Fact 1 – King Canute United England and Denmark
King Canute (also known as Cnut) was a Danish Prince who became King of England in 1016. Two years later, he also became King of Denmark, uniting the two kingdoms! Indeed, ten years after that, King Canute became King of Norway as well.
When King Canute became King, he made sure to kill English noblemen, to protect his throne. Despite this brutality, King Canute was remembered as a wise and successful King. He reinstated the Danelaw, and allowed Scandinavians greater freedom in England.
Fact 2 – King Canute did not stop the tide
In England, we generally think of King Canute as the King who tried to stop the tide. But this is not true!
The story was recorded by Henry of Huntingdon in the 12th century. In the story, Canute’s courtiers believed he had supernatural powers. To demonstrate that he did not, Canute sat on his throne on the beach and told his courtiers that he could not stop the tide.
As the tide washed around his feet, he jumped backwards and said:
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.
He then hung up his crown on a cruficix, and never wore it again.
So King Canute did not try to stop the tide – he wanted to show people that he was just a normal human being!
Let’s watch a video about King Canute and the Waves:
Fact 3 – King Canute’s Father was King of England for just five weeks!
Almost everybody knows about King Canute, but very few people realise that his father, Sweyn Forkbeard, was King of England too – but just for five weeks.
Sweyn was crowned King of England on Christmas Day in 1013, and died on the 3rd February 1014. The throne returned to the previous king Aethelred the Unraedy.
Sweyn Forkbeard was a brutal warrior who led many invasions. His invasion of England was horrible, and he attacked the north of England. He left a path of destruction behind him that was so bad that King Aethelred offered him money to go back to Denmark. That was known as the Danegeld.
It didn’t work, and Sweyn eventually became King, but not for long!
Fact 4 – King Canute Travelled…. A lot
Not only did King Canute of England become the King of Denmark, he was also King of Norway, and he was also King in a small part of Sweden too.
To become King in so many places, Canute fought many battles. But he also travelled to Rome in order to get better conditions for English traders in the Holy Roman Empire.
Fact 5 – King Canute was trained in warfare by Thorkell the Tall
King Canute was trained by the legendary warrior, Thorkell The Tall. This means that he received the best tutorship he could possible have received!
Thorkell The Tall was chief commander of the Jomvikings, and led an invasion to England that landed in Sandwich in 1009. His army overran the south of England, and within two years, he was leading the Siege of Canterbury. He was so feared that the people of Kent gave him 3,000 pounds of silver to stay away, so he turned his attentions to London instead.
Canute was taken on a number of expeditions by Thorkell the Tall, and learned first-hand how to brutally invade a country.
Fact 6 – King Canute had two wives
It wasn’t just Henry VIII who had more than one wife! King Canute married a woman called Aelfgifu of Northampton, and had two children by her: Svein and Harald.
However, the Church didn’t recognise his first marriage, and he allowed to remarry. He then married Emma of Normandy and they had two children together – Harthacnut and Gunhilda. His sons eventually became Kings of England too.
Finally, let’s watch this video about King Cnut: