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"And in the same spring the Lady, Richard's daughter, came here to the land"
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Peterborough MS)
Æthelred, whom Emma had married in 1002, had been dead less than a year when she became the wife of the Danish king and acquiesced in the exile of her children. Cnut wanted to maintain a Norman alliance and Emma, as the sister of Duke Richard II, served to confirm it. When Cnut himself died in 1035, she had been a queen for more than thirty years and conspired to retain her position as queen mother, first by advancing Harthacnut, her son by Cnut, and then Edward and Alfred, her sons by Æthelred.
But Emma was vulnerable. Edward and Alfred had been abandoned in Normandy, and Harthacnut was preoccupied with succeeding his father as king of Denmark. She therefore was unable to prevent Cnut's illegitimate son Harold Harefoot from assuming power as regent and seizing the royal treasure still in her keeping. When he came to the English throne in 1037, she fled to safety in Flanders.
The year before, records the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Abingdon MS), "No more horrible deed was done in this country since the Danes came and made peace here." Alfred had ventured to return to his mother in England but was captured and so cruelly blinded that he later died.
Three years later, Harold, himself, was dead, just as Harthacnut was preparing an expeditionary force against him. With her own son now on the throne, Emma returned from abroad, as did Edward. It was then that she commissioned the Encomium Emmae Reginae, a euology that avowedly sought to glorify her as queen and Anglo-Danish rule in England, and to blame Harold Harefoot for having lured the martyred Alfred back to England.
But Harthacnut was not popular. Even though his invasion fleet had not been necessary, a heavy tax was levied to pay for it: eight marks for every oar of the sixty-two ships that had sailed. And, when two of his thegns were killed collecting it, Harthacnut had the entire shire put to the sword.
He died in 1042, suddenly falling to the floor in convulsions while drinking at a wedding feast, and Edward was acclaimed king. Suspicious and resentful, he deprived his mother of her land and treasure, because, relates the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Peterborough MS), "earlier she had kept it from him too firmly."
No longer able to intrigue, the dowager was allowed to remain at court until her death.
The miniature is from the only medieval manuscript of the Encomium Emmae Reginae and probably was made for the queen, herself. It shows Emma receiving a copy of the work from its author, a Flemish monk. On the right are her sons Harthacnut and Edward.
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