June 14, 2012

The Viking of Stamford Bridge

If the history of the British Isles is not something you know much about, that’s okay. But, there is one event that might be worth your time. In 1066, the death of Edward the Confessor left three men gunning for the English throne: William Duke of Normandy, King Harald Hardara of Norway, and Harold Godwinson (who was ultimately named the new king).

For a while, Godwinson had been waiting and preparing for a Norman invasion which continued to been delayed.  While all eyes were faced south, an attack came from the North.  The King of Norway, who was a career nut case in battle, landed close to York.   He put fire and axe a few towns and then proceeded to sack York.  After his successful destruction of those towns, he returned to his ships.  His Viking army, stationed by Stamford Bridge, were in a state of relaxation due to the fact that they thought the Saxon army was such a long way off.   After hearing of the attack, Godwinson’s army raced toward York at a record pace.  It is said that they made York in just four days.  When Godwinson drew close, he received intel that the Vikings were not at York but close to Stamford Bridge.  Godwinson was only 10 miles away.  Even though he and his troops were tired from traveling all night, he knew that his greatest weapon was the element of surprise.  As Godwinson approached Stamford Bridge, the Vikings were more than ill prepared.  They had left their chainmail on the ships and had only axes and shields at hand.  It is also said that they were sunbathing, eating and drinking.

Without warning, the Vikings saw dust rising in the distance and Godwinsons standard approaching.   In haste, they retreated so that they could form their line.  As they were seeking to regroup, one Viking received orders to remain on the bridge alone to buy the army some time.

After receiving his orders, one Viking stood bravely awaiting the Saxon assault.  Just like the in movie 300, numbers accounted for nothing on this slim bridge.  The bridge was certainly not big enough for the Saxons to get around him.  He kept his post and delayed the entire Saxon army.  Man after man attempted to put this ax wielding monster to the sword but only came to their own defeat.  It is said that this bear of a man put to death at least 40 men.  Although time was of the essence for Godwinson, it has been said that he must have enjoyed seeing this lone brave figure at work for he did not shed an arrow or use cavalry which would have quickly solved the problem.  This crazy viking slew man after man with his battle axe.  Soon a pile of bodies began to form.

Just like most heroes this one also goes out in a blaze of glory.  One enterprising young Saxon put himself in a small boat/barrel and moved down the river covered by the trees and reeds.  He soon found himself unnoticed and under the bridge with a spear in his hand.  I am sure the Saxon could hear the cries of the dying English and see blood pouring through the cracks of the bridge.  The Saxon took his spear and plunged it through the bridge missing the brave Viking. He plunged the spear a second time.  This time it found its mark. He pierced  him in the one spot that would bring tears to the eyes of any guy.  This one blow brought that beast of a man to the ground. Godwinson’s army marched past him to the other side. Through all the accounts of what took place in this battle no one man was mentioned or remembered as much as this man, The Viking of Stamford Bridge​.

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