Canute (DNB00)

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CANUTE or CNUT (994?–1035), called the Great, and by Scandinavian writers the Mighty and the Old, king of the English, Danes, and Norwegians, was the younger son of Sweyn, king of Denmark, by Sigrid, widow of Eric the Victorious, king of Sweden (Adam Brem. ii. 37). In his charters his name is written Cnut, and sometimes Knuð, in Norsk it is Cnútr, and in Latin correctly Cnuto. The name is one peculiar to the Danish royal family. The form Canutus is a corruption; it is, however, as old as the canonisation of the later king of that name by Paschal II about 1100 (Ælnoth, Vita S. Kanuti, ap. Langebek, Scrip. Rer. Dan. iii. 340, 382 ; Freeman, Norman Conquest, i. 442). While, then, Canute is certainly an incorrect form, it has obtained such sanction as wide and long use can give. Sweyn had apostatised, but some time after the birth of Cnut he again became a christian, and was rebaptised. As a boy, then, Cnut must have bee a pagan, but he seems to have received baptism before 1013, and possibly before 1000, the date of the battle of Swold, won by Sweyn, as it seems, after his conversion, and by his allies, the Swedes. At his baptism Cnut received the name of Lambert (comp. Chron. Erici, Langebek, i. 158; Adam Brem. ii. 87, 38, 49, and Schol. 38). He is said to have urged his father to invade England in 1013 (Enc. Emmæ, i. 3); he sailed with him, and must therefore have landed at Sandwich, and thence gone round to Gainsborough, where Sweyn received the submission of Earl Uhtred of Northumbria, and of all the Danish part of the kingdom. Crossing Watling Street into the purely English districts, the host advanced to London, ravaging all the country. Being repulsed from London, the Danes marched westwards, and all Wessex submitted to Sweyn, who was now acknowledged as ‘full king’ (A.-S. Chron. 1013). London gave hostages to him, and Æthelred fled to Normandy. Thus Cnut's conquest only completed and confirmed the work of his father (Norman Conquest, i. 399). According to one writer, Sweyn, believing his end to be near, talked much with his son concerning the art of government and the christian religion (Enc. Emmæ. i. 6). His death, however, was unexpected, and the gifts Cnut afterwards made to the monastery of Bury seem to show that he shared the general belief that it was due to the vengeance of St. Eadmund. Sweyn died on the road from Gainsborough to Bury on 3 Feb. 1014. His son Harold succeeded him in Denmark, and the Danish fleet chose Cnut to be king of England. The ‘witan,’ however, sent after Æthelred, and declared every Danish king an outlaw. Æthelred returned to England during Lent. Meanwhile Cnut remained at Gainsborough until Easter (17 April), evidently gathering together as large a force as he could, in order to crush the newly awakened energy of the English. Following his father's example, he now made an agreement with the people of Lindesey that they should supply him with horses, an indispensable step towards inland conquest, and then join his army in ravaging the country. Before he could set out Æthelred marched into Lindesey at the head of a great host, and forced Cnut and his Danes to flee. They sailed to Sandwich, and there Cnut cut off the hands, ears, and noses of the hostages his father had taken, and put them ashore. He then returned to Denmark.

Meanwhile the Norwegians shook off the Danish yoke. Olaf Haroldsson (the saint), a Norwegian sea-king, had carried Æthelred from Normandy to England in his ships. Foreseeing that the English war would call for all Cnut's strength, and knowing that the bravest Danes were with him, and among them Eric, the earl of Norway, he landed in that country, and by the spring of 1015 obtained the crown (Corpus Poeticum Boreale. 116, 127, 153). According to a strange story, Cnut, on landing in Denmark, asked his brother Harold to divide his kingdom with him. Harold refused, and Cnut let the matter drop for the time (Enc, Emmæ, ii. 2). In another account the Danes are said to have deposed Harold on account of his slothful and unwarlike character, and to have chosen his brother king in his stead, but, subsequently becoming impatient at Cnut's long absence, to have again chosen Harold, who reigned until his death (Chron, Erici, Lang. i. 168). It seems probable that Cnut, on his return at the head of a powerful fleet devoted to his service, became at least virtual sovereign of the country; that some time later (during Cnut's second absence in England, 1015-19) Harold regained the authority he had lost while his abler brother was in the country, and that Harold died before Cnut returned to Denmark from his second visit to England.

Having thus lost England, Cnut is said to have prepared himself for its reconquest by two successful campaigns against the Slavs dwelling on the south coast of the Baltic in Sclavia and Sembia. The two brothers are also represented as acting together. They went to Poland and brought back with them their mother, who was the daughter of Mieceslas, the last duke, and on their return they received the body of their father Sweyn, which was sent over from England by an English lady, and buried it with great pomp at Roskild (Enc. Emmæ, ii. 3).

Cnut eagerly set himself to raise a sufficient force for a fresh invasion of England, and with the help of his half-brother, Olaf of Sweden, he equipped a splendid fleet (Adam Brem. ii. 50). A promise from Earl Thurkill that he would join him with his ships, whether delivered in person or not, decided the date of his departure. He sailed from Denmark in 1016, perhaps accompanied by his brother Harold and by the earl (Thietmar, vii. 28), though Harold's presence may at least be doubted (Enc. Emmæ, ii. 4); while the statement that Thurkill went with the fleet depends on his identity with a Thurgut spoken of by Thietmar. Cnut landed at Sandwich. Thence he sailed round the coast to the mouth of the Frome, and harried Dorset (the sack of the monastery of Cerne is specially recorded, Mon. ii. 626) and Wiltshire and Somerset. He met with no opposition, Æthelred lay sick at Corsham, and the ætheling Eadmund and Earl Eadric were at enmity with each other. Eadric joined Cnut, bringing forty ships with him, and by Christmas Wessex submitted to the Danish king and supplied him with horses. Early in 1016 Cnut crossed the Thames at Cricklade and ravaged Warwickshire; thence he passed over to Bedfordshire, and then led his host by Stamford and Nottingham to York (A.-S. Chron. 1016; Othere, Corp, Poet Bor. ii. 176). There Uhtred and all Northumbria submitted to him. Nevertheless he treacherously allowed Uhtred to be slain by his private enemies, and gave his earldom to Eric, who had married his sister Estrith (Simeon, ap. Twysden, col. 81). At York he stayed some time to gather his forces, Æthelred was now dead, and on hearing of his death Cnut appears to have sailed to Southampton, and to have held a meeting of the witan there, at which he was chosen king, and the great men present at it renounced the sons of Æthelred, and swore to obey him (Flor. Wig. i. 173; Norman Conquest, i. 418). The silence of the chronicles, however, throws some doubt on this story. Meanwhile the Londoners made Æthelred's son, Eadmund, king in his stead. On 7 May Cnut laid siege to London. The invading fleet is said to have consisted of 340 ships, each containing eighty men (Thietmar), and as the river was defended by London Bridge, Cnut made a canal along the south side of it, and so drew his ships to the west of the bridge (A.-S. Chron.; {{sc|Florence, i. 173; Lithsmen's Song, Corp. Poet. Bor. ii. 108). Eadmund left the city to gather a force in Wessex, and it was perhaps now that Emma, Æthelred's widow, in order to give her stepson time to come to the relief of the city, entered into negotiations with Cnut, and that he was thus for the first time brought into communication with her (Thietmar). Cnut was forced to march westwards with part of his army to meet Eadmund, and after two engagements the Danes broke up the siege; it was again formed and again broken up, and Cnut, foiled in his attempt to take London, seems to have made the Medway the headquarters of his fleet, and to have thence sent out expeditions to plunder. A vigorous attack was made on his army in Kent by the English under Eadmund, who drove him and his men into Sheppey with great loss. The total failure of his expedition now seemed certain, but the English king was hindered from following up his success, and the Danes were thus enabled to leave their place of refuge. The struggle, the details of which must be reserved for the life of Eadmund, ended in the battle of Assandun, a spot which may be identified by the hill of Ashington in Essex. There Cnut met an army gathered from every part of England. After a stubborn battle lasting throughout the day. and even by moonlight, the English gave way; the retreat soon became a rout, and 'all the flower of the English race was there destroyed (A.-S. Chron.)

Cnut follow the English King into Gloucestershire. Great as his victory was, he knew that Eadmund might once more gather strength, and he therefore consented to make peace with him. The two kings met on the isle of Olney in the Severn, near Deerhurst. Henry of Huntingdon's story of a combat between them, and that told by William of Malmesbury of a challenge sent by Eadmund and refused by Cnut, may both be set aside as mythical. At Olney the land was divided. CbhI took the northern part; Wessex remained to Eadmond (ib.) This seems all that can be said with absolute certainty about the agreement. By supplying a defective passage in Florence from Roger of Wendover, it appears that Eadmund's share also included East Anglia and Essex with London, and that he kept the crown of the kingdom, Cnut being an under-king (Flor. Wig i. 178; Rog. Wend. i. 459). On the other hand, Henrv of Huntingdon (756), though he is probably wrong, assigns London and the headdhip of the kingdom to Cnut. The Londoners 'bought peace' of the Danes, and the fleet took up winter quarters there (A.-S. Chron.; Lithsmen's Song, Corp. Pott. Bor. ii 108), Eadmund was slain 30 Nov. There is no trustworthy evidence that Cnut had any hand in this opportune event. No English writer accuses him of it, and the story in the 'Knytlinga Saga' that he employed Eadric to slay him is unworthy of belief. Saxo (193) speaks of the belief that he was put to death by Cnut's order, without accepting the story. Henry of Huntingdon gives a detailed account of the murder of the king by Earl Eadric: he there makes Eadric boast of his deed to Cnut, who thereupon has him slain, even as David did by him who declared that he had put Saul to death. There seems no reason for doubting that the king met a violent death; that he was slain by Eadric is certainly probable, and while there is nothing to prove that Cnut instigated the murder, it was done in his interest by men who believed that they had good cause to expect that he would reward them for it. On the death of Eadmund, Cnut immediately called the witan to London, and, when the assembly had met, bade those who were present at the conference at Olney declare what had been settled there about the succession. They answered that Eadmund had assigned no part of his kingdom to his brothers, but Florence (i. 179) says that their testimony was false. Onut was then formally chosen king, and he received the oaths of the witan; and when perhaps a fuller assembly had been gathered, his kingship was generally acknowledged. The great men and the people swore to obey him, and he made oath to them in return (ib. 180).

Cnut was about twenty-two when he ascended the throne in the first days of 1017. In spite of the formal election end oaths which accompanied his accession, he had really won the kingdom by the sword, and in order to render his position secure be indulged his naturally stern and revengeful temper by putting several of the most powerful Englishmen to death. Among these were Eadric, by whose treasons against his natural lord he had often profited, and Æthelweard, the son of Æthelmær, the patron of Ælfric the Grammarian [q. v.] An ætheling named Eadwig was banished and afterwards slain by his orders, and with him, too, was banished another Eadwig, called the 'ceorls' king.' It is generally asserted on the authority of Florence of Worcester that the sons of Eadmund were sent to Olaf of Sweden that he might slay them, but that they were saved from death and sent into Hungary. There is, however, good reason for believing that for 'ad regem Suuavorum' should be read 'ad regem Sclavorum,' that Cnut sent the children to his brother-in-law Bolealas, and that Miecealas, his nephew, sent them safely to Russia (Steenstrup, Normannerne, iii. 305). The two sons of Æthelred were with their mother at the court of Richard, duke of the Normans, who might have been disposed to take up his sister's cause, (Cnut, however, avoided this danger by his marriage with her.) Emma, or, as the English called her, Ælfgifu, whom Æthelred married 'before August' in 1002, must have been about ten years older than her new husband. Nevertheless, the marriage need not have been one of mere policy, for she was remarkably beautiful. Cnut was already the lover of another Ælfgifu, sometime, it is said, the mistress of Olaf of Norway [see Ælfgifu of Northampton]. By her he had two sons, Harold and Sweyn. Emma, therefore, before she accepted his offer, stipulated that, should she bear the king a son, no other woman's son should succeed to the kingdom, and to this Cnut agreed (Enc. Emmæ, ii., 16).

In 1018 Cnut levied a heavv danegeld of 72,000 pounds, besides 15,000 which he took from London alone. With this money he paid off his Danish forces and sent them away, keeping only forty ships with their crews, who formed the nucleus of his body of 'hus-carls.' And in the same year he held a gamot at Oxford, where Danes and English joined together in the observance of 'Eadgar's law.' The phrase denotes a renewal of the good government under which men had lived in the reign of Eadgar, when both races dwelt together on terms of perfect equality, each being judged by its own law, though indeed the difference between the systems was scarcely more than one of name. From this time Cnut appears in England as a wise and just ruler. He reigned as a native king, and though he was lord of vast dominions he ever treated England as the chief of all. He constantly visited his other kingdoms, but he made his home here, and while he ruled elsewhere by viceroys he made this country the seat of his government, so that in his reign England was, as it were the head of a northern empire (Adam Brem. ii. 63). Yet even here he adopted something of an imperial system of government; for, following out the policy already pursued by Eadgar, he divided the kingdom into four earldoms, and entrusted the administration of each part to a single earl, Just as each of the four divisions of the German land and race was under its own duke (Stubbs, Const Hist. i. 202, where the feudal tendency of this arrangement is marked). The highest offices in church and state were open to Englishmen. Æthelnoth was archbishop of Canterbury, Godwine earl of Wessex. During his later years, indeed, when he saw fit to banish certain Danish earls from England, he filled their places with Englishmen, and so 'Danish names gradually' disappear from the charters and are succeeded by English names' (Norman Conquest, i. 476).

Having set in order his new kingdom, Cnut visited Denmark in 1019, using for his voyage the forty ships he had retained. He took with him Englishmen as well as Danes, and Godwine is said to have gained his favour by doing him good service in a war he made during this visit against the Wends (Hen. Hunt. 757). On his return to England in 1020 he was present at the consecration of the church at Assandun that he and Earl Thurkill had built to commemorate the victory over Eadmund. The chronicler notes that the building was 'of stone and lime,' for in that well-wooded district timber would have been the natural and less costly material to use. Wulfstan, archbishop of York (the see of Canterbury was vacant), and many bishops were there, and the ceremony was one of national importance. The foundation must have been small, for the church was served bu a single secular priest. Cnut was a liberal ecclesiastical benefactor, generally favouring the monks rather than the secular clergy. He rebuilt the church of St. Eadmund at Bury, evidently as an atonement for the wrong his father had done the saint, turned out the secular clerks, and filled their places with a colony of monks brought from the monastery of Hulm in Norfolk (Will. Malm. Gesta Reg. ii. 181, Gesta Pontiff. 161; Monasticon, iii. 135, 137). The solemn translation of the body of Archbishop Ælfheah from St. Paul's to the metropolitan church in 1023 doubtless had a political as well as a religious significance. The English saw that the days of plunder by the heathen-men were over for ever, and that the Danish king delighted to honour the martyr whose death made him a national hero. Another of his acts of devotion has been held to cast a suspicion upon him, for in 1032 he visited Glastonbury, and after praying before the tomb of his rival Eadmund offered on it a pall worked with the various hues of the peacock. He also gave a charter to the monastery (Will. Malm. ii. 184, 185). He appears as a benefactor at Canterbury, Winchester, Ely, Ramsey, and elsewhere. He held English churchmen in high esteem. He admitted Lyfing, abbot of Tavistock, and afterwards (1027) bishop of Crediton, to intimate friendship, and took him with him on his journeys to Denmark and Rome (Will. Malm. Gesta Pontiff. 200). Archbishop Æthclnoth evidently had considerable influence over him. He took many clergy from England to Denmark, and appointed some of them to bishoprics there. One or more of these bishops were consecrated by the English metropolitan. This brought the king into communication with Unwan, archbishop of Hamburg. Unwan seized Gerbrand, who had been consecrated to the see of Roskild by Æthelnoth in 1022, and made him profess obedience to him, and wrote to Cnut to complain of this infringement of the rights of his see. Cnut was glad to oblige the powerful metropolitan of the north, and took care that all such matters should be arranged as he wished for the future. Whatever headship England had among the dominions of the Danish king, it was not to give the church of Canterbury metropolitan rights over them (Adam Brem. ii. 53). Cnut's munificence extended to foreign churches, and by the advice of Æthelnoth he greatly helped the building of the cathedral of Chartres. His devout liberality took men by surprise. Both he and his father Sweyn seem to have been looked on as heathens by Christendom at large until Cnut exhibited himself as the most zealous of christian kings. The affairs of the north were little known, and Cnut, in spite of his baptism, gave men little cause to deem him a christian until after his accession. A contemporary writer, Ademar of Chabannes, states that he was converted when he came to the throne (Recueil, x. 156), and Fulbert, bishop of Chartres, writing in 1020 or 1021 to thank him for the gifts he had made to his church, implies that up to that time he had believed that he was a pagan (ib. 466). In a legend of St. Eadgyth, told by William of Malmesbury, Cnut is represented as led by his heathen prejudices to despise the English saints. He especially mocked at the sanctity of Eadgyth as the daughter of Eadgar, whom he pronounced a lustful tyrant. Æthelnoth rebuked him, and the saint herself rose up to convince him of his sin (Will. Malm. Gesta Pontiff. 190). The story is foolish enough, but taken in connection with the assertions that Cnut acted by the advice of Æthelnoth in sending gifts to Chartres, and that the archbishop accompanied him on his visit to Glastonbury, it perhaps suggest that Æthelnoth was the means of turning the king from a mere nominal christianity, such as he professed when he mutilated the hostages in 1013, to a zeal for the faith and a life not wholly unworthy of it. The belief of Fulbert and Ademar as to the king's heathenism was of course connected with the fact that 'pagani' was the recognised description of the Danes.

Under the year 1022 it is said in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that Cnut 'went out with his ships to Wiht,' and the next year he is described as returning to England. These entries have been satisfactorily explained as referring to an expedition to Wihtland in Esthonia (Steenstrup, Normannerne, iii. 323). Earl Thurkill was outlawed from England in 1021. Nevertheless, before Cnut left Denmark to return thither after his expedition, he appointed the earl ruler of Denmark on behalf of one of his sons. This son was probably Sweyn, the son of Ælfgifu of Northampton. The king brought Thurkill's son back with him as a hostage for his father's good behaviour. About this time he banished Earl Eric from England, and a few years later his own nephew Hakon, giving their English earldoms to Englishmen.

Cnut's pilgrimage to Rome, assigned in the Chronicle to 1031, took place in 1026–7, for he assisted at the coronation of the emperor Contad on 26 March 1027 (Wipo, c. 16; Sighvat, Corp. Poet. Bor. ii. 136). On his way he gave rich gifts to the various monasteries to which he came. At St. Omer the writer of the 'Encomium Emmæ' saw him and marvelled at his devotion and munificence. He sent to England an account of his visit to Rome in a letter addressed to the archbishops, bishops and all the English gentle and simple. He tells his people how his pilgrimage, vowed some time before, had been put off by press of businss, and how glad he was that he had at last seen all of the holy places of Rome; he describes how honourably he had been received by the pope and the emperor, and says that he had obtained promises from the emperor and from Rudolf of Burgundy that merchants and pilgrims of England and Denmark should not be oppressed on their way to Rome, and from the pope that some abatement should be made in the large sums demanded from his archbishops in return for the pall, and that he had made a vow to reign well and amend whatever he had done amiss as a ruler (Flor. Wig. i. 186; Will. Malm. ii 183). The whole letters show his warm-heartedness and his confidence in the sympathy of his people. While, however, there is much that is noble in it, there is something also of the simplicity of the backward civilisation of Scandinavia. By a treat arranged by Archbishop Unwan, Cnut's daughter Gunhild was betrothed to the emperor's son Henry, and Conrad gave the Danish king the march of Sleswic and accepted the Eider as the boundary between Denmark and Germany (Adam Brem. ii. 54).

When Cnut was firmly established on the English throne, he sent messages to Olaf Haroldsson, demanding that he should hold Norway as his earl and pay him tribute. On Olaf's refusal he set about creating a party for himself in Norway, and spent money freely in bribing the Norwegians to be faithless to their king (Sighvat, 4). Olaf sought to strengthen himself by forming an alliance with the king of Sweden. About 1026 it seems that another danger also was threatening Cnut in the north, for Ulf, the husband of his sister Estrith, is said to have tried to make one of his sons king of Denmark in his place. Besides the discontent that Cnut's absence from his paternal kingdom would naturally occasion, it is probable that that his active christianity was unacceptable to some part of his Danish subjects (Ann. Hildesheim. 1035). He went over to Denmark probably in 1026, and Ulf is said to have submitted to him. He then sailed to meet the allied fleets of Norway and Sweden, which were revaging Scania. After a fierce engagement in the Helga river the Danes were worsted (A.-S. Chron. 1025; Saxo, 195; Ann. Isl. an. 1027; according to Othere's song they stopped the foray, Corp. Poet. Bor. ii. 156). After the battle, in which many Englishmen are said to have fallen, Cnut, as the story goes, picked a quarrel with Ulf and had him assassinated in St. Lucius Church at Roskild (Laing, Heimskringla, ii. c. 163). That he caused Ulf to be put to death there is no reason to doubt, and while there is no evidence that he acted unjustly, the killing in the church is perhaps almost too startling to be a mere invention, and if it took place it would of course have been an outrage on the feelings of the age. Cnut continued to intrigue with the subjects of Olaf, and he did so with such good effect that, when in 1028 be again sailed to Norway, Olaf was forced to flee. In 1030 Olaf made an attempt to regain his throne, but he was defeated and slain by Cnut's party at Stikelstead. By his death Cnut gained secure possession of Norway. Besides his three kingdoms of England, Denmark, and Norway, he reigned over certain Slavic peoples on the coast of the Baltic, whose lands are described as Sclavia and Sembia (Saxo, 196, notæ, 212). On the authority of Florence of Worcester he is said to have de-scribed himself in the Roman letter as 'king of part of the Swedes.' He certainly was never in any sense king of the Swedes, and the passage has been satisfactorily explained by the suggestion that there has been a confusion between 'scl' and 'su,' and that it refers to his Slavic subjects (Steenstrup, Normannerne, iii. 327-30). His dominions are constantly spoken of as an empire, and now in imperial fashion he committed Norway to his son Sweyn, whom he sent thither in 1030 under the charge of his mother and Earl Hakon. Harthacnut, the son of Emma, also was made ruler of Denmark.

The defeat of the Northumbrians by the Scots at Carham in 1018 only concerns the personal history of Cnut in so far as it led him in after years to force the Scottish king to acknowledge his superiority. Although the submission of Malcolm was of the same vague character as earlier instances of 'commendation,' the relationship thus established served to confirm the Scottish claim to Lothian, and the addition of this purely English land to the Scottish crown was the beginning of a momentous change in the character of the monarchy. Cnut seems to have actually entered Scotland before Malcolm's submission, and this display of his strength induced two under-kings, Maelbeth and Jehmarc, dwelling north of Fife,' to submit them-selves to him in like manner. These events are placed in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under 1031, but they certainly happened before Olaf's flight in 1028 (Sighvat, Corp. Poet. Bor. ii. 133, 134). The description of Cnut as king of the Irish and the Inlanders (Hebrideans) given by a contemporary poet (Othere, Corp. Poet. Bor. ii. 152, 157) and the coins minted with his name at Dublin go far to prove that the Ostmen looked on him as their head. With the Welsh Cnut does not seem to have been brought into any per-sonal connection. From the contradictory notices of his relations with the Norman duchy it seems that after he had put Ulf to death he gave his sister Estrith, the earl's widow, in marriage to Duke Robert, who hated her and put her away ; that Robert demanded that the tethelings should be allowed to return, and that restoration should be made to them; and that on Cnut's refusal the duke fitted out a fleet for the invasion of England, but that many of his ships were wrecked off Jersey, and so the expedition was abandoned (Rudolf Glaser., iv. ; Saxo, 193; Pet. Olai, ap. Lang. ii. 205; WIill. of Jumièges}}, vi. 10; {{sc}Will. Malm.}} ii. 180, who says that some remains of the shattered fleet were to be seen at Rouen in his day ; Norman Conquest, i. 520-8). It was probably in order to strengthen himself against any possible attacks from Normandy that Cnut made alliance with William V, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitou (Ademar, 149).

Cnut's table of laws, 'decreed with the consent of the witan 'at some uncertain date, contains no absolutely new principles or customs. It is divided into ecclesiastical and civil laws. The command with which it opens, that men 'should ever love and worship one God and love King Cnut with right truthfulness,' breathes the spirit of the king's government and puts forward the religious duty of loyalty, still a somewhat new idea in our constitution ; this is further illustrated by the comparison between breaches of the peace in a church and in the king's house. Sundays are to be strictly observed. The payment of tithes and of other ecclesiastical dues is enforced, and all men are bidden to live in chastity, a command which leads one to suppose that the king had then separated from Alfgifu of Northampton. The civil laws are for the most part re-enactments, and in some cases developments, of the legislation of earlier kings, and especially of Eadgar, and may be looked on as the explanation of the agreement in 'Eadgar's law' made by the men of both races at the Oxford assembly. Among the most noteworthy provisions are the list given of cases which the king reserved for his own court, the later pleas of the crown, and the few, virtually nominal, differences recognised between Danish and English customs, such as the fine paid by the Englishman under the name of 'wite' and by the Dane under that of 'lah-slite' (Thorpe, Ancient Laws, 152). The forest constitutions which bear Cnut's name are, at least as they have come down to us, a later compilation. All that is known for certain about his legislation on this matter is contained in his laws, cap. 81: ‘And I will that every man be entitled to his hunting in wood and in field on his own possessions; and let every one forego my hunting. Beware where I will have it untrespassed on under penalty of full wite.’ The payment of heriots enforced by caps. 71, 72, and said to have been introduced by Cnut, has been shown to have been exacted before his time, and the ‘presentment of Englishry,’ attributed to him by the so-called ‘Laws of Eadward the Confessor,’ belongs to the Norman period (Const. Hist. i. 196, 200, 206). The crews of the forty Danish ships retained by Cnut became the origin of the permanent band of royal guards, named ‘hus-carls,’ which was kept up until the Conquest. This force is said by Saxo (196) to have consisted of as many as 6,000 men, but this is probably an exaggeration. Cnut drew up regulations for its discipline, which are described by Saxo and are given in detail by Sweyn Aggeson (Leges Castrensium, Lang. iii. 139; Thorpe). The hus-carls have been frequently compared with the comitatus; their distinctly stipendiary character, however, seems to make the comparison invalid (caps. 6, 7). While some of the regulations have a suspiciously modern tone (e.g. cap. 14), there is no reason to doubt that they substantially represent the king's work. The force received many foreign recruits, and among them the famous Wendish prince Godescalc, who stayed with Cnut until the king's death. Godescalc is said to have married Siritha, the daughter of Sweyn, the son of Estrith, Cnut's sister (Saxo, 208, 230). She is called Cnut's daughter by Helmold (Chron. Slav. c. 19, comp. also Chron. Slav. c. 13, 14, ap. Landenbrog, Rerum Germ. Scriptores), and simply the daughter of the king of the Danes by Adam of Bremen (iii. 18). Although Siritha must have been a young wife for Godescalc if she was Cnut's great niece, Saxo is probably right. She certainly was not the daughter either of Emma or of Ælfgifu of Northampton. The assertion (Norman Conquest, i. 649) that she is called ‘Demmyn’ arises from a misreading of the ‘Chronicon Slavorum’ in Landenbrog's ‘Scriptores’ quoted above. Cnut's reign gave England eighteen years of peace; it was a period of law and order, during which national life was born again after it had been crushed by the disasters and jealousies of the reign of Æthelred and by the terrible slaughter of Assandun. The distinctly English character of Cnut's reign is closely connected with the rise of Godwine. After his good service in the Wendish war, the king gave him to wife Gytha, the sister of Ulf, his brother-in-law. During the whole reign he held the highest place in the king's favour, he was the foremost man in his court, and his appointment to the West-Saxon earldom made him second only to the king (Vita Ead. 392–3).

Cnut's character is represented in dark colours in the ‘Northern Kings' Lives.’ In one important case, his alleged unfair dealings with his Norwegian supporter, Calf Arnason, the editors of the ‘Corpus Poeticum Boreale’ have shown that the compiler of the lives has wronged him. That he was the enemy of St. Olaf is sufficient reason for the unfavourable light in which he is represented by northern writers. From the more trustworthy songs of his contemporaries comes a picture of the king as a mighty ruler, wise, politic, and crafty, a lover of minstrelsy and a patron of poets. They exhibit a man endowed with a remarkable power of judging the characters of others, and of using them to forward his own interests. His craftiness is abundantly proved by his intrigues in Norway, and the natural cruelty and violence of his temper surely need no special proofs. Only indeed as the natural bent of his disposition is apprehended can the extraordinary restraint that he put on himself be duly appreciated. As a bountiful patron of the church his praises are loudly proclaimed by our chroniclers, and even if they had been silent his laws and the general character of his reign as an English king would tell the same story. Of the two most famous stories told of him, the rebuke that he is said to have given to the flattery of his courtiers is preserved by Henry of Huntingdon (758), who adds that thenceforward he would never wear his crown, but hung it on the head of the crucified Lord. The other tale, which represents him going in his barge to keep the feast of the Purification with the monks of Ely, and bidding his men listen to chanting which as he came near was heard rising from the church, is from the Ely historian (Gale, iii. 441), who gives the words of the song Cnut is said to have made at the time:—

Merie sungen ðe muneches binnen Ely,
Ða Cnut ching reu ðer by;
Roweð cnichtes noer ða land,
And here we þes muneches sæng.

The story is in strict accord with his love of minstrelsy as well as with his ecclesiastical feelings. An incident recorded by the same monastic historian, who tells how Cnut largely rewarded a stout peasant who walked over the ice to find out whether it would bear the king's sledge, is in keeping with the gifts he gave to the bards who sang his praises (Corpus Poet. Bor. ii. 158). Another story represents him as the first to break his military regulations by slaying one of his huscarls in a fit of passion, and tells how he summoned the court of the company, appeared before it to take his trial and demanded sentence, and how, when the members refused to condemn him, he sentenced himself to pay nine times the sum appointed as the value of the man's life (Saxo, 199). Cnut died at Shaftesbury on 12 Nov. 1035, and they carried him thence to Winchester and there buried him with great honour in the Old Minster (A.-S. Chron.; Flor. Wig.) Sweyn and Harold, his sons by Ælfgifu of Northampton, and his two children by Emma, Harthacnut and Gunhild, and both Emma and Ælfgifu themselves, survived him. Conscious that his dominions could not remain united after his death, he ordered that Harthacnut should reign in England, and as it seems in Denmark also, and that Norway should go to Sweyn; for Harold no provision seems to have been made. Gunhild or Æthelthryth, betrothed by her father to Henry, the son of the emperor Conrad, did not marry him until 1036; she died before her husband was made emperor.

[Anglo-Saxon Chron.; Florence of Worcester, Eng. Hist. Soc.; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, Eng. Hist. Soc., and Gesta Pontiff. Rolls Ser.; Henry of Huntingdon, Mon. Hist. Brit.; Symeon of Durham, De obsessione Dunelmi, ap. Twysden, col. 79; Heremanni, Miracula S. Eadmundi, ed. Liebermann; Lives of Edward the Confessor, Rolls Ser.; Historia Eliensis and Hist. Rams., Gale, iii.; Kemble's Codex Dipl. iv. 1–56, and Diplomatarium; Thorpe's Ancient Laws and Institutes; Encomium Emmæ; Adami Gesta Hammaburg. eccl. pontiff.; Wiponis Vita Chuonradi Imp.; Helmoldi Chron. Slavorum (these four are published separately ‘in usum scholarum ex Mon. Germ. Hist.’ Pertz); Annales Hildesheim. p. 100, and Thietmari Chron. vii. p. 836, ap. Scriptores rerum Germ. iii., Pertz; Sven Aggeson's Chron. p. 54; Chron. Erici, p. 159; Annales Esrom. p. 236; Ann. Roskild. p. 376 (these four are contained in Scriptores rerum Danicarum i., Langebek); Petri Olai Excerpta, p. 205 (ibid. ii.); Ann. Islandorum regii, p. 40, and Leges Castrensium, p. 139, ibid. iii.; Saxonis Grammatici Hist. Danica, ed. 1644; Vigfusson and Powell, Corpus Poeticum Boreale; Laing's Heimskringla or Sea Kings of Norway—the best edition is Ungar's ‘Fris-bok;’ Glabri Rodolphi Hist. p. 1; Ademari Caban. Hist. p. 144; Epp. Fulberti Carnot. Ep. 443 (these three are in Recueil des Historiens x., Bouquet); William of Jumièges ap. Hist. Normann. Scriptores, Duchesne. Freeman's Norman Conquest, i. 399–533, gives a full and critical account, with valuable references to original authorities, which has been equally useful as a history of Cnut's English doings and as a guide to the sources of information. It should be noted that Dr. Freeman's work appeared before the editors of the Corpus Poet. Bor. threw some new and valuable light on Cnut's life, especially as regards its chronology. Dr. Freeman's work on Cnut has been supplemented by Dr. J. C. H. R. Steenstrup, who, in his Normannerne, vol. iii., has for the first time explained many difficulties. Lappenberg's Anglo-Saxon Kings, trans. Thorpe, 196 et seq., seems to give undue weight to the Kings' Lives attributed to Snorri. J. R. Green's Conquest of England, 418–77, gives a picturesque account of England under Cnut's rule. Bishop Stubbs's Constitutional History, i. c. 7, contains some admirable notices of points which bear on his subject. For Cnut's relations with the Scots see Skene's Celtic Scotland, i., and Robertson's Scotland under her Early Kings.]

W. H.