Tagged: King Harthacnut

Harthacnut (sometimes spelled Hardicanute or Hardecanute) was a king of England and Denmark in the 11th century.

Birth and Early Life

Harthacnut was born around 1018. He was the son of King Canute the Great (or Cnut) of Denmark and England and his queen, Emma of Normandy. Canute the Great had managed to establish a North Sea empire, comprising Denmark, England, and for a time, parts of what are now Norway and Sweden.

King of Denmark

Harthacnut became king of Denmark in 1035 after the death of his father. He faced several challenges in maintaining control over Denmark, primarily from King Magnus I of Norway.

King of England

Harthacnut’s half-brother, Harold Harefoot, initially took the English throne after Canute’s death, due to Harthacnut’s preoccupation in Denmark. However, after Harold’s death in 1040, Harthacnut became king of England without much opposition. He ruled England from 1040 to 1042.

Reign and Actions

Harthacnut’s reign in England was short-lived and not particularly popular. He imposed heavy taxes, primarily to pay for his bodyguard and fleet. He is infamously remembered for having the body of his half-brother, Harold Harefoot, exhumed and thrown into a fen (and later into the River Thames) as an act of posthumous vengeance.

Death

Harthacnut died suddenly in 1042, and the circumstances surrounding his death are somewhat uncertain. Some sources suggest he died from a seizure brought on by excessive drinking, while others believe it might have been a stroke.

Successor

He died without an heir, which paved the way for Edward the Confessor, Emma of Normandy’s son by her first marriage to Æthelred the Unready, to become the next king of England.

Legacy

Harthacnut’s reign was brief and marked by a series of political challenges. His death marked the end of the Scandinavian rule in England, bringing the country back under the control of the old Anglo-Saxon royal line.