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Cnut V of Denmark (The Kalmar Union)

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Cnut V Lavard
Canute V Denmark (The Kalmar Union).png
Cnut V Lavard
King of Denmark
Reign 19th June, 1146 - 14th September, 1157
Predecessor Bjorn I Ironside
Successor Valdemar I
Spouse Ingeborg of Kiev
Issue Margaret Knutsdatter

Christina Knutsdatter
Catherine Knutsdatter
Valdemar Knutsson
Ragnhild Knutsdatter
Karl Knutsson
Niels Knutsson

Full name
Cnut Erikson
House Estridsson
Father Eric I Svendsson
Mother Boedil Thurgotsdatter
Born 1096
Roskilde, Denmark
Died 14th September, 1157
Lund, Denmark

The only legitimate child of Eric I Cnut V would have to wait fifty years before he assumed the throne. Too young to be widely accepted by the nobility at the time of his father's death he would operate in the shadow of his half-brother Harald IV and cousin Bjorn.

By 1112 Harald had set his younger half-brother up as custodian of the border region of Sonderjylland, most likely to keep him busy with foiling the raids of the Obodtrites but also to reward his loyalty. However putting him at a remove from Roskilde allowed Cnut a certain degree of freedom and many noble families did not exactly hide their desire to remove Harald and place Cnut on the throne. He was well-liked and trusted by his nominal subjects and his lands enjoyed a certain stability which was lacking form Harald's more turbulent territory.

His proximity to the Holy Roman Empire also put strains on the relationship and his willingness to adopt German traits and ideas of knighthood repelled as many nobles as it impressed. However his ability to work alongside the Empire had increased Danish standing. Far from the awkward kingdom constantly disputing its independence from Imperial affairs which had characterised Denmark for centuries, Cnut was being recognised as sovereign of the Western Wends, sowing the seeds for the future Danish dominance of Pomerania. By the 1130s Harald was planning to remove Cnut and replace him with his own son, Bjorn, but stricken by revolt and Slavic invasions could do little to oppose Cnut's power. He would die in 1135 in the midst of a siege of Roskilde by Wendish forces. The nobility of Scania and the islands quickly elected Bjorn. Meanwhile those of the mainland went with Cnut.

A civil war now blazed between the two opposing sides. Largely ignoring the constant Slavic raids the two monarchs secured their own power bases. By 1139 however the Jutland base of Cnut was under threat. The death of Lothair III and a new struggle for the imperial throne had weakened Cnut's position and Obodtrite raids slowly wore him down. At the Battle of Grasten in May 1139 his army was cut down by Bjorn's forces.

Cnut fled into exile. Thanks to his close ties to the previous emperor his presence at the Imperial court of Conrad III was unwelcome and he soon found himself in the traditional home of the Scandinavian exile: Kiev. His wife's uncle was nominally in charge of the great principality, however it was slowly tearing itself apart in a family feud and it would not be long before the family once again moved; this time to Svealand and the court of Sverker I. It appears Cnut made several expeditions with Sverker to Novgorod to raid and extend the limits of Svealand's eastern reach.

In 1146 Bjorn died. His only surviving children were two young daughters and the nobles quickly moved to proclaim Cnut the rightful king rather than be subjected to another round of civil war or, possibly more feared; union with Viken under Cnut III of Viken. Cnut III did claim the throne as it turned out but support from Sverker's Gothenlandic army soon put pay to that idea. Cnut was confirmed as the Danish king.

In many ways Cnut's subsequent rule benefitted considerably from his predecessor's strong lead. After the civil war Bjorn had sunk his energies into restoring Danish domination of the Baltic coast and Slavic raids were soon a thing of the past. Cnut made sure to marry off Bjorn's daughters Christina and Marianna to princes in Svealand and Anglia respectively (the future Cnut I of Svealand and Cnut III of Anglia) leaving his own children to secure more pertinent alliances with Hordaland and Slavic princes. However Cnut appears to have little domestic policy and certainly none that lasted.

Possibly Cnut's most lasting achievement was to re-secure the recognition of Danish influence over the western Slavs from Frederick I though this also came with the implicit suggestion that the Emperor could interfere in Danish affairs. Ultimately Cnut would be once more undone by his association with Germany. Nobles, annoyed with his attention being lavished on Jutland and the Obodtrites, began to scheme. He would be murdered in 1157 in Lund cathedral, the crime drawing much attention across Northern Europe, leaving his son Valdemar to struggle with various illegitimate descendants of Eric I for the throne.

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