A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Cracking that old Cnut.....

Now, I'm always fair (I hope) to the Gloomiad when it is genuinely good, and this is a lovely little take by David McKie on the old tale of Cnut (Canute to you): 'We all need King Cnut' (The Guardian, June 2):
"The Observer has had to apologise to King Cnut for repeating the old allegation that he ordered the waves to recede and was miffed that they didn't, when in fact the whole point of the enterprise was to demonstrate to his gullible courtiers that even the power of great kings was limited. It's astonishing how this error still persists more than a millennium later.

The first recorded account of the king's behaviour, by Henry, archdeacon of Huntingdon, a century afterwards, makes the point of the exercise utterly clear. The king, having ordered that his chair should be placed on the seashore, addressed the rising tide as follows: 'You are subject to me, as the land on which I am sitting is mine, and no one has resisted my overlordship with impunity. I command you, therefore, not to rise on my land, nor to presume to wet the clothing or the limbs of your master.' But the waves, says Henry, 'disrespectfully drenched the king's feet and shins'. Whereupon the king, jumping back, cried: 'Let all the world know the power of kings is empty and worthless, and there is no king worthy of the name save Him by whose will heaven, earth and sea obey eternal laws.' (Translation from Diana Greenway's OUP edition of Henry's Historia Anglorum)....." (read on)

Hm! Some of our more cnutty 'global warmers' and 'sea-level swampies' might do well to heed the old king's wise words.

Philip, just back from a day in Rye, Sussex, where the land has been expanding at the expense of the sea since the end of the C16th. The once thriving port is now 1.5 miles from the salty waves. Such are the complexities of sea-level change. "Pugwash, ahoy!" "A drop o' the ol' black stuff, Ye Landlubbers All!" "No tea, with Lucia, thanks."

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