The Vikings who invaded western and eastern Europe were chiefly pagans from Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
They also settled in the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Iceland, Scotland (Caithness, the Hebrides and the Northern Isles), Greenland, and Canada.
Their North Germanic language, Old Norse, became the mother-tongue of present-day Scandinavian languages. By 801, a strong central authority appears to have been established in Jutland, and the Danes were beginning to look beyond their own territory for land, trade and plunder.
In Norway, mountainous terrain and fjords formed strong natural boundaries. Communities there remained independent of each other, unlike the situation in Denmark which is lowland. By 800, some 30 small kingdoms existed in Norway.
and famous in all history books. Curiously this didn't happen, and the reason is, most likely, that it actually took another century, and more battles, before the union was a stable union of Pict and Scot. In time, however, it did become stable and the Scots gained tremendous lands, wealth, and access to expert horsemanship, as well as countless more Scottish subjects, from the fall of the Picts. The two peoples had been locked in ferocious combat for so long that the bonds of war had actually helped unite the people, as two metals in a great flame, they became fused and then were tempered by a cooling hand of Christianity.
Alba grew even more:
The Last of the Great Scottish Kings
of all things freedom’s most fine.
Never submit to live, my son,
in the bonds of slavery entwined.’William Wallace - His Uncle’s proverb,
from Bower’s Scotichronicon c.1440’s
For the English chroniclers he was an outlaw, a murderer, the perpetrator of atrocities and a traitor. How did an obscure Scot obtain such notoriety?
Who was William Wallace?
Wallace was the younger son of a Scottish knight and minor landowner. His name, Wallace or le Waleis, means the Welshman, and he was probably descended from Richard Wallace who had followed the Stewart family to Scotland in the 12th century.
In 1296 Scotland had been conquered. Beneath the surface there were deep resentments. Many of the Scots nobles were imprisoned, they were punitively taxed and expected to serve King Edward I in his military campaigns against France. The flames of revolt spread across Scotland. In May 1297 Wallace slew William Heselrig, the English Sheriff of Lanark. Soon his rising gained momentum, as men ‘oppressed by the burden of servitude under the intolerable rule of English domination’ joined him ‘like a swarm of bees’.
'Commander of the Army of the Kingdom of Scotland’ - the outlaw Wallace was now knighted and made Guardian of Scotland in Balliol’s name at the forest kirk, at either Selkirk or Carluke.
Militarily he took the war into the north of England, raiding around Newcastle and wreaking havoc across the north. Contemporary English chroniclers accused him of atrocities, some no doubt warranted, however, in Wallace’s eyes the war, since its beginning, had been marked by brutality and butchery.
The earliest date given for a Viking raid is 787 AD when, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a group of men from Norway sailed to the Isle of Portland in Dorset. There, they were mistaken for merchants by a royal official. They murdered him when he tried to get them to accompany him to the king's manor to pay a trading tax on their goods. The beginning of the Viking Age in the British Isles is, however, often given as 793. It was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that the Northmen raided the important island monastery of Lindisfarne (note that the generally accepted date is actually 8 June, not January):
In 794, according to the Annals of Ulster, there was a serious attack on Lindisfarne's mother-house of Iona, which was followed in 795 by raids upon the northern coast of Ireland. From bases there, the Norsemen attacked Iona again in 802, causing great slaughter amongst the Céli Dé Brethren, and burning the abbey to the ground.
The end of the Viking Age is traditionally marked in England by the failed invasion attempted by the Norwegian king Harald III (Haraldr Harðráði), who was defeated by Saxon King Harold Godwinson in 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge; in Ireland, the capture of Dublin by Strongbow and his Hiberno-Norman forces in 1171; and 1263 in Scotland by the defeat of King Hákon Hákonarson at the Battle of Largs by troops loyal to Alexander III. Godwinson was subsequently defeated within a month by another Viking descendant, William, Duke of Normandy (Normandy had been conquered by Vikings (Normans) in 911). Scotland took its present form when it regained territory from the Norsebetween the 13th and the 15th centuries; the Western Isles and the Isle of Man remained under Scandinavian authority until 1266. Orkney and Shetland belonged to the king of Norway as late as 1469.
In Scandinavia the Viking age is considered to have ended with the establishment of royal authority in the Scandinavian countries and the establishment of Christianity as the dominant religion. The date is usually put somewhere in the early 11th century in all three Scandinavian countries. The end of the Viking-era in Norway is marked by the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Although Olafr Haraldsson's (later known as Olav the Holy) army lost the battle, Christianity spread, partly on the strength of rumours of miraculous signs after his death. Norwegians would no longer be called Vikings.
The clinker-built longships used by the Scandinavians were uniquely suited to both deep and shallow waters. They extended the reach of Norse raiders, traders and settlers along coastlines and along the major river valleys of north-western Europe. Rurik also expanded to the east and in 859 became ruler either by conquest or invitation by local people of the city of Novgorod (which means "new city") on the Volkhov River. His successors moved further, founding the state of Kievan Rus with the capital in Kiev. This persisted until 1240, the time of Mongol invasion.
Other Norse people, particularly those from the area that is now modern-day Sweden and Norway, continued south to the Black Sea and then on to Constantinople. Whenever these Viking ships ran aground in shallow waters, the Vikings would reportedly turn them on their sides and drag them across the shallows into deeper waters. The Eastern connections of these "Varangians" brought Byzantine silk, coins from Samarkand, even a cowrie shell from the Red Sea, to Viking York.
The Kingdom of the Franks under Charlemagne was particularly hard-hit by these raiders, who could sail up the Seine with near impunity. Near the end of Charlemagne's reign (and throughout the reigns of his sons and grandsons), a string of Norse raids began, culminating in a gradual Scandinavian conquest and settlement of the region now known as Normandy.
In 911, French King Charles the Simple was able to make an agreement with the Viking warleader Rollo, a chieftain of disputed Norwegian or Danish origins. Charles gave Rollo the title of duke and granted him and his followers possession of Normandy. In return, Rollo swore fealty to Charles, converted to Christianity, and undertook to defend the northern region of France against the incursions of other Viking groups. Several generations later, the Norman descendants of these Viking settlers not only identified themselves as French but carried the French language, and their variant of the French culture, into England in 1066. With the Norman Conquest, they became the ruling aristocracy of Anglo-Saxon England.
Viking expeditions (blue line): depicting the immense breadth of their voyages through most of Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, the Arctic and North America
There are various theories concerning the causes of the Viking invasions. For people living along the coast, it would seem natural to seek new land by the sea. Another reason was that during this period England, Wales and Ireland, which were divided into many different warring kingdoms, were in internal disarray and became easy prey. TheFranks, however, had well-defended coasts and heavily fortified ports and harbours. Pure thirst for adventure may also have been a factor. A reason for the raids is believed by some[who?] to be over-population caused by technological advances, such as the use of iron. Although another cause could well have been pressure caused by the Frankish expansion to the south of Scandinavia and their subsequent attacks upon the Viking peoples. Another possible contributing factor is that Harald I of Norway("Harald Fairhair") had united Norway around this time, and the bulk of the Vikings were displaced warriors who had been driven out of his kingdom and who had nowhere to go. Consequently, these Vikings became raiders, in search of subsistence and bases to launch counter-raids against Harald. One theory that has been suggested is that the Vikings would plant crops after the winter and go raiding as soon as the ice melted on the sea, then returned home with their loot, in time to harvest the crops.
One important centre of trade was at Hedeby. Close to the border with the Franks, it was effectively a crossroads between the cultures, until its eventual destruction by the Norwegians in an internecine dispute around 1050. York was the centre of the kingdom of Jórvík from 866, and discoveries there (e.g. a silk cap, a counterfeit of a coin fromSamarkand and a cowry shell from the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf) suggest that Scandinavian trade connections in the 10th century reached beyond Byzantium. However, those items could also have been Byzantine imports, and there is no reason to assume that the Varangians travelled significantly beyond Byzantium and the Caspian Sea.
See also: Norse activity in the British Isles, Viking expansion#British Isles, and Invasions of the British Isles#Viking raids and invasions
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Viking raiders struck England in 793 and raided Lindisfarne, the monastery that held Saint Cuthbert’s relics. The raiders killed the monks and captured the valuables. This raid marks the beginning of the "Viking Age of Invasion", made possible by the Viking longship. There was great but sporadic violence from the last decade of the 8th century on England’s northern and western shores: Viking raids continued on a small scale across coastal England. While the initial raiding groups were small, it is believed that a great amount of planning was involved. The Norwegians raided during the winter between 840 and 841, rather the usual summer, having waited on an island off Ireland. In 850 Vikings overwintered for the first time in England, on the island of Thanet, Kent. In 854 a raiding party overwintered a second time, at theIsle of Sheppey in the Thames estuary. In 864 they reverted to Thanet for their winter encampment.
The Anglo-Saxon dioceses before 925. Normal diocesan life was greatly disrupted in England during the Viking Age.
The following year the Great Heathen Army led by the Brothers Ivar the Boneless, Halfdan and Ubbe Ragnarsson, and also by another Viking Guthrum, arrived in East Anglia. They proceeded to cross England into Northumbria and captured York, establishing the Viking community of Jorvik, where some settled as farmers and craftsmen. Most of the English kingdoms, being in turmoil, could not stand against the Vikings. In 867 Northumbria became the northern kingdom of the coalescing Danelaw, after its conquest by the brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless, who installed an Englishman, Ecgberht, as a puppet king. By 870 the "Great Summer Army" arrived in England, led by a Viking leader called Bagsecg and his Five Earls. Aided by the Great Heathen Army (which had already overrun much of England from its base in Jorvik), Bagsecg's forces, and Halfdan's forces (through an alliance), the combined Viking forces raided much of England until 871, when they planned an invasion of Wessex. On 8 January 871, Bagsecg was killed at the Battle of Ashdown along with his Earls. As a result, many of the Vikings returned to northern England, where Jorvic had become the centre of the Viking kingdom but Alfred of Wessex managed to keep them out of his country. Alfred and his successors continued to drive back the Viking frontier and take York.
A new wave of Norwegian Vikings appeared in England in 947 when Erik Bloodaxe captured York. The Viking presence continued throughout the reign of the Danish King Cnut the Great (1016–1035), after which a series of inheritance arguments weakened power of his descendants. By 1012, the Vikings were in service in England as Thingmen, a personal bodyguard to the King of England. They were offered payment, the Danegeld, which lasted from 1012 to 1066 and stopped Viking raids for almost twenty years. The Viking presence dwindled until 1066, when the invading Norsemen lost their final battle with the English at Stamford Bridge. Nineteen days later the Normans, themselves descended from Norsemen, invaded England and defeated the weakened English army at the Battle of Hastings.
Fire-gilded dragon's head from Ireland, found in a Viking grave at Stavanger, Norway (Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen)
The Vikings conducted extensive raids in Ireland and founded the cities of Waterford, Cork, Dublin and Limerick. The Vikings and Scandinavians settled down and intermixed with the Irish. Literature, crafts, and decorative styles in Ireland and Britain reflected Scandinavian culture. Vikings traded at Irish markets in Dublin. Excavations found imported fabrics from England, Byzantium, Persia and central Asia. Dublin became so crowded by the 11th century that houses were constructed outside the town walls.
The Vikings pillaged monasteries on Ireland's west coast in 795 and then spread out to cover the rest of the coastline. The north and east of the island were most affected. During the first 40 years, the raids were conducted by small, mobile Viking groups. By 830, the groups consisted of large fleets of Viking ships. From 840, the Vikings began establishing permanent bases at the coasts. Dublin was the most significant settlement in the long term. The Irish became accustomed to the Viking presence. In some cases they became allies and married each other.
In 832, a Viking fleet of about 120 invaded kingdoms on Ireland’s northern and eastern coasts. Some believe that the increased number of invaders coincided with Scandinavian leaders' desires to control the profitable raids on the western shores of Ireland. During the mid-830s, raids began to push deeper into Ireland, as opposed to just touching the coasts. Navigable waterways made this deeper penetration possible. After 840, the Vikings had several bases in strategic locations dispersed throughout Ireland.
In 838, a small Viking fleet entered the River Liffey in eastern Ireland. The Vikings set up a base, which the Irish called a longphort. This longphort eventually became Dublin. After this interaction, the Irish experienced Viking forces for about 40 years. The Vikings also established longphorts in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Wexford. The Vikings could sail through on the main river and branch off into different areas of the country.
Like Mel Gibson's ferocious warriors in Braveheart, the Picts were known for blue body-paint and a rather hostile attitude to southerners
William Wallace, in his most famous battle (The battle of Stirling Bridge), had about 5,000 men (just 100 of them knights). The English army was 50,000 foot soldiers, 4,000 archers, and 1,000 heavy cavalry knights. But Wallace, was not intimidated by this. He let half the
cross over the Stirling bridge, then signaled his men who were hiding below the bridge to take out the supports. The bridge collapsed and killed many English soldiers. The commanders of the English army did not know what to do except watch in horror as their divided army was split and being massacred. The commanders did know how to do one thing, run, like cowards they ran until they hit the English border.
The Battle of Falkirk, 1298
The English nobility had been on the edge of civil war with Edward I. They were disgruntled over his wars in France and Scotland, however, faced with the humiliating defeat by the Scots at Stirling Bridge, they united behind him in time for the Battle of Falkirk.
According to later tales, Wallace told his men: ‘I hae brocht ye to the ring, now see gif ye can dance’, however, as one historian has called it, ‘it was a dance of death’, as Wallace had seriously misjudged Edward’s battle tactics. His Welsh archers proved to be the decisive weapon: their arrows raining death on the Scots spearmen.
Wallace the Diplomat.
After Falkirk, the Scots nobles reasserted their role as guardians of the kingdom and continued the war with Edward. Wallace was assigned a new role as an envoy for the Scots to the courts of Europe.
Diplomacy was crucial to the Scots war effort and Wallace, by now a renowned figure across Europe, played a high profile role. In 1299 he left Scotland for the court of King Philip IV of France. He was briefly imprisoned for various political motives, but was soon released and given the French king’s safe conduct to the papal court. Wallace returned to Scotland in 1301, with the diplomatic effort seemingly in good stead.
However, the French abandoned Scotland when they needed Edward’s help to suppress a revolt in Flanders. With no prospect of victory, the Scottish leaders capitulated and recognised Edward as overlord in 1304. Only Wallace refused to submit, perhaps signing his own death warrant at this time.
Here was the crucial difference between Wallace and the key players from amongst the Scottish nobles - for Wallace there was no compromise, the English were his enemy and he could not accept their rule in any form. However, the nobles were more pliable and willing to switch sides, or placate the English, when it served their own ends. Wallace had become a nuisance to both his feudal superiors and the English.
The Martyrdom of William Wallace
Wallace was declared an outlaw, which meant his life was forfeit and that anyone could kill him without trial. He continued his resistance, but on August 3rd, 1305, he was captured at Robroyston, near Glasgow. His captor, Sir John Menteith, the ‘false’ Menteith, has gone down in Scottish legend as the betrayer of Wallace, but he acted as many others would have. Menteith was no English lackey, and in 1320 he put his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath.
Wallace was taken to Dumbarton castle, but quickly moved to London for a show trial in Westminster Hall. He was charged with two things - being an outlaw and being a traitor. No trial was required, but, by charging him as a traitor, Edward intended to destroy his reputation. At his trial he had no lawyers and no jury, he even wasn’t allowed to speak, but when he was accused of being a traitor, he denied it, saying he had never been Edward’s subject in the first place. Inevitably he was found guilty and was taken for immediate execution - in a manner designed to symbolise his crimes.
Wrapped in an ox hide to prevent him being ripped apart, thereby shortening the torture, he was dragged by horses four miles through London to Smithfield.
There he was hanged, as a murderer and thief, but cut down while still alive. Then he was mutilated, disembowelled and, being accused of treason, he was probably emasculated. For the crimes of sacrilege to English monasteries, his heart, liver, lungs and entrails were cast upon a fire, and, finally, his head was chopped off. His carcase was then cut up into bits. His head was set on a pole on London Bridge, another part went to Newcastle, a district Wallace had destroyed in 1297-8, the rest went to Berwick, Perth and Stirling (or perhaps Aberdeen), as a warning to the Scots. Edward had destroyed the man, but had enhanced the myth.
Wallace became a martyr, the very symbol of Scotland’s struggle for freedom. He entered the realm of folktale and legend. From Blind Harry's 'Wallace' to Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’, William Wallace continues to haunt the Scottish imagination with a vision of freedom.
Archaeologists are searching the site to solve the 200-year mystery of the Pictish carving.
The stone has baffled historians because Galloway was inhabited by the tribe known as Britons.
The Britons were a Celtic people who occupied much of Britain - but were fragmented after the Anglo-Saxon settlement in the 5th and 6th centuries AD.
Further north were the Scots, with ‘Pictland’ further still, north of the Firth of Forth.
The Pictish stone is one of only three known out of their traditional territory - the others being in known Dark Age capitals.
Ronan Toolis of Guard Archaeology, who is leading the dig, said today/yesterday that the royal link could finally provide an explanation.
He said: ‘It looks increasingly likely that this fortress was built in the Dark Ages, and occupied during the fifth to the seventh centuries AD.
‘The Pictish stone dates from that time, but the big question has always been what it was doing in Galloway.
‘We know of only two other similar carvings outside Pictland - at Dunadd in Argyll and on Edinburgh Castle rock, both of which were capitals of Dark Age kingdoms.