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King Canute (995-1035)

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The king who could stop the sea?
Known for

King Canute.
View full size imageKing Canute. © NMM
Being celebrated as one of England’s greatest monarchs, bringing eighteen years of unbroken domestic peace to the country.

He was the ‘Emperor of the North’, with complete power over England, Denmark and Norway for seven years

Port connection
King Canute contributed to the continued rise in prominence and power of London as England’s commercial centre
Interesting facts
King Canute is chiefly remembered for his inability to halt the rising tide. Canute is said to have placed a throne on the beach and demonstrated to his fawning courtiers the limits of a king's power by failing to turn back the sea and getting his feet wet. This story has become distorted in some accounts to suggest that Canute believed he could command the sea and was, therefore, surprised when his feet got wet.
Life story
995Born son of Sweyn I Forkbeard, King of the Danes.
1014Accompanied his father on an invasion of England. Sweyn died and the Danish fleet named Canute the King of England, but he is forced to retreat.
1015Canute returns and conquers England apart from London.
1016Canute becomes King of England after defeating the Londoners.
1018Becomes King of Denmark after the death of his brother, Harold, but continues to live in England.
1019Canute married Emma of Normandy, Ethelred’s widow. They had two children, Harthacnut and Gunhild.
1028Canute defeats Olaf II of Norway and claims the Norwegian crown; he installs his son to govern the country.
1035Died in Shaftsbury and was buried at Winchester.

Find out more
StoriesThe early port
London grows from a Roman settlement to a bustling medieval port
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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