Canute the Great (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: This Dane’s conquest and strong kingship (1017-1035) gave England a period of peace and prosperity which began to repair damage, destruction, and demoralization wrought by centuries of Viking attacks (793-1016). A fierce young Viking himself, Canute matured into a ruler who appeared to be the ideal Christian king, lawgiver, and protector of his people, but Canute’s very success not only foreshadowed but also helped to bring about the Norman Conquest of 1066.
Canute Sveinson was born around 995, probably in the Danish royal residence of Jelling in Jutland. His was a Danish royal name, and the standard spelling “Canute” is an Anglicization of the Latin form Cnuto of the Viking name Cnut, Knut, Knutir, or still other variant spellings. Canute seldom used his Christian name, Lambert, which he took when he was finally baptized, probably during the 1010’s. The obscurity surrounding Canute’s birth and childhood derives both from the fact that he was a younger son, having an elder brother Harold, and from the cultural backwardness and political turbulence of Denmark around the year 1000.
Canute’s father was Svein Forkbeard, who was King of Denmark from 987 to 1014. Svein’s father, whom Svein’s army slew in battle, was Harold Bluetooth, King of Denmark (c. 950-987). Svein had been baptized as a child but apostatized, rose to power on a tide of Viking heathenism, and...
(The entire section is 2790 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!