battle of stamford bridge

Today marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Stamford Bridge, fought on the 25th of September 1066. It is seen by many as the ‘End of the Viking Age’.

On that day, the Norwegian king Harald Hadråda was slain by the Saxon army of Harold Godwinson. Yet, the most remarkable warrior of the battlefield remains unnamed. According to the Saxons, a single warrior defended a bridge over the river Derwent, giving the rest of the Norse army time to arm themselves. (It was an exceptional hot day, so the Vikings did not wear their mails or hauberks, which was a heavy disadvantage when they where attacked by surprise.) It is said that that one man held the entire Saxon army back for over half an hour by defending that choke-point. He did not stop until a soldier with a pike swam under the bridge and stabbed him with from below. 

This painting is an interpretation of the battle by Peter Nicolai Arbo, painted in 1870.


January 5th 1066: Edward the Confessor died

On this day in 1066, the English king and penultimate Anglo-Saxon ruler, Edward the Confessor, died aged 62. Edward became king in 1042, after living in exile in Normandy for several years after the Danish invasion of 1013 unseated his father. Edward’s rule was relatively peaceful, but his favourtism in court fostered resentment in many of England’s noble houses. In particular, the king was beholden to Godwine, Earl of Wessex, and, despite disagreements between the two which led to Godwine’s brief exile, the childless Edward chose Godwine’s capable son, Harold Godwinson, as his successor. However, Edward’s death in 1066 sparked a successon crisis, as he had allegedly already promised the throne to a distant cousin, William, Duke of Normandy. William was not the only contender for the throne, and Godwinson’s brother Tostig pledged his support to Norwegian king Harald Hardrada, and together they planned to invade Northumbria. On September 25th, 1066, the English forces defeated the Norwegians at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Willam siezed the moment, and landed on the southern coast of England. On October 14th, the English and Norman forces met on the battlefield at Hastings, with Harold’s 5,000 weary Englishmen vastly outnumbered by the 15,000 Normans. King Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, died in the fray, and William the Conquerer was crowned king of England on Christmas Day. Edward, the first monarch buried at the new Westminster Abbey, is mostly remembered for his role in prompting the crisis which led to the Norman invasion of England. This association has partly tarnished his reputation, but it is worth noting that Edward, called the Confessor because of his piety, was canonised by Pope Alexander III in 1161.


The Battle of Stamford Bridge

25 September 1066

King Harold Godwinson led the English forces against the invading Norwegian forces of King Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, on this day in British history, 25 September 1066. Harold Godwinson emerged victorious from the bloody battle during which both Harald and Godwinson’s brother Tostig were killed. Despite his successful defeat of the Norwegian invaders, Harold’s victory was short-lived. Less than three weeks later he was defeated and killed by the invading Normans at the Battle of Hastings. The images above are (1) Battle of Stamford Bridge by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1870) and (2) a page from The Life of St. Edward the Confessor that depicts the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

1066 and all that.

Happy anniversary of the Battle of Stamford Bridge to my fellow Anglo-Saxon buddies. Enjoy your spear pie, or whatever is done to commemorate that Harold-on-Harold action. (Sounded dirtier than I meant.)

I need an easier-to-read book of A-S history than what I’ve got right now. But I also need to stop buying books that are going to have to be moved to a new location before I even get the chance to crack the cover.