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King Canute Coins by The Royal Mint
2017 marked the 1,000th anniversary of the coronation of Canute as King of England. The Royal Mint issued commemorative five pound coins to mark the event.
Who Was King Canute?
Canute the Great was a Viking warrior prince who, in 1016, won the English throne after a campaign of bloody battles. He was crowned "ealles Engla landes cyning", king of all England, in 1017, thus becoming King Canute.
As son of Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, Canute (also Cnut or Knut) brought the kingdoms of England and Denmark together when he inherited the Danish throne in 1018.
To cement his powerbase, King Canute united the English and Danes under cultural bonds of wealth and custom, and, as was the way in those days, by sheer brutality. King Canute brought 20 years of peace to England, which allowed trade and art to flourish and set the country on the path to the nation we recognise today.
King Canute and the Waves
King Canute as a humble king is recorded by Henry of Huntingdon in the 12th century. From this account, Canute demonstrated to his flattering courtiers that he has no control over the incoming tide, showing secular power is nothing compared to the supreme power of God.
"continuing to rise as usual [the tide] dashed over his feet and legs without respect to his royal person. Then the king leapt backwards, saying '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.'"
According to the tale, he then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again "to the honour of God the almighty King".