Time traveller’s handbook
North-western Europe, 1016-1035
Survival tips for visiting King Cnut’s North Sea Empire
While ‘North Sea Empire’ is not a phrase anyone from the era would recognise, the rule of Cnut the Great is just that. As king of England, Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden, he rules over a vast territory. The initial years of bloodshed, in which Cnut removed many of his rivals, have passed and his domain now enjoys relative peace. Merchants have taken advantage of the close links between kingdoms, helping spread customs, goods and knowledge.
A decade into his reign, Cnut has just returned from a trip to Rome, where he was afforded a meeting with Pope John XIX, who gave the North Sea Empire a ringing endorsement. Back home, the king has made a zealous attempt to outlaw paganism and continues to fill the Church’s coffers with gold, helping promote the further spread of Christianity.
Where to Stay
Although Norway, Denmark and Sweden have their charms, multicultural England gives you the chance to experience the customs of Anglo-saxons, Britons and Scandinavians during your journey. You would also be relatively safer there as, after years of furious Viking invasions, Cnut has finally stemmed the flow of marauding, violent and crazed raiders through alliances and a lot of bribery (or ‘Danegold’ as the process of paying off Vikings is known.) Food options also vary, with everything from whale to game on the menu, alongside ale and the occasional glass of mead.
Who to Befriend
emma of Normandy
It’s always good to make friends with someone who is well connected, and Emma of Normandy is certainly that. Wife to two kings (and, in the future, the mother to two more and stepmother to another), Emma can be counted on to give you the royal reception and feed you the latest gossip from court. Emma is one of the richest landowners in England, so you won’t need to worry about where the roof over your head is coming from.
extra tip: Don’t mention her ex-husband, ethelred the Unready. the previous King of england ordered a massacre of Danes in england on St
Brice’s Day, in 1002, which included men, women and children. that’s a bit awkward when emma and her family were from Denmark!
Who to avoid
Today Cnut is best remembered as a mad king who arrogantly believed he could command the tide to not wash against his shore. In fact, the monarch wanted to illustrate to his courtiers that no man came close to god. However, for all his piety, this is not a king that you want to cross. His first attempt at invading England ended in failure, but he kindly returned the hostages he had taken before he left – after cutting off their ears and noses. Cnut also took exception to being beaten at chess by his brother-in-law,
Ulf Jarl, responding by having him killed soon after.