Battle of Stamford Bridge

Last updated

Coordinates: 53°59′20″N0°54′11″W / 53.989°N 0.903°W / 53.989; -0.903

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.

Contents

Battle of Stamford Bridge
Part of the Viking invasions of England
BattleofStamfordbridge.gif
Date25 September 1066
Location
Result Decisive English victory
Belligerents
Kingdom of England

Kingdom of Norway

English rebels
Commanders and leaders
King Harold Godwinson
Earl Morcar of Northumbria
Earl Edwin of Mercia
Harald Hardrada  
Tostig Godwinson  
Eystein Orre  
Strength
10,500 Footmen
2,000 Cavalry
9,000 (of which 3,000 engaged late in battle)
300 transport ships
Casualties and losses
unknown 8,000+ dead or missing [1] [2]

The Battle of Stamford Bridge took place at the village of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire, in England on 25 September 1066, between an English army under King Harold Godwinson and an invading Norwegian force led by King Harald Hardrada and the English king's brother Tostig Godwinson. After a bloody battle, both Hardrada and Tostig along with most of the Norwegians were killed. Although Harold Godwinson repelled the Norwegian invaders, his army was defeated by the Normans at Hastings less than three weeks later. The battle has traditionally been presented as symbolising the end of the Viking Age, although major Scandinavian campaigns in Britain and Ireland occurred in the following decades, such as those of King Sweyn Estrithson of Denmark in 1069–1070 and King Magnus Barefoot of Norway in 1098 and 1102–1103.

Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire village and civil parish on the River Derwent in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England

Stamford Bridge is a village and civil parish on the River Derwent in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) east of York and 22 miles (35 km) west of Driffield. The village lies on the borders with the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire and with the City of York unitary authority.

Harold Godwinson 11th-century Anglo-Saxon King of England

Harold Godwinson, often called Harold II, was the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England. Harold reigned from 6 January 1066 until his death at the Battle of Hastings, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror during the Norman conquest of England. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England.

Harald Hardrada 11th-century King of Norway

Harald Sigurdsson, given the epithet Hardrada in the sagas, was King of Norway from 1046 to 1066. In addition, he unsuccessfully claimed the Danish throne until 1064 and the English throne in 1066. Before becoming king, Harald had spent around fifteen years in exile as a mercenary and military commander in Kievan Rus' and of the Varangian Guard in the Byzantine Empire.

Background

The death of King Edward the Confessor of England in January 1066 had triggered a succession struggle in which a variety of contenders from across north-western Europe fought for the English throne. These claimants included the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Manuscript D (p. 197), [3] the Norwegians assembled a fleet of 300 ships to invade England. The authors, however, did not seem to differentiate between warships and supply ships. In King Harald's Saga , Snorri Sturluson states, "... it is said that King Harald had over two hundred ships, apart from supply ships and smaller craft." [4] Combined with reinforcements picked up in Orkney, the Norwegian army most likely numbered between 7,000 and 9,000 men. Arriving off the English coast in September Hardrada was joined by further forces recruited in Flanders and Scotland by Tostig Godwinson. [5] Tostig was at odds with his elder brother Harold (who had been elected king by the Witenagemot on the death of Edward). Having been ousted from his position as Earl of Northumbria and exiled in 1065, Tostig had mounted a series of abortive attacks on England in the spring of 1066. [6]

Edward the Confessor 11th-century Anglo-Saxon King of England and saint

Edward the Confessor, also known as Saint Edward the Confessor, was among the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England. Usually considered the last king of the House of Wessex, he ruled from 1042 to 1066.

<i>Anglo-Saxon Chronicle</i> Set of related medieval English chronicles

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great. Multiple copies were made of that one original and then distributed to monasteries across England, where they were independently updated. In one case, the Chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

In the late summer of 1066, the invaders sailed up the Ouse before advancing on York. On 20 September they defeated a northern English army led by Edwin, Earl of Mercia, and his brother Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, at the Battle of Fulford, outside York. Following this victory they received the surrender of York. Having briefly occupied the city and taken hostages and supplies from the city they returned towards their ships at Riccall. They offered peace to the Northumbrians in exchange for their support for Hardrada's bid for the throne, and demanded further hostages from the whole of Yorkshire. [7]

River Ouse, Yorkshire river in North Yorkshire, England

The River Ouse is a river in North Yorkshire, England. Hydrologically, the river is a continuation of the River Ure, and the combined length of the River Ure and River Ouse makes it, at 129 miles (208 km), the sixth longest river of the United Kingdom and the longest to flow entirely in one county. The length of the Ouse alone is about 52 miles (84 km).

York Historic city in the north of England

York is a city and unitary authority area in North Yorkshire, England, with a population of 208,200 as of 2017. Located at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss, it is the county town of the historic county of Yorkshire and was the home of the House of York throughout its existence. The city is known for its famous historical landmarks such as York Minster and the city walls, as well as a variety of cultural and sporting activities, which makes it a popular tourist destination in England. The local authority is the City of York Council, a single tier governing body responsible for providing all local services and facilities throughout the city. The City of York local government district includes rural areas beyond the old city boundaries.

Edwin was the elder brother of Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, son of Ælfgār, Earl of Mercia and grandson of Leofric, Earl of Mercia. He succeeded to his father's title and responsibilities on Ælfgār's death in 1062. He appears as Earl Edwin in the Domesday Book.

At this time King Harold was in Southern England, anticipating an invasion from France by William, Duke of Normandy, another contender for the English throne. Learning of the Norwegian invasion he headed north at great speed with his huscarls and as many thegns as he could gather, travelling day and night. He made the journey from London to Yorkshire, a distance of about 185 miles (298 km), in only four days, enabling him to take the Norwegians completely by surprise. Having learned that the Northumbrians had been ordered to send the additional hostages and supplies to the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge, Harold hurried on through York to attack them at this rendezvous on 25 September. [8] Until the English army came into view the invaders remained unaware of the presence of a hostile army anywhere in the vicinity.

Southern England Place in England

Southern England, or the South of England, also known as the South, refers roughly to the southern counties of England. The extent of this area can take a number of different interpretations depending on the context, including geographical, cultural, political and economic.

William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. A descendant of Rollo, he was Duke of Normandy from 1035 onward. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England six years later. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.

Thegn Term describing an aristocratic class in Anglo-Saxon England and medieval Scandinavia or a member of that class

The term thegn, from Old English þegn, ðegn, "servant, attendant, retainer", "one who serves", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or, as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves. It is also the term for an early medieval Scandinavian class of retainers.

Location

There is some controversy as to whether or not a village and bridge existed at the time of the battle. One theory holds that there was no village at Stamford Bridge in 1066 and not even in 1086 when the Domesday Book was compiled. According to this theory, the name is locative and descriptive of crossing points over the River Derwent being derived from a combination of the words stone, ford and bridge i.e. stoneford and bridge. At the location of the present village, within the river bed, there is an outcrop of stone over which the river once flowed as a mini-waterfall. At low water levels one could easily cross over the river at this point, either on foot or horseback.

Domesday Book 11th-century survey of landholding in England as well as the surviving manuscripts of the survey

Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the "Great Survey" of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states:

Then, at the midwinter [1085], was the king in Gloucester with his council .... After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out "How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire."

An alternative explanation is given by Darby and Maxwell [9] who state, "Stamford Bridge does, in fact, exemplify that small number of places which, though not mentioned in the Domesday Book, must have existed, or at any rate been named, in Domesday times because they appear in both pre-Domesday and post-Domesday documents." Most likely the Stamford Bridge lands were included with Low Catton and therefore were not mentioned in the Domesday Book. As for the presence of a bridge, manuscripts C, D and E of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle all mention Stamford Bridge by name. Manuscript C contains a passage which states "... came upon them beyond the bridge ....". [10] Henry of Huntington [11] mentions Stamford Bridge and describes part of the battle being fought across the bridge. Therefore, a bridge over the Derwent most likely did exist at this time.

One mile to the south along the River Derwent at Scoreby lies the site of a 1st to 4th century Roman settlement known as Derventio. The town runs for two and a half miles east/west alongside a Roman road. Occupying both east and west banks of the river, the town was connected by the construction of a bridge which carried the road. There is no archaeological evidence for a Roman bridge construction at or near the present site of Stamford Bridge.

It is possible that there may have been a two-pronged attack by Godwinson on Hardrada's army, making use of both the ford and perhaps the remnants of the earlier Roman bridge one mile to the south, information of which, and of the two road routes to the location from York, could have been gathered from Godwinson's earlier occupation of the city of York. However, no documentation exists to support this possibility.

Topographically, on the east bank of the river from the bridge crossing point, the land rises sharply up to 100 feet at High Catton. This is the only high ground around and a good defensive position for Hardrada's army caught out by Godwinson's sudden appearance on the skyline, as he rounded the ridge at Gate Helmsley to drop downhill swiftly onto Hardrada's unsuspecting army.

Battle

Battle of Stamford Bridge by Peter Nicolai Arbo. Arbo - Battle of Stamford Bridge (1870).jpg
Battle of Stamford Bridge by Peter Nicolai Arbo.

According to Snorri Sturluson, before the battle a single man rode up alone to Harald Hardrada and Tostig. He gave no name, but spoke to Tostig, offering the return of his earldom if he would turn against Hardrada. Tostig asked what his brother Harold would be willing to give Hardrada for his trouble. The rider replied "Seven feet of English ground, as he is taller than other men." Then he rode back to the Saxon host. Hardrada was impressed by the rider's boldness, and asked Tostig who he was. Tostig replied that the rider was Harold Godwinson himself. [12] According to Henry of Huntingdon, Harold said "Six feet of ground or as much more as he needs, as he is taller than most men."

The exact location of the Stamford Bridge battlefield is not known. Local tradition places the battlefield east of the River Derwent and just southeast of the town in an area known as Battle Flats. The location of the Norwegian army at the start of the battle is not known for certain. Accounts of their location differ, depending on sources and interpretations. A common view is that the Norwegian army was divided in two; with some of their troops on the west side of the River Derwent and the bulk of their army on the east side. Another interpretation is that they were just leaving Stamford Bridge and moving along the old Roman road toward York (west side of the River Derwent). [13] [ unreliable source? ]

The sudden appearance of the English army caught the Norwegians by surprise. [14] Their response was to deploy rapidly in a defensive circle.[ citation needed ] If the Norwegians were located at Battle Flats, there is no good explanation as to why they deployed into this formation. However, if they were located on the east side of the Derwent, the deployment made perfect sense. By the time the bulk of the English army had arrived, the Vikings on the west side were either slain or fleeing across the bridge. The English advance was then delayed by the need to pass through the choke-point presented by the bridge itself. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has it that a giant Norse axeman (possibly armed with a Dane Axe) blocked the narrow crossing and single-handedly held up the entire English army. The story is that this axeman cut down up to 40 Englishmen and was defeated only when an English soldier floated under the bridge in a half-barrel and thrust his spear through the planks in the bridge, mortally wounding the axeman. [15]

This delay had allowed the bulk of the Norse army to form a shieldwall to face the English attack. Harold's army poured across the bridge, forming a line just short of the Norse army, locked shields and charged. The battle went far beyond the bridge itself, and although it raged for hours, the Norse army's decision to leave their armour behind left them at a distinct disadvantage. Eventually, the Norse army began to fragment and fracture, allowing the English troops to force their way in and break up the Scandinavians' shield wall. Completely outflanked, and with Hardrada killed with an arrow to his windpipe and Tostig slain, the Norwegian army disintegrated and was virtually annihilated. [16]

In the later stages of the battle, the Norwegians were reinforced by troops who had been guarding the ships at Riccall, led by Eystein Orre, Hardrada's prospective son-in-law. Some of his men were said to have collapsed and died of exhaustion upon reaching the battlefield. The remainder were fully armed for battle. Their counter-attack, described in the Norwegian tradition as "Orre's Storm", briefly checked the English advance, but was soon overwhelmed and Orre was slain. The Norwegian army were routed. As given in the Chronicles, pursued by the English army, some of the fleeing Norsemen drowned whilst crossing rivers. [1]

So many died in an area so small that the field was said to have been still whitened with bleached bones 50 years after the battle. [17] [18]

Aftermath

A 19th-century illustration of the Harald Hardrada saga, Heimskringla. Harald Hardraades saga-Pil i strupen-W. Wetlesen.jpg
A 19th-century illustration of the Harald Hardrada saga, Heimskringla .

King Harold accepted a truce with the surviving Norwegians, including Harald's son Olaf and Paul Thorfinnsson, Earl of Orkney. They were allowed to leave after giving pledges not to attack England again. The losses the Norwegians had suffered were so severe that only 24 ships from the fleet of over 300 were needed to carry the survivors away. [1] They withdrew to Orkney, where they spent the winter, and in the spring Olaf returned to Norway. The kingdom was then divided and shared between him and his brother Magnus, whom Harald had left behind to govern in his absence. [19]

Harold's victory was short-lived. Three days after the battle, on 28 September, a second invasion army led by William, Duke of Normandy, landed in Pevensey Bay, Sussex, on the south coast of England. Harold had to immediately turn his troops around and force-march them southwards to intercept the Norman army. Less than three weeks after Stamford Bridge, on 14 October 1066, the English army was decisively defeated and King Harold II fell in action at the Battle of Hastings, beginning the Norman conquest of England, a process facilitated by the heavy losses amongst the English military commanders.

Monuments

Village monument StamfordBridge1066.JPG
Village monument
Stamford Bridge battlefield memorial near Whiterose Drive Stamford Bridge Battlefield Memorial.jpg
Stamford Bridge battlefield memorial near Whiterose Drive

Two monuments to the battle have been erected in and around the village of Stamford Bridge.

Village monument

The first memorial is located in the village on Main Street (A116). [20] The monument's inscription reads (in both English and Norwegian):

THE BATTLE OF STAMFORD BRIDGE
WAS FOUGHT IN THIS NEIGHBOURHOOD
ON SEPTEMBER 25TH, 1066

The inscription on the accompanying marble tablet reads:

THE BATTLE OF STAMFORD BRIDGE
KING HAROLD OF ENGLAND DEFEATED
HIS BROTHER TOSTIG AND KING
HARDRAADA[ sic ] OF NORWAY HERE ON
25 SEPTEMBER 1066

Battlefield monument

A second monument is located at the battlefield site at the end of Whiterose Drive. This monument consists of a memorial stone and plaque detailing the events and outcome of the battle. The plaque points out that:

This viewpoint overlooks the site of the Battle of Stamford Bridge, fought by King Harold of England against the invading Norse army of Hardrada.

Related Research Articles

1066 Year

1066 (MLXVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar.

Battle of Hastings Battle between English and Normans on 14 October 1066

The Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066 between the Norman-French army of William, the Duke of Normandy, and an English army under the Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson, beginning the Norman conquest of England. It took place approximately 7 miles northwest of Hastings, close to the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, and was a decisive Norman victory.

Norman conquest of England 11th-century invasion and conquest of England by Normans

The Norman Conquest of England was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army of Norman, Breton, Flemish, and French soldiers led by the Duke of Normandy, later styled William the Conqueror.

Tostig Godwinson was an Anglo-Saxon Earl of Northumbria and brother of King Harold Godwinson. After being exiled by his brother, Tostig supported the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada's invasion of England, and was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Olaf III of Norway King of Norway

Olaf Haraldsson, known as Olaf Kyrre, ruled Norway as King Olaf III from 1067 until his death in 1093.

Magnus Haraldsson was King of Norway from 1066 to 1069, jointly with his brother Olaf Kyrre from 1067. He was not included in official Norwegian regnal lists until modern times, but has since been counted as Magnus II.

Battle of Fulford 1066 battle near York between Harald Hardrada and two English earls

The Battle of Fulford was fought on the outskirts of the village of Fulford near York in England, on 20 September 1066, when King Harald III of Norway, also known as Harald Hardrada, and Tostig Godwinson, his English ally, fought and defeated the Northern Earls Edwin and Morcar.

Thorgils Skarthi (hare-lip) was a Viking leader and poet. He is associated with the founding of Scarborough, England.

Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, also called Githa, was a Danish noblewoman. She was the mother of King Harold Godwinson and of Edith of Wessex, queen consort of King Edward the Confessor of England.

History of Anglo-Saxon England historical land roughly corresponding to present-day England

Anglo-Saxon England was early medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th centuries from the end of Roman Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066. It consisted of various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 927 when it was united as the Kingdom of England by King Æthelstan. It became part of the short-lived North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great, a personal union between England, Denmark and Norway in the 11th century.

William I of England has been depicted in a number of modern works.

House of Godwin

The House of Godwin was an Anglo-Saxon family, one of the leading noble families in England during the last 50 years before the Norman Conquest. Its most famous member was Harold Godwinson, king of England for nine months in 1066.

<i>Haralds saga Sigurðarsonar</i>

Haralds saga Sigurðarsonar is an Old Icelandic king's saga focusing on the career of King Haraldr Sigurðarson of Norway.

Stoke Lyne village in Cherwell district, Oxfordshire, England

Stoke Lyne is a village and civil parish about 4 miles (6.4 km) north of Bicester, Oxfordshire in southern England.

1066 is a year in history.

Maria Haraldsdotter was a Norwegian princess, as the daughter of Harald Hardrada and Elisiv of Kiev. She is the first known Norwegian to have been named Maria.

Eystein Orre

Eystein Orre was a Norwegian noble who was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p. 199.
  2. While the initial invasion force required 300 longships to carry 10,000 troops (Jones, Charles (2011). Finding Fulford. London: WritersPrintShop. pp. 202-203), only 24 ships, or 8% of the fleet, were needed to carry back the survivors after Stamford Bridge ("Anglo-Saxon Chronicles", p. 199).
  3. Michael Swanton, ed. (1998). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. New York: Routledge.
  4. Snorri Sturluson. King Harald's Saga. Translated by Magnusson, M; Palsson, H. 1966: Penguin Group. p. 139.
  5. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, ed. and tr. Michael Swanton, 2nd ed. (London 2000), pp. 196–97.
  6. Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, pp. 190–97.
  7. Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, pp. 196–7.
  8. Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, pp. 196–98.
  9. H. C. Darby; Maxwell, I. S. (1977). The Domesday Geography of Northern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 176.
  10. Michael Swanton, ed. (1998). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. New York: Routledge. p. 198.
  11. Henry of Huntingdon (1853). Thomas Forester (ed.). The Chronicle of Henry of Huntington, The History of England, From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Accession of Henry II. London: Henry G. Bohn. p. 209.
  12. Sturluson, King Harald's Saga p. 149.
  13. Michael C. Blundell (2012). "The Battle of Stamford Bridge 1066 A.D.: An Alternative Interpretation". pp. 3–7. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  14. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. pp. 197–98.
  15. Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, p. 198.
  16. Larsen, Karen A History of Norway (New York: Princeton University Press, 1948).
  17. Wade, John (1843). British history, chronologically arranged; comprehending a classified analysis of events and occurrences in church and state (2 ed.). Bohn. p. 19.
  18. Morgan, Phillip (2000). "3. The Naming of the Battlefields in the Middle Ages". In Dunn, Diana (ed.). War and Society in Medieval and Early Modern Britain. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. p. 36. ISBN   0-85323-885-5.
  19. Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla (J. M. Stenersen & Co, 1899).
  20. Battle of Stamford Bridge, UK National Inventory of War Memorials (www.ukniwm.org.uk), retrieved 4 March 2012