Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Danegeld Definition:

An English tax initially intended to pay for national defence against the Danes.

A tax initially raised in 991 upon English land-owners by the English king (Aethelred, aka Alfred the Great), to pay-off Viking (Danes) invaders.

The payment was proportionate to land-holdings.

When Canute came to power, the English had defied the Danes by refusing to pay the Danegeld; instead, Canute used the money to build his open fleet and armed forces to repel the invaders.

The Danegeld was, plain and simple, a tax and it became the largest source of income for the Crown.

The Danegeld lasted until 1051 when it was temporarily discontinued.

Bruce Patterson wrote of the Danegeld:

"The laws of Canute were so strict that only four days of grace were given for payment of the Danegeld. If not paid within this time, the person who paid the tax could take the land....."

It was to properly organize and harvest the Danegeld that the Norman conquerors commissioned the Domesday Book land census.


  • Peterson, Bruce, The Danegeld and its Effects on the Development of Property Law, 66 Dick. L. Rev. 443 (1961-1962)

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!