The Conquest of England

By Alice Stopford Green; John Richard Green | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II. THE COMING OF THE WIKINGS. 829-858.

IN the days of Beorhtric of Wessex, while Offa was still ruling in Mercia, and Ecgberht an exile at the court of Charles, "in the year 787, came three ships" to the West-Saxon shores, "and then the reeve rode thereto, and would force them to go to the king's tun, for that he knew not what they were; and they slew folk1 Two hundred years later, in the midst of the long warfare which opened with the landing of the pirate-band, the memory of that first warning of danger was still fresh in the minds of men. "Suddenly," ran the later tradition preserved in the royal West-Saxon house, "there came a Danish fleet, not very alarming, consisting of three long ships, and this was their first coming. When this

The first Wikings.

____________________
1
Eng. Chron. (Winch.), a. 787, which adds, "These were the first ships of Danish men that sought land of Engle-folk." Munch, however ( Det Norske Folks Historie, German trans. by Claussen, pt. iv. p. 186), points out that this entry dates at earliest from 891, when the Danes were really the assailants of Britain, and that a more contemporary entry may be found in the late Canterbury Chronicle (F), where the ships are called "of Northmen from Heretha-land." "It is a strong testimony to the age of this account that the Wikings are called Northmen, for this name was lost in England earlier than elsewhere." "The so-called Heretha-land," he adds, "from which these Northmen came, can be none other than Hardeland, or Hardesyssel, in Jutland, for from Hördeland in Norway no descents upon England had taken place at this time."

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