When Britain gained independence from
Rome in 410, Rome warned Britain to
prepare for attacks by the warring tribes
of Northern Europe. By the middle of the
5th Century, Britain had been invaded by
the Saxons (a Germanic tribe that
originated in Denmark). The country was
soon divided into Kingdoms that were at
war with each other, similar to what
Britain was like before Roman rule.
While the Saxon tribes were fighting
each other, the first Viking raids were
made on Britain in 789. By 839, they had
taken control of the Isle of Man and
Ireland. The Danish Vikings began their
quest to gain control of England by
establishing the Kingdom of York in
In 871, the Saxon, Alfred the
Great, became King of Wessex. In
886, he managed to stop the advance
of the Vikings.
The success of Alfred the Great
led to the Danelaw Pact being
signed. England then had a boundary
drawn from London to the Mersey,
the south was English law, the
north, Scandinavian law.
In the year 1000, the Saxon King,
Aethelred, attacked the Isle of Man and
the Scandinavian controlled lands on the
mainland. In 1002, he ordered the
massacre of all Danish men in England.
This led to the Vikings, led by Svein
Forkbeard, raiding the south and east of
England between 1003 and 1005. Running
short of supplies, the Vikings returned
home to rebuild their forces for another
attack on England.
King Aethelred took that opportunity
to begin talks with the Vikings. He then
agreed to pay the Vikings not to
Svein Forkbeard and his son, Canute,
returned to England in 1013 with a mighty
force built up with the aid of the
English payments. After defeating
Athelred, who fled to Normandy in France,
Forkbeard became king of all England.
Five weeks later, Forkbeard died, leaving
his son Canute II to succeed him. With
the news of Forkbeard’s death,
Aethelred returned to England where he
was successful in forcing Canute's army
to return to Denmark.
After the death of Athelred in
1016, Canute returned to England.
He met Athelred’s army, led
by his eldest son, Edmund
Ironsides, at Ashingdon. Victory at
Ashington for Canute saw another
treaty signed to divide England
into Scandinavian and Saxon rule
Edmund died shortly after
signing the treaty, allowing Canute
to become king of all England. To
ensure his acceptance by all,
Canute married Athelred’s
Canute's brother, king Harold of
Denmark, died in 1018. Canute then
traveled to Denmark to claim that throne.
He then defeated Olaf of Norway so his
son Svein could govern Norway. He also
took control of parts of Sweden and
The Vikings originally from Denmark,
Norway and Sweden, were also sweeping
through Europe at that time, settling in
parts of Russia. In 859, they made the
first of their raids in the
Mediterranean. In 941, they attacked
Constantinople, and even raided parts of
the Middle East and North Africa. By 984,
they had settled on Greenland, and in
1000, had begun exploring north
Canute died 2nd November 1035 at
Shaftsbury in Dorset / England. He was
buried in Winchester, the former capital
of the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. After his
death, Olaf’s son, Magnus, expelled
the Danes from Norway, this seeing the
Great Empire start to break up.
Canute's illegitimate son, Harold
Harefoot, then became king of England.
His son by Emma, Harthacanute, became
king of Denmark. Harefoot died in bed of
an illness October 1040. Harthacanute
then became king of England and Denmark.
He died in Lambeth /London 8th June 1042
while drinking heavily. Harthacanute's
half brother, Edward the Confessor,
succeeded to the throne of England where
he reigned until he died of old age in
With Edward the Confessor leaving no
heirs, William, Duke of Normandy, fought
and defeated, Harold the Saxon in the
battle of Hastings. The Duke of Normandy
then became the first of the Norman
French kings of England.