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The Vikings of Sherwood How Canute Became King of England.

In the summer of 1013, the Danish king Svein Forkbeard, accompanied by his son Canute, launched an invasion on England. After years of raiding Svein knew enough about the English political situation to exploit its weaknesses and knew where to find followers to support his army. He based himself in Gainsborough to draw on the support of the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw in a bid to become king of England and defeat Æthelred. Svein drove out Æthelred and became King of England on Christmas day 1013 but died after reigning for only two months. On his death the Danish fleet chose Canute to succeed him, but the English nobles had other ideas: they asked Æthelred, in refuge in Normandy, to come back as king if he would govern more justly than he had done before. Æthelred promised to be a better king, to forgive those who had deserted him, and to “remedy all the things of which they disapproved”. On these terms Æthelred returned to England. This time he managed to drive out Canute, and the fleet went back to Denmark. A year later Canute was back, hoping to repeat his father’s conquest. Despite promises, Æthelred did not forgive those who had sided with the Danes. He viciously punished the northern leaders who had made an alliance with Svein, and in doing so caused his son, Edmund Ironside, to rebel against him. When Canute returned in 1015, Æthelred was ill and England was divided: large parts of the country submitted to the Danes, while Edmund, still unable to unite the English, struggled to put an army together. Only after Æthelred died in April 1016 did southern England finally unite behind Edmund, and six months of war followed. The last battle was fought at a place called Assandun in Essex on 18 October 1016 and there the Danes were victorious. Edmund died six weeks later and Canute was finally sole king of England.

Canute and Sherwood
Nottinghamshire has a very special history because it is the home of Sherwood Forest. There are many villages in Nottinghamshire and the Forest that owe their origins to the Danish Viking warrior farmers. These farmers had a special place in our history because many of them were sokemen or freemen They had no immediate lord below the king and the earl. Their villages and communities had their own customary law and nowhere were these customs so strong as in Mansfield and Newark. After the Norman invasion the area of Sherwood Forest and Nottinghamshire still reflected the power of its customary law and it's 'free' farmers. The Domesday Book reflected this special level of society many years later. The last 1000 years in the history of England has been shaped by the events of King Canute's reign. It began with his arrival on our shores in 1015 and the warrior farmers of Nottinghamshire would have been vital part in that event. Their assembly site at Thynghowe may have been the rallying point for Canute and his army of the Seven Boroughs and therefore crucial in the process to establish Canute as king in 1016. An event we celebrate in 2016 here in the boundary forest of Sherwood.