The Queen's Encomium

In commissioning her biography, Emma, wife to two kings of England, created a subtle yet audacious piece of propaganda, used to maintain her position and secure her reputation.

Emma receives the Encomium from its author, flanked by Harthacnut and Edward, 11th century (c) British Library Board/Bridgeman Images

A marriage took place 1,000 years ago this summer, which began one of the most intriguing partnerships in medieval history. In 1017 the young Danish king Cnut, who had conquered England just a few months earlier, summoned Emma, widow of his former enemy, King Æthelred, and married her. Emma, daughter of the Duke of Normandy, had been married to Æthelred from 1002 until his death in 1016. By the time of her second marriage she had considerable experience of English politics: much more than her new husband, an untested king who was probably at least a decade younger than Emma. Their union was mutually beneficial: Emma secured a powerful position for herself, while Cnut gained a useful alliance with Normandy.

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