Danish England

After the death of Edmund 'Ironside', on 30th November, 1016, Cnut, son of Swein 'Forkbeard', became king of all England.  Note 01

In 1017, he divided England into four districts. Taking charge of Wessex himself, Thorkell 'the Tall' was given control of East Anglia, the Norwegian earl, Eric of Hlathir (Cnut's brother-in-law), retained Northumbria (Cnut had given charge of Northumbria to Eric in the previous year), and Eadric 'Streona' was allocated all of Mercia. Later, however, the perfidious Eadric was executed, in London, along with three other prominent English nobles.  Note 02

Edmund's last surviving full brother, Eadwig (their mother was Æthelred's first wife), was banished. Cnut sought him out and had him killed.  Note 03

Not mentioned by the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle', Edmund's young sons, Edmund and Edward, were exiled, but, finding refuge in Hungary, they managed to avoid their uncle Eadwig's fate.  Note 04

In July 1017, Cnut married Emma, Æthelred's widow. It seems reasonable to assume that Cnut's motive was to prevent Emma's brother, Duke Richard II of Normandy, pursuing a claim to the English throne on behalf of his nephews - Emma's sons by Æthelred, Edward and Alfred. Whether the marriage formed the basis of a formal Anglo-Norman alliance is, however, the subject of debate.  Note 05

Thietmar of Merseburg mentions that, in the spring of 1018, Cnut:

"... put to sword - thank God - the crew of thirty ships of pirates and thus he, who had earlier been an invader together with his father, and a sworn destroyer of the country, now became its sole defender ..."

Before the end of the year, Cnut's rule was sufficiently comfortable that he was able to dismiss most of his invasion force:

1018  "This year London contributed ten thousand five hundred, and the rest of England seventy-two thousand pounds, for the pay of the Danish army; forty ships of their fleet remained with king Canute [Cnut], and the rest returned to Denmark. The English and the Danes agreed at Oxford to live under king Eadgar's law."

Noted by Symeon of Durham, the Scots' king, Malcolm II, in cahoots with Owen 'the Bald' of Strathclyde, inflicted a defeat on Northumbrian forces: The Battle of Carham.

There is actually not a great deal of reported incident in Cnut's reign - which can probably be regarded as an indicator of his competence as king - and, with most of that incident revolving around events abroad, the record preserved in England was very sketchy.

1019  "This year went King Cnut with nine ships to Denmark, where he abode all the winter."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'

The generally held belief is that Cnut's brother, Harald, king of Denmark, had recently died, and that the motive for Cnut's 1019-20 expedition was to assure his own succession to the Danish throne.  Note 06

1020  "This year came King Cnut back to England. And there was at Easter a great council at Cirencester; then Ealdorman Æthelweard was outlawed. And this year went the king and Earl Thurkyl [Thorkell] to Ashingdon, and Archbishop Wulfstan [of York], and other bishops, and also abbots, and many monks; and they consecrated the minster at Ashingdon."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript D

It is clear that Thorkell was Cnut's right-hand man (it is probable he acted as regent in England whilst Cnut was in Denmark). In 1021, however:

"Just before the feast-day of St.Martin [11th November], Canute, king of the English and Danes, banished from England the oft-named Earl Turkill [Thorkell], and his wife Edgitha [Eadgyth]."
Florence of Worcester

The cause of the rift between Cnut and Thorkell is not known. The following year, the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' notes that Cnut "went out with his ships to the Isle of Wight". Sir Frank Stenton, in 'Anglo-Saxon England', suggests that this "... is best explained as an attempt to protect the southern coast of England against a raid by Thorkell and his companions."  Be that as it may, Cnut must have travelled to Denmark to meet Thorkell, and they reached a remarkable agreement:

1023  "This year returned King Cnut to England; and Thurkyl and he were reconciled. He committed Denmark and his son to the care of Thurkyl, whilst he took Thurkyl's son with him to England."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript C

Later in 1023, the body of Ælfheah was moved from St.Paul's, London, to Canterbury. Ælfheah's relics were disinterred, on the 8th of June, and transported to Rochester:

"There on the third day came the Lady Imma [Emma] with her royal son Hardacnute [Harthacnut]; 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 [i.e 11th June]."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript D

Harthacnut was the only son of Cnut and Emma, so, possibly, it was a son by Cnut's earlier liaison with Ælfgifu of Northampton who was entrusted to Thorkell, or, possibly, Cnut had arranged to send Harthacnut to Thorkell at some future time. Opinion is divided whether the terms of Cnut and Thorkell's reconciliation were forced on Cnut by the strength of Thorkell's support in Denmark. At any rate, Thorkell fades from history at this point.  Note 07

From c.1000, Earl Eric of Hlathir had ruled in Norway under Danish suzerainty. In 1015, whilst Eric was in England, Olaf Haraldsson (known as Olaf 'the Thick') established himself as king of Norway (Olaf II). We are now entering a chronological minefield, however, according to the timescale suggested by Snorri Sturluson, in the 'Heimskringla', it was in the spring of 1025 that Cnut sent envoys to Olaf Haraldsson. Cnut offered not to invade Norway if Olaf agreed to rule as his vassal, and paid tribute, in the same way as Earl Eric had. Not surprisingly, Olaf sent a message back to Cnut rejecting his proposal - vowing to "defend Norway with battle-axe and sword as long as life is given me". Expecting the worst, Olaf sought an alliance with his brother-in-law, King Anund of Sweden. In the autumn, Cnut ("with a numerous army") travelled to Denmark. He was told that messengers had been travelling back and forth between Olaf and Anund, "and that some great plans must be concerting between them". Cnut sent his own messengers to Anund, in an attempt to prevent him getting involved. Anund did not, however, respond favourably to Cnut's overtures, and it was obvious that Anund "was most inclined to a friendship with King Olaf". So, in the summer of 1026, Cnut and his army returned to England. Cnut's brother-in-law, Earl Ulf Sprakalegson, was left as Cnut's regent, and guardian of Harthacnut. (Presumably, at some time since 1023, Thorkell had died, and been replaced by Ulf). Snorri says that as soon as Cnut had departed, Ulf persuaded the Thing to declare Harthacnut king of Denmark. Ulf claimed that that was what Cnut desired, and produced a forged letter to back up his claim. Snorri asserts that Emma was the brains behind the scheme, and that it was her who had provided the falsified document.

Cnut is known to have been in Rome for the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad II, at Easter 1027. A letter, to his English subjects (quoted by both Florence of Worcester and William of Malmesbury), was written by Cnut just after he had left Rome (Note 08):

"Be it known to you, therefore, that returning by the same way that I went, I am now going to Denmark, through the advice of all the Danes, to make peace and firm treaty with those nations who were desirous, had it been possible, to deprive me both of life and sovereignty; this, however, they were not able to perform; God, who by his kindness preserves me in my kingdom and in my honour, and destroys the power of all my adversaries, bringing their strength to nought. Moreover, when I have established peace with the surrounding nations, and put all our sovereignty here in the east in tranquil order, so that there shall be no fear of war or enmity on any side, I intend coming to England as early in the summer as I shall be able to get my fleet prepared."

Manuscripts D and E of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' record Cnut's journey to Rome:

"This year went King Cnut to Rome ..."

No more detail is provided, and the entry is assigned to is 1031.

Florence of Worcester, William of Malmesbury etc. follow the date given by the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' - Florence and William being happy to consign Cnut's letter to 1031. Although it can be argued that Cnut made two visits to Rome, the consensus is that there was only one, and that it was in 1027.

In Manuscript D, the entry continues:

"... and as soon as he returned home, he went to Scotland; and the king of the Scots submitted to him, and became his man, but he held his allegiance a little while only."

Whilst in Manuscript E it continues:

"... and in the same year he went to Scotland; and Malcolm, king of the Scots, submitted to him, and two other kings, Mælbæth and Iehmarc."

From a reference in the 'Heimskringla', it seems possible that Cnut's forces advanced as far as the Tay. Snorri Sturluson's cites as his source Sighvat 'the Skald' (bard to Olaf Haraldsson). Sighvat had, apparently, become friendly with Cnut's envoys, and they had told him:

"It is but lately that two kings came to him [Cnut] from the North, from Fife in Scotland, and he gave up his wrath against them, and allowed them to retain all the lands they had possessed before, and gave them besides very valuable gifts."

In Snorri's chronological scheme of things, Cnut's envoys had told this to Sighvat in the spring of 1025, which would tend to place the invasion of Scotland in 1024!

Snorri quotes a verse of Sighvat:
From the North land, the midst of Fife,
Two kings came begging peace and life;
Craving from Canute life and peace -
May Olaf's good luck never cease!
May he, our gallant Norse king, never
Be brought, like these, his head to offer
As ransom to a living man
For the broad lands his sword has won.

Staying with Snorri's story, and timeframe, for the moment - the summer of 1027 saw the combined fleets of Olaf and Anund harrying Denmark, intent on conquest. Harthacnut and Ulf (who had, of course, contrived to have Harthacnut declared king of Denmark) didn't believe that they had sufficient force to oppose the two kings, so they awaited the arrival of Cnut. Cnut, accompanied by Earl Hakon, son of Earl Eric, duly arrived with a large fleet (Note 09). Harthacnut begged his father's forgiveness (he couldn't have been more that nine years old), which was readily given. Rather than face Cnut himself, Ulf despatched his own son (the same age as Harthacnut) to act as his emissary. Cnut sent the boy back, with the message that Ulf should "assemble his men and ships, and come to him, and then they would talk of reconciliation". Cnut heard that Olaf and Anund were ravaging the Danish province of Scania (Skåne, in Sweden), and sailed against them ("He had a War-force which was one half greater than that of both the kings together."). There was a battle at the mouth of the Holy River (Helge å), in which Cnut was defeated. Norse tradition, represented by Snorri Sturluson, and Danish tradition, represented by Saxo Grammaticus, differ considerably over the details of the battle. Snorri says that Cnut fell into a trap whereby a dam, constructed for the purpose, was broken, and cascaded water and debris onto Cnut's ships and men, who were moored in the river mouth. Earl Ulf arrived with his ships, the implication being that he was coming to Cnut's aid, and Olaf and Anund made a hasty exit before Cnut could regroup. In contrast, Saxo depicts Ulf as the engineer behind the alliance against Cnut. Many of Cnut's men perished when Ulf enticed them to cross, en masse, a bridge which they had constructed, and which collapsed under their weight. Both traditions, however, agree that, soon after, Cnut had Ulf killed. Manuscript E of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' puts it beyond doubt that Ulf did, indeed, oppose Cnut:

1025  "This year went King Cnut to Denmark with a fleet to the holm by the Holy River; where against him came Ulf and Eglaf [Eilaf], with a very large force both by land and sea, from Sweden. There were very many men lost on the side of King Cnut, both of Danish and English; and the Swedes had possession of the field of battle."  Note 10
Scandinavian tradition places the battle of the Holy River in 1027 and the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' places it in 1025. Influential historian, Sir Frank Stenton, in his 'Anglo-Saxon England', states, giving no reason, that the battle took place in 1026.  Note 11

Although Cnut had clearly suffered a reverse at the Holy River, he had succeeded in thwarting the plans of Olaf and Anund, who parted company.

1027  "News came to Canute, king of the English and Danes, that the Norwegians held Olaf their king in contempt, on account of his simplicity and meekness, his justice and piety; so he sent much gold and silver to certain of them, and importuned them to renounce and depose Olaf, and submit themselves to him [Cnut], and suffer him to reign over them. They greedily accepted his presents, and ordered word to be sent back that they were ready to receive him whenever he chose to come."
Florence of Worcester
"King Canute had always spies in King Olaf's army, who entered into conversation with many of his men, offering them presents and favour on account of King Canute. Many allowed themselves to be seduced, and gave promises of fidelity, and to be King Canute's men, and bring the country into his hands if he came to Norway. This was apparent, afterwards, of many who at first kept it concealed. Some took at once money bribes, and others were promised money afterwards; and a great many there were who had got great presents of money from him before: for it may be said with truth of King Canute, that every man who came to him, and who he thought had the spirit of a man and would like his favour, got his hands full of gifts and money. On this account he was very popular, although his generosity was principally shown to foreigners, and was greatest the greater distance they came from."
'Heimskringla'
1028  "This year went King Cnut from England to Norway with fifty ships manned with English thegns, and drove King Olaf from the land, which he entirely secured to himself."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'

Snorri Sturluson tells how Cnut gathered his forces in Denmark, and then proceeded "with his whole fleet to Norway". Olaf offered no challenge, and Cnut was accepted as king without fighting a battle. Olaf left Norway, finding refuge in Russia:

"When King Canute had laid the whole of Norway under his authority, he called together a numerous Thing, both of his own people and of the people of the country; and at it he made proclamation, that he made his relation Earl Hakon the governor-in-chief of all the land in Norway that he had conquered in this expedition. In like manner he led his son Hardaknut [Harthacnut] to the high-seat at his side, gave him the title of king, and therewith the whole Danish dominion."  Note 12
'Heimskringla'

Cnut returned to England in spring 1029. Florence of Worcester says that, "after the feast of St.Martin [i.e. 11th November]", he banished Hakon:

"... sending him away under pretence of an embassy: for he feared that the said earl would either kill him or deprive him of the kingdom."

Manuscript C of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' notes that, in 1030, Hakon ("the doughty earl") died at sea. Florence of Worcester adds:

"... but some say that he was slain in the island of Orkney."

In the 'Heimskringla', Snorri Sturluson writes that Hakon had left Norway in the summer of 1029:

"... and went to England, and when he came there was well received by the king. The earl had a bride in England, and he travelled to conclude this marriage, and as he intended holding his wedding in Norway, he came to procure those things for it in England which it was difficult to get in Norway. In autumn he made ready for his return, but it was somewhat late before he was clear for sea; but at last he set out. Of his voyage all that can be told is, that the vessel was lost, and not a man escaped. Some relate that the vessel was seen north of Caithness in the evening in a heavy storm, and the wind blowing out of Pentland Firth. They who believe this report say the vessel drove out among the breakers of the ocean; but with certainty people knew only that Earl Hakon was missing in the ocean, and nothing belonging to the ship ever came to land. The same autumn some merchants came to Norway, who told the tidings that were going through the country of Earl Hakon being missing; and all men knew that he neither came to Norway nor to England that autumn, so that Norway that winter was without a head."

Cnut despatched his son, Swein, under the guardianship of his mother, Ælfgifu of Northampton, to Norway, with instructions to:

"... take that kingdom under his charge, and assume, at the same time, the title of king of Norway."

Meanwhile, news of Earl Hakon's death had reached Olaf Haraldsson. In a doomed bid to recapture his kingdom, Olaf raised a small army and returned to Norway:

I grieve to think the king had brought
Too small a force for what he sought:
He held his gold too fast to bring
The numbers that could make him king.
The foemen, more than two to one,
The victory by numbers won;
And this alone, as I've heard say,
Against King Olaf turned the day.
Sighvat 'the Skald', quoted in the 'Heimskringla'
1030  "This year returned King Olaf into Norway; but the people gathered together against him, and fought against him; and he was there slain."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscripts D and E
"King Olaf fell on Wednesday, the 29th of July. It was near mid-day when the two armies met, and the battle began before half-past one, and before three the king fell."
'Heimskringla'

While Olaf was meeting his end at the battle of Stiklestad (about 56 miles/90 km north-east of Trondheim), Swein and his mother had already arrived at Viken (Oslo Fjord). As they progressed through Norway, Swein "was taken to be king at every Law-thing in the country". However, Snorri Sturluson notes, ominously, that:

"King Svein [Swein] introduced new laws in many respects into the country, partly after those which were in Denmark, and in part much more severe... And to all this was added, that Danes should enjoy so much consideration in Norway, that one witness of them should invalidate ten of Northmen.  When these laws were promulgated the minds of the people were instantly raised against them, and murmurs were heard among them."
Henry of Huntingdon is the earliest source of a popular tale: "... when at the summit of his power, he [Cnut] ordered a seat to be placed for him on the sea-shore when the tide was coming in; thus seated, he shouted to the flowing sea, "Thou, too art subject to my command, as the land on which I am seated is mine; and no one has ever resisted my commands with impunity. I command you, then, not to flow over my land, nor presume to wet the feet and the robe of your lord." The tide, however, continuing to rise as usual, dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leaped backwards, saying: "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." From thenceforth King Canute never wore his crown of gold, but placed it for a lasting memorial on the image of our Lord affixed to a cross, to the honour of God the almighty King ..."  Note 13
The 'Knytlinga Saga': "Knútr [Cnut] was exceptionally well-built and strong, and the handsomest of men except that his nose was thin, stunted, and somewhat crooked. He had a fair complexion, and a fine, thick head of hair. His eyes were better than those of other men, in the sense that he was both fair-eyed and keen-eyed. He was a generous man, a great warrior, valiant, victorious, and a man of great good fortune in everything to do with power. He was not, however, very bright; and it could be said of King Sveinn, and of Haraldr and Gormr before, that they too were not exactly noted for their wisdom."

The rule of Swein and, particularly, his mother, was deeply resented in Norway. The late, pious, King Olaf seems to have become the focus of an outburst of nationalism, and he soon became venerated as a saint. In 1034, a Norwegian deputation travelled to Novgorod, where Magnus, the ten-year-old son of St.Olaf, was living at the court of Yaroslav 'the Wise'. Magnus was invited to return to Norway, and press his claim to the throne. In 1035, with an army raised in Sweden, Magnus entered Norway. Swein was unable to gather sufficient force to resist him, and was obliged to flee to Denmark. Snorri Sturluson says that Harthacnut immediately offered to share the rule of Denmark with Swein, and that Swein accepted. (Presumably, Swein was accompanied to Denmark by his mother, but Snorri makes no reference to her). In the autumn of 1035, Magnus 'the Good' was established as king throughout Norway (Magnus I).

Through Sweden's dirty roads the throng
Followed the king in spearmen strong.
Svein doth fly, in truth afraid,
And partly by his men betrayed;
Flying to Denmark o'er the sea,
He leaves the land quite clear to thee.
Thjodulf 'the Skald', quoted in the 'Heimskringla'

On 12th November 1035, at Shaftesbury, Cnut died (forty years old, says Snorri Sturluson). He was buried in the Old Minster, Winchester.

"... all who had heard of his death were moved, and especially his own subjects, of whom the majority would have wished to die with him, if this would not have been at variance with the divine plan.  The Lady Emma, his queen, mourned together with the natives, poor and rich lamented together, the bishops and clerics wept with the monks and nuns; but let the rejoicing in the kingdom of heaven be as great as was the mourning in the world!"

Harthacnut, the only son from Cnut's marriage to Emma, was clearly Cnut's intended heir. However, with hostilities between Norway and Denmark looming, Harthacnut was in no position to travel to England.

"And soon after his [Cnut's] decease, there was a meeting of all the witan at Oxford; and Leofric, the earl, and almost all the thegns north of the Thames, and the lithsmen at London, chose Harold for chief [i.e. not king, but regent] of all England, for himself and his brother Hardacnute who was in Denmark. And Godwine the earl and all the chief men of Wessex withstood it as long as they could; but they were unable to effect anything in opposition to it. And then it was decreed that Ælfgifu [i.e. Emma], Hardacanute's mother, should dwell at Winchester with the king's, her son's, housecarls, and hold all Wessex in his power; and Godwine the earl was their man."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript E

Harold (known as Harold 'Harefoot') was another son of Cnut and Ælfgifu of Northampton, though (as with Swein - who died during the winter of 1035/6, in Denmark) his parentage was under suspicion.  Note 14

Leofric and Godwine were two English magnates who had prospered under Cnut. Leofric, earl of Mercia, was the son of Leofwine, ealdorman of the Hwicce. In his purge of 1017, Cnut had executed Leofric's brother, an ealdorman, and promoted Leofric in his place - "and afterwards took him very high into favour", notes Florence of Worcester. The antecedents of Godwine, earl of Wessex, are less certain. His father was one Wulfnoth (probably the Sussex thegn who turned to piracy, with twenty ships of the English fleet, in 1009), and it is conjectured that his grandfather was Æthelmær, ealdorman of the Western Shires. Before the end of 1018 Godwine had received an earldom ("Godwine dux" features in the witness lists of charters from that year). He married Gytha, sister of Ulf Sprakalegson. Following the fall from grace of Thorkell 'the Tall', Godwine appears to have become Cnut's senior earl - from 1023, he heads the list of lay magnates in Cnut's charters.  Note 15

The compromise reached at Oxford produced an inherently unstable situation. England was, in effect, divided. Though Harold had been elected to rule the whole country as regent, Wessex (i.e. England south of the Thames) was held, by Emma and Godwine, on behalf of the absent Harthacnut. Harold immediately despatched troops to Emma, in Winchester:

"... and ordered to be taken from her all the best treasure that she could not hold, which King Cnut possessed; and she nevertheless abode there continually within the city as long as she could."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscripts C and D

Clearly, Harold wanted to be king of all England, and his mother, Ælfgifu of Northampton, worked to rally support for his cause.  Note 16

Emma's sons by Æthelred, Edward and Alfred, had, since 1013, been based in Normandy (Note 17). The Norman chronicler, William of Jumièges writes that, after Cnut's death, Edward:

"... set sail as soon as possible with 40 ships filled with armed men and crossed the sea to land at Southampton where he met a great host of English gathered against him. He at once engaged them and slew a large number. Although the victor, he withdrew to the ships with his men, for he saw that he could not obtain the English kingdom without a larger force, and putting the fleet about he returned to Normandy with rich booty."

"Meanwhile", says William, Alfred ("with a considerable force") went to the port of Wissant, from where he crossed the Channel to Dover. Though Edward's expedition to England was not recorded by contemporary English chroniclers, that of his (apparently, younger) brother, Alfred, was. There are differences of detail between the various accounts of Alfred's expedition, essentially, however, once ashore, Alfred's party was intercepted by Earl Godwine, whose allegiance had swung in favour of Harold. Alfred was taken captive, and most of his companions executed. He was put onboard a ship, his eyes were put out, and he was delivered to the monks of Ely - where he soon died from his injuries. From an Ely calender, Alfred's death can be dated to 5th February 1037, which suggests he had arrived in England towards the end of 1036: The Death of Alfred.

By the end of 1037, Harold had achieved his ambition:

1037  "This year men chose Harold king over all; and forsook Harthacnut, because he was too long in Denmark; and then drove out his mother Queen Ælfgyfe [Emma], without any pity, against the raging winter! Then came she to Bruges, beyond sea; and Earl Baldwine well received her there, and kept her there as long as she had need."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscripts C and D

In the 'Encomium Emmae Reginae', Emma was not driven out, but made a "decision" to go into exile. Once settled comfortably in Bruges, Emma, says the Encomiast, sent for her son, Edward. He came to her, but, though having sympathy for her situation, said he was unable to help her "since the English nobles had sworn no oath to him". Having recommended that she should seek help from Harthacnut, Edward returned to Normandy. Emma sent messengers to Harthacnut, informing him of Alfred's murder, and begging him to come to her as soon as possible. When he received his mother's message, Harthacnut:

"... burned in his heart to go and avenge his brother's injuries, nay more, to obey his mother's message."
A treaty between Harthacnut and Magnus had been concluded, freeing Harthacnut to undertake an expedition to England. Snorri Sturluson explains the terms of the treaty: "... the peace was to be a brotherly union under oath to keep the peace towards each other to the end of their lives; and if one of them should die without leaving a son, the longest liver should succeed to the whole land [i.e. both Denmark and Norway] and people."

The Encomiast reports that Harthacnut assembled a large fleet ("the greatest forces he could of ships and soldiers"). With a detachment of just ten ships, he sailed to Bruges.

1039  "This year also [Note 18] came Harthacnut to Bruges, where his mother was."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript C
1040  "This year King Harold died at Oxford, on the sixteenth before the kalends of April [17th March], and he was buried at Westminster. And he ruled England four years and sixteen weeks."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript E

Messengers took the news of Harold's death to Harthacnut and Emma:

"... reporting furthermore that the English nobles did not wish to oppose him, but to rejoice together with him in jubilation of every kind; therefore they begged him not to scorn to return to the kingdom which was his by hereditary right ... Encouraged by these things Hardecnut [Harthacnut] and his mother decided to return to the shores of the ancestral realm."
'Encomium Emmae Reginae'
The Encomiast claims the English nobility were so anxious Harthacnut should agree to be king that they sent a second delegation to swear allegiance to both him and his mother.
"... they sent after Harthacnut to Bruges, supposing they did well; and he came hither with 60 ships before midsummer... he accomplished nothing kingly during his whole reign. He ordered the dead Harold to be dragged up and thrown into a fen."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscripts C and D
Florence of Worcester says that Harthacnut sent Archbishop Ælfric (of York), Earl Godwine, Stir (his major-domo), Eadric (his treasurer), Thrond (his executioner) and "others of high station" to London, with orders to disinter Harold's body, throw it in a fen, and then: "... to take it out and fling it into the river Thames. A short time afterwards it was picked up by a fisherman, and being immediately taken to the Danes, was honourably buried by them in their cemetery at London."
"... he [Harthacnut] ordered that all England should pay eight marks to every rower in his fleet, and twelve marks to every helmsman; this was so heavy a tax that scarcely any one could pay it. So he became thoroughly hated by all those who had previously been most anxious for his coming."
Florence of Worcester

Florence describes how Archbishop Ælfric ("and certain others") accused Godwine and Lyfing, bishop of Worcester, of being responsible for Alfred's death. Harthacnut deprived Lyfing of his bishopric (giving it to Ælfric). He later reinstated Lyfing "who had appeased him". Godwine pacified Harthacnut by presenting him with a magnificently equipped warship:

"And besides this, in company with nearly all the chief men and thegns in England, he made oath to the king that it was not by his counsel or desire that the king's brother had been deprived of his eyes, but that he had only obeyed the commands of king Harold his master."

In 1041, Florence of Worcester reports that Harthacnut:

"... sent his housecarls over all the kingdom to collect the tribute which he had imposed. But the citizens of Worcester and the Worcestershire men rose in rebellion, and on Monday, the 4th of May, slew two of them, named Feader and Turstan [Thurstan], who had hidden themselves under the roof of one of the towers of the monastery of that city."

Furious, Harthacnut ordered every earl in England, and most of his housecarls, to Worcester:

"... with orders to slay all the inhabitants if they could, to plunder and burn the city, and lay waste the country round about. On the 12th of November they began to lay waste the city and province, and continued for four days ..."

Most of the locals, however, had fled the area. Some had fortified Bevere island, in the Severn, where they defended themselves so well that they were allowed to return to their homes in peace:

"But on the fifth day the enemy burned the city, and they all returned home with great booty, and then the king's anger was appeased."

Still in 1041:

"... came Eadward [Edward], his [Harthacnut's] brother on the mother's side, the son of King Æthelred, who had been driven from this land for many years: but he was nevertheless sworn in as king, and abode in his brother's court while he lived. [Note 19] In this year also Harthacnut betrayed Earl Eadulf [Eadwulf], under the mask of friendship."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscripts C and D

Eadwulf (a son of Earl Uhtred) held sway in Bernicia (northern Northumbria - bounded by the Tees and the Tweed). Symeon of Durham notes that:

"... when he [Eadwulf] had gone to be reconciled in friendship with Hardecnut, he was put to death by Siward ..."
The Dane, Siward, at some stage, replaced Eric of Hlathir as Cnut's appointed Earl of Northumbria. Presumably the native ruling dynasty in Bernicia had operated in a subservient role to both Eric and Siward. At any rate, with Eadwulf out of the way, Siward was undisputed earl of the whole of Northumbria. He did, however, form an alliance with the Bernician dynasty, by marrying a daughter of Eadwulf's brother (and predecessor) Ealdred.  In his 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis' (History of the Church of Durham), Symeon of Durham tells how, apparently in late 1039, the Scots, this time under King Duncan I, had, once more, laid siege to Durham. Duncan's "countless multitude of troops" were, however, soundly beaten, and "put to a disorderly flight". This Northumbrian victory took place during Eadwulf's tenure, since (back with the 'Historia Regum') Symeon of Durham says that Eadwulf's death occurred "in the third year after" he had succeeded Ealdred. Symeon also notes that Eadwulf: "... being puffed up with arrogance, very cruelly pillaged the Britons [of Strathclyde] ..."  Siward appears to have maintained the westward pressure, and, before his death (1055), the territory south of the Solway, annexed by Strathclyde in the early-10th century, had been reclaimed for Northumbria.  Note 20

The 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' for 1042:

"This year died Harthacnut as he stood drinking: he fell suddenly to the earth with a tremendous struggle; but those who were nigh at hand took him up; and he spoke not a word afterwards, but expired on the sixth before the ides of June [8th June]. And all people then received Eadward as king, as was his natural right."
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscripts C and D
"This year died King Hardacnut at Lambeth, on the sixth before the ides of June: and he was king over all England two years wanting ten days; and he is buried in the Old Minster at Winchester with King Cnute his father....
An addition in Manuscript F reads: "And his mother, for his soul, gave to the New Minster the head of St.Valentine the martyr."
.... And before he was buried, all people chose Eadward for king at London: may he hold it the while that God shall grant it to him!"
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' Manuscript E
Translations:
Gospatric's Writ by F.E. Harmer
Ęthelstan's Will by Michael Swanton
'Vita Ędwardi Regis' by Frank Barlow
Lifris 'Vita Cadoci' by A.W. Wade-Evans
Snorri Sturluson 'Heimskringla' by Samuel Laing
'Encomium Emmae Reginae' by Alistair Campbell
'Brut y Tywysogion' by Rev. John Williams ab Ithel
Roger of Wendover 'Flores Historiarum' by J.A. Giles
'Knytlinga Saga' by Hermann Palsson & Paul Edwards
Thietmar of Merseburg 'Chronicon' by Rafal T. Prinke
Saxo Grammaticus 'Gesta Danorium' by Eric Christiansen
Henry of Huntingdon 'Historia Anglorum' by Thomas Forester
William of Jumičges 'Gesta Normannorum Ducum' by R. Allen Brown
Adam of Bremen 'Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum' by F.J. Tschan
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' by Rev. James Ingram/Dr. J.A. Giles (unless otherwise stated)
Symeon of Durham 'Historia Regum' & 'Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis' by J. Stevenson
William of Malmesbury 'Gesta Regum Anglorum' by Rev. J. Sharpe, revised by Rev. J. Stevenson
Florence of Worcester 'Chronicon ex Chronicis' edited and in part translated by Joseph Stevenson