Arundel Castle,
Arundel, West Sussex, England.

www.castlesandmanorhouses.com

Arundel Castle is a restored medieval castle. It was established by Roger de Montgomery on Christmas Day 1067. Roger became the first to hold the earldom of Arundel under William the Conqueror.

From the 11th century onward, the castle has served as a hereditary stately home and has been in the family of the Duke of Norfolk for over 400 years. The castle was damaged in the English Civil War and then restored in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is still the principal seat of the Norfolk family. It is a Grade I listed building.

Photo by Andrew Thomas.

The Coffeyville Weekly Journal, Kansas, June 29, 1894

A chatelaine bag was usually worn at the waist, but could also be carried at the wrist. Chatelaines were also made as belts, which eschewed the purse and became a ladylike tool belt; a hook with multiple hanging lobster claw appendages, each carrying useful items for the average Victorian woman: the pantry keys, smelling salts, perfume vials, miniature notebooks, magnifying glasses, letter openers, timepieces, seal applicators, miniature portraits or lockets, sewing tools (such as needle cases, scissors and thimbles), money and toilette articles, as well as decorative charms, such as fruits, fish or birds.

Here are a few examples of 18th and 19th century chatelaines housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum:

Lesson 23d - Vikings in England, Part 4: Conquering England – Knútr and Hastings.

Komiði sæl og blessuð, vinir,

This lesson is best viewed in browser. If you have not done so already, please check out last week’s lesson. For all lessons, visit ‘Viking History’ on Wordpress or Tumblr. I also highly encourage reading the footnotes.


During the reign of Æthelred the Unready, England was at the mercy of renewed Viking aggression. This time, however, there was no King Alfred to save the day. The Viking leader Sveinn Forkbeard conquered England in 1013, but died shortly after. Svein’s power quickly dissolves, but eventually a Viking named Knútr regains power over England, bringing the it back under Danish rule.

CONTENTS:
I. Knúts Rise to Power
II. The North Sea Empire
III. The Descent to Hastings


I. KNÚTS RISE TO POWER:

“The viking movement [in England] had, therefore, its aspects of growth and development as well as of destruction. The best representative of the age and the movement, when considered from both these viewpoints, is Canute the Great, King of England, Denmark, and Norway. Canute began as a pirate and developed into a statesman. He was carried to victory by the very forces that had so long subsisted on devastation; when the victory was achieved, they discovered, perhaps to their amazement, that their favourite occupation was gone.” 1

Knútr (Also called ‘Cnut’ or ‘Canute’, pronounced somewhat like ‘kanootur’, but with a very short ‘a’ sound, if any), the son of Sveinn, was outlawed from England once Sveinn had passed, because Æthelred, who had fled to Normandy, was called back by the Witan (a sort of king’s council)2

“In some way the English lords were called into session; at this meeting preparations were made to recall the fugitive Æthelred. No lord could be dearer to them than their native ruler, the magnates are reported to have said; but they added significantly, ‘if he would deal more justly with them than formerly’” 3

Æthelred was taken by sickness in 1015, leaving the kingdom of England in that hands of his son and successor, Edmund.4 These two figures, Edmund and Knútr, clashed back and forth throughout the year 1016.5 After a devastating defeat in October at Ashington,6 Edmund and the English were forced to concede to Knúts efforts:

“On some little island near Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, the two chiefs (Knútr and Edmund) met and reached an agreement which put an end to the devastating war and pillage that had cursed England for more than a generation. It was agreed that Edmund should have Wessex and Canute Mercia and Northumbria; or, in a general way, that the Thames should be the dividing line between the two kingdoms.”7

Yet, shortly after this agreement, Edmund died (November 30th).8 This meant that Knútr, who had started off in 1014 with nothing, had claimed rulership over all of England by 1016. Not only did he ‘conquer’ England, but he also managed to gain official recognition by the native authorities in England, such as the Witan, due to his agreement with Edmund after Ashington.9 With the death of Edmund, Knútr was left with full authority.

“When the year closed there was no question who should be the future ruler of England. Fate had been kind to Canute; still, the outcome must be ascribed chiefly to the persistent activity of the invader.” 10

II. THE NORTH SEA EMPIRE:

The image above shows the vast territory that Knútr controlled after gaining kingship over England and Norway. He regained power in Norway in 1028, 12 years after obtaining the kingship over England. Interestingly enough, he did not use much of his English forces in campaigns back in Scandinavia:

“A Norse runic monument records his presence in some expedition to Norway, presumably that of 1028, Canute did not employ English forces to a large extent in any of his foreign wars, possibly because he was distrustful of them: only fifty English ships made part of that vast armada that overawed the Norwegians in 1028.” 11

Nonetheless, by 1028, Knútr ruled over a vast ‘Empire’, which was arguably the only ‘Viking’ Empire history has to offer. He ruled over this well, bringing England peace, organization, and stability. This ‘Empire’ and its prosperity, in its various stages and forms, lasted from 1016 until his death 1035.

Yet, when discussing this time period, and the accomplishments of Knútr, we must step back an discuss the nature of Viking. Knútr began as a Viking ruler who aggressively, and persistently, sought after the kingship of England. Knútr is a prime example of what a Viking actually was. In other words, being a Viking was not simply being Scandinavian. It was a profession that Knútr began from, but which was also inevitably temporary.

By this time, he had changed considerably. Knútr, in a sense, became an English king; he was no longer the Viking ruler he was in 1016.

“When the eleventh century began its fourth decade, Canute was, with the single exception of the [Holy Roman] Emperor, the most imposing ruler in Latin Christendom.Less than twenty years earlier he had been a landless pirate striving to dislodge an ancient and honoured dynasty; now he was the lord of four important realms and the overlord of other kingdoms.” 12

III. THE DESCENT TO HASTINGS:

In 1035, Knútr dies and his empire quickly falls to shambles. His personality, in the end, was all that held his accomplishment together. Although he ruled well, being deemed ‘the Great’ and popular among the English people, his dynasty did not last. By 1042, Edward the Confessor, who had been exiled to Normandy ruled over England, and by this time Magnus the Good ruled over Norway. The Danish rule over these lands had come to its end.

On the 25th of September, 1066, the last ‘Viking’ king - Haraldr Harðráðr (Harald Hardrada) - sailed to England with a fleet of 300 ships, planning to take England. The battle took place at Stamford bridge, which was not far from the location of Hastings. Here, Harald was taken by surprise as Godwinsson’s English forces attacked. The Norwegians were decisively defeated here, ending the chances for a new Viking reign over England. By the 14th of October, 1066, the battle of Hastigns took place in which the Norman forces, led by William the Conquerer, a descendant of the Viking ruler Rollo, defeated Godwinsson’s exhausted  army (having just fought against Harald three weeks prior). With that event, England was effectively conquered, entering into a new era under Norman rule.13


CONCLUSION:

Knútr is arguably the most important ‘Viking’ ruler of the age. He successfully brings England under his rule for 20 years. Although his empire does not continue past his death, it demonstrates the impressive potential these Vikings actually had as ruling over these countries they once raided. Truly, the story of Knútr shows how Vikings had become deeply integrated into the realms of Christendom, transforming themselves from Viking legends to Christian kings.

Next Lesson:
Lesson 24a – Vikings in Ireland, Part 1: “Tribal, Rural, Hierarchal, and Familiar”


FOOTNOTES:

1. Larson, vii. (full needed)

2. Ibid., 85. “The Old English kingship was elective: on the death of a ruler, the great lords and the high officials of the Church, the  ‘witan’ or wise, would meet in formal assembly to select a successor.”

3. Ibid., 59.

4. Ibid., 77. Æthelred was ill, but he did not die until the 23rd of April, 1016 (see Larson, 83).

5. Ibid., 92. “…a year of continuous warfare - marches, battles, sieges…”

6. Ibid., 95. “The English aristocracy suffered heavily at Ashington. The sources mention six magnates among the slain…”

7. Ibid., 97.

8. Ibid., 99.

9. Although, this does not mean that they approved or supported Knútr, but rather that they were left with little other choice: “To say that this assembly elected a king would be incorrect; Canute gave the lords no opportunity to make an election. In a shrewd fashion he brought out the real or pretended fact that in the agreement of Deerhurst it was stipulated that the survivor should possess both crowns.” (see Larson, 106).

10. Larson, 102.

Fig 1. Hel-hama, A modern and Simplified version of Cnut’s North Empire. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cnut_lands.svg.

11. Larson, 151.

12. Ibid., 257.

13. All the information pertaining to the events leading up to Hastings comes from: Jennifer Dukes-Knight, “Viking in England,” Lecture, Viking History, University of South Florida, 2015. I was brief and therefore did not seek additional sources on this aspect. If more are desired, please send me either an email (fjorntheskald@gmail.com), message, or an ask.