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In Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok (played by Travis Fimmel) and later his sons, who formed The Great Heathen Army, are seen invading and attacking parts of Anglo -Saxon England. Ferdia Walsh Peelo, who plays King Alfred of Wessex will return for the final 10 episodes, suggesting Anglo-Saxon England will once again feature in the historical drama. Why did the Vikings invade Britain? Express.co.uk has everything you need to know.
When did the Vikings invade Britain?
The Vikings began their raids on Christian strongholds in Anglo-Saxon England before expanding to mainland Europe and present-day Russia, known as the Kievan Rus.
The first recorded Vikings invasion by Anglo-Saxon scholars was a Lindisfarne in Northumbria on June 8, 793 AD.
Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, was chosen as it was situated at the heart of the Northumberland and the centre of Christianity in Britain at the time under Saints Aidan of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert, Eadfrith of Lindisfarne and Eadberht of Lindisfarne.
Lindisfarne was founded in 634 by an Irish monk, Saint Aidan, who had been sent from Iona, West of Scotland to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald.
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Christian monasteries were seen as easy targets for Vikings. The Vikings were pagans and the monks living in the monasteries had little or no weapons to defend themselves against the Vikings.
The monasteries also held hoards of valuable treasures like gold, jewels and books that the Vikings could trade.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, written in the 9th century, records: “In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of the Northumbrians, and the wretched people shook; there were excessive whirlwinds, lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky.
“These signs were followed by great famine, and a little after those, that same year on 6th ides of January, the ravaging of wretched heathen men destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne.”
Alcuin, a Northumbrian scholar in Charlemagne’s court at the time, wrote: “Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as w have now suffered from a pagan race …
“The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.”
After the attack on Lindisfarne, the Vikings did not launch huge scale attacks on England until the 9th century.
By the end of the 870s, the Vikings had taken considerable control of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
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The Great Heathen Army, led by ed by four of the five sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, including Halfdan Ragnarsson (Jasper Pääkkönen), Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen), Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) and Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) invaded York in 866 and by 873, they were making their way to Northumberland.
Ivar the Boneless really did capture York as seen in the TV series Vikings.
In 865 the Great Heathen Army landed in East Anglia to conquer the four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England.
In 874, the Danes attacked Mercia and during a long battle, Ivar died.
He was succeeded by Guthrum who finished the campaign against Mercia and established the Danelaw.
The Danelaw was established following the Battle of Edington in 878 between the invading Vikings, led by Viking warlord Guthrum (Ben Roe) and the King of Wessex, Alfred the Great.
Danelaw is the name given to the region of Anglo-Saxon England where the laws of the Danes were in place.
The Danelaw originated from the Viking raids in the 9th century on Anglo-Saxon England, but the name was not mentioned until the late 11th century in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle.
The treaty and the establishment of the Danelaw also ensured peace between the two kingdoms
As part of the treaty, Guthrum surrendered and was baptised, agreeing to leave Wessex.
A spokesperson from JORVIK Viking Centre in York explained the concept of the Danelaw and its origins to Express.co.uk.
They said: “The Danelaw refers to the area of Britain under the control of Viking invaders and their descendants, found in the north, central and eastern parts of the country and has begun in the Viking raids and victories in the 9th centuries.
“The land covered a vast area, drawing a line diagonally across the country from London up to Bedford, then following the old Roman road of Watling Street.
“This Danelaw was defined in a treaty in AD880 between the Viking King, Guthrum and the Anglo-Saxon King, Alfred.”
The Danelaw roughly compromised 15 shires: Leicester, York, Nottingham, Derby, Lincoln, Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk, Norfolk, Northampton, Huntingdon, Bedford, Hertford, Middlesex, and Buckingham.
The Viking Age came to an end in 1066 with the battle of Stamford Bridge when Viking forces were defeated by English forces led by King Harold Godwinson.
However, Viking influence was not wiped out as the next King of England, William the Conqueror, was a descendant of Ragnar Lothbrok’s brother Rollo (Clive Standen).
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