The Viking made it known; they could not be bought off with gold in the name of peace. They objected to our religion of Christianity, and when King Edmund point blank refused to give up his Christian faith, and follow that of Odin, they murdered him, making him a martyr, who died for his faith.
Ethelred I, King of Wessex fought a fierce battle alongside his brother against these Viking warriors attacking their lands.
In 871, Ethelred died and Alfred became the new King of Wessex. His first battle as King against the Vikings was a disaster, they were beaten and he was forced to make peace with these invaders.
In 878, Guthrum led his army against Wessex, his men, his Kingdom surrendered but Alfred could not be found, for he had hidden in the Somerset Marshes, planning how to regain his Kingdom of Wessex.
In spring of 878, Alfred met the Vikings on the battlefield at Edington, and defeated them in battle… He proved to his followers and the enemy that the Vikings were not invincible…
He allowed the Viking leader Guthrum and his men to settle in East Anglia, all in the name of peace. Guthrum was baptized a Christian and named Athelstan, and had Alfred as his godfather.
The lands held by the Vikings; York – Danish Mercia and East Angles, became known as Danelaw, and they followed Danish not Saxon laws.
The treaty of Wedmore was created, dividing the lands of Britain; The Viking lived in Northumbria, East Anglia and down to Essex.
Could Alfred trust these Vikings to remain within these lands, living a new life as farmers?
In the early years, many became farmers and took English wives, yet they still kept to their own language and abided by their own laws … Viking laws.
The war between Alfred and Guthrum may have been over, yet the Vikings had fortified bases at Leicester, Nottingham, Stamford, Derby, Lincoln and York.
Alfred built forts, which grew into thriving towns making Wessex strong once again. He was offered support from Mercia and Wales.
In 885, the Viking Danes attacked Kent, but the armies of King Alfred defeated them. In 886, King Alfred of Wessex, entered London, rebuilt the city walls. As far as the people were concerned, this one man was truly their King, for he marched against the Vikings and won battles victoriously.
He restored rebuilt monasteries, created laws and was responsible for the writing of books in Latin and English.
Wessex had become a Kingdom, which had grown in stature, for it had gained the loyalty of its people. He needed to fight off constant attacks by the Vikings which led to a series of Burhs (Forts) being constructed.
Some 25,000 men manned these burhs, and each was within a day’s march of the next. They were more than that, if Vikings attacked, they gave safe harbour for local people.
The Vikings moved by sea, by horse on land. Alfred had to counteract these barbaric fighters at all costs or see his lands plundered; his people murdered, or at worst enter a life of slavery.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Alfred broke his forces up into two, each responsible for set duties. “Ealdormen” were put in charge of a shire, and Kingdoms were made up of shire’s, consisting of up to 100 families. “Thanes” served up to a month at Alfred’s court, amongst other local duties. “Town Officer’s” called “Reeves” collected taxes and kept law and order between the families.
Alfred created laws:
According to Saxon law, if a man fled a feud he was permitted sanctuary for up to 7 days in a church, but he would not be permitted any food.
A thief, who stole from a church, could have his hand cut off for his crime or pay a fine.
Alfred showed he meant business against these Viking seafarer’s, when he ordered a fleet of ships be built.
The early years of the Wedmore treaty was honoured, then in 890 Guthrum died. The Viking farmers took up their arms, and joined in attacking the Saxons. Alfred was prepared and fought off the uprising.
In 899 Alfred died, and his son Edward led his forces into the Viking held lands of East Anglia in 902.
With the help of his sister Aethelflaed of Mercia, Edward defeated the Northumbrian Vikings and won control of Danelaw as it had become known.
The final threat from the Viking’s came in the form of Raegnald of Dublin, who had made himself King of York in 919, and in 920 a defeated Raegnald submitted to Edward.