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Harthacanute
King of Denmark and England
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Reign March 17, 1040June 8, 1042
Born 1018
England
Died June 8, 1042
Buried Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, England
Predecessor Canute the Great (Denmark)
Harold Harefoot (England)
Successor Magnus I (Denmark)
Edward the Confessor (England)
Father Canute the Great
Mother Emma of Normandy

Harthacanute (Canute the Hardy, sometimes Hardicanute, Hardecanute; Danish: Hardeknud) (1018June 8, 1042) was King of Denmark from 1035 to 1042 and England from 1040 to 1042. He was the only son of Canute the Great and Emma of Normandy.

He succeeded his father as King of Denmark in 1035, reigning as Canute III, but conflict with Magnus I of Norway prevented him from sailing to England to secure his position there. Consequently, it was agreed that his elder illegitimate half-brother Harold Harefoot would be regent in charge of England.

Harold took the English crown for himself in 1037—Harthacanute being "forsaken because he was too long in Denmark"—and Harthacanute's mother Emma, who had previously been staying at Winchester with some of Harthacanute's housecarls, fled to Bruges in Flanders.[1] After Harthacanute had settled the situation in Scandinavia through an agreement (in 1038 or 1039) with Magnus that if either of them should die without an heir, the other would be his successor, Harthacanute prepared an invasion of England to depose Harold, arriving at Bruges in 1039. Harold, however, died before an invasion could occur, on March 17 1040; possibly, if he was known to be ill, Harthcanute had stalled his plans in anticipation of Harold's death.[2] Harthacanute was then invited to England, and he landed at Sandwich on June 17 ("seven days before Midsummer"), with a fleet of 62 warships. He ordered Harold's body thrown into a fen.[1]

Harthacanute was a harsh and unpopular ruler: to pay for his fleet, he severely increased the rate of taxation, and in 1041 the people of Worcester killed two of Harthacanute's housecarls who had been collecting the tax, prompting an attack by Harthacanute in which the city was burned.[1][2] The story of Lady Godiva riding naked through the streets of Coventry to persuade the local earl to lower taxes may come from the reign of Harthacanute. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives a dismal assessment of him: "He never accomplished anything kingly for as long as he ruled." It also says that in 1041 Harthcanute broke a pledge and betrayed Earl Eadwulf of Northumbria, who was under his safe conduct.[1][2]

In 1041, Harthacanute invited his half-brother Edward the Confessor (his mother Emma's son by Ethelred the Unready) back from exile in Normandy to become a member of his household, and probably made Edward his heir.[2] Harthacanute was unmarried and had no children. On June 8, 1042, he died at Lambeth—he "died as he stood at his drink, and he suddenly fell to the earth with an awful convulsion; and those who were close by took hold of him, and he spoke no word afterwards…"[1] He was buried at Winchester. Edward assumed the throne on Harthacanute's death, restoring the Saxon royal line for his lifetime.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, (M. Swanton translation, 1996), 1035–42.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (1943), Oxford University Press (1998 paperback), page 421–422; see also ASC, 1039–40.

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