The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Rank: 20th
Ruled: March 17, 1040June 8, 1042
Predecessor: Harold I
Date of Birth: 1018
Place of Birth: England
Wife: Never married
Buried: Winchester Cathedral
Date of Death: June 8, 1042
Parents: Canute and Emma

Harthacanute (sometimes Hardicanute, Hardecanute; Danish Hardeknud, Canute the Hardy) (1018/1019June 8, 1042) was a King of Denmark (10351042) and England (10351037, 10401042). He was the only son of Canute the Great and Emma of Normandy.

He succeeded his father as King of Denmark in 1035, reigning as Canute III, but conflict with Magnus I of Norway prevented him from sailing to England to secure his position there. Consequently, it was agreed that his elder illegitimate half-brother Harold Harefoot would be regent in charge of England.

Harold took the English crown for himself in 1037—Harthacanute being "forsaken because he was too long in Denmark".1 After Harthacanute had settled the situation in Scandinavia through an agreement (in 1038 or 1039) with Magnus in which they agreed that if either of them should die without an heir, the other would be his successor2, Harthacanute prepared an invasion of England to depose Harold, arriving at Bruges in Flanders, where his exiled mother was, in 1039. Harold, however, died before the invasion could occur, in March 1040. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Harthacanute then landed at Sandwich in June, "seven days before Midsummer" (June 17), with a fleet of 62 warships. Being unable to exact vengeance upon his brother while he was still alive, he "had the dead Harold dragged up and thrown into a fen."1

Harthacanute was a harsh and very unpopular ruler: to pay for his fleet, he severely increased the rate of taxation, and perhaps the most notable event of his reign in England was a revolt at Worcester in 1041 against these high taxes. This revolt was crushed, with the near-destruction of Worcester. The story of Lady Godiva riding naked through the streets of Coventry to persuade the local earl to lower taxes may come from the reign of Harthacanute.

Harthacanute invited his half-brother Edward the Confessor (his mother Emma's son by Ethelred the Unready) back from exile in Normandy to become his co-ruler and heir; the ASC places this event in 1041. Harthacanute was unmarried and had no children. In June 1042, he died at Lambeth—he "died as he stood at his drink, and he suddenly fell to the earth with an awful convulsion; and those who were close by took hold of him, and he spoke no word afterwards..."1 He was buried at Winchester. Edward assumed the throne on Harthacanute's death, restoring the Saxon royal line for his lifetime.


  1. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1035–1042.
  2. Stenton, Frank M., Anglo-Saxon England (1943), Chapter XII: "England and the Scandinavian World".

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Canute | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |King of England
10351037 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Harold I

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Harold I | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |King of England
1040-1042 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Edward the Confessor

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04