Viking Invasion of England

Viking Invasion of England



Viking Longship courtesy Dncn Flickr

The Vikings came from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Their countries lacked fertile land so it was difficult to grow crops. They built ships which they used to travel from one place to another. They were skilled in fighting and mostly used sword, shield and axe as weapons.


The Vikings began to venture further from their homelands in search of plunder and also new lands where they could settle. The first invasion of Britain was in 793 when they reached the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northern England. There was a monastery on the island which the Vikings attacked. Many of the monks were killed while others drowned trying to escape the Vikings. A few were taken by the Vikings as slaves. The monastery treasures were taken back to their homelands.


Having discovered the riches of the monastery at Lindisfarne the Vikings soon returned to Britain in search of more treasure. After a while bands of Vikings began to arrive with the intention of settling in Britain. The Danish Vikings conquered some lands in the north of England and soon controlled all of the north. They found it more difficult to conquer the south of England because Wessex was a powerful county. In order to complete their conquest of Britain in 865 many Danish Viking groups banded together to form a great army. The King of Wessex, Alfred the Great, was at first unable to stop the Vikings and paid them great sums of money to leave Wessex. However, this was not a long term strategy and the Vikings returned. Alfred tried to fight back but was unable to completely defeat the Danes. Eventually they came to an agreement where Alfred and the Saxons would rule the south and the Danes would rule the north. The north became known as the Danelaw because it was subject to Danish law.

Alfred’s grandson, Aethelstan was able to take back much of the north and is considered to be the first King of England. Towards the end of the 10th Century the Vikings returned, raiding and attacking villages and towns. The King, Aethelred the Unready was unable to fight them off and so paid them to leave. The payments known as Danegeld were huge – in 991 £10,000 (3.3 kg of silver), in 994 £16,000 (5.3 kg of silver), in 1002 £24,000 (8 kg of silver) and in 1007 £36,000 (12 kg of silver). This was a strategy that could not continue but Aethelred was unable to defeat the Danes.


King Canute

In 1015 the Viking Sweyn Forkbeard took the English throne for himself. Aethelred and his son, Edmund fought back but were unable to defeat the Vikings. Aethelred died in 1016 and was succeeded by his son Edmund who died later the same year. When Sweyn Forkbeard died in 1016 he was succeeded by his son Canute (Cnut) who ruled England for 19 years. The sons of Canute, Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut kept the throne in Danish hands until 1042.


After the death of Harthacnut in 1042 the throne returned to the Saxons and Edward, son of Aethelred the Unready became King. He was known as Edward the Confessor. Although there were sporadic Viking raids during his reign they were quickly repulsed. When Edward died childless in 1066 Harold Godwinson, the most powerful Earl, was made King. However there were other claimants to the throne. The Norse King Harald Hardrada believed the throne of England should be his because Harthacnut had promised to leave the throne to the descendants of Magnus the Good of Norway. Hardrada invaded in September 1066 but was killed at the battle of Stamford Bridge. England was conquered a month later by William the Conqueror and there were no more Viking invasions.


Battle of Englefield 870
Battle of Ashdown 871
Battle of Basing 871
Battle of Meretum 871
Battle of Reading 871
Battle of Wilton 871
Battle of Ethandun 878
Battle of Farnham 893
Battle of Benfleet 894
Battle of The Holme 902
Battle of Tettenhall 910
Battle of Corbridge 918
Battle of Brunanburh 937
Battle of Maldon 991
Battle of Assandun 1016
Battle of Brentford 1016
Battle of Fulford 1066
Battle of Stamford Bridge 1066



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