The battle of Ethandun or Eddington was fought in the year of 878 AD, between the 6th and 12th of May. I have referred to it as Alfred’s the Great’s last stand because defeat would have led to the last bastion of Anglo Saxon rule, the Kingdom of Wessex, being destroyed and would have left the whole of what is now England under the control of the Vikings.
Athelstan was the grandson of Alfred the Great and the son of Edward the Elder. His aunt was Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia.
Three groups of Germanic tribes people settled in Britain in the immediate years after the Roman army departed from the Island.
The Anglii or Angles hailed from Friesland and what is now the German Baltic coast.
The Jutes came from Jutland in what is now Denmark.
The Saxons came from what is now the eastern Netherlands and northern Germany.
Anglo Saxons loved riddles. Many have survived in a 10th century book called the Codex Exoniensis (Exeter Book)
Then King Alfred ordered that warships be built to meet the Danish ships. They were nearly twice as long as the others; some had sixty oars; some more, and they were both swifter and steadier and had more freeboard than the others. They were built neither after the Frisian design nor after the Danish, but as it seemed to him that they could be most serviceable.
Like all armies, the fighting techniques and military organisation evolve and adapt over time and through lessons learnt. The Roman army of Julius Caesar would not have been recognisable to Roman armies of the 2nd or 5th centuries. Nothing with regards to the military is constant and they constantly develop and adapt to whatever the current or likely threats may be.
Despite assumptions made by many historians that the Anglo Saxons did not use cavalry the evidence suggests that they did.
Compared to the studies of the militaries of the ancient world, where cavalry were used by the Greeks, Persians, Romans and the steppe peoples, like the Sarmatians, little is known about Anglo Saxon battle tactics, let alone, about their use of cavalry.
Despite popular myth, the Vikings were not invincible. From the time of Alfred the Great’s victory at Ashdownin 871 the Anglo- Saxons had realised that unity and the implementation of the ‘Burgh’ or Burghal Hidage system would enable them to counter and usually defeat Viking armies.
If you’ve been watching the Last Kingdom lately, you will have seen that Athelred is portrayed as a monstrous and cruel character who mistreated Aethelflaed and humiliated her at every opportunity.
There is no truth in this and in fact the evidence that is available indicates that they had a healthy relationship.
In 1938 workmen who were building the Railway Inn at Meols found what they described as “a Viking boat” in one of their excavations. They were told to ignore it and get on with the work of building the pub. No other investigations were carried out. A year later World War II started so there were other more urgent priorities to deal with.