Buku Viking Britain by Thomas Williams

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Viking Britain by Thomas Williams

Author:Thomas Williams

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Published: 2017-07-20T16:00:00+00:00

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Viking Britain by Thomas Williams

14

Danelaw

‘I will offer thee another course of law, that we go on the holm here at the Thing, and let him have the property who has the victory.’ That was also the law which Egil spake, and a custom of old, that every man had the right to challenge another to holmgang, whether he would defend himself or pursue his foe.

 

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Viking Britain by Thomas Williams

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Viking Britain by Thomas Williams

Author:Thomas Williams , Date: June 7, 2019

,Views: 68

Author:Thomas Williams

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Published: 2017-07-20T16:00:00+00:00
14

Danelaw

‘I will offer thee another course of law, that we go on the holm here at the Thing, and let him have the property who has the victory.’ That was also the law which Egil spake, and a custom of old, that every man had the right to challenge another to holmgang, whether he would defend himself or pursue his foe.

SNORRI STURLUSON(?), Egil’s Saga (thirteenth century)1

Guthrum–Æthelstan died in 890 and was remembered with something approaching fondness in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.2 Although Viking raids on Wessex had continued throughout the 880s, and tensions had occasionally flared around the East Anglian borders, there had been no serious trouble for Alfred to contend with.3 This all changed after Guthrum’s death, and Alfred spent several years of the final decade of his own life, alongside his adult son Edward, engaged in conflict with new waves of Viking raiders, the most dangerous of whom were a group led by a warlord called Hæsten, who arrived – fresh from harassing the Frankish kingdoms – in 892 and gathered fighters from East Anglia and Northumbria. Once again, Alfred’s kingdom was in grave danger, with Viking armies roaming from Essex to the Severn, and from the Sussex coast to Chester.4 But ultimately the Alfred of the 890s was too experienced a warlord to suffer again the indignities of 878. By 896, the worst of this fresh wave of violence was over, partly thanks to the king’s programme of fortress building and military reforms. Hæsten’s army dispersed – some to East Anglia and Northumbria, others back across the Channel – and the Anglo-Saxon chronicler, sounding more than ever like Marvin the Paranoid Android, was able to celebrate the news that ‘the raiding-horde, thank God, had not totally and utterly crushed the English.’ (The chronicler added, however, as though concerned that this sounded a trifle too upbeat, that ‘they were greatly more crushed in those three years with pestilence amongst cattle and men’.)5

Alfred died in 899. In the course of his lifetime he had seen Britain irrevocably transformed, and he ended his days as the king of a realm defined in ways that his predecessors could never have imagined. His obituary in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described him as ‘king over all the English race except that part which was under Danish control’,6 a neat summation of the shift which had occurred during his reign – a delimitation of authority which was primarily ethnic rather than territorial. And yet the degree to which those ethnic constructs remained mutable and contestable was dramatically exposed on the king’s death.

Alfred was, as we might expect, succeeded by his son Edward, known to posterity as ‘the Elder’.7 Not everyone, however, was happy to see Edward ascend to the throne. Alfred’s nephew, Æthelwold, did rather poorly out of Alfred’s will, and was evidently disgruntled by the manner in which he had been passed over.8 The younger (and probably the only surviving) son of Alfred’s elder brother, King Æthelred (the man who had prayed so vigorously at the battle of Ashdown in 871), Æthelwold had a decent claim to the West Saxon throne.

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