CANUTE, ka-nut', or CNUT, knout (c.994 1035). King of the English, Danes, and Nor wegians, and known as the Great. He was the son of Sweyn, King of the Danes, and on the death of his father, in 1014, was proclaimed King of England by the warriors of the Danish fleet who were then ravaging the country. The \Vitali, however, summoned the old King, Ethel red, from his exile in Normandy, where be had been driven by Sweyu, and Canute was forced to flee to Denmark. He returned in 1015 with a powerful fleet and within a year made himself master of all England, save London, being chosen King by a rump \Vitali after the death of Ethel red in 1016. The citizens of London proclaimed Edmund lronside, son of Ethelred, King, and a fierce contest ensued in which six battles were fought and London was twice besieged, the de cisive engagement occurring at Assandun in 1016. Though Edmund was defeated, Canute, to avoid further resistance on his part, agreed to share the sovereignty with him, the south of England going to Edmund and the north to Canute, with the stipulation that on the death of either the full power was to revert to the survivor. Edmund lronside died in 1017. not without the suspicion of foul play on the part of Canute, who lost no thee in securing his position as sole ruler of England. Ile had always been noted for his excessive cruelty, and now, to remove all poten tial rivals out of his way, he entered upon a rapid but systematic course of murder and perse cution. By 1015 he had thoroughly pacified the country and considered himself strong enough to dispense with the support of the fleet, which he sent home to Denmark, keeping only the crews of forty ships as a sort of bodyguard. The character of Canute's rule now underwent a re markable change. 111ildness was substituted for severity, and respect for the laws for violence.
The ancient customs of the country were con firmed and elaborated, and the administration of justice was securely founded. Englishmen were admitted to the highest offices in the Innd, this being the time when the Saxon Earl Godwin (q.v.) laid the beginnings of his great power. Canute showed himself especially kindly to the clergy, whose rights he scrupulously respected and whose favor he gained by numerous benefac tions to churches and monasteries. With the mass of the people he was popular on account of his liberality and an air of bluff good-nature which he knew well how to assume. In 1026.27 he made a pilgrimage to Rome, describing the events of his journey in a letter to his people replete with moral exhortations and expressions of relig ious humility, which may be the result either of great or of fine histrionic skill. Canute had become King of Denmark after the death of his brother Harold in 1015, and in 1028 he be came ruler, also, of Norway. Together with his conquests in the Wendie lands of Germany, he was, therefore, the master of a powerful north ern empire, which, however, fell to pieces at his death. This occurred at Shaftesbury, November 12, 1035. As King of England, Canute had dis played high talents for rule. By nature cruel and violent. he knew how to subordinate his pas sions to the interests of his government and his people: and. though practically a heathen at the time of his accession to the throne. he succeeded in winning the favor of a Church which has asso ciated one of the most beautiful of medifeval legends. that of the King and the rising tide, with his name. Consult: Freeman, The Norman Conquest, Vol. 1. (Dxfo•d. 1870) ; and Green, 71w Conquest of England (London, 1883).