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Canute (sometimes spelled Cnut, Knud or Knude) is a common name among speakers of North Germanic languages. The most famous, certainly to English speakers, is King Canute, or Canute the Great, who ruled England and Denmark. His reign in England was from 1016 to 1035, and followed the Anglo-Saxon Ethelred II ('the Unready') (991-c.1015). Canute was succeeded in turn by his sons Harold Harefoot (1035-1040) and Harthacanute (1040-1042). His father, Sweyn I, or Sweyn Forkbeard, had ruled England briefly, from Christmas 1013 to February 1014, and was followed by the Anglo-Saxon Edmund II ('Ironside') for a year or two of disputed power. So the period of Danish rule in England lasted (interruptedly) from 1013 to 1042, a mere 29 years. The next king was Edward the Confessor (978-1013, and 1014-c.1016).

Canute is well-known in folk-lore for his trying to hold the tide back. The story is that he had his throne carried down to the beach at low tide and ordered the sea to stop coming in. Of course it did not obey, and Canute got his feet wet before his courtiers carried him back to dry land. This story is often told as an example of his stupidity, vanity and arrogance. However its earlier - and much more respectable - version emphasised that he meant his display as a rebuke to the courtiers who had asserted that he was all-powerful. "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings," he is supposed to have said as the point of the event. Rather than arrogance, the story of Canute shows humility, realism and piety. This is the version that teachers are likely to expect you to know - whatever your granny says!