Canute The Great

Canute the Great was an Anglo-Scandinavian king that ruled a North Sea Empire in the 11th century. Originally from Denmark, he was the ruler of England, Denmark, and Norway. Canute the Great is considered to be one of the most influential English kings during his time of reign.


Early life

Canute the Great was born in 995 C.E. in Denmark to Danish prince Sweyn Forkeard. At the time of his birth his father held the kingship of both Denmark and Norway. His grandfather Harald Bluetooth was King of Denmark. His paternal grandfather was Mieszko who was a former King of Poland.

As a young man, Canute the Great went through military training on the island of Wollin off the coastline of Pomerania. His claim to fame came in 1013 C.E. when his father Sweyn invaded England.

The invasion was successful for the Danish king and Sweyn became King of England. Unfortunately, Sweyn died the same year and Canute’s brother, Harald was crowned King of Denmark.

After the death of his father England saw an opportunity. Ethelred, the former King of England assumed the mantel once again. He marched on Canute’s fragmented army and Canute was forced back to Denmark.

Creating a North Sea Empire

In 1015 C.E. Canute returned to England with a refreshed army. It took Canute one year to defeat the new King of England Edmund after the seizure of London. The two leaders signed a treaty and Canute was crowned King of English lands that existed north of the river Thames.

The North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great

Edmund held the lands south of the Thames River until his unfortunate death a few weeks after the treaty was signed. After Edmund died, Canute assumed the rule over all of England.

Canute the Great was a ruthless ruler in England. He ordered a number of influential English nobles to be executed and instituted a number of governmental restructurings. Now the ruler of England, Canute waited for other opportunities.

The next opportunity for him came when his brother Harald died in 1018 C.E. thus making Canute the King of Denmark.

There was some resistance from his brother’s followers but the rebellions were quickly put down by Canute the Great. After securing the throne of Denmark, he returned to England in 1020 C.E.

Once back in England, he used his political powers and forged a relationship with the Church where he supported numerous clergy.

During this time Canute the Great was a popular King of England. In 1027 C.E. he went to Scotland with a sizeable army and forced allegiances with three Scottish kings.

He continued his travels to Rome to secure passage for English traders where the Holy Roman Emperor granted concessions to Canute.

In 1028 C.E. on his return to England, he sailed off to Norway. His fleet of 50 fighting vessels was too much for Olaf Haraldson who was the King of Norway. After crushing any type of resistance Canute the Great was crowned King of Norway.


The legacy of Canute the Great is quite unique. He controlled the Baltic Sea which helped the English economy and was seen by his followers as just ruler. He was the only person to rule over the North Sea Empire. After his death in 1035 C.E. the kingdom was transferred to his son Harthacnute.

Important facts about Canute the Great

  • Canute the Great was born to Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard.
  • He was the grandson of former Danish King named Harald Bluetooth.
  • Canute went through military training on the island of Wollin. His teacher was Thorkell the Tall, a famous Viking ruler.
  • Canute’s father originally took the throne as King of England in 1013 C.E. but died the same year.
  • In 1016 C.E. Canute returned to England and dethroned Edmund the King of England.
  • He assumed the role of all English lands north of the Thames River. After Edmund died he was crowned King of England.
  • Canute became King of Denmark after his brother’s death in 1018 C.E.
  • He sailed to Norway in 1028 C.E. and defeated King Haraldson of Norway.


  1. Who was Canute the Great’s grandfather?

Harald Bluetooth

  1. Who taught military tactics to Canute the Great on the island of Wollin?

Viking Chieftain Thorkell the Tall

  1. What year did Canute the Great become ruler of the North Sea Empire?

1028 C.E.

  1. Who did Canute the great defeat in battle to become King of England?