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Cnut the Great – King of England 1016 to 1035

2016 marks the 1000th anniversary of the coronation of Cnut the Great as King of England. Cnut is one of the legendary kings of the Jelling dynasty in the Viking Age, and he was king of the largest Danish kingdom of the middle ages. The pages of this site will take you through an account of his life and his reign of England in the years 1016–1035, starting with his predecessors and ending with his sons.

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Illustration of Cnut the Great from medieval manuscript. Origin unknown.

Denmark is one of the oldest monarchies in the world, and it begins with the Viking kings – also known as the Jelling dynasty – when Gorm the Old ruled the kingdom from Jelling as the first historically recognized King of Denmark. Upwards of 20 older kings are mentioned in various legends and chronicles, but these are often discounted as historically inexact and therefore left out of the historical line of kings. This places Cnut the Great as the fifth king in the Danish line of kings even though he was King of England before he was King of Denmark and thus possibly considered himself more English King than Danish.

The early Vikings

In England, the Viking era began around the end of the eighth century. One of the earliest attacks occurred on 8 June 793, when Vikings attacked the monastery in Lindisfarne, after which the British Isles experienced raids by Viking fleets of still greater size and strength.

History tells us about many years of conquests and losses of land, and the consolidation of state under a Viking king was troubled; around 800 A.D. the Vikings were active in an area stretching from the Obotrites on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea to Vestfold in Norway, but 100 years later this area had again shrunk. The hard historical evidence is sparse from this time; most of what we know is from chronicles and sagas of unknown origin. But with Gorm the Old begins a traceable lineage that soon would reach a highpoint in Viking dominance with Cnut the Great and his reign in England, Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden.