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Norwegian Invasion of Jórvík (The Once and Never Kings)

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Norwegian Invasion of Jórvík
Arbo - Battle of Stamford Bridge (1870)
Date September, 1066
Location Jórvíkshire, Jórvík
Result Jórvíkian victory
Belligerents
Flag of Jorvik (TONK) Jórvík Kongeflagg Norway
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Jorvik (TONK) Aelfwine I Kongeflagg Harald Hardrada

Sweyn Ulfsson

Strength
12,000 8,500


The Norwegian Invasion of Jórvík was a brief, but influential, conflict fought in September of 1066. The Norwegian King Harald Hardrada had attempted to push his claim to the throne of Jórvík, but his death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge would plunge Norway into a power struggle that would shape Northern Europe.

Background

Harald Hardrada had come to power in 1047, when his nephew, Magnus the Good, died. Setting a goal to re-establish Cnuts North Sea Empire, but centered on Norway rather than Denmark. For years, he launched raids against the Danish, ruled by his one-time ally, Sweyn Estridsson, but with little progress being made, he was forced to call off any invasion.

In 1056, Harald I, King of Jórvík, died with out leaving behind a legitimate heir. At the time, Denmark, ruled by his arguably rightful heir, Cnut III, was in the midst of a losing war against Magnus the Good. Not wanting to get involved with Denmark's problem, the nobles of Jórvík approved the succession of Haralds illegitimate son, Aelfwine. The succession did not go unchallenged, however, and Ulf Knutsson, Jarl of Lindsay, claimed the throne, claiming to be a relative of Sweyn Forkbeard. His rebellion didn't last long, and he was militarily defeated and executed. His son, Sweyn Ulfsson, inherited the Jarldom, and grew to despise Aelfwine. Pledging his support to Harald Hardrada, Sweyn invited him to press his own claim and invade.

Battle of Stamford Bridge

Landing in modern day North Jórvíkshire on September 3, 1066, Harald and Sweyn assumed they held the element of surprise, and expected to march into Jórvík with little to no resistance. As such, Harald allowed his army a few days respite to recover from the voyage.

King Aelfwine had, however, been informed of Sweyn Ulfssons treason, and amassed a sizable army from loyal nobles near Nottingham. When word reached that the Norwegians had landed, he ordered a hard march northward. After ten days, they met the Norwegians near a spot known as Stamford Bridge.

The exact location of Stamford Bridge is unknown for sure, there are no less than three towns claiming to be the or near the site of the battle, though some believe the actual bridge has long since been destroyed. The leading theory is that a village seven miles east of Jórvík is the most likely site.

Caught off guard, the order was given to form a shield wall on the east side of the river. However, a large number of Norwegian soldiers had been stuck on the opposite side, many of those were killed trying to get back across.

A popular folk story is that a single Norwegian warrior fought off Aelfwines army single-handily, killing upwards of fifty before being killed himself by several archers.

After Aelfwines army finally crossed the river, they assailed the Norwegian shieldwall. Despite heavy casualties at first, the Norwegian lines began to crumble under the assault. It is around this time Harald Hardrada was killed by an arrow to his windpipe, and Sweyn was killed by a Jórvíkian swordsman. The Norwegian army was virtually annihilated, and it is estimated only three thousand survived to return to Norway.

Aftermath

Although a comparatively small engagement when set aside other European conflicts, the 1066 invasion would prove very influential. Aelfwines victory secured his rule in Jórvík, and his direct, male-line descendants would rule until the seventeenth century. Although modern monarchs can still trace their family tree back to him.

The battlefield death of Harald Hardrada would begin a succession struggle between his sons, Magnus and Olaf. Supported by Svealand and Denmark respectively, after three years the brothers decided to split Norway between them. The northern portion, Olafs, would become the Kingdom of Lapland, while Magnus', the south, remained "Norway".

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