Father – Aelfhelm Ealdorman of Northampton (d. 1006)
Mother – Unknown
Spouse – King Cnut (994 – 1035)
Children – Sweyn, Harold (1016 – 1040)
Aelfgifu of Northampton was born the daughter of Aelfhelm, ealdorman of south Northumbria.
Sweyn Forkbeard invaded England in revenge for the St Brice’s Day Massacre where Danes living in England, including Sweyn’s sister, were killed by order of King Aethelred the Unready. He gained control of land from Exeter to Hampshire and King Aethelred was forced to make a Danegeld payment to the Vikings.
Aelfgifu’s father was murdered on the order of King Aethelred.
The Vikings had continued to make raids on England and another Danegeld payment had to be made.
The Vikings invaded East Anglia and took control of Ipswich.
Aelfgifu met Canute, son of Sweyn Forkbeard. They were married soon afterwards. It is likely that they married by Danish custom of handfasting.
Sweyn Forkbeard took Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria. Only London held out against the Danes.
Having conquered the majority of England, Sweyn Forkbeard proclaimed himself King of England. King Aethelred, his wife, Emma and their children fled to Normandy. Aethelred’s son Edmund and his brother Aethelstan remained in Wessex.
1014 (3rd February)
Sweyn Forkbeard died. He nominated his son, Canute to succeed him.
Although the English nobles had accepted Sweyn as King they were not so keen to support his young son and called for Aethelred to return.
King Aethelred returned to England. Aelfgifu’s husband, Canute returned to Denmark to raise an army against Aethelred.
A son, Sweyn was born to Aelfgifu and Canute.
Canute was determined to take the English throne and invaded England with a large Danish force.
A son, Harold was born to Canute and Aelfgifu of Northampton.
1016 (23rd April)
King Aethelred the Unready died. His son, Edmund Ironside, was proclaimed King Edmund II.
Aelfgifu of Northampton almost certainly remained in the north with her children when Canute went south to attack London.
Aelfgifu’s husband Canute was determined to take the throne for himself and mounted a series of raids and skirmishes.
1016 (18th October)
Battle of Assandun
Canute defeated Edmund in this battle for London.
Canute defeated Edmund in this battle for London.
1016 (after 18th October)
After failing to defeat Canute, Edmund had no choice but to agree to share rule with Cnut. Cnut ruled Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia while Edmund ruled Wessex. It was agreed that on the death of either party the other would rule all of England.
1016 (30th November)
Edmund Ironside, died and Canute seized the throne of England.
1017 (6th January)
Canute was crowned King of England at St Paul’s Cathedral.
1017 (2nd July)
Canute married Aethelred’s widow, Emma. This was a political marriage to gain the support of Normandy as well as the English, over whom Emma had been queen for the last 15 years. Cnut also wanted to prevent any rising by Emma’s sons, Edward and Alfred. It was agreed that the succession would be with the children of Emma and Canute.
Canute became King of Norway. He was now King of England, Denmark and Norway and became referred to as Canute the Great. Hakon Eriksson was made regent in Norway.
Canute’s regent in Norway, Haakon Ericsson, died. Canute named his eldest son by Aelfgifu of Northampton, Sweyn, as King of Norway. Aelfgifu went with her son to Norway.
The rule of Aelfgifu and Sweyn in Norway was not been popular. They had tried to introduce Danish laws to Norway and had imposed heavy taxation. The people of Norway rose against them forcing them to flee to Denmark. Magnus the Good became King of Norway.
Aelfgifu’s eldest son, Sweyn, died in Denmark.
1035 (12th November)
King Canute died at Shaftesbury. His wife, Emma announced that her son, Harthacnut, who was in Denmark as regent, had been nominated by Canute to succeed to the English throne and took control of the treasury in his absence.
Earl Godwin, the most powerful nobleman in England, did not support Emma and allied himself to Harold Harefoot son of Canute by Aelfgifu, who was in England and able to take the throne immediately.
As soon as she heard of Canute’s death, Aelfgifu returned to England and began to push for her son, Harold, to be crowned King.
1035 (late December)
The sons of Aethelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, Edward and Alfred, arrived in England. Edward landed at Southampton and Alfred in Kent. It is thought that they had come to take the throne back for their family. Alfred was met by Earl Godwin, seized and blinded before being sent to the monastery at Ely. On hearing of his brother’s capture, Edward returned to Normandy.
1036 (5th February)
Emma’s son, Alfred, died from his injuries.
Harthacnut had been unable to return to England due to problems in Denmark and so the Witan allowed Aelfgifu’s son, Harold, to take the throne as King Harold I.
Emma of Normandy left England and went to Bruges where she contacted Harthacnut calling for him to return to England and take the throne.
1040 (17th March)
Aelfgifu’s son, King Harold I, died. He was succeeded by Canute’s son by Emma of Normandy, Harthacnut.
1040 (after March)
Aelfgifu of Northampton disappeared from records. It is thought she fled overseas.
First published 2018; Updated and republished Feb 07 2022 @ 10:43 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2018 – 2022). Aelfgifu of Northampton b c990.