DANELAW YEARS: Introducing An Era Of War, Trade & Prosperity In England
Vengeance was the motivation for crossing the sea...
A new era dawned for the Anglian kingdoms of Bernicia, Deira, Mercia and East Anglia when King Aelle made his first and final mistake
There was no warning when hundreds of ships put into the East Anglia in the spring/summer of AD 865. Led by the sons of Ragnar 'Lothbrok' the 'Great Heathen Army' (or according to the Chronicle the 'Micel Here', no mention of 'Heathen') had arrived! Ivar 'the Boneless' as eldest son was overall leader, with brothers Ubbi. Sigurd 'Snake-eye', Bjorn 'Ironside' and Halvdan as under-commanders. From Thetford in AD 866 they went overland to Eoferwic (Anglian York) and took the burh. The Northumbrians ousted King Osberht, giving the throne to the usurper Aelle of Bernicia - not even of the royal bloodline. In a pitched battle at Eoferwic Aelle and Osberht joined forces however and attacked the Danes. Their luck was not with them. The Danes won the day and Osberht was held for ransom. Aelle would not be so lucky, according to the sagas. As the one answerable for their father's death, chained in the snake-pit at Bamburgh, a gruesome end awaited him. He would be tethered like a sacrificial sheep for the folk of Eoferwic to see, his ribs cut away from his spine and splayed out through his flesh. This gave him the appearance of a perched eagle with its wings held wide. The punishment was known as the 'Blood Eagle' ('Blod Erne'). Whether it actually took place or not is unconfirmed.
The Army overwintered in Nottingham, AD 867-68 and then returned to Eoferwic where they stayed for the next four years whilst making forays into other regions such as East Anglia under Ivar and Ubbi. At Hoxne (near Bury, Suffolk) King Eadmund was defeated. The story goes he fled from the field to take sanctuary in the church at Bury. Ivar and Ubbi followed, finding him being shielded by monks. They asked him why he thought he should live out his days when his men died for him on the battlefield. He had no answer for that. Conversation led possibly to his Christianity and whether he thought he would go to heaven after betraying his warriors. He was bound to a post and died from arrow wounds. "Obviously his god no longer wanted him", Ubbi might have said, "See, he is still here".
Eoferwic would become Jorvik. In AD 872 the Army turned south to Torksey in eastern Mercia where they overwintered, and on to Repton near the River Trent to overwinter in AD 873. In AD 874 the Army split into two, one half returning to Jorvik and on to the Tyne, the other south to Cambridge. In AD 875 That part of the Army with the war-band leader Guthrum pressed on to Wareham in Wessex (now Dorset), Exeter the year after and Gloucester by AD 877.
Guthrum's target was king Aelfred. The Saxons would have been nervous at Guthrum's close presence but at Chippenham Aelfred celebrated Christmas in AD 878, his ealdormen and thegns forgetting their worries for the time being. They allowed themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security. There would be no drunken ribaldry at the Yulefeast for Guthrum's men, for between Christmas and the New Year Guthrum struck at the royal burh. Aelfred was lucky to get away with some of his men, ealdormen and thegns fled in another direction. The king of Wessex was now a fugitive in the Somerset Levels near Glastonbury, on Aethelney (the island of the princes). Guthrum put a price on his head and combed the area. Many common folk would have been pleased with the silver, h owed had they known who he was who burned their cakes whilst fleeing the Danes' clutches. Few owed him any loyalty, many being outlaws who had been banished by Aelfred's predecessors under various archaic Saxon laws. Read the episode on Aelfred in this series to see how he fared ( DANELAW YEARS -3: "ALL I SMELL IS BURNING CAKES!" These would have been oatmeal cakes, like bread, as many could not afford grain for grinding).
Guthrum was the self-styled king of East Anglia, who would be defeated at Ethandun before he and Aelfred agreed a treaty to divide the land along the old Roman road known then as Watling Straet from London to Chester. Eastern Mercia would be part of the Danelaw (Danelagen), as would East Anglia and much of the land east of London beyond the River Lea. Deira would become the Danish Kingdom of Jorvik with Halvdan Ragnarsson as its king. He was not above farming the land himself and became a wealthy landowner. See elsewhere about the three 'Ridings'.
God lykke! (Good luck)
War with Wessex
An Aengla Land Fragmented
Although much shorter than (a quarter of its length) the VIKING series, the DANELAW YEARS series promises to equal its effect.
If you or your forebears have roots in Eastern England between the River Wear, the Tees and the Thames, as far west as the Irish Sea coast south of Ribblesdale and along the Pennineamountain chain there may be a hint of Danish blood coursing through your veins. There was in King Harold, and there is in the Windsor family from different eras.
Cast your eyes down this list of pages and see what attracts, I can promise it will not be dull:
01. LEGENDARY 'LEATHER BREEKS' - Ragnar 'Lothbrok', Viking Leader Above Others;
02. NJORD'S SILVERY PATH, Danes Cross The Sea, Aiming For Wessex;
03. "ALL I SMELL IS BURNING CAKES!" Aelfred's Domestic Skills Tested;
04. AETHELRED II, 'UNRAED' TO EADWARD, Slow Fuse To Crisis, 11th Century Politics;
05. KNUT, A Great Dane, No Ransacking Viking But An Empire Builder;
06. HUSCARL, Household Servant Turned Professional Warrior;
07. DANES AT HOME, Viking Age Kingdom Over The Waves;
08. DENMARK [O.E. 'Denemearce'], Heroes, Kings, Legends;
09. JORVIK, Home To Kings, Traders, Warmakers;
10. HROLF 'KRAKI', Feted And Fated Warrior King - Origins Of The Saga (This in itself is an 'overture' to the SAGA OF HROLF 'KRAKI' in nine parts)
Good news for Jorvik Viking Centre fans and newcomers
In December 2015 York was inundated once again, the River Ouse flooded, its banks burst and the Jorvik Viking Centre had to close its doors... for the duration, some thought pessimistically. There is good news, the Centre will open its doors once more on April 8th, 2017 after extensive repairs and prevention work undertaken to ensure a repeat will not happen.
Use the link below to see what's been done, and how this 'keyhole' into the Viking Age has changed (mustn't spoil the pleasant surprise for you):
JORVIK VIKING CENTRE, Coppergate, York, YO1 9WT, 01904 615505
The gateway to York's Viking Past is located on Coppergate in the heart of the city, close to shopping, the Castle Museum and the River Ouse. Travel back into history, see how York's Anglo-Danish citizens lived, worked and traded from the 9th Century
AD 1013: After squeezing Danegeld from Aethelred's coffers, Svein brought his younger son Knut and a great fleet
VIKING AGE ENGLAND, Julian D Richards, Tempus Publ., ISBN 0-7524-2888-8
The kingdoms that became England were rich, Christian and ripe for plunder. It would be for plunder that initially brought the Norsemen, the monasteries and churches located perilously close to the sea. Mistakes made by kings - or usurpers in the case of Aelle of Bernicia - cost them their kingdoms, and in some instances their lives. The base execution of Ragnar 'Lothbrok' at the hands of Aelle brought his sons with their combined fleets in AD 865. The 'Micel Here' wrought punishment and wreaked havoc, eventually settling, farming, trading and spreading out north-westward towards their Norse neighbours in Cumbria. The Danes settled largely in the lower-lying lands and river valleys of the East, North and West 'Thridjungar', the Ridings and as far as the Irish Sea (the area now marked as Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside). The native Aengle (Angles) occupied the higher ground and Norsemen settled on the coast around Whitby and Scarborough (Hviteby and Skarthiburh), plying a trade in fishing. Halvdan, one of the sons of Ragnar 'Lothbrok' took the kingship. In the east the warband leader Guthrum took the kingship of East Anglia and the area between, the Danelaw comprised the Five Boroughs, Deoraby, Leagerceaster, Lindcylne, Snotingaham and Staenford (Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Nottingham and Stamford), who owed loyalty to their own community chieftains and leaders. Several kings succeeded in Jorvik, Sigtrygg 'Caech' ('Squinty') came from Dublin, another Danish centre in the British Isles. Aethelstan crushed him after marrying a sister to the Dane, but when Aethelstan died the Danes established themselves again. Later in the 10th Century Eirik Haraldsson, 'Blood-axe' took over the rule in Jorvik, coming back to reign again after being thrown out before being ambushed on Stainmore Common on the border with Cumbria, Aenglish rule was imposed again. Then Aethelred had Danes in Oxford murdered and a new kingdom would result, under Knut.