Canute the Great

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Cnut the Great (Old English: Cnūt; Old Norse: Knūtr inn rīki; Danish: Knud den Store or Knud II[2] c. 985 or 995 – 12 November 1035), also known as Canute or Knut, was a Viking king of Denmark (Cnut II), England, Norway and parts of Sweden. As a statesman with notable successes in politics, the military and religion, Cnut seems to have been one of the greatest figures of medieval Europe. The importance of his legacy though, after the death of his heirs within a decade of his own and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, was largely lost to history.

Cnut was of Danish and Polish descent. His father was Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark (which gave Cnut the patronym Sweynsson). Cnut's mother was the daughter of Mieszko I, the first ruler of Poland; her name may have been Świętosława (see: Sigrid Storråda),[3][4][5] but the Online DNB article on Cnut states that her name is unknown.[6]

As a prince of Denmark, Cnut won the throne of England in 1016 in the wake of centuries of Viking activity throughout the British Isles. His accession to the Danish throne in 1018 brought the crowns of England and Denmark together. Cnut held this power-base together by uniting Danes and Englishmen under cultural bonds of wealth and custom, rather than sheer brutality. After a decade of conflict with opponents in Scandinavia, Cnut claimed the crown of Norway in Trondheim in 1028. Sweden's capital at Sigtuna was held by Cnut.[7] He had coins struck which called him king there, but no record of a coronation survives.

The kingship of England of course lent the Danes an important link to the maritime zone between Great Britain and Ireland, where Cnut like his father before him had a strong interest.[8] In light of the struggles of the Danes for preeminence within Scandinavia, Cnut's rule was definitely felt by the sea-kingdoms of the Viking settlers among the Celtic nations; known as the Gall Gaidel. These were the Kingdom of the Isles (probably under direct overlordship through one of his lieutenants[9]) in the Sea of the Hebrides, and the Kingdom of Dublin (probably on the terms of vassal and suzerain),[10] in the Irish Sea. The chief goal here was to control the western seaways to and from Scandinavia, and to check the might of the Earls of Orkney.[11] At the height of his power, Cnut held certain Gaelic kingdoms[12] and the Ui Imhair sea-kingdom of Echmarcach mac Ragnaill[13] as client territories, too.

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