House of Knýtlinga

The Danish House of Knýtlinga (English: "House of Cnut's Descendants") was a ruling royal house in Middle Age Scandinavia and England. Its most famous king was Cnut the Great, who gave his name to this dynasty. Other notable members were Cnut's father Sweyn Forkbeard, grandfather Harald Bluetooth, and sons Harthacnut, Harold Harefoot, and Svein Knutsson. It has also been called the House of Canute, the House of Denmark, the House of Gorm, or the Jelling dynasty.

In 1018 AD the House of Knýtlinga brought the crowns of Denmark and England together under a personal union. At the height of its power, in the years 1028–1030, the House reigned over Denmark, England and Norway. After the death of Cnut the Great's heirs within a decade of his own death and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the legacy of the Knýtlinga was largely lost to history.

Jelling dynasty
Royal dynasty
Parent houseHouse of Munsö
CountryDenmark Denmark
Raven Banner.svg Norway
England England
Foundedc. 916
FounderHarthacnut I of Denmark
Current headNone; extinct
Final rulerCnut III & II
Cadet branches
Cnut the Great's domains, in red

Rulers of England

The House of Knýtlinga ruled the Kingdom of England from 1013 to 1014 and from 1016 to 1042.

In 1013 Sweyn Forkbeard, already the king of Denmark and of Norway, overthrew King Æthelred the Unready of the House of Wessex. Sweyn had first invaded England in 1003 to avenge the death of his sister Gunhilde and many other Danes in the St. Brice's Day massacre, which had been ordered by Æthelred in 1002.

Sweyn died in 1014 and Æthelred was restored. However, in 1015 Sweyn's son, Cnut the Great, invaded England. After Æthelred died in April 1016, his son Edmund Ironside briefly became king, but was forced to surrender half of England to Cnut. After Edmund died in November that same year, Cnut became king of all England.

Although Cnut was already married to Ælfgifu of Northampton, he married Æthelred's widow, Emma of Normandy. He ruled until his death in 1035. After his death another of Æthelred's sons, Alfred Aetheling, tried to retake the English throne, but he was betrayed and captured by Godwin, Earl of Wessex, who supported Cnut's son, Harold Harefoot. Alfred was blinded, and died soon after.

Harold ruled until 1040, although his mother Ælfgifu may have ruled during part of his reign.[1] Harold initially shared England with his half brother Harthacnut, the son of Cnut and Emma. Harold ruled in Mercia and Northumbria, and Harthacnut ruled in Wessex. However Harthacnut was also king of Denmark (as Cnut III), and spent most of his time there, so that Harold was effectively sole ruler of England.

Harthacnut succeeded Harold as king of England (he is sometimes also known as Cnut II). He died two years later, and his half-brother Edward the Confessor became king. Edward was the son of Æthelred and Emma, and so with his succession to the throne the House of Wessex was restored.

England after the House of Knýtlinga

Edward the Confessor ruled until 1066. His brother in law, Harold Godwinson—the son of Alfred's betrayer—became king, provoking the Norman conquest of England in the same year. Harold II was the last Anglo-Saxon king to rule over England.

The Normans were descended from Vikings who had settled in Normandy, and although they had adopted the French language, their heritage and self-image were essentially Viking. In this manner, the Vikings ultimately (if indirectly) finally conquered and kept England after all.[2]

In 1085–86 King Cnut IV of Denmark planned one last Danish invasion of England, but he was assassinated by Danish rebels before he could carry it out. This was the last time the Vikings attempted to attack Western Europe, and Cnut's death is regarded as the end of the Viking Age.

List of Danish kings of England

  • Sweyn Forkbeard, 1013–14 (also king of Denmark 986/7–1014 and Norway 999–1014)
  • Cnut, 1016–1035 (also king of Denmark 1018–35 and Norway 1028–35)
  • Harold Harefoot, 1035–40
  • Harthacnut, 1040–42 (also king of Denmark 1035–1042)

Queens consort of England during Danish rule

Family tree

Main genealogy

Margrave's coronet.png
Margrave's coronet.png
Gorm the Old
Toke Gormsson
Knut Gormsson
Gunnhild Konungamóðir
Gyrid of Sweden
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Harald Bluetooth
Tove of the Obotrites
Tyra of Denmark
Haakon Haraldsson
other sons
Gunhild of Wenden
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Sweyn Forkbeard
Sigrid the Haughty
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Harald II of Denmark
other daughters
Ælfgifu of Northampton
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Cnut the Great
Emma of Normandy
Ulf Thorgilsson
Estrid Svendsdatter
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Harold Harefoot
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Svein Knutsson
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Gunhilda of Denmark
Heraldic Imperial Crown (Common).svg
Henry III
Holy Roman Emperor
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Sweyn II of Denmark
Ælfwine Haroldsson
Beatrice of Franconia
House of Estridsen

The parentage of Strut-Harald and Gunnhild Konungamóðir is disputed; both of them had issue. The existence of Gunhild of Wenden and Sigrid the Haughty is disputed, some details of their lives can be exchanged to each other or associated to another figures.

Relations with other families

See also


  1. ^ Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1971, p. 421.
  2. ^ Lacey, R. & Danziger, D. (1999) In The Year 1000 London: Little, Brown and Company, pp. 75, 80-81
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "KINGS OF WESSEX AND ENGLAND 802–1066" (PDF). The official website of The British Monarchy. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-24. Retrieved 2015-07-05.
  • Sweyn on the official website of the British Monarchy
  • Cnut on the official website of the British Monarchy
  • Harold on the official website of the British Monarchy
  • Harthacnut on the official website of the British Monarchy
House of Knýtlinga
Preceded by
House of Olaf
Ruling house of Denmark
ca. 900–1042
Succeeded by
House of Bjelbo
Preceded by
Fairhair dynasty
Ruling house of Norway
Succeeded by
Vestfold dynasty1
Preceded by
House of Hlaðir
Ruling house of Norway
Preceded by
House of Wessex
Ruling house of England
Succeeded by
House of Wessex
Ruling house of England
Notes and references
1. It is disputed whether the Vestfold dynasty is a cadet branch of the Fairhair dynasty; see Fairhair dynasty for more details.
Curmsun Disc

The Curmsun Disc is a concave gold disc of a weight of 25.23 grams (0.890 oz) and a diameter of 4.5 centimetres (1.8 in). The Danish Viking king Harald Bluetooth is mentioned in the inscription of the disc. The disc´s characteristics are typical of Ottonian Art.Curmsun represents the king's patronymic (son of Gorm the Old); in standardized Old Norse, Gormsson.

Gorm the Old

Gorm the Old (Danish: Gorm den Gamle, Old Norse: Gormr gamli, Latin: Gormus Senex), also called Gorm the Languid (Danish: Gorm Løge, Gorm den Dvaske), was ruler of Denmark, reigning from c.  936 to his death c.  958. He ruled from Jelling, and made the oldest of the Jelling Stones in honour of his wife Thyra. Gorm was born before 900 and died c.  958.

Gunhilda of Denmark

Gunhilda of Denmark (c. 1020 – 18 July 1038), a member of the House of Knýtlinga, was Queen consort of Germany by her marriage with King Henry III of the Salian dynasty from 1036 until her death.


Gunhilde (or Gunnhild) (died 13 November 1002) is said to have been the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, and the daughter of Harald Bluetooth. She was married to Pallig, a Dane who served the King of England, Æthelred the Unready, as ealdorman of Devonshire.

She is supposed to have been a hostage in England when she was killed in the St. Brice's Day massacre, ordered by Æthelred. Pallig is reported alternatively to have been killed in the massacre or to have provoked the massacre by deserting Æthelred's service.Historians are divided about the strength of the evidence that she was Sweyn Forkbeard's sister. Ryan Lavelle is sceptical of the reliability of the later medieval sources, such as the Chronicle of John of Wallingford, which mention her. However, Frank Stenton described the claim as a "well recorded tradition", and considered that a desire to avenge her death was probably a principal motive for Sweyn's invasion of England in 1003, leading to the eventual conquest of England by his son Cnut.

Gyrid of Sweden

Gyrid Olafsdottir of Sweden (also Gyrithe Olafsdottir or Gunnhild) was a 10th-century Swedish princess and a Danish queen consort as the spouse of King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark.

Harald Bluetooth

Harald "Bluetooth" Gormsson (Old Norse: Haraldr Gormsson, Danish: Harald Blåtand Gormsen, died c. 985/86) was a king of Denmark and Norway.

He was the son of King Gorm the Old and of Thyra Dannebod. Harald ruled as king of Denmark from c. 958 – c. 986. Harald introduced Christianity to Denmark and consolidated his rule over most of Jutland and Zealand. Harald's rule as king of Norway following the assassination of King Harald Greycloak of Norway was more tenuous, most likely lasting for no more than a few years in the 970s. Some sources say his son Sweyn Forkbeard forcibly deposed him from his Danish throne before his death.

Harold Harefoot

Harold I (c. 1016 – 17 March 1040), also known as Harold Harefoot, was King of England from 1035 to 1040. Harold's nickname "Harefoot" is first recorded as "Harefoh" or "Harefah" in the twelfth century in the history of Ely Abbey, and according to late medieval chroniclers it meant that he was fleet of foot.The son of Cnut the Great and Ælfgifu of Northampton, Harold was elected regent of England, following the death of his father in 1035. He was initially ruling England in place of his brother Harthacnut, who was stuck in Denmark due to a rebellion in Norway, which had ousted their brother Svein. Although Harold had wished to be crowned king since 1035, Æthelnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury, refused to do so. It was not until 1037 that Harold, supported by earl Leofric and many others, was officially proclaimed king. The same year Harold's two step-brothers Edward and Alfred returned to England with a considerable military force, Alfred was captured by earl Godwin, who had him seized and delivered to an escort of men loyal to Harefoot. While en route to Ely he was blinded and soon after died of his wounds.

Harold died in 1040, having ruled just five years; his half-brother Harthacnut soon returned and took hold of the kingdom peacefully. Harold was originally buried in Westminster, but Harthacnut had his body dragged up and thrown into a "fen" (marsh), as well as then thrown into the river Thames, but it was after a short time picked up by a fisherman, being immediately taken to the Danes, and was honourably buried by them in their cemetery at London.

List of Norwegian monarchs

The list of Norwegian monarchs (Norwegian: kongerekken or kongerekka) begins in 872: the traditional dating of the Battle of Hafrsfjord, after which victorious King Harald Fairhair merged several petty kingdoms into that of his father. Named after the homonymous geographical region, Harald's realm was later to be known as the Kingdom of Norway.Traditionally established in 872 and existing continuously for over 1,100 years, the Kingdom of Norway is one of the original states of Europe: King Harald V, who has reigned since 1991, is the 64th monarch according to the official list. During interregna, Norway has been ruled by variously titled regents.

Several royal dynasties have possessed the Throne of the Kingdom of Norway: the more prominent include the Fairhair dynasty (872–970), the House of Sverre (1184–1319), and the House of Oldenburg (1450–1481, 1483–1533, 1537–1814, and from 1905) including branches Holstein-Gottorp (1814–1818) and Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (from 1905). During the civil war era (1130–1240), several pretenders fought each other. Some rulers from this era are not traditionally considered lawful kings and are usually omitted from lists of monarchs. Between 1387 and 1905, Norway was part of various unions.Kings of Norway used many additional titles between 1450 and 1905, such as King of the Wends, King of the Goths, Duke of Schleswig, Duke of Holstein, Prince of Rügen, and Count of Oldenburg. They called themselves Konge til Norge ("King to Norway"), rather than Konge af Norge ("King of Norway"), indicating that the country was their personal possession, usually with the style His Royal Majesty. With the introduction of constitutional monarchy in 1814, the traditional style "by the Grace of God" was extended to "by the Grace of God and due to the Kingdom's Constitution", but was only briefly in use. The last king to use the by the grace of God style was Haakon VII, who died in 1957. The King's title today is formally Norges Konge ("Norway's King"), indicating that he belongs to the country (rather than the other way around), with the style "His Majesty".

Maria of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Marie of Mecklenburg, born sometime between 1363 and 1367, but probably by 1365, dead after 13 May 1402, was a duchess of Pomerania. She was the daughter of Duke Henry III, Duke of Mecklenburg (death 1383) and the Danish princess Ingeborg of Denmark, Duchess of Mecklenburg (death 1370), was Duchess of Pomerania.

St Clement Danes

St Clement Danes is an Anglican church in the City of Westminster, London. It is situated outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. Although the first church on the site was reputedly founded in the 9th century by the Danes, the current building was completed in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren. Wren's building was gutted during the Blitz and not restored until 1958, when it was adapted to its current function as the central church of the Royal Air Force.

The church is sometimes claimed to be the one featured in the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons and the bells do indeed play that tune. However, St Clement's Eastcheap, in the City of London, also claims to be the church from the rhyme. St Clement Danes is known as one of the two 'Island Churches', the other being St Mary-le-Strand.

Svein Knutsson

Svein Knutsson (Old Norse: Sveinn Knútsson) c. 1016–1035, was the son of Cnut the Great, king of Denmark, Norway, and England, and his first wife Ælfgifu of Northampton, a Mercian noblewoman. In 1017 Cnut married Emma of Normandy, but there is no evidence that Ælfgifu was repudiated, and in 1030 Cnut sent her and Svein as regents to rule Norway. However, their rule was considered oppressive by the Norwegians. They imposed new taxes and harsh laws that made them unpopular and they were expelled in 1034.

Sweyn Forkbeard

Sweyn Forkbeard (; Old Norse: Sveinn Haraldsson tjúguskegg; Danish: Svend Tveskæg; 960 – 3 February 1014) was king of Denmark from 986 to 1014. He was the father of King Harald II of Denmark, King Cnut the Great and Queen Estrid Svendsdatter.

In the mid-980s, Sweyn revolted against his father, Harald Bluetooth, and seized the throne. Harald was driven into exile and died shortly afterwards in November 986 or 987. In 1000, with the allegiance of Trondejarl, Eric of Lade, Sweyn ruled most of Norway. In 1013, shortly before his death, he became the first Danish king of England after a long effort.


Thyra, also known as Thorvi or Thyre, was a Danish queen, spouse of King Gorm the Old of Denmark, the first historically recognized King of Denmark, who reigned from c.  936 to his death c.  958.

Tove of the Obotrites

Tove of the Obotrites, also called Tova, Tofa or Thora, (10th century) was a Slavic princess and a Danish Viking Age queen consort, the spouse of King Harald Bluetooth.

Thora (Tova) was the daughter of Prince Mistivir of the Obotrites. She married King Harald probably around 970. It is not known whether she was the mother of any of her spouse's children. She let the Sønder Vissing Runestone carve in memory of her mother.

Tyra of Denmark

Tyra of Denmark (Tyri Haraldsdatter, Thyri and Thyra) was a 10th-century Danish princess. She was the spouse of both King Olav I of Norway and of Styrbjörn Starke, crown prince of Sweden.Tyra was daughter of the Danish king Harald Bluetooth and thus a sister to King Svein Forkbeard. She was first married to the Swedish prince and throne claimant Styrbjörn Starke (Styrbjörn the Strong), son of King Olof Björnsson. As such, she was a titular crown princess of Sweden. However Styrbjörn Starke died in the Battle of Fýrisvellir (c. 985) near Uppsala fighting with his uncle King Eric the Victorious for the throne of Sweden.According to Snorri Sturluson, she was next betrothed to the Wendish king Burislav, as part of a Danish-Wendic peace agreement negotiated by King Svein Forkbeard. As part of the agreement, Svein married Gunhild of Wenden who was the sister of Burislav. However, after her hunger strike, Burislav sent her back to Denmark.

She subsequently arranged to have herself married to Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway, to the displeasure of her brother Svein. When Olaf married her, Svein refused to pay her promised dowry. Olaf subsequently set out for Wendland to seek allies for a war on Denmark. On the way Olaf was ambushed by Svein and an alliance which included Olof Skötkonung, King of Sweden, and Eirik Hákonarson, Jarl of Lade. The resulting Battle of Svolder ended in the death of the Norwegian king (c. 1000). According to legend, Queen Tyra subsequently committed suicide by starvation after receiving news of her husband's death at the battle.

Valtoke Gormsson

Toke (also known as Valtoke) was said to be Earl of Vendsyssel and even King or Earl of Scania. He has a rune stone in Aars near Aars church which is called the Aars stone which reads: (Front) Asser placed this stone in memory of Valtóki, his lord. (Rear) The stone proclaims that it will stand here forever, and it will mark Valtóki's cairn.. He was a son of Gorm the Old, but it has been said that he was an illegitimate child. He also had positions in the Kingdom of Denmark, as well as a son, named Asbjørn Tokesen. Toke died during Battle of Fýrisvellir, along with his son Asbjørn, who also fought in the battle. Odinkar is also mentioned as a son of a "Toki, duke of Vendsyssel".

Ælfgifu of Northampton

Ælfgifu of Northampton (c. 990 – after 1036) was the first wife of Cnut the Great, King of England and Denmark, and mother of Harold Harefoot, King of England. She was regent of Norway from 1030 to 1035.

Ælfwine Haroldsson

Ælfwine Haroldsson or Ælfwine was most probably an illegitimate son of King Harold Harefoot of England. He was probably born during the early 1030s, either in Scandinavia or after 1035 in England. He appears in an early twelfth-century cartulary from the monastery of Sainte Foi at Conques in Aquitaine as Alboynus (a cognate of Ælfwine), alongside the records that he was born in London and was the son of a King Heroldus (a Latinised version of Harold) and one Alveva ("Ælfgifu" Latinised). It is also noted that he arrived in Conques in 1060 on pilgrimage and persuaded the local authorities to rebuild the church and make him prior. W. H. Stevenson showed the only chronologically plausible candidate for his father is King Harold Harefoot. With Harold Harefoot's sudden death on 17 March 1040 Ælfwine was most likely left in his otherwise unknown mother's care, or even that of his powerful and influential grandmother Ælfgifu of Northampton, who may be the Ælfgifu of the record mistakenly named as his mother, rather than grandmother. He did not lay any claim to the throne of England. Little is known about him, but he is thought to have died in the 1070s or 1080s. He was a grandson of Cnut the Great.


'Świętosława' is the name tentatively assigned to a Polish princess, the daughter of Mieszko I of Poland and sister of Boleslaw I of Poland. According to German chroniclers, this princess, whose name is not given, was married to first to Eric the Victorious of Sweden and then Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark, giving the former a son Olof and the latter sons Harald and Canute. The name retrospectively given her, Świętosława, derives from that of a likely daughter, under the assumption that this girl may have borne the same name as her mother.

The Icelandic sagas give her role as successive queen of these two monarchs to Sigrid the Haughty, daughter of Skagul Toste. This account is considered less reliable than the contemporary chroniclers by a number of scholars, according to Birgitta Fritz in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, and the historical authenticity of Sigrid is viewed skeptically. Snorre Sturlasson also mentions a Slavic princess he calls Gunhild of Wenden, daughter of king Burislav of the Wends, the ancient Slavs inhabiting the northern regions of modern Poland, and it has been suggested that Gunhild may be a somewhat confused account of the sister of the Polish king Boleslaw I, described by the chroniclers. Polish genealogist Rafał T. Prinke sees the German chroniclers as having combined the roles of two distinct wives of Sweyn Forkbeard, with the Polish princess actually being Gunhild, mother of Canute, Harold and a daughter Świętosława, while he sees Sigrid the Haughty as an authentic subsequent wife of Sweyn as widow of Eric the Victorious, being mother of Eric's son Olaf and of Sweyn's daughter Estrid. He further suggests that though Świętosława was not the name of Sweyn's Polish wife, the name had a history in the family, that perhaps it was the name of the otherwise unknown wife of Miesko's father, Siemomysł.

Cnut the Great family tree
Gorm the Old
Poppa of Bayeux
Harald Bluetooth
Mieszko I of Poland
of Bohemia
William I Longsword
Sweyn Forkbeard
Sigrid the Haughty
Richard I of Normandy[3]
Ælfgifu of Northampton
Cnut the Great
Emma of Normandy[3]
Æthelred the Unready[3]
Ælfgifu of York[3]
Richard II of Normandy[3]
Judith of Brittany
Svein Knutsson
Harold Harefoot
Gunhilda of Denmark
Alfred Ætheling[3]
Edmund Ironside[3]
Robert I of Normandy
Gytha Thorkelsdóttir
Godwin, Earl of Wessex
Edward the Exile[3]
William the Conqueror
Matilda of Flanders
Sweyn Godwinson
Harold Godwinson[3]
Tostig Godwinson
Edith of Wessex[3]
Edward the Confessor[3]
Edgar Ætheling[3]
Gyrth, Gunhild, Ælfgifu, Leofwine & Wulfnoth
Malcolm III of Scotland[3]
Other children
Matilda of Scotland
Henry I of England
Royal houses of Europe
Royal Houses


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