Edmund died in 1016 and after his death Canute became sole ruler.
He ruled wisely. He determined to make his Anglo-Saxon subjects forget that he was a foreign conqueror. To show his confidence in them he sent back to Denmark the army he had brought over the sea, keeping on a part of his fleet and a small body of soldiers to act as guards at his palace.
He now depended on the support of his Anglo-Saxon subjects and he won their love.
Although a king — and it is generally believed that kings like flattery — Canute is said to have rebuked his courtiers when they flattered him. On one occasion, when they were talking about his achievements, one of them said to him:
"Most noble king, I believe you can do anything."
Canute sternly rebuked the courtier for these words and then said:
"Come with me, gentlemen."
He led them from the palace grounds to the sea-shore where the tide was rising, and had his chair placed at the edge of the water.
"You say I can do anything, " he said to the courtiers. "Very well, I who am king and the lord of the ocean now command these rising waters to go back and not dare wet my feet."
But the tide was disobedient and steadily rose and rose, until the feet of the king were in the water. Turning to his courtiers, Canute said:
"Learn how feeble is the power of earthly kings. None is worthy the name of king but He whom heaven and earth and sea obey."
During Canute's reign England had peace and prosperity and the English people have ever held his memory dear.