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The Danish attacks on London and Southwark in ‘1016’

Tony Sharp

Æthelred II ‘the Unready’s’ failure as a king both domestically and in defence of the country from Danish incursions, resulted in his rejection by a major part of the Anglo-Danish ruling class, the ‘Witan’, of England. Swein ‘Forkbeard’, king of Denmark, was invited to take the throne and invasion and civil war followed. By 1013 Swein had been recognised as king and Æthelred was in exile. Our understanding of this period has been transformed by Prof Nick Higham’s The Death of Anglo-Saxon England (1997) and Ian Howard’s Swein Forkbeard ’s Invasions of England 991-1017 (2003). Higham details how Æthelred had in all probability divided the country against itself over refusing the succession to the sons of his first marriage (to Ælfgifu of Northumbria, Æthelstan and Edmund ‘Ironside’) to those of his second marriage (to Ælfgifu/ Emma of Normandy, Edward and Alfred). Æthelred’s policy seemed in some way related to a political alliance to Normandy, which was a Norse settlement dating from the incursions of the ninth century.

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