Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Sons of Cnut. 1035—1042

King Cnut died in 1035. Godwine and the West Saxons chose Harthacnut, the son of Cnut and Emma to take his father's place, whilst the north and centre, headed by Leofwine's son, Leofric, Earl of the Mercians, chose Harold, the son of Cnut by an earlier wife or concubine. Godwine perhaps hoped that Harthacnut would make the West Saxon earldom the centre of the empire which had been his father's. Cnut's empire was, however, breaking up. The Norwegians chose Magnus, a king of their own race, and Harthacnut remained in Denmark to defend it against the attacks of Magnus.

In Normandy there were two English Ethelings, Ælfred and Edward, the sons of Æthelred by Emma, who seem to have thought that the absence of Harthacnut gave them a chance of returning to England. Ælfred landed, but was seized by Harold. He was blinded with such cruelty that he died. His death was, truly or falsely, attributed to Godwine. As Harthacnut still remained in Denmark, the West Saxons deposed him and gave themselves to Harold, since which time England has never been divided.

In 1040 Harold died, and Harthacnut came at last to England to claim the crown. He brought with him a Danish fleet, and with his sailors and his house-carls he ruled England as a conquered land. He raised a Danegeld to satisfy his men, and sent his house-carls to force the people to pay the heavy tax. Two of them were killed at Worcester, and he burnt Worcester to the ground. In 1042 he died 'as he stood at his drink' at a bridal.