Kung Knut tvättar fötterna
Kungen som trodde sig ha makt över havet
Vid ett tillfälle skulle kung Knut (ca 995-1035, på engelska stavas han Canute efter en hävdvunnen felstavning av Cnut) demonstrera sin makt. Han lät ställa sin tron i vattenbrynet vid lågvatten, och beordrade sedan havet att hålla sig undan - med ett lika förödmjukande som förutsägbart resultat. (I en särskilt dramatisk version drunknar han.)
Berättelsen har kommit till oss från Historium Anglorum av Henric av Huntingdon (eller Henrici Huntingdonensis i den ståtliga latinska formen). Läser man innantill hittar man en liten men väsentlig skillnad jämfört med den vanliga ovan: Kungen idkade strandsittandet för att visa några väl underdåniga undersåtar att han inte var så allsmäktig som några av dem åtminstone ville ge sken av att tro.
The story told about King Canute attempting to stem the tide is a curious misrepresentation of facts. It was due to his courtiers' flattery that he agreed to place his chair on the sea shore, and when the tide mounted, as he knew it would, he gave them a well-deserved rebuke. He wanted to show them how absurd they were in their flattery.
Erling Monsen (2004)
The old writers of history relate how that Canute was one day disgusted with his courtiers for their flattery, and how he caused his chair to be set on the sea-shore, and feigned to command the tide as it came up not to wet the edge of his robe, for the land was his; how the tide came up, of course, without regarding him; and how he then turned to his flatterers, and rebuked them, saying, what was the might of any earthly king, to the might of the Creator, who could say unto the sea, 'Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther!'
Charles Dickens (1905)
He feigned to sit some time in expectation of their submission; but when the sea still advanced towards him, and began to wash him with its billows, he turned to his courtiers, and remarked to them, that every creature in the universe was feeble and impotent, and that power resided with one being alone, in whose hands were all the elements of nature; who could say to the ocean, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther;" and who could level with his nod the most towering piles of human pride and ambition.
David Hume (1688)
(Huruvida episoden i sig är sann, saga eller mittemellan, är naturligtvis en helt annan sak.)