Viking Raids OnEnglandFrom 793 to 1066, England was terrorisedby Viking warriors. These were people from Scandinavia, especially Danmarkand Norway. Scandinavia at the time had a growing population and with inlandareas inhospitable, the vikngs looked overseas for new territories andwealth.
“In the year 793, the pagans from thenorth came to Britain like stinging hornets…” wrote an early Saxon chroniclerabout the first Viking raid on England. The Vikings had struck a smallcostal monastery, killed and pillaged. This was the frist blow in a mightystruggle between the Vikings and England whch ended with The Battle OfHastings in 1066.
For the next 40 years however, there waspeace. The Vikings had been preparing for a full-scale invasion and from835 onwards, hardly a year went by without a raid being reported to theSaxon chronicles. In 851, the Vikngs first wintered in England and in 856forced England to pay its first Danegald or tribute.In 867, 3 famous sons of ragnar hairy-Breeches: Ivar the the boneless, Ubbi and Halfdan landed in East Anglia, marchedacross country, seized York and settled in Northumbria. By 871 the Vikingshad overrun the north of England and were preparing to invade the Saxonstronghold, Wessex. This was the first time they had come face-to-facewith the Saxon Prince Alfred. Although only second in command, Alfred ledthe Saxons to victory.
Later that year, Alfred became King Alfredand within months was on the battle fields once again. This time however,he was defeated at Wilton and forced to pay a tribute. After this the Vikngssplit in two. One group under the leadership of halfdan went and settledin northumbria. the remaing under Guthrum settled in South Cambridge andwaited for another chance to invade Wessex.
In 875, Alfred went to sea with a smallnaval force and on the south coast of Wessex met 7 Viking longships anddefeated them. This was the first time that the Vikings had been challengedat sea so Alfred decided to build a fleet. While busy seeing over the shipbuilding,Alfred failed to notice that Guthrum had struck south. Guthrum had takenChippenham thus surrounding Wessex and giving himself a much greater chanceof success. The Vikings had taken control of most of West Wessex and theSaxons submitted to them. But not Alfred. He and a small group of troopsmade a small stronghold at Athelney.
Alfred, wishing to know the Vikings plansand tactics, dressed as a wandering minstrel and walked boldly into theviking camp and snuck his way into the council of war. After staying afew days, and content that he knew all he needed to, Alfred hurried backand told his men how easily the Vikngs could be beaten.With the people of Somerset, Wiltshireand Hampshire united, Alfred drove the Vikings back to Chippenham and stayedto negotiate a treaty with Guthrum. This treaty stated that Alfred andthe Saxon people aknowledged their new neighbours and territories. Guthrumreturned to Danelaw which was comprised of the five boroughs of Derby,Stamford, Leicester, Lincoln and Nottingham but not before being baptisedin the presence of Alfred.
After Guthrum moved back to Danelaw, therewas seven years of peace. this was until a new army from the continentcame across the English Channel and seized the city of Rochester. Alfred’sarmy came once again to the rescue athough and defeated the new invadersand pushed them back to sea.Alfred steadily pushed the Vikings backwith many small invasion attempts and by 886 had regained control of London.by now all the English looked upon alfred as their leader. Alfred feltan easing of pressure and now concentrated on his defences. He built fortifiedtowns or Burhs.There were seven more years of peace,until The Great Army from Germany crossed the Channel with 250 ships, sailedun the Lympne estuary and stormed one of Alfred’s Burhs .
These Vikingswere defeated at Farnam and at the same time the Vikings in danelaw choseto send 100 ships to the north coast of Devon, so that the Saxons had tomarch west. The Saxons overtook the vikng army on the banks of the Buttingtonand on the Banks of the Severn and besieged it on every side. The Vikingsthis time were defeated be famine and when they finally faced the Saxonsthey lost a very bloody battle. After 2 further years of fighting, TheGreat Army broke up.
In October 899, King Alfred died. He wentdown in history as the man who saved England from being completely overrunbut the Vikings still held Danelaw.Alfred’s successor edward the Elder (899-925)was a powerful king.
He conquered much of Danelaw in his reign as king.The next king, King Athelstan (925-940) was a powerful king also.Despite this, the Northumbria Vikingswere restless and joined forces with the Scots and the Norwegian vikingsfrom Ireland. Athelstan inflicted a devestaing defeat upon them. The NorthumbriaVikings continued however until their last king, Erik Bloodaxe was drivenout in 954, when Northumbria became an English earldom. The Norwegian Vikingssettled down and started to settle in the Northeast and Midlands.Edgar the Peaceable (959-975) became friendswith the Vikngs as he respected their beliefs and customs. But his sonEthelred the unready (978-1016) was a different kind of man.
The Vikingattacks were soon renewed. The Vikings had a string of victories and madeEthelred pay higher and higher amounts of Danegald. The most annoying ofEthelred’s foes was the king of Denmark, Svein Forkbeard. He attacked mercilesslyuntil Ethelred ordered that “all the Vikings that have sprung up on thisisland shall be destroyed”.
This led to the massacre of St. Brice’s dayon 13th November 1002. Among those killed was Svein’s sister, Gunnhild.
Her death enraged Svein and from 1003 onward there were continuous attacks.When Svein died, his second son Canutetook his place. He wooed the church and went on a pilgrimage to Rome. Inall he ruled England, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and the Orkney and Shetlandislands. While he reigned the Vikings and Saxon people lived in harmony,but when he died everything changed.
His son died unexpectedly and as thefight for succession carried on, the English elected a new king, Edwardthe confessor (1042-1066).The Vikings made one last attempt to conquerEngland under a new leader Harald Hardradi. However three days after losingthe battle of Stamford bridge, the Normans landed led by Duke William.They fought hard with King Hardradi and all his remaining troops but weredefeated and it was there that King Harald was killed. The Viking raidswere over and the English had new tormentors.