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Chapter Summary

This article examines a number of short narratives from the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries which relate to the activities of Cnut as king of England. Preserved in chronicles and in hagiographical sources, within the context of accounts of royal patronage of religious houses and the cults of English saints, these narratives present Cnut as a generous patron and a king given to extravagant public gestures of piety. The most famous such narrative is the story of how Cnut demonstrated he had no control over the waves, an episode first recorded by Henry of Huntingdon in the twelfth century; taking this story as a starting-point, this article discusses the contexts in which the king’s gifts to English houses are recorded, and argues that these narratives share certain concerns with the literature known to have been produced at Cnut’s Anglo-Danish court, including a thematic connection between travel, royal patronage and the king’s power over the sea.



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