THE BATTLE OF FULFORD – VIKING INVASION
20th September 1066
This was a decisive battle fought between an advancing Norwegian force led by Harald Hardrada and an English force led by Earls Morcar and Edwin.
Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, believed that he had a legitimate claim to the English throne because his predecessor, Magnus I of Norway, had been promised the crown of England by Harthacnut. Tostig Godwinson, brother of Harold Godwinson, newly crowned King Harold II of England, had been exiled from England by his brother because he had exploited his position as Earl of Northumbria. Unable to reclaim his earldom on his own Tostig had allied himself with Harald.
Fulford, near York, England
King Harald Hardrada of Norway
Earl Morcar of Northumbria
Earl Edwin of Mercia
The English marched south to meet the Norwegians who were marching north to York. They met just south of York. The English occupied a position between the River Ouse and marshland and were spread out along a dyke (Germany Beck). The Norwegians advanced over higher ground and spread out the other side of the dyke. While the tide was in the dyke was impassable but as the tide went out it could be crossed. Around midday with the water level down Harald sent some of his Norwegians to cross the dyke but the English had anticipated this and Earl Edwin’s forces attacked the Norwegians at the crossing point. The English had some initial successes with this tactic but soon the boggy area near the dyke was made into a quagmire as it was overrun with English and Norwegian troops.
Harald kept the main force of his army back until the English were amassed at the dyke and then made his move. He swept down and crossed the dyke pushing the English away from the river Ouse and into the marshland. The Norwegians then advanced along the back flank of English so they were surrounded. The English retreated either along the Ouse or back to York.
Decisive Norwegian victory. Earls Morcar and Edwin fled to avoid capture.
Harald and Tostig marched on York and took the city four days later. Harold Godwinson was forced to leave the south coast and march north to defeat the Norwegians. However, while he was in the north William of Normandy landed troops at Pevensey in Sussex.