Restoring a king and rewriting history - JORVIK Viking Festival 2016

York, UK 15 – 21 February 2016

The largest Viking Festival in Europe, the JORVIK Viking Festival, is set to make the boldest move in over 30 years, when Norse experts are hoping not only to bring history to life, but also to rewrite the history books and restore Canute back to the podium as the greatest English king!

2016 marks 1000 years since the Viking Canute, also known as Cnut, took the English throne, uniting the nation in a way that had never been experienced before, and was barely repeated for the next 450 years of the medieval period. He is also responsible for creating a North Sea empire, uniting the crowns of England, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which can be seen as the first European Union!  However, without a strong heir to continue the great work he had done in unifying the kingdom, just 50 years later, the Norman William the Conqueror took the throne, leading to four centuries of political friction and conflict between the North and South.  The new Norman king used propaganda to push aside Canute’s achievements, effectively wiping much of this legacy from history.

“The records that did survive paint an incredibly powerful picture of Canute – both a strong, charismatic soldier and an adept leader and politician who managed to unite a country previously divided into several different realms,” comments Danielle Daglan, director of the JORVIK Viking Festival.  “His Viking roots meant that he had the support of the Norse North, including York, which enabled him to concentrate his efforts on the rest of the country, basing his court and growing support in the South safe in the knowledge that he would see no rebellion from the North.”

The stories that do survive of Canute are often misunderstood, including the most famous depiction of Canute as the king who tried (and failed) to command the waves themselves.  “This story is usually completely misinterpreted, identifying Canute as the king who believed he had power over the sea itself, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, the original legend tells a story of a humble Canute who knew that, despite being the most powerful man in the country, only God himself had the power to control the waves.  He wanted to show his subjects that secular power is vain compared to the supreme power of God, and that trying to stop a tide of inexorable events is pointless,” adds Danielle.  “It is little wonder that Canute was recently voted the second least popular English monarch of all time, behind Henry VIII, when one of his greatest strengths is misinterpreted as conceit and arrogance.”

Throughout the JORVIK Viking Festival, re-enactors, historians, authors and storytellers will endeavor to reveal the truth about Canute through presentations, talks, parades and a grand fiery finale event (Saturday 20 February 2015) which will tell the story of his rise to power in a stunning son-et-lumière celebration at the heart of the city.

Through encampments in Coppergate – the Viking street of the cupmaker – and Parliament Street, the JORVIK Viking Festival will show what life would have been like in the Viking stronghold of York in 1016, when it was very clearly the first city of the North and a hub of international trade and commerce.  Visitors can even have the unique opportunity of joining the betrothal feast of Canute and his second wife, Emma of Normandy, in a unique dining experience in York’s historic Merchant Taylor’s Hall.

Other highlights include the annual Brawl at the Guildhall, which pits Viking against Viking in trials of strength and skill to win the coveted JORVIK Viking Festival trophy sword as the warriors prepare for the floodlit battle at the Eye of York on Saturday 20 February.

Many of the events are free, including Festival preview camp in Coppergate on Saturday 13 & Sunday 14 February and the main encampment in Parliament Street daily from 15 – 20 February, whilst tickets are required for events including the Grand Finale, Viking Feast and Brawl at the Guildhall.  More details are available online at


For further media information or photographs, please contact:

Jay Commins

Pyper York Limited

Tel:         01904 500698