Notes to: Danish England
Florence of Worcester tells a story in which Cnut colludes with the nobles who were witness to the treaty, in which he and Edmund divided the rule of England, to falsify its terms. The implication being that Cnut reneged on an agreement that Edmund should be succeeded, in Wessex, by his brothers and sons.
The other three were: Northman, son of Ealdorman Leofwine, Æthelweard, son of Æthelmær the Stout, and Brihtric, son of Ælfheah of Devonshire. The 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' implies that these executions occurred before the 1st of August, however, Florence of Worcester states that it was on Christmas Day that Cnut gave the order.
Florence says that Cnut feared that Eadric would prove to be as treacherous to him as he had been to Æthelred and Edmund. Eadric was "slain in the palace", and Cnut "commanded his body to be thrown down from the walls and left unburied". Florence protests that the other victims "had committed no crimes".
The anonymous author of the 'Encomium Emmae Reginae', anxious to show Cnut in as sympathetic a light as possible, claims that all the victims were executed because they had not fought "faithfully without deceit" for Edmund - they were those "whom he [Cnut] knew to have been deceitful, and to have hesitated between the two sides with fraudulent tergiversation". Eadric approached Cnut expecting a reward for his treachery. Cnut called Earl Eric, and told him: "Pay this man what we owe him; that is to say, kill him, lest he play us false." Eric "raised his axe without delay, and cut off his head with a mighty blow, so that soldiers may learn from this example to be faithful, not faithless, to their kings".
William of Malmesbury relates that Eadric ("whom I cannot sufficiently revile"), during an argument, reproached Cnut: "I first deserted Edmund for your sake, and afterwards even despatched him in consequence of my engagements to you." (This is a reference to the story that it was Eadric who had engineered Edmund's death by having him stabbed in the bowels whilst answering a call of nature). Cnut was furious and instantly condemned Eadric to death: "... and immediately, that no tumult might be excited, the traitor was strangled in the chamber where they sat, and thrown out of the window into the river Thames, thus meeting the just reward of his perfidy."
Roger of Wendover says the reason for the argument was that Cnut had taken Mercia from Eadric. Roger also refers to a story told by Henry of Huntingdon. Henry, says that, having had Edmund killed, Eadric reported to Cnut. Cnut told Eadric: "For this deed I will exalt you, as it merits, higher than all the nobles of England." True to his word, Cnut had Eadric's head chopped off and "placed upon a pole on the highest battlement of the tower of London". The last word goes to Roger of Wendover: "But whether the traitor ended his life one way or the other, it does not much matter; since this is sufficiently clear, that he, who had deceived so many, by the just judgement of God met with condign punishment."
According to Florence of Worcester, Eadric had recommended one Æthelweard, to Cnut, as being a suitable candidate "to procure the death" of Eadwig. To get Cnut off his back, Æthelweard agreed to "seek him out and slay him if possible", but had no intention of doing so. Roger of Wendover claims that Æthelweard, "from affection for the youth [i.e. Eadwig], concealed him in a certain abbey, and thus saved him from death for a time".
Florence says that Eadwig "fell a victim to the treachery of those whom he had up to that time thought to be his best friends, and was in the same year, at the instance and command of king Canute [Cnut], unjustly slain". On the other hand, William of Malmesbury writes that, after being on the run ("both by sea and land"), "his [Eadwig's] body, as is often the case became affected by the anxiety of his mind, and he died in England, where he lay concealed after a clandestine return, and lies buried at Tavistock". (Incidentally, William of Malmesbury and Roger of Wendover refer to Eadwig as Edwin/Eadwin).
Manuscripts D and E of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' note that one Eadwig 'king of the ceorls' was also banished. The significance of the soubriquet 'king of the ceorls' remains a mystery, however, Florence of Worcester asserts that his banishment was also on the advice of Eadric, but that he and Cnut were later reconciled. Manuscript C places the expulsion of Eadwig 'king of the ceorls' in 1020.
Florence of Worcester claims that Eadric advised Cnut to have Edmund's sons murdered: "But thinking that his reputation would suffer if they were made away with in England, he [Cnut] sent them to the king of the Swedes to be put to death; who, although he was in league with him, would not comply with his request, but sent them to Salomon, king of the Hungarians, in order that they might be educated and their lives preserved."
The 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' is not explicit about where Emma was when Cnut ordered her "to be fetched to him as his wife", and Florence of Worcester adds nothing. Certainly, William of Malmesbury believed that she was in Normandy, and that Duke Richard "married his sister Emma" to Cnut.
The yarn told in the 'Encomium Emmae Reginae' serves the Encomiast's intention to airbrush Æthelred out of Emma's past. It places Emma in Normandy, and presents Cnut as being ignorant of her existence. In true fairy-tale fashion, Cnut commands that a search should be made "far and wide" to find him a suitable wife. Lo and behold, the ideal candidate is found in Normandy: "... a lady of the greatest nobility and wealth, but yet the most distinguished of the women of her time for delightful beauty and wisdom, inasmuch as she was a famous queen." This is, of course, Emma: "But she refused to become the bride of Cnut, 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. For she had information that the king had had sons by some other woman; so she, wisely providing for her offspring, knew in her wisdom how to make arrangements in advance, which were to be to their advantage." Cnut agrees to Emma's terms (at no time does the Encomiast mention any involvement of Richard in the negotiations) and they are married, to great rejoicing on both sides of the Channel.
Thietmar of Merseburg places Emma at the siege of London, in 1016, and William of Jumièges claims that Cnut "had queen Emma brought from the city, and after a few days married her according to the Christian rite, giving for her, before the whole army, her weight in gold and silver". Cnut and Emma were certainly not married during the siege of London, but it is entirely possible that she was there. She may have tried to return to Normandy. In the 'Knytlinga Saga' Emma is intercepted, by Cnut's men, just as she is about to set sail. She is brought before Cnut: "... and it was agreed by the king and his chieftains that he should take Queen Emma as his wife: so that was done."
Though the phraseology is not clear, in a letter written by Cnut to his English subjects, it appears that some Danish chiefs had been planning to renew hostilities against England: "Then I was informed that greater danger was approaching us than we liked at all; and then I went myself with the men who accompanied me to Denmark, from where the greatest injury had come to you, and with God's help I have taken measures so that never henceforth shall hostility reach you from there as long as you support me rightly and my life lasts."
The 'Encomium Emmae Reginae' contains the enthusiastic, though perhaps premature (depending on interpretation), assertion that: "When, however, King Cnut first obtained the absolute rule of the Danes, he was emperor of five kingdoms, for he had established claim to the rule of Denmark, England, Wales, Scotland and Norway."
William of Malmesbury claims that Thorkell, having sailed to Denmark on his banishment, had been "killed by the chiefs the moment he touched the Danish shore". William got this misguided notion from Osbern of Canterbury, writing c.1080. William also claims that Earl Eric of Hlathir was exiled by Cnut, and returned to his "native land". Eric's last appearance is in the witness list of a 1023 charter (S 960). Though not impossible, it seems unlikely that the banishment of such an eminent personage would avoid being noticed by the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle'. More likely, in essence anyway, is Snorri Sturluson's statement that Eric: "... intended to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but he died in England of a bloody flux."
Cnut doesn't say, directly, that he attended the coronation ("I have lately been to Rome, to pray for the forgiveness of my sins, for the safety of my dominions, and of the people under my government."), but details from the letter make it clear: "Be it known to you that, at the solemnity of Easter, a great assembly of nobles was present with pope John [John XIX, 1024-32] and the emperor Conrad, that is to say, all the princes of the nations from Mount Garganus to the neighbouring sea [i.e. North Sea]. All these received me with honour, and presented me with magnificent gifts."
Cnut had taken the opportunity to negotiate "with the emperor himself, and the sovereign pope, and the nobles who were there, concerning the wants of all my people, English as well as Danes". He secured reductions in tolls for traders and pilgrims travelling to Rome, and concessions from the pope over the "immense sum of money" demanded from "my archbishops" whilst in Rome receiving their pallium: "... all things which I requested for the advantage of my kingdom from the sovereign pope, and the emperor, and king Rodolf, and the other princes through whose territories our road to Rome is situated, they have freely granted and confirmed by oath, under the attestation of four archbishops, twenty bishops, and an innumerable multitude of dukes and nobles who were present ..."
Cnut appears to have maintained friendly relations with Conrad. A marriage between the emperor's son, Henry (the future Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor 1046-56), and Cnut's daughter (by Emma), Gunnhild, was negotiated. Conrad ceded Slesvig and territory north of the Eider River to Denmark as part of the settlement. In fact, Henry and Gunnhild were not married until 1036 - after Cnut's death. Gunnhild died in 1038. Conrad died the following year.
Snorri says that Cnut: "... had a dragon-ship, so large that it had sixty banks of rowers, and the head was gilt all over. Earl Hakon had another dragon of forty banks, and it also had a gilt figure-head. The sails of both were in stripes of blue, red, and green, and the vessels were painted all above the water-stroke; and all that belonged to their equipment was most splendid. They had also many other huge ships remarkably well fitted out, and grand."
It is possible that Eglaf was actually a copyists slip, and that Olaf was meant. Eilaf, however, was one of Cnut's earls. He appears in the witness lists of Cnut's charters, from the beginning, to 1024. Furthermore, he is identified as Ulf's brother in Thorney 'Liber Vitae', and it seems likely he is the same Eilaf who accompanied Thorkell and his brother, Hemming, on their expedition to England in 1009.
A single charter (S 1424) associates Eilaf with Gloucestershire, which makes it pretty certain that he is the same Eilaf who, as reported by the Welsh annals, devastated Dyfed (south-west Wales) in 1022. From the, late-11th century, 'Life' of St.Cadog (by Lifris), it appears that, en route, he raided Morgannwg (south-east Wales) as well: "... a certain sheriff of the English, very strong in troops, called by the name Eilaf, came to Glamorgan [Morgannwg] with a large company of followers to plunder and devastate." The attempts of his men ("a horde of plunderers, Danes and English") to steal the shrine of St.Cadog acquire legendary trappings.
Only recorded in the 'Brut y Tywysogion', Eilaf is said to have "fled into Germania" (by which Norway is probably meant) after Cnut's death.
It is possible that the misdating, by the 'Chronicle', of Cnut's trip to Rome provides the key (though the reasoning is a little convoluted). The chronicler may have, mistakenly, placed Cnut's trip in 1031 because he knew that there was a famous Scandinavian battle in the previous year (the battle of Stiklestad takes place in 1030). If, however, that battle was not Stiklestad, but was the Holy River, then the Holy River would belong in 1026 - the year before Cnut's visit to Rome is known to have occurred.
Hakon's appointment as "governor-in-chief" of Norway was politically expedient (he "was much beloved by the country folks when he ruled the country before"), but Snorri suggests that Cnut had little faith in his abilities - noting that: "He [Cnut] thought he had hereditary right to all Norway; and his sister's son Hakon, who had held a part of it, appeared to him to have lost it with disgrace." At any rate, as a precautionary measure, Cnut took hostages from the Norwegian chiefs ("sons, brothers, or other near connections, or the men who were dearest to them and appeared to him most suitable"), to ensure they remained loyal to him.
"At Winchester especially he [Cnut] displayed the magnificence of his liberality: here he gave so largely that the quantity of precious metals astonished the minds of strangers, and the glittering of jewels dazzled the eyes of the beholders. This was at Emma's suggestion, who, with pious prodigality, exhausted his treasures in works of this kind, while he was meditating fierce attacks on foreign lands ..."
William of Malmesbury
|The 'Liber Vitae' of the New Minster, Winchester, produced in 1031 (British Library MS Stowe 944), begins with a depiction of Cnut and Emma (Ælfgifu) placing a golden cross on the minster's altar.|
Manuscripts C and D, of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle', note that Harold "said that he was the son of Cnut and Ælfgyfe [Ælfgifu] of Northampton - though it was not true ".
The anonymous author of the 'Encomium Emmae Reginae' writes: "... Harold, who is declared, owing to a false estimation of the matter, to be a son of a certain concubine of the above-mentioned King Cnut; as a matter of fact, the assertion of very many people has it that the same Harold was secretly taken from a servant who was in childbed, and put in the chamber of the concubine, who was indisposed; and this can be believed as the more truthful account."
Florence of Worcester notes that "some say that he [Harold] was the son of a cobbler".
'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' translation from Dorothy Whitelock's 1961 edition.
The will of, the ætheling, Æthelstan (brother of Edmund 'Ironside'), who died on 25th June 1014, contains the following bequest: "And I grant Godwine, Wulfnoth's son, the estate at Compton [in Sussex] which his father owned earlier." It seems reasonable to assume that Compton had been confiscated from Wulfnoth as a result of his escapade of 1009, but that Godwine, possibly by supporting Edmund, had earned it back. Florence of Worcester does not, apparently, associate Godwine's father, Wulfnoth, with the Sussex thegn of the same name. Further, Florence states that Godwine's grandfather, Æthelmær, was a brother of Eadric 'Streona', the erstwhile ealdorman of Mercia.
In a yarn told by Walter Map, Godwine's rise to power began when he, a cowherd's son, organised generous hospitality for King Æthelred, who had become lost whilst hunting. Æthelred took Godwine into his service and, in due course, made him earl of Gloucester. In similar vein, according to the 'Knytlinga Saga', Ulf got lost pursuing the fleeing English after the battle of Sherston (1016). He was guided back to Cnut's ships by Godwine, a shepherd, the son of a farmer called Wulfnoth. Ulf gave Godwine his sister, Gytha, in marriage. As a result of Ulf's advocacy, Cnut made Godwine an earl.
The, so-called, 'Vita Ædwardi Regis', says that Cnut selected Godwine, from among the English nobility, to accompany him on an expedition to Denmark (presumably the expedition of 1019-20). Impressed by his performance, Cnut gave Godwine his sister in marriage, and, on their return to England, appointed him "earl and office-bearer of almost all the kingdom". Godwine's wife, Gytha, was, of course, Cnut's sister-in-law, not his sister. However, William of Malmesbury claims that Godwine's first wife was, indeed, a sister of Cnut. William says that they had a son who drowned when he was carried into the Thames by his horse. His mother was purportedly killed by a lightning bolt, as punishment for her participation in slave trading - exporting slaves bought in England (particularly beautiful young girls) to Denmark. William notes that: "After her death he [Godwine] married another wife, whose descent I have not been able to trace ..." William then correctly lists six sons of Godwine and Gytha as the sons of Godwine and the anonymous wife.
William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon agree that Godwine, as commander of the English contingent, acquitted himself well on campaign, with Cnut, in Denmark. However, William of Malmesbury implies it was on the occasion that the battle of the Holy River was fought (c.1027), and that, as a result of his conduct, Godwine was given an earldom. Henry of Huntingdon, on the other hand, says it was "in the third year" of Cnut's reign - which must refer to the 1019-20 expedition - but does not associate the event with Godwine's acquisition of an earldom.
Cnut's daughter (by Emma), Gunnhild, married Henry, the son of Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II, in June 1036. In July or August, one Immo, a priest at Conrad's court, wrote a letter to Azeko, bishop of Worms, in which he repeats news that had just been brought by envoys from England. The envoys had reported, to Gunnhild, that Ælfgifu was attempting to prevent Gunnhild's brother, Harthacnut, succeeding to the English throne. Ælfgifu had met with the leading English magnates, and, by pleading and bribery, tried to get them to ally themselves to her and her son. She had failed to persuade the magnates to her cause, and they had sent messengers to Harthacnut, urging him to come to England.
A story, told in the 'Encomium Emmae Reginae', maintains that Harold commanded Æthelnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury, to crown him king. Presumably, Æthelnoth couldn't comply, because Harold had not been elected such, however, the Encomiast says that Æthelnoth wouldn't comply: "... declaring by oath that while the sons of Queen Emma lived he would approve or consecrate no other man as king ..." The Encomiast says Harold was so annoyed by Æthelnoth that he turned from Christianity: "For when others entered church to hear mass, as is the Christian custom, he either surrounded the glades with dogs for the chase, or occupied himself with any other utterly paltry matters, wishing only to be able to avoid what he hated." Quite how much truth there is in this episode is a moot point.
Edward and Alfred's uncle (Emma's brother) Richard II, duke of Normandy, died in 1026. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard (Richard III). Richard's brief rule seems to have been spent quarreling with his younger brother, Robert. In 1027, following the brothers' reconciliation, Richard died - possibly poisoned - and Robert succeeded (Robert I, 'the Magnificent').
In an attempt to strike up an alliance, Cnut gave his sister, Estrith (widow of the recently deceased Earl Ulf), to Robert in marriage. Robert, however, soon repudiated her.
Adam of Bremen's account is very confused. Although clearly meaning Robert, he says it was his father, Richard, to whom Cnut gave his sister - called Margaret by Adam. He also says that she married Ulf after Richard. Considering Adam acquired some of his information in conversation with Swein, the son of Ulf and Estrith, his confusion is, perhaps, a little surprising. Further, in a scholium, Adam mentions, without further explanation, that Cnut gave Estrith (called Estrith, not Margaret) "in marriage to the son of the king of Russia." Presumably this was later still. (Margaret was probably Estrith's baptismal name. In another scholium, Adam notes that Cnut: "Having put away his pagan name ... received the name Lambert in baptism.")
According to William of Jumièges, Robert was very close to Edward and Alfred ("he adopted them as brothers"), and he "sent envoys to king Cnut demanding that, their [Edward and Alfred's] banishment now being surely more than sufficient, he should be merciful to them and for love of him, albeit too late, restore to them their own. Cnut, however, rejected these salutary admonitions and sent the envoys back empty-handed". Robert was furious. He assembled an invasion fleet at Fécamp. The fleet set sail, but were blown off course - fetching up on the island of Jersey. Continuing adverse weather conditions prevented the fleet crossing to England, so Robert abandoned the invasion, and returned to the mainland. In due course, however, Cnut sent envoys to Robert "announcing that the king was ready to restore half the English kingdom to the sons of Ethelred [Æthelred], and establish peace for his lifetime, because he was gravely ill. Therefore the duke, having already postponed his naval expedition, broke off that enterprise until he should have first returned from Jerusalem which he had long had a burning desire to visit". Leaving his only (illegitimate) son, William (aged seven), as regent, Robert departed for Jerusalem. During the return journey (at Nicaea), in July 1035, Robert died, and William 'the Bastard' became duke of Normandy.
During his voyage to Norway, in 1014, Olaf Haraldsson seems to have made two raids on the English coast. In the 'Heimskringla', Snorri Sturluson contrives to blend this tradition with Edward and Alfred's plight. Olaf meets the brothers in Normandy, and makes an agreement to help them capture England from the Danes - in exchange for Northumbria. They land in England, and capture a castle at an unknown site called Jungufurda. However, it soon becomes apparent to the brothers that they are vastly outnumbered by Cnut's men (Snorri sets this yarn after the death of Edmund 'Ironside'), so they decide to return to Normandy. Olaf carries on to Northumbria where he plunders, another unidentified site, Valde. From there he crosses to Norway, and begins the campaign which will result in his becoming king.
Immediately prior to its notice of Harthacnut's journey to Bruges, Manuscript C had reported that: "The Welsh slew Eadwine [Edwin], brother of Earl Leofric, and Thurcil, and Ælfget, and many good men with them." The Welsh leader was Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, who had just seized the throne of Gwynedd. The 'Brut y Tywysogion' notes that Gruffudd: "... from beginning to end, pursued the Saxons, and the other nations, and killed and destroyed them, and overcame them in a multitude of battles." See: A Tale of Two Gruffudds
Edward's return to England is the final event in the 'Encomium Emmae Reginae'. Not surprisingly, the Encomiast makes no mention of the misery of Harthacnut's reign: "... he arranged all his affairs in the calm of peace, and being gripped by brotherly love, sent messengers to Eduard [Edward] and asked him to come and hold the kingdom together with himself. Obeying his brother's command, he was conveyed to England, and the mother and both sons, having no disagreement between them, enjoy the ready amenities of the kingdom."
According to William of Poitiers, Harthacnut was frequently ill, and sensed that death was near. William emphasises the importance of Duke William of Normandy's efforts in securing Edward's return to England - though he can only have been about thirteen years old at the time.
Earl Uhtred had been survived by three sons. Two of them, Ealdred and Eadwulf, succeeded him as earl - though (unlike their father, who was earl of all Northumbria) their jurisdiction was confined to Bernicia. It would appear that, following Earl Eadwulf's killing, Gospatric, Uhtred's last remaining son, although he was not accorded the rank of earl, maintained the family's authority in Bernicia.
In a writ (S 1243), Gospatric declares that one Thorfynn mac Thore should: "... be as free in all things that are mine in Allerdale [in Cumberland] as any man may be ... And it is my will that the men dwelling with Thorfynn at Cardew and Cumdivock shall be as free, along with him, as Melmor and Thore and Sigulf were in the days of Eadred [Ealdred]." Gospatric proceeds to warn each recipient of his munificence not to think of breaking the peace that "Earl Siward and I have granted him". It is clear that, during Siward's tenure as Earl, Northumbria had gained control of Cumberland - indeed the writ begins: "Gospatric sends friendly greetings to all my wassenas and to every man, free man and dreng, dwelling in all the lands that were Cumbrian [i.e. previously held by Strathclyde], and to all my kindred." However, the reference to Ealdred seems to suggest that he had also, for a time, managed to hold sway over Cumberland.
Gospatric is generally thought to be the "noble Northumbrian thegn" who Florence of Worcester says was murdered, on 28th December 1064, at the court of Edward 'the Confessor'.