King empire

Why Canute’s Father Isn’t the King of Denmark

Canute is the King of Denmark in Vikings: Valhalla, but a possible escape is later presented when his father, Forkbeard, shows up alive and well.

Warning! SPOILERS for Vikings: Walhalla

In Vikings: Walhalla, episode 7, “Choices”, reveals that Sweyn Forkbeard (Søren Pilmark) is still alive, raising questions about why Canute (Bradley Freegard), his son, is the king of Denmark, and not Forkbeard himself . In the Viking Age, kingdoms often changed hands quickly, whether due to the mysterious death of rulers, like King Edmund (Louis Davison), or pretenders to the throne who moved when the opportunity presented itself. With Forkbeard alive and well as his son is King of Denmark, this initially seems like an oversight, but there are a few possible explanations for why Canute is on the throne.

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Half way through Vikings: Walhalla season 1, Canute’s Denmark is attacked by the Wends, and so he leaves his newly acquired position as King of England to protect his land. While King Edmund is initially relieved when he learns from his advisor, Godwin, that Canute left in the middle of the night, his hopes are quickly dashed when he learns that Sweyn Forkbeard has come to rule in his son’s absence. . While Edmund had been sufficiently frustrated with Canute, he quickly discovers that Forkbeard is even harder to see.

Related: Valhalla: Why King Aethelred Killed The Vikings

Vikings: Walhalla Season 1 doesn’t directly explain why Forkbeard isn’t King of Denmark, but there are a few possible reasons for this unexpected arrangement. Although it’s no secret Vikings: Walhalla made major historical changes to the real-life timeline of that era, the explanation might be hidden in a storyline that actually happened. One such explanation for this arrangement could be that Forkbeard and Canute ruled together as father and son, and there is precedent for this type of government in Viking history. The other possibility is that Forkbeard simply abdicated his throne, allowing his son to take his place.



Vikings Valhalla Emma Forkbeard

When Godwin greets Sweyn Forkbeard, he calls him “King,“then shortly after,”Your Highness.” This is before Forkbeard confirms that he will be King of England for his son. Perhaps he is actually some sort of co-king for his son, similar to how Edmund and Canute share the title of king. Although it may seem strange, the real life sagas, Heimskringla, Supportand fagrskinna, say a similar arrangement occurred when King Harald Fairhair had his son, Eric Bloodaxe, rule alongside him for the last three years of his reign. We would then speak of “dyarchy”. Forkbeard Notes in Vikings: Walhalla episode 7 than his son »has pots all over his fire. Norway, Denmark, England, Iceland… His great northern empire. I’m not sure he can handle it.” However, with the help of his father, Canute may be able to retain control of a vast kingdom.


Forkbeard may have abdicated his throne to his son. This may seem like a simple reason as to why Vikings: Valhalla Canute is king, but since Forkbeard is older now, he may have abdicated in order to ensure a smooth transition to his son as the new leader. Often when a king died during the Viking Age, claimants to the throne would take advantage of the situation to attempt to wrest the throne from the clear line of succession. By letting go of the throne on his own terms, the likelihood of that happening was likely minimized. However, Forkbeard is a Viking, and descending in a blaze of glory to secure a place at Odin’s table is every Viking’s wish, so it seems a bit odd that he would simply give up so much power to his son so gladly.


At the end of Vikings: Walhalla, Forkbeard arrives in Kattegat to seize the critical Scandinavian port, so it doesn’t look like he’s leaving any time soon. Maybe in Season 2 there will be more answers about what he actually rules, if at all. Nonetheless, Canute was wise to summon Forkbeard to aid him in his quest to secure a sprawling Northern Empire.

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