Ethelred the Pious
It is approximately 50 years after the Danes and Norse concluded their conquest of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (except northern Northumbria, which is under the suzerainty of Alba). Norse England remains divided into two kingdoms, Jorvik (York) and Ostangeln (Eastanglia). Both kingdoms had been established before the conquest of the 870s, but both came to be dominated by the leaders of the "Great Heathen Army."
The leaders of the conquest formed a new class of nobility. Members of this new class dominate the government of both kingdoms and have maintained the power to choose the kings. Here as in mainland Scandinavia, becoming king is an act of personal power that requires a large number of heavily armed supporters, an act that can be undone with the appearance of a rival with more supporters or heavier arms.
At this moment, neither kingdom is ruled by a direct descendant of Halfdan or Ivar, the brothers who led the Great Army. However, their families have grown into large and powerful houses that wield great influence in both kingdoms. Halfdan's granddaughter Raghild is married to Eirik, the king of Eastanglia.
The two main kingdoms sit at the center of a network of small states with Norse rulers and largely Celtic subjects, which include the Duchy of Cornwall under Hrolfr the Northman, the Isle of Ongellsey, The kingdoms of the North and South Islands in the Hebrides and Man, and the Irish settlements in Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, and Limerick. Goods, people and patronage move freely between these territories and the Anglo-Norse kingdoms. Factions within Jorvik and Ostangeln frequently intrigue with these lesser rulers, making them another source of instability.
In Ostangeln, the region that attracted the greatest density of Scandinavian immigrants, the village system predominates in agriculture. The largest class of society consists of free peasants of Scandinavian extraction. Much of the land is communally controlled, but most peasants also have individual plots.
Jorvik's settlement patterns follow a continuum from north to south. In the northern core lands of the kingdom, the mainly Norse population lives in villages with fields clustered around.
In Mercia, the former "Five Boroughs" region, small landholdings predominate. This region was parceled out to Viking warriors following the conquest of England, and later arrivals were also able to obtain farms. The population is divided into a Norse nobility, a class of free Dano-Norse peasant farmers, and a class of Anglo-Saxon tenants.
Southern Jorvik is the least "Nordified". A Danish/Norwegian nobility was simply superimposed on the existing Saxon system, with several shires and earldoms continuing intact from the previous era. This was the region of the "English Law" established in the late 800s. The preservation of Saxon laws and administration prevented large-scale commandeering of the land by Vikings.
Being the magnate over a territory has not yet been equated with owning a territory. As feudal ideas creep in from France, the magnates of the south will begin to demand more direct rule of their territories.
One recent social change that has been noted by the landowning classes (magnates and free peasants) is the absence of free land. Viking England in the years after 976 acquired a culture of upward mobility and opportunism made possible by the continued seizure of Saxon estates. As society becomes more stable, many young men are looking elsewhere for personal fortune.
Commerce and Cities:
The largest commercial city by far is Lundun. The old Roman city and its merchant class have received a new level of independence because it is located precisely on the border between the kingdoms of Jorvik and Ostangeln. An agreement between the kings a few decades ago made the city "shared" territory, with the effect that Lundun has to pay tribute to both kingdoms but is almost completely free to manage its own affairs. The growth of an independent city-state in Lundun will have important repercussions for later English history.
Jorvik is growing as a northern commercial center, thanks to a large influx of traders from Scandinavia. The growth of this city gives the kingdom of Jorvik a commercial advantage over its rival. In Ostangeln the largest towns are Thetford and Norwich, important local trade centers but not big enough to rival Lundun or Jorvik.
The English Church was impoverished by the conquest, with most of its treasures taken and looted. Many of the artifacts of Anglo-Saxon Christianity were smuggled abroad, to unconquered parts of Wales, Scotland, or Ireland. Many monks and priests similarly fled the country. Those that remained had to make do with bare buildings and meager possessions. Several bishoprics have not been restored, but archbishops continue to sit at their ancient seats in Canterbury and York, the latter of which is also a royal capital.
The indigenous Saxons have not discarded their faith, but monks and priests have actively sought to convert their conquerors, with varying success. Already the distinction is blurring between Saxon Christians who speak Norse, and Scandinavians who have converted to Christianity. With such a fertile mission field at home, English missionaries no longer travel to mainland Scandinavia - slowing the spread of the Faith there.
Paganism remains the religion of the majority of Dano-Norse of all classes. Predictably, those that have more daily contact with Saxons, such as those in the South or far North, are converting in greater numbers. The family of the Jarl of Kent are all believers and have become key patrons of the Archbishop of Canterbury.