Canute the Great: the Anglo-Scandinavian ruler

The relationship between England and Denmark dates back several hundred years, in particular due to the ties created during the Viking age and the reign of King Canute (Cnut) the Great.

Canute the Great (995-1035) is one of the most famous Danish Viking Kings, reigning his great Anglo-Scandinavian kingdom of England (1016-1034), Denmark (1018-1034), Norway (1028-1034) and parts of Sweden at the end of the Viking Era. The son of King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark, Canute was first elected king of England in 1014 by the Danish army, however this was overruled by the English nobility who instead sent for ex-king Ethelred. Canute was forced back to his native Denmark, and it was not until the autumn of 1016, when Ethelred had passed and his son Edmund had succeeded him as King of England, that Canute returned and won the throne. After this victory, Canute spent most of his time as a king residing in England. 

Bork harbour

King Canute and the Danegeld

The Danegeld famously kept the Vikings from plundering and ravaging the land and eventually became a permanent land-tax. During his reign, King Canute used up the remaining Danegeld in order to pay off 40 ships from his very own Danish invasion fleet.

Viking ship

King Canute and The Waves

Legend has it that Canute the Great once placed his throne by the seashore, stating that his feet would not get wet, as he could stop the tide from coming in. It is claimed that his reasoning behind this was to prove to his courtiers that only God had the power to do so, and he was nothing but a humble human. King, but human nonetheless.  

Viking play

The death and legacy of King Canute

Canute the Great died in Shaftesbury, England, on 12 November 1035. His bones now remain in Winchester Cathedral, England.  When King Canute passed, his kingdom was split between Harold in England, Harthacnut in Denmark and Magnus Olafsson in Norway. However as they soon passed, it is said that with the death of Canute the Great, so died the Viking Era. The Viking Era came to a final end in the year 1066. 

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Canute the Great's family tree

Great-grandfather: Gorm the Old

Grandfather: Harald Bluetooth

Father: Sweyn Forkbeard

Mother: Unknown

Sons and successors: Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut

Wife: Emma of Normandy 

Denmark's Viking heritage

Experience Denmark's Viking heritage

Immerse yourself into the rich Danish Viking heritage. Find Denmark's Viking attractions and learn about Danish Viking traditions.