In season one of Vikings Valhalla we were introduced to an intelligent and confident warrior, Cnut. Known as Cnut (Canute) the Great, he was king of Denmark, Norway, and England until his death in 1035. The three kingdoms formed the North Sea Empire and, per the Netflix series, we are still following the formation.
Cnut’s feat was impressive. He was already reigning in Denmark when he invaded England and curiously he tried to reign keeping the local culture, without imposing Viking customs. His interest in the lands that would form the United Kingdom today was aligned with those of his father (also in the series), Sweyn Forkbeard.
Politically skilled, he had influence within the complicated Catholic Church, as Denmark had already converted to Catholicism.
Very tall, strong, and handsome, Knut had already participated in the invasion of England accompanying his father. According to historians, the intensity and violence of his campaign have been compared to the days of Alfred the Great in the original Vikings series.
Cnut’s reign – we’re following it in Vikings Valhalla – lasted nearly 20 years. He married Queen Emma, widow of Aethelred and daughter of Richard I, Duke of Normandy. The political marriage turned into a union of genuine love and the two had children, but all will not be smooth. On the contrary.
Cnut, who had already been to England when his father, Sweyn Forkbeard, invaded the country and reigned for a few years. It was at this time that he married for the first time and had two children, Sweyn and Harold. Unlike the series, Forkbeard died in 1014 and so Aethelred had the crown, prompting Cnut to return and fight the king’s son Edmund II Ironside. The two reigned “together” over England until Edmund’s suspicious death, causing Cnut to reign alone.
His reign began ruthlessly with the local nobles but gradually ceased to rule like a foreign conqueror, creating important laws and being, in general, a good king, with internal peace and prosperity. It had the fundamental support of the Catholic Church.
Queen Emma’s children by Aethelred were sent to Normandy and Cnut married her to ensure that her heirs or relatives would take it upon themselves to “save” her.
Cnut’s death led his children and Emma’s children to a series of conflicts, but he also entered history for a tale that has different versions. One day, Cnut sat on the edge more and tried to command the tide not to touch his feet, but the sea obviously ignored him. As the story emerged more than a century after his death, there is no evidence for the fact, so some say he did it to prove that he was not above God and others claim he tried to prove it. Be that as it may, there is no Cnut without the famous tide command.
In the Netflix series, Cnut is played by Brad Freegard and is still settling in England. There’s a lot of drama still ahead, but Cnut will still have a bigger part in Season 2. Let’s wait.