Aelgifu of Northampton

Aelgifu (also called Aelfgifu or Elgifu or Aelfgitha) was the wife of Canute the Great in the 11th century.

Aelfgifu was the daughter of Ealdorman Aelfhelm, who was killed by King Ethelred the Unready. At some time during the Danish Conquest of England, Canute the Great married Aelfgifu. She bore him two sons, Sweyn and Harold Harefoot who later became Harold I of England.

Later, Canute the Great, married Ethelred's widow, Emma of Normandy, when Ethelred was deposed. His relations with Aelfgifu after the marriage are uncertain. However, she remained in his favor and went with her son Sweyn to rule over Norway in Canute's name during 1035-1036. Both Aelfgifu and Sweyn were duly hated by the Norse, due to her harsh rule and high taxation. They were driven out of Norway, and Sweyn died before returning to England.

Aelfgifu returned to England after Canute's death and helped her son Harold Harefoot gain the English throne. It is uncertain when she died.

AElgifu, a popular female name among the Anglo-Saxons, was also the name of the wife of King Edgar the Peaceable and the wife of King Ethelred. Confusingly, Emma of Normandy was also sometimes known as Aelfgifu or Aelgiva.

The name Elgifu means "gift of the Elves."

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index