Nothing is as approved as mediocrity, the majority has established it and it fixes it fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way. — Pascal

Our Island Story - H. E. Marshall




Canute and the Waves

When Edmund Ironside died, Canute became king over all England, as it had been agreed between them that whoever lived the longest should have the whole kingdom. Edmund had two sons, and Canute was afraid that the people might wish to make one of them king, so he sent both to a far-off country called Hungary. Perhaps it was wrong to banish these children, but at least it was better than killing them, as some people say he wanted to do.

Canute did not begin by being a good king. At first he was bad and cruel. But he ended by being very good and wise. In fact he seems to have ruled so well that the English came to love him almost as if he had been an English king.

They loved him, but they flattered him too. He was certainly a great king, for he ruled not only over England, but over Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The nobles thought it pleased Canute to be told of his greatness, so they used often to let him hear them praise him.

One day as they were walking upon the seashore, the nobles began, as usual, to tell Canute how powerful he was.

'All England obeys you,' they said.

'And not only England, but Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.'

'Should you desire it, you need but command all the nations of the world and they will kneel before you as their king and lord.'

'You are king on sea and land. Even the waves obey you.'

Now this was foolish talk, and Canute, who was a wise man, did not like it. He thought he would teach these silly nobles a lesson. So he ordered his servants to bring a chair.

When they had brought it, he made them set it on the shore, close to the waves. The servants did as they were told, and Canute sat down, while the nobles stood around him.

Then Canute spoke to the waves. 'Go back,' he said, 'I am your lord and master, and I command you not to flow over my land. Go back, and do not dare to wet my feet.'

But the sea, of course, neither heard nor obeyed him. The tide was coming in, and the waves rolled nearer and nearer, until the king's feet and robe were wet.

Then Canute rose, and turning sternly to his nobles said, 'Do you still tell me that I have power over the waves? Oh! foolish men, do you not know that to God alone belongs such power? He alone rules earth and sky and sea, and we and they alike are His subjects, and must obey Him.'

The nobles felt how foolish they had been, and did not again try to flatter Canute in such a silly way. From that day, too, Canute never wore his crown, but it placed it upon the figure of Christ in the minster at Winchester, as a proof of his humility. From this story we learn that Canute was a Christian, although many of the Danes were still heathen, but no doubt they very soon followed the example of their king, and became Christians too.

Gradually the differences between the Danes and the English passed away. The Danes began to forget that they had ever lived in any other country, and lived like Englishmen, taking English ways and customs for their own. So once more England became a united kingdom. But this, of course, did not happen all at once. It was many years before the English and the Danes quite forgot their quarrels.

As Canute had other countries to govern as well as England, he felt the need of some one to help him to rule. So he divided England into four earldoms, and placed an earl over each part. These earls ruled the kingdom under the king. Over the part which was called Wessex, Canute placed a man named Godwin, who afterwards became of very great importance in English history.

In the year 1035 A.D. King Canute died, and was buried in the minster at Winchester.

After him his two sons, Harold Harefoot and Hardicanute, reigned. Neither of them was good and, at the death of Hardicanute, the English were easily persuaded by Earl Godwin not to have any more Danish rulers. Following his advice they chose Edward, the son of Ethelred the Unready, to be their king.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Albion and Brutus
The Coming of the Romans
The Romans Come Again
Caligula Conquers Britain
The Story of Boadicea
The Last of the Romans
The Story of St. Alban
Vortigern and King Constans
Hengist and Horsa
Hengist's Treachery
The Giant's Dance
The Coming of Arthur
Founding of the Round Table
Gregory and the Children
King Alfred Learns to Read
Alfred and the Cowherd
More About Alfred the Great
Ethelred the Unready
Edmund Ironside
Canute and the Waves
Edward the Confessor
Harold Godwin
The Battle of Stamford Bridge
The Battle of Hastings
Hereward the Wake
Death of the King
The Story of William the Red
The Story of the "White Ship"
The Story of King Stephen
Henry II—Gilbert and Rohesia
Thomas a Becket
The Conquest of Ireland
Richard Coeur de Lion
How Blondel Found the King
The Story of Prince Arthur
The Great Charter
Henry III and Hubert de Burgh
Simon de Montfort
The Poisoned Dagger
The War of Chalons
The Lawgiver
The Hammer of the Scots
King Robert the Bruce
The Battle of Bannockburn
The Battle of Sluys
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Battle of Poitiers
Wat Tyler's Rebellion
How Richard Lost His Throne
The Battle of Shrewsbury
Prince Hal Sent to Prison
The Battle of Agincourt
The Maid of Orleans
Red Rose and White
Margaret and the Robbers
The Story of the Kingmaker
A King Who Wasn't Crowned
Two Princes in the Tower
The Make-Believe Prince
Another Make-Believe Prince
The Field of the Cloth of Gold
Defender of the Faith
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
The Story of a Boy King
The Story of Lady Jane Grey
Elizabeth a Prisoner
A Candle Lit in England
Elizabeth Becomes Queen
A Most Unhappy Queen
Saved from the Spaniards
Sir Walter Raleigh
The Queen's Favourite
The Story of Guy Fawkes
The Story of the Mayflower
A Blow for Freedom
King and Parliament Quarrel
The King Brought to Death
The Adventures of a Prince
The Lord Protector
How Death Plagued London
How London was Burned
The Fiery Cross
The Story of King Monmouth
The Story of the Seven Bishops
William the Deliverer
William III and Mary II
A Sad Day in a Highland Glen
How the Union Jack was Made
Earl of Mar's Hunting Party
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Flora MacDonald
The Black Hole of Calcutta
How Canada Was Won
How America Was Lost
A Story of a Spinning Wheel
Every Man Will Do His Duty
The Battle of Waterloo
The First Gentleman in Europe
Two Peaceful Victories
The Girl Queen
When Bread was Dear
Victorian Age: Peace
Victorian Age: War
The Land of Snow
The Siege of Delhi
The Pipes at Lucknow
Under the Southern Cross
From Cannibal to Christian
Boer and Briton
List of Kings