The Vikings of Sherwood How
Canute Became King of England.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.