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The Canon of John Lydgate Project

The Lives of Ss. Edmund and Fremund: Introduction

The Vikings in East Anglia
Vikings from Norway began ravaging the coast of northern England in the late eighth century, the first recorded raid being at Lindisfarne in 793. East Anglia was invaded by Danes rather than Norwegians, the first recorded raid occurring in 841, with sporadic summer incursions frequent thereafter. In the year 865 the Danes mounted a full-scale invasion under Ivar the Boneless, one of the three sons of the famed Viking Ragnar Lothbrok. After 12 months of general pillaging, securing the area, and providing his army with mounts from the stables of local farms, Ivar's army went north to join with other Viking armies (including one led by his brother Ubbi). To this large force, the city of York fell on 21 March 867, and Jorvik remained a Viking stronghold for several generations. Ivar then marched south, taking Nottingham without a battle, returned to York in 868, and then arrived back in East Anglia in 869, setting up a winter camp at Thetford. Simultaneously, a fleet of Vikings landed on the coast, and pillaged in Norwich and area.

After the death of Edmund in 869, and a winter in East Anglia, the army marched west into Mercia. The Irish Annals state that Ivar died in 873, though at least one early chronicler (Aethelweard) states that he died in the same winter as Edmund. The army returned in 874, spending 12 months at Cambridge before marching west again. In 879 they returned again, this time to settle and rule the region.

Alfred, whose resistance to the Viking invasion is a matter of histor and legend both, came to Wessex throne in 871 at the age of 22, styling himself, as did his father, "King of All England." Alfred successfully staved off all Viking attempts to take Wessex, and eventually concluded a peace with the invaders which ceded to their control most of eastern and northern England ("the Danelaw") in exchange for guarantees against further encroachment. Guthrum was acknowledged by Alfred as the Danish king of East Anglia in 878, when Guthrum converted to Christianity as part of the treaty with King Alfred (who stood at the baptism as his godfather). The Danes ruled East Anglia for 38 years, from 878 to 917, when the region was reconquered by the Anglo-Saxons under King Edward of Wessex. The reconquering of East Anglia was thorough and sure, but there continued to be sporadic Viking raids until as late as 1069, the year of the last recorded attacks on Ipswich and Norwich.

For more information, including a short chapter on the story of St. Edmund, see Sue Margeson, The Vikings in Norfolk Norwich: Norfolk Museums Service, 1997. [arrow: left] Back to "The Subject: King Edmund"

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© 1995 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
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