Heritage > Rulers

"Canute" 1016-1035

Following the death of Edmund II, the son of Sweyn came back to England to reclaim the throne he had the previous year declined.

He was no relation to Edmund II albeit that he married the widow of Ethelred II Edmund's mother, Emma of Normandy.

Prior to this most political of marriages Cnut had married Elfgifu of Northampton. He omitted to divorce his first wife who had given him sons in Svegn and Harold and remained in his native Denmark where she was acknowledged as the queen.

His second marriage, therefore, can be considered as bigamy with Emma provided him with a further two children, Harthacnut and Gunhild.

To ensure his lineage would retain the throne of England Cnut had Eadwig, Edmund's younger brother, murdered and Edmund's sons, Edward and Edmund exiled to Hungary. Marriage to Emma, however bigamous, prevented him from any further drastic acts against the Saxon lineage, with Emma's sons Alfred and Edward sent to Normandy. In England Emma was regarded as Cnut's official wife. This would mean that her son, Harthacnut, was the rightful heir.

Harthacnut, as King of Denmark, was engaged in warfare with independence-seeking King Magnus of Norway. He did lay claim to the English throne, with his mother's support and that of the Earl of Godwin of Wessex, but was for obvious military reasons unable to take it.

Another claimant to the throne, Alfred, son of Emma and Ethelred II, was also involved in the three way struggle. This involvement was terminated by his murder on the orders of Earl Godwin.

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