Adela of Flanders, Charles of Denmark, King Canute IV of Denmark, King Harald III of Denmark, King Olaf II of Denmark, King Sweyn II of Denmark, King William I of England, Kingdom of Denmark, Mistress, William the Conqueror
Canute IV (c. 1042 – 10 July 1086), later known as Canute the Holy or Saint Canute was King of Denmark from 1080 until 1086. Canute was an ambitious king who sought to strengthen the Danish monarchy, devotedly supported the Roman Catholic Church, and had designs on the English throne.
Canute was one of the many sons oF Sweyn II Estridsson, King of Denmark (c. 1019-1076) and an unknown mistress. He is first noted as a member of Sweyn’s 1069 raid of England, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports that Canute was one of the leaders of another raid against England in 1075.
When returning from England in 1075, the Danish fleet stopped in the County of Flanders. Because of its hostility towards William I of England, Flanders was a natural ally for the Danes. He also led successful campaigns to Sember and Ester, according to skald Kálfr Mánason.
When Sweyn died, Canute’s brother Harald III was elected king, and as Canute went into exile in Sweden, he was possibly involved in the active opposition to Harald. On April 17, 1080, Harald died; and Canute succeeded him to the throne of Denmark.
On his accession to the throne of Denver he married Adela, daughter of Count Robert I of Flanders and Gertrude of Saxony the daughter of Bernard II, Duke of Saxony and Eilika of Schweinfurt. She bore him one son, Charles in 1084, and twin daughters Cæcilia (who married Erik Jarl) and Ingerid (who married Folke the Fat), born shortly before his death (ca. 1085/86). Ingerid’s descendants, the House of Bjelbo, would ascend to the throne of Sweden and Norway and Canute IV’s blood returned to the Danish throne in the person of King Olaf II of Denmark.
King of Denmark
Canute IV quickly proved himself to be a highly ambitious king as well as a devout one. He enhanced the authority of the church, and demanded austere observation of church holidays. He gave large gifts to the churches in Dalby, Odense, Roskilde, and Viborg, and especially to Lund. Ever a champion of the Church, he sought to enforce the collection of tithes. His aggrandizement of the church served to create a powerful ally, who in turn supported Canute’s power position.
His reign was marked by vigorous attempts to increase royal power in Denmark, by stifling the nobles and keeping them to the word of the law. Canute IV issued edicts arrogating to himself the ownership of common land, the right to the goods from shipwrecks, and the right to inherit the possessions of foreigners and kinless folk. He also issued laws to protect freed thralls as well as foreign clerics and merchants. These policies led to discontent among his subjects, who were unaccustomed to a king claiming such powers and interfering in their daily lives.
Aborted attempt on England
But Canute’s ambitions were not purely domestic. As the grandnephew of Canute the Great, who ruled England, Denmark and Norway until 1035, Canute considered the crown of England to be rightfully his. He therefore regarded William I of England as a usurper. In 1085, with the support of his father-in-law Count Robert of Flanders and King Olaf III of Norway, Canute planned an invasion of England and called his fleet in leding at the Limfjord.
The fleet never set sail, as Canute was preoccupied in Schleswig due to the potential threat of Heinrich IV, Holy Roman Emperor, with whom both Denmark and Flanders were on unfriendly terms. Canute feared the invasion of Henry, whose enemy Rudolf of Rheinfelden had sought refuge in Denmark.
The warriors of the fleet, mostly made up of peasants who needed to be home for the harvest season, got weary of waiting, and elected Canute’s brother Olaf (the later Olaf I of Denmark) to argue their case. This raised the suspicion of Canute, who had Olaf arrested and sent to Flanders. The leding was eventually dispersed and the peasants tended to their harvests, but Canute intended to reassemble within a year.
Before the fleet could reassemble, a peasant revolt broke out in Vendsyssel, where Canute was staying, in early 1086. Canute first fled to Schleswig, and eventually to Odense. On July 10, 1086, Canute and his men took refuge inside the wooden St. Alban’s Priory in Odense. The rebels stormed into the church and slew Canute, along with his brother Benedict and seventeen of their followers, before the altar. According to chronicler Ælnoth of Canterbury, Canute died following a lance thrust in the flank. He was succeeded by Olaf as Olaf I of Denmark.