October 26th 899: Alfred the Great dies

On this day in 899, Alfred the Great, king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, died in Winchester aged 50. Born in Wantage in 849, Alfred was the son of Aethelwulf, king of the West Saxons. During this period, the country was plauged by the threat of Viking raids, with the Danes capturing York in 867 and defeating all major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms bar Alfred’s Wessex. Prior to ascending to the throne, Alfred proved his military skill in victories against Danish forces. Alfred succeeded his brother as king in 871, and continued to wage war against invading Danes, despite being forced to retreat into the marshes of Somerset. In 878, in the wake of another victory for Alfred’s forces, the Danes accepted peace, and Alfred later negotiated a treaty dividing England and establishing the Danelaw territory in the north and east. Alfred thus successfully preserved Wessex, and expanded his own kingdom by gaining control of West Mercia and Kent. The treaty did not inaugurate total peace, however, and Alfred still had to contend with the threat of Danish attacks, leading him to reorganise Wessex’s defenses and establish a navy. Alfred is also renowned for his reforms of the justice system and education, especially in his efforts to boost literacy by translating important books from Latin to Anglo-Saxon. Upon his death in 899, Alfred was buried at his capital city of Winchester. His succesors continued Alfred’s efforts to liberate and unite Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, paving the way for the future unity of England. Alfred has the distinction of being the only English king refered to as ‘the Great’, a title earned through his reforms and his defense of the country against Vikings.

The Scandinavian element beyond the Danelaw

The Scandinavian element is present in English mainly due to the Viking invasions and later settlement of the Vikings in the British Isles. Hence, it has been usually assumed that the Scandinavian loanwords entered the English language in the areas where the number of Scandinavian settlers was the highest, i.e. the Danelaw, inhabited by the Danes and the northern counties (Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire) settled by the Norwegians. The present paper will present evidence that the Scandinavian loanwords not only were also common in the non-Scandinavian parts of England but in some cases occurred exclusively in the west and south of the country. Additionally, the evidence collected for the present study will be compared to the area of “the Great Scandinavian Belt” proposed by Samuels (1985), in order to check whether the distribution of the investigated items agrees with Samuels’ focal area.


Directed & Produced by Lauren Hatchard

‘9 10 AD’ is a short film that was commissioned by the Jorvik Viking Centre in York. The film was made to be screened on a giant screen at their 25th Anniversary Viking Festival, in which 2, 000 spectators arrived. 

The film tells the true story behind the battle of Woden’s Field in 910AD, which is the theme and story for the evening of the festival. At the festival the battle was re-enacted, along with a n 80 ft boat burning as a ceremonial funeral for the three dead kings Halfdan, Eowils and Ivar. 

New Lyric - Thundersbarrow Hill

New Lyric – Thundersbarrow Hill

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When Cerri and I did our deep ancestry DNA testwith the National Geographic’s GENO 2 program it really didn’t come as much of a surprise to me that I had a good chunk of Danish Viking in my genes. Tall, blonde hair, blue eyes, it was pretty obvious, but it was good to have it officially confirmed. Since then I’ve wanted to write a songs dedicated to the beliefs of my ancient Scandinavian…

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Random Fact #608

Despite the trope of the dirty, unwashed barbarian, the Vikings actually took great pride in personal hygiene - the Viking men in the Danelaw* were reported to take baths every Saturday, comb their hair, and frequently change their woolen undergarments.

We know this because there’s records written by this priest, John of Wallingford, who griped about how the Vikings in the Danelaw would do the aforementioned un-Christian, heathen activities in order to get themselves English noblewomen as mistresses (I guess it never occurred to him that women might simply prefer guys who don’t stink to high heaven).

* The Danelaw was an area of northern England (ish) where the Danes were in charge.