A Dark Age...


The fate of England still hung in the balance at the start of the 10th century. The Viking invasions of that previous one hundred years, which looted wealth and destroyed monasticism across the isles, had largely dashed any hope of union between the various kingdoms that comprised what we commonly recognize as modern England. It was not until the king of Wessex, Ælfred the Great, ascended to the throne and established a comprehensive system of defense against the incessant pillages of heathen raiders from Denmark and Norway that any sense of unity could be made possible.

Ælfred of Wessex died in 899 and was succeeded by his son Edward the Elder. Edward and his brother-in-law Æthelred of Mercia, fought off Viking incursions and went on the attack, seizing back lost territory from the Danes and erecting defensive fortifications (burhs). Upon Æthelred's death his wife, Æthelflæd, ruled as "Lady of the Mercians" and continued that expansion of forts in conjunction with Edward the Elder. By 918 Edward had regained control of the whole of England south of the Humber Estuary. In that year Æthelflæd died, and Mercia was claimed by Wessex as a tributary kingdom. Edward's son, Æthelstan, was destined to be the first king to achieve an overlordship of the whole of England, following his installment of a loyalist ealdorman to the throne of Northumbria in 927.

In 937 Æthelstan assembled a massive army and marched to confront a combined Scottish/British/Viking force that campaigned into Northumbria to challenge his authority. The armies clashed at the Battle of Brunanburh, said to be among the greatest and most costly of conflicts in England's history. The definitive location of this epic conflict has never been accurately established, though a few sites are considered likely contenders.

Æthelstan's brother's were his successors, Edmund and Eadred, but each lost control of Northumbria to renewed Norse and Danish attacks before they could wrest control back in later years. Nevertheless, by the time of Eadred's successor, Edgar, who ruled the same expanse as Æthelstan, the unification of England had been largely established.

The Viking age in England did not end with this unification. Danish and Norse raiders continued their habitual raids well into the next century, which early on saw a renewal of large invasion fleets.


Timeline of period relevant to the THE RAVEN & THE WOLF:

927 - The border between England and Wales is set at the River Wye when Kings Hywel Dda of Deheubarth and Owain of Glywysing & Gwent submit to the overlordship of King Æthelstan of England at Hereford. Death of King Sigtrygg Caech of Norse York. King Æthelstan of England claims his kingdom and receives the submission of High-Reeve Ealdred I of Bamburgh. Practicalities probably actually meant that ealdred looked more towards King Constantine II of Alba as his overlord.

930 - Death of High-Reeve Ealdred I of Bamburgh. He is succeeded by his son, Osulf. High-Reeve Osulf attests a number of Wessex charters during his reign showing his close association with the English Court.

931 - Kings Morgan Hen of Glywysing & Gwent, Hywel Dda of Deheubarth and Idwal Foel of Gwynedd submit to the overlordship of King Æthelstan of England and attend him at court.

933 - Prince Aelfweard, brother of King Æthelstan of England, is drowned en route to France and buried at Saint-Bertin.

934 - King Tewdr of Brycheiniog attends the court of King Æthelstan of England and signs English Land Charters. Kings Hywel Dda of Deheubarth, Idwal Foel of Gwynedd and Morgan Mwynfawr of Morgannwg are compelled to accompany Æthelstan on his campaign against King Constantine II of Alba.

937 - Battle of Brunanburh: Æthelstan defeats alliance of Scots, Strathclyde Britons and Vikings, and takes the title of "King of all Britain"

939 - King Æthelstan founds Muchelney Abbey. Death of King Æthelstan at Gloucester. He is buried at Malmesbury Abbey and succeeded by his half-brother, Edmund the Magnificent.

942 - Kings Idwal Foel of Gwynedd openly rebels against the overlordship of the English monarchy. Both he and Llewelyn of Powys are killed fighting English armies.

946 - Edred, younger brother of Edmund, King of England (to 955); Dunstan is named his chief minister.

949 - King Hywel Dda of Deheubarth, Gwynedd & Powys attends the court of King Eadred of England.

954 - Death of King Eric Bloodaxe of Norse York. King Eadred of Wessex becomes King of All England. High-Reeve Osulf of Bamburgh is appointed Ealdorman of Northumbria.

955 - Kings Iago of Gwynedd, Owain of Deheubarth and Morgan Hen of Glywysing & Gwent attend the court of King Eadred of England. Edwy, son of Edmund, King of England (to 959).

956 - St. Dunstan is sent into exile by King Edwy.

957 - Mercians and Northumbrians rebel against King Edwy.

959 - Edgar the Peaceable, younger brother of Edwy, King of England (to 975).

960 - Death of Princess Eadburga, aunt of King Edgar the Peaceable of England, at the Nunnaminster in Winchester where is as a nun. She is buried there and later revered as a saint.



© Christopher Spellman / Strandhögg Press 2010