Anglo-Saxon Gods

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Thor of Thunder

The Anglo-Saxons worshipped many Gods, and their religion was closely related to that of the Old Norse beliefs and the Vikings.

Woden: God of Wisdom

Thor: God of Thunder

Tiw: God of War

Frig: Goddess of Fertility

From whom names of the day were so derived:  Wednesday – Thursday – Tuesday – Friday

The Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity by the Celtic Church, which survived in Wales, Cornwall and Ireland, influenced the north of England from an early base on Lindisfarne island.

In addition the Roman Catholic Church gained a foothold in the south, when St.Augustine a Benedictine monk was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to conduct a mission to Aethelbert, King of Kent, the great grandson of Hengest.  Augustine landed at Thanet in 597.  Aethelbert had married a Christian princess; Bertha, daughter of the Frankisk King: Charibert, who encouraged his conversion.  On the 2nd June 597, Aethelbert was baptized, and there after a new faith spread rapidly among the Anglo-Saxons.  Augustine was later to become the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

In the 630’s Birinus converted the Kingdom of Wessex under Cynegils, who was baptised with King Oswald of Bernicia as his godfather, leading Birinus to be known as the “Apostle to the West Saxons” he later became the first Bishop of Dorchester.

England: Anglo-Saxon Times

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Fragmentary knowledge of England in the 5th and 6th centuries comes from the British writer Gildas (6th century), the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In the absence of Roman administrators, British warlords, nominally Christian, ruled small, unstable kingdoms and continued some Roman traditions of governance. In the mid-5th century, they revived the Roman policy of hiring Germanic mercenaries to help defend them against warlike peoples of the north (Picts and Scots). The Saxon mercenaries revolted against their British chiefs and began the process of invasion and settlement that destroyed the native ruling class and established Germanic kingdoms throughout the island by the 7th century. Later legends about a hero named Arthur were placed in this period of violence. The invaders were variously Angles, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes, and Franks in origin, but were similar in culture and eventually identified themselves indifferently as Angles or Saxons. Any man of noble birth and success in war could organize an army of warriors loyal to him personally and attempt to conquer and establish a kingdom. By the 7th century the Germanic kingdoms included Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Sussex, and Kent. They were turbulent states, but all Anglo-Saxon societies were characterized by strong kinship groups, feuds, customary law, and a system of money compensations (wergeld) for death, personal injury, and theft. They practiced their traditional polytheistic religions, lacked written language, and depended on mixed economies of agriculture, hunting, and animal husbandry.

The dominant themes of the next two centuries were the success of Christianity and the political unification of England. Christianity came from two directions, Rome and Ireland. In 596 Pope Gregory I sent a group of missionaries under a monk named Augustine to Kent, where King Ethelbert had married Bertha (d. 612?), a Christian Frankish princess. Soon after, Ethelbert was baptized, Augustine became the first archbishop of Canterbury, and the southern kingdoms became Christian. In Northumbria the Christianity from Rome met Celtic Christianity, which had been brought from Ireland to Scotland by St. Columba and then to Northumbria by St. Aidan (d. 651), who founded the monastery of Lindisfarne in 635. Although not heretical, the Celtic church differed from Rome in the way the monks tonsured their heads, in its reckoning of the date of Easter, and, most important, in its organization, which reflected the clans of Ireland rather than the highly centralized Roman Empire. At the Synod of Whitby in 664, Northumbria’s King Oswy (c. 612- 71) chose to go with Rome, giving England a common religion and a vivid example of unification. Theodore of Tarsus (602-90), who became arch-bishop of Canterbury in 668, created dioceses and gave the English church its basic structure.

The meeting in Northumbria of Celtic and Mediterranean scholarship produced a flowering of letters unequaled in western Europe. The Venerable Bede, a Northumbrian monk, was the outstanding European scholar of his age. His Ecclesiastical History of the English People made popular the use of BC and AD to date historical events. It also treated England as a unit, even while it was still divided among several kingdoms. Charlemagne chose Alcuin of York, another Northumbrian, to head his palace school.

The Germanic kingdoms tended to coalesce by means of warfare. As early as the time of Ethelbert of Kent, one king could be recognized as Bretwalda, or ruler of Britain. Generally speaking, the title fell in the 7th century to the kings of Northumbria, in the 8th to those of Mercia, and finally, in the 9th, to Egbert of Wessex, who in 825 defeated the Mercians at Ellendun. In the next century his family came to rule all England.

Egbert’s grandson, Alfred, became king of Wessex in one of England’s darkest hours. The Danes, part of the Viking forces that had begun to raid the English coasts in the late 8th century, had given up their primary goal of plunder and were now set on conquering England. Wessex and Alfred were all that stood in their way. Alfred at first had to buy a respite, but after his victory at Edington in 878 he forced the Danish king Guthrum (fl. 865-90) to accept baptism and a division of England into two parts, Wessex and what historians later called the Danelaw (Essex, East Anglia, and Northumbria). By creating an English navy, by reorganizing the Anglo-Saxon fyrd, or militia, allowing his warriors to alternate between farming and fighting, and by building strategic forts, Alfred captured London and began to roll back the Danish tide.

Alfred also gave his attention to good government, issuing a set of dooms, or laws, and to scholarship, which had declined in the years since Bede and Alcuin. He promoted, and assisted in, the translation of Latin works into Old English and encouraged the compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. For his many accomplishments, Alfred was called The Great, the only English king so acclaimed. The conquest of the Danelaw was completed by Alfred’s son, Edward the Elder, and by his grandson Athelstan, who won a great victory at Brunanburh in 937. Most of the remainder of the century was peaceful. In this atmosphere, St. Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury from 960 to 988, was able to restore the English church to health and prosperity.

The conquest of the Danelaw meant the creation of a unified government for all England and the evolution of the territorial state, which was replacing the kinship structure of earlier times. The king ruled with the assistance of the witenagemot, a council of wise men, which participated in the issuing of dooms and oversaw the selection of kings. About 40 shires (counties) were created out of former kingdoms or from significant military or administrative units. Each had a shiremoot, or court, consisting of all free males and meeting twice a year, at first presided over by a royal official called an alderman (later an earl) and then by a shire reeve, or sheriff. Smaller administrative, tax, and military units, called hundreds, had courts roughly parallel to the older folk moots, which met every four weeks, handling most of the ordinary judicial business. England had the most advanced government in western Europe, especially at the local level and in the office of sheriff, the key link between the king and local administration. After 991 this government proved capable of collecting the Danegeld, a tax on land, initially used as tribute to the Danes but later as an ordinary source of royal revenue. No other country in western Europe had the ability to assess and collect such a tax.

A new round of Danish invasions came in the reign of Ethelred II (the Redeless), often called The Unready, but better understood as being “without counsel,” or unwise. The Danegeld was his idea, as was the attempt to kill all the Danes from previous invasions, who were by this time becoming assimilated. In 1014 he was driven from the throne by King Sweyn I of Denmark, only to return a few months later when Sweyn died. When Ethelred died in 1016, Sweyn’s son Canute II won out over Edmund II, called Ironside, the son of Ethelred. Under Canute, England was part of an empire that also included Denmark and Norway. Following the short and unpopular reigns of Canute’s sons, Harold I Harefoot and Hardecanute, Edward the Confessor, another son of Ethelred, was recalled from Normandy, where he had lived in exile. Edward’s reign is noted for its dominance by the powerful earls of Wessex-Godwin (990?-1053) and then his son Harold (subsequently Harold II) and for the first influx of Norman-French influence. Edward was most interested in the building of Westminster Abbey, which was completed just in time for his burialin January 1066.

Edward’s death without an heir left the succession in doubt. The witenagemot chose Harold, earl of Wessex, although his only claim to the throne was his availability. Other aspirants were King Harold III (the Hard Ruler) of Norway and Duke William of Normandy. Harold II defeated the former at Stamford Bridge on Sept. 25, 1066, but lost to William at Hastings on Octo ber 14. William, who had more right to the throne than Harold, was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.

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Anglo-Saxon: England’s Invasion

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The Anglo-Saxon tribes began their invasion of Britain, as Roman legions departed for Rome.  According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, they set foot on British soil in 449.

Saxon mercenaries led by Hengest and Horsa, sons of Whitgils landed in Kent at the invitation of the Celtic King; Vortigern.  He who was fighting a losing battle against the Picts of Scotland, called upon mercenaries for assistance.  They fought well, and victory was theirs against the Picts.

With victory theirs, the Saxon mercenaries sacked their employer Vortigern, and began taking land from the celts in south-eastern areas.  Hengest went forth and established himself in Kent.

These Saxon tribes originated from across European states: Saxons from Germany, Angles from Schleswig-Holstein, Jutes and Frisians from Jutland, Denmark.  According to the Beowulf poem, the Jutes could have been the Geats of Sweden.

The British found a strong leader, as the legendary King Arthur stepped forward, in their time of struggle against these Saxons.  King Arthur commanded a well armed cavalry unit, and went on to achieve victory at Mount Badon.

With the death of Arthur, Celtic resistance against these Saxon invaders soon collapsed.

Some Celts were assimulated into Anglo-Saxon society, whilst others were driven to the outer fringes of Britain, Wales, Cumbria and the Cornish peninsula.

Wales, derives its name from the Anglo-Saxons word Wealas, which means foreigner.

Cornwall, derives its name from the words, Kernow and Waelas.

Cumbria derives its name fron the Celtic word, Cymru which means comrades.

Whilst conquered territory became known as Angleland.

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Anglo-Saxon King: Egbert

NPG D23567; Egbert, King of the West Saxons, First Monarch of all England by George Vertue

With the Roman departure early in the fifth century, Britain came under attack from the Angles, Saxons and Jutes of Northern Germany.

Over the next 200 years or more, these invaders pushed the native Britons from their lands.

These invaders split the country into seven independent warring kingdoms.  Out of which emerged Egbert to become King of Wessex from 802-839 and first King of Britain in 829 as he defeated the Mercians in 825 as other’s like Northumbria submitted to him.

*        Egbert made a play for the Kingdom of Wessex, but failed and was forced into exile in France.

*        In 825, at the “Battle of Ellandune” victory was achieved over Beornwulf, King of Mercia at Wroughton in Wiltshire.  Following this victory, Egbert of Wessex took over Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Essex.

*        Egbert married Redburga and had two children; Aethelwulf his successor and Edith.  His daughter was a leper, and his gift to her, was the foundation of Polesworth Abbey.

*        In 829, Egbert had taken over the Kingdom of Mercia, marking an end to Mercian supremacy.

*        In 830 Mercia and Northumbria threw out Wessex leadership. Egbert gave south-western lands of Wessex to his son; Aethelwulf.

*        In 836 the Vikings arrived and Egbert’s forces met at the “Battle of Carhampton” but was forced to withdraw in the face of defeat.

*        In 838 the Vikings became a serious issue when Cornish Dumnonians and the Northmen joined forces.  Egbert became victor at the “Battle of Hingston Down.”

*        In 839 King Egbert of Wessex died and was buried in the Old Minster at Winchester.

There were two sides to Egbert:  On one hand he was a committed Christian who cared for his daughter, bestowing many gifts upon the church.  On the other side, we have the brutal warrior, who murdered his nephews, in case they should attempt to usurp him of his crown.

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Danish King’s of England

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King Canute

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.

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Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex

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Wessex; the kingdom of the West Saxons, started from humble beginnings, becoming the most powerful kingdom in the land.

Cerdic, founder of Wessex the first Anglo-Saxon King, had ventured from Saxony in AD495 landing on England’s Hampshire coastline, with his son Cynric and five warrior ships.

In AD519, Cerdic was victorious at the “Battle of Cerdic’s Ford” (Cerdicesleag) and claimed the title “King of Wessex” (520-540).

Cynric son of Cerdic, succeeded him upon his death and reigned from 540-560.  Cynric spent the early years of his reign, expanding the kingdom of Wessex into Wiltshire.  He faced much opposition from native Briton’s, but managed minor gains; “Battle of Sarum” and “Beranbury,” known as Barbury Castle.  In 560 Cynric died and was succeeded by his son Ceawlin.

When Ceawlin stepped forward as the next Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex, much of southern England was under Anglo-Saxon control.

The “Battle of Wibbandun” took place in 568, between the forces of the Saxons of Wessex and the Jutes of Kent.  In 571 Ceawlin capturedAylesbury and Linbury, and by 577 he had taken Gloucester and Bath, reaching the Severn Estuary.

Ceawlin ordered the construction of a defensive earthwork, stretching between Wiltshire and Bristol.

Ceawlin King of Wessex achieved much fame among his people, as they crossed England as victorious warriors.  All this would change in 584, when Ceawlin fought the Britons at Fethanleag; “Battle of Stoke Lyne” followed by a period of taking towns and countless spoils of war, from the local area.

Then he retreated to his own lands… questions remain unanswered, why?  Did he lose the battle, and attack local towns in response.

As written in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles:  This year Ceawlin… fought with the Britons on the spot that is called Fretherne… And Ceawlin took many towns, as well as immense booty and wealth.  He then retreated to his people.

In 591 Ceawlin’s nephew; Ceol is believed to have led an uprising against his King, at the “Battle of Woden’s Burg.”  Ceol became King of Wessex after deposing his uncle; Ceawlin.

Ceol reigned from 591-597, his successor his son; Cynegils, was too young to inherit the throne.  Ceolwulf, brother of Ceol claimed the throne.  One could say he was keeping the seat warm for the future king.

Cynegils came to the throne in 611 after Coolwulf’s death and would reign till 643.  His reign commenced with a victory over Welsh forces in 614.

Cynegils granted the northern part of his kingdom to his son Cwichelm, at a time when the Northumbrian’s grew in power.  Cynegils forged an alliance with the King of Mercia.  This alliance was sealed through marriasge; Cynegils youngest son Cenwalh married the sister of King Penda of Mercia.

In 626 Cwichelm launched a failed assassination against King Edwin of Northumbria.  Edwin laid siege to the Kingdom of Wessex, clashing against the Mercian and Wessex forces, in reply to the attempted assassination, and was victorious.

Cynegils and Cwichelm had suffered a humiliating defeat by a smaller army, and forced to retreat back, within their own borders.

In 628 the forces of Wessex and Mercia fought at the “Battle of Cirencester.”  With Mercian’s victorious, Wessex became a minor kingdom as control of the Severn Valley, parts of Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire were lost.

In 635, Cynegils of Wessex was baptised by Bishop Birinus in Dorchester.  In 636 Cwichelm was also baptised in Dorchester and died later that year.  In 643 Cynegils died…

In 643, Cenwalh the youngest son of Cynegils became King of Wessex, he who had been forced into a marriage with King Penda of Mercia’s sister, to seal an alliance of the kingdom’s.

One of his first duties was to discard his wife and marry Seaxburh, which annoyed King Penda, where upon a war was declared and Cenwalh was driven from his lands and into exile in 645.

Cenwalh converted to Christianity whilst exiled in East Anglia, and by 648 had reclaimed his throne; King of Wessex.  He went on to commission the construction of Winchester Cathedral, and built it in St.Peter’s name.

In 672 King Cenwalh died and Seaxburh his wife succeeded him as the first Queen of Wessex from 673-674.

In 674 Seaxburh died, and was succeeded by her son; Aescwine.  In 675 Aescwine’s forces defended his kingdom from the Mercian’s at the “Battle of Bedwyn” becoming victorious in battle.

In 676 Aescwine passed away and his uncle Centwine claimed the throne.  In the early part of hisd reign, he was a pagan king, and in the 680’s converted to Christianity.  In 685, King Centwine of the Wessex Kingdom, abdicated his position as king to become a monk.

Caedwalla descendant of Cerdic and from a noble house, who had been driven from Wessex by Cenwalh in the removal of sub-royal families.  Aged barely twenty-six had gathered support, as he invaded Sussex and built his own kingdom.

Caedwalla became the new King of Wessex following Centwine abdication.  He conquered the Kingdoms of Sussex, Kent and the Isle of Wight.  It is believed, he went on to commit acts of genocide and forced his people to renounce the Christian faith.

In 688 King Caedwalla travelled to Rome, and received holy baptism on the 13th April from Pope Sergius, who gave him the name Peter.  On the 20th April, he died dressed in his baptismal robes and was laid to restin St.Peter’s Church.

Ine, a nobleman claimed the throne of Wessex in 689, taking over a kingdom stretching from the Severn Estuary to Kent’s shorelines.  King Ine is remembered in his reforms; increasing trade, coinage throughout his realm.  The introduction of laws in 694, covering convicted murder’s rights, which would lead to the development of an English society.

In 728, King Ine of Wessex had become weak and feeble, opting to abdicate his post, travel to Rome and retire.  At that time it was one’s belief it would aid one’s ascension to heaven.

Aethelheard, brother-in-law to King Ine, claimed the Wessex throne in 726.  Nobleman Oswald contested his right to the throne, and a bitter struggle lasted for almost a year, until Aethelheard prevailed with assistance from the Mercians.

His fourteen year reign was a struggle as he fought with the Mercians to the north, and lost much land in the process.  They who had supported him in battle for the throne, demanded that the Kingdom of Wessex should fall under their control.

In 740 King Aethelheard passed away and was succeeded by his brother Cuthred who received the West-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, which he would hold for sixteen years.  He fought fiercly with Aethelbald, King of Mercia.

In the early years of Cuthred’s reign, Wessex was nothing more than a puppet state of Mercia.  When the Mercian’s fought the Welsh, the warriors of Wessex were expected to assist.

In 752 Cuthred was fed up of Mercian dominance and went to war against them, in a bid for Wessex independence.  Victory was theirs and Independence was theirs…  In 753 Cuthred took on the Welsh and passed away in 756.

Sigeberht succeeded his cousin as the new King of Wessex in 756.  His reign was short lived, for he had killed the Earl of Cumbra.  The council of nobles stripped of his title as King, and Cynewulf drove him into the weald, where he lived until a swineherd stabbed him to death at Privett stream, and so the death… the murder of the Earl had been avenged.

Cynewulf became King of Wessex in 757 and had the support of Aethelbald of Mercia in his claim for the throne.  In the first few months of his reign, Cynewulf felt more a sub-king of Wessex under Mercian rule.

Aethelbald of Mercia was assassinated in 757 at Seckington.  With Aethelwald out of the way, Cynewulf saw his opportunity to push for an independent Wessex, and the expansion of Wessex territories into the southern counties of Mercia.

Cynewulf lost the Mercian territories in 779, when he was defeated by King Offa, who had succeeded Aethelbald as King of Mercia at the “Battle of Bensington.”  A defeated Cynewulf army, were forced back, to the lands of Wessex.

In 786, Cynewulf of Wessex was murdered by the nobleman Cybeheard, whom he had exiled years earlier.

In 786 Beorhtric, distant descendant of Cerdic, founder of Wessex, succeeded to the throne with the backing of King Offa of Mercia.  Beorhtric married Lady Eadburh; daughter of King Offa.

Legend has it; Beorhtric was poisoned by his wife Eadburh, and exiled to Germany for her crime in 789.  Charlemagne and his son offered her the choice of husband, she chose the younger. Charlemagne replied you chose badly and as such, will have neither.

Embarassed by the affair chose to live out her remaining years in a German convent.  She was expelled after receiving her vows, for breaking the rules by having sex with a Saxon man.  She spent her remaining days, begging on the streets of Pavia in northern Italy.

Egbert exiled by Beorhtric in the 780’s returned to the Kingdom of Wessex in 802, upon the death of Beorhtric, to claim the throne.

The first twenty years of his reign, was spent keeping Wessex independant from Mercia.  In 825 they met in battle at Ellandun.  Egbert’s victorious forces pushed the Mercian’s to retreat to the north, Egbert’s army pushed south-east to Surrey, Sussex, Essex and Kent.

It took barely a year, and by 826 Anglo-Saxon England, had seen Wessex become the most powerful kingdom in the land.  In 829, Egbert was victorious against the Mercians, as he claimed all of southern Britain up to the River Humber, and the kingdom of Northumbria submitted to him.

Egbert had claimed Mercia, as the exiled King Wiglaf revolted, driving the Wessex army, back into their own lands.  The Mercians made no attempt to re-claim lost territories of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey.  Wessex was seen as the most powerful kingdom of southern England.

Aethelwulf, son of Egbert and King of Kent, became the next King of Wessex in 839, following his father’s death.  Aethelwulf’s kingdom of Kent, would be ruled by his son; Aethelstan, on his behalf.

Aethelwulf and his wife; Osburh bore six children one of whom was Alfred.  In 853 Alfred was sent to Rome on a pilgrimage.  Aethelwulf’s wife died in 855, and he joined his son in Rome.  On his return journey home, met his second wife, a twelve year old French princess named Judith.

When Aethelwulf landed on British shores in 856, his son Aethelbald had stolen his kingdom from him, in his absence.  His Christian attitudes led him to grant Aethelbald the western part of Wessex, an attempt to avoid civil war breaking out.

In 858 Aethelwulf died and was succeeded by his son Aethelbald. who took his father’s widow, Judith as his wife.

Aethelberht, brother to Aethelbald and son of Aethelwulf became King of Wessex in 860.  He integrated the Kingdom of Kent into Wessex, and battled against Viking incursions seeing off the Danish invaders.  Around 865 these Vikings accepted money from men of Kent, in return for a truce, but it wasn’t long before it was broken, as these Vikings ravaged eastern Kent.

In 865 Aethelberht died with no successor, and so the throne of Wessex was passed to his brother; Aethelred.

Aethelred’s six year reign as King of Wessex was one battle after another withViking invaders.

In 871, King Ethelred, the West Saxon King and elder brother of Alfred dies in battle.  On the 23rd April, Alfred becomes King of Wessex, a land beset with Viking invaders.

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Alfred the Great

Alfred builds an English fleet of ships, to take on these Viking invaders on land and sea.  The English learnt quickly, for in 875 they claim their first sea victory, capturing one of the Viking ships.

In 878, Alfred is pushed west into the Somerset marshes by Danish forces.  From Athelney Fort and surrounding areas he creates a force to come out fighting, beating the Danes.

In 878 the “Treaty of Wedmore” is born, dividing England in two, with Alfred overlord of both halves.  Anglo-Saxons in the south and west, with Danes in the north and east.

As the Danes invade Kent in 885, Alfred drives Danish forces out of London in 886, and recognised by its people, as King of all England.

Alfred the Great, King of England, died in 899 and was succeeded by Edward, which was disputed by Edward’s cousin; Aethelwold, who sought assistance from the Danes, in claiming the crown.

Edward retaliated attacking the Danish Kingdom of East Anglia, culminating at the “Battle of Holme” where East Anglian Danes and Wessex warriors fought, and Aethelwold died in battle.

Edward the Elder’s reign was made up of constant clashes with the Danes.  By the end of his reign, Edward had almost quashed threats of Viking invasion.

Edward the Elder dies in 924 and is succeeded by his son, Aelfweard who reigns for a mere sixteen days.

Aethelstan becomes the next King of Wessex in 924 and the first King of England.  By the time of his coronation in 925, Anglo-Saxons had retaken much of England leaving an area around York in Danish control.

A truce was drawn up, preventing either side going to war.  When the Danish King; Sihtric died in 927, Aethelstan swiftly captured York and the Danes were forced into submission.

Aethelstan believed he be King of Britain, and called a gathering of the Kings including Scotland and Wales to acknowledge that he be the true King of England.  The welsh and Scots agreed, providing borders were placed between the three countries.

King Aethelstan died on the 27th October 940.  During his reign he had defeated the Vikings, created a united Anglo-Saxon Kingdom under a single banner, becoming the first King of England.

The Bayeux Tapestry

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The Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry, is some serious piece of embroidery, consisting of 50 scenes, with 632 people, 202 horses, 55 dogs, 505 creatures, 37 buildings, 41 ships and 49 trees.  It measures seventy metres in length, along with Latin captions in the upper and lower margins.

It tells the story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England and the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The early stage of the Bayeux Tapestry tells of Harold’s journey to France, and Harold swearing an oath of allegiance to William, promising to support William’s claim to the English throne.

Edward dies, and Harold is crowned King of England, the oath he had made to William meant nothing, for he just disregarded it, to be King.

In February of 1066 a comet was observed in the sky… This was a sign of change, the downfall of the current regime.

Duke William prepared his fleet for the seventy mile crossing to the Sussex coast, in dragon-headed ships, a reminder of Norman – Viking ancestry.

These Norman’s built castles at Pevensey and Hastings and ravaged the countryside.  Harold’s family came from Sussex, so William was challenging him on his own ground.

The tapestry depicted the Battle of Hastings, as the English held the ridge, many on foot with their axes and shields.

The first attack by the Norman’s saw the English protect the ridge.  Some English followed Norman’s down, at the word William had been killed… he removes his helmet and cries out, “I am alive.”  His men rally to his side and kill the English who had come off the ridge.

The Norman’s lured the English into a more vulnerable position, and the Norman Calvary cut them down.  Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror, is depicted with a huge club.  As a Bishop, he could not shed blood, but he could breal a few arms, legs and heads.

The decisive moment of the battle comes, when King Harold was killed as an arrow pierced his eye.

The English fled, at the news of their King’s death, pursued by Normans.

William marches off to London the very next day, and on Christmas Day he is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.

One story tells of William’s wife Queen Matilda, and her ladies creating this tapestry… This piece of embroidery for her victorious husband.

If we look back in history, other 11th century queens, have produced embroidered pieces for churches.  However a seventy metre linen, embroidered in wool is something quite different, but one never knows.

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