Cnut or Canute

King Canute, Man and Myth.

 

The Man.

 

England’s had kings of all races

from Norman to Saxon to Scot.

Viking and Angle, German and Jute,

French, Dutch and a few I’ve forgot.

 

At th’end o’ tenth century, trouble

were brewin’ in t’nordic nations

Vikings were feightin each other and t’winners

were comin’ ‘ere, for their vacations.

 

King Aethelred two, “Unready” to some

were sick of all t’Danes breakin’ t’law

so on thirteenth November, Saint Brices day

he slaughtered ‘em all in one go.

 

Well that were a sick’ner for t’Vikings

an’ chilled ‘em right  through to their bones

‘specially th’owd king, Harald Bluetooth

th’inventor o' th’ands free phone?

 

A good slice o’ t’Vikings were Danish

an’ them lads were rasher than t’rest

So Forkbeard a sea-king that led ‘em

Were soon puttin’ England to t’test.

 

He ‘ad four good do’s at invading’

‘fore getting’ ‘is ‘ands onto t’crown

but Svein, as new England managers do

would shortly be ‘andin’ it down.

 

He were dead a few weeks after t’crownin’

an’ Canute were declared as ‘is ‘eir.

But by Easter Canute were in Denmark again

“Unready” were back, it weren’t fair!

 

Aethelred,  he ‘ad bin re-instated

by t’Witen-a-gemot, a crew

of aldermen, nobles an’ clergy

who wi’ Danes, wanted nothin’ to do.

 

Canute an’ ‘is oppos’ weren’t suited

an’ were soon back in England to brawl,

wi‘ th’Unready, an’ after he’d turned up ‘is toes,

wi’ Edmund ‘is nipper an’ all.

 

So then after a couple o’ scuffles,

t’title decider were on.

An’ on thirteenth October ten sixteen

came t’Battle of Ashingdon.

 

Edmund had t’nickname of “Ironside”

because he were good in a fight.

He weren’t a detective, or even a Cop

an’ there wasn’t a wheelchair in sight.

 

Canute won t’scrap at a canter

but tried to keep Ed on his side.

He’d let him rule Wessex while he took all t’rest,

creatin’ first north south divide.

 

They met on an island in t’Severn

But as neither ‘ad paper or quill,

th’agreement it ‘ad to be verbal

wi’ an ‘andshake as t’sign o’ goodwill.

 

Arrangement for t’crown were as follows.

They’d both rule t’bit they’d agreed.

But if “eddy” or “nute” popped ‘is clogs in t’meantime,

t’other would then supersede.

 

Well strangely enough a month later

The death we suspected ‘ad come.

When Edward were spendin’ a penny

Some sly bugger stabbed ‘im in t’bum.

 

Poor lad he were just twenty seven

Too young to be killed apropos

When at Glastonbury Edward were buried

‘twere said they could hear Status Quo?

 

Canute were now t’sole king of England

an’ were plannin’ to rule for a spell.

He’d got shut of Edmund an’ Aethelred too

so he married ‘is wido’ as well.

 

Aethelreds widow were Emma

whose dad were a big shot in France.

a duke name of “Richard the fearless”

It were more of a ploy than romance.

 

A clever an’ scrupulous ruler

Canute started off as he’ planned

Th’establisment an’ civil servants

imported from t’kings native land.

 

He’s noted for throwin’ a wobbler

Just once in ‘is time in control

Th’ostages taken for t’loyalty pledge

‘ad some bits hacksawed off as a toll.

 

He split up ‘is kingdom in quarters

a thing that were common to t’Danes 

Northumbria, Wessex were earldoms

East Anglia, Mercia t’same.

 

Protection money called Danegeld

‘ad bin paid to invaders of t’land

but Canute sorted one final payment.

The sum, eighty two an’ ‘alf grand.

.

He were now feelin’ safe ‘ere in England

so 72 grand went wi’ t’fleet

back home pay t’wages an’ t’mortgage o’ crews

what were left paid for lodgin’ an’ treats.

 

We know “nute” married Aethelreds wido’

an’ in time she give ‘im a lad,

“Harthacanute” or “Artha” for short

were reckoned dead spit of ‘is dad.

 

He planned to ‘ave “Artha” succeed ‘im

‘cause Emma were t’favourite bride.

Harold ‘is son wi’ Aelgifu were scorned

as she were a bit on the side.

 

Canute were enjoyin’ this king lark

In truth he were ‘avin’ a ball

but when Harald ‘is brother snuffed it, he said

“I can’t do our kids job an’ all!”

 

Nepotism were rampant in them days

an’ as th’earldom he ‘ad to bestow

so to look after t’Danes in ‘is ‘omeland, he picked

Ulf Jarl ‘is brother-in-law.

 

King Swede Anund Jakob saw “Nute” were away

an’ launched an attack of ‘is own

backed up wi’ Norwegian, Saint Olaf

they both ‘ad their eyes on “Nutes” throne.

 

Brother Ulf had a ruse of his own on the boil

As t’kings absence were causin’ alarm

He wanted th’election of “Artha” as king,

locals fell for ‘is plan like a charm.

 

As “Artha’s” care-taker he would be in charge

an’ ruler of all o’ Denmark

but Canute got a whiff of ‘is carryin’s on

an’ uttered “sod that for a lark!”

 

He were on t’first long-ship to Roskilde

an’ met wi’ Ulf Jarl an’ ‘is mates

they beat back th’invaders at Helgea

but Ulf’s coup had settled ‘is fate.

 

Christmas Eve dinner were splendid

but o’er chess, “Nute” an’ Ulf ‘ad a scrap

Canute sent his housecarl to find ‘im in t’church

Which he did, an’ he stabbed him in th’apse.

 

Two years later he took on Norwegians

Who’d ‘elped Swedes attackin’ ‘is land

Fifty warships departed from England

An’ soon ‘ad “t’nil Pointers” in ‘and.

 

“Nute’s” doxy Ael-gifu an’ son were at th’elm

to govern as Norwegians would

but peasants revolted an’ kicked Danish out

Installin’ king Magnus the Good.

 

Well Canute didn’t dwell long on t’matter,

at politics he wouldn’t be outdone

His daughter were wed to young Henry

th’oly Roman Emperor’s son.

 

Empererors name it were Conrad the Second

an’ thought ‘is new son-in law grand

he give ‘im t’mark o’Schleswig to rule

and Pomerania too, to expand.

 

His rule were regarded successful

but th’istory on which we depend

were written by clerics an’ t’others in t’church

who weren’t goin’ to risk their stipend.

 

At Shaftsbury, Dorset In 1035

Canute died with ‘is wife by ‘is side

Town’s one o’ ‘ighest in England an’ so,

at th’end he were well safe from t’tide.

 

His burial were at Win-chester

an’ soon t’veneration began

he were named as a saint by t’catholic church

his feast day on nineteenth o’ Jan.

 

The Myth.

 

I’ve told of ‘is life an’ adventures,

‘is family, friends an’ ‘is foes

but Canute were more famous for paddlin’

in t’story that everyone knows.

 

The tale of Canute an’ ‘is day by the sea.

Were caused by a thousand remarks

Of brown-noses tellin’ ‘im ‘ow good he were.

‘is response were a bit of a lark.

 

He set off for t’day at Southampton.

Wi’ all ‘is retainers in tow

T’were probably seaside at Lepe they pitched up

To be honest I don’t flippin know.

 

He gathered ‘is cronies around ‘im

All fawnin’ an’ showin’ devotion

an’ asked if they thought that t’king were divine,

an’ master of t’weather an’ th’ocean.

 

They all stood there shufflin’ an’cringin’

‘til one broke the silence an’ said

“my liege is the master of all he surveys”.

It were first thing that popped in ‘is head.

 

“So” said Canute, to ‘is minion,

“if th’elements my words obey?

I’ll  order t’briny not to come in,

an’ t’Seacat’ll stay out all day!”

 

When they set out ‘is throne on t’shingle,

Canute took ‘is seat wi’ a grin

all t’cronies were crossin’ their fingers an’ ‘opin’

that Solent weren’t bahnd to come in!

 

King sat awhile watchin’ breakers

then stood tall and barked ‘is command,

“stay bounding main, at your majesty’s charge,

do not trespass on my land!”

 

T’waves showed no sign of consentin’

rollin’ up t’sands unabated

T’retainers were sweatin’ an’ bitin’ their nails

As Canute smiled at t’waters an’ waited.

 

Because all ‘is crew were behind ‘im

They didn’t see t’grin on ‘is clock

He knew ‘is new trainers were in for a soakin’

But t’cronies were in for a shock.

 

As t’tide washed over ‘is reeboks

assembled retainers all wailed

Canute turned to face ‘em wi’ face full o’ rage

Shoutin’, “this bloody sea must be gaoled!”

 

Crowd were stunned when they ‘eard ‘is instruction

Bemused by their lordship’s caprice.

“We’ll throw it in Winchester prison,

now go get a bucket apiece!”

 

so gallons o’t’Solent were now behind bars

an’ Monarch ‘ad proven ‘is case

 “only one Lord rules t’sea”, he said doffin’

‘is crown which he’d never replace.

 

Among’ King Canute’s achievements

were decades of justice an’ calm,

he went to see t’Pope as a pilgrim

an’ kept all ‘is subjects from ‘arm.

 

‘istory ‘as shown us that monarchs an’ despots,

princes an’ others so blessed,

‘ave thought that their destiny sets ‘em apart

but they still get their feet wet like t’rest.