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22. Canute the Great

24. Magnus the Good

Denmark's History

23. Hardicanute

1. Introduction 2. Hardicanute
3. King of Denmark 4. Harold Harefoot
5. King of England 6. Death and Burial
7. Literature


Hardicanute was the chosen prince, the hope for the Knytlinge bloodline. He was the only son of Canute the Great and Emma of Normandy. Already when he was about 7 years old, his parents sent him to Denmark, where he grew up in secure surroundings. He became King of Denmark after his father in 1035, while the English preferred his half-brother, Harold Harefoot.

In Denmark, Hardicanute was challenged by Olav the Holy's son Magnus, who claimed Denmark. After Harold Harefoot's death in 1040, he also became King of England. By all accounts, he was a generous young man, possibly a little naive. His reign did not last long, already, when he was 24 years old in 1042, he died suddenly attending a wedding near London - literally with the beaker in hand.

The sequence of royal dynasties of Denmark

The sequence of royal dynasties of Denmark - They all descend from "Hardegon, the son of a certain Sven" as told by Adam of Bremen under bishop Hoger that took possession of at least part of Denmark around the year 917. But it is advantageously pedagogical to divide the line of kings and thereby Denmark's history into some manageable groups, as it gives a good overview.
The Knytlings got their name from Hardecnut, most liklely son of Hardegon. He is called Knud 1. and was the father of Gorm the Old as told by Adam under bishop Unni. Magnus the Good was the son of the Norwegian Catholic saint, Olav the Holy; His reign was an interregnum to the rule of Sweyn Estridson and his sons and grandsons. Sweyn Estridson was the grandson of Sweyn Forkbeard.
The rivaling king-candidates, Sven, Knud and Valdemar, were all descending from Sweyn Estridson; the period appears as transition period to the period of the Valdemars.
Many historians, probably the majority, only consider Valdemar 1. the Great, his son Knud 6. and Valdemar 2. Sejr (victory) as the Valdemars. But no one has a patent on this kind of definition, and it seems the author appropriate to include their direct male descendants too - including Erik 4. Plovpenning, Abel and Christoffer 1. - until Christoffer 2., who was the last king before the period without king.
Valdemar 4. Atterdag was not ruler of the union of the three Scandinavian countries, but it was his daughter Margrete 1. and his grandson Oluf. One can say that - with good will - Valdemar 4. Atterdag laid the foundations of the Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden.
The early kings of the Oldenborg dynasty were also Union kings but only for short periods.
The Civil War, The Count's Feud, was an essential turning point in Denmark's history. The Lutheran Reformation made it possible for the kings to take possession of the third of Denmark's land that belonged to the church. This wealth made it possible to suppress the old nobility and establish the absolute monarchy that became a main cause of Denmark's historic decline. A Democratic Constitution was peacefully introduced in 1848 without war or unrest.
In 1863 the Oldenborg line died out with the childless Frederik VII. The throne was then handed over to Christian 9. of Glucksborg.

The Knytlings

The royal line of the Knytlings - Adam of Bremen recounts Hardegon, son of Sven, and a little later Hardecnudt Wurm. Several historians believe that a "filius" are omitted from Adam's text so that it should have said "Hardecnudt filius Wurm", meaning Wurm, Hardecnudt's son. It is supported by that Canute 4. the Holy in his donation letter to the Dome of Lund from 1085 called himself Knud 4, from which it follows that there must have been a Knud 1. or a Hardeknud 1., prior to Gorm, which Adam also tells. The author believes that the names Hardegon and Hardecnudt is too different, and do not represent the same person.


We can assume that Canute married Emma in 1017. The first child often comes the year after the wedding. We do not know if Hardicanute or his sister Gunhild was the oldest, but if he was, he might have been born in 1018.

Hardicanute first appears in written history in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle for the year 1023: "This year King Knute in London, in St. Paul's minster, gave full leave to Archbishop Ethelnoth, Bishop Britwine, and all God's servants that were with them, that they might take up from the grave the archbishop, Saint Elphege. And they did so, on the sixth day before the ides of June;" - "There on the third day came the Lady Emma with her royal son Hardacnute; and they all with much majesty, and bliss, and songs of praise, carried the holy archbishop into Canterbury, and so brought him gloriously into the church, on the third day before the ides of June."


Portrait of Hardicanute. This is a purely artistic representation. There is not handed down any direct descriptions of how he looked. But his father Knud "was light in complexion" so Hardicanute may also have been. Canute was also described as "big grown", which his son also may have been. Two people in a drawing in Encomium Emmæ Reginæ are depicting Hardicanute and his half-brother Edward. One of them seems to have light and curly hair and beard, we can believe that this is Hardicanute as Edward the Confessor nowhere else is shown with curly hair. Besides, on the Bayeux tapestry, Edward is shown with dark hair and beard. Photo pictify.

Olav the Holy's Saga tells in connection with Canute's arrival in Denmark to confront Olav and the Swedish king Anund, who had attacked the country: "Ulv Jarl Sprakaleggson had been assigned the defence of Denmark, when Knut sailed to England; He had committed to Ulv his son, who had the name Hardeknut. It was the summer before, as above written." It is assumed that the battle of Helgeaa took place late in the year 1026, therefore Hardicanute can have come to Denmark in 1025 - about 7 years old.

Canute ruled England authoritatively and skillfully. There were no more Viking attacks and civil wars. Not since King Edgar's time, the Englishmen could enjoy such peace and security. But they could not forget the Vikings' ravages. The English pride had received a wound that would not heal. One must believe that many Englishmen harboured a deep hatred for the new Danish rulers, and therefore England was a dangerous place to stay for a little Knytlinge-Prince. This must have been an important reason to send him to the more secure Denmark.

Besides - by all accounts, the king's absence was a problem for the Danes. Ulf Jarl says in Olav the Holy's Saga: "I and many of this country's men and the chieftains often appealed to King Knut that it seemed them very difficult to sit here in the country without a king, while the previous Dane kings thought that they had more than enough to do with having kingdom over the reign of the Danes alone; but in the past many kings ruled this realm." Since ancient times it had been the king's duty to lead the army and be in charge of the fight against the enemies of the people. In England, there had been cases, where the peasants refused to fight because the king was not there, and these conditions could also have been in Denmark. But the royal prince's presence in the country could have been a message that King Canute the Mighty still was watching over Denmark.

Royal princes and princesses often had a foster father. Olav Trygvessons Saga tells that Sweyn Forkbeard's sister Thyra had a foster father named Assur Aagesson, and - as it is well known - Palnatoke was Sweyn Forkbeard's foster father. Ulf Jarl was Hardicanute's foster father in Denmark.

Ulf Jarl was liked as a cheerful, outgoing man; he was brave and determined. The 8-year-old Hardicanute must have admired him and wanted to be like him.

When the Holy Olav and Anund of Sweden attacked Denmark Ulf Jarl pushed through on "the same ting" that Hardicanute was elected king of Denmark. This made Knud very angry, when he later came to Denmark, but he said that he would forgive Hardicanute, if he asked for it: " - as it could be expected, as he was a child and liked that he should be called "king", and that difficulty had fallen into his hands, that the enemy would go with war all over this country and place it under foreign chieftains, if our help had not come. Now, if he wants some settlement with me, let him come to me and lay down the vain name that he has allowed himself to be called king."

Hardicanute may not have had a very close relationship with his father for Olav the Holy's saga continues: "But when this information came to Hårdeknut, he sought the advice of the Earl and the other chieftains, who were with him. But it soon turned out that as soon as the common people got to know that Knut the Old had come, then the country's commoners went to him and sought all their comfort from him. The earl and his other retainers then faced that they had two opportunities at hand: either to go to the king and put everything under his power, or also to travel away from the land; but all asked Hardicanute to go his father. So he did."

Viking weapons

Viking weapons exhibited in Discovery Times Square.

Canute confirmed that Hardicanute was still the chosen Prince, the hope of the Knytlings: "But when they met, he fell his father for his feet and placed on his knee the seal, which came with kingship. King Knut took Hardeknut by hand and placed him in as high a seat as he previously had."

But Canute was still so angry over the incident that he ordered Ulf Jarl killed; the saga tells: "A man was named Ivar Hvite, Norwegian of descent; he was then King Knut's guard and follower. The king said to Ivar: "Go and kill the earl." Ivar went to the church and into the choir and stuck the sword through the earl; There Ulv Jarl got his fatal wound. Ivar went to the king and had a bloody sword in his hand. The king asked: "Did you kill the earl?" Ivar replied, "Now I killed him." "Well did you do then," the king said."

It must have been quite disturbing for an 8-year-old boy to see that his father killed the man that he looked up to and admired.

Henry of Huntingdon tells about Hardicanute's personality: "He was of an ingenuous disposition, and treated his followers with the profusion of youth. Such was his liberality that tables were laid four times a day with royal sumptuousness for his whole court, preferring that fragments of the repast should be removed after those invited were satisfied than that such fragments should be served up for the entertainment of those, who were not invited. In our time it is the custom, whether from parsimony or as they themselves say from fastidiousness, for princes to provide only one meal a day for their court."

When Hardicanute became king of England, he invited his half-brother, Edward, who stayed in exile in Normandy, home to England and made him co-king. Edward was Emma's son by Ethelred the Unready. It should prove to be a fatal decision for the Knytlings because Hardicanute died shortly after, and so Edward became sole king with the epithet the Confessor.

Portrait of Hardicanute on coin

Coin minted for Hardicanute. He has a truly royal appearance with a strong chin and prominent nose, as his father, Canute, also had it. It also seems as if he was "big grown". Photo Hedning Wikipedia.

This was a completely opposite policy of the one, which his father King Canute had followed. He had uncompromisingly and mercilessly persecuted and when possible exterminated princes of Alfred's lineage.

Because of this invitation, the Knytlings lost England that they had struggled so hard to win, and Hardicanute became the last Danish king in the country.

Maybe he justified his decision with that Edward was a capable man with good knowledge of religious matters; maybe he - or his mother Emma and his English friends and advisors - have argued that Edwards homecoming reduced the danger of the Norman invasion, which all English kings feared; maybe he argued that Edward was a harmless religious enthusiastic; perhaps he expressed that by this gesture he wanted to create better understanding, reconciliation and cooperation between Danes and Anglo-Saxons. But most likely his deeper unconscious motivation was a revolt against the strict absent father, who had dominated his childhood.

Hardicanute as King of Denmark

Almost all sources tell that Hardicanute became king of Denmark after his father in 1035. Only Svend Aggesen believes that the son died before the father. For example Knytlinge Saga writes: "Canute the Old's son Harde-Knud took the whole kingdom of Denmark after his father, but old Canute's second son Harald assumed the government of England after his father, and two years after Harald Knudson's death HardeKnud died and was buried in Morster beside his father Canute the Old. With HardeKnud the Danish kings' ancient lineage became completely extinct." He must have been about 17 years old when he became king of Denmark.

Magnus the Good and Hardicanute meet

Magnus the Good and Hardicanute meet. Illustration in Heimskringla Nationaludgaven by Halvdan Egedius.

Olav the Holy's son Magnus had become king of Norway, and he was even younger, about 11 years in 1035. Magnus - or probably mostly his advisers - claimed also Denmark. It must have been a great asset for Magnus that he was the son of a Catholic saint. At that time Christianity had got a good hold in the Scandinavian peoples, and new converts are often eager and fanatical. Being ruled by a son of a saint was not the same as being ruled by the son of God, but it tasted no doubt a bit of bird.

Magnus the Good's Saga says that the dispute between Hardicanute and Magnus ended up with that the two young kings agreed to that the last surviving of them should have both kingdoms: "The spring after" (1036) "both kings mobilized their warriors and the words were said about them that they would meet each other in battle at The River" (Gotaelv). "But when both armies were approaching each others, the chieftains of both armies sent words to their kinsmen and friends, and it came with both messages that there should be made peace between the kings. But as both kings were young and childish, the mighty men, who were chosen thereto in both countries, had the government for them; it came then to that there was agreed upon a conciliation meeting between the kings. Later they met themselves, and there was then spoken of conciliation, and it came to the agreement that the kings swore a brotherly oath and made peace between them, as long as both their lives lasted, and if one of them died without a son, the one, who lived the longest, should take over his country and subjects. Twelve men, those who were the chief men of each kingdom, swore with the kings on that this settlement should be held as long as either of them lived. Then the kings parted, and each of them sailed home to his kingdom, and this settlement was held as long as they lived."

But Magnus the Good's Saga is not quite well informed, Magnus worked actively to promote his cause, also while Hardicanute was alive. Adam of Bremen says that the archbishop accompanied by Duke Bernhard of Saxony and the bishops Thietmar of Hildesheim and Rudolf of Slesvig traveled up to Slesvig to meet with King Magnus. At this meeting King Magnus' sister, whose name was Ulfhild, was engaged with Duke Bernard's son, Ordulf, and as a result of this connection the Saxon duke immediately after the wedding did Magnus the favor of murdering Harald Thorkellson - Thorkell the Tall's son - when, in November 1042, he was returning to Denmark from Rome. As closely related to the Knytlings Harald indeed seemed to appear closer to the kingdom than Magnus; which cost him his life.

Adam also confirms elsewhere that Magnus did not wait patiently and peacefully for Hardicanute to die without sons. From England King Hardicanute sent his same age foster-brother, Sweyn Estridson, back to Denmark to defend the country against Magnus: "However, Canute's second son, the Norwegian king Svend, died. Then the Norwegians chose Magnus, who was a son of a lover of Saint Olaf. Magnus attacked immediately Denmark, and became master of the two kingdoms, while the Danish King Hardicanute lingered in England with his army. However, he soon mobilized against Magnus and placed Svend, his kinsman, in charge of the fleet. Svend was overcome by Magnus, went back to England and found Hardicanute death." In fact, Adam writes fairly directly that Magnus took power in Denmark already during Hardicanutes absence, while he was still alive. This has Adam of Bremen directly from his conversations with Sweyn Estridson himself, so we must believe that it is quite reliable information.

Harold Harefoot

Emma had prior to his marriage to Canute demanded that her possible sons by him should come ahead of Canute's sons by other women in the line of succession. Encomium Emmae says: "But she refused ever to become the bride of Knutr, unless he would affirm to her by oath, that he would never set up the son of any wife other than herself to rule after him if it happened that God should give her a son by him." But, as we know, Canute died in 1035 and therefore had difficulty meeting his promises.

Coin with Harold Harefoot's portrait

Coin with Harold Harefoot's portrait. He has an impressive royal nose. He wears a headband and has probably parted his hair in the middle. From Get History.

The young Hardicanute had already for several years stayed in Denmark, where he was fully occupied with defending the country against Magnus, and he showed no inclination to travel to England very soon. Therefore, it was difficult to get him elected king of England.

Tingmannalid in London, the north of England and the Danes, in general, wanted as a king Canute's son with Aelfgifu, Harold, who was nicknamed Harefoot; while southern England, Emma and Jarl Godwin supported the absent Hardicanute. In this tense situation, a meeting was held in Oxford, where it was agreed that Harold would be King of England, except that Emma would rule south of the Thames supported by Jarl Godwin on behalf of the absent Hardicanute. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1035 says: "Soon after his decease, there was a council of all the nobles at Oxford; wherein Earl Leofric, and almost all the thanes north of the Thames, and the naval men in London, chose Harold to be governor of all England, for himself and his brother Hardacnute, who was in Denmark. Earl Godwin and all the eldest men in Wessex withstood it as long as they could, but they could do nothing against it. It was then resolved that Elfgiva, the mother of Hardacnute, should remain at Winchester with the household of the king her son. They held all Wessex in hand, and Earl Godwin was their chief man. Some men said of Harold, that he was the son of King Knute and of Elfgive the daughter of Alderman Elfelm; but it was thought very incredible by many men. He was, nevertheless, full king over all England. Harold himself said that he was the son of Knute and of Elfgive the Hampshire lady."

As soon as the news of Canute's death reached Normandy, Edward - the oldest of Ethelred surviving sons, who later became king nicknamed the Confessor - gathered a fleet of forty ships, crossed the English Channel and landed at Southampton. But if he expected cooperation with his mother, he was disappointed. Emma was more attached to her children with Canute than to those with Ethelred; and she did, in fact, every effort to preserve the crown for Hardicanute. Though Edward landed within a distance of a few miles from her residence and in the midst of her peasants and subjects, he found himself in a hostile land. A formidable force, which increased every hour, gathered and threatened him with destruction; and after having plundered a few villages the prince and his followers pulled back to their ships and returned to Normandy.

But another mysterious and bloody episode involving Alfred, Ethelred's other surviving son, cast a shadow over Harold's reign.

A letter was delivered to Edward and his brother Alfred in Normandy. It was apparently written by their mother reproaching them their passivity against Harold's growing power and invited one of them to cross the ocean and challenge his right to the throne. Encomium Emmae's author has no doubt that the letter was in fact written by Harold to lure one or both of the brothers in his power. Almost all chroniclers believe that the letter was a forgery, but there is disagreement about, who really wrote it. Until this day, thousands of years later, it is still a mystery.

Alfred accepted the invitation, recruited a small group of soldiers in Normandy, continued to Earl Baldwin's court in Flanders and further increased his strength with some adventurers from Boulogne so that his platoon eventually came to include six hundred men.

Earl Godwin receives Alfred

Earl Godwin receives Alfred and he is led away by Harold Harefoot's soldiers and receives his verdict of King Harold Harefoot. From 'Life' of St. Edward "the Confessor" Cambridge University Library.

At Sandwich, he found a large force ready to oppose him, and he continued to near Canterbury, where he went ashore without noticing enemies. Within hours, he was met by Earl Godwin, who swore allegiance to him and undertook to lead him to Emma. They continued to Guildford, south of London, where the earl quartered Alfred and his men in small groups among the inhabitants, delivered them ample supplies and having promised to meet with them again the next day, after this he retired to his own home. In the middle of the night, Harold's soldiers arrived - probably Tingmannalid - and surprised the foreigners in their beds. The next morning they were forced to stand in rows with their hands pinioned; every tenth man out of the six hundred received his freedom, a few were taken to slavery, and the remaining were maimed, blinded or scalped. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1036 says:

A deed more dreary none
in this our land was done,
since Englishmen gave place
to hordes of the Danish race.

The prince himself was hastily led to Harold Harefoot in London, and from there to the island of Ely north of Cambridge, accompanied by threats and insults. Sitting on an old horse, stripped of his clothes and with his feet tied under the saddle, Ethelred's son was on show in every town and village to be ridiculed. In Ely, he was put on trial and sentenced to lose his eyes - a punishment that his father in his time often had used, also against Ælfgifu's relatives. A few days later, he died from his wounds.

Tingmannalid at Hastings

Motif on the Bayeux Tapestry. English warriors at Hastings defending themselves against cavalry in close formation. The text reads: "Here fell Leofwine and Gyrth, brothers of King Harold." Tingmannalid or Tingliden was founded by Canute the Great in England after model of the Jomsvikings. It served the Danish and English kings until Harold Godwinson. Wikipedia Photo Ulrich Harch.

When Emma heard about his son's fate, she began to fear for her own safety. Her friends advised her to leave the country, and Baldwin of Flanders offered her a safe and honorable asylum in Bruges. Her flight left Harold without opponents, and Wessex's great men then withdrew their allegiance to his half-brother Hardicanute and he was unanimously elected king of England. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1037 says: "This year men chose Harold king over all; and forsook Hardacnute, because he was too long in Denmark; and then drove out his mother Elgiva, the relict of King Knute, without any pity, against the raging winter! She, who was the mother of Edward as well as of King Hardacnute, sought then the peace of Baldwin by the south sea."

No further details about Harold Harefods Government have been preserved for posterity. One writer suggests that he was a church benefactor; While Emma's Encomium - which is hostile to his memory - argues that because of hatred of Christianity he failed to attend all public offices relating to religion. His favorite amusement was hunting, it is said, as he hunted on foot and because of his speed was nicknamed Harefoot - he died in 1040 after a short reign of four years and was buried in Westminster.

Hardicanute as King of England

Emma harboured an intense hatred for Harold Harefoot. She repeated the vulgar rumor that he was not the son of Knud's first wife Aelfgifu but a child of a maid, who secretly had been placed in Aelfgifus bed. She also maintained that Harold - to lure her sons by Ethelred to their death - had authored the infamous letter in her name to Edward and Alfred. The truth may well be that she encouraged her sons, one after the other, to come to England to oust Harold.

She says herself in her report that while she lived in Bruges, she called her son Edward to come to her and asked him to attack Harold Harefooot, which he, however - wise by experience - rejected and referred instead to his half-brother Hardicanute of Denmark: "And so, being placed in such great security, she sent messengers to her son Eadweard to ask that he should come to her without delay. He obeyed them, mounted his horse and came to his mother. But when they had the opportunity for discussion, the son declared that he pitied his mother's misfortunes, but that he was able in no way to help, since the English nobles had sworn no oath to him, a circumstance indicating that help should be sought from his brother." - "After her son's departure, she dispatched messengers to her son Horthaknutr, who then held sway over the Danes, and through them revealed to him her unheard-of sorrow, and begged him to hasten to come to her as soon as possible."
Emma receives Encomium Emmæ Reginæ

Emma receives Encomium Emmæ Reginæ from the Norman monk, who wrote it. Her two sons Edward and Hardeknud look on in the background. The behind one has light curly hair and beard. Edward the Confessor is pictured in many places, and he is nowhere shown with blond or curly hair. Therefore, the rear one must be Hardicanute. The Encomium of Queen Emma, British Library.

One can understand English policy in the years after Canute's death as dominated by two rivaling and ambitious women, Emma and Aelfgifu, who brought their sons into play, one after the other.

Hardicanute was now about 22 years old, and he had probably not seen his mother since he was 7 years old and can only have had a vague memory of her. Perhaps this is why he reacted positively to her appeal - unlike Edward. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1039 says: "This year also came Hardacnute to Bruges, where his mother was."

He sailed against Brugge with only 10 ships; Encomium tells that they had both copper-plated bows and topsails: "He set out accompanied by not more than ten ships to go to his mother, who was labouring under the very great distress of sorrow. When, therefore, they were absorbed in their prosperous voyage, and were not only eagerly ploughing the salt foam with brazen prows, but also raising their topsails to the favourable winds."

But when he came to Bruges, he received shortly after the message that Harold was dead, and the English chieftains invited him to England to rule over this realm: "And soon afterwards, while the son was lingering with his mother expecting the events promised by the vision above described, messengers arrived bearing glad tidings, and announced, to wit, that Haraldr was dead, reporting furthermore that the English nobles did not wish to oppose him, but to rejoice together with him in jubilation of every kind."

One of his first acts of government was to dig up Harold Harefoot's corpse and throw it into a ditch. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1040 writes: "Then were alienated from him all that before desired him; for he framed nothing royal during his whole reign. He ordered the dead Harold to be dragged up and thrown into a ditch."

Battle-ax found in Botnhamn in Troms

Battle-ax of iron plated with gold from 1000-1050, found in Botnhamn in Troms. Note that it is rusted through in several places in the middle of the blade. This indicates that the blade has been quite thin, probably to make the ax as light as possible. Godwin's 80 fighters had a Danish battle-ax inlaid with gold and silver hanging from their left shoulders. It may have been such one. Photo Ida Kvittingen.

Florence of Worcester brings more details: " - but during his government, he did nothing worthy of his royal power. For as soon as he began to reign, calling to mind the injuries which both he and his mother had suffered at the hands of his predecessors, and reputed brother, King Harold, he despatched to London. Aelfric archbishop of York, and Earl Godwin, with Stor, the master of his household, Edric, his steward, Thrond, captain of his guards, and other men of high rank, with orders to dig up the body of Harold and throw it into a sewer; and when it was thrown there, he caused it to be dragged out and cast into the river Thames. Shortly afterwards, it was picked up by a fisherman, and being immediately brought to the Danes, it was honourably buried by them in a cemetery they possessed at London." It was most likely the cemetery of St. Clement-Danes, where the Northmen had a settlement on the banks of the Thames, outside the walls of London.

But he also got a bad start in England because he had brought so many ships and men, whom the English had to pay for. As mentioned, he arrived in Bruges with 10 ships, but he sailed to England with further 62 ships that he had sent for from Denmark or possibly enlisted in Bruges.

Under Canute the great and Harold Harefoot the English peasants had been used to pay for 16 ships every year, which was probably Tingmannalid. Now Hardicanute showed up with additional more than four times as many which he demanded that the English peasants had to pay for. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1039 says: "And in this same year came King Hardecanute to Sandwich, seven days before midsummer. And he was soon acknowledged as well by English as by Danes; though his advisers afterwards grievously requited it, when they decreed that seventy-two ships should be retained in pay, at the rate of eight marks for each rower."

The English shires in early medieval times

The English shires in early medieval times. Old English map of unknown origin. Worcestershire is located approximately in the center not far from Wales southwest of modern Birmingham.

All these much money was collected by tax collectors, and it gave rise to widespread unrest. Florence of Worcester reports for 1041 that Hardicanute: " - sent his housecarls through all the provinces of his kingdom to collect the tribute, which he had imposed. Two of them, Feader and Thurstan, were slain on the 4th of the ides of May, by the citizens of Worcester and the people of that neighbourhood in an upper chamber of the abbey-tower, where they concealed themselves during a tumult. Furious, Hardicanute ordered each an earl in England and most of his housecarls to Worcester with orders to kill all inhabitants, if they could, loot and burn the city and ravage the countryside around. On November 12. they began to ravage the city and province and continued for four days and on the fifth day, the city was reduced to ashes. The inhabitants fled to an island in the Severn called Bevere Island, where they defended themselves until they had appeased the king and obtained his pardon.

It might be that Hardicanute preferred to keep his army because he did not trust the English. Saxo tells that he had sent Sweyn Estridson to England already during Harald Harefoot's reign, and he reported that they could not trust the Englishmen: "However, Svend Estridsson, who in England was waiting for that Canute's son Hardicanute should come, placed more war people around in the fortresses, to be so much safer to that the people of the country did not dare to fall from Canute, because he did not trust the English and would not give them weapons in hand and unprevented let them take over the fortified cities."

Medieval illustration which  shows Edward's reception in England and his coronation

A medieval illustration from the mid 13. century from "Life" of St. Edward "the Confessor", which on the left shows Edward's reception in England, and on the right his coronation. Cambridge University Library.

But in that case, there was little consistency in Hardicanute's policy. He trusted at the same time so much the English that he allowed that Edward - Ethelred's only surviving son - who became known as "the Confessor", returned home to England from exile and even immediately was appointed fellow-king. It was a complete break with King Canute's policy that had been to pursue and exterminate all princes of Alfred's lineage, to the extent possible. This, Hardicanute's decision should be fatal for the Knytling's since he died shortly after, and so Edward became sole king, and since there has been no Danish king in England. Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1041 writes: "Early in this same year came Edward, the son of King Ethelred, hither to land, from Weal-land to Madron. He was the brother of King Hardacnute, and had been driven from this land for many years: but he was nevertheless sworn as king, and abode in his brother's court while he lived. They were both sons of Elfgive Emma, who was the daughter of Earl Richard."

It must have been a surprise to the English big chieftains that King Canute's son showed such zealous care of Ethelred's sons. Hardicanute did not limit himself to retrieve Edward home from his exile in Normandy. He also accused prominent important chieftains and nobles of being responsible for his other half-brother Alfred's death. Florence of Worcester writes: "Besides he was greatly incensed against earl Godwin and Living bishop of Worcester for the death of his brother Alfred, of which they were accused by Aelfric, archbishop of York, and some others. In consequence, he took the bishopric of Worcester from Living and gave it to Aelfric; but the following year he ejected Aelfric and graciously restored Living, who had made his peace with him."

Hardicanute's death in old English manuscript

Hardicanute's death in old English manuscript.

Godwin denied the charge and acquitted himself legally by his own oath and by oaths of a jury of his equals, the most important noblemen in England. Perhaps these oaths did not completely remove Hardicanute's suspicion, but the Earl was reinstated in his office and participated with Emma in the administration of the kingdom.

In order to finally obtain the king's forgiveness, he gave Hardicanute an extraordinary gift. Florence of Worcester tells: "Godwin to obtain the kings favor presented him with a galley of admirable workmanship, with a gilded figurehead, rigged with the best materials, and manned with eighty chosen warriors splendidly armed. Every one of them had on each arm a golden bracelet weighing six ounces and wore a triple coat of mail and a helmet partly gilt, and a sword with gilded hilt girt to his side and a Danish battle-ax inlaid with gold and silver hanging from his left shoulder; in his left hand he bore a shield, the boss and studs of which were also gilt and in his right hand a lance, called in English tongue "atagar". Moreover, he made oath to the king with almost all the chief men and grater thanes in England that it was not by his counsel or at his instance that his brother's eyes were put out, but he had only obeyed the commands of his lord king Harold."

Canute 3. Hardicanute's Death and Burial

Kong Hardicanute died in 1042 during a wedding of one of his men, literally with the beaker in his hand. Florence of Worcester tells: "Hardicanute, king of England, while he was present at a joyous feast given at a place called Lambeth by Osgod Clapa a man of great wealth on occasion of his giving the hand of his daughter Githa in marriage to Tovi surnamed Prudan, a noble and powerful Dane, full of health and merriment, with the bride and some others, fell down, by a sad mischange, while in the act of drinking and continued speechless until Thuesday the sixtht of ides of june, when he expired. His brother Edward was proclaimed king chiefly by the exertions of eal Godwin and Living bishop of Worcester. Edward was the son of Æthelred, who was the son of Edgar, who was the son of Edmund, who was the son of Alfred."

Anglo Saxon Chronicle for 1042 contributes further with the information that he fell to the ground with convulsions: "This year died King Hardacnute at Lambeth, as he stood drinking: he fell suddenly to the earth with a tremendous struggle."

Hardicanute's grave in Winchester Cathedral

Hardicanute's grave in Winchester Cathedral.

By first glance it may sound like a stroke apart from the convulsions. But it is not usual that 24-years young men get brain haemorrhage. The author knows of no examples.

Several Danish Viking kings died very early, and it has been suggested that they suffered from the hereditary heart disease Brugada's syndrome, which manifests as a failure of the heart's electrical signals. It comes rather suddenly, and the first symptom is in most cases death, so it is also the only symptom. Well-trained young footballers can with no symptoms in advance fall dead on the pitch, as we have seen on television. But we do not see that they have convulsions, as Anglo Saxon Chronicle tells of Hardeknud, they quietly sit down as they suddenly become tired.

Many believe that there was more than wine in the cup, which Hardicanute had in hand.

Links and Literature

Olav den helliges saga Heimskringla
Roskildekrøniken Heimskringla
Knytlinge Saga Heimskringla
Adam af Bremens Kirkehistorie Heimskringla
Svend Aggesen Heimskringla
Kong Knuts Liv og Gerninger Heimskringla - også kaldet Encomium Emmæ Reginæ.
Heimskringla og andre sagaer Nettsted olhov.net
Return of the Danes I: Unready From Dot to Domesday - English History
Encomium Emmæ Reginæ Allistair Campell - Royal Historical Society.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Eleventh Century Yale Law School
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Chris Butterworth
Full text of "The Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon Archive.org
Danish England From Dot to Doomsday
The chronicle of Florence of Worcester with the two continuations Archive.org
Danmarks Historie 3 - Peter Sawyer - Gyldendal og Politikken.
Snorres Heimskringla - Nationaludgave Oslo 1930.
Saxo Grammaticus oversat af Fr. Winkel Horn - Sesam.
Illustreret Danmarkshistorie for Folket 8. del af Claus Deluran - Ekstrabladets Forlag.
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