Published: 10th Jan 2012

As legend has it the 11th century English/Danish monarch Cnut the Great (aka King Canute) placed his throne at the edge of the shoreline and commanded the sea to halt its tidal wanings to spare himself from wet feet. The sea continued unabated and ultimately Cnut found himself washed over by the ocean. He is said to have jumped back from the icy waters exclaiming ‘Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.’ The story of Cnut is probably apocryphal, although a 12th century chronicler, Henry of Huntingdon, has anecdotal accounts of the event. The story is usually inveighed against the arrogant, assuming that Cnut thought his divinity was of sufficient power to halt the tide. Yet the allegory also has an opposite reading: that Cnut … (To read the full article, subscribe below)