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Sir the war is off for ethereds unreaday

Unfortunately for the king, treachery ruined his fleet. In addition, the king had strategically used tribute to buy time and orchestrate a national response after the defeat at Maldon, not as a solution in its own right. This behavior was not unique at the time. In reality, tributes were a proven way to stop immediate damage and organize a more effective military response.

However, just as with the fleet from , this assembly fell apart. Again, the Chronicle spares the king of any blame, naming three commanders who "were the first to set the example of flight. And yet many of the worst military aspects of the entire reign, as further chapters will discuss, are ascribed to local leaders, while the king's actions are noted as successful.

This was even present in the Rochester account, a military show of force simply attributed to "the king. Notably, the Chronicle places this detail immediately after the "great levies" incident that same year, when the three commanders had fled.

With a similarly-sized fleet of 94 ships, Olaf boldly sailed up the Thames and unleashed an "unceasing attack" on London, even setting it on fire. Finally, after much destruction, "the king and his councillors" offered Olaf 16, pounds worth of tribute to cease his destruction. This episode also has some parallels to Maldon. First, the kingdom's defenses, especially near fortified towns like Maldon and London, proved capable.

Even though the Londoners were successful and the English at Maldon were not, both seem to have inflicted serious damage on Olaf's forces. Second, the king again offered tribute only after military efforts had failed, not as a solution in its own right.

In return, Olaf promised never to attack the English again — a promise he kept. Olaf would spend the rest of his life fighting a bloodthirsty war of conversion and conquest in Scandinavia, tying up other Viking bands that may otherwise have been free to attack England. In and , there are no attacks recorded in England, implying that the king's new defenders were capable deterrents. The Raids Resume But Olaf and his rivals were not the only Norse leaders with their sights set on England, and more attacks are recorded in and , with widespread destruction recorded in Wales, Devon, and Cornwall.

It notes that many armies were assembled, but that the Vikings "always However, there are some reasons to suspect that despite these obvious failures, the situation was not nearly as dire as we are led to believe.

While the chronicler seems to describe a nation in crisis, other evidence from this time suggests that, in most places, life continued as usual. While it is possible that this is an oversight by the chronicler, he does mention the king in connection with military events from , , , , and frequently again from and after. The Chronicle seems to imply that the "host" of was one band that traveled along the southern coast, leaving the majority of the kingdom unaffected.

Historians have also seized on the wording of the Chronicle for , which says the raiders pillaged inland "until they came to Lydford," speculating that the Vikings were actually stopped at this point because Lydford was heavily fortified. It also falls in line with previous events where Vikings faced stiff opposition around the king's burhs or fortified towns.

The burh system dated back to the reign of Alfred , who used it to protect his people against the "Great Heathen Army. In regard to Lydford in particular, the Chronicle's wording is ambiguous enough that we can never be certain why the Vikings turned around. The earthworks and fortifications at Lydford almost certainly would have factored into the Vikings' decision, though, regardless of whether an actual battle or siege took place.

Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger likewise recognize that England may actually have been in a strong state during this era. Lacey and Danziger note that "if Ethelred Unraed Ian Howard, for example, is highly skeptical of the bleak picture painted by the chronicler from The Vikings left a trail of destruction across the southern coast, but the nation was not on the verge of collapse. Calling out the Army and Navy In , however, the king turned his attention back to military affairs. Vikings had faced off against local forces in Kent in "a sharp encounter," where even our dismissive chronicler concedes that the English fought well.

However, the naval fleet seems to have been poorly managed and plagued by delays, inefficiency, and irresolution. The king, by then in his early 30s, frequently and directly involved himself in the fighting. As noted in the previous chapter, England clearly had other priorities for much of the s and s, as evidenced by the king's law codes and the output of art and literature.

Perhaps by , it was becoming clear that the Vikings were no longer a nuisance to be dealt with locally but should be confronted directly by the king. He was not simply taking his anger out on bystanders; he was retaliating against his enemies, expanding his influence beyond traditional English borders, and proving himself willing to engage in violence.

His soldiers had occupied the Isle of Man, a region known for Norse cooperation, and devastated it by their presence while he personally oversaw the destruction of Strathclyde, its nearby ally. It is also worth noting that besides the punitive undertones, some historians have interpreted the Strathclyde and Isle of Man attacks as imperial expeditions.

This is interesting considering that the Chronicle places the Vikings there in With the attacks on Strathclyde, the Isle of Man, and Normandy, a clear pattern emerges: the king was punishing those who had funded or sheltered his enemies.

The Normans, Viking descendants themselves, clearly sympathized with their Norse relatives, and this had caused problems between the Normans and English before. Making peace with the king was far more beneficial, especially given his sudden increase in activity. The resulting marriage alliance was designed to please both sides. In that year, Viking hordes returned to England after their brief absence in Two accounts in the Chronicle tell of how the English fought back: one says that after the Vikings penetrated far inland, they were met by English soldiers in Hampshire, where 81 Englishmen were slain, including some of the king's own officials or "reeves".

Notably, the annalist again hints that the English fought well, saying that losses "on the Danish side were heavier, but they had possession of the place of slaughter. Instead, despite in all likelihood being outnumbered, they gave their lives to defend their land and inflicted great damage on their enemy.

In the same year, a Norse army besieged a fortress along the River Exe but was repelled by what the Chronicle calls "a solid and courageous resistance. Just like with Maldon in , London in , and possibly Lydford in , the king's system of burhs proved capable. The king's ego must have suffered a blow that same year, though, because he was betrayed by one of his regional leaders — a Norse mercenary and landowner named Pallig. That said, the desertion of Pallig seems to have bolstered the Viking host of , compounding a worsening situation for the English; the Norse raiders plundered the country at will until English forces caught them at Pinhoe.

The Vikings were victorious in the battle, however, and subsequently destroyed countless manors across the country. The Chronicle insists that from this point on, resistance collapsed, with the raiders plundering and terrorizing the region as they pleased.

Tribute and the St. Like before, this "protection money" had clearly not been the first solution: in alone, the English had defended their towns, been defeated at least twice, seen numerous royal officials killed, been betrayed by one of their protectors, and witnessed numerous estates destroyed before the king sued for peace. Maybe it seemed as though the raiders could not be bought off soon enough, especially in the areas directly affected, a sentiment that the annalist would echo in the coming years.

The king and his councilors had one last idea up their sleeves — one that was decidedly more desperate and sinister. The final act of this "burst of energy" was the St. He commanded this, the Chronicle says, because the Vikings were plotting to assassinate him. This order was probably only carried out in areas where Scandinavians were minorities, as much of "the Danelaw" was heavily populated with Norse descendants. Nonetheless, the massacre was carried out in some parts of the country, which the king himself confirms in a later charter.

As with Rochester, he readily admits his role in the act, but this time, there would be no repentance. Brice's Day Massacre represents one of the most dramatic events of the entire reign, but exactly who it was meant to punish remains unclear. For example, although popular culture often presents the massacre as flat-out genocide, scholars like Simon Keynes think that, given the events of , Viking mercenaries were actually the prime targets.

Brice's Day may have started as an attempt to punish treacherous mercenaries and snowballed into a killing of Danes in general, or perhaps both were originally the intended targets. However, if we peer deeper into this description of royal paranoia, there may be more hints. With regards to the assassination plot, the annalist may be referring to Norse leaders here, not commoners. In fact, the king only ventured into the north and the Danelaw a handful of times in his entire year reign.

Another clue that hints at military, rather than civilian targets, are recently-unearthed mass graves in Ridgeway Hill. Archaeologists found over 50 beheaded bodies in a grave there that dated from around the year Almost immediately, researchers speculated that these burial pits were connected with St. Brice's Day. If we take the Chronicle at its word, commoner and mercenary alike would have been fair game.

Since , the king had called out his national army four times and launched two foreign invasions affecting three regions. At the same time, local warriors engaged or fended off the Vikings repeatedly. Even St. The events of show a king who would use force to get his way, whether he used direct methods or underhanded ones.

It is unclear if this was an intentional policy or if local leaders were forced to respond by necessity. As mentioned earlier, pirate fleets could appear and disappear long before a national army could assemble — or even before word could reach the king, should he be stationed at the opposite end of the country. And beyond that, it is worth noting that Anglo-Saxon kings did not maintain standing armies on a permanent basis, so keeping national levies raised "just in case" would have been both expensive and extremely unpopular.

While the nucleus of late Saxon armies could include sworn, professional soldiers like the famed "housecarls" of Harold II , the vast majority of forces were made up of regular Anglo-Saxons who had to leave their farms and livelihoods to march. Despite recording some isolated victories, the annalist also writes of treachery, assassinations, and chaos among the English during these years. An even greater foe threatened from outside the realm: Sweyn Forkbeard, the king of Denmark, who first becomes prominent in the Chronicle during these years.

He would dominate the military landscape for a decade to come. King Sweyn Arrives Despite the tribute paid in , the Chronicle records more Viking attacks throughout , led by Sweyn Forkbeard. He had ruled Denmark since , when he overthrew his father, Harald Bluetooth.

Sweyn had also been King of Norway since the same year, except for a period from when Olaf Tryggvason usurped the throne during his bloody wars of conversion. Sweyn's motivation for invading England in may simply have been glory and riches, but other suggestions have been put forward. A common interpretation is that Sweyn's invasion was revenge for St. Sweyn's men sacked the city of Exeter in Rather than attribute the city's fall to Sweyn's might, the chronicler blames Exeter on a Frenchman named Hugh.

We only know that after the city was looted and destroyed, a regional army gathered to stop Sweyn's destruction. When Sweyn saw the low morale of the English army, surely weakened by the ealdorman's real or feigned illness, he burned down the village of Wilton. From on, this policy of avoidance on both sides would become more and more common.

In , Sweyn sacked Norwich, prompting a regional leader named Ulfcytel the Bold to confront him shortly after. Ulfcytel's men first attempted to destroy the Vikings' ships. After this failed, Ulfcytel's East Anglian army blocked Sweyn's men from returning to the shore. They collided in a fierce battle that seems to have been a success for the English.

Despite the deaths of many East Anglian nobles, no more raiding or pillaging is recorded for , and by , Sweyn was gone. The Chronicle, ever eager to portray the English leadership in a negative light, laments that the Vikings would have been completely destroyed if the army had been "at their full strength.

But even with the Vikings gone, there would be no rest for the English. The Scots began raiding in Northumbria, perhaps aware that with the Vikings gone it was their turn to exploit the weakened Anglo-Saxons. When this army, sent by Malcolm II of Scotland, marched south, it was met with indifference by local Saxon leaders.

However, it seems that no defense was forthcoming, so another local man took action: Uhtred, the son of a local lord. Uhtred's father, according to a text called De obsessione Dunelmi, 62 was too old to fight, so Uhtred stepped in and boldly confronted the intruding Scottish forces. His men routed the Scots, with local women paid to wash the heads of the Scots and put them on poles. De obsessione is an extremely valuable source, but it is problematic in one regard: it places these events in the year However, historians have managed to correct this error thanks to the details of another source, the Annals of Ulster, which records a Scottish raid into Northumbria in If the details of De obsessione are moved to , its main players are all in power.

Uhtred is willing to fight, so he is awarded all of Northumbria. The king had already proven himself willing to attack those whose allegiance was suspect, such as his raids on Rochester in or the wholesale killing of Danes in Keynes and Lavelle, for example, have little trouble believing that events unfolded this way.

Showing disloyalty or cowardice in the face of an enemy could be punished by death — and by the mutilation of kin. This was a king willing to depose and kill his regional leaders in order to find someone willing to lead an army. The Autumn Campaigns Despite the success of Uhtred in the north, the Chronicle reports that the Vikings returned by midsummer. The presence of both foreign and native armies caused hardship for the English, with the Chronicle noting that "neither the home levies nor the invading host did them any good!

The Vikings made their winter camp on the Isle of Wight, but soon ventured "more than fifty miles inland," destroying Wallingford. The Chronicle then records a battle between the Vikings and a local force from East Kennet, but the English were defeated; we are not told who led this local resistance.

Then the king made peace with the invaders, sending them tribute and provisions — as before, not as a solution, but only after military force had failed numerous times. The tribute payment, "distasteful as it [was]," had done its job. He tried a tactic he had used a decade and a half earlier by constructing a new navy. Now in his early 40s, the king again ordered the construction of a fleet with help from the entire nation. However, when the ships assembled at Sandwich that year, fickle nobles again ruined the king's plans.

A minor lord named Wulfnoth Cild "Child" was accused of treason and immediately fled with 20 of the king's ships. With ships now gone, "the effort of the whole nation" had been wasted. The Chronicle then grows dismissive, stating that the king and his leading men "went home" after the catastrophic turn of events. Although the fleet is sometimes misinterpreted as having been completely destroyed in the chaos, this was not the case.

Despite the stunning loss of vessels to infighting, the Chronicle notes that the remaining ships returned to London. If he had ever wondered if he and his kingdom were cursed, those thoughts may have been most prominent from onward. The king now had to turn his attention back to worldly matters and make do with what was left, and he seems to have made an effective job of it: stationing the remaining ships in London was a strategic move, not a despondent show of defeat.

London was the key to England, and notably was the assembly point for the previous fleet in The city had been repeatedly attacked or re-conquered over the previous centuries: the Chronicle alone records attacks in , , , and and would record them again later in , as well as in and Thanks to later sagas and traditions, Thorkell is now as much myth as man, so little is known about his exact historical background.

However, he seems to have been the leader of a fierce and semi-legendary order of fighters called the Jomsvikings; these professional soldiers supposedly lived by a strict code that forbade them from showing fear or fleeing from battle. Thorkell's men would torment the English for the next few years, kicking off their campaign by quickly subduing the English in Kent. The Chronicle reports that local leaders "made peace" with the raiders before too much damage could be done, paying them a tribute of 3, pounds.

Immediately following the fall of Kent, Thorkell's men occupied the Isle of Wight. If the army from had failed to find the Vikings, this one would be different. The Chronicle says that "the king surrounded them with all the levies when they were making for their ships. Perhaps they were simply loading their boats with treasure, but other possibilities are at least worth a mention: the raiders may have been reeling from an earlier, unrecorded defeat in this episode, but a more likely possibility is that they were pursuing a policy of avoidance once again.

It was probably well-advised to avoid the king's national army at all costs, instead plundering easier targets. Then Eadric Streona, who was by this time Ealdorman of Mercia, "prevented" the king from attacking. Again, note that the Chronicle does not blame the king — it actually gives him credit for trapping the Vikings — but a regional leader instead.

However, even if the Chronicle rushes to judge Eadric, there may have been very rational reasons for persuading the king not to attack. The most obvious is that the English may have been in a poor strategic position against a more skilled opponent. The annalist is quick to make Eadric Streona the scapegoat for nearly everything that goes wrong for the English from this point on — it almost seems like the chronicler paints Eadric as a double-agent, working craftily behind the scenes to undermine his own nation.

This is where it is important to remember that the chronicler's opinion was formed with the benefit of hindsight. Eadric's willingness to act as enforcer — as well as his low birth — made him, in reality, the king's greatest ally. Eadric, despite holding all of Mercia under his sway by , did not come from a notable family. Any thoughts that Eadric was actively trying to harm his king at this point are not just hasty, but completely implausible; with no family birthright to speak of, Eadric's very position and power depended on the continuing favor of the king.

That said, at Eadric's advice, the king did not engage the raiding army — but the Chronicle again has only given us a one-sided view of the event. As with earlier military campaigns, failure is ascribed to misfortune or foolishness on the English side. The Vikings are virtually never given credit for their successes, making it sound like their victories are caused solely by English mistakes.

That winter, the king's earlier foresight to send the fleet to London paid off. Thorkell's forces made frequent attacks on London at this time, but "always suffered heavy losses there. However, the Chronicle says that from that point on, the invaders specifically avoided London because "the levies" would oppose them there — presumably the king's same national army from earlier, as well as the ships.

Thorkell's Trail of Fire If had seen some mixed success on the part of the English, and would be different. The Chronicle records a dire situation throughout the country during these years. At this point, the more traditional view of a country on the verge of collapse finally begins to hold weight. Before , there had always been some form of effective resistance and retaliation — raids into the northwest, attacks on Normandy, strong stands by local leaders — but by Thorkell's host seems to have finally worn down the English.

In addition, while many of the previous Viking raids were small scale like those in the early s or only affected certain areas like the bands from the late s , Thorkell would soon occupy huge swaths of England. In early , after recuperating and making repairs on their ships, Thorkell's host sprung back into action.

According to the Chronicle, they heard that Ulfcytel — the same leader who had valiantly resisted Sweyn Forkbeard in — had raised an army. Thorkell rushed to confront him, no longer wishing to avoid the English forces. The two sides met in battle, but "the East Anglians soon took to flight," and many nobles fell during the fighting. Now in control of East Anglia, Thorkell spent the spring and summer burning and terrorizing the countryside, "slaying men and cattle, and burning through the fens.

The Chronicle notes, with obvious hyperbole, that "when the enemy was in the east, then our levies were mustered in the west; and when they were in the south, then our levies were in the north. Earlier in , men like Ulfcytel had raised levies and the Chronicle likewise implies that armies had been mustered throughout the summer and fall.

By the end of , though, the annalist comments that "no leader Then the king and his advisors "craved peace," offering Thorkell a tribute. The Chronicle goes on to criticize not the payment itself, but its timing, noting that "tribute was not offered them in time, but when they had done their worst. A common interpretation is that Thorkell felt remorseful for the savage way the archbishop had been killed, which had not been his intention. Another frequent interpretation is that Thorkell sensed he was losing control over his drunken soldiers; thus, he defected to the English with the core of his forces.

That said, it is also possible that the king simply made a good offer. With the tribute paid and most of the raiders on their way home, Thorkell would have had nothing substantial left to do. Fighting for the English would be a way to secure further payment and stay busy.

Thorkell was also the perfect man for the job — no Viking had conquered more of England to that point, and now he had not only been neutralized, but would be the king's own defender. Defending London After a year of peace, Thorkell's services were needed in August , when Sweyn returned. The northern English offered up no resistance. Uhtred and the Northumbrians quickly made peace with Sweyn, submitting to him, as did the people of Lindsey Lincolnshire.

This ripple effect carried through the rest of the kingdom, with Oxfordshire, the Five Boroughs, and even Winchester — the traditional heartland of the House of Wessex — submitting to Sweyn without a fight. Clearly he was not foolish or cowardly, as William of Malmesbury would concede years later. Fleeing was an option, especially with Thorkell's ships at his disposal. With his efforts thwarted, Sweyn left. He headed west and received formal submission from many English lords.

The Londoners finally gave in to Sweyn's persistence, submitting out of sheer fear, according to the Chronicle. Perhaps he spent these dangerous days in negotiation, as the Chronicle claims that both Sweyn and Thorkell demanded payment from him. He was not captured or harmed, however, so it seems likely that he secured some kind of agreement with Thorkell. Perhaps this is reading too much into our scant sources, but sometimes historians tend to forget that the names they study belonged to real, living people who had emotions as vivid and deep as ours.

While distant rulers often acted with political motivations, there is no reason to assume they did not also act out of emotion or sentimentality. He seems to have spent as long as possible in or near his former nation, whether it was borne from an empty sadness or one last, bitter show of defiance. It had been the longest tenure of any Saxon king of England. He took shelter at Richard II's court, joining Emma and his younger sons.

He had held his kingdom through three decades of Viking attack — and soon he would get a chance to redeem himself. His five-week reign is the shortest of any English monarch, allowing for the possible exception of Lady Jane Grey. He is the English equivalent of William Henry Harrison, the American whose day term as president has become a source of amusement, overshadowing a long and storied life.

Sweyn's young son Canute, probably no more than 20 years old, was then proclaimed king by the Viking fleet. He had been present with his father during the conquest, gaining valuable experience, and surely he assumed the kingdom was naturally his. In Wessex, however, the English witan — the councilors — decided to do something completely different.

Perhaps the witan had men like Eadric Streona in mind, the king's close ally who had orchestrated purges on his behalf. In more extreme cases, sons could leapfrog their already-crowned fathers or the kingdom could be formally divided among family members, with two legitimate kings. Aethelstan could afford to call himself "King of the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes". Unfortunately, this was still a time when personal loyalty to a successful warrior king counted more than anything else.

Dynasties were rare, and no realm was strong or stable independent of its leader. England was about to be saddled with a weak leader at just the wrong time. Ethelred the Unready The leader's name was Ethelred, and, in an unfortunate misunderstanding of an Anglo-Saxon pun, history has saddled him with the soubriquet, "The Unready". The original term for Ethelred was "un raed", which translates as "no council". It is possibly a play on his name, which is composed of the terms "aethel raed", or "noble council".

In any case he was not well thought of even during his own reign, when it was not good politics to directly criticize a king. One chronicler, writing a century later, called the king "eager and admirably fitted for sleeping. Ethelred came to the throne at the age of ten when his mother had his half-brother Edward murdered, and things went downhill from there. In the s a fresh wave of Danish raids began, and in the next decade, armies under Norwegian and Swedish kings did their ravaging bit.

London was attacked and survived, but the surrounding countryside was hit hard. In the fateful decision was made to buy off the raiders with a large payment. This payment, or Danegeld as it came to be known, set a dangerous precedent. Now the Danes knew that there was good money to be had just for showing up. And each time the payment got bigger, from 10, pounds in to a high of 82, pounds in The Danes, under Swein Forkbeard, were a constant threat.

In they became more than a threat. They sailed up the Trent and established a base at Gainsborough. From there Swein forced the submissions of first the north, then the southern kingdoms. Ethelred fled to Normandy, only to return the following year when Swein died.

Canute and Queen Emma Canute The trouble was that Swein had a son, named Canute or Cnut , who proved as difficult to deal with as his father. Canute defeated Ethelred, who improved matters by dying shortly thereafter. His son, Edmund "Ironside", for his battle prowess , carried on the scrap for a short time before he, too, died, perhaps assassinated by Canute. So the acclaimed new ruler of all England was a Dane who was also king of Denmark and Norway.

He did his best to keep the peace in his new kingdom by using English councillors and upholding the traditional laws and customs. He married Edmund's widow and allied himself closely with the Christian church. He tried to make loyalty to his person and loyalty to the Church one and the same.

When Canute died in , however, the same old dynastic squabbles broke out, with the eventual result that Edward, Ethelred's surviving son, was called back from exile in Normandy to rule.

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Also kann man es schaffen. ParaCrawl Corpus In , King Ethelred the Unready granted lands at a place referred to as Heantun to Lady Wulfrun by royal charter,[15] and hence founding the settlement. It was originally called Eremue, meaning "muddy estuary".

ParaCrawl Corpus In , Harthacanute asked his half-brother Edward the Confessor his mother Emma's son by Ethelred the Unready back from exile in Normandy to become a member of his household, and probably made Edward his heir. From here they attacked Kent and, in the year , took the city of Canterbury, making Archbishop Alphege their prisoner for seven months in their camp at Greenwich.

Von dort aus attackierten sie Kent und nahmen im Jahr Canterbury ein. ParaCrawl Corpus During the reign of Ethelred the Unready, the Danish fleet anchored in the River Thames off Greenwich for over three years, with the army being encamped on the hill above. From here they attacked Kent and, in the year , took the city of Canterbury, making Archbishop Alphege their prisoner for seven months in their camp at Greenwich, at that time within the county of Kent.

In some areas, such settlement was significant. In , Ethelred ordered the killing of all Danes in England on St. This act was truly the worst of both worlds: It could not have been carried out in those places where Danes lived in any great numbers, but it was executed in places where the Danes were few, and this inspired a desire for revenge.

Among those slain was a princess, Gunnhild; her brother was Sweyn, who had since become the King of Denmark, and he was determined to avenge her death. For the next several years, Danish attacks came heavily. Sweyn was proclaimed king in England, but died the following year, and Ethelred returned to his throne. The crises that consumed his reign were not of his making, although he did little to ameliorate them and sometimes did much to exacerbate them.

The real problem is that he lacked the firmness of purpose and the sense for selecting good advisors that characterized so many of his predecessors. As his challenges blossomed, he alternated between military action and the payment of tribute, gaining the benefits of neither while paying the price for both, all the while entrusting the execution of his plans to many who were unable or unwilling to play their appointed parts when the time came to act.

The decline of Anglo-Saxon England really began with his long reign. Sources: Cannon, John and Ralph Griffiths. Oxford, Fisher, D. The Anglo-Saxon Age: c. Whitlock, Ralph. The Warrior Kings of Saxon England. All rights reserved. Share this:.