Vikings attack on Lindisfarne…

In the year 787, the first of three Viking ships came from Denmark.  Upon their arrival, these newcomers from the seas were greeted, by the hand of friendship, only to be cut down where they stood.

Who were these Vikings that came from the seas of Europe?  They came from Sweden, Denmark and Norway; some came to settle, for they were farmers and fishermen seeking new lands.  Whilst others came to plunder, killing and taking captives to sell as slaves, these were fierce barbaric fighters.

For these Vikings, Britain offered much in the way of booty.  Treasure’s from the Saxon Kings, Monasteries, silver and gold trinkets.

According to the writings within the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, it is said, that in the year 793, these Vikings landed on the island of Lindisfarne, destroying the Abbey, spilling the blood of the Monks – showing no mercy.  Their actions of murder and plunder upon the Holy island sent shock waves through Britain and across Europe.

In the year 795, they raided the settlements of Ireland, and this became the heart of Viking trade, especially in slavery.

It is written many Norwegians sailed to the northern lands driving off the Picts and Scots, settling in parts of Scotland, the Orkney’s and Shetland islands in the 800’s.  They settled on this newly acquired land; a new life of farming and fishing.

Viking warriors plundered Britain, and returned to their homelands with their booty for the winter months.

In the year 851, an enormous fleet of some 350 Viking ships, were observed at the mouth of the River Thames.  London had not the men and weapons to stop the plundering heading their way.  That same year they plundered Canterbury for slaves and riches.

In 865 they went on to conqueror East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia this had become more than a raid upon their land, and return to their homelands before winter set in, they were here to stay.

These Vikings lived a simple lifestyle; their houses were a single room, open plan styled.

They cooked their food in iron cauldrons, which hung over a fire, or from a spit peeling off sliced meat.  They drank beer made from barley and mead, in cups made from horns.  Their clothes were woollen, often coloured from plant dyes, boots and belts made from leather.

Their blacksmiths made the tools with which to dig the land, build their houses, swords, axes and spears for battle.

King Alfred versus The Vikings

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.

Danish Kings of England

At the age of twenty-three Canute (Cnut) became the first Danish King of England in 1016, alongside his duties as King of Denmark in 1018 and Norway in 1028.  He made it known, to his subjects England was his home.

Under his rule, England was divided into four powerful Earldoms; Wessex, Mercia, West Anglia and Northumbria in 1017.

He married the widow of Aethelred; Emma in 1017 making her his Queen.

In 1018 the King and his counselors met at Oxford, to draw up laws governing the conduct of Englishmen and Danishmen alike.  Cnut promised to dispense justice, in the protection of his people’s rights, as laid down in Christian teachings.

His army travelled north to Scotland, it was a mighty show of force, compelling King Malcolm of Scotland to accept him as ruler of England, rather than make war.

In 1027 King Cnut travelled to Rome visiting holy shrines and attended Conrad II’s coronation as the Holy Roman Emperor.

In 1027, King Cnut went to Scotland where upon King Malcolm bowed in his presence as did Maelbeth and Iehmarc.

Upon his return to England, he gave the port of Sandwich to Christchurch in Canterbury and the taxes there of.  When the tide is at its highest, as a ship floats close to land.  A sailor standing on the ship’s deck with small axe in hand, would throw it, and taxes based upoon the throw would be paid to the monastery.

In 1028 King Cnut’s forces of some fifty ships sailed to Norway, where upon they drove King Olaf from his land, and secured a claim upon it.

In 1035 King Cnut of England died, and was buried at the Old Minster in Winchester.

Harold I also known as Harold Harefoot, in recognition of his speed and skill as a hunter.  Harold was the illegitimate son of Cnut and Elgiva.  Harold Harefoot was appointed regent to rule jointly with Cnut’s wife and the Early Godwin of Wessex.

With Harthacanute the rightful heir to the English throne in Denmark, Harold Harefoot was assisted by Earl Godwin in his bid for the crown, and Harold became King in 1037.

Harold died in 1040, just weeks before Harthacanute was due to invade England with an army of Danes.

Harold was buried in the Old Minster in Winchester.  Harthacanute replied by digging up his body, beheading him and tossed into the River Thames.

Harthacanute became King of England in 1040, and with no heir invited his half-brother Edward, Emma’s son by marriage to Aethelred back from exile in Normandy in 1041.  Harthacanute died in 1042 whilst toasting the health of a bride at her marriage…  So ended Danish rule in England.