Re: King Canute

Larry Swain wrote:
Soren Larsen wrote:
Larry Swain wrote:

Soren Larsen wrote:

Sid wrote:

Rome and the Pope were far away. And even the Pope had enough
sense not to antagonize a newly Christianized Viking king--and
then lose what little sway he may have had.


Cnut was a third generation Christian and Denmark
had been officially Christian for about 50 years when he
became king of England.

Soren Larsen

Sort of. Cnut's grandfather was a Christian, but his
Christianization of Denmark wasn't all that successful.In 985, as
we've covered up the thread, one of the reasons Sweyn was able to
defeat his father because the pagan element of the army and society
backed the then pagan Sweyn.

The only source claiming Sweyn as a pagan is Adam, and he is
extremely unreliable in anything having to do with Harald Bluetooth
and Sweyn.

So like claiming Harald and Sweyn were Christians? You mean that sort
of thing?

I mean the sort thing were Adam has sensational solo stories about
the two blokes.

Stories that just happen support the claims of Hamburg-Bremen

But reading between the lines, it makes sense. Too many
historians are dismissive of the claim as merely Adam being miffed at
Sweyn for not allowing missionary bishops from Bremen-Hamburg. But
then neither did Harald, and Adam does not have the same animosity
toward Harald as he does Sweyn,

That is because in Adam's version Harald did welcome missionary
bishops. In fact Adam stops just short of canonizing Harald

n fact Adam goes so far as to change
the historical facts to make Harald look better!


So wouldn't you call him as unreliable with regard to Harald
as he is with regard to Swein.

Harald is saintly and Swein is the pagan villain.

So we must find
some other explanation to explain Adam's charge. All over northern
Europe during the "conversion period" we find a mix of practices. Unlike
other kingdoms and tribes, the Danes weren't centralized:

Haralds Denmark seems rather centralised with the 5 Trelleborgs
dendrodated to his reign spread out in what we later know as the
medieval kingdom of Denmark.

Then there is the Bridge at Ravning Enge 760 meters long and
with a driving lane 5 meters broad on the 'hærvej'/'armyroad'

And then there is own claim about "winning all Denmark"

Harald's decision affected all, but did not force all to be
baptized--that took a bit of missionary work back by bribes and
military force. Naturally, not everyone was happy, as we know from
more than one source. It is likely that Sweyn's support against
Harold came from the unhappy sector: i. e. either Sweyn presented
himself as a pagan, or though Christian promised to allow the
continuation of pagan practices. Either one coupled with his refusal
to all Hamburg-Bremen a toehold in his kingdom would be enough to
have churchmen like Adam brand him "pagan" and look on him
Besides, straining at that gnat, you've missed the point: claiming
Denmark as "Christian" for half century because Harald converted and
tried to convert everyone else unsuccessfully is a rather inaccurate
overstatement of the situation.

You will notice that the claim was made in relation to the Jelling kings.
Canute certainly came from a group of Danes that had been christian
for half a century.

I have already agreed that hardly all danish households were Christian.

He claims that it was Harald not Sweyn who won England.

He claims that Sweyn spend 2 X 7 years exiled in Scotland

So I really take his scoop about Sweyn being pagan with a truckload
of salt considering that christianity in Denmark was a top down
conversion led by the Jelling kings - The very same guys who had
the most to gain by the conversion.

This is arguing from the general to the specific and is a logical
fallacy. Getting fact B wrong doesn't mean he also got fact H wrong.


Adam is however known to be unreliable and hostile to Swein.
So when comes up with a solo story about Swein going
pagan I think I need that salt.

Later Sweyn converts and invites missionary bishops in, and by the
time of Cnut that process is well under way. But it is
overstatement to claim that Denmark was Christian at that point,

I agree that it is unlikely that Denmark was Christian to the last
household, but the kings certainly were.

Ok, we're in agreement there, though there is some doubt about Sweyn
or whether he was Christian for his entire career, not enough
It was their ticket to the
European scene and their best guarantee against ending up as
subjects of the emperor as result of a forced conversion.

Sure, no argument there. But your original response related above had
nothing to do with this, but rather possible papal reaction to Cnut's
marital situation. Obviously claiming that Denmark had been
Christianized for a half century (which it wasn't)

When was is christianised then?

Christianity was in the country both as an organisation and
among the people when the political conversion took place.

What more do you want?

Even today we have non christian danes - and that has
probably been the case since Haralds conversion.

doesn't answer the
question of why Cnut felt he could have two wives (in fact, his 2
wives rather argues against wide Christianization of Denmark, and
even of the royal household.) So being "officially" CHristian or
politically Christian is immaterial to addressing the question of why
no outcry from the pope or other church leaders in Denmark and
England re: Aelfgifu and her illegit son

It apparantly wasn't a big deal to the church and in accordance with
Danish law. Even the later danish medieval laws says that a child
was legitimate if the father said so.

Swein Estrihsen had afair 16 sons of which 5 became king of
Denmark ,1 became a saint (as did his son). None of these
sons were strictly legitimate.

That is how much the church cared. Even if the couldn't prevent
Swein's sons from becoming kings, they should be able to
control who became saints.

It probably also mattered that christian kings had a lot more
power than their pagan counterparts thanks to the christian
concept of divine kingship.

Well, the Christian concept of divine kingship grew out of pagan
understandings of kingship for one thing,

With the maybe subtle difference of christians not getting to sacrifice
kings not providing what was expected of them.

And the difference of the christian king be a lot more important
to the cult, than the pagan king who was nice to have around
but not neccesary - unless of course you needed a really cool sacrifice.

The arrival in Valhalla of the Christian mission king
Haakon - The Good - Athelstanfostre
is described by Eyvind skaldaspillir:

Description of battle where Haakon is killed snipped


The commander spoke - he was straight from the fight -
Drenched with blood he was.
'An evil disposition Odin has, I think.
I distrust his intentions'

More snipped


'All my armour' said the wise king,
'I will hold for myself.
Secure with care helmet and mailcoat.
It's good to be well prepared.'

Then it was made clear how well this king
Had watched over their sacred places
Then Hakon was given a mighty welcome
By all the Gods, the governing powers.

for another in order to have
and hold that power, the folks under them had to believe that "divine
kingship" stuff too--i. e. being a Christian king one needs Christian
followers to assent to the sanctity of the kingship and follow it,
otherwise there is no power. One need only compare Aethelred's
brother in a land Christian for centuries....

Well Harald made the Danes christian according to himself.

I suspect he concentrated on the magnates who needed convincing
of his divine right.

it was 40 years at
most depending on when one dates Bluetooth's conversion, and the
process was spotty at best.

Cnut becomes king of England 1016. The Danish conversion is usually
dated to the mid 960's.

The date of Harold's conversion is based on the coordination of
several other events/dates that themselves are uncertain, but yes it
is usually given as mid 960s, and there is plenty of evidence for
resistance, plus only 20 years later his son's apparent reversal of
Christian inroads.

Yes I used the date usually given for the conversion.
It could be later or it could be earlier, but not much.


What we seek in any realm of human thought is not absolute
certainty, for that is denied us as men, but rather the more
modest path of those who find dependable ways of discerning
different degrees of probability.

Elton Trueblood