Harthacnut was born to King Canute
and his second wife, Emma of Normandy
. It had been agreed when Canute married Emma that their children would succeed to the throne over those of Canute’s first marriage.
King Canute, inherited the throne of Denmark when his brother died.
Harthacnut’s sister, Gunhilda, was born to King Canute and Emma of Normandy.
Canute, became King of Norway. He was now King of England, Denmark and Norway and became referred to as Canute the Great
1028 (late Summer)
Harthacnut aged 10 years was made co-King of Denmark with his father. He was sent to Denmark to take up the position. His uncle, Earl Ulf, acted as regent for Harthacnut in Denmark.
1035 (12th November)
King Canute died. Harthacnut succeeded his father as King of Denmark and was nominated as his successor in England. As he was still in Denmark, his half-brother, Harold
, claimed that the throne should be his.
Harthacnut had been unable to return to England due to problems in Denmark. His half-brother, Harold tried to persuade the nobility to accept him as King and gained the support of Earl Godwin of Wessex
, the most powerful nobleman. However, Emma of Normandy pressed the claim of Harthacnut. The Witan decided that Harold should act as regent ruling Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia while Emma would act as regent in Wessex.
1035 (late December)
Emma’s sons by her first marriage to Aethelred the Unready
, 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 at Guildford by Earl Godwin but he had not come to welcome Alfred. Instead, he seized Alfred, blinded him and then sent him to the monastery at Ely. On hearing of his brother’s capture, Edward returned to Normandy.
1036 (5th February)
Emma’s son, Alfred, died at Ely from his injuries.
Harthacnut had still not returned from Denmark to claim the throne and Harold was now supported by the English nobility.
The Witan met at Oxford and decided to accept Harold I as King. Emma of Normandy left England and went to Bruges. Harthacnut remained in Denmark.
1040 (17th March)
King Harold died at the age of 24, possibly from a congenital illness. Harthacnut was now able to return to England and claim the throne.
1040 (17th June)
Harthacnut and his mother, Emma sailed for England with a force of more than 60 warships in case he had to fight for the throne. They landed at Sandwich.
Harthacnut had been horrified by the murder of his half-brother Alfred in 1036 and after hearing from Earl Godwin that he had acted on Harold’s orders, Harthacnut ordered that Harold’s body be disinterred, beheaded and thrown in the Thames.
Harthacnut imposed a tax on the English people to pay off the Danish army that he had brought with him. This was not well received and made him unpopular with the English people.
Earl Eadwulf of Bernicia had upset Harthacnut and requested safe passage to apologise in person. However, Harthacnut did not honour the promise and had Eadwulf murdered.
Harthacnut summoned his half-brother, Edward, known as Confessor, to return to England. He was named as heir to the throne.
1042 (8th June)
First published 2016; Updated and re-published Jul 28 2020 @ 11:20 am – Updated – [last-modified]