Anglo-Saxons & Vikings – 4c Viking Invasion
Viking Raids and Danegeld
In Viking times, a king had to be strong to fight and keep his land. In the early 11th century, England had a weak king. His name was Ethelred ‘the Unready’.
Ethelred tried to stop the Vikings from invading by giving them gold and land. This money was called ‘Danegeld’. But it didn’t work – the Vikings took the gold and attacked anyway.
In 1002, Ethelred’s soldiers killed many Viking families in the Danelaw. This made King Sweyn of Denmark angry. He invaded England and Ethelred had to flee to France.
In 1016 Sweyn’s son Cnut became king of England. Cnut (also known as Canute) was a Christian and a strong ruler. For the next few years England was part of his Viking empire, along with Denmark and Norway.He ruled well, but left much of the government in England to noblemen, now called “earls” (from the Danish word “jarl”).
King Cnut reigned for nineteen years until his death, and was the only other English King apart from Alfred to earn the title “The Great”. He subdued the Viking raids and England prospered under his rule, but on his death his two sons by different mothers turned to fighting and the empire fell apart.
On the deaths of Cnut’s sons, Harald Harefoot and Harthacanute, the House of Wessex was briefly restored to the throne, with the return of Edward the Confessor from his exile in Normandy. He’d been sent there for safety when his mother Emma (widow of Aethlered the Unready) married Cnut. The deal was that if his half-brother (Cnut’s son by Emma) Harthacnut died without children, then Edward could have his throne back.
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