Was Cnut a True Christian, or Just a Shrewd Politician?

Was Cnut a True Christian, or Just a Shrewd Politician?

By David R. Hathaway

Colloquia, Vol.25 (2004)

Introduction: The Christian church, which had been an integral part of the political and national life of England when Cnut became king in 11016, must have been uncomfortable with a foreign conqueror whose Christian antecedents were suspect. The hostility of the thirteenth century monastic chroniclers toward his father, Svein Forkbeard, could indicate that his reputation for indifference toward Christianity may not have been unfounded. Although the author of Enconium Emmae gave a very different picture of Svein, his opinion was also biased, as his main purpose was probably to praise Queen Emma and the Danish dynasty of Cnut. Even the Encomiast admitted that Svein was “hatelful to [the English] people owing to the invasion of the kingdom.” In addition to questionable Christianity among the leaders, many of the soldiers who helped Cnut conquer England wer page Norwegians and Swedes.

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