|Canute's (Cnut's) name is
known nowadays largely because of the story that he was so proud
that he thought his command could hold back the tide.
This story was first recorded
in Henry of Huntingdon's twelfth-century Chronicle of the
history of England. In fact, Henry's account was rather a
testimony to Canute's good sense and Christian humility - not
From a famous comic history of England:
"Canute began by being a
Bad King on the advice of his Courtiers who informed him (owing
to a misunderstanding of the Rule Britannia) that the King of
England was entitled to sit on the sea without getting wet. But
finding that they were wrong he gave up this policy and decided
to take his own advice in future - thus originating the
memorable proverb, "Paddle your own Canute"
(Seller & Yeatman,
1066 & all that)
("Rule Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves"
is from a song of 1740 by Thomas Augustine Arne)
|" … Cnut
rex cum viginti annis regnasset, vivere destitit apud
Scaftesbirh, & sepultus est apud Wincestre in veteri Monasterio.
De cuius regis potentia pauca sunt perstringenda. Nec enim
tantae magnitudinis rex fuerat in Anglia. Erat enim dominus
totius Daniae, totius Angliae, totius Norwagiae, simul & Scotiae.
Enimvero extra numerum
bellorum, quibus maxime splenduit, tria gessit eleganter &
Primum est, quod filiam suam Imperatori Romano cum ineffabilibus
Secundum, quod Romam pergens omnes malas exactiones in via, quae
per Gallias Romam tendit (quae vocantur tolonea vel transversa)
data pecunia sua diminui fecit usque ad medietatem.
Tertium, quid cum maximo vigore imperii, sedile suum in
littore maris, cum ascenderet, statui iussit. Dixit autem mari
ascendenti, tu meae ditionis es, & terra in qua sedeo mea est:
nec fuit qui impune meo resisteret imperio. Imperio igitur tibi,
ne in terram meam ascendas, nec vestes nec membra dominatoris
tui madefacere praesumas. Mare vero de more conscendens pedes
regis & crura, since reverentia madefecit. Rex igitur resiliens
ait. Sciant omnes habitantes orbem vanam & frivolam regum esse
potentiam, nec regis qempiam nomine dignum praeter eum, cuius
nutui coelum terra mare legibus obediunt aeternis, [Rex igitur
Cnut nunquam postea coronam auream cervici sua imposuit, sed
super imaginem Domini, quae cruci affixa erat, posuit eam in
aeternum, in laudem Dei regis magni:] Cuius misericordia Cnut
regis anima quiete fruatur.
(Henry of Huntingdon, Chronicle)
Cnut had reigned for twenty years, he died at Shaftesbury and
was buried in the ancient monastery at Winchester. About the power
of this king a little should be stated. For no English king ever had
such wide-ranging authority. For he was at once the lord of all
Denmark, of all England, of all Norway, and also of Scotland.
Indeed, apart from a
number of wars in which he shone greatly, he conducted himself
gracefully and magnificently in three matters:
The first is, that he married his daughter to the Roman Emperor
with unutterable splendor.
The second, that going
to Rome he arranged a reduction by a half in toll dues along the road that
leads though Gaul to Rome.
The third, that with the
greatest vigor he commanded that his chair should be set on
the shore, when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to
the rising sea saying “You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I
am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with
impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor
to wet the clothes or body of your Lord”. But the sea carried on
rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked
his feet and legs. Then he moving away said: “All the
inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is
vain and trivial, and that none is worthy the name of king but
He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal
laws”. Therefore King Cnut never afterwards placed the crown on
his head, but above a picture of the Lord nailed to the cross,
turning it forever into a means to praise God, the
great king. By whose mercy may the soul of King Cnut