King Canute and Jarl Ulf

Canute and Ulf quarrel over chess Lithograph by Morris Meredith Williams

In the year 1016, King Edmund Ironside had died on November 30, leaving Canute (or Knut) as reigning monarch over all of England. The Danish king was the beneficiary of  the Treaty of Olney granting survivorship to one or the other, and he took over his inheritance without undue resistance. Canute was crowned in London on Christmas Day, with recognition by the nobility at Oxford the following month. But let’s face it: Canute didn’t do it alone. Without the support of his Jarls, the tempestuous year of five battles could easily have gone the other way.

Ulf Thorgilsson was one of Canute’s most trusted Jarls and accompanied him to England during his great invasion of 1016. Legend has it that Ulf got lost in the forest while pursuing Saxons after the battle at Sherstone. He stumbled across young Godwine and offered him a gold ring in exchange for escorting him back to the ships. Seeing an opportunity, Godwine returned the ring and agreed to act at Ulf’s guide. He never looked back. It so happened that Ulf was married to Canute’s sister Estrid, and incidentally (or maybe not, to Godwine), he was brother to Gytha who became Godwine’s wife.

Once Canute was comfortably settled on the throne, he dismissed the bulk of his mercenary forces (after raising a huge Danegeld—or stern geld—of 82,500 pounds). Ulf went back to Denmark and acted as Canute’s regent for many years. In 1026, Canute brought over his eight year-old son Harthacnut to represent the crown as Denmark’s future king under the tutelage of Ulf. Unfortunately, this is when the trouble started.

Canute’s extended absence rankled his countrymen, and when the Swedish king Anund Jakob and the Norwegian king Olaf II decided to invade Denmark, Ulf persuaded the provinces to elect the child as king—with him as de facto ruler, of course. Canute was not amused. Some men say Ulf actually joined forces with the invaders, though there is no agreement on this. The King returned to Denmark with a fleet and promptly went after the raiders, chasing them down and engaging in a naval battle at the estuary of a river called Helgeå in Sweden. Olaf nearly crushed Canute by a clever stratagem of releasing a deluge of water onto his fleet, but Ulf came to the rescue and helped defeat the enemy. Alas, this was not enough to save him.

Battle of Helgea, illustration by Gerhard Munthe for Heimskringla source: Wikipedia

Although Canute did not hold his son responsible for usurping the throne, he was still furious with Ulf. As the legend goes, after a celebratory feast at Roskilde, Canute and Ulf argued over a game of chess. When a frustrated Ulf got up to leave, Canute jeered after him, “Are you running away, Ulf the coward?” The Jarl turned with his retort, “You would have run, if you could, at Helge River. Then, you didn’t call me Ulf the coward, when I saved you from the Swedes who were beating you like dogs.”

As you can imagine, this insult could not go unpunished. The following day, on Christmas of 1026, Canute ordered one of his housecarls to kill Ulf while at prayer in the local Trinity Church. Or so goes the legend. I can only imagine that Godwine was horrified, and you can read about this and the aftermath in GODWINE KINGMAKER.


Canute’s Palace at Bosham

I keep wondering whether the Anglo-Saxons or Danes had an interest in Roman history.  After all, they must have stumbled across plenty of ruins, and maybe even a surviving building or two.  It was gratifying to see the Viking TV show episode where King Ecbert revealed his Roman treasure trove to Athelstan.  Why not?  I’m sure the moderns aren’t the only people interested in ancient history.  So I was very interested to discover that it was thought that King Canute may have erected his Bosham palace on the foundations of Vespasian’s villa, built when the Romans had an encampment there.  Vespasian commanded the Second Legion Augusta which is thought to have landed at Bosham in A.D. 44 and saw active service against the Durotriges and the Belgae tribes in southern England.

Here are some items that historians have listed relating to the Roman occupation at Bosham: they know that Chichester Harbor was used as a Roman port (called Magnus Portus).  They found a Roman foundation under Trinity Church.  In 1800, a colossal head (much eroded) was discovered in a garden; it is thought to have belonged to Emperor Trajan’s statue sited at the entrance to the harbor.  A legionary helmet of late-Claudian period was reportedly dredged up in the harbor. Excavations uncovered pottery, midden pits, even wallplaster and opus signinum (Roman waterproof mortar). In the 19th century a roman footbath was discovered in Bull’s Garden, next to Bosham churchyard.  In 1832 near Broadbridge house, they discovered the foundations of a building, with walls over 2 feet thick and 6 feet deep with a 6 foot circular bath, an atrium and other rooms, thought to have been used by the troops.  Antoninus coins were found embedded in the tile mortar.  It is said that archaeologists found the remnants of an ampitheatre, and also a Roman mill-race (possibly the same where Canute’s daughter drowned).  And so, the list goes on and on.

Bosham Millstream, Wikipedia

Canute’s residence has been customarily called Stone Wall and was probably sited near the harbor.  Remnants of a large trough possibly for holding drinking water were discovered nearby.  Some think he built his villa on the spot of the old manor house.  It seems that the exact location of both Canute’s and Vespasian’s villa are still disputed… and even their very existence.  However, local tradition goes a long way, and I say it trumps the experts every time… at least for the Historical Novelist!

Canute and the Treaty of Olney

Battle of Assandun from Life of St. Edward the Confessor, Cambridge Univ. Library, MS Ee.3.59 (Wikipedia)

In the year 1016, the succession was bitterly contested between Edmund Ironside and Canute (or Knut) the Dane. Although Wessex had submitted to Canute late in 1015, Aethelred was still alive and sulking in London, leaving his son Edmund to fight his battles. But this didn’t last long; King Aethelred took his last breath on 23 April 1016, and London declared Edmund king. Now England had two kings, and so began a treacherous struggle marked by five major battles, men changing sides, a siege of London where Canute was said to have dug a trench around the city, and many, many dead warriors.

Although Edmund stoutly aided London in its defense against the Danes, he frequently left the city in order to draw the Danes away from their siege. It is said he raised five armies that year–one for each battle. The last and most important, the Battle of Assandun took place on October 18, ended in disaster for the Saxons because of the treachery of Eadric Streona, who took to flight with his forces and turned the tide against Edmund.

This time Canute was determined to end the conflicts. The Saxons withdrew but the Danes followed them up the Severn river into Gloucestershire, finally stopping at an island called Olney (or Alney).  There, in deference to the chieftains of the land who had had enough (led by Eadric Streona, who somehow retained the goodwill of Edmund Ironside), the two Kings decided to solve the issue by single combat.  This legend comes down to us through the chroniclers, as unlikely as it sounds.

Combat between Canute the Dane and Edmund Ironside, Matthew Paris, Chronica Maiora, Cambridge, Corpus Chrisit, 26, f. 160

The Saxon King was said to have been the stronger fighter and soon hammered the Dane, breaking his shield and beating him down when Canute called a stop to the fight.  “Bravest of youths,” he cried out, “why should either of us risk his life for the sake of a crown?”  Edmund paused, considering.  “Let us be brothers by adoption,” the Dane continued, “and divide the kingdom, governing so that I may rule your affairs, and you mine.” (Florence of Worcester). 

The single combat story is probably apocryphal, but the ensuing treaty is not.  According to their agreement, Canute was to rule Northumbria and Danish Mercia, while Edmund was ruler of  Wessex, Essex, East Anglia, and English Mercia.  It’s unclear who was supposed to rule London (I found it stated both ways), but in the end, the Londoners were obliged to come up with their own tribute payment to Canute and permit him to anchor his ships in the Thames for winter, so I guess the result speaks for itself.

Most importantly, it was stated that this treaty excluded brothers and children of the two Kings; if either was to die, all the possessions would revert to the other.  And so when Edmund Ironside died suddenly in the winter of 1016, Canute took the crown and made sure to bring the witnesses forward to confirm the terms of the treaty. An exhausted England accepted his claim without demurring.

You can read about this and more in my novel, GODWINE KINGMAKER. Of course, I assume Godwine was witness to these great events!


Who was Eadric Streona?

The death of Edmund Ironside Cambridge University Library MS Ee.3.59, f. 5

In the days of Edmund Ironside, the name Eadric Streona keeps popping up at the most critical moments… and not in a happy way.  It seems that this slippery Mercian Earl must have had incredible powers of persuasion, because he kept turning up no matter how often he changed sides.  No one seemed to know whether he was working as a spy for Canute or as an advisor to Edmund, and no one seemed to understand why the Saxon King could trust him. Where did this man come from?

Streona was not the last name of Eadric of Mercia; rather, it was a nickname which roughly translates to “the Acquisitor”.  He became Earl of Mercia in 1007, apparently as a result of murder, or rather, doing King Aethelred’s dirty work while acquiring the lands of tax defaulters.  He married the king’s daughter Eadgyth in 1009, which made him brother-in-law to Edmund Ironside.

In 1015, Eadric procured the murder of Siferth and Morcar, two leading thegns in the Danelaw.  We can assume that he did this for Aethelred, since the King benefited from confiscating their estates; he also ordered the arrest of Siferth’s widow.  Following this episode, Edmund (not yet Ironside), in defiance of his father, carried off the widow and made her his wife.  So Edmund became lord of the so-called Five Boroughs in the East Midlands, while Canute was hostile to the Danelaw at the time. At first, Eadric helped Edmund raise troops to fight Canute, but since Edmund had just married the widow of the thegn Eadric had murdered, Streona was soon plotting to betray him. Within four months after Canute’s arrival in England, Eadric had sworn homage to the Danish chief along with forty Mercian ships.

In 1016, Aethelred the Unready died and Edmund the Aetheling was immediately elected King by the citizens of London. Unfortunately for him, Canute was elected King by the Witan in Southampton, thus causing a dilemma that wreaked havoc for the next seven months. London bravely withstood three sieges by Canute, and King Edmund did his best to draw the Danes away from the city. Eadric was present at every major battle, first on one side then the other.

His first infamy was at the Battle of Sherstone, fought on the border of Wessex and Mercia.  Eadric sided with Canute, and on the second day he smote off the head of a warrior who looked like Edmund Ironside and held it up to the King’s army, shouting that the King was slain. The English wavered, about to take flight when Edmund tore off his own helmet, exclaimed that he lived and threw a spear at the traitor.  Unfortunately, the spear missed Eadric and skewered someone next to him. The King’s army rallied but the day ended in a draw.

The Danes went back to their ships, but Eadric returned to his brother-in-law and swore fealty to him. No one knows why, but Edmund took the Mercian Earl back into his favor. The King levied a new army and closely pressed the Danes who were on the run, but Eadric was said to have contrived to detain Edmund long enough for the Danes to recover.  Then, at the battle of Assandun, in charge of his own troops, Eadric suddenly turned tail and fled from the field, causing great slaughter.

Illustration for the Historical Scrap Book (Cassel, c 1880).

For some reason, Eadric was still in King Edmund’s confidence, and after the defeat of Assandun managed to persuade the King to meet Canute in person.  The two kings met on an island in the Severn and ultimately agreed to divide England between them, with the understanding that each King was the other’s heir.  Poor Edmund did not survive the year; although no accusation of foul play was agreed upon by chroniclers, it was thought by many that Eadric quietly did away with Edmund Ironside. A nasty rumor survived that Eadric climbed into the King’s garderobe and skewered him from below, though I suspect that was vicious rumor. 

From Canute’s point of view, Eadric Streona, had outlived his usefulness.  Although he had retained his Earldom of Mercia, Eadric is said to have expected more rewards and upbraided Canute for his lack of appreciation. Some went so far as to state that Eadric claimed he killed Edmund for Canute, but again I suspect this is poetic license. Regardless, it is certain that Canute had him killed at the Christmas Gemot.  My favorite story is that he had Earl Eric cut off his head and throw it out the window into the Thames.  How very appropriate!

Who was Harthacnut?

Soon after Canute gained the throne of England, he invited Aethelred’s widow Emma of Normandy to be his queen.  Emma agreed, on the condition that only the sons born of their union would be next in line to the throne.  This meant that two of his sons and two of her sons from previous marriages would be put aside.

And so Canute and Emma’s child Harthacnut was born in 1017. It seems ironic to me that the young heir Harthacnut was sent to Denmark when he was eight years old, under the regency of Canute’s brother-in-law Jarl Ulf, to help strengthen Canute’s hold on the country. Why would England’s heir be raised in Denmark? But that’s how it went, and in Denmark he stayed, eventually ruling in  his own right. When Canute died unexpectedly in 1035, his firstborn son Harold Harefoot (through his handfasted wife Aelfgifu of Northampton) was resident in England, and heir Harthacnut had his hands full in Denmark and did not dare leave the country.

The matter went before the Witan. Earl Godwine and Wessex were in favor of Harthacnut, and the North favored Harold Harefoot, their native son.  The Witan ruled, at least short-term, to divide the country and appoint Harthacnut King in the south, and Harold King north of the Thames.  Apparently Emma acted as regent for Harthacut, and sent her son increasingly insistent messages to come and claim his kingdom.

Unfortunately, Harthacnut could not get away, and by 1037 Harold Harefoot claimed the whole kingdom, causing Emma to flee to Bruges in Flanders; she blamed Earl Godwine for failing to uphold her son’s claim.  There she awaited the arrival of Harthacnut who sailed to join her in 1039 with 10 ships, preparing to invade England. As it turned out, the invasion was not necessary because they heard word that Harold was ailing. Indeed, the king died a few months later, and Harthacnut sailed to England with 62 warships to claim his kingdom.

Actually, the transition was peaceful and Harthacnut managed to raise a Danegeld of 21,000 pounds to pay his mercenaries off, just like Canute had done in 1017.  His first official act on taking the throne was to order the body of his brother, Harold Harefoot, disinterred and thrown into the Thames. That certainly set the stage for his short reign!

Harthacnut ruled by intimidation, harrying the population when they objected to his harsh taxation to pay for a large fleet he felt necessary to keep the populace under control.

Harthacnut had health problems of his own; in 1041 he invited his half-brother Edward (the Confessor) to live in England, and may have made Edward his heir.  And not too soon!  In June of 1042, during a wedding feast as he was toasting the bride, Harthacnut went into convulsions and died shortly thereafter, unmourned by all but his mother.

Hence ended the brief reign of the Danes. If Svegn Forkbeard, Canute and his sons weren’t so short-lived, things might have turned out differently for Anglo-Saxon England.


Who was Harold Harefoot?

After Canute’s untimely death in 1035, Queen Emma, backed by the powerful Earl Godwine of Wessex, strongly supported her son Harthacnut’s claim to the English throne. Unfortunately, Harthacnut’s position in Denmark at that moment was very insecure, and much though he would have loved to claim the crown of England, he just couldn’t get away.

Enter his elder half-brother Harold, son of Aelfgifu of Northampton, nicknamed Harefoot. First of all, Harold was living in the country; it is thought that Earl Godwine’s rival Earl Leofric of Mercia had given him shelter for many years. Secondly, the Northerners saw him as one of their own, and favored him over Harthacnut, who had been in Denmark since he was six. Since Anglo-Saxon England used the Witan to elect the next sovereign, the previous king’s candidate did not necessarily follow.

Earl Godwine campaigned hard for Harthacnut, but in the end only won the support of his own Wessex. The Witan decided once again to split the kingship into two and declared that Harold Harefoot would be king of all England except Wessex, and that Godwine and Emma would act as regents over Wessex for Harthacnut.

This uncomfortable situation did not last very long, and within two years Harold was declared king of all England.  He called on Queen Emma, installed at Winchester, and despoiled her of all Canute’s treasures; soon she fled to Flanders, where she awaited the return of Harthacnut.  Earl Godwine accepted the inevitable and swore fealty to King Harold I, but was never really in favor; in 1036 Godwine became the scapegoat for Alfred Aetheling’s capture and murder during the exile’s ill-fated invasion of England (more on that later).

We know of little else about Harold Harefoot’s reign. In 1040 he died of an undisclosed illness at Oxford and was buried at Winchester. This saved England the indignity of yet another invasion which was in the process of being arranged by Harthacnut.

Heirs to the Throne after Canute

Source: Wikipedia

King Canute died suddenly in 1035 at around 40 years of age. His reign had been surprisingly peaceful and successful, and at least he could be comforted by the knowledge that he left behind two grown sons to succeed him.

Of course, things were a little messy. His eldest son Svein and second son Harold (nicknamed Harefoot) were borne by Canute’s mistress, or more probably pagan wife Aelfgifu of Northampton. Canute married Aelfgifu in 1013 when his father conquered England, probably to ensure the loyalty of the Northerners in the Danelaw. First son Svein was destined to be king of Norway and was never mentioned in relationship to the English crown. Harold on the other hand, born in 1015 or so, looked to be a likely candidate for King of England…that is, until Emma of Normandy came into the picture.

In the transitional period after Swegn Forkbeard died and King Aelthelred was recalled, Aelfgifu and child were transported to Denmark with the dead king’s body. It was there that she gave birth to Harold Harefoot, and she may have stayed there for safekeeping. For soon after Canute gained the throne, he invited Aethelred’s widow Emma of Normandy to be his queen. And Emma agreed, on the condition that only the sons born of their union would be next in line to the throne. This means that Canute’s two sons as well as her own sons Alfred and Edward would be put aside. Also, Canute put aside his first wife, which apparently didn’t cause any problem with anybody (except, I assume, the woman in question). Emma gave birth to their son Harthacnut in 1017.

I’ll go into more detail in a future post, but to sum it up, on Canute’s death there were many heirs:
1. Harthacnut, son of Canute and Emma
2. Harold Harefoot, son of Canute and Aelfgifu

and let’s not forget the old House of Wessex:
3. Alfred, son of Aethelred and Emma
4. Edward, son of Aethelred and Emma
5. Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside and Ealdgyth (not recalled until 1056)

Things did not go as planned and it turned out that Harold Harefoot became the next king, continuing the Danish line. It is ironic that none of Canute’s sons had children of their own, and all of them died young. For better or worse, as they say…


When England lived under Danish rule

Combat between Canute the Dane and Edmund Ironside, Matthew Paris, Chronica Maiora, Cambridge, Corpus Chrisit, 26, f. 160  Source: Wikipedia

The year 2016 marked the 1000th anniversary of Canute’s coronation as the King of England. I think it’s interesting that even though the Danes ruled all of England for more than a generation, very few moderns seem to give it any thought at all. Between Canute and his sons, the Danes were kings from 1016 through 1042, yet we still think of England as Anglo-Saxon during that era.

Of course, the Vikings were no strangers to England. During the reign of Alfred the Great, the Danes overran the country and would have conquered but for the dogged resistance of the King of Wessex. In the end, Alfred the Great divided the country in half, and the Northmen settled and ruled the Danelaw  for the next 200 years. By the time Canute’s father, Swegn Forkbeard took the crown in 1013, England’s Aethelred the Unready had made such a mess of things that the country was beginning to think that Danish rule might be preferable after all.  Not that they had much choice.

Swegn Forkbeard died suddenly in 1013, having ruled for only a few months. Aethelred’s son Edmund Ironside had a brief tenure as king, constantly harassed by the Danes under Canute, who was the second son of Swegn (his older brother Harald ruled Denmark until 1018). Ultimately, Edmund Ironside and Canute agreed to divide the country so that Edmund would rule Wessex and Canute the rest of England; if one died, the crown would devolve to the survivor.  Alas, the end result was all too predictable.

Canute and Emma from Liber Vitae, 1031, Stowe Ms 944, folio 6, British Library

It was conjectured that Edmund Ironside may have been murdered by the villanous Eadric Streona who seemed to change sides like most people change their clothes.  But whether by foul means or natural causes, Edmund did not survive his first winter as King.  Canute took over in 1016 and at first things didn’t look good for the Anglo-Saxons. Some key english Thegns were assassinated (including Eadric Streona) and Viking Jarls installed in their places. Canute proceeded to raise the largest Danegeld tax yet (£82,500) to pay off the Viking ships, but luckily he sent most of the army home afterwards. From then on, England was not considered fair game (except for the occasional raid) until the unhappy events of 1066.

Historians often voice their surprise that Canute decided to settle down and adopt the ways of his conquered people, in direct contrast to William the Norman. I think it could be fairly said that the Danes were absorbed by the Anglo-Saxons through intermarriage and common economic concerns. Although Canute had difficulty juggling his Empire of Denmark, England, Norway and part of Sweden, he made England his home.  He presided over 20 years of peace and prosperity, and by the end of his reign, Canute was known as a good and just king.  Had he not died young – only about 40 years old – England might have stayed Danish considerably longer.


Canute’s Grave Sites

source: Wikipedia

Winchester Cathedral is breathtakingly beautiful and formidable at first sight. Knowing that Canute is said to be buried there, I gazed at the stone foundations of the non-existent Anglo-Saxon Minster with some trepidation. The footprint of the Old Minster butts up against the cathedral, and I wondered what happened to all the bones of saints and kings who resided there before it was demolished in 1093.

Inside, I had to ask three guides before I found one who knew Canute’s name.  “Come, I’ll show you” said a nice elderly gentleman, who was surprised we were American.  Usually only Danish visitors asked about Canute, he said.  I was glad we asked for help; hundreds of people are interred in the cathedral, and he walked us most the way to the back of the building, to the medieval-era chapel whose inside walls only reached three-quarters of the way to the vaulted ceiling.

Our guide pointed to a painted wooden chest sitting on a shelf atop the wall, 15 feet above our heads. “He’s there,” the gentlemen said, then pointed to another chest across the chapel, “and he’s there,” he said, then pointed to a third painted chest, “and he’s probably there.”  I just blinked at him, speechless (this rarely happens to me).

Mortuary Chest. Source: Wikipedia

It turns out that during the English civil war, Parliamentary forces vandalized Winchester Cathedral and scattered the ashes of our Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings and bishops all over the floor.  There were originally eight Mortuary Chests, as they are called, and now only six remain.  So the survivors swept up the bones, hopelessly mixed up, and deposited them carefully into the six chests, where Canute keeps company with his wife Emma, son Harthacnut, Bishop Stigand, King Egbert, King Ethelwulf, King William Rufus, and quite a few others going back to the seventh century (even Godwine of Wessex, I trust).

(I keep thinking of someone sweeping up a pile of bones and powder with a broom and a dustpan.)  Anyway, it looks like the chests were actually housed in (now empty) cubicles on the other side of the walls, and perhaps the chests were placed high on the shelves for safekeeping?  Either way, it was certainly not what I was expecting!

That was many years ago. Since then, a team of archaeologists and anthropologists from the University of Bristol were given permission to actually remove the chests and analyze the bones, using DNA evidence and radiocarbon dating. They have yet to determine the identity of the 23 partial skeletons—if that’s ever going to be possible—but they have concluded that the single female skeleton most likely belonged to Queen Emma, wife of Aethelred the Unready and later Canute the Dane.

Edmund Ironside, Hero or fool?

Combat between Canute the Dane and Edmund Ironside, Matthew Paris, Chronica Maiora, Cambridge, Corpus Chrisit, 26, f. 160
Combat between Canute the Dane and Edmund Ironside, Matthew Paris, Chronica Maiora, Cambridge, Corpus Chrisit, 26, f. 160

Edmund Ironside’s foray into written history was as dynamic as it was brief. 1016 was a pivotal year for England, as we see the death of two kings and an awful lot of Danish activity. By the time King Aethelred the Unready died in April of that year, Canute was entrenched in Wessex, with London as his aim. Edmund was declared Aethelred’s successor and immediately set about to bring Wessex back to fold, so to speak. He was generally successful in both finding men willing to fight for him, and giving Canute a run for his money.

Things might have gone very well for Edmund except for his uncanny adhesion to the infamous Eadric of Mercia, or Eadric Streona, also known as Eadric the Grasper and the most rascally traitor in Anglo-Saxon history. Eadric was famous for changing sides at the most critical moment, usually with dire consequences. Why Edmund kept forgiving him and trusting him remains a mystery—unless it’s because Eadric was married to his sister.

In October, the Battle of Assandun was the turning point. Up to that time, Edmund had won a couple of bloody battles against Canute, but at Assandun, Eadric is said to have cut off the head of a man who looked like the king and held it up, throwing the army into confusion and turning the battle against the English. Most historians believe that Eadric was in the pay of Canute at this time.

Edmund Ironside was soon on the run, and the Danes followed him up the Bristol channel into the Severn, where both sides paused at Olney Island. Legend has it that Eadric, once again at the side of King Edmund, suggested that both chieftains resolve their dispute by single combat. Edmund, by far the larger and more powerful man, agreed as did Canute, who could not afford to lose face.

We can only assume that Eadric managed to secretly communicate his plan to Canute, as its result bore the hallmark of the wily man’s tactics. For, as one would have expected, King Edmund was the stronger fighter and soon hammered the Dane, breaking his shield and beating him down when Canute called a stop to the fight.  “Bravest of youths,” he cried out, “why should either of us risk his life for the sake of a crown?”  Edmund paused, considering.  “Let us be brothers by adoption,” the Dane continued, “and divide the kingdom, governing so that I may rule your affairs, and you mine.” (this came from Florence of Worcester)

And so it was.  Whether it happened by single combat or not, in the end Edmund Ironside agreed to partition the kingdom between them, with the understanding that one of them would inherit the whole on the other’s death.  No mention was made of Edmund’s heirs (remember Eadgar Aetheling?).  Canute got the Danelaw and Edmund held Wessex.

Unfortunately for Edmund Ironside, he did not survive the winter.  Canute had taken up residence in London and the Saxon king died  a couple of months later – some said from exhaustion, or from wounds taken in battle.  But others declared that he was killed by Eadric Streona, who hid in the king’s privy and drove a hot poker through his nether regions (sounds like propaganda). The story goes that Canute, on hearing of Eadric’s despicable murder, ordered his execution on the spot.

Canute was certainly finished with the traitor. Got rid of him, I reckon.