England’s Dark Ages: A Time Of Change

England's Dark Ages

England’s Dark Ages, also known as the Early Middle Ages, was a period that stretched from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Norman Conquest of 1066. This era in England’s history is referred to as the “Dark Ages” because of the limited written records that exist, making it difficult to piece together a clear picture of what life was like during this time. However, recent archaeological discoveries have shed new light on this fascinating period.

The end of Roman rule in England marked a significant shift in the country’s political, cultural, and social landscape. With the departure of the Roman army, the local populations were left to fend for themselves against invading Germanic tribes such as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. This period saw the rise of kingdoms, the formation of alliances and the fall of others, and the growth of Christianity as the dominant religion.

One of the most notable events of the Dark Ages was the arrival of the Vikings, who launched raids on England’s coastlines in the late 8th and 9th centuries. These attacks significantly impacted England, and the country was left in a state of turmoil as the various kingdoms struggled to defend themselves. This period of instability and insecurity led to the rise of powerful leaders who could provide protection and stability, such as Alfred the Great.

The Dark Ages also saw significant cultural changes. The arrival of the Vikings and other Germanic tribes brought new customs and beliefs, which blended with the existing Roman and Celtic traditions to form a unique cultural identity. This period saw the development of the Old English language and the growth of the Anglo-Saxon literary tradition, with epic poems such as Beowulf being written in the language.

The 10th and 11th centuries marked a time of relative peace and stability in England, as the country began recovering from the previous centuries’ invasions. The Norman Conquest of 1066 marked the end of the Dark Ages and the beginning of a new era in England’s history. This event saw the Norman duke William the Conqueror take control of England, marking the beginning of Norman rule and the establishment of the feudal system.

Despite its name, the Dark Ages was a time of immense change and growth in England. From the political and cultural upheaval of the end of Roman rule to the arrival of the Vikings and the Norman Conquest, this era was marked by significant events that shaped the country’s future. Today, England’s Dark Ages remain a fascinating subject for historians and archaeologists, who continue to uncover new information about this fascinating period of history.


The Angles settled in the areas along the North Sea and Humber coast, particularly in the region of Holderness

The Angles were one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to England in the 5th and 6th centuries. They established their settlements in the areas along the North Sea and Humber coast, particularly in the region of Holderness. This area was desirable for settlement due to its fertile soil, abundant resources, and easy access to waterways, which allowed for trade and communication with other regions.


Cerdic founds the Kingdom of Wessex
Cerdic of Wessex

Cerdic of Wessex

501-519: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that Cerdic and his son Cynric landed in Cerdicesora in 495. However, historians consider this account unreliable due to repeated entries in the Chronicle and evidence that the Jutes were the first to occupy the area. Another source lists Cynric as the son of Creoda, who was the son of Cerdic. In 508, Cerdic and Cynric defeated British King Natanleod and his army of five thousand men. The validity of Natanleod as a historical figure has been questioned. In 519, Cerdic became the first king of Wessex.


Foundation of Kingdom of Essex
A map of the county of Essex

A map of the county of Essex

The Kingdom of Essex was founded in the 6th century and covered the territory later occupied by the counties of Essex, Middlesex, much of Hertfordshire, and west Kent. It was bordered by the River Stour and the Kingdom of East Anglia to the north, the River Thames and Kent to the south, the North Sea to the east, and Mercia to the west. The territory comprised the ruins of Colchester and London, two provincial Roman cities. The history of the kingdom of Essex, which was part of the Heptarchy, is unknown due to a lack of written records. There are only a few Anglo-Saxon charters and no chronicle that mentions the kingdom. This obscurity is why the kingdom is considered less well-known. During most of its existence, the king of Essex was under the authority of an overlord, either the kings of Kent, East Anglia, or Mercia.


Volcanic eruptions, widespread famine and the bubonic plague


536-549: The Angelo-Savon Chronicle describes a 'dust veil, event caused by volcanic eruptions, that scientists link to a volcanic eruption in Iceland in 536, and again in 540 and 547. The consequences included crop failure, famine, and followed by the bubonic plague.

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Gildas finishes his historical account of Britain after the Roman period entitled "On the Destruction of Britain."
Statue of Saint-Gildas

Statue of Saint-Gildas

Gildas, a 6th-century British monk, was widely known by his moniker, "Gildas the Wise" or "Gildas Sapiens." He was widely renowned for his religious criticism in his work, "De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae," which details the history of the Britons before and during the arrival of the Saxons. He is considered one of the most notable figures in the Christian church in Britain during the sub-Roman period, credited for his vast knowledge of the Bible and exceptional writing style. In his later years, he relocated to Brittany and established a monastery, which was named St Gildas de Rhuys.


Foundation of the Kingdom of East Anglia
A section from William Shepherd's physical map of Britain

A section from William Shepherd's physical map of Britain

The Kingdom of East Anglia was founded in the early to mid-6th century, with Wehha recognized as its first ruler of the East Angles, followed by Wuffa. According to regnal records, Wuffa passed away in 578, marking the start of Raedwald's rule.


Battle of Deorham: Ceawlin of Wessex captures Gloucester, Cirencester and Bath from the British, expanding his kingdom to the west

The Battle of Deorham, also known as Dyrham, which took place in 577, is considered a major conflict between the West Saxons and the West Country Britons. The battle ended with the Wessex forces, led by Ceawlin and his son Cuthwine, capturing the Brythonic towns of Gloucester (Glevum), Cirencester (Corinium Dobunnorum), and Bath (Aquae Sulis). This event marked the permanent cultural and ethnic separation of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall) from Wales.


Foundation of the Kingdom of Mercia
The Kingdom of Mercia

The Kingdom of Mercia

Mercia was one of the three significant kingdoms established by the Anglo-Saxons in the aftermath of the collapse of Sub-Roman Britain, during a period referred to as the Heptarchy. This kingdom was situated in the area around the Trent River and its branches, which is now referred to as the Midlands in England.


Augustine leads a papal mission to Britain
Historiated initial, portrait of St Gregory

Historiated initial, portrait of St Gregory

The first Archbishop of Canterbury, Augustine, lived in the early 6th century and is believed to have passed away on May 26, 604. He was a monk who was considered the "Apostle to the English" and was instrumental in founding the English Church. Before his appointment as Archbishop, Augustine served as the prior of a monastery in Rome. In 595, Pope Gregory the Great selected him to lead a mission, commonly referred to as the Gregorian mission, to Britain to convert King Æthelberht and his Kingdom of Kent from Anglo-Saxon paganism to Christianity.


600-660: Repton Abbey founded
Cropped version of File:Repton Church

Cropped version of File:Repton Church

The Repton Abbey was a Benedictine double monastery in Derbyshire, England that dates back to the 7th century. This community was composed of both male monks and female nuns. It is notable for its links to saints and royalty from Mercia, as two of the thirty-seven Mercian Kings were interred in the abbey's crypt. Unfortunately, the abbey was deserted in 873 after Repton was invaded by the Great Heathen Army.


King Æthelfrith of Northumbria defeats Powys at the Battle of Chester

The Battle of Chester was a crucial Anglo-Saxon victory over the Britons in the early 7th century. Thelfrith of Northumbria defeated a coalition of forces from Powys, Rhôs, and possibly Mercia. Welsh leaders Selyf Sarffgadau and Cadwal Crysban died and there's circumstantial evidence that King Iago of Gwynedd may have also been killed. The battle is believed to have taken place between 605 and 613 AD.


Battle of the River Idle

King Rædwald of East Anglia kills Æthelfrith of Northumbria, and conquers the Kingdom of Elmet


Battle of Cirencester: King Penda of Mercia defeats Wessex and captures lands along the River Severn

In 628, a battle was waged at Cirencester in present-day England between the Mercian army led by King Penda and the Gewisse, predecessors of the West Saxons, commanded by Kings Cynegils and Cwichelm. The Mercians emerged victorious, as recorded by Bede, and reached a treaty that gave them control of the Severn valley and the minor kingdom of Hwicce, which had been dominated by the Gewisse since the Battle of Dyrham in 577.


Battle of Hatfield Chase: Mercia attack and defeat Northumbria
Saint King Edwin of Northumbria, St Mary, Sledmere, East Riding of Yorkshire, England.

Saint King Edwin of Northumbria, St Mary, Sledmere, East Riding of Yorkshire, England.

The Battle of Hatfield Chase, known in Old English as Hæðfeld and in Old Welsh as Meigen, took place on October 12, 633 in the area of Hatfield Chase near Doncaster, which is now part of South Yorkshire, England. Northumbria, led by Edwin, faced an alliance of Gwynedd and Mercia, commanded by Cadwallon ap Cadfan and Penda. The battle was fought on a marshy ground located approximately 8 miles northeast of Doncaster, on the south bank of the River Don. Gwynedd and Mercia emerged as the victors, resulting in the death of Edwin and the defeat of Northumbria's army, causing a temporary downfall of the Northumbrian kingdom.


Battle of Heavenfield: Northumbrian force defeats Welsh army
Cross at Heavenfield

Cross at Heavenfield

The conflict at Heavenfield took place either in 633 or 634 and involved a Northumbrian force led by Oswald of Bernicia and a Welsh force commanded by Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd. The outcome was a resounding victory for the Northumbrians. The Annales Cambriae (Welsh Annals) documented the battle as Bellum Cantscaul in 631. The historian Bede referred to it as the Battle of Deniseburna near Hefenfelth.


Battle of Maserfield: King Penda of Mercia kills Oswald of Northumbria and divides his realm
A twelfth century painting of St Oswald in Durham Cathedral.

A twelfth century painting of St Oswald in Durham Cathedral.

The conflict known as the Battle of Maserfield occurred on August 5, 641 or 642. It was a showdown between the Anglo-Saxon ruler Oswald of Northumbria and Penda of Mercia, who was joined by the Welsh Kingdom of Gwynedd. The battle resulted in Oswald's defeat, death, and being torn apart.


Battle of Bulcamp: King Anna of East Anglia is killed by Penda of Mercia

King Anna of East Anglia is killed by Penda of Mercia and succeeded by his brother Æthelhere of East Anglia


Battle of the Winwaed: King Oswiu of Bernicia kills King Penda of Mercia
Stained glass window in the cloister of Worcester Cathedral representing the death of Penda of Mercia

Stained glass window in the cloister of Worcester Cathedral representing the death of Penda of Mercia

On November 15th, 655, King Penda of Mercia and Oswiu of Bernicia engaged in the Battle of the Winwaed (also known as Maes Gai in Welsh and Strages Gai Campi in Medieval Latin). The outcome resulted in the defeat of Mercia and the death of King Penda. As described by Bede, this battle signified the final downfall of Anglo-Saxon paganism.


Battle of Peonnum: King Cenwalh of Wessex conquers Dorset and Somerset

The Battle of Peonnum took place around AD 660 and was between the West Saxons led by Cenwalh and the Britons residing in present-day Somerset in England. The Saxons emerged as the victors, securing control over Somerset up to the River Parrett. However, the exact location of the battle remains unknown.


Battle of Dun Nechtain: Picts kill Ecgfrith of Northumbria near Dunnichen in Scotland, ending Saxon rule north of the River Forth
Pictish stone in the churchyard at Aberlemno Parish Church

Pictish stone in the churchyard at Aberlemno Parish Church

The conflict known as the Battle of Dun Nechtain or Nechtansmere (Blàr Dhùn Neachdain in Scottish Gaelic, Dún Nechtain in Old Irish, Gueith Linn Garan in Old Welsh, Gwaith Llyn Garan in Modern Welsh, and Nechtansmere in Old English) took place on May 20, 685, with King Bridei Mac Bili leading the Picts against King Ecgfrith and the Northumbrians.


The 'Codex Amiatinus', the earliest surviving complete manuscript of the Vulgate is given to the Pope
Maiestas Domini page from Codex Amiatinus (fol. 796v), Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Maiestas Domini page from Codex Amiatinus (fol. 796v), Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

The Codex Amiatinus, also referred to as the Jarrow Codex, is a highly revered manuscript that has been deemed the best-preserved copy of the Latin Vulgate version of the Christian Bible. This manuscript was crafted during the year 700 at the Benedictine monastery of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, which is now known as South Tyneside. It was created as one of the three giant single-volume Bibles that were produced at the aforementioned monastery, and is the earliest complete one-volume Latin Bible that has managed to survive to this day. The only older Bible is the León palimpsest, and the Codex Amiatinus is the oldest Bible that contains all the books of the Bible with their respective Vulgate texts.

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Bede completes his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
Page from Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Page from Ecclesiastical History of the English People

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, also known as Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum in Latin, is a significant historical text that was written by Bede around the year AD 731. It delves into the history of the Christian Churches in England and the broader history of England itself, with a focus on the clashes between the Roman Rite and Celtic Christianity. This work was composed in the Latin language and is believed to have been completed when Bede was 59 years of age. It is considered one of the most valuable primary sources on Anglo-Saxon history and has had a tremendous impact on shaping the national identity of England.

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Reign of Cuthred, King of Wessex

Cuthred, also known as Cuþræd, ruled as the King of Wessex from approximately 740 to 756, ascending to the throne after Æthelheard, who was possibly his brother. His reign coincided with a dominant Mercia, and in the initial years, conflicts between the two kingdoms were frequent. Æthelbald of Mercia, Wessex's overlord, compelled Cuthred to join forces in battling the Welsh in 743, though this alliance was short-lived.

Battle of Beorhford: Cuthred of Wessex defeats Æthelbald of Mercia at Battle Edge, Burford, Oxfordshire

The Battle of Beorhford was a significant event in the history of England that took place in 752. It was fought between Cuthred of Wessex and Æthelbald of Mercia and took place at Battle Edge in Burford, Oxfordshire. Cuthred, who was assisted by the now-faithful Æthelhun, led a successful rebellion against Æthelbald and secured independence for Wessex from Mercia for the rest of his reign. This battle was a turning point in the history of England and marked the beginning of a new era. According to historical records, Cuthred also fought against the Cornish in 753.


Offa becomes King of Mercia
Another coin of Offa

A coin of Offa

Offa, who reigned until his death in 796 AD, was the King of Mercia in Anglo-Saxon England. He came to power after a period of civil strife following the assassination of Æthelbald, defeating rival claimant Beornred. Initially, Offa consolidated his rule over Midland peoples, like the Hwicce and Magonsæte, and expanded into Kent and Sussex by 771.

In the 780s, Offa's dominance grew significantly. He extended his control over much of southern England, forming an alliance with Beorhtric of Wessex through his daughter's marriage. Offa also ruled over East Anglia, where he had King Æthelberht II executed in 794, likely in response to a rebellion. His reign marked an era of territorial expansion and political maneuvering, solidifying his position as a key figure in Anglo-Saxon history.

Battle of Eildon: King Æthelwald Moll of Northumbria defeats and kills a rival, Oswine, in a 3-day battle in Scotland

The Battle of Hereford took place in the year 760 in the location of Hereford, which is currently located in Herefordshire, England. The battle was a result of the long-standing animosity between the Welsh Kingdoms of Brycheiniog, Gwent and Powys and the rulers Æthelbald of Mercia and Coenred of Wessex. The confrontation involved the military forces of Mercia and the Welsh. According to reports, the Welsh emerged as the victors, successfully defeating the Mercian army and freeing themselves from the control of the Anglo-Saxons.


Battle of Otford: Kent expels the Mercians

The Battle of Otford was a conflict that occurred in the year 776, between the forces of the Mercians, led by King Offa of Mercia, and the Jutes of Kent. The battle took place in the town of Otford, which is located in modern-day Kent, England. At this time, Kent was experiencing difficulties in maintaining its independence from the increasing influence and power of Mercia. The kings of Kent were resisting the efforts to reduce their status to that of subkings during the 770s.


Norse activity in the British Isles: Viking raid on England, at Portland.

During the last ten years of the 800s, a group of warriors known as the Vikings carried out raids on multiple Christian monasteries located in northern Britain. In the following three centuries, these raids transformed into full-scale invasions, leading to the establishment of Viking settlements in various parts of the region. The most notable areas of settlement were in eastern Britain, Ireland, the islands situated to the north and west of Scotland, and the Isle of Man.


Viking raid on a monastery in Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne Castle on Holy island

Lindisfarne Castle on Holy island

In 793, a Viking assault on Lindisfarne stirred great apprehension across Christian Western Europe and is commonly regarded as the commencement of the Viking Age. While there had been earlier Viking incursions, this event held particular importance, as per English Heritage, due to its targeting of the revered core of the Northumbrian realm, defiling the "very site where Christianity first took root in our nation."

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King Æthelberht II of East Anglia is beheaded on the order of King Offa of Mercia at Sutton Walls, Herefordshire
Part of a window in St Ethelbert's parish church, Alby, Norfolk

Part of a window in St Ethelbert's parish church, Alby, Norfolk

Æthelberht, also referred to as Saint Ethelbert the King, lived in the 8th century and was a revered saint and a ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia. This kingdom consisted of the present-day English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. Information about his rule is limited, but it is believed to have started in 779 according to later historical records. Unfortunately, very few coins that he is believed to have issued have been found. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that his life was brought to an end in 794 on the orders of Offa of Mercia.


Battle of Ellendun: Ecgberht, King of Wessex, defeats the Mercians under Beornwulf
The Battle of Ellandun (825), from 'Story of the British Nations' by Walter Hutchinson

The Battle of Ellandun (825), from 'Story of the British Nations' by Walter Hutchinson

The Battle of Ellendun or Wroughton was a major conflict that took place in September 825 between Ecgberht of Wessex and Beornwulf of Mercia. The renowned historian Sir Frank Stenton referred to this battle as one of the defining moments in English history, due to its significant impact. The outcome of the battle effectively put an end to Mercian dominance over the southern kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, and established West Saxon authority in the south.

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Nennius completes his Historia Brittonum

The Historia Brittonum, also known in Latin as the "Historia Brittonum," is said to be a historical account of the native British (Brittonic) people. It was believed to have been written around the year 828 and has undergone multiple revisions since the 11th century. Despite this, the work is often credited to a figure known as Nennius, as there are certain versions of the text that contain a preface written in his name. However, there is controversy surrounding the authenticity of this attribution, with some scholars contending that the Nennian preface was added much later and that the work was, in fact, created by an unknown author.


Battle of Hingston Down: Ecgberht of Wessex defeats combined Danish Viking and Cornish armies

The Battle of Hingston Down, believed to have occurred at Hingston Down in Cornwall, was a military conflict that took place in the year 838. On one side stood a coalition of Cornish and Viking forces, while on the other side was the West Saxons led by King Ecgberht of Wessex. The outcome of the battle was a triumph for the West Saxons.


Vikings raid the south and east coasts, including the Kingdom of Lindsey

The Kingdom of Lindsey, also known as Linnuis, was a smaller Anglo-Saxon kingdom that was eventually incorporated into Northumbria during the 7th century. The name Lindsey originated from the Old English term Lindesege, which translates to "Isle of Lind". The settlement that is now the City of Lincoln in Lincolnshire was referred to as Lindum Colonia by the Romans. This name was then shortened in Old English to Lindocolina and later to Lincylene. Lindum was a Latin form of a Brittonic name, which has been reconstructed as *Lindon, meaning "pool" or "lake". This is similar to the modern Welsh word llyn.


Vikings raid London, Rochester, and Southampton
Rochester Castle in Kent, England engraved by H. Adlard after G.F. Sargent circa 1836

Rochester Castle in Kent, England engraved by H. Adlard after G.F. Sargent circa 1836

For a number of years, Rochester was a beloved destination of Charles Dickens, who had a home in the nearby area of Gads Hill Place, Higham. Many of his popular novels were inspired by the unique characteristics and features of Rochester. The Diocese of Rochester, which is the second oldest in all of England, is centered around the grand Rochester Cathedral. It is responsible for the establishment of The King's School, which was founded in 604 AD and is widely recognized as the second oldest continuously running school in the world. Rochester Castle, built by Bishop Gundulf of Rochester, boasts one of the most well-preserved keeps in either England or France. During the First Barons' War that took place during King John's reign, baronial forces captured the castle from Archbishop Stephen Langton and held it against the king's army, who then attempted to recapture it through siege.


Kentish ships defeat Vikings off Sandwich in the first recorded naval battle in English history

Despite the scarcity of archaeological findings of the Vikings in Kent, historical texts reveal a multitude of raids conducted by them in the area. One of the most significant of these raids occurred on Sheppey in 835. However, these attacks had been ongoing for several decades prior, with the earliest recorded instances of Danish presence in Kent dating back to the 750s.

Thomas of Elmham, a monk at the Abbey of St. Augustines in the 1400s, documented in his records the looting of the Minster nunnery in Thanet by the Vikings in 753. These records serve as testament to the long-standing impact and presence of the Vikings in Kent, despite the limited physical evidence that remains today.


The Great Heathen Army of Viking invaders lands in East Anglia
Based on Stenton 'Anglo-Saxon England' chapter 8 and Hill ' An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England

Based on Stenton 'Anglo-Saxon England' chapter 8 and Hill ' An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England

The Great Heathen Army, which is also referred to as the Viking Great Army, was a massive alliance of Scandinavian warriors who embarked on a conquest mission to invade England in the year AD 865. This powerful army of warriors was the result of a long history of raids that had been conducted by the Vikings on wealthy centers such as monasteries. The Viking raids started as early as the late 8th century and aimed to steal wealth and resources. However, the Great Heathen Army was a different story altogether. It was a well-organized and massive army that was determined to conquer and occupy the four kingdoms of East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex. The aim of this army was to establish a powerful foothold in England and to demonstrate their military might.

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Vikings led by Ivar the Boneless capture York

Ivar the Boneless, also known as Ivar Ragnarsson, was a notorious Viking leader who carried out invasions in England and Ireland. The identity of Ivar's parentage is shrouded in mystery and is often referred to in the Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok as the son of Ragnar Loðbrok and Aslaug, with brothers Björn Ironside, Hvitserk, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubba. However, this information cannot be verified with historical accuracy. It is believed that Ivar is the same person as Ímar, who ruled as a Viking king in Dublin from 870-873.

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Vikings defeat Northumbrians, killing their kings Osberht and Ælla, in battle at York and install a puppet ruler, Ecgberht

Symeon's Historia Regum Anglorum provides a detailed account of the battle that took place on March 21st, 867, in which Osberht and Ælla were both killed by the Vikings. Prior to the invasion, the Northumbrian kingdom was in turmoil, having expelled its rightful king, Osbryht, and replacing him with a tyrant named Alla.

However, when the pagans arrived, the disunity was temporarily suppressed with the help of the nobles and divine guidance. King Osbryht and Alla joined forces and assembled an army, eventually making their way to York. The arrival of the Christians prompted the Viking shipmen to retreat, and the Christians saw their advantage and engaged in a fierce battle. In the end, both Osbryht and Alla were killed, and the survivors made peace with the Danes.


Vikings conquer East Anglia, killing King Edmund the Martyr
Edmund being martyred

Edmund being martyred

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of historical accounts, mentions that Edmund was killed in 869 by the Great Heathen Army, which had invaded East Anglia. However, medieval versions of Edmund's life and death differ greatly. Some suggest that he died in battle while fighting the Great Heathen Army, while others claim that he was captured and then executed after refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs, as demanded by the Viking leaders.


The Great Heathen Army march out after the Saxons
A depiction of Alfred the Great

A depiction of Alfred the Great

The Great Heathen Army led by Danish Viking kings Halfdan and Bagsecg marched after the English who retreated onto the Berkshire Downs. Six battles were fought between the Vikings and Wessex. King Æthelred I and his brother Alfred were defeated at the Battle of Reading, Battle of Basing, and Battle of Meretum, forcing them to retreat and regroup. Æthelred died in April and was succeeded by Alfred, who was defeated at the Battle of Wilton and had to make peace with the Vikings by paying Danegeld. The Vikings withdrew from Reading and went to raid Lundenwic and overwinter there. They went on to colonize parts of England which later became known as the Danelaw.

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The Great Heathen Army returns to Northumbria, to put down a rebellion at York

The Great Heathen Army returns to Northumbria to quash a rebellion, leading to the expulsion of King Ecgberht I and his archbishop. The Vikings, led by Halfdan Ragnarsson and Guthrum, establish a winter base in Lindsey and King Burgred of Mercia pays tribute to them.

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Vikings returns to Northumbria and Mercia

The Vikings return to Northumbria in the spring and then return to Mercia in the autumn, setting up winter quarters at Repton and abandoning Repton Abbey.


Vikings invades Alfred's Territory

The Monks of Lindisfarne evacuate with Saint Cuthbert's body and settle at Chester-le-Street. King Donyarth of Cornwall drowns. The Vikings, led by Guthrum, invade Alfred's territory around the same time.


Vikings establish the Kingdom of York
Based on Stenton 'Anglo-Saxon England' chapter 8 and Hill ' An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England' pp. 40-41

Based on Stenton 'Anglo-Saxon England' chapter 8 and Hill ' An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England' pp. 40-41

In the late 9th century, the Vikings led by Guthrum successfully captured Wareham, but were later forced to retreat after a siege by King Alfred. The Vikings also captured southern Northumbria and established the Kingdom of York, possibly under the rule of Halfdan Ragnarsson.


Vikings capture Exeter

Vikings capture Exeter but were driven out by Alfred, and settled in the Five Boroughs. Saxon invaders kill Rhodri the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, and his son (or brother) Gwriad.


Treaty of Wedmore
King Alfred the Great sponsoring Guthrum

Donaldson, Andrew Benjamin; King Alfred and the Danes; Winchester City Council's Topographical Art Collection

The Treaty of Wedmore was signed in the ninth century by King Alfred the Great of Wessex and Guthrum the Old. The pact is mentioned in the biography of Alfred by the Welsh monk Asser, Vita lfredi regis Angul Saxonum, also known as "The Life of Alfred." Asser describes how Guthrum agreed to a peace treaty with Alfred after losing the Battle of Edington and capitulating a few days later. Guthrum was required to undergo baptism in order to ratify the agreement and be permitted to rule more lawfully over his Christian vassals while remaining a heathen over his pagan vassals. Guthrum and his army were also scheduled to depart from Wessex.

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Edward, son of Alfred the Great defeats Vikings
Miniature of Edward the Elder in a 14th century royal genealogy.

Miniature of Edward the Elder in a 14th century royal genealogy.

Edward, the son of King Alfred the Great, defeats invading Danish Vikings at Farnham and forces them to take refuge on Thorney Island by London. A combined Welsh and Mercian army under Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians besieges a Viking camp at Buttington over the Welsh border. The Vikings escape with heavy losses and take their families to safety in East Anglia.


Alfred the Great Dies
 Portrait of Alfred the Great by Samuel Woodforde

Portrait of Alfred the Great by Samuel Woodforde

Alfred the Great was the King of the West Saxons and later the Anglo-Saxons from 871 to 899. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf and Osburh and introduced significant administrative and military reforms during his rule.

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Earl Byrhtnoth and his thegns led the English against a Viking invasion in the Battle of Maldon in Essex

On August 11, 991 AD, the Battle of Maldon unfolded near the River Blackwater in Essex, England, during the reign of Æthelred the Unready. Earl Byrhtnoth and his thegns led the English forces in a confrontation with Viking invaders, ultimately resulting in an Anglo-Saxon loss.

Cnut the Great of Denmark becomes king of all England
14th-century portrait of Cnut the Great

14th-century portrait of Cnut the Great

Cnut was born around 990 and passed away on November 12, 1035. He is also renowned as Cnut the Great and Canute. He held the title of King of England starting in 1016, became King of Denmark in 1018, and ascended to the throne as King of Norway in 1028, remaining in power until his death in 1035. The amalgamation of these three kingdoms under Cnut's rule is collectively known as the North Sea Empire.

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Edward the Confessor becomes king of all England
Edward the Confessor, enthroned, opening scene of the Bayeux Tapestry

Edward the Confessor, enthroned, opening scene of the Bayeux Tapestry

Edward the Confessor (approximately 1003 – January 5, 1066) was an Anglo-Saxon monarch and a recognized saint in English history. Traditionally regarded as the final ruler of the House of Wessex, he held the throne from 1042 until his passing in 1066.

The Great Schism
Bible handwritten, displayed in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England

Bible handwritten, displayed in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England

The East–West Schism, alternatively referred to as the Great Schism or the Schism of 1054, represents the enduring rupture of communication between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox denominations that has persisted since the year 1054.

Battle of Fulford: English forces were defeated by Norse invaders in northeastern England.
The Battle of Fulford by Matthew Paris

The Battle of Fulford by Matthew Paris

The Battle of Fulford occurred on the fringes of the village of Fulford, situated to the south of York, England, on September 20, 1066. During this confrontation, King Harald III of Norway, renowned as Harald Hardrada, along with his English confederate Tostig Godwinson, engaged and emerged victorious against the Northern Earls Edwin and Morcar.

Battle of Stamford Bridge: The remaining Norse defeated by King Harold Godwinson
Battle of Stamford Bridge

Battle of Stamford Bridge

The Battle of Stamford Bridge transpired in the village of Stamford Bridge, located in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, on September 25, 1066. This engagement pitted an English army commanded by King Harold Godwinson against an invading Norwegian contingent led by King Harald Hardrada and the English king's sibling, Tostig Godwinson.

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Battle of Hastings: England's remaining forces defeated by invaders from Normandy, known as the Norman Conquest; William the Conqueror crowned king of England
Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 51 (partielle) : la bataille d'Hastings, chevaliers et archers normands.

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 51 (partielle) : la bataille d'Hastings, chevaliers et archers normands.

The Battle of Hastings, which unfolded on October 14, 1066, marked a significant clash between the Norman-French forces led by William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army commanded by the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson. This pivotal confrontation marked the commencement of the Norman Conquest of England and occurred in the vicinity of Battle, East Sussex, situated approximately 11 kilometers to the northwest of Hastings. Ultimately, it culminated in a resounding victory for the Normans.

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