Battle of Stamford Bridge
|Battle of Stamford Bridge|
|Part of the Viking invasion of England|
Painting by Norwegian artist Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831–1892).
|Norwegians, Northumbrian rebels, small numbers of Scots||Anglo-Saxon England|
|Harald Hardråde†||Harold Godwinson|
|300 ships, 5000 men||Unknown|
|276 ships, 4500 men||Unknown|
The Battle of Stamford Bridge in England is generally considered to mark the end of the Viking era. It 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.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (SA 1066), the Stamford Bridge was immediately 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 both fell. The arrival of Norwegian reinforcements prolonged the battle, but in the end 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 and killed by Norman forces under William the Conqueror, at the Battle of Hastings. Thus began the Norman Conquest of England.
Monument to the Battle
In the village of Stamford Bridge a monument to the battle stands, which reads in English:
- ^ a b In his saga of Harald III of Norway which was written around 1225, Snorri Sturluson described the disposition of the Norwegian troops and also claimed that the Norwegians had left their byrnies at the ships and thus had to fight with only shield, spear and helmets (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). It is probably not possible to separate fact from fiction in his story and thus the distrust of modern historians for the details in the sagas.
- Description of battle by Geoff Boxell