Emma (c. 985 – 6 March 1052 in Winchester, Hampshire), was a daughter of Richard the Fearless, Duke of Normandy, by his second wife Gunnora. She was Queen consort of England twice, by successive marriages: first as second wife to Æthelred the Unready of England (1002–1016); and then second wife to Cnut the Great of Denmark (1017–1035). Two of her sons, one by each husband, and two stepsons, also by each husband, became kings of England, as did her great-nephew, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy.
Reign of Æthelred
Upon the Danish invasion of England in 1013, Emma and Æthelred's two sons, Edward the Confessor and Alfred Atheling, and a daughter, Goda, went to Normandy as exiles, where they remained. It was here at the court of Æthelred that Emma became acquainted with her consort's most powerful underling, Eadric Streona. The two eventually struck up a much-misunderstood friendship. After the deaths of Ethelred and his son Edmund II Ironside, (Emma's stepson), she married Cnut, King of England. Cnut pledged that Harthacnut, his son by Emma, would be the heir to his Danish sovereignty. Thus, through the marriage of Emma and Cnut, the Normans were content and deterred from intervening.
Æthelred's marriage to Emma was an English strategy to avert the aggression of dangerous Normandy, and the Danish strategy was much the same. With Normandy in feudal subordination to the kings of France, who kept it as their dukedom, England was the Norman dukes' main target, after baronic feuds and rampaging pillages through Brittany had run their course. English kings could not afford to underestimate the Norman threat.
Reign of Cnut
Harthacnut was intended to rule England, along with most of Scandinavia, which, if he had succeeded, could have made a very different history. It is thought though, due not least to the extolling of her in the Encomium Emmae Reginae, that in addition to political machinations, Cnut was fond of Emma. In this, an affectionate marriage and the ability to keep the threat from over the channel at bay, was seen as a happy coincidence. Unfortunately, events did not go as well as they might have.
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