stamford

Battle of Stamford Bridge
September 25, 1066 AD


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Harold Godwinson of England
vs. Tostig Godwinson, Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria (brother of Harold Godwinson) and Harald Sigurdson (aka Hardrada, ”hard ruler”), King of Norway

Prelude

This battle took place after the Battle of Fulford and before the Battle of Hastings.

York submits to Harald Hardrada
“the people accepted the condition of submitting to Harald, and gave him, as hostages, the children of the most considerable persons; for Earl Toste was well acquainted with all the people of that town.” - 89

King Harold of England quickly moved to deal with this northern threat
“In the evening the king returned down to his ships, after this victory achieved with his own force, and was very merry. A Thing was appointed within the castle early on Monday morning, and then King Harald was to name officers to rule over the town, to give out laws, and bestow fiefs.

The same evening, after sunset, King Harald Godwinson came from the south to the castle with a numerous army, and rode into the city with the good-will and consent of the people of the castle. All the gates and walls were beset so that the Northmen could receive no intelligence, and the army remained all night in the town.”
- 89

Battle of Stamford Bridge

Account #1: Divided Norwegian Army
Some on the west side of the River Derwent and their main force on the east side.
“laid his army at Stanforda-bryggiur (Stamford Bridge)” - 89
“On Monday, when King Harald Sigurdson had taken breakfast, he ordered the trumpets to sound for going on shore. The army accordingly got ready, and he divided the men into the parties who should go, and who should stay behind. In every division he allowed two men to land, and one to remain behind.“
- 90

Account #2: West of the River Derwert
They were on Stamford Bridge but they just left it and began moving toward York.

Surprise

Hardrada felt safe enough to leave his men unarmored, possibly due to the fact that the impending Norman Invasion gave the impression that Harold would’ve stayed in the south.
“The weather was uncommonly fine, and it was hot sunshine. The men therefore laid aside their armor, and went on the land only with their shields, helmets and spears, and girt with swords; and many had also arrows and bows, and all were very merry”. - 90

The English army took the Invaders by surprised
“Now as they came near the castle a great army seemed coming against them, and they saw a cloud of dust as from horses’ feet, and under it shining shields and bright armor. The king halted his people, and called to him Earl Toste, and asked him what army this could be.

The earl replied that he thought it most likely to be a hostile army, but possibly it might be some of his relations who were seeking for mercy and friendship, in order to obtain certain peace and safety from the king. Then the king said, “We must all halt, to discover what kind of a force this is.” They did so; and the nearer this force came the greater it appeared, and their shining arms were to the sight like glancing ice.”
- 90

Harald Hardrada sent messengers to warn his other men on the other end of the bridge, for them to come to their aide.
“Then King Harald said, “I have another counsel. Put three of our best horses under three of our briskest lads and let them ride with all speed to tell our people to come quickly to our relief.” - 91

They formed a circle
“Then King Harald (Hardrada) arranged his army, and made the line of battle long, but not deep. He bent both wings of it back, so that they met together; and formed a wide ring equally thick all round, shield to shield, both in the front and rear ranks. The king himself and his retinue were within the circle; and there was the banner, and a body of chosen men.“ - 92

Hardrada’s men put down anti-cavalry tactics
“The army was arranged in this way, because the king knew that horsemen were accustomed to ride forwards with great vigour, but to turn back immediately. Now the king ordered that his own and the earl’s attendants should ride forwards where it was most required. “

And our bowmen,” said he, “shall be near to us; and they who stand in the first rank shall set the spear-shaft on the ground, and the spear-point against the horseman’s breast, if he rides at them; and those who stand in the second rank shall set the spear-point against the horse’s breast.”
- 92

The Battle begins
“Now the battle began. The Englishmen made a hot assault upon the Northmen, who sustained it bravely. It was no easy matter for the English to ride against the Northmen on account of their spears; therefore they rode in a circle around them. And the fight at first was but loose and light, as long as the Northmen kept their order of battle; for although the English rode hard against the Northmen, they gave way again immediately, as they could do nothing against them.

Now when the Northmen thought they perceived that the enemy were making but weak assaults, they set after them, and would drive them into flight; but when they had broken their shield-rampart the Englishmen rode up from all sides, and threw arrows and spears on them.

Now when King Harald Sigurdson saw this, he went into the fray where the greatest crash of weapons was, and there was a sharp conflict, in which many people fell on both sides. King Harald then was in a rage, and ran out in front of the array, and hewed down with both hands; so that neither helmet nor armour could withstand him, and all who were nearest gave way before him. It was then very near with the English that they had taken to flight.”
- 95

The first falls
“King Harald Sigurdson (Hardrada) was hit by an arrow in the windpipe, and that was his death-wound. He fell, and all who had advanced with him, except those who retired with the banner. There was afterwards the warmest conflict, and Earl Toste had taken charge of the king’s banner. They began on both sides to form their array again, and for a long time there was a pause in fighting.”

“But before the battle began again Harald Godwinson offered his brother, Earl Toste, peace, and also quarter to the Northmen who were still alive; but the Northmen called out, all of them together, that they would rather fall, one across the other, than accept of quarter from the Englishmen. Then each side set up a war-shout, and the battle began again.”
- 96

Reinforcements
“-Eystein and his men had hastened so fast from the ships that they were quite exhausted, and scarcely fit to fight before they came into the battle; but afterwards they became so furious, that they did not guard themselves with their shields as long as they could stand upright.

At last they threw off their coats of ringmail, and then the Englishmen could easily lay their blows at them; and many fell from weariness, and died without a wound. Thus almost all the chief men fell among the Norwegians. This happened towards evening; and then it went, as one might expect, that all had not the same fate, for many fled, and were lucky enough to escape in various ways; and darkness fell before the slaughter was altogether ended. “
– 97

A famed scene from the Anglo Saxon Chronicles, a lone Viking hold the bridge.
“there was one of the Norwegians who withstood the English folk, so that they could not pass over the bridge, nor complete the victory. An Englishman aimed at him with a javelin, but it availed nothing. Then came another under the bridge, who pierced him terribly inwards under the coat of mail. And Harold, king of the English, then came over the bridge, followed by his army; -“


Aftermath
“King Harald Godwinson gave King Harald Hardrada’s son Olaf leave to go away, with the men who had followed him and had not fallen in battle; but he himself turned round with his army to go south, for he had heard that William the Bastard was overwhelming the south of England with a vast army, and was subduing the country for himself. With King Harald went his brothers Svein and Gyrd, and Earl Valthiof. King Harald and Earl William met each other south in England at Helsingja-port (Hastings).” - 100

Next was the Battle of Hastings

Sources:
King Harald’s Saga – 90 http://www.gutenberg.org/files/598/598-h/598-h.htm#link2H_4_0628
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - http://avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/ang11.asp

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