Viking, Norsemen, Danes, a fierce pagan people who in the late 8th century began to raid the British Isles, Western Europe and the Mediterranean and who terrorised both the Christian and Muslim peoples of the civilised world.
The Eastern Roman Empire’s Elite mercenary fighting force of Vikings and Anglo Saxons
A question that I am often asked is ‘Did the Vikings really kill prisoners by inflicting upon them, a method of execution called the ‘Blood Eagle’?
It’s a hard question to answer because evidence is rare and unreliable but there are sources which do refer to it, so I will highlight some of known and recorded information in order that you can make your own mind up.
The first recorded Viking attack on England occurred in 793. Some 273 years later, after endemic warfare, dynastic changes, a merging of Anglo Saxon and Norse culture and the triumph of the Christian Church over paganism, the Viking age In England effectively came to a bloody and dramatic end at great battle of Stamford Bridge.
An act of heroic honour or gross stupidity?
The battle of Maldon, August the 10th or 11th, 991
Athelstan’s victory in 937 at Brunanburh, did not remove the Viking threat and after the king’s death, his successors, Edmund the 1st and Eadred had to deal with several Viking attempts to re-establish their rule in York and Northumberland. Anglo Saxon England did not become reunified until 954 when Eadred finally established full control.
Aethelwold was the only surviving son of Alfred the Great’s brother, the former King Aethelred the first of Wessex.
When Aethelwold’s father died, he was considered too young to have been a suitable King, which led to the Witan of Wessex electing Alfred to the throne.
Anglo Saxons attack a Viking army outside of Welshpool
Today, Buttington, or Tal y Bont, is a small village on the outskirts of Welshpool in mid Wales on the border with Shropshire. The tranquil fields and beautiful surrounding countryside give no hint that a once deadly battle took place here, between the Anglo Saxons, led by three Ealdormen , namely Ethelred, Aethelhelm and Aethelnoth and a force of Vikings, part of a much larger army led by the legendary Viking warrior, Hastain.
We’ve referred to Anlaf’s great enemy in Ireland in previous assessments, namely Muirchertach Mac Neill. As we know, Anlaf had defeated the Vikings of Limerick just weeks before he left for England in order to challenge Aethelstan, but going back to 925 AD the Dublin Vikings had suffered a major defeat at the hands on Muirchertach at the battle of Carlingford. This battle was not only a significant defeat for the Dublin Norse but resonated throughout Ireland because Muirchertach slaughtered several hundred Vikings who had surrendered to him. Anlaf’s father Gofraid, had led the Dublin Norse into battle. He, somehow, had managed to escape.
Owain Ap Dyfnwal was a Northern British King who fought alongside Anlaf Guthfrithson and Constantine of Alba at the battle of Brunanburh in 937 AD.
He was king of Strathclyde, a kingdom of indigenous Britons, who’s Kingdom was formed during the post Roman period when the ethnic groups of the British Isles fought to create independent countries during a period of political instability and foreign invasion.
As with many of the myths, legends, conflicting documentary evidence and disagreement between modern day historians and archaeologists pertaining to Anglo Saxon refugees fleeing England following the Norman conquest, the truth cannot be confirmed with any absolute certainty, but equally, therefore, cannot be dismissed or disproved.