The Last Viking Invasion



In January 1066 Edward the Confessor, King of England, died.  He did not have a son to be king after him.  In those days, this meant that there would be a war to see who would be the next king.

Three men claimed the crown:

  Harold Godwinson, the popular Saxon Earl of Wessex;

  King Harald Hardrada of Norway, a Viking and the best warrior of the age;

  William, Duke of Normandy.


The Struggle for the Throne

The day after Edward died, Harold  Godwinson quickly crowned himself king.  But he knew that he would have to fight for his crown.  He had a bodyguard of good fighters (called the `housecarls').  He also called up a large army of ordinary men (this army was called the 'fyrd').  His warships waited in the English Channel.

He waited all summer.  Then, on 8 September, his money ran out.  He had to send the fyrd home, and call back the fleet to London.  On the way back, his ships were destroyed in a storm.

Then worse news reached Harold Godwinson.  Harald Hardrada had invaded Yorkshire.  Also, one of Godwinson's brothers, Tostig, was helping the Vikings!  Godwinson was not worried.  When he was told that Hardrada had come to conquer England, he said: 'I will give him just two metres of English soil; enough for his grave.'

Godwinson gathered an army and marched north.  He travelled the 200 miles from London to York in only five days.  Hearing that Hardrada was only two hours' march away, he gave his men only one hour's rest, and set off to take the Vikings by surprise.


The Battle of Stamford Bridge

Nobody knows what happened at the battle.  There is an account in an old Viking Saga, but it was written almost two centuries after the event, was certainly embellished, and muddled up the battle with the battle of Hastings. 

Whatever happened, what we do know is that the Vikings were defeated.  Hardrada was killed, perhaps by an arrow in the throat, and Tostig died too.  Only 24 of the 300 Viking longboats which had sailed to England were able to limp back home.

It was the last Viking invasion.


After you have read this story and studied the Sources below, answer the question sheet by clicking on the 'Time to Work' icon at the top of the page.


The following websites will help you research further:


Accounts of the Battle:

Our Island Story -  a narrative story account by the children's writer, HE Marshall (1905)

A translation of Snorri Sturluson's Saga of Harald Hardrada, on which most accounts of the battle are based



1  Stamford Bridge the Death of Harald Hardrada

This interpretation of the battle was painted in 1870 by Peter Arbo, a Norwegian artist, who based it upon the Viking Saga of Harald Hardrada, and his ideas about the clothing and weapons of the era.

It is full of mistakes and questionable assumptions.