Canute [key], 995?–1035, king of England, Norway, and Denmark. The younger son of Sweyn of Denmark, Canute accompanied his father on the expedition of 1013 that invaded England and forced Æthelred to flee to Normandy. When Sweyn died (1014), the Danes in England swore fealty to Canute, but on Æthelred's return from Normandy, Canute withdrew to Denmark, where his older brother, Harold, had become king. In 1015, Canute reinvaded England with a powerful army that conquered most of Wessex, harried the Danelaw, and conquered Northumbria. After the Danish victory in the battle of Assandun, Canute divided England with Edmund Ironside, Æthelred's son. When Edmund died, late in 1016, Canute was accepted as sole king. He gave England peace and strove to continue English traditions by restoring the church to high place and codifying English law. To forestall dynastic quarrels he banished his wife (and their son Sweyn) and married Emma, the widow of Æthelred. His son by Emma was Harthacanute. In 1018 or 1019 he succeeded to the throne of Denmark and was forced to lead several expeditions to assert his rights there and in the Danish provinces in Norway. In 1028, after an uprising had expelled Olaf II of Norway, Canute was recognized as ruler of that kingdom. He made his son Harthacanute king of Denmark, and in 1029 he made his son Sweyn king of Norway, with Sweyn's mother as regent. She and Sweyn were driven out by 1035, and Norway was ruled by Olaf's son Magnus. Canute established friendly relations with the Holy Roman Empire and attended the coronation of Conrad II in Rome in 1027. At the end of his reign Canute led an army into Scotland to stop Scottish invasions under Malcolm II. Canute was succeeded by his illegitimate son, Harold Harefoot, then by Harthacanute. The name also appears as Cnut or Knut.
See biography by L. M. Larson (1912, repr. 1970); F. M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (3d ed. 1971).
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