King of Norway, 1028 - 1035; King of some regions of Sweden, 1026 - 1035; and most impressive, at least to me, King of England 1017 - 1035. Yes, there was a King on the throne of England, of Scandinavian descent, almost 50 years before the great Norman, William the Conqueror. If those qualifications do not entitle him to use the title great then in my opinion the title should only exist for Alexander of Macedonia.
Canute was born approximately 995 C.E., and he was the son of the famous King of Denmark, Sveyn ( Sweyn ) Forkbeard. His mother may have been Sigrid Storrada, better known as simply Queen Sigrid, but this is still very much in debate. When he was prince of Denmark he won the throne of England, in 1016, but was not officially coronated until 1017. He was able to cement his power base in England not through brutality, but by showing the common values of the English and Scandinavian peoples.
As a child Canute was taught his warrior ways by the Chieftain, and one time Jomsviking, Thorkell the tall. Thorkell often changed his allegiances, and at one point defected to the English. In 1013 he was part of an invasion force led by his father Sweyn Forkbeard. These Danish Vikings quickly defeated the English King Aethelred, who fled, ironically, to Normandy.
After the death of King Sweyn, his eldest son Harald II suceeded him as the King of Denmark, but Canute was, " chosen", as King of England. However, the English recalled King Aethelred from Normandy, and Canute was run out of the British country.
During the " Viking season" of 1015, ( the summer ), Canute sailed back to England with a fleet supposedly of 200 ships and as many as 10, 000 men. Numbers tend to be exaggerated so we may never know for sure, so lets just say it was a substantial force. For the next year Canute fought battles across the English countryside with Aethelred's son, Edmund. By 1016 the fighting was all but over, and Edmund had entered into a peace agreement that left South England to Edmund, and North England to Canute. Within weeks of the agreement Edmund died, and Canute became king over all of England. He then exiled or killed all those who had any claim to the throne of England.
In 1017 Canute married Emma of Normandy, who was the widow of Aethelred. He then made his son with Emma, Harthacnut, his rightful heir. His sons by his other wife, Aelfgifu, Svein, and Harold Harefoot, were pushed aside as heirs to the throne. In 1018, after the death of his brother, Harald II, he added the kingship of Denmark to his list of titles. By bringing the Danish , and the English kingdoms into alliances it brought about a period of prosperity, which included the minting of coins some with his image on them. There actually became a period of peace, albeit a short one, in which Canute went to Rome, in 1027, to honor an invitation to the coronation of Emperor Conrad II as king of the Romans. Yes, Canute was a Christian King. Nobody's perfect !
In 1027, after learning of discontent in Norway, he paid local chiefs to gain their support. In 1028, with 50 ships, he sailed to Norway, and made Olaf Haraldsson abdicate the throne. Canute was now the King of England, Denmark, Norway, and parts of Sweden !
Canute died, however, in 1035, at Dorset. He was buried at the capital of Winchester, and was succeeded by his son Harthacnut, who ruled under the name Canut III. Though I wonder if because he was only 18 years old his mother, Queen Emma, didn't influence most of his decisions. When Harthacnut left England to put down a rebellion by Magnus I of Norway, he was forced out, and his mother Queen Emma forced to flee. Harald Harefoot claimed the throne and ruled until he died in 1040. When peace was again re-established in Scandinavia, Canute III regained the throne of England until 1042. For the next 24 years the English had self - rule until William of Normandy invaded and conquered the British Isle in 1066.
Though overshadowed by Kings such as William the Conqueror, St. Olaf, among others, in my opinion Canute the Great is one of the greatest warrior kings in Scandinavian history. He built over a number of years a multi - nation empire that though it did not last long in duration, saw a rare period of peace descend over the region under his rule. He was a man who's very greatness is now reflected in his name and title. For he truly was Canute the Great !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !