Famous Men of the Middle Ages HTML version
Canute the Great
King from 1014-1035
The Danes, you remember, had the eastern and northern parts of England in the time of
Alfred. Alfred's successors drove them farther and farther north, and at length the Danish
kingdom in England came to an end for a time.
But the Danes in Denmark did not forget that there had been such a kingdom and in the
year 1013 Sweyn (swane), King of Denmark, invaded England and defeated the Anglo-
Saxons. Ethelred, their king, fled to Normandy.
Sweyn now called himself the king of England; but in a short time he died and his son
Canute succeeded to his throne. Canute was nineteen years old. He had been his father's
companion during the war with the Anglo-Saxons, and thus had had a good deal of
experience as a soldier.
After the death of Sweyn some of the Anglo-Saxons recalled King Ethelred and revolted
against the Danes.
Canute, however, went to Denmark and there raised one of the largest armies of Danes
that had ever been assembled. With this powerful force he sailed to England. When he
landed Northumberland and Wessex acknowledged him as king. Shortly after this
Canute now thought he would find it easy to get possession of all England. This was a
Ethelred left a son named Edmund Ironside who was a very brave soldier. He became, by
his father's death, the king of Saxon England and at once raised an army to defend his
kingdom. A battle was fought and Edmund was victorious. This was the first of five
battles that were fought in one year. In none of them could the Danes do more than gain a
slight advantage now and then.
However, the Saxons were at last defeated in a sixth battle through the act of a traitor.
Edric, a Saxon noble, took his men out of the fight and his treachery so weakened the
Saxon army that Edmund Ironside had to surrender to Canute.
But the young Dane had greatly admired Edmund for the way in which he had fought
against heavy odds, so he now treated him most generously. Canute took certain portions
of England and the remainder was given to Edmund Ironside.
Thus for a short time the Anglo-Saxon people had at once a Danish and a Saxon