Vikings Part 5 Battle Part 3
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Part V




St Brice's Day massacre

he news of the events would have, with all certainty, reached Aethelred II. What effect this news had on him is unknown. He was a cowardly king as far as defending his country. He much preferred to pay danegeld to the Vikings than fight them. He was held to ransom in 991, 994 and again in 1002. This constant barrage of threats finally got to him. His mental state started to suffer. So much so that he decided to eliminate all the Danish settlers in England. He arranged for the genocide to begin on the 14th November 1002, otherwise known as St Brice's Day. The effects of this were nothing short of catastrophic. It was not just murder but a scorched earth policy. This led to starvation, disease and death. When the news reached the Scandinavians, especially Denmark, English history took another turn for the worse.


The Battle of Ashingdon

ethelred had not realised the backlash that would follow the massacre. One of the victims would be Gunnhild, the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, the king of Denmark. Swearing revenge, he destroyed many of the East Anglian and southern towns, leaving death in his wake. This continued for the next two years. Unfortunately, they were victims of their own revenge. Hunger forced them to return to their own land in 1005. In 1006 he returned to continue where he left off. Ransacking Kent and other southern English villages. Aethelred in a desperate attempt to stop them, offered another payment of danegeld. The amount demanded was astronomical, but was accepted by Aethelred and duly paid. Knowing the Vikings track record, Aethelred realised that these large amounts could not be paid indefinitely, and that the Vikings would almost certainly be back with another, higher demand. To combat any further Viking raids, Aethelred set about building a fleet to engage them before they reached the English shores. He probably was trying to take a leaf out of Alfred the Great's book, who used the same tactics. The ships were badly made and crewed by untrained sailors. The boats were bad in rough water and were lost. Many were abandoned or beached. This abortive attempt to play the Vikings at their own game yet again, culminated with the kidnap and murder of St Alphege, the Archbishop of Canterbury and another payment of danegeld in 1012. In 1013, Sweyn Forkbeard arrived in England with his son, Canute. Following a few incursions south, Sweyn was declared king of England ( but not by London ). The population had had enough of Aethelred and wanted peace and were prepared to accept anybody as king as long as it wasn't him.


The rat leaves the sinking ship

ike a rat leaving a sinking ship, Aethelred fled to Normandy. London soon capitulated but within a year, Sweyn died. Canute in theory should have been made king of England but returned to Denmark to become the new king there. In 1014, Aethelred returned to England and ruled for a further two years before he too died. Edmund II, son of Aethelred II, was now declared king. Unlike his father, he decided to take the Vikings on. The effects of Edmund's efforts are dubious. He did free London from its shackles, however. His major battle came at Ashingdon. Canute ( or Cnut or Knut ), returned permanently in 1016 to claim his rightful inheritance as king of England. He had been fighting Edmund in spirit if not in body for a couple of years but was finally victorious on the 18th October 1016, at the battle of Ashingdon in Essex. Edmund's defeat led to the partitioning of England. Edmund died before the agreement could be ratified. This left Canute as unchallenged king of England. Canute was an admirer of Edgar and followed his doctrines to a certain extent. He built churches and encouraged the Christian faith. He was not frightened to administer justice firmly.


Canute gets married

e married Emma, the wife of Aethelred the Unready and his reign was generally one of peace. Canute is famous for the story of him being so powerful, being king of England, Norway and Denmark at the same time, he could turn back the rising tide. Although amusing, this story should be taken with a pinch of salt. Canute sometimes known as the Great, died in 1035 leaving his only legitimate son named Hardicanute ( Harthacnut ) as sole heir. He declined in favour of his half brother Harold I, due to the Norwegian threat to Denmark. He returned on the death of Harold I in 1040 but died himself in 1042. Hardicanute had no legitimate children which left another half brother, Edward, as king of England. He was better known as Edward the Confessor. It was during the reign of Edward the Confessor that the seeds and the politics would mount to a crescendo and lead up to the enthronement of Harold II and the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Hardicanute was the last Norse king of England, but it would not be the last England heard of the Vikings. They would have their last swan song at the battle of Stamford Bridge on the 25th September 1066. These final years will be covered in other sections.


Further Information

o as not to detract from the flow of history. Information on subjects such as danegeld, danelaw, Norse culture, religion, and battle tactics, will be discussed in the latter sections. A brief description of most things can be obtained from the glossary.


Vikings Part 1

Vikings Part 2

Vikings Part 3

Vikings Part 4

Viking Photographs


copyright Glen Ray Crack - Battle - East Sussex - United Kingdom
Submitted 10th January 1998
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