Son of Sweyn, Canute (or Cnut) became undisputed King of England in 1016, and his rivals (Ethelred's surviving sons and Edmund's son) fled abroad. In 1018, the last Danegeld of 82,500 pounds was paid to Canute. Ruthless but capable, Canute consolidated his position by marrying Ethelred's widow Emma (Canute's first English partner - the Church did not recognise her as his wife - was set aside, later appointed regent of Norway). During his reign, Canute also became King of Denmark and Norway; his inheritance and formidable personality combined to make him overlord of a huge northern empire.

During his inevitable absences in Scandinavia, Canute used powerful English and Danish earls to assist in England's government - English law and methods of government remained unchanged.

A second-generation Christian for reasons of politics as well as faith, Canute went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1027-8. (It was allegedly Christian humility which made him reject his courtiers' flattery by demonstrating that even he could not stop the waves; later hostile chroniclers were to claim it showed madness.)

Canute was buried at Winchester. Given that there was no political or governmental unity within his empire, it failed to survive owing to discord between his sons by two different queens - Harold Harefoot (reigned 1035-40) and Harthacnut (reigned 1040-42) - and the factions led by the semi-independent Earls of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex.

 

Canute's position in the genealogical roll of the Kings of England © The British Library Board, Royal 14 B. VI membrane