The Vikings are famous in legends and history. From their homelands in northern Europe, especially Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, they traveled long distances through rivers and seas to as far as Russia, North America, Iraq, and the Mediterranean World.
In terms of their relationship with the British Isles, they lasted in the area from around 800 to 1150 AD; a period known as The Viking Age. Their expansion happened through trade, settlements, exploration, and wars. However, their raids in England eventually ended through the actions of Alfred the Great, and this action set the course for all that happened in England in years to come.
What happened to the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings?
Towards the end of the 8th Century, Vikings frequently raided the lands of the Anglo-Saxons as their historical records show. This led to vicious battles between the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons for control of the British Isles.
During the 9th Century, Alfred the Great, an English king, then stopped the Viking Invasions from taking over England. This was not through violence, but instead through peaceful negotiations with them. The result was the Danelaw, which was an agreement that allowed the Vikings to settle in designated areas in the eastern parts of England.
While the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons became neighbors in the UK, that did not mean they got along peacefully – there were still conflicts between both groups, especially after Alfred the Great died. After his successors took over, English kings began violating the Danelaw and gradually captured more land from the Vikings, such as Alfred’s son Edward fighting for control of these lands, and Alfred’s grandson Athelstan pushing English control to Scotland.
This culminated in the Anglo-Saxons pushing out the last Jorvik Viking king, Eric Bloodaxe, in 954. When the battle broke out and he was killed, the English king then subjugated them and the Vikings agreed to come under his authority.
When was the last Viking army defeated in England?
This event occurred in August 910 during the Battle of Tettenhall, which is also known as the Battle of Wednesfield. It involved the forces of Wessex and Mercia, who became allies and defeated the Northumbrian Viking army at Tettenhall (present-day Wolverhampton).
After Alfred the Great died in 899, the Vikings aimed to seek retaliation due to the growing English control of the northern British Isles, although this led to little success. The Danelaw kings assembled a fleet in 910 to move Danish armies into central Mercia through the Severn River, aiming to board just south of the town of Bridgnorth.
Once these armies arrived there, they collected large amounts of plunder and ravaged the land, but they wanted to do this operation quickly to avoid being trapped in this territory. However, the Anglo-Saxons dispatched an allied Mercian-West Saxon army to the area, and the army caught the Danish armies at Wednesfield and defeated them.
Although there is little information on the exact tactics that were used in this battle, the Vikings were trapped and suffered heavy casualties – thousands of them were killed as a result. Additionally, the Viking kings who led the raid were also killed in the war, including the kings Ingwær, Halfdan, and Eowils.
The result of the war subdued the northern Danes permanently, allowing the allied forces of Mercia and Wessex to focus their attention on the Vikings who settled in the south. This eventually resulted in the uniting of England under one monarch, and this later spread in subsequent centuries to the regions of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.
Who Defeated the Vikings?
The Viking army defeats were the signals of the ending of their expansion campaigns since the Vikings suffered major defeats at Wessex, a region that held out for significant periods against them. Through the intervention of Alfred the Great, the Wessex armies defeated half of the Viking armies in 878 at the Battle of Edington, which eliminated their chance of dominating all Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
After their initial defeat in 878, the Wessex armies obtained sufficient time to create strong fortifications and standing armies to block future Viking incursions. The problem was that most British lands were still under Viking authority – King Alfred controlled the south, while the Vikings controlled the north. Additionally, the Viking leader Guthrum converted to Christianity after the battle, and then signed a treaty with King Alfred to partition the land: The Danelaw.
The End of the Viking Age
The reason why the Vikings were successful in most of their attempts to conquer and expand across Europe was that most European armies were loosely organized. In most cases, European societies found it hard to mount strong defenses against the ‘shock’ tactics that the Vikings used – at least initially.
As time went on, European societies started to organize themselves to prepare for eventual raiding, and they banded together to create fortifications and form armies. This eventually led to declining successes for the Vikings, as their raids became unprofitable, and their prior success led to their destruction. For instance, church monasteries which were frequent targets of raids started building tower locations for easier defense, where they could move their treasures and mount protection against these raids.
It is worth noting that the Vikings did not suffer permanent defeat after their last raid, as they occupied various positions in English society. A good example is the Vikings who became kings of England between 1013 and 1042, with King Cnut being the most famous example. He was king of both England and Denmark, a Christian, and worked on his goal of uniting Britain and Scandinavia. He also recognized Anglo-Saxon customs and law and rarely forced English people to follow Danish laws. However, he died when he was 39, and his sons did not have peaceful reigns.
The last recorded invasion of England by the Vikings happened in 1066 at Stamford Bridge when Harald Hardrada fought a long battle with King Harold Godwinson, the English king, but was defeated. Shortly after, William of Normandy landed in Kent, and Harold Godwinson went with his troops to fight him – but this ended in a heavy loss and the death of Harold Godwinson. The result was that William became William the Conqueror and the King of England, even though he was the descendant of the Viking king Rollo who invaded Normandy with his armies in 911.
The history of the Vikings is worth studying, as many things happened between them and the English, which ultimately shaped the destiny of Europe and the UK.