even though trouble remained, a period of
English success began.
Alfred died in 899 and was succeeded by his son, Edward the Elder, who
'made everyone who lived south of the Humber and east of the Welsh recognize
him as king.'
did have a somewhat slow start, though. One of his cousins, who had been
passed over for the succession of the throne, formed a coalition with
the Vikings which gave the new king quite some trouble within the first
years. In 910, however, 'he gained a decisive victory over an army of
Northumbrian Vikings....at Tettenhal in Staffordshire. This deprived the
Vikings settled in eastern England of allies.'
His victorious run had begun. In 915, 'Edward built a new burh at Buckingham,
and this led within months to the submission of the Vikings of Bedfordshire
A year later, Essex followed and a permanent garrison was established
at Maldon. In January 918, only four Danish armies were left south of
the Humber, based at Leicester, Stamford, Nottingham and Lincoln. And
Edward was not their sole problem: 'The Anglo-Danes of Northumbria, under
threat from Norse invaders from their Irish base (it was by no means the
case that all Scandinavians loved one another), offered to make common
cause with Æthelflæd of the Mercians, whose death in June
ruined the project.'
At this time, Nottingham and Lincoln were the only bases left of the English
Vikings. '...and they had both submitted before Edward's death in 924.'
But as I said before: borders were fickle things in those days. In 919,
York was once more reconquered, this time by Norse Vikings from Dublin,
who once more established a northern kingdom there. '...the Dublin - York
axis was again in being; the Vikings held Northumbria and Mercians must
have feared that they would again be reduced to misery.'
Edward made good use of this crisis and secured direct rule over Mercia
for himself by taking it from his niece Ælfwynn, who had just succeeded
her mother as Lady of Mercia.
Edward died, his eldest son succeeded him. Due to some opposition, though,
he was crowned a year after Edward's death. In 926, Æthelstan gave
his sister in marriage to the Norse king of York, Sihtric. When Sihtric
died the following year, his son by first marriage, Olaf, was supported
by Guthfrith, the king of Norse Dublin, who was the heir's uncle. Æthelstan,
however, had other plans. 'He utterly defeated the two Vikings in a short
but effective campaign. He seized York and razed its fortifications, an
indication that he still regarded it as a possible centre of trouble.'
A short period of peace followed, but in 934 'war broke out between what
we must now call the English and the Scots. There was no pitched battle,
but Æthelstan humiliated the Scottish king by harrying his kingdom
both by land and sea. In 937, realizing that Æthelstan was too powerful
for any other single island ruler to tackle, the Dublin Norse allied with
Strathclyde and Scotland and invaded England. The campaign reached its
climax in the great battle of Brunanburh which the English won.'
died in 939 and was succeeded by his brother Edmund. And Viking terror did
not wait long. Olaf Guthrithson, king of Dublin, attacked England and 'reconstituted
the united kingdom of Dublin and York without difficulty' in the same year.
'In 940 Olaf invaded Mercia and East Anglia, the archbishops of York and Canterbury
mediated, and Edmund surrendered much of the south-east Midlands and Lincolnshire.
Olaf died soon after in 942, and Edmund recovered the territories south of
the Humber and eventually drove the Norsemen out of the city of York himself.'
was murdered in 946, and since his two sons were too young, his brother Eadred
ascended the throne. His northern problems took the form of Eric Bloodaxe,
'a former king in Norway noted for his bloodthirsty ways', who 'descended
on Northumbria and maintained himself in power there intermittently until
954, when he was expelled and then fell in battle. Eadred was able to extort
recognition as king of all England from the Northumbrians.'
Edgar and Edward
A period without much Viking harassment followed. King Eadwig reigned from
955-59, followed by Edgar the Peaceable from 959-75. When Edgar died, there
was considerable strife over the succession. Two parties competed against
each other, one for Edgar's son Edward, the other on behalf of Edward's half-brother
Æthelred who was still too young to take a position himself. Edward
finally won the crown, but this did him no good. In 978, Edward the Martyr
was murdered, probably by a follower of the Æthelred-party. Æthelred
became king a year later.