambridge, 1895.

RAMSAY, J.H., _The Foundations of England_. 2 vols. London, 1898.

RAOUL GLABER, _Les cinq livres de ses histoires_, ed. M. Prou. Paris,
1886. (Collection de Textes, No. I.)

_Saga Book of the Viking Club_, vi., part i. London. January, 1909.

_Saga Olafs Konungs ens Helga_. Edited by P.A. Munch and C.R. Unger.
Christiania, 1853. The so-called "Historical Saga" of Saint Olaf.

ST. JOHN, JAMES A., _History of the Four Conquests of England_. 2 vols.
London, 1862. Extremely uncritical.

SAXO GRAMMATICUS, _Gesta Danorum_, ed. A. Holder. Strasburg, 1886.

SCHÜCK, HENRIK, _Studier i nordisk Litteratur- och Religions-historia._
2 vols. Stockholm, 1904.

SNORRE. See Sturlason.

_Sproglige og historiske Afhandlinger viede Sophus Bugges Minde._
Christiania, 1908. Historical and philological essays by various
authors. Cited as Afhandlinger, etc.

STEENSTRUP, JOHANNES C.H.R., et al., _Danmarks Riges Historie_. 6 vols.
Copenhagen, 1896-1906. The great co-operative history of Denmark. Vol.
i. is by Steenstrup.

----_Normannerne_. 4 vols. Copenhagen, 1876-1882. (See Foreword.)

----_Venderne og de Danske för Valdemar den Stores Tid_. Copenhagen,
1900. A study of Danish expansion on the south Baltic shores.

STEPHENS, GEORGE, _The Old-Northern Runic Monuments of Scandinavia and
England_. 4 vols. London and Copenhagen, 1866-1901. Of great value for
the inscriptions that the author has collected and reproduced; the
interpretations, however, are not always reliable. Vol. iv. is by S.O.M.
Söderberg and J.S.F. Stephens.

STUBBS, WILLIAM, _Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum_. Oxford, 1897.

STURLASON, SNORRE, _Heimskringla: Nóregs Konunga Sogur_, ed. Finnur
Jónsson. 4 vols. Copenhagen, 1893-1901. Samfundet til Udgivelse af
Gammel Nordisk Litteratur. Cited as Snorre. This is the chief source of
information as to Canute's ambitions for empire in the North.

SVENO AGGONIS, _Historia Legum Castrensium Regis Canuti Magni_, ed.
Jacob Langebek. Copenhagen, 1774. (Script. Rer. Danic., iii.)

TARANGER, A., _Den angelsaksiske Kirkes Indflydelse paa den norske_.
Christiania, 1890. (Norske Historiske Forening.)

TURNER, SHARON, _History of the Anglo-Saxons_. 3 vols. London, 1823.

VITALIS, ORDERICUS, _Historia Ecclesiastica_, ed. Auguste le Prévost. 5
vols. Paris, 1838-1855. (Société de l'Histoire de France.)

Wharton, Henry (editor), _Anglia Sacra_. 2 vols. London, 1691.

WIMMER, LUDVIG F.A., _De danske Runemindesmærker_. 4 vols. Copenhagen,

----_Die Runenschrift_. Übersetzt von Dr. F. Holthausen. Berlin, 1887.

WIPO, _Vita Chuonradi Regis_. Hanover, 1854. (Mon. Ger. Hist.,
Scriptores, xi.)

WORCESTER, FLORENCE OF, _Chronicon ex Chronicis_, ed. Benjamin Thorpe. 2
vols. London, 1848-1849. (Eng. Hist. Soc.)

WORSAAE, J.J.A., _Minder out de Danske og Nordmændene i England,
Skotland, og Irland_. Copenhagen, 1851. Translation: _An Account of the
Danes and Norwegians in England, Scotland, and Ireland_. London, 1852.



  Abingdon, monastery of;
  Adam of Bremen cited;
  Adémar de Chabannes cited;
  Agdir, district in southern Norway;
  Alain, Duke of Brittany;
  Aldgyth, wife of Edmund Ironside;
  Alfiva; _see_ Elgiva
  Alfred, King of England;
  Alfred, son of Ethelred;
  Alfric, Archbishop of York;
  Alfric, Bishop;
  Alfric, English ealdorman;
  Alfric, ealdorman, and naval commander;
  Alfric, old English author;
  Algar, English magnate;
  Ali, housecarle;
  Almar Darling, English magnate;
  Alphabet, runic;
  Alphege, Archbishop;
  Alstad Stone, the;
  America, discovery of;
  _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ cited;
  Anglo-Saxon kingdom;
  Anglo-Saxon legal system, the;
  Anglo-Saxon literature;
  Anses, the, old Northern divinities;
  Anund Jacob, King of Sweden;
  Arne, Norwegian magnate;
  Arngrim, magnate in the Danelaw;
  Arnungs, Norwegian noble family;
  Art, Celtic and Northern;
  Asbjörn, Norwegian warrior;
  Ashington, battle of;
    dedication at;
  Asia Minor;
  Aslak Erlingsson, Norwegian chieftain;
  Avon River;


  Barwick, Swedish harbour;
  Benedict, Pope;
  Bergljot, sister of Earl Erik;
  Bernhard, Bishop in Norway;
  Bernhard, Bishop in Scania;
  Bernicia, old English kingdom;
  Bersi, Norse traveller;
  Bessin, the, district in Normandy;
  Birca, old Swedish town;
  _Bison_, the, St. Olaf's longship;
  Bjarkamál, old Norse poem;
  Bjarne, scald;
  Bjor, warrior;
  Björn, King Olaf's spokesman;
  Bleking, district in modern Sweden;
  Boleslav, Duke and King of Poland;
  Books, old English;
  Brage, old Norse divinity;
  Brenn-isles, the, agreement of;
  Brentford, skirmish at;
  British Isles, the, Scandinavians in;
    commerce of;
    inscriptions in;
  Brunhild, saga heroine;
  Bugge, Alexander, Norse historian, cited;
  Bugge, Sophus, Norse philologist, cited;
  Burhwold, Bishop;
  Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex;



  Canonisation, of St. Dunstan;

  Canterbury, city and see of;
    siege of;

  Canute the Great, King of England, Denmark, and Norway:
    inheritance of;
    ancestry of;
    fostered by Thurkil the Tall;
    joins in King Sweyn's attack on England;
    in charge of the camp at Garrisborough;
    succeeds to the English pretensions of Sweyn;
    is driven out of England;
    renews the attack;
    methods of warfare of;
    marches into northern England;
    is recognised as king in the south;
    lays siege to London;
    pillages Mercia and East Anglia;
    wins the victory at Ashington;
    treats with Edmund Ironside;
    is recognised as king of all England;
    difficulties of, in 1016 and 1017;
    early English policy of;
    chief counsellors of;
    royal residence of;
    rewards his Scandinavian followers;
    re-organises the English earldoms;
    attempts to establish a new aristocracy in England;
    shows his preference for Northmen and distrust of
      the Saxons;
    executes rebellious nobles;
    sends Edmund's sons to Poland;
    marries Queen Emma;
    organises his guard of housecarles;
    suppresses piracy on the English shores;
    develops new policy of reconciliation;
    becomes king of Denmark;
    issues Proclamation of 1020;
    has difficulties with Scotland;
    agrees to the cession of Lothian;
    journeys to Denmark of;
    exiles Thurkil the Tall;
    extent of empire of;
    makes an expedition to Wendland;
    Slavic possessions of;
    enters into alliance with the Emperor;
    acquires the Mark of Sleswick;
    ecclesiastical policy of;
    legislation of;
    baptism of;
    benefactions of;
    consecrates church at Ashington;
    rebuilds the shrine of St. Edmund's;
    honours the English saints;
    translates the relics of St. Alphege;
    provides bishops for the Danish church;
    enters into relations with the see of Hamburg-Bremen;
    plans to seize Norway;
    conspires with the Norwegian rebels;
    sends an embassy to King Olaf;
    Scotch possessions of;
    diplomacy of;
    sends an embassy to Sweden;
    bribes the Norse leaders;
    makes war on Norway and Sweden;
    trapped at Holy River;
    orders the murder of Ulf;
    loves dice and chess;
    atones for the murder;
    makes a pilgrimage to Rome;
    assists at the imperial coronation;
    presents complaints at the Lateran synod;
    Charter of;
    honoured by Pope and Emperor;
    conquers Norway;
    receives the submission of the Scotch king;
    submission of the Norsemen to;
    chosen king at the Ere-thing;
    holds an imperial assembly at Nidaros;
    announces his imperial policy;
    secures the allegiance of the Norse chiefs;
    returns to Denmark and England;
    gives the leadership in Norway to Kalf Arnesson;
    plans to depose Earl Hakon;
    relations with Normandy;
    is Emperor of the North;
    position in Europe of;
    vassal states of, 259;
    appoints Harthacanute his successor;
    court and household of;
    official appointments of;
    continental relations of;
    sends embassies to Aquitaine;
    forms an alliance with the Church;
    relations of, with papacy;
    episcopal appointments of;
    is friendly to the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen;
    is hostile toward heathen practices;
    provides for Christian education;
    secular laws of;
    reputation of, as a lawgiver;
    financial legislation of;
    Norse legislation of;
    provides coinage for Denmark;
    patronises scalds and copyists;
    is interested in material improvements;
    loses Norway to Magnus Olafsson;
    probable plans of (1035);
    last illness and death of;
    children of;
    personality of;
    character of;
    legends about;
    English (ecclesiastical) view of;
    Norse (scaldic) view of;
    as ruler and statesman;
    plans of, for the future of his empire;
  _Canute's Praise_;
  Carham, battle of;
  Celts, influence of, in old Northern culture;
  Chabannes, Adémar de, _see_ Adémar
  Charter, Canute's;
  Chess games;
  Christiania Firth;
  Christianity, introduced into Denmark;
    introduced into Norway;
    progress of, in the North;
    influence of, on old Northern poetry and art;
  Church, English, relations of, with Canute;
    Canute's message to;
    legislation for;
  Church dues;
  Cities, Scandinavian;
  Clontarf, battle of;
  Coins, English and Danish;
  Commerce, Scandinavian;
  Conrad II, Emperor;
  _Consiliatio Cnuti_;
  Coronation, imperial;
  Corvey, Widukind of, _see_ Widukind
  Cotentin, district in Normandy;
  Court at Winchester;
  Court poetry, old Norse;
  Cross, the, of Winchester;
  Croyland, abbey of;
  Culture, old Northern;
  Cynewulf, old English poet;


  Danelaw, established by the vikings;
    extent of;
    importance of, in English history;
    Scandinavian elements in;
    spared by Sweyn and Canute;
    heathendom in;
    administrative areas in;
    cities in;
    supports Elgiva;
    other mention of;
  Danes, become Christians;
    interested in Wendland;
    as colonisers;
    as merchants;
    as vikings;
    kill St. Alphege;
    attack London;
    proclaim Canute king;
    in England;
    rule of, in England;
    preferred by Canute for important offices;
    show opposition to Canute;
    in Norway;
    other mention of;
  Deerhurst, agreement of;
    monastery of;
  Deira, old English kingdom;
  Denmark, extent of;
    imperial ambitions of;
    hegemony of;
    invasion of England from;
    Harold king of;
    return of Canute and the viking chiefs to;
    Canute king of;
    return of the host to;
    Canute's journeys to;
    importance of union of, with England;
    extended to the Eider;
    progress of Christianity in;
    viceroys of;
    rebellion in;
    Harthacanute king of;
    expansion of, into Slavic lands;
    institutional development of;
    cities in;
    Magnus king of;
    claimed by Sweyn Ulfsson;
    union of, with England dissolved;
    other mention of;
    _see_ Danes, Canute, and Scandinavia
  Dol, castle of;
  Domesday Book;
  Dragon ship, _see_ Ships
  Drammen Firth;
  Duduc, Bishop;
  Düna River;


  Eadric, Mercian Earl, slays Sigeferth and Morcar;
    Earl of Mercia;
    jealous disposition of;
    deserts to Canute;
    in the battle of Sherstone;
    makes peace with Edmund;
    quarrels with Edmund;
    plays the traitor at Ashington;
    suspected of causing Edmund's death;
    position of, in Canute's councils;
    Ethelred's son-in-law;
  Eadulf Cudel, Northumbrian Earl;
  Eagmargach, _see_ Jehmarc
  Eanham, assembly of;
  Earl, office of;
  Earldoms in England;
  East Anglia;
  Eddic poems;
  Edgar, King of England;
  Edith, wife of Thurkil;
  Edmund Ironside, English King, marries Aldgyth;
    assumes leadership in the Danelaw;
    harries the western shires;
    with the army in London;
    is chosen king;
    raises the south-west;
    fights at Penselwood, Sherstone, and Brentford;
    raises Wessex;
    attacks the Danes at Otford;
    quarrels with Eadric;
    defeated at Ashington;
    retires to the Severn Valley;
    makes terms and enters into fraternal relations with
    death of;
    career and character of;
    sons of;
    buried at Glastonbury;
  Edmund, son of Edmund Ironside;
  Edward, son of Ethelred;
  Edwy, son of Ethelred;
  Eglaf, _see_ Eilif
  Eider River;
  Eilif, viking chief and Earl in England;
  Einar Thongshaker, Norse magnate, guardian of Earl
    defeated at the Nesses;
    in opposition to King Olaf;
    accepts the rule of Canute;
    disappointed in his ambitions;
    leads in the revolt of the Norsemen;
  Eindrid, son of Einar;
  Elbe River;
  Elfhelm, ealdorman;
  Elfward, Abbot, Canute's cousin;
  Elfwine, Bishop;
  Elfwine, king's priest and Bishop;
  Elgiva, Canute's mistress;
    at Jomburg;
    in Norway;
    opposes the canonisation of St. Olaf;
    unpopular in Norway:
    withdraws to England:
    later activities of:
  Ely, monastery of:
  Emma, Queen of England, marries Ethelred:
    retires to Normandy:
    marries Canute:
    character of:
    makes a gift to St. Edmund's:
    assists at the translation of St. Alphege:
    intrigues of:
    difficulties of, after Canute's death:
    death of:
    other mention of;
  Empire, the;
  Empire of the North;
    extent of;
    decline of;
    capital of;
    institutional systems in;
    civilisation of;
    Canute's plans for the future of;
    collapse of;
  Encomiast, Canute's biographer, cited;
  England, Scandinavian settlements in;
    vikings in;
    Danish conquest of;
    part of, friendly to Danes;
    revolts against Canute;
    is attacked by Canute;
    civil strife in;
    exhaustion of;
    divided at Deerhurst;
    Canute king of;
    Danish rule in;
    reorganised by Canute;
    church of, in Canute's day;
    debt of Northern churches to;
    Norwegian conspirators in;
    threatened with Norman invasion;
    heathendom in;
    institutional influence of Scandinavians in;
    Northern scalds in;
    Harold Harefoot king of;
    Harthacanute king of;
    other mention of;
  Ere-thing, the;
  Eric, King of Denmark;
  Eric Bloodax, King of Norway;
    sons of;
  Eric Hakonsson, Earl in Norway and England, fights
      at Hjörunga Bay;
    marries Canute's sister;
    fights at Swald;
    Earl in Norway;
    summoned to assist Canute in England;
    Earl of Northumbria;
    raids Mercia;
    character of;
    death of;
    other mention of;
  Eric the Victorious, King of Sweden;
  _Eric's Praise_, the;
  Erling, son of Earl Hakon;
  Erling Skjalgsson, power and influence of;
    in Canute's service;
    death of;
    sons of;
  Estrid, Canute's sister;
  Ethelmer, ealdorman;
  Ethelnoth the Good, Archbishop of Canterbury;
  Ethelred the Ill-counselled, King of England, accession and
      inheritance of;
    character of;
    treats with the vikings;
    attacks the Northmen in Cumberland and Man;
    marries Emma of Normandy;
    orders massacre of St. Brice's day;
    prepares a fleet;
    resists Sweyn;
    flees to Normandy;
    is recalled  and expels Canute;
    objects to Edmund's marriage;
    illness and death of;
    sons and daughters of;
    legislation of;
  Ethelric, Bishop;
  Ethelstan, King of England;
  Ethelward, English noble;
  Ethelwerd, Earl;
  Ethics of Norse heathendom;
  Evesham, monastery of;
  Exeter Codex;


  Faroe Islands;
  Fenlands, the;
  Ferm, English;
  Finnvid Found;
  "Five Boroughs," the;
  "Five hide system," the;
  Fleet (described);
    _see_ Ship
  Florence of Worcester, cited;
  Forest laws;
  Forth, Firth of;
  Frey, old Northern divinity;
  Friesen, Otto von, Swedish runologist, cited;
  Frigg, old Northern goddess;
  Fulbert, Bishop;
  Funen, Danish Island;
  "Fyrd," the;
  Fyris River, battle of;


  Gainsborough, Danish camp at;
  Garth, the royal;
  Gaut River;
  Gemot, at Eanham;
    at London;
    recalls Ethelred;
    at Oxford;
    elects Edmund;
    other, elects Canute;
    at Cirencester;
    at Winchester;
  Gerbrand, Bishop;
  Germans in South Jutland;
    in Slavic lands;
    influence of, on Northern culture;
  Gisela, Empress;
  Giski, Isle of;
  Godebald, Bishop of Scania;
  Godescalc, Slavic prince;
  Godric, English Earl;
  Godwin, Ealdorman;
  Godwin, Earl of Wessex, early history of;
    important position of;
    accompanies Canute on his expeditions to the east;
    supports Harthacanute against Harold;
    secures the crown for Edward;
  Gokstad, ship found at;
  Gorm, King of Denmark;
  Grimkell, Norse bishop;
  Gudrun, saga heroine;
  Gunhild, Canute's daughter;
  Gunhild, Canute's niece;
  Gunhild, Canute's sister;
  Gunhild, Harold Bluetooth's Queen;
  Gunhild, Harold Bluetooth's daughter;
  Gunhild, Sweyn's Queen, Canute's mother;
  Gunnor, Emma's mother;
  Gunvor, Norwegian woman;
  Gyrith, Harold Bluetooth's Queen; _see_ Gunhild
  Gytha, Canute's sister;


  Hakon the Bad, Earl of Norway;
  Hakon Ericsson, Earl in Norway;
    driven out by Olaf the Stout;
    Earl in England;
    viceroy in Norway;
    recalled by Canute;
    death of;
  Hakon the Good, King of Norway;
  Hakon of Stangeby;
  Hakon, viking prince;
  Hall, old Northern;
  Halldor the Unchristian, scald, cited;
  Hällestad Stone, the;
  Hallfred Troublousscald cited;
  Hamburg-Bremen, see of;
  Harek of Tjotta, Norwegian magnate;
  Harold, Earl, son of Godwin;
  Harold, Earl, son of Thurkil the Tall;
  Harold Bluetooth, King of Denmark;
  Harold Fairhair, King of Norway;
  Harold Grayfell, Norwegian King;
  Harold Harefoot, Canute's son;
    King of England;
    death of;
    character of;
  Harold Sweynsson, King of Denmark, Canute's brother;
  Harthacanute, Canute's son, present at the translation of
    St. Alphege;
    regent and King of Denmark;
    King of England;
    compact of, with Magnus;
    probably chosen to succeed Canute;
    death of;
    character of;
  Hastings, battle of;
  "Head Ransom," the, old Norse poem;
  Heathby, Danish city;
  Heathendom in England;
    among the Slavs;
    in the North;
    Canute's legislation against;
  Hebrides Islands;
  Helgi, saga hero;
  Heming, Thurkil the Tall's brother;
  Heming, Thurkil's grandson;
  Henry I, King of France;
  Henry II, Emperor;
  Henry III, Emperor;
  Henry the Fowler, King of Germany;
  Henry of Huntingdon cited;
  "Here," the, viking host;
  Heroic poetry, old Northern;
  Hjörunga Bay, battle of;
  Holy River, battle of, 167;
  Holy Trinity, Church of the;
  Home, Scandinavian;
  Hönen, runic monument at;
  Honour, Northern ideas of;
  Hordaland, district in Norway;
  Hornel-mount, the;
  House, old Northern;
  Housecarles, Canute's;
  Hugo, Norman commander at Exeter;
  Humber River;
  _Hude Register_;


  Industrial arts, Northern;
  Inscriptions, _see_ Runic inscriptions
  _Instituta Cnuti_;
  Ireland, Scandinavians in;
  Irish Sea, viking rendezvous;
    cities near;
  Ivar White, Canute's housecarle;


  Jæderen, district in Norway;
  Jehmarc, vassal of Canute;
  Jelling, royal residence in Jutland;
  Jelling Stones, runic monuments;
  Jemteland, district in Sweden;
  Jersey, Island of;
  Jewelry, old Northern;
  John XIX, Pope;
  Jom, _see_ Jomburg
  Jomburg, city and stronghold in Wendland;
  Jomvikings, attack Sweden and Norway;
    take part in the battle of Swald;
    attack England;
    enter English service;
    hostle to the Danish kings;
    saga of;
    tactics of;
    organisation of;
  Julin, _see_ Jomburg
  Jumièges, William of, _see_ William
  Jumneta, _see_ Jomburg
  Justiciar, Norman official;
  Jutland (and Jutes);


  Kalf Arnesson, Norwegian magnate;
  Kingscrag, city in modern Sweden;
  King's Delf;
  Kingship, joint;
  Knytlings, dynasty of Canute;
  Kurisches Haff.


  Lambert, Canute's Christian name;
  Lateran synod (1027);
  Law, Scandinavian ideas of;
  "Laws of Edward," the;
  "Lay of Righ," the, old Northern poem;
  Legislation, English;
  Leif the Lucky, Icelandic explorer;
  Leofric, Earl of Mercia;
  Leofwine, Earl of Mercia;
  Lethra (Leire);
  Libentius, Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen;
  _Liber Vitæ_;
    see _Hyde Register_
  Liebermann, F., German historian, cited;
  Liffey River;
  Lifing, Archbishop;
  Lifing, Bishop of Crediton;
  Lime Firth;
  Lister, district in Norway;
  "Lithsmen's Song," the, old Norse poem;
  London, resists the Danes;
    thingmen in;
    sieges of;
    held by Canute;
    opposes translation of St. Alphege;
    supports Harold Harefoot;
    accepts Edward;
  London Bridge broken by Olaf the Stout;
  _Long Serpent_, the, Olaf Trygvesson's longship;
  Longships, _see_ Ships
  Lothian, ceded to the Scotch;
  Louis the Pious, Emperor;
  Lund, Scanian see;


  Maelar, Lake;
  Mælbeathe, Canute's vassal;
  Magnus Olafsson, King of Norway and Denmark;
  Malcolm, King of Scotland;
  Maldon, battle of;
  Malmesbury, William of, _see_ William
  Man, Isle of;
  Manna, Sweyn's housecarle;
  Marriage in Canute's day;
    laws relating to;
  Matthew Paris, English chronicler, cited;
  Medway River;
  Mercia, old English kingdom;
  Merseburg, Thietmar of, _see_ Thietmar
  Midlands, the;
  Mieczislav, Duke of Poland;
  Mieczislav, King of Poland;
  Miracles attributed to St. Olaf;
  Monasticism, in Denmark;
    in Norway;
  Moneyers in Denmark;
  Moray Firth;
  Morcar, magnate in the Danelaw;
  Munch, P.A., Norse historian, cited;
  "Murdrum fine".


  Naples, Northmen in;
  Navy, English;
  Naze, the;
  Nesses, the;
  New Minster, Winchester;
  Niard; _see_ Njord
  Nid River;
  Nidaros, capital of Norway;
  "Nithing name,";
  Njord; _see_ Niard
  Norman conquest, effect of, on old English literature;
    hastened by Canute's conquest;
  Norman officials in the Northern churches;
  Normandy, foundation of;
    as a viking rendezvous;
    Ethelred's relations with;
    Canute's relations with;
    ethelings in;
    famine in;
  North, the;
  Northman, Mercian noble;
  Northmen, Norsemen, Norwegians, the, at war with the Danes;
    in the Scandinavian colonies;
    in rebellion against Earl Hakon;
    defeated in Ireland;
    as earls and officials in England;
    religion of;
    oppose King Olaf;
    accept the rule of Canute;
    at Canute's court;
    oppose Elgiva and Sweyn;
    civilisation of;
    commerce of;
    canonise St. Olaf;
    repudiate Canute's kingship;
    _see_ Norway
  Norway, controlled by the Danes;
    attacked by the Jomvikings;
    Olaf Trygvesson king of;
    Eric and Sweyn, earls in;
    Olaf the Stout king of;
    missionary operations in;
    at war with Denmark;
    dissatisfaction in;
    bribery in;
    Canute king of;
    Hakon viceroy of;
    Elgiva and Sweyn regents of;
    rebellious movements in;
    Canute's legislation for;
    cities and commerce of;
    Magnus Olafsson king of;
    other mention of;
    _see also_ Northmen


  Odderness Stone, runic monument;
  Oder River;
  Odo, Count of Chartres;
  Olaf, King of Sweden;
  Olaf Haroldsson (the Stout), King of Norway, viking
      activities of;
    in English and Norman service;
    baptism of;
    returns to Norway and seizes Earl Hakon;
    wins a victory at the Nesses;
    King of Norway;
    missionary activities of;
    opposition to;
    character of;
    purposes of;
    defies Canute;
    forms an alliance with the Swedish king;
    raises the host of Norway and harries the Danish coast;
    traps Canute at Holy River;
    retreat to Norway;
    loses his kingdom to Canute;
    deserted by his chiefs;
    tries to resume his rule;
    flees to Russia;
    is recalled to Norway;
    falls at Stiklestead;
    miracles attributed to;
    canonisation and worship of;
    and his scalds;
    other mention of;
  Olaf Trygvesson, King of Norway, early life of;
    viking activities of;
    becomes a Christian;
    King of Norway;
    wooes Sigrid the Haughty;
    marries Thyra;
    falls at Swald;
    missionary work of;
    founder of Nidaros;
  Old Minster, Winchester;
  Olney, compact of;
  Olvi of Egg, Norwegian magnate;
  Orkney Islands;
  Ornamentation, styles of;
  Orwell River;
  Osbern, biographer of St. Alphege, cited;
  Oslo Firth;
  Otford, skirmish at;
  Ottar the Swart, scald, cited;
  Otto the Great, Emperor;
  Ottos, dynasty of the;


  Palace, royal;
  Pallig, ealdorman;
  Pallium, cost of the;
  Palna Toki, archer and viking;
  Papacy, state of;
  Paris, Matthew, _see_ Matthew
  Penal laws in England;
  Penselwood, battle of;
  Pentland Firth;
  Peter's pence;
  "Pictured rocks";
  Pilgrims, complaints of the;
  Poetry, old Northern;
  Poppo, Danish clerk;
  "Praise lays";
  Proclamation of 1020, Canute's;




  Ragnarok myth;
  Ramsey, abbey of;
  Ramsund rock, pictures on the;
  Ranig, Scandinavian Earl in England;
  Raven banner, the;
  Reginbert, Bishop of Funen;
  Religion, old Northern;
    origin of;
    divinities of;
    ethics o;
    ritual and sacrifices of;
    festivals of;
  Reric, Danish city in Wendland;
  Rhine River;
  Rhone River;
  Richard of Cirencester, chronicler, cited;
  Richard, Duke of Normandy;
  Ridings in Yorkshire;
  Righ, old Northern divinity;
  Ringmere, battle of;
  Ring-realm, district in Norway;
  Rings, Scandinavian;
  Ringsted, Danish city;
  Robert, Archbishop of Rouen;
  Robert, King of France;
  Robert the Devil, Duke of Normandy;
  Roeskild, capital of Denmark;
  Roeskild Firth;
  Rogaland, district in Norway;
  Rolf, founder of Normandy;
  Route of the Danes to the west;
  Rudolf, Bishop in Norway;
  Rudolf, King of Burgundy;
  Rügen, Island of;
  Runic art, _see_ Art
  Runic inscriptions;


  Sacrifices, old Northern;
  Saga materials in old Northern poetry;
  St. Alphege, _see_ Alphege
  St. Ansgar, missionary to the North;
  St. Benet Hulme, monastery of;
  St. Bertin, monastery of;
  St. Brice;
  St. Brice's day, massacre of;
  St. Clemens, church of;
  St. Cuthbert;
  St. Dunstan;
  St. Edith;
  St. Edmund;
  St. Felix;
  St. Frideswide, church of;
  St. Henry, _see_ Henry II
  St. Mary Devon, church of, 175
  St. Olaf, _see_ Olaf Haroldsson
  St. Omer;
  St. Paul;
  St. Paul's, church of;
  St. Peter;
  St. Stephen, _see_ Stephen
  St. Thomas;
  St. Vincent;
  St. Wistan;
  Sandefjord, town in Norway;
  Santslaue (Santslave), Canute's sister;
    _see_ Svantoslava
  Sarpsborg, city in Norway;
  Saxo, Danish chronicler, cited;
  Scandinavian colonies;
  Schlei, inlet in Sleswick;
  Secular laws of Canute;
  Seine River;
  "Seven Boroughs," the, _see_ "Five Boroughs"
  Severn Valley;
  Sheppey, Danish camp at;
  Sherstone, battle of;
  Shetland Islands;
  Shield, legendary Danish king;
  Shieldings, legendary Danish dynasty;
  Ship as numerical term;
  Ships, Scandinavian
  _Short Serpent_, the, longship;
  "Shrine Song," the, old Norse poem;
  Sibyl, the, of the Eddas;
  "Sibyl's Prophecy," the, old Northern poem;
    _see_ Voluspá
  Sigeferth, magnate in the Danelaw;
  Sigfrid, Bishop in Norway;
  Sighvat the Scald cited;
  Sigrid, wife of Kalf Arnesson;
  Sigrid the Haughty, Canute's stepmother;
  Sigrun, saga heroine, 293
  Sigurd, Bishop, _see_ Sigfrid
  Sigurd, Earl Hakon's court bishop;
  Sigurd, Norwegian earl;
  Sigurd, saga hero, _see_ Sigfried
  Sigvaldi, Earl at Jomburg;
  Simeon of Durham, English chronicler, cited,;
  Siric, Archbishop of Canterbury;
  Siward, Abbot of Abingdon;
  Siward the Strong, Earl of Northumbria;
  Skartha, Danish housecarle;
  Skene, W.F., Scotch historian, cited;
  Skiringshall, city in Norway;
  Skjalg Erlingsson, Norwegian chief;
  Skogul Tosti, _see_ Tosti
  Slavic lands and peoples;
  Slesswick, massacre at;
  Snorre, Icelandic historian, cited;
  Sogn Firth;
  Soli, Erling's garth;
  Sönder Vissing, runic monument at;
  "Song of the High One," the, old Northern poem;
  Sortilege in the old Northern religion;
  Sound, the;
  South Jutland;
  Spey River;
  Stadt, Cape;
  Staller, Scandinavian official;
  Stangeberg, battle of;
  Steenstrup, J.C.H.R., Danish historian, cited;
  Stenkyrka Stone, pictured rock;
  Stephen, King of Hungary;
  Stigand, Anglo-Danish priest;
  Stiklestead, battle of;
  Stord, battle of;
  Storm, Gustav, Norwegian historian, cited;
  "Stretch Song," the, old Northern poem;
  Styrbjörn, Earl at Jomburg;
  Surety, old English;
    _see_ Santslaue
  Sveno, Danish chronicler, cited;
  Swald, battle of;
  Swart, lord of the fire-world;
  Swelchie, the, of Pentland Firth;
  Sweyn, son of Canute and Elgiva;
    Earl in Wendland;
    regent in Denmark;
    regent in Norway;
    flees to Denmark;
    death of;
  Sweyn, Danish housecarle;
  Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, in rebellion against
      his father;
    King of Denmark;
    plans of;
    viking activities of;
    family of;
    attacks King Olaf and acquires part of Norway;
    has designs on England;
    conquers England;
    death of;
    character and personality of;
  Sweyn Hakonsson, Norwegian Earl;
  Sweyn Ulfsson, King of Denmark, Canute's nephew;


  Tavistock, abbey of;
  Tees River;
  Thames River and valley;
  Thanet, Isle of;
  Thegns, king's;
  Thietmar of Merseburg, German chronicler, cited;
  Thingmen, Danish mercenaries in England;
  Thor, old Northern divinity;
  Thor the Dog, Norwegian magnate;
  Thora, Arne's wife;
  Thorarin Praise-tongue, scald;
  Thord, thingman;
  Thoretus, Earl in England;
  Thorgils Sprakaleg, Swedish magnate;
  Thorir, Norwegian chief;
  Throndelaw, district in Norway;
    _see_ Nidaros
  Thrym, viking;
  Thurbrand, Uhtred's banesman;
  Thurgot, Danish warrior;
  Thurkil, son of Nafena, chief in the Danelaw;
  Thurkil Mareshead;
  Thurkil Nefja;
    _see_ Thurkil, son of Nafena
  Thurkil the Tall, viking chief, Canute's foster father;
    leads Jomvikings in England;
    chief of the viking mercenaries in England;
    deserts to Canute;
    fights at Penselwood and Sherstone;
    fights at Ashington;
    Canute's chief counsellor and viceroy in England;
    Earl of East Anglia;
    marries Ethelred's daughter;
    exiled from England;
    reconciled to Canute;
    viceroy in Denmark;
  Thurkil, grandson of Thurkil the Tall;
  Thyra, Queen of Denmark;
  Thyra, Queen of Norway, Canute's aunt;
  Tjängvide Stone, pictured rock;
  Tjotta, Isle of;
  Toki, _see_ Palna Toki
  Tosti, Swedish viking;
  Tova, Queen of Denmark;
  Treene River;
  Trent River;
  Trygve, Norwegian pretender;
  Tunsberg, city in Norway;
  Tweed River.


  Uhtred, Earl of Northumbria;
  Ulf, Canute's brother-in-law, one of Canute's generals;
    Earl in England;
    Earl in Jomburg;
    viceroy in Denmark;
    treason of;
    rescues Canute at Holy River;
    murder of;
    character of;
  Ulf, Swedish viking;
  Ulfketel, Earl of East Anglia;
  Ulfrun, Elgiva's mother;
  Unwan, Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen;
  Uplands, the, district in Norway;
  Uppland, region in Sweden;
  Upsala, Swedish sanctuary at;

  Varangians, Scandinavian guard at Byzantium;
  Vercelli Book, the;
  Viborg, Danish sanctuary at;
  Vikings, the;
  Vistula River;
  Volsungs, the, saga heroes;
    _see_ Sibyl's Prophecy


  Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria;
  Watling Street;
  Wayland Smith, saga hero;
    _see_ Slavic lands
  Wessex, expansion of;
    attacked and plundered by the Danes;
    submits to Canute;
    given to Edmund at Deerhurst;
    Danegeld levied in;
    under Canute's rule;
    retains Saxon character;
    supports claims of Harthacanute;
  Wick, the, district in Norway;
  Widukind, of Corvey, chronicler, cited;
  Wight, Isle of;
  Wiht, Wihtland, _see_ Witland
  William, Bishop of Roeskild;
  William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy;
  William the Great, Duke of Aquitaine;
  William of Jumièges, Norman chronicler;
  William of Malmesbury, Norman-English historian, cited;
  Wimmer, Ludvig, Danish runologist, cited;
  Winchester, capital of England;
    Canute's residential city;
    see of;
    Canute's gifts to monasteries of;
    scalds at the court of;
    Canute buried in;
    other mention of;
    _see_ Gemot
  Witigern, Slavic prince;
  Woden, old Northern divinity;
  Wollin, island and village near the mouth of the Oder;
  Worcester, Florence of, _see_ Florence
  Worsaae, J.J.A., Danish antiquarian, cited;
  Writing, runic;
  Wrytsleof, Slavic prince;
    _see_ Witigern;
  Wulfstan, Archbishop of York;
  Wulfstan, English traveller;
  Wyrtgeorn, _see_ Witigern.


  Yggdrasil, mythical ash tree;
  Yule festival, old Northern.


  Zealand, 6, 190, 213, 215, 220.

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