Viking Timeline in Britain

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Viking Raiders – LongShips

In 793, Viking raiders from Scandinavia arrived off the coast of Northumbria in their longships.  Britain came face to face with these barbaric pirates, as they invaded our shores in search of booty and slaves.  What they will be remembered for: their attack upon the men of God, at the Lindisfarne Monastery.  By 794, they had taken their attack against the lands of the north; Scotland.  In 795 attacked the island of Rothlin off Ireland’s north-east coast.

The coasts of mainland Britain, with its monasteries would attract these Viking marauders, expecting to find riches.

In 838, Dublin was captured, becoming the Norse Kingdom of Ireland.

In 865 Danes settle in the eastern parts of England.  York is captured in 866 and becomes known as Yorvik, the Danish capital in England.  Nottingham falls to these invaders in 867, followed by Thetford in 869 and Reading in 870.

In 871, opposition by King Ethelred, the West Saxon King and his brother Alfred, take on and defeat the Viking army at the “Battle of Ashdown” in Berkshire.

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King Alfred the Great

In 871, Alfred’s elder brother dies in battle at Merton and Alfred becomes King of Wessex, on the 23rd April.  One of his first acts, was to oversee the construction of an English fleet, to take on these Viking invaders on land and sea.  In 875 Alfred claimed a sea victory, holding his own against seasoned Viking mariners, and even managed to capture a Viking ship.

In 878, Danish forces push Alfred to the west and into the Somerset marshes.  From Athelney Fort, he gathered local assistance, to come out fighting and defeat the Danes at Edington in Wiltshire.  King Guthrum, the Danish Viking, captured by Alfred, goes on to secure his freedom by promising to leave Wessex.

As the Danes invade Kent in 885, Alfred goes on the offensive, driving back invaders and occupying London in 886.

Alfred proposes a treaty with Guthrum of co-existence: Anglo-Saxons in the south and west, with Danes in the north and east, which both parties agreed to.

The last Viking King of Northumbria was Eric Bloodaxe, who had previously been King of Norway in the 930’s.  He was expelled for extreme cruelty, having murdered his seven brothers’.

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Eric Bloodaxe

In 947 Eric received the position as King until being expelled in 949 by Eadred, King of England, returned in 952 and killed by Eadred’s army in 954 at Stainmore.

In 950, Wales comes under attack from Viking’s in their longships, from Ireland, Isle of Man and the Hebrides.  They showed much interest in coastal monasteries, looking for riches.

Aethelred II came to the throne in 978; his long reign in a battle scarred England took its toll on his health and his country.  No longer fit to command his army in battle, he bribed attacking armies.  In 994 Sven Forkbeard led a Danish army against London.  The attack was a failure; it was doomed from the start, for Forkbeard had been bought off.  Yet, his army went forward and ravaged the south-east.

In 1013, the Saxon King Aethelred, flees to Normandy as King Sven of Denmark and his son Cnut sail up the Humber and Trent, to become King of England.  In 1014 Sven dies and is succeeded by his son Cnut, who becomes King of the Danes and England.

In 1016, Aethelred dies, and his son Edmund Ironside, takes on Cnut, believing he should be King of England.

At the “Battle of Ashingdon” in Essex, the two armies do battle, and Edmund is defeated.  Even though Edmund was defeated, the control of England was split in two.  Canute controlled the lands in the north, whilst Edmund controlled those in the south.

Later that year Edmund dies and Canute is chosen to rule England as its new King.

In 1035, Canute dies and Harold Harefoot, snatches the throne from his half-brother Harthacanute, the rightful heir.  In 1040 Harthacanute ascends to the English throne upon the death of Harold Harefoot.  In 1042 Edward the Confessor, son of Aethelred II becomes King of England upon the death of Harthacanute.

In 1051, William, Duke of Normandy, met with Edmund at his court, where it was agreed William would succeed Edward the Confessor as the next King of England.

In 1064, Harold Godwineson, Earl of Wessex and close adviser to the King, swore an oath of support to William in his claim to the English throne.

In 1066, Edward the Confessor dies and Harold Godwineson becomes the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.  William, the Duke of Normandy had been promised the English throne, yet Harold became King, backed by his nobles… William had been betrayed.

King Harald of Norway invaded northern England, laying siege and capturing York.  King Harold is forced to march north and meet Harald at Stamford Bridge, whereupon the King of Norway is killed in battle.

As the news reached King Harold of William’s landing in the south, his tired army had to march south… no time for rest and take on William’s forces.

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Battle of Hastings

On the 14th October 1066, William the Duke of Normandy and King Harold of England met on the battle field, the prize on offer to the victor; King of England.

The “Battle of Hastings” was won by William, the Duke of Normandy, and from that day forth, life in England changed.

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Anglo-Saxon Saint: King Edmund

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Viking Warrior

In 865, a large force of Vikings landed in East Anglia, not to carry out raids and depart with their booty, but their intention was one of occupation.

On the 1st November 866, they captured York, and went forward burning churches, villages and crops in the area.  In 867, their next city was Nottingham, for nothing stood in their way but victory.  In 870, they returned to East Anglia, where Edmund refused to bow down to the leader of the Vikings.

Edmund the Blessed, King of East Anglia, was wise and worthy, and exalted among the noble servants of the almighty God. He was humble and virtuous and remained so resolute that he would not turn to shameful vices, nor would he bend his morality in any way, but was ever-mindful of the true teaching: “If you are installed as a ruler, don’t puff yourself up, but be among men just like one of them.” He was charitable to poor folks and widows, just like a father, and with benevolence he guided his people always towards righteousness, and restrained the cruel, and lived happily in the true faith.

Eventually it happened that the Danes came with a ship-army, harrying and slaying widely throughout the land, as is their custom. In the fleet were the foremost chieftains Ivar and Ubbi, united through the devil. They landed warships in Northumbria, and wasted that country and slew the people. Then Ivar went south-east with his ships and Halfdan remained in Northumbria gaining victory with slaughter. Ivar came to East Anglia in the year in which prince Alfred would became the famous West Saxon king aged 21. The aforementioned Ivar suddenly invaded the country, just like a wolf, and slew the people, men and women and innocent children, and ignominiously harassed innocent Christians. Soon afterward he sent to king Edmund a threatening message, that Edmund should submit to his allegiance, if he cared for his life. The messenger came to king Edmund and boldly announced Ivar’s message: “Ivar, our king, bold and victorious on sea and on land, has dominion over many peoples, and has now come to this country with his army to take up winter-quarters with his men. He commands that you share your hidden gold-hordes and your ancestral possessions with him straightaway, and that you become his vassal-king, if you want to stay alive, since you now don’t have the forces that you can resist him.”

Then king Edmund summoned a his bishop with whom he was most intimate, and deliberated with him how he should answer the fierce Ivar. The bishop was afraid because of this emergency, and he feared for the king’s life, and counselled him that he thought that Edmund should submit to what Ivar asked of him. Then the king became silent, and looked at the ground, and then said to him at last : “Alas bishop, the poor people of this country are already shamefully afflicted. I would rather die fighting so that my people might continue to possess their native land.” The bishop said: “Alas beloved king, thy people lie slain. You do not have the troops that you may fight, and the pirates come and kidnap the living. Save your life by flight, or save yourself by submitting to him.” Then said king Edmund, since he was completely brave: “This I heartily wish and desire, that I not be the only survivor after my beloved people are slain in their beds with their children and wives by these pirates. It was never my way to flee. I would rather die for my country if I need to. Almighty God knows that I will not ever turn from worship of Him, nor from love of His truth. If I die, I live.”

After these words he turned to the messenger who Ivar had sent him, and, undaunted, said to him: “In truth you deserve to be slain now, but I will not defile my clean hands with your vile blood, because I follow Christ who so instructed us by his example; and I happily will be slain by you if God so ordain it. Go now quickly and tell your fierce lord: ‘Never in this life will Edmund submit to Ivar the heathen war-leader, unless he submit first to the belief in the Saviour Christ which exists in this country.'” Then the messenger went quickly on his way, and met along the road the cruel Ivar with all his army hastening toward Edmund, and told the impious one how he had been answered. Ivar then arrogantly ordered that the pirates should all look at once for the king who scorned his command, and sieze him immediately.

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Edmund: Martyred

King Edmund, against whom Ivar advanced, stood inside his hall, and mindful of the Saviour, threw out his weapons. He wanted to match the example of Christ, who forbade Peter to win the cruel Jews with weapons. Lo! the impious one then bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. In between the whip lashes, Edmund called out with true belief in the Saviour Christ. Because of his belief, because he called to Christ to aid him, the heathens became furiously angry. They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missles, like the bristles of a hedgehog (just like St. Sebastian was). When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so. While Edmund still called out to Christ, the heathen dragged the holy man to his death, and with one stroke struck off his head, and his soul journeyed happily to Christ. There was a man near at hand, kept hidden by God, who heard all this, and told of it afterward, just as we have told it here.

Then the pirates returned to their ships and hid the head of the holy Edmund in the thick brambles so that it could not be buried with the rest of his body. After a time, after the pirates had departed, the local people, those who were left, came there where the remains of their lord’s body without a head was. They were very sad in heart because of his killing, and especially because they didn’t have the head for his body. Then the witness who saw the earlier events said that the pirates had the head with them, and that it seemed to him, as it was in truth, that they hid the head in the woods somewhere.

They all went together then to the woods, looking everywhere through the bushes and brambles to see if they could find that head anywhere. It was also a great miracle that a wolf was sent, through the guidance of God, to protect that head both day and night from the other animals. The people went searching and also calling out, just as the custom is among those who often go into the wood: “Where are you now, friend?” And the head answered them: “Here, here, here,” and called out the answer to them as often as any of them called out, until they came to it as a result of the calling. There lay the grey wolf who watched over that head, and had the head clasped between his two paws. The wolf was greedy and hungry, but because of God he dared not eat the head, but protected it against animals. The people were astonished at the wolf’s guardianship and carried home with them the holy head, thanking almighty God for all His miracles. The wolf followed along with the head as if he was tame, until they came to the settlement, and then the wolf turned back to the woods.

The local people then laid the head with the holy body and buried it as best they could in such a hurry, and soon erected a marker over him. After many years, when the harrying ceased and peace was granted to the afflicted people, they joined together and erected a church worthy of the saint at the marker where he was buried, because miracles happened frequently at his grave. They planned to carry the holy body with public honor and lay it in the church. Then there was a great miracle: Edmund was as sound as when he was alive, with a clean body, and his neck, which previously was severed, was healed. It was as if a red silken thread around his neck showed men how he was slain. Also the wounds which the cruel heathens made with frequent spear-shots to his body were healed by the heavenly God. And Edmund lies thus uncorrupted down to the present day, awaiting resurrection and the eternal glory. His body, which lies undecayed, tells us that he lived without fornication in this world, and with a clean life journeyed to Christ.

A certain widow named Oswyn lived near the holy tomb, and prayed and fasted there many years. She would cut the hair of the saint each year and trim his nails, chastely, with love, and place those holy relics in the shrine on the altar. Then the local people honored the saint by believing in him, and Bishop Theodred very greatly honored him with gifts of gold and silver.

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Saint Edmund

One night eight accursed thieves came to the venerable saint. They wanted to steal the treasures which men brought thither, and craftily figured out how they might enter. One struck the hasps with a hammer; one of them filed round about with a file; one also dug under the door with a spade; one of them with a ladder wanted to unlock the window; but they labored without result and fared poorly in that the saint miraculously bound them stiffly, each as he stood with his tools, so that none of them might succeed in the crime nor stir from there. They stood thusly until morning. Men were amazed at that, how the men hung, one on a ladder, one stooped to dig, and each firmly bound in his task. The thieves were then all brought to the bishop and he commanded that they hang them all on high gallows. But he was not mindful of how the merciful God commanded through his prophets the words which stand here: Eos qui ducuntur ad mortem eruere ne cesses, ‘Always redeem those who man condems to death.’ And the holy canons also forbid to the ordained, both bishops and priests, to judge concerning thieves, because it isn’t fitting for those who are chosen to the service of God to consent to any man’s death, especially if the criminals are Christians. After Bishop Theodred examined his book he repented grieviously that he had so cruelly passed judgement on those unhappy thieves, and lamented it always until the end of his life. He asked the people eagerly that they fast with him for three entire days, asking almighty God that He should have mercy upon him.

In that country was a man named Leofstan, rich in worldly things but ignorant of God. He rode to the saint with exceeding arrogance and insolently ordered that the holy saint be shown to him so that he might see whether Edmund was whole. But as soon as he saw the saint’s body he went mad, and raged cruelly, and ended wretchedly in an evil death. This is similar to that which the pious Pope Gregory related in his narrative about the holy Laurentius, who lies in Rome, i.e., that men both good and evil wanted to examine how he lay, but God restrained them in such manner that seven men died all at one time at the examination. Then others with human shortcomings stopped examining the saint.

Many miracles concerning holy Edmund we heard about in popular parlance which we will not put into writing here, but everyone knows about them. Concerning this saint it is evident, and concerning others likewise, that God almighty, who preserves saint Edmund’s body until the great day, can resurrect that man again on Judgement Day uncorrupted by the earth, even though he comes from the earth. It is appropriate that man honor the holy places of the worthy saints, those servants of God in Christ’s service, and furnish them properly, because the saint is greater than any man can conceive of. The English are not deprived of the Lord’s saints, because in England lie such holy saints as this holy king, and Cuthbert the Blessed, and St. Aethelthryth at Ely, and also her sister, all sound in body, confirming the faith. There are also many other English saints who work many miracles, as is widely known, in praise of the Almighty who they believed in. Christ announces to men through his greater saints that he who makes such miracles is almighty God, even though the poor Jews all forsook him even though they wished for him, because they are accursed. There are no miracles wrought in any of their tombs because they do not believe in the living Christ. But Christ announces to men where the true faith exists when he works such miracles widely throughout the earth. Thus to him be ever glory with his heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, ever without end. Amen

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Saxons and Vikings: Their Gods

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Anglo-Saxon Cross

Saxons and Vikings worshipped the Norse Gods, in their homelands, but in Britain they became Christians.  They never forgot the religious beliefs of their Gods, these warrior Gods, and their ancestor’s stories of heroic deeds, all in the name of their Gods!

Saxons = Woden                   Viking = Odin

The Saxon goddess; Eostre, became the Christian Festival of Easter.  The Saxon Gods, Tiw – Woden – Thunor – Frigg transposed into days of the week = Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Saxon used spells and charms to ward off evil spirits and sickness.

The Vikings believed that their lives were ruled by fate, and the Goddess of Norns looked after the past, present and future.  Viking Gods lived at Asgard, joined to Earth by a rainbow bridge.  Around the Earth monsters inhabited the ocean, for these were the enemies of their God.

Death to a Viking meant everlasting glory, going to Odin’s hall of Valhalla.  Some Vikings were buried in a ship, whilst others were sent off on a burning ship heading out to sea to the after-life, along with their weapons and coins to do battle within the after-life.

Christianity was introduced to Britain during the Roman occupation (306-337) and during the reign of Emperor Theodosius of Rome (378-395) and became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

In 431 Pope Celestine attempted to evangelise the Irish, and Columba was sent forth to Iona, off the coast of Scotland.  Then in 596 Pope Gregory I sent missionaries to Kent under the leadership of the Monk Augustine.

King Ethelbert of England married Bertha a Christian Frankish princess in 612.  Ethelbert was baptised and Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, and the southern Kingdoms turned to the Christian faith.

The Kingdom of Northumbria; met the Christianity of Rome and celtic Christianity, which came from Ireland by St.Columba to Scotland and in 651 by St.Aidan.

Celtic church differed from that of Rome.  Northumbria’s King Oswy (612-671) opted to follow the Christianity of Rome, giving England a common religion.  Theodore of Tarsus (602-690), the then Archbishop of Canterbury in 668, gave English church its basic structure.

The Venerable Bede, Northumbrian Monk was responsible for using BC and AD for the dating of historical events.

With Christianity accepted by the Anglo-Saxons Kingdoms, there was still friction between the two options; Roman Rites and Irish Rites.  In 664 Saint Wilfrid an advocate of Roman Rites won against his Irish Rites opponent Bishop Colman.

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Viking Invaders Seize English Crown

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English Saxon Crown

King Alfred the Great (871-899) had turned England into one Kingdom.  This Saxon family and his descendants, had freed these lands from the barbaric Vikings, set on plunder, murder and slavery.

In the year 924, Athelstan; Alfred’s grandson became King of England, and in 937 defeated Irish and Scot Vikings at Brunanburh.  He became the first Saxon King, who would have the loyalty from all its people.

In his time as King, he created a single coinage which would be used throughout the land, and peace reigned till the end of his reign in 940.

Edmund became King in 940, and was faced by new Viking raiders, which continued throughout his life until he died in 946 only to be replaced by Edred (946-955).

England did not see peace again until 959, under King Edgar.  For he was a powerful leader, winning support of the Scottish and Welsh Kings.

In the year 975, Edgar aged only 32 died, and his death threw the Kingdom into strife.

His son Edward became King in 975, he only reigned for three years, during which time famine struck the land.

In 978 Edward was murdered at Corfe, by whom we do not know, but history leads us to believe, it could have been supporters loyal to Ethelred II his step-brother, assisted by his step-mother, believing he would make a far better King.

In 978 Ethelred was crowned King.  Shortly into his reign, the second Viking Age started, with large scale raids upon our lands in 980.

In 991, the Danes demanded payment, in return they would leave… Ethelred raised taxes and paid out 4,500 kg of gold and silver.

In 1012, the Danes demanded more; 22,000 kg of “Danegold.”  The Vikings new England was wealthy compared with other European countries which was why they kept coming back for more.

Ethelred offered Danish soldiers land, in return they would fight against their Danish comrades, they were never satisfied and continued to demand more and more land.

Ethelred ordered the massacre of all soldiers and farmers living in England, this was a bold and stupid action at the time, and so angered the Danish King; Sweyn Forkbeard.  In 1013, Sweyn conquered England, forcing Ethelred from his land and into exile; Normany in France.

The English nobles offered the Danish King; Sweyn Forkbeard, the crown of England; King of England, but died in 1014 before the ceremony could take place.

Ethelred returned to England after his short exile, but died in 1016.

Cnut son of Sweyn Forkbeard, now led the Danish army in England, yet Edmund Ironside Ethelred’s son gave as good as he got in battle with the Danes.

So it was a treaty was agreed between Cnut and Edmund that they shared the Kingdom.  Within months Edmund died and Cnut became King of England.  England under Cnut saw a period of peace, and was recognized as King by the Kingdoms of Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Cnut took Ethelred’s wife Emma as his Queen, she being the daughter of the Duke of Normandy, this marriage served him well, and gained his friendship with the Duke himself.

Cnut died in 1035, and his empire; Denmark, Norway and England fell apart.  He left three sons; Harthacnut, Sweyn and Harold.  Emma had two sons by Ethelred; Edward and Alfred.  Alfred made an expedition to England in 1036 and was murdered.

With Cnut dead, any new King would need the support of Leofric of Mercia, Siward of Northumbria and Godwine of Wessex, the English Earls.

Cnut’s son Harold I was crowned King of England in 1016 and reigned until 1040.  He was replaced by Cnut other son Harthacnut from 1040-1042 until he died.

Edward son of Ethelred came home from Normandy claiming the crown; King of England as its rightful heir.  He was crowned in 1042 and carried the title “Edward the Confessor.”

Edward, England’s new King may have been born Saxon, but was more Norman.  He took Earl Godwine’s daughter for his Queen, in return for his support.  Earl Godwine died in 1053, his son Harold took an instant dislike to Edward.

Edward died in 1066, leaving no heirs to the English throne.

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Vikings in Britain

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Viking Warrior

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.

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Viking Fleet

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.

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The Viking Age

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Viking Ships

The image we have of Vikings is one of wild-haired barbaric savages, who raided lands across Europe and beyond, all based on their chronicles.

They used two different styles of ships.  The “Drakkar” longship was intended for war and exploration designed for speed and agility, with oars and a sail.  It had a long narrow hull with a shallow draft for ease of landings and shallow waters.  Whilst on the otherhand their “Knarr” longships were designed as a merchant cargo vessel, with a broad hull and deep draft.  She would rely more on her sail to drive her, for she carried a relatively small number of oars.

The Vikings had a language all of their own, made up from sound values integrated with Latin, and used their “Runor” alphabet to read and write.

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Rune Stone

The Vikings left Rune stones inscribed with memories of the dead, or battles won.  These can be found across Europe, mainly in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and gives us an insight into their timeline.

If one looks at a Rune stone, the centre is made up of images similar to those of early cave-man drawings, whilst the outer edge is a creation of their own alphabet.

In Denmark there are Viking Rune stones, dating between 960-985, placed there by King Gorm the Old, the last pagan King of Denmark in memory to his Queen; Thyre.

Harold Bluetooth his son placed a stone, for the conquest of Denmark and Norway, and the conversion of Danes to Christianity.

An inscription on the larger of the stones read:  “King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gomr, his father, and in memory of Thyre his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.”

There are known Viking burial sites across much of Europe, especially in their homelands of Sweden, Norway and Denmark.  A Viking warrior is usually buried with his weapons, and these artefacts give us an insight to their lifestyle.

In England the Viking age began with the spilling of blood and destruction as they destroyed the Abbey on the island of Lindisfarne in 793AD, which sent shock waves across Europe to their presence.

Historical accounts of Viking raids and colonization of Europe, is written in the chronicles of; Nestor, Novgorod, and Ibn Fadlanand Ibn Rusta.

For three hundred years, Viking raiders were the scourge of the waters, plundering, killing and taking captives to sell into a life of slavery.  Shoreline settlements lived in fear of these barbaric warriors.  For it was in 991Ad “The Battle of Maldon,” took place on the shores of the Blackwater River in Essex, between the Viking raiders and its inhabitants.

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The Norwegians are known to have spread to the north and western areas, covering Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Greenland.  Whilst the Danes settled in the northern and Eastern parts of England and Normandy.

Other Vikings ventured the northerly coasts of the North Atlantic Ocean, travelling south to North Africa, and east into present day Russia.  They raided, pillaged, traded and some even settled in these new lands, and some were known to have become mercenaries.

Those Vikings under Leif Ericson, heir to Erik the Red, settled in Newfoundland and Labrador Canada.

The Normans were descendants from the Danish and Norwegian Vikings, and were known to raid English shores as early as 790 until the full Norman Conquest of England in 1066.  If we look back into our history, we will see that King Harold II was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, and he did in fact have Danish ancestors.

Some Scandinavian Vikings are known to have served as mercenaries, at a time when the Swedish visited the Byzantium Empire in the early part of the 800’s.

By the latter part of the 10th century, the imperial guard consisted of Scandinavians, better known as the Varangian Guard.  Varangian, is believed to have stemmed from Old Norse, but in Slavic and Greek refers to Scandinavians.

Harold Hadrada a well respected and influential member of the Varangian Guard, rose to become King of Norway (1047-1066).

By the latter part of the 11th century, the Catholic Church had increased its power and influence amongst the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway and Denmark).  Then in 1103 the first Archbishopric was founded.

A major profit for Vikings had been the taking of captives and selling them as slaves.  Christianity had abolished this practice throughout parts of northern Europe, but it continued well into the 11th century, when it was outlawed and replaced by the act of “Serfdom.”

Raids continued for much of the 11th century and early part of the 12th century, until a new target could be found for their fighting warriors.

In 1107 Sigurd I of Norway took his army of Norwegian crusaders to the “Kingdom of Jerusalem,” for the Baltic Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries.

In the 12th century a Scottish warrior named Somerled, of the Donald clan and of Viking descent, drove the Vikings out of Scotland.

Images: Wikipedia

Britain under the Anglo-Saxon’s

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Anglo-Saxons

After some four hundred years, Britain was no longer part of the Roman Empire, as they returned to their homeland of Italy by 410AD, to fight off hostile tribe’s intent on attacking their homeland.

As the Romans departed, Britain became vulnerable to these Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians and Franks, who first arrived across the seas from Germany and Denmark to trade.  As the Romans left these traders saw an opportunity; a new life.

The Angles made their homes in East Anglia, Midlands and Northumbria.

The Saxons made their homes in the South of England, and formed Kingdoms:

Sussex         = South Saxons

Wessex       = West Saxons

Essex           = East Saxons

Middlesex = Middle Saxons

Jutes came from Jutland in Denmark and set up home in Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

With the Roman gone, the Picts, Scots and Barbarians from the north crossed Hadrian’s Wall attacking the British Romans without mercy.

Vortigern a British leader hired Saxons to fend off invaders, and paid them in money and land.

Later invaders of this land, did not come to fight, they sought out land to farm.  They manoeuvred their narrow boats up river, deep and deeper inland.  History tells us these invaders drove Britons from their lands, and some were forced into a life of slavery by their new masters.

First these Britons were pushed west, and around 500AD they stood their ground, turned and fought, to protect their lands.  This stemmed the flow of the Anglo-Saxon migration.

Ambrosius Aurelianus, fought with his men at Mons Badonicus believed to have been the Bradbury Rings in Dorset, and won their battle.

Britain’s main leader is believed to have been a warrior named Arthur, later called King Arthur.

The next major battle between Briton’s and Anglo-Saxons took place at the “Battle of Dyrham” in 577AD led by Cealin, King of Wessex who went on to take Cirencester, Gloucester and Bath.

Wessex expansion ceased as Anglo-Saxon’s fought each other.  Cealin retreated; Ceol his nephew took his place and was killed the very next year.

Cirencester became an Anglo-Saxon Kingdom under Mercia rule rather than Wessex.

Saxon Settlements:

Saxon leaders found this new land fertile and shared this healthy land among their followers.

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Anglo-Saxon Settlement

Some leaders became Kings of their province, and noble warriors were known as Thanes (Thane, a nobleman who held land for the King in return for services).  These Thanes received land from their King, and freemen farmers known as Churls, (Churls is a farm labourer), who would rent the land from his Thane.

Some farmers seized readily prepared farm lands from the Britons, whilst others started afresh, clearing the land, growing crops, creating pastures for cattle, sheep, pigs and horses.

Early settlements consisted of a few family farms, with houses constructed of wood with sloping thatched roofs.  The settlement would be protected by a fence, encircling the houses from wild animals or warring enemies.

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Anglo-Saxon Village

As time progressed, settlements grew larger and became villages.  Each village had a Saxon Chief, often it was he who had led them to this land, and granted them the land they now farmed.

For what their Saxon Chief had given them, these churls these farmers worked and fought for their leader.

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Anglo-Saxon Home Life

A Saxon home contained little in the way of furniture; table and benches made from the land.

Saxon cooking pots, were made by hand would hang from a chain, over the fire.  Buckets would be used to carry water from the river or lake.

Women would also be responsible for grinding the grain, preparing the bread and beer from barley crops.  Preparing food and watching over children and animals.

Women would use sheep’s wool and turn it into cloth, using plant dye’s to colour it for clothing.  Men often wore short tunics, trousers and leather shoes with straps.

The King’s and their Kingdom’s:

According to the writings of Bede, the first group of Saxon Kings, were chiefs who had led the invasion on Britain.

Hengist and Horsa in Kent, Aelle in Sussex, along with Cerdic and Cynric in Wessex.

By the year 560AD, Kent had become the most important of all English Kingdoms and was ruled by Ethelbert until 616AD with Canterbury being its capital and lands extending north to the Humber River.  Upon Ethelbert’s death in 616AD, Raedwald of East Anglia rose to become the most powerful leader south of the Humber River.

Later, Northumbria became a powerful kingdom under King Edwin, and according to archaeological findings at Yeavering in Northumberland, a Saxon Palace or Hall had been discovered in the area, and believed to belong to Edwin.

Each King of his Kingdom, moved around his Kingdom feasting in these great halls with his followers, ensuring local support from them in battle.  In return he promised them land and riches.

According to Saxon law, a person’s life was worth a set amount of money.  If he was killed, his murderer had to pay that amount of money to his family.

Raewald provided military assistance to Deiran Edwin, in taking over the dynasties of Deira and Bernica in the Kingdom of Northumbria.  Upon Raewald’s death Edwin expanded the kingdom of Northumbria.

Anglo-Saxon Mercians under Penda were forced into battle against Edwin of Northumbria as his kingdom grew in size.

An alliance between Penda and Cadwallon of Gwynedd, the Welsh King was formed, and between them they killed Edwin of Northumbria at the “Battle of Hatfield Chase” in 633AD.

Oswald son of one of Northumbria’s Kings, defeated and killed Cadwallon at Heavenfield near Hexham.  Then in 642Ad Penda killed Oswald in battle.  Oswald’s brother, Oswiu killed Penda around 642AD.

Mercia spent the latter years of the 7th and 8th century fighting the Welsh Kingdom of Powys.  Offa constructed a 150 mile long, 25 feet high and 7 feet deep dyke across the boundary between England and Wales constructed of wooden poles and earth, designed to stop warring raids.

Beornwulf beat the Mercians in the “Battle of Ellendun” in 825AD by Egbert of Wessex.

(Image) Anglo-Saxon Village: Hampshire Archaeology
(Image) Anglo-Saxons: Historyfiles
(Image) Anglo-Saxon Settlement: Wikipedia
(Image) Anglo-Saxon Home Life: Regia