Family tree for King Canute the Great showing:
King Canute was born in 995 the second son of Sweyn Forkbeard and Gunhilda. His elder brother Harald had been born in 994.
When Canute was a child his father made repeated raids on England. Sweyn accepted ever increasing Danegeld payments from King Aethelred the Unready to stop the attacks.
In 1002, King Aethelred ordered the massacre of all Danes living in England. He hoped this would prevent any Danes that had settled in England from rising in support of the raiders. However, Sweyn Forkbeard’s sister was among those killed and after the massacre he intensified the raids on England in retaliation.
Path to the Throne
By 1013 Sweyn, supported by Canute, had conquered most of England and declared himself King of England. Aethelred the Unready fled to Normandy with his family.
Sweyn died in 1014 and declared Canute King of England. However, the Witan did not support his choice and called for Aethelred to return as King. Canute was angry and vowed he would take the throne of England.
King Aethelred died in 1016 and his son, Edmund Ironside succeeded as King. Canute invaded and made steady gains. After the Battle of Assandun, 18th October 1016, Edmund Ironside agreed to share the rule with Canute. When Edmund died on 30th November 1016 Canute became King of England.
Marriage and Family
In 1013 Canute married Aelfgifu, daughter of the former ealdorman of Northumbria. It is likely that they were married by the Danish handfasting ceremony which was not recognised by the Church. They had two children Sweyn and Harold, known as Harefoot.
King of England, Denmark and Norway
In 1018, Canute became King of Denmark succeeding his brother Harald and the following year travelled to Denmark to claim the kingdom before returning to England. In 1026, Denmark was facing attacks from Norway and Sweden. Canute sent English forces to support the Danes and they secured victory over the Norwegians and Swedes at the Battle of Helgea.
In 1028, Canute became King of Norway. He was now King of three countries and was styled Canute the Great. He appointed his son Sweyn regent of Norway and his son Harthacnut as regent in Denmark.
King Canute and the Sea
Henry of Huntingdon was the first person to record the story of King Canute and the sea in the twelfth century. His story states Canute was sat on a throne at the edge of the shore. He commanded the waves to stay back so that he did not get wet. When the tide continued to come in Canute said that it showed that no mortal could command that which was directed by God.
King Canute the Great died on 12th November 1035. He was succeeded by his son, Harthacnut but when Harthacnut was unable to leave Denmark, the throne was taken by his son from his first marriage, Harold Harefoot who became Harold I.
First published 2017; updated and republished Jul 27 2020 @ 3:15 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2017 – 2022). King Canute the Great Family Tree 995-1035. Available: https://www.treesofblue.com/king-cnut-the-great-995-1035. Last accessed May 26th, 2022