Canute The Great

Canute the Great was the son of the king of Denmark. When the king died, Canute’s elder brother Harold became king. Canute was his heir.

Not wanting to wait until becoming king, Canute decided to make a name for himself. He set off towards England and forced a treaty between the king, Edmund Ironsides, and himself. He said, “When thou diest, I shall reign over thy entire kingdom, even as I now reign over the northern part.” And conveniently, Edmund died three weeks later.

Canute married a Norman princess named Emma to strengthen ties. Together they had a son named Harthacnut.

His brother Harold died in 1018 and Canute went back to Denmark, now ruler of two kingdoms. He also conquered parts of Scandinavia.

Canute died in 1035 and was buried in his capital, Winchester. His son, Harthacnut, ruled after him. When Harthacnut died, the kingdom fell apart.

I would like to tell a little story that happened between Canute and his courtiers. (The courtier is talking to Canute):

“Most noble king, I believe you can do anything.”

Canute sternly rebuked the courtier for these words and then said:

“Come with me, gentlemen.”

He led them from the palace grounds to the sea-shore where the tide was rising, and had his chair placed at the edge of the water.

“You say I can do anything,” he said to the courtiers. “Very well, I who am king and the lord of the ocean now command these rising waters to go back and not dare wet my feet.”

But the tide was disobedient and steadily rose and rose, until the feet of the king were in the water. Turning to his courtiers, Canute said:

“Learn how feeble is the power of earthly kings. None is worthy to be called king but He whom heaven and earth and sea obey.”

He was a good king.


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