Canute Lavard

Not to be confused with Canute IV of Denmark.
Saint Canute Lavard

Canute Lavard in a fresco in Vigersted Church near Ringsted.
Born 1096
Roskilde, Denmark
Died 7 January 1131
forest of Haraldsted near Ringsted in Zealand, Denmark.
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Canonized 1169 by Pope Alexander III
Feast 7 January
Attributes knight with a wreath, lance, and ciborium
Patronage Zealand, Denmark

Canute Lavard (Danish: Knud Lavard) (March 12, 1096 7 January 1131) was a Danish prince. Later he was the first Duke of Schleswig and the first border prince who was both a Danish and a German vassal, a position leading towards the historical double position of Southern Jutland. Canute Lavard was also the ancestor of the Valdemarian Kings (Valdemarerne) and of their subsequent royal line.[1] He was killed by his cousin Magnus, who saw him as a rival to the Danish throne, and was canonized in 1170.


Canute was the only legitimate son of Eric I of Denmark (+1103) and Boedil Thurgotsdatter but as a minor he was bypassed in the election of 1104. He grew up in close contact with the noble family of Hvide, who were later on to be among his most eager supporters. In 1115, his uncle, King Niels of Denmark, placed him in charge of the Duchy of Schleswig (jarl af Sønderjylland) in order to put an end to the attacks of the Slavic Obotrites. During the next fifteen years, he fulfilled his duty of establishing peace in the border area so well that he was titled Duke of Holstein (Hertug af Holsten) and became a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire.

He seems to have been the first member of the Danish royal family who was attracted by the knightly ideals and habits of medieval Germany, indicated by his changing his title to Duke of Schleswig (Hertug af Slesvig). His appearance made him a popular man and a possible successor of his uncle, but he also acquired mighty enemies among the Danish princes and magnates, who apparently questioned his loyalty and feared his bond with Emperor Lothair III, who had recognized him as sovereign over the western Wends. Whether these suspicions were just or not is impossible to say.

Both Niels and his son, Magnus the Strong, seem to have been alarmed by Canute's recognition by the emperor. On 7 January 1131, Canute was trapped in the Haraldsted Forest (Haraldsted Skov) near Ringsted in Zealand and murdered by Magnus. Ringsted Abbey, one of the earliest Benedictine houses in Denmark, became the initial resting place of Canute Lavard. In 1157, Canute Lavard's remains were moved into a new chapel at St. Bendt's Church in Ringsted. A chapel (Knut Lavards Kapel) was erected at the site of his death during medieval times but disappeared after the Reformation. The ruins were rediscovered in 1883. In 1902 a memorial in the form of a 4-metre crucifix was erected near the site of the death of Canute Lavard.[2]

After the death of Canute Lavard, the Obotrite lands were partitioned between Pribislav and Niklot (1090–1160), both chiefs of the Obotrites. Some sources consider the death of Canute to be a murder committed by Magnus; some attribute it to Niels himself. The death provoked a civil war that intermittently lasted until 1157, ending only with the triumph of Canute’s posthumous son Valdemar I. The fate of Canute and his son’s victory formed the background for his canonisation in 1170, which was requested by the same Valdemar. His feast day (Knutsdagen) is celebrated on the day of his death, January 7.[3]


Canute Lavard was married to Ingeborg of Kiev, daughter of Mstislav I of Kiev and Christina Ingesdotter of Sweden. They had four children:

  1. Margaret, married Stig Hvitaledr
  2. Christina (b. 1118), married (1133) Magnus IV of Norway
  3. Catherine, married Prislav, son of Niclot, prince of Obotrites
  4. Valdemar I of Denmark (born 1131)
Canute Lavard
Born: c. 1090 Died: 7 January 1131
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Earl/Duke in Southern Jutland
titled there: Duke of Denmark

Succeeded by
Magnus Nielsen



  1. Susanne Schurr (1992). "Knud Lavard, Jarl in Schleswig". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 4. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 183–186. ISBN 3-88309-038-7.
  2. Haraldsted Sø (Sol og Strand Feriehusudlejning A/S) Archived August 17, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. Murder at Haraldsted (The Scandinavian Remedy)


Other sources

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