English and Vikings
The English often called the Vikings "Danes" - though there were Swedish and Norwegian Vikings as well as Danish ones. Anglo-Saxon history tells of many Viking raids, from the time in 793 when Vikings attacked the monastery at Lindisfarne in Northumbria and killed many of the monks.
After King Alfred led the fight against them in the 870s, some Vikings settled down to live peacefully. They had their own part of eastern England called the Danelaw. English and Danelaw Vikings became neighbours, though other Vikings went on raiding from the sea.
Kings after Alfred the Great
After Alfred, English kings gradually recaptured land from the Vikings. Alfred's son Edward won control of the Danelaw. Alfred's grandson Athelstan pushed English power north as far as Scotland. The most powerful Anglo-Saxon king was Edgar, who died in 975. Welsh and Scottish rulers obeyed him, and his court at Winchester was one of the most splendid in Europe. Anglo-Saxon England reached its peak during Edgar's reign.
Vikings take the crown
After King Edgar, things went downhill for the English kings. One not very good king was Ethelred the Unready (his name comes from an Old English word unraed, meaning "bad advice"). Ethelred tried to pay off invading Vikings with gold and land. It didn't work and he had to flee to France. After more fighting, a Dane called Cnut (Canute) became king of England in 1016.
Cnut also ruled Denmark and Norway. He ruled well, but left much of the government in England to noblemen, now called "earls" (from the Danish word "jarl"). After Cnut died in 1035, two of his sons Harold and Harthacnut were each king in turn.
King Edward and the earls
In 1042 there was a new king of England. He was Edward, son of Ethelred the Unready. His mother, Queen Emma, was from Normandy, in France, and Edward spent most of his life in Normandy before becoming king. He was very religious and was called "Edward the Confessor" because he so often confessed his sins.
Edward allowed the English earls, like Earl Godwin of Wessex, to become very strong. When Edward died in 1066, the English witan chose Godwin's son Harold as the next king.
The Norman Conquest
Harold had a rival. Duke William of Normandy said King Edward had promised that he would be the next king of England. William decided to invade England.
In 1066, England was invaded twice. First, a Norwegian army led by Harald Hardrada landed in the north. Harold killed Hardrada in a battle at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. Three days later William's Norman army landed in Sussex. Harold hurried south and the two armies fought the Battle of Hastings (14 October 1066). The Normans won, Harold was killed, and William became king. The story of how the Normans conquered England was told in the Bayeux Tapestry. The Anglo-Saxon period of English history was over.