Cnut was the son of Sweyn Forkbeard ~ King of Denmark and Polish princess witosawa, daughter of Mieszko I of Poland.
The exact date of Cnut's birth is unknown, but its thought to be in 990 AD.
Cnut was the product of a long line of Scandinavian leaders, as his father Sweyn Forkbeard, was the son and heir to King Harald Bluetooth.
Cnuts destiny to follow in his Grandfather and fathers footsteps seemed inevitable, and he soon grew up to become an impressive Viking warrior, described as good-looking and possessing strong leadership skills.
With Viking power growing from strength to strength, Sweyn Forkbeard began to look further afield to expand his powerbase.
After setting his sights on England, he targeted the Saxon king, Æthelred the Unready, and with the support of his son Cnut, successfully took the English throne.
King Sweyns leadership was short-lived, he died on 3rd February 1014.
This created a power vacuum which Æthelred felt determined to fill when he returned from his exile in Normandy.
This created a divided kingdom in England, with some factions supporting Æthelreds return, whilst others swore their allegiance to Cnut.
Æthelred was able to gain enough support from the higher Anglo-Saxon society, and pledged to rule more justly, and forgive those who had submitted during the time of Viking domination.
Æthelred launched his attack, confident in the fact that he had the necessary support to reclaim his throne.
Cnut realised the necessity for more time and manpower, and left England to develop an effective resistance before returning once more.
In Denmark, Cnut made his preparations to invade, and in the summer of 1015, he made his comeback.
With renewed strength bolstered by his forces of almost 10,000 men, many of them mercenaries, Cnut returned to England and successfully conquered the country.
After fourteen months of warfare, and despite the strong resistance from Æthelred's son Edmund Ironside, Cnuts victory was sealed.
On 23rd April 1016, Æthelred passed away leaving Edmund Ironside king.
Power struggles began, and were soon resolved in a series of military engagements culminating at the Battle of Assandun where Edmund was defeated.
A treaty was negotiated.
As part of this peace agreement, the country would be partitioned with Edmund retaining control of Wessex whilst Cnut had the rest of England.
Edmund then died on 30th November 1016, leaving Cnut has ruler of all England.
To further entrench his sovereignty, Cnut also had Eadwig Ætheling, Æthelred's son killed, thereby eliminating further threats to the crown.
With the English Crown in his possession, Cnut embarked on a marriage which would consolidate power even further, by marrying Emma of Normandy Æthelreds widow.
In 1017, he married Emma and they quickly went on to have two children, a son Harthacnut, and a daughter Gunhilda.
With potential claimants to the throne temporarily dealt with, Cnut went about maintaining his military infrastructure which included keeping forty ships and their crew to support the English defences ~ whilst also extracting a huge amount of gold from England in order to pay off his army who returned to Denmark.
Now as King of England, it was important for Cnut as a Viking king to create stability and a unifying presence in the view of so much potential division.
Thus, he held a meeting in Oxford, where it was agreed that the English and Danish would live together in peace.
Cnut established a more stable form of governance which allowed the Saxon and Viking communities to co-exist, in both a social and political domain.
In 1018 King Harald III passed away, leaving Cnut to claim the Danish throne for himself.
By 1028, his control had extended even further, as he now became King of Norway too, thus presiding over an extensive North Sea Empire.
Cnut also promoted Christianity throughout his kingdoms, following his own conversion to the faith.
He was the first Viking leader to be acknowledged by the Pope as a Christian king, and in 1027 embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome, demonstrating his faith and piety.
On his return from Rome, Cnut referred to himself as King of all England and Denmark and the Norwegians and some of the Swedes.
Such was his power and governance over much of northwest Europe, that Cnut brought a level of unity and stability between his kingdoms.
During his reign as King of England, as well as Denmark and Norway, Cnut had succeeded in the mission which his father had endeavoured to achieve ~ to rule over a vast North Sea Empire.
Cnut died on 12th November 1035 in Shaftsbury, Dorset.
Cnut was buried in the Old Minster, Winchester.
During the English Civil War in the 17th century, plundering Roundhead soldiers scattered the bones of Cnut on the floor.
His bones were spread amongst the various other chests.
After the restoration of the Monarchy, the bones were collected and replaced in their chests, although somewhat out of order......
Cnut left behind a significant responsibility to his son Harthacnut.
Not only to rule over Scandinavia but to maintain control of England too.
Only time would tell whether any of his offspring could follow in their father's footsteps.....
Magnus Bruun plays Cnut in 'The Last Kingdom.
The Cnut we know from the show was inspired by King Cnut, but the character himself, was invented.