These servants of the king used to flatter him. They told him he was lord of land and sea, and that every thing would obey him. “Let us try,” said Cnut, who wished to show them how foolish and profane they were; “bring out my chair to the sea-side.” He was at Southampton at the time, close to the sea, and the tide was coming in. “Now sea,” he said, as he sat down, “I am thy lord, dare not to come near, nor wet my feet.” Of course the waves rolled on, and splashed over him; and he turned to his servants, and bade them never say words that took away from the honor due to the only Lord of heaven and earth. He never put on his crown again after this, but hung it up in Winchester Cathedral. He was a thorough good king, and there was much grief when he died, stranger though he was.
A great many Danes had made their homes in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, ever since Alfred’s time, and some of their customs are still left there, and some of their words. The worst of them was that they were great drunkards, and the English learnt this bad custom of them.
The Norman conquest. A.D. 1035—1066.
Cnut left three sons; but one was content to be only King of Denmark, and the other two died very soon. So a great English nobleman, called Earl Godwin, set up as king, Edward, one of those sons of Ethelred the Unready who had been sent away to Normandy. He was a very kind, good, pious man, who loved to do good. He began the building of our grand church at Westminster Abbey, and he was so holy that he was called the Confessor, which is a word for good men not great enough to be called saints. He was too good-natured, as you will say when you hear that one day, when he was in bed, he saw a thief come cautiously into his room, open the chest where his treasure was, and take out the money-bags. Instead of calling anyone, or seizing the man, the king only said, sleepily, “Take care, you rogue, or my chancellor will catch you and give you a good whipping.”
You can fancy that nobody much minded such a king as this, and so there were many disturbances in his time. Some of them rose out of the king—who had been brought up in Normandy—liking the Normans better than the English. They really were much cleverer and more sensible, for they had learnt a great deal in France, while the English had forgotten much of what Alfred and his sons had taught them, and all through the long, sad reign of Ethelred had been getting more dull, and clumsy and rude. Moreover, they had learnt of the Danes to be sad drunkards; but both they and the Danes thought the Norman French fine gentlemen, and could not bear the sight of them.
Think, then, how angry they all were when it began to be said that King Edward wanted to leave his kingdom of England to his mother’s Norman nephew, Duke William, because all his own near relations were still little boys, not likely to be grown up by the time the old king died. Many of the English wished for Harold, the son of Earl Godwin, a brave, spirited man; but Edward sent him to Normandy, and there Duke William made him swear an oath not to do anything to hinder the kingdom from being given to Duke William.