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Battle of Stamford Bridge


With the death of Edward the Confessor in January of 1066, there were many contenders for the English throne. Three major players showed their colors quite early: Harold Godwinsson, Harold Hardradi (The Ruthless), and William of Normandy (the future William the Conqueror).


Harold Godwinsson's Claim

The Godwin family had been quite powerful during the reign of Edward the Confessor. Harold's sister, Edith, had been Edward's queen. Tostig, Harold's brother, was a favorite of The Confessor.

Harold himself was known to be loyal to the monarch. His claim to the throne came through his connections, and the confidence the ruling council (The Witan) felt with Harold's past history. He was proclaimed king shortly after Edward's death, being crowned at Westminster Abbey.


Harold Hardradi's Claim

Hardradi was the successor to King Magnus of Norway, to whom Hardradi believed had been promised the English crown. King Magnus hadn't been interested in being King of England, but Harold The Ruthless was. With the help of Tostig, Harold's brother, an invasion force set sail for England in September, 1066.

The King of Norway wanted the crown while Tostig wanted the earldom of Northumberland which had been stripped from him by his brother. For Tostig, it was a case of revenge.


William of Normandy's Claim

William's belief that he should be King of England came from a promise he felt he had been given by his cousin, Edward the Confessor. William held that Edward had told him that he would be the heir to the English crown. William also believed that King Harold had sworn to uphold William as the heir. In his view Harold assuming the English crown was effectively the breaking of that oath.


The Battle of Stamford Bridge, September 1066

Along with Tostig, Harold Hardradi sailed for England with a fleet of 300 ships and 9000 men. Coming up the river Humber, and landing just south of York, they were met with little vital resistance.

York soon found itself under the control of Harold the Ruthless. Pleas for help were sent south, to King Harold.

Harold Godwinsson then had to make a difficult decision. It was expected that William of Normandy would be sailing to enforce his claim to England. If Harold were to give battle outside York, that would virtually guarantee William a safe landing as the English forces would be involved in the north.

Acting upon intelligence, King Harold concluded that William would not be able to sail until mid-October. On September 20, Harold marched to York. Within five days, King Harold and his forces were confronting the Viking invaders at Stamford Bridge. Hardradi, Tostig, and their men were caught totally off-guard.

Suffering an arrow to his throat, Hardradi was killed, Tostig, took up the banner and continued the battle. King Harold offered peace to his brother, but it was refused. Tostig was killed and the Viking invaders were defeated. King Harold allowed the survivors to return to Norway, the return voyage only requiring 24 ships.


The Place in History of The Battle of Stamford Bridge

Although threats of further Viking invasions were often heard, Stamford Bridge was the last Viking invasion and battle on English soil. It also brought about the demise of one claimant to the English throne. However, while Harold was busy with the Norway king, William of Normandy was able to sail his invasion fleet across The Channel.

On September 28, 1066, William made safe landfall on the Sussex coast, at Pevensey Bay. There was no opposition. The beginning rumbles of the Battle of Hastings had begun.

Article by "Tudor Rose"

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