How Long Did the Vikings Rule England?

The Vikings, seafaring Norsemen from Scandinavia, began raiding the coasts of England in the late 8th century. Over time, their invasions evolved from simple raids to full-fledged attempts at conquest and colonization. While the Vikings established a significant presence in parts of England, their “rule” can be seen in phases and was never absolute over the entire country.

How Long Did the Vikings Rule England?

1. Initial Raids and Establishing a Presence (Late 8th Century to Mid-9th Century)

The first recorded Viking raid on England occurred in 793 AD at the island monastery of Lindisfarne. Over the next few decades, their raids intensified, targeting monasteries and coastal settlements. These early forays were primarily hit-and-run in nature, focused on acquiring wealth.

2. The Great Heathen Army (865 AD onwards)

By the mid-9th century, the Vikings escalated their ambitions. In 865 AD, the Great Heathen Army, a large Viking force, invaded the English kingdoms. Within a decade, they overran Northumbria, East Anglia, and much of Mercia. It was during this period that the Vikings established the Danelaw, a region of England under Norse control and influence.

3. The Reign of Cnut (Early 11th Century)

Perhaps the pinnacle of Viking rule in England was during the reign of Cnut (or Canute) the Great. Cnut was a Danish prince who became King of England in 1016 after a series of battles against English claimants to the throne. He ruled until his death in 1035, overseeing not just England but also parts of Scandinavia. Under Cnut, Viking rule was more centralized and organized, but it was also relatively short-lived.

4. Decline and End of Viking Rule (Mid-11th Century)

After Cnut’s death, his empire began to fracture. By 1042, the English crown reverted to the old Anglo-Saxon line with the reign of Edward the Confessor. Although there were subsequent Viking attempts to reclaim the English throne, notably by Harald Hardrada in 1066, these efforts were unsuccessful. Later that same year, the Normans, themselves descended from Vikings but heavily influenced by Frankish culture, invaded and conquered England.

In Conclusion

While Viking invasions and settlements spanned nearly three centuries, their rule over significant parts of England was intermittent and region-specific. The idea of a comprehensive “Viking rule” over the entirety of England is a misconception. Their influence, however, was profound, leaving linguistic, cultural, and genetic imprints that persist to this day.

by Abdullah Sam
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