The Battle of Stamford Bridge in England is generally considered to mark the end of the Viking era. This battle took place on September 25, 1066, shortly after an invading Norwegian Viking army under King Harald Hardråde defeated the army of the northern earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria at Gate Fulford two miles south of York.
King Harold Godwinson of England met Harald with an army of his own, taking him by surprise bathing by a river, unarmoured and unprepared, after a legendary forced march from the south of the kingdom.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (SA 1066), the Stamford Bridge was immediatly held by a powerful individual Viking who delayed the approaching English; he was finally brought down by a spear from underneath the bridge.
This delay gave Harald Hardråde time to form his army in a circle on high ground and let the English approach uphill with their backs to the river. After a stubborn battle with losses on both sides, although particularly bad for the unarmoured Vikings, Harald Hardråde and Earl Tostig were killed and the Norwegian army was decisively defeated. King Harold Godwinson accepted a truce with the surviving Norwegians, including Hardråde's son Olaf and they were allowed to leave after giving pledges not to attack England again.
This battle marked the end of full scale invasions of England from Scandinavia, and was the turning point of Viking activity in that area.
King Harold's success was not to last, however. Little more than a fortnight after the battle, on October 14, after having marched his army all the way from Yorkshire, he was defeated by William the Conqueror, at the Battle of Hastings. Thus began the Norman Conquest of England.
- This formation of Harald Hardråde's army is describe by Snorri Sturluson in his Saga of Harald Hardråde which was written around 1240. (Snorri, From the Sagas of the Norse Kings, Dreyer Forlag, 1984) The sagas, however, are historical fiction which Snorri admits in his Prologue, "although we do not know the truth of these, we know, however, of occasions when wise old men have reckoned such things as true." (Snorri, p11)
Last updated: 05-21-2005 10:58:15