Thursday, September 25, 2014

Battle of Stamford Bridge, Part 1

In the absence of historical photographs, I give you Lego Stamford Bridge!
In the competition for the throne resulting from the death of Edward the Confessor, Harold Godwinson won out, but this did not sit well with his brother Tostig. Tostig had not been very successful in his position as Earl of Northumbria, but that did not mean he didn't think he deserved more than just being brother to a king. Harold needed a strong and united England to deal with the impending threat of William of Normandy, who also claimed the English throne, and he could not afford to have Tostig causing trouble (or just being weak) in the north.

Harold and his nobles exiled Tostig, who returned with a new ally: Harald Hardrada, King of Norway. Hardrada believed himself to be rightful King of Denmark as well, and given how many times Danes had invaded England and established footholds, he figure that he had a strong claim to England. In September of 1066, Tostig and Hardrada arrived in northern England with a fleet of about 300 ships (according to English sources; Snorri Sturluson's Norse account claims 200 ships, "not counting supply ships").

This force of about 9000 Vikings took York with little fighting. They took hostages, asked for tribute (supplies) to be delivered to a place called Stamford Bridge (presumably a decent open space that could accommodate thousands of men), and relaxed, figuring that there was no immediate danger from King Harold. After all, he was 185 miles away, guarding the shore at which he could expect William to land.

Word reached Harold on September 20th of the presence of the Norwegian army. Messengers were sent to other parts of the kingdom, and Harold and his thegns headed north. A mere four days later, they arrived at the town of Tadcaster, only 10 miles southwest of York. They had averaged 45 miles per day!

On 25 September 1066, the Battle of Stamford Bridge was swift and bloody. Details tomorrow...

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