Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to c. 886 and King of the Anglo-Saxons from c. 886 to 899. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, his father died when he was young and three of Alfred's brothers reigned in turn. Alfred took the throne after the death of his brother Æthelred and spent several years dealing with Viking invasions, he won a decisive victory in the Battle of Edington in 878 and made an agreement with the Vikings, creating what was known as Danelaw in the North of England. Alfred oversaw the conversion of Viking leader Guthrum to Christianity, he defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, he became the dominant ruler in England. He was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself King of the Anglo-Saxons. Details of his life are described in a work by 9th-century Welsh bishop Asser. Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level-headed nature who encouraged education, proposing that primary education be conducted in English rather than Latin, improving his kingdom's legal system, military structure, his people's quality of life.
He was given the epithet "the Great" after the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The only other king of England given this epithet is Cnut the Great. In 2002, Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. Alfred was born in the royal estate of Wantage in Berkshire but now in Oxfordshire, between 847 and 849, he was the youngest of five sons of King Æthelwulf of Wessex by Osburh. In 853 Alfred is reported by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to have been sent to Rome where he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV, who "anointed him as king". Victorian writers interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his eventual succession to the throne of Wessex; this is unlikely. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a "consul", it may be based upon the fact that Alfred accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855. On their return from Rome in 856 Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald.
With civil war looming the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires, Æthelwulf would rule in the east. When King Æthelwulf died in 858 Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred's brothers in succession: Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred. Bishop Asser tells the story of how, as a child, Alfred won a book of Saxon poems, offered as a prize by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it. Legend has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life, it is thought. Statues of Alfred in Winchester and Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong and, though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than as a warlike character. Alfred is not mentioned during the short reigns of his older brothers Æthelberht; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes the Great Heathen Army of Danes landing in East Anglia with the intent of conquering the four kingdoms which constituted Anglo-Saxon England in 865.
Alfred's public life began in 865 at age 16 with the accession of his third brother, 18 year-old Æthelred. During this period, Bishop Asser gave Alfred the unique title of secundarius, which may indicate a position similar to the Celtic tanist, a recognised successor associated with the reigning monarch; this arrangement may have been sanctioned by Alfred's father or by the Witan to guard against the danger of a disputed succession should Æthelred fall in battle. It was a well known tradition among other Germanic peoples - such as the Swedes and Franks to whom the Anglo-Saxons were related - to crown a successor as royal prince and military commander. In 868, Alfred is recorded as fighting beside Æthelred in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless out of the adjoining Kingdom of Mercia; the Danes arrived in his homeland at the end of 870, nine engagements were fought in the following year, with varying outcomes. A successful skirmish at the Battle of Englefield in Berkshire on 31 December 870 was followed by a severe defeat at the siege and Battle of Reading by Ivar's brother Halfdan Ragnarsson on 5 January 871.
Four days the Anglo-Saxons won a brilliant victory at the Battle of Ashdown on the Berkshire Downs near Compton or Aldworth. Alfred is credited with the success of this last battle; the Saxons were defeated at the Battle of Basing on 22 January. They were defeated again on 22 March at the Battle of Merton. Æthelred died shortly afterwards on 23 April. In April 871 King Æthelred died and Alfred succeeded to the throne of Wessex and the burden of its defence though Æthelred left two under-age sons, Æthelhelm and Æthelwold; this was in accordance with the agreement that Æthelred and Alfred had made earlier that year in an assembly at an unidentified place called Swinbeorg. The brothers had agreed that whichever of them outlived the other would inherit the personal property that King Æthelwulf had left jointly to his sons in his will; the deceased's sons would receive only w
Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 899 until his death. He was the elder son of his wife Ealhswith; when Edward succeeded to the throne, he had to defeat a challenge from his cousin Æthelwold, who had a strong claim to the throne as the son of Alfred's elder brother and predecessor, Æthelred. Alfred had succeeded Æthelred as king of Wessex in 871, faced defeat against the Danish Vikings until his decisive victory at the Battle of Edington in 878. After the battle, the Vikings still ruled Northumbria, East Anglia and eastern Mercia, leaving only Wessex and western Mercia under Anglo-Saxon control. In the early 880s Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, the ruler of western Mercia, accepted Alfred's lordship and married his daughter Æthelflæd, around 886 Alfred adopted the new title King of the Anglo-Saxons as the ruler of all Anglo-Saxons not subject to Danish rule. In 910 a Mercian and West Saxon army inflicted a decisive defeat on an invading Northumbrian army, ending the threat from the northern Vikings.
In the 910s, Edward conquered Viking-ruled southern England in partnership with his sister Æthelflæd, who had succeeded as Lady of the Mercians following the death of her husband in 911. Historians dispute how far Mercia was dominated by Wessex during this period, after Æthelflæd's death in June 918, her daughter Ælfwynn became second Lady of the Mercians, but in December Edward took her into Wessex and imposed direct rule on Mercia. By the end of the 910s he ruled Wessex and East Anglia, only Northumbria remained under Viking rule. In 924 he faced a Mercian and Welsh revolt at Chester, after putting it down he died at Farndon in Cheshire on 17 July 924, he was succeeded by his eldest son Æthelstan. Edward was admired by medieval chroniclers, in the view of William of Malmesbury, he was "much inferior to his father in the cultivation of letters" but "incomparably more glorious in the power of his rule", he was ignored by modern historians until the 1990s, Nick Higham described him as "perhaps the most neglected of English kings" because few primary sources for his reign survive.
His reputation rose in the late twentieth century and he is now seen as destroying the power of the Vikings in southern England while laying the foundations for a south-centred united English kingdom. Mercia was the dominant kingdom in southern England in the eighth century and maintained its position until it suffered a decisive defeat by Wessex at the Battle of Ellandun in 825. Thereafter the two kingdoms became allies, to be an important factor in English resistance to the Vikings. In 865 the Danish Viking Great Heathen Army landed in East Anglia and used this as a starting point for an invasion; the East Anglians were forced to pay off the Vikings. They appointed a puppet king in 867, moved on Mercia, where they spent the winter of 867–868. King Burgred of Mercia was joined by King Æthelred of Wessex and his brother, the future King Alfred, for a combined attack on the Vikings, who refused an engagement; the following year, the Danes conquered East Anglia, in 874 they expelled King Burgred and, with their support, Ceolwulf became the last King of Mercia.
In 877 the Vikings partitioned Mercia, taking the eastern regions for themselves and allowing Ceolwulf to keep the western ones. In early 878 they invaded Wessex, many West Saxons submitted to them. Alfred, now king, was reduced to a remote base in the Isle of Athelney in Somerset, but the situation was transformed when he won a decisive victory at the Battle of Edington, he was thus able to prevent the Vikings from taking Wessex and western Mercia, although they still occupied Northumbria, East Anglia and eastern Mercia. Edward's parents and Ealhswith, married in 868, her father was Æthelred Mucel, Ealdorman of the Gaini, her mother, was a member of the Mercian royal family. Alfred and Ealhswith had five children; the oldest was Æthelflæd, who married Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, ruled as Lady of the Mercians after his death. Edward was next, the second daughter, Æthelgifu, became abbess of Shaftesbury; the third daughter, Ælfthryth, married Baldwin, Count of Flanders, the younger son, Æthelweard, was given a scholarly education, including learning Latin.
This would suggest that he was intended for the church, but it is unlikely in Æthelweard's case as he had sons. There were an unknown number of children who died young. Neither part of Edward's name, which means'protector of wealth', had been used by the West Saxon royal house, Barbara Yorke suggests that he may have been named after his maternal grandmother Eadburh, reflecting the West Saxon policy of strengthening links with Mercia. Historians estimate that Edward was born in the mid-870s, his eldest sister, Æthelflæd, was born about a year after her parents' marriage, Edward was brought up with his youngest sister, Ælfthryth. Edward led troops in battle in 893, must have been of marriageable age in that year as his oldest son Æthelstan was born about 894. According to Asser in his Life of King Alfred, Edward and Ælfthryth were educated at court by male and female tutors, read ecclesiastical and secular works in English, such as the Psalms and Old English poems, they were taught the courtly qualities of gentleness and humility, Asser wrote that they were obedient to their father and friendly to visitors.
This is the only known case of princess receiving the same upbringing. As a son of a king, Edward was an ætheling, a pri
Surrey is a subdivision of the English region of South East England in the United Kingdom. A historic and ceremonial county, Surrey is one of the home counties; the county borders Kent to the east, East Sussex and West Sussex to the south, Hampshire to the west, Berkshire to the northwest, Greater London to the northeast. Inhabited by about 1.2 million people, Surrey is the twelfth most populous English county, both the third most populous home county and the third most populous county in the South East. Guildford is considered to be the county town; however despite the town's designation, Surrey County Council has never been based there, being instead seated throughout its history in London. Since the borders of Surrey were altered in 1965 by the London Government Act 1963 which created Greater London, none of these places are now in Surrey, marking an example of a de facto capital, located outside of its administrative area. Surrey is divided into eleven districts: Elmbridge and Ewell, Mole Valley and Banstead, Spelthorne, Surrey Heath, Tandridge and Woking.
Services such as roads, mineral extraction licensing, strategic waste and recycling infrastructure, birth and death registration, social and children's services are administered by Surrey County Council. The London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and small parts of Lewisham and Bromley were in Surrey until 1889. Since the 1965 reform the bordering boroughs of the capital have been those taken from it in 1965 plus Bromley and Hounslow; the form of Surrey which remains since 1965 is a wealthy county due to economic, aesthetic and logistical factors. It has the highest GDP per capita of any English county, some of the highest property values outside Inner London and the highest cost of living in the UK outside of the capital. Surrey has the highest proportion of woodland in England, having been rural since it was shorn in 1965 of the urbanised swathes of South London which had hitherto been part of the county, it has large protected green spaces. It has four racecourses in horse racing, the most of any Home County and as at 2013 contained 141 golf courses including international competition venue Wentworth.
Surrey has proximity to London and to Heathrow and Gatwick airports, along with access to major arterial road routes including the M25, M3 and M23 and frequent rail services into Central London. Surrey is divided in two by the chalk ridge of the North Downs; the ridge is pierced by the rivers Wey and Mole, tributaries of the Thames, which formed the northern border of the county before modern redrawing of county boundaries, which has left part of its north bank within the county. To the north of the Downs the land is flat, forming part of the basin of the Thames; the geology of this area is dominated by London Clay in the east, Bagshot Sands in the west and alluvial deposits along the rivers. To the south of the Downs in the western part of the county are the sandstone Surrey Hills, while further east is the plain of the Low Weald, rising in the extreme southeast to the edge of the hills of the High Weald; the Downs and the area to the south form part of a concentric pattern of geological deposits which extends across southern Kent and most of Sussex, predominantly composed of Wealden Clay, Lower Greensand and the chalk of the Downs.
Much of Surrey is in the Metropolitan Green Belt. It contains valued reserves of mature woodland. Among its many notable beauty spots are Box Hill, Leith Hill, Frensham Ponds, Newlands Corner and Puttenham & Crooksbury Commons. Surrey is the most wooded county in England, with 22.4% coverage compared to a national average of 11.8% and as such is one of the few counties not to recommend new woodlands in the subordinate planning authorities' plans. Box Hill has the oldest untouched area of natural woodland in one of the oldest in Europe. Surrey contains England's principal concentration of lowland heath, on sandy soils in the west of the county. Agriculture not being intensive, there are many commons and access lands, together with an extensive network of footpaths and bridleways including the North Downs Way, a scenic long-distance path. Accordingly, Surrey provides many rural and semi-rural leisure activities, with a large horse population in modern terms; the highest elevation in Surrey is Leith Hill near Dorking.
It is 294 m above sea level and is the second highest point in southeastern England after Walbury Hill in West Berkshire, 297 m. Surrey has a population of 1.1 million people. Its largest town is Guildford, with a population of 77,057, they are followed by Ewell with 39,994 people and Camberley with 30,155. Towns of between 25,000 and 30,000 inhabitants are Ashford, Farnham and Redhill. Guildford is the historic county town, although the county administration was moved to Newington in 1791 and to Kingston upon Thames in 1893; the county counc
Henry II of England
Henry II known as Henry Curtmantle, Henry FitzEmpress or Henry Plantagenet, ruled as King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou and Nantes, Lord of Ireland. Before he was 40 he controlled England, large parts of Wales, the eastern half of Ireland and the western half of France—an area that would come to be called the Angevin Empire. Henry was the son of daughter of Henry I of England, he became involved by the age of 14 in his mother's efforts to claim the throne of England occupied by Stephen of Blois, was made Duke of Normandy at 17. He inherited Anjou in 1151 and shortly afterwards became the Duke of Aquitaine by marrying Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose marriage to Louis VII of France had been annulled. Stephen agreed to a peace treaty after Henry's military expedition to England in 1153, Henry inherited the kingdom on Stephen's death a year later. Henry was an energetic and sometimes ruthless ruler, driven by a desire to restore the lands and privileges of his grandfather Henry I.
During the early years of his reign the younger Henry restored the royal administration in England, re-established hegemony over Wales and gained full control over his lands in Anjou and Touraine. Henry's desire to reform the relationship with the Church led to conflict with his former friend Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury; this controversy lasted for much of the 1160s and resulted in Becket's murder in 1170. Henry soon came into conflict with Louis VII and the two rulers fought what has been termed a "cold war" over several decades. Henry expanded his empire at Louis' expense, taking Brittany and pushing east into central France and south into Toulouse. Henry and Eleanor had eight children -- five sons. Three of his sons would be king, though Henry the Young King was named his father's co-ruler rather than a stand-alone king; as the sons grew up, tensions over the future inheritance of the empire began to emerge, encouraged by Louis and his son King Philip II. In 1173 Henry's heir apparent, "Young Henry", rebelled in protest.
France, Brittany and Boulogne allied themselves with the rebels. The Great Revolt was only defeated by Henry's vigorous military action and talented local commanders, many of them "new men" appointed for their loyalty and administrative skills. Young Henry and Geoffrey revolted again in 1183; the Norman invasion of Ireland provided lands for his youngest son John, but Henry struggled to find ways to satisfy all his sons' desires for land and immediate power. By 1189, Young Henry and Geoffrey were dead, Philip played on Richard's fears that Henry II would make John king, leading to a final rebellion. Decisively defeated by Philip and Richard and suffering from a bleeding ulcer, Henry retreated to Chinon castle in Anjou, he was succeeded by Richard. Henry's empire collapsed during the reign of his youngest son, John. Many of the changes Henry introduced during his long rule, had long-term consequences. Henry's legal changes are considered to have laid the basis for the English Common Law, while his intervention in Brittany and Scotland shaped the development of their societies and governmental systems.
Historical interpretations of Henry's reign have changed over time. In the 18th century, scholars argued that Henry was a driving force in the creation of a genuinely English monarchy and a unified Britain. During the Victorian expansion of the British Empire, historians were keenly interested in the formation of Henry's own empire, but they expressed concern over his private life and treatment of Becket. Late-20th-century historians have combined British and French historical accounts of Henry, challenging earlier Anglocentric interpretations of his reign. Henry was born in France at Le Mans on 5 March 1133, the eldest child of the Empress Matilda and her second husband, Geoffrey the Fair, Count of Anjou; the French county of Anjou was formed in the 10th century and the Angevin rulers attempted for several centuries to extend their influence and power across France through careful marriages and political alliances. In theory, the county answered to the French king, but royal power over Anjou weakened during the 11th century and the county became autonomous.
Henry's mother was King of England and Duke of Normandy. She was born into a powerful ruling class of Normans, who traditionally owned extensive estates in both England and Normandy, her first husband had been the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. After her father's death in 1135, Matilda hoped to claim the English throne, but instead her cousin Stephen of Blois was crowned king and recognised as the Duke of Normandy, resulting in civil war between their rival supporters. Geoffrey took advantage of the confusion to attack the Duchy of Normandy but played no direct role in the English conflict, leaving this to Matilda and her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester; the war, termed the Anarchy by Victorian historians, degenerated into stalemate. Henry spent some of his earliest years in his mother's household, accompanied Matilda to Normandy in the late 1130s. Henry's childhood from the age of seven, was spent in Anjou, where he was educated by Peter of Saintes, a noted grammarian of the day. In late 1142, Geoffrey decided t
Æthelstan or Athelstan was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 and King of the English from 927 to 939 when he died. He was his first wife, Ecgwynn. Modern historians regard him as one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings, he never had no children. He was succeeded by Edmund; when Edward died in July 924, Æthelstan was accepted by the Mercians as king. His half-brother Ælfweard may have been recognised as king in Wessex, but died within three weeks of their father's death. Æthelstan encountered resistance in Wessex for several months, was not crowned until September 925. In 927 he conquered the last remaining Viking kingdom, making him the first Anglo-Saxon ruler of the whole of England. In 934 he invaded Scotland and forced Constantine II to submit to him, but Æthelstan's rule was resented by the Scots and Vikings, in 937 they invaded England. Æthelstan defeated them at the Battle of Brunanburh, a victory which gave him great prestige both in the British Isles and on the Continent. After his death in 939 the Vikings seized back control of York, it was not reconquered until 954.
Æthelstan centralised government. These meetings were attended by rulers from outside his territory Welsh kings, who thus acknowledged his overlordship. More legal texts survive from his reign than from any other 10th-century English king, they show his concern about widespread robberies, the threat they posed to social order. His legal reforms built on those of Alfred the Great. Æthelstan was one of the most pious West Saxon kings, was known for collecting relics and founding churches. His household was the centre of English learning during his reign, it laid the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform in the century. No other West Saxon king played as important a role in European politics as Æthelstan, he arranged the marriages of several of his sisters to continental rulers. By the ninth century the many kingdoms of the early Anglo-Saxon period had been consolidated into four: Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia. In the eighth century, Mercia had been the most powerful kingdom in southern England, but in the early ninth, Wessex became dominant under Æthelstan's great-great-grandfather, Egbert.
In the middle of the century, England came under increasing attack from Viking raids, culminating in invasion by the Great Heathen Army in 865. By 878, the Vikings had overrun East Anglia and Mercia, nearly conquered Wessex; the West Saxons fought back under Alfred the Great, achieved a decisive victory at the Battle of Edington. Alfred and the Viking leader Guthrum agreed on a division that gave Alfred western Mercia, while eastern Mercia was incorporated into Viking East Anglia. In the 890s, renewed Viking attacks were fought off by Alfred, assisted by his son Edward and Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians. Æthelred was married to his daughter Æthelflæd. Alfred was succeeded by Edward. Æthelwold, the son of Æthelred, King Alfred's older brother and predecessor as king, made a bid for power, but was killed at the Battle of the Holme in 902. Little is known of warfare between the English and the Danes over the next few years, but in 909, Edward sent a West Saxon and Mercian army to ravage Northumbria.
The following year the Northumbrian Danes attacked Mercia, but suffered a decisive defeat at the Battle of Tettenhall. Æthelred was succeeded as ruler of Mercia by his widow Æthelflæd. Over the next decade, Edward and Æthelflæd conquered East Anglia. Æthelflæd died in 918 and was succeeded by her daughter Ælfwynn, but in the same year Edward deposed her and took direct control of Mercia. When Edward died in 924, he controlled all of England south of the Humber; the Viking king Sihtric ruled the Kingdom of York in southern Northumbria, but Ealdred maintained Anglo-Saxon rule in at least part of the former kingdom of Bernicia from his base in Bamburgh in northern Northumbria. Constantine II ruled Scotland, apart from the southwest, the British Kingdom of Strathclyde. Wales was divided into a number of small kingdoms, including Deheubarth in the southwest, Gwent in the southeast, Brycheiniog north of Gwent, Gwynedd in the north. According to William of Malmesbury, Æthelstan was thirty years old when he came to the throne in 924, which would mean that he was born around 894.
He was the oldest son of Edward the Elder and the tallest. He was Edward's only son by Ecgwynn. Little is known about Ecgwynn, she is not named in any pre-Conquest source. Medieval chroniclers gave varying descriptions of her rank: one described her as an ignoble consort of inferior birth, while others described her birth as noble. Modern historians disagree about her status. Simon Keynes and Richard Abels believe that leading figures in Wessex were unwilling to accept Æthelstan as king in 924 because his mother had been Edward the Elder's concubine. However, Barbara Yorke and Sarah Foot argue that allegations that Æthelstan was illegitimate were a product of the dispute over the succession, that there is no reason to doubt that she was Edward's legitimate wife, she may have been related to St Dunstan. William of Malmesbury wrote that Alfred the Great honoured his young grandson with a ceremony in which he gave him a scarlet cloak, a belt set with gems, a sword with a gilded scabbard. Medieval Latin scholar Michael Lapid
Cnut the Great
Cnut the Great known as Canute, whose father was Sweyn Forkbeard, was King of Denmark and Norway. Yet after the deaths of his heirs within a decade of his own, the Norman conquest of England in 1066, this legacy was lost, he is popularly invoked in the context of the legend of King Canute and the tide, which misrepresents him as a deluded monarch believing he has supernatural powers, contrary to the original legend which portrays a wise king who rebuked his courtiers for their fawning behaviour. As a Danish prince, Cnut won the throne of England in 1016 in the wake of centuries of Viking activity in northwestern Europe, his accession to the Danish throne in 1018 brought the crowns of England and Denmark together. Cnut sought to keep this power-base by uniting Danes and English under cultural bonds of wealth and custom, as well as through sheer brutality. After a decade of conflict with opponents in Scandinavia, Cnut claimed the crown of Norway in Trondheim in 1028; the Swedish city Sigtuna was held by Cnut.
Dominion of England lent the Danes an important link to the maritime zone between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, where Cnut, like his father before him, had a strong interest and wielded much influence among the Norse–Gaels. Cnut's possession of England's dioceses and the continental Diocese of Denmark—with a claim laid upon it by the Holy Roman Empire's Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen—was a source of great prestige and leverage within the Catholic Church and among the magnates of Christendom. After his 1026 victory against Norway and Sweden, on his way back from Rome where he attended the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, Cnut, in a letter written for the benefit of his subjects, deemed himself "King of all England and Denmark and the Norwegians and of some of the Swedes"; the Anglo-Saxon kings used the title "king of the English". Cnut was ealles Engla landes cyning—"king of all England". Medieval historian Norman Cantor called him "the most effective king in Anglo-Saxon history".
Cnut was a son of the Danish prince Sweyn Forkbeard, the son and heir to King Harald Bluetooth and thus came from a line of Scandinavian rulers central to the unification of Denmark. Neither the place nor the date of his birth are known. Harthacnut I of Denmark was the semi-legendary founder of the Danish royal house at the beginning of the 10th century, his son, Gorm the Old, became the first in the official line. Harald Bluetooth, Gorm's son and Cnut's grandfather, was the Danish king at the time of the Christianization of Denmark; the Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg and the Encomium Emmae report Cnut's mother as having been a daughter of Mieszko I of Poland. Norse sources of the High Middle Ages, most prominently Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson give a Polish princess as Cnut's mother, whom they call Gunhild and a daughter of Burislav, the king of Vindland. Since in the Norse sagas the king of Vindland is always Burislav, this is reconcilable with the assumption that her father was Mieszko.
Adam of Bremen in Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum is unique in equating Cnut's mother with the former queen of Sweden, wife of Eric the Victorious and by this marriage mother of Olof Skötkonung. To complicate the matter and other sagas have Sweyn marrying Eric's widow, but she is distinctly another person in these texts, named Sigrid the Haughty, whom Sweyn only marries after Gunhild, the Slavic princess who bore Cnut, has died. Different theories regarding the number and ancestry of Sweyn's wives have been advanced, but since Adam is the only source to equate the identity of Cnut's and Olof Skötkonung's mother, this is seen as an error on Adam's part, it is assumed that Sweyn had two wives, the first being Cnut's mother, the second being the former Queen of Sweden. Cnut's brother Harald was the crown prince; some hint of Cnut's childhood can be found in the Flateyjarbók, a 13th-century source that says he was taught his soldiery by the chieftain Thorkell the Tall, brother to Sigurd, Jarl of mythical Jomsborg, the legendary Joms, at their Viking stronghold on the island of Wollin, off the coast of Pomerania.
His date of birth, like his mother's name, is unknown. Contemporary works such as the Chronicon and the Encomium Emmae, do not mention this. So, in a Knútsdrápa by the skald Óttarr svarti, there is a statement that Cnut was "of no great age" when he first went to war, it mentions a battle identifiable with Sweyn Forkbeard's invasion of England and attack on the city of Norwich, in 1003/04, after the St. Brice's Day massacre of Danes by the English, in 1002. If Cnut indeed accompanied this expedition, his birthdate may be near 990, or 980. If not, if the skald's poetic verse references another assault, such as Forkbeard's conquest of England in 1013/14, it may suggest a birth date nearer 1000. There is a passage of the Encomiast with a reference to the force Cnut led in his English conquest of 1015/16. Here it says all the Vikings were of "mature age" under Cnut "the king". A description of Cnut
The River Mersey is a river in the North West of England. Its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon language and translates as "boundary river"; the river may have been the border between the ancient kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria and for centuries it formed part of the boundary between the historic counties of Lancashire and Cheshire. The start of the Mersey is at the confluence of the River River Goyt in Stockport, it flows westwards through the suburban areas of south Manchester into the Manchester Ship Canal at Irlam, becoming a part of the canal and maintaining the canal's water levels. After 4 miles the river exits the canal, it narrows as it passes between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes. From Runcorn the river widens into a large estuary, 3 miles across at its widest point near Ellesmere Port; the course of the river turns north as the estuary narrows between Liverpool and Birkenhead on the Wirral Peninsula to the west, empties into Liverpool Bay. In total the river flows 70.33 miles.
A railway tunnel between Birkenhead and Liverpool as part of the Mersey Railway opened in 1886. Two road tunnels pass under the estuary from Liverpool: the Queensway Tunnel opened in 1934 connecting the city to Birkenhead, the Kingsway Tunnel, opened in 1971, to Wallasey. A road bridge, completed in 1961 and named the Silver Jubilee Bridge, crosses between Runcorn and Widnes, adjacent to the Runcorn Railway Bridge which opened in 1868. A second road bridge, the Mersey Gateway, opened in October 2017, carrying a six-lane road connecting Runcorn's Central Expressway with Speke Road and Queensway in Widnes; the Mersey Ferry operates between Pier Head in Liverpool and Woodside in Birkenhead and Seacombe, has become a tourist attraction offering cruises that provide an overview of the river and surrounding areas. Water quality in the Mersey was affected by industrialisation, in 1985, the Mersey Basin Campaign was established to improve water quality and encourage waterside regeneration. In 2009 it was announced that the river is "cleaner than at any time since the industrial revolution" and is "now considered one of the cleanest in the UK".
The Mersey Valley Countryside Warden Service manages local nature reserves such as Chorlton Ees and Sale Water Park. The river gave its name to Merseybeat, developed by bands from Liverpool, notably the Beatles. In 1965 it was the subject of the top-ten hit single "Ferry Cross the Mersey" by Gerry and the Pacemakers, its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon mǣres, "of a boundary" and ēa, "a river." The Mersey was the border river between Mercia and Northumbria. Its Welsh name is Afon Merswy, it has been given the alternative etymology of Celtic "môr-afon" meaning "sea river"; the Mersey is formed from three tributaries: the River Goyt and the River Tame. The modern accepted start of the Mersey is at the confluence of the Tame and Goyt, in central Stockport, Greater Manchester. However, older definitions, many older maps, place its start a few miles up the Goyt at Compstall; the 1784 John Stockdale map shows the River Mersey extending to Mottram, forming the boundary between Cheshire and Derbyshire.
In the west of Stockport it flows at the base of a cliff below the road called Brinksway before reaching flat country. From Central Stockport the river flows through or past Heaton Mersey, Northenden, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Sale, Ashton on Mersey and Flixton at Irlam flows into the Manchester Ship Canal, the canalised section of the River Irwell at this point; the old course of the Mersey has been obliterated by the canal past Hollins Green to Rixton although the old river bed can be seen outside Irlam and at Warburton. At Rixton the River Bollin enters the canal from the south and the Mersey leaves the canal to the north, meandering through Woolston, where the ship canal company's dredgings have formed the Woolston Eyes nature reserve, on to Warrington; the river is tidal from Howley Weir in Warrington, although high spring tides top the weir. Before construction of the ship canal, work to improve navigation included Woolston New Cut, bypassing a meander, Howley Lock for craft to avoid the weir.
The island formed between the weir and the lock is known locally as "Monkey Island". West of Warrington the river widens, narrows as it passes through the Runcorn Gap between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes, in Halton; the Manchester Ship Canal passes through the gap to the south of the river. The gap is bridged by Runcorn Railway Bridge. Another crossing, the Mersey Gateway road bridge opened in October 2017. From the Runcorn Gap, the river widens into a large estuary, 3 miles wide at its widest point near Ellesmere Port; the course of the river heads north, with Liverpool to the east and the Wirral Peninsula to the west. The Manchester Ship Canal enters the river at Eastham Locks; the eastern part of the estuary is much affected by silting, part of it is marked on modern maps as dry land rather than tidal. The wetlands are of importance to wildlife, are listed as a Ramsar site. Most of the conurbation on both sides of the estuary is known as Merseyside; the estuary narrows between Liverpool and Birkenhead, where it is constricted to a width of 0.7 miles, between Albert Dock in Liverpool and the Woodside ferry terminal in Birkenhead.
On the Liverpool side, Liverpool Docks stretch for over 7.5 miles, the largest enclosed interconnected do