London Under Danish Rule: Cnut’s Politics and Policies as a Demonstration of Power
By Matthew Firth
Eras Journal, Vol. 18 (2016)
Abstract: In 1016 the young Danish prince who was to become Cnut the Great, King of England, Denmark, and Norway, laid siege to the city of London as part of a program of conquest that would see him crowned as King of England by 1017. This millennial year is an appropriate time to reflect on the consequences of London’s defiance as a city that was rapidly evolving into the economic capital of a united English polity. As the siege did not end in Danish victory, the resistance of the independent minded Londoners had implications upon how Cnut would conduct juridical, financial and religious policy in relation to the city.
Cnut could not allow the city to exert such oppositional autonomy unchecked. Yet the Danish king had ambitions of establishing an Anglo-Scandinavian Empire and London was a strategically important city in that vision, valued for both its continental connections and its wealth. Cnut could not afford to stunt London’s economic life through punitive repression. The Danish king’s early years were then characterised by a series of carefully balanced retributive policies that were designed to remove London’s agency for rebellion, while not crippling it as an established economic and commercial centre.
Top Image: Cnut depicted in British Library MS Royal 14 B VI