Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert





Pope John ‘the Nineteenth’ (1024-1032 AD)



(1027)  In early spring, King Canute and his pilgrim retinue left Winchester for Southampton and from there sailed across the English Channel and up the Seine River, following the new river trade route to the Rhone River and down it to Marseilles, inspecting every Hraes’ post and store along the way.  Jarl Haakon of York was with him, as was his cousin, Ivar ‘the White’, who had slain the Christian Jarl Ulf in the Holy Trinity Church in Roskilde, and for whom they were seeking contrition in Rome.  It had been Canute’s intention to visit King Rudolf of Burgundy on the way through Frankia, but he was already on his way to the Holy City.  All the royals of Europe were going.  The German Emperor Conrad of the Holy Roman Empire was being officially crowned by the Pope in the Vatican and had personally invited Canute to his coronation.

King Canute had several chests of gold with him and he made donations at all churches along the way.  The generous progress south was one that was to be long remembered in the monasteries along the route.  Important institutions at some distance from the chosen route were also sent fine presents and gifts of gold, as was the monastic foundation at Chartres, under Bishop Fulbert and a church at Cologne.  But King Canute and his retinue followed the route that Jarl Ivar ‘the White’ had laid out on his trip to the Vatican two years earlier and they stopped first in Rouen to visit the new duke, Richard ‘the Third’, who had just inherited the Duchy on the death of his father, Queen Emma’s brother, Richard ‘the Second’ the year before.  Things were in turmoil in Normandy, as Richard’s younger brother Robert had tried to usurp the throne and a civil war had just finished with Robert’s acceptance of Richard’s rule.  But the inns they were staying at along the way were unchanged by this and the young local women that Jarl Ivar had arranged to meet up with them all along the route were unaffected by the unrest, so, Canute slept most nights with a recently deflowered young virgin under each arm, as did the jarls in their suites.  They briefly visited the Hraes’ store in Rouen and then left for their pre-arranged lodgings in Paris.

King Canute visited with King Robert ‘the Second’, King of the Franks, and his son and then he visited the original Hraes’ store there and Queen Emma’s Hraes’ store as well and he was amazed at the difference between the two establishments.  Emma’s store was much more modern and family oriented and had a restaurant in it that extended outside onto the dock by the River Seine and it was much more pleasant spending time there.  There were no slave sales in her store and fur sales were minimal and usually as finished fashions.  They sailed on up the Seine and visited her newer stores in Troyes and Dijon before being portaged across to the River Rhone and visiting her stores in Lyon and Marseille, and all were equally impressive.  Valdamar could see why his father, King Sweyn, had encouraged Emma to design her Hraes’ store in Southampton and had then emulated them in all the eastern Hraes’ stores from Denmark to Baghdad and beyond.  And a lot of the young women that were being suddenly blessed by English gold were workers from Emma’s stores along the route.

Leaving Marseilles, the small fleet sailed down the coast of Italy, stopping in the Norman controlled province of the Langobards to inspect her new Hraes’ store in Genoa before sailing further south to Rome.  There King Canute met up with King Rudolph of Burgundy and together they inspected Queen Emma’s newest Hraes’ store in the ancient city of the Romans.  Then they both met Emperor Conrad and Empress Gisela in Vatican City and the next day all the royals met Pope John ‘the Nineteenth’ at the Church of the Holy Apostles for a rehearsal of the coronation ceremony that would follow on Easter Sunday, March Twenty-Sixth.

The coronation and celebrations that followed lasted for a week and Canute and Conrad drew into close alliance with each other, Canute promising one of his Porphyrogennetos grand-daughters to Conrad’s son young son Henry.  In return favour, Canute received the southern Province of Slesswick, a swath of Anglish Danish land between the Schley and Eider Rivers, that Emperor Henry the Fowler had taken from the Danes a century earlier. Thus the Eider River, once more, became the southern boundary of the Danish kingdom.  But Canute worked hard to establish friendship with the Holy Roman Empire just south of Denmark, lavishing gold and gifts freely amongst the German princes at the coronation and receiving gifts in return, in order to secure his southern border so he could retaliate against King Olaf and initiate the conquest of Norway.  And because Olaf Haraldson was a Christian king and had brought about the reconversion of Norway that had fallen away after the supposed death of King Olaf Tryggvason, King Canute worked even harder to secure the blessing of the Pope for his counterattack upon the Norwegians for the rapes and abuses suffered by the Danes, Queen Gyritha in particular, in their attack upon Zealand the previous year.  Thanks in part to the growing schism between Latin and Orthodox Christianity, Olaf having been first baptised in Constantinople while a Varangian Guardsman there, Pope John, although not blessing retribution, took it under consideration and offered to turn a blind eye to it, a slight against the Orthodox Christian Emperor Basil, ‘the Bulgar-Slayer’, who had so recently died, if the Danes could see fit to spare the life of Olaf ‘the Stout’.

But there was another little problem that the Pope brought up with Canute, and it was about the slaying of a Christian earl while under holy sanctuary in a church in Roskilde the prior year.  King Canute apologized for the incident and explained that a treasonous Jarl Ulf, meaning Wolf, had been sentenced to be executed and the order had been passed down to an Aesir Heathen prince in the Danish legion who didn’t appreciate the Christian custom of holy sanctuary.  “I was going to have the truant officer executed for his crime,” Valdy started, “but I thought, perhaps it would be God-worthy to convert him to Christianity first, and I have tried and tried to convince him of the wonders of Christianity to no effect.  I have brought him with me to the holiest of cities in the hopes that I could find someone who could help convert the young man before I sentence him to death so that he may find heaven in the afterlife instead of that evil hall they go to.”

“Perhaps I could have a word with the young man,” Pope John offered.  “I have some expertise in that area.”  So Valdamar had young Ivar ‘the White’ brought into the Vatican and the Pope had words with him, through Valdy, as interpreter, and soon the Viking warrior was nodding in understanding of the Christian faith and he agreed to be baptised.

“I am performing a number of royal baptisms on Sunday,” the Pope told Canute in Latin, “and it would be auspicious to have a heathen Dane baptised with them,” he added proudly.

“I shall bring him myself,” Valdamar told him.

“Your Latin is excellent!” Pope John told the king, visibly impressed.  “Many read Latin, but so few of us speak it these days.  Where did you learn it?”

Valdy did not want to tell him that his grandfather had been taught Latin by the Eastern Roman Emperor Theophilus while imprisoned in Constantinople, so he just said, “Good merchants learn the language of their customers and my Hraes’ Trading Company has just opened a new store here in Rome.”

The Pope was even more impressed and he took King Canute by the arm as he walked with him out of his huge office and he said, “That young prince of yours seems like a fine young man.  Perhaps I can also intervene on his behalf and ask you to spare him so he can enjoy the benefits of Christianity in life as well as in the death that inevitably comes to all of us.”

“Your words of wisdom melt my soul,”  Valdy said piously.  “Your wish is my command.”

On the Sixth of April, a great synod met at the Lateran to consider various weighty matters and to settle certain important controversies.  King Canute had been invited by the Pope and he brought up several complaints of the English Church.  He stated that the tithes taken from the English archbishops for the pallium were too high and the Pope promised to reduce the charges on condition that Peter’s pence be regularly paid.  Canute then promised to send his English subjects a reminder on promptness.  The Pope also agreed to exempt the English school at Rome from the customary tribute.

The king also had another set of grievances, which he discussed in the same synod, about English and Danish pilgrims not being given fair and reasonable treatment on their pilgrimages to Rome, being burdened with unjust tolls and with overcharges at the inns.  Canute also felt that the highways should be made safer and justice more accessible to those who travelled on holy errands.  The reasonableness of Canute’s request was apparent to the synod, and it was decreed that the treatment of pilgrims should be both liberal and just.

From Rome, Canute hurried back to his Denmark campaign, following the same route, and same women, it seemed, as on the journey south.  But a ship was sent off from the mouth of the Seine to Southampton with a message to the English clergy and people, advising them as to their king’s accomplishments in Rome:


Canute, King of all England and Denmark and of the Norwegians and of part of the Slavic peoples, to Ethelnoth the Metropolitan and Alfric of York, and to all bishops and primates, and to the whole nation of the English, both nobles and freemen, wishes health.

I make known to you that I have lately been to Rome, to pray for the redemption of my sins, and for the prosperity of the kingdoms and peoples subject to my rule. This journey I had long ago vowed to God, though, through affairs of state and other impediments, I had hitherto been unable to perform it; but now I humbly return thanks to God Almighty for having in my life granted to me to yearn after the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, and every sacred place within and without the city of Rome, which I could learn of, and according to my desire, personally to venerate and adore. And this I have executed chiefly because I had learned from wise men that the holy apostle Peter had received from the Lord the great power of binding and loosing, and was key-bearer of the celestial kingdom; and I, therefore, deemed it extremely useful to desire his patronage before God.

Be it now known to you, that there was a great assembly of nobles at the Easter celebration, with the Lord Pope John, and the Emperor Conrad, to wit, all the princes of the nations from Mount Gargano to the nearest sea, who all received me honourably, and honoured me with magnificent presents. But I have been chiefly honoured by the Emperor with divers costly gifts, as well in golden and silver vessels as in mantles and vestments exceedingly precious.

I have therefore spoken with the Emperor and the Lord Pope, and the princes who were there, concerning the wants of all my people, both Angles and Danes, that a more equitable law and greater security might be granted to them in their journeys to Rome, and that they might not be hindered by so many barriers, nor harassed by unjust tolls; and the Emperor and King Rudolf, who has the greater number of those barriers in his dominions, have agreed to my demands; and all the princes have engaged by their edict, that my men, whether merchants or other travellers for objects of devotion, should go and return in security and peace, without any constraint of barriers or tolls.

I then complained to the Lord Pope, and said that it greatly displeased me, that from my archbishops such immense sums of money were exacted, when, according to usage, they visited the apostolic see to receive the pall; and it was agreed that such exactions should not thenceforth be made. And all that I have demanded for the benefit of my people from the Lord Pope, from the Emperor, from King Rudolf, and from the other princes, through whose territories our way lies to Rome, they have freely granted, and also confirmed their cessions by oath, with the witness of four archbishops and twenty bishops, and an innumerable multitude of dukes and nobles, who were present.

I therefore render great thanks to God Almighty that I have successfully accomplished all that I desired, as I had proposed in my mind, and satisfied to the utmost the wishes of my people. Now then, be it known to you, that I have vowed, as a suppliant, from henceforth to justify in all things my whole life to God, and to rule the kingdoms and peoples subjected to me justly and piously, to maintain equal justice among all; and if, through the intemperance of my youth, or through negligence, I have done aught hitherto contrary to what is just, I intend with the aid of God to amend all.

I therefore conjure and enjoin my counsellors, to whom I have intrusted the counsels of the kingdom, that from henceforth they in no wise, neither through fear of me nor favour to any powerful person, consent to, or suffer to increase any injustice in my whole kingdom; I enjoin also all sheriffs and reeves of my entire kingdom, as they would enjoy my friendship or their own security, that they use no unjust violence to any man, either rich or poor, but that every one, both noble and freeman, enjoy just law, from which let them in no way swerve, neither for equal favour, nor for any powerful person, nor for the sake of collecting money for me, for I have no need that money should be collected for me by iniquitous exactions.

I, therefore, wish it to be made known to you, that, returning by the same way that I departed, I am going to Denmark, for the purpose of settling, with the counsel of all the Danes, firm and lasting peace with those nations, which, had it been in their power, would have deprived us of our life and kingdoms; but were unable, God having deprived them of strength, who in His loving-kindness preserves us in our kingdoms and honour, and renders naught the power of our enemies. Having made peace with the nations round us, and regulated and tranquillised all our kingdom here in the East, so that on no side we may have to fear war or enmities, I propose this summer, as soon as I can have a number of ships ready, to proceed to England; but I have sent this letter beforehand, that all the people of my kingdom may rejoice at my prosperity; for, as you yourselves know, I have never shrunk from labouring, nor will I shrink therefrom, for the necessary benefit of all my people.

I therefore conjure all my bishops and ealdormen, by the fealty which they owe to me and to God, so to order that, before I come to England, the debts of all, which we owe according to the old law, be paid; to wit, plough-alms, and a tithe of animals brought forth during the year, and the pence which ye owe to Saint Peter at Rome, both from the cities and villages; and in the middle of August, a tithe of fruits, and at the feast of Saint Martin, the first-fruits of things sown, to the church of the parish, in which each one dwells, which is in English called church-scot. If, when I come, these and others are not paid, he who is in fault shall be punished by the royal power severely and without any remission. Farewell.

King Canute had planned to stay in Denmark until he had brought King Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson to heel, but mid-summer he got a message that King Malcolm II of the Scots was driving the English out of Lothian, the district between Scotland and England.  Canute and Malcolm had fought a battle over Lothian in 1012, while Canute was still Prince Valdamar of Kiev and he had attacked the Scots under the orders of his father, King Sweyn, and the two had fought to a draw and made peace by allowing both Scottish and English to share the land equally.  The Battle of Cruden, or Croju-Dane, as it was called, meaning ‘Slaughter of the Danes’, caused a terrible loss of life to both sides, but Valdamar left Malcolm to clean up the mess and bury the dead.  King Malcolm built a church on the battlefield with the Scots buried north of it and the Danes buried to the south.

The peace had been maintained until 1018, when the Northumbrians, under Earl Uhtred’s brother, Earl Eadwulf Cudel, had attacked the Scots and lost, but King Canute had met with King Malcolm and assured him that the attack had been unauthorized, and the peace was restored when the head of Eadwulf had been presented to the Scottish king.  Something had happened to disturb that peace, so King Canute soon sailed north with his mobile legion out of Wight and he met with the angry King Malcolm at Cruden Bay.  Two hundred transport longships sat in the harbour east of the mobile legion that stood ten thousand man strong behind King Canute and west of the Cruden Battlefield sat fifteen thousand Scottish warriors behind King Malcolm.  The two kings rode out alone and met each other in the center of the old battlefield they had fought upon almost two decades earlier.

“We lost many good thanes here,” Canute said to Malcolm as they sat across from each other.

“Aye, that we did,” King Malcolm replied, “and we shall again today unless we can repair our peace.”

“What has fractured our peace?”

“Why, your Jarl, Ivar ‘the White’ has,” Malcolm responded.  “He assured Duke Richard of Normandy that you carried the blood of the Caesars in you, so I sent my three daughters to Rouen to establish relations with you in the hopes one or two of them would also carry the blood of the Caesars in their offspring.  All three of them came back and are now with child!”

“I remember them,” Valdy said, recollecting three Scottish sisters he had taken in Rouen and Paris, “But they didn’t tell me they were your daughters.  I assumed they were the daughters of a Scottish earl.  But is it not a good thing that they were all prolific, if that’s what you wanted in the first place?”

“Aye, it might be,” Malcolm agreed, “if you indeed did carry the blood of the Caesars in your veins.  But King Olaf ‘the Stout’ of Norway has told me it was your wife, Anna Porphyrogennetos of Constantinople, who carried the blood of the Caesars in your family’s veins and not you!  He claims her byname, Porphyrogennetos, means ‘born of the purple blood’ in Roman.”

“That it does,” Valdamar agreed.  “And I have never claimed to be Porphyrogennetos myself.  Coming from the blood of the Old King Fridlief/Frodi line of kings goes as far back as Julius Caesar himself, and coming from the later King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Harde Knute Knytling line of kings adds even more to that.  I am happy with that distinction, but rumours persist and it is hard to correct them.”

“So, why does your jarl persist in repeating these false rumours?  All my daughters claim they heard these words directly from your jarl’s mouth.”

“We fought to a draw here almost a score of years ago and made peace,” Valdy began.  “Yet it was almost destroyed by a Northumbrian earl who attacked you at Carham, and your victory there was your greatest and cost Earl Uhtred his head.”

“It was his brother, Earl Eadwulf, that lost against me that day,” Malcolm corrected him, “and it was you who delivered me his head.”

“I know,” Valdy agreed, “yet people everywhere insist on saying it was Earl Uhtred who lost against you even though I remind them that I had taken Uhtred’s head two years before the battle.”

Malcolm looked down and played with a loose thread on his saddle horn.  “Perhaps people need a more dramatic reminder about these things,” he said, then he smiled a bit.  “The witches all say the girls will be having boys.”

“That’s what your daughters told me they wanted.  But Donalda’s period was off for her to have a son, so I had to take her to Paris with me so she could have a boy.  It’s the Aesir way.  I assigned a whole cavalry troop to escort her back to Rouen.”

“I’m glad you showed them such respect,” Malcolm said.  “They’ll only be able to marry earls or princes up north here, so a kingly line such as King Frodi’s in their first son’s blood will keep the Scottish kingship within our family.  I just hadn’t expected to have such luck with all three of them.”

“So, does our peace still stand then?” Valdy asked.

“It stands as strong as that great monster of yours that my daughters can’t stop talking about.  The ‘Pink Monster’ they say you call it?”

“It was more of monster back when I was younger.  I keep it on a short leash these days, while trying to be a good Christian and all.”

“Speaking of that,” Malcolm started, “How went your pilgrimage?”

“It went very well,” Valdy said.  “I got the Pope’s permission to attack King Olaf.  All I have to do is find him.  He keeps running from me!”

“Well, now you have even more cause to attack him.  He wasted no time in trying to stir up trouble between us.”

“When King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ lorded over York, he always made it a point to get on well with the Scot kings.  It will take more than Stout Olaf to come between us, my friend.  We have spilled enough blood over this fertile ground,” he said, looking about the field, “to last us both our lifetimes.”

“Yes,” King Malcolm agreed.  “Now it is time for us to break bread and spill wine!”

“My ships’ cooks have been baking bread and roasting meats,” Valdy invited, “and I’ve brought the finest Frankish sparkling wines back with me.”

“I’ll have to take a few bottles to my daughters for celebrations after the births.”

“I have three cases for them,” Valdy said, “and they’re from Epernay in the Frankish Province of Champagne.”

The two armies gathered about the harbour, keeping a short distance apart as their kings and earls and officers feasted together between them.  Much bread was broken and even more wine was spilled and King Canute invited King Malcolm to bring a fleet to Southampton in the spring to show off his beautiful daughters and his new grandsons.

“Duke Richard passed on while I was in Rome,” Valdy added, “but the new Duke Robert told me his new concubine wife had just become pregnant and the Witches of Rouen all say it’s a boy.  I’ll invite him as well.  It will give you a chance to meet the new Duke of Normandy.”

“Normandy sure seems to be hard on Dukes,” King Malcolm stated.

“I know!” Valdy agreed.  “King Ivar ‘the Boneless’ had to save young Duke Richard ‘the First’ from the Franks and he had to leave a whole Roman cataphract legion in Rouen to protect him.  It cost Harde Knute a fortune!  Duke Richard called him Hargrold.”

“When I was in Rouen with my wife, Gunnora,” Malcolm recalled, “I saw those Roman and Norman knights jousting.  Will there be any jousting in Southampton in the spring?”

“I can ask Duke Robert to bring some Roman and Norman knights to joust with my Danish knights at King Sweyn’s Castle on the Isle of Wight.  It’s just across the Solent from Southampton.”

Prince Hraerik had led the great merchant fleet east in the spring and had missed King Canute’s return from Rome, but when he returned to Roskilde in the fall he found he had missed Valdamar again.  Canute had spent all summer going up and down the Norwegian coast and when he led his fleet into The Vik where King Olaf was supposed to be, the Norse king had retreated deep into the hinterlands of Norway.  Some said he’d fled east to Sweden, but there were rumours that he still lurked in the dense forests.  Valdamar had been planning on awaiting the Prince’s return from Baghdad in Roskilde, but he’d received word that the Scots had attacked and harried northern England, so he returned to Winchester to lead an army against King Malcolm of Scotland.  The Prince shook his head at the news, collected the Danish tithes from the merchants of the fleet and disbanded it so they could return to their home ports.  He hoped his grandson would be okay as he sailed to Southampton for the winter.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

A.D. 1027. Canute, king of England and Denmark, received intelligence

that the Norwegians held their king Olaf in contempt on account of his

meekness and simplicity, his justice and piety. In consequence, he sent

large sums of gold and silver to certain of them, earnestly entreating them

to reject and depose Olaf, and submitting to him, accept him for their king.

They greedily accepted his bribes, and caused a message to be returned to

Canute that they were prepared to receive him whenever he chose to come.

This year went King Knute to Rome; and the same year, as soon as he

returned home, he went to Scotland; and Malcolm, king of the Scots,

submitted to him, and became his man, with two other kings, Macbeth and

Jehmar; but he held his allegiance a little while only.

The Prince Hraerik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:

(1027 AD).  A third son was born to Ivaraslav, and he named him Sveinaldslav.