The Battle of Tettenhall

In the late 9th century CE, Alfred the Great, King of the Anglo-Saxons, threw the Viking invaders out of the Wessex and Mercia. However, the other five of the seven kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy East Anglia, Mercia, Kent, Essex, Sussex, and most of Northumbria remained in the hands of the Vikings. Known as the “Danelaw”, the Viking’s ruled over their own petty kingdoms inside the Danelaw.

In 909 CE, Alfred’s son and daughter, King Edward the Elder of Wessex and Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia, launched their own raid into the Danelaw to recapture the relics of Saint Oswald. Saint Oswald was a powerful former founder of Northumbria, and saint who converted Northumbria to Christianity. His relics were held in the Kingdom of Jórvík (York), the southern Viking ruled portion of Northumbria. Edward and Aethelflaed’s successful recovery of Saint Oswald’s relics established their legitimacy among the Northumbrian population, who for decades languished under the pagan Danelaw.

In reprisal for the raid, three “kings” of the Danelaw, the brothers Ivarr, Eowils and Halfdan Ragnarsson sought revenge. In 910, they learned Edward was in the south of Wessex and planned to raid his sister Aethelflaed’s weaker lands in his absence. They gathered a large army, and in their longboats struck up the River Severn into the heart Mercia. Scuttling their longboats, they ravaged Mercia with impunity, gathering a great amount of slaves and loot, with Aethelflaed and the Mercian army just out of reach.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, Edward learned of the raid in advance. He marched his West Saxon army to Mercia’s aid and merged with Aethelflaed’s army. Edward maneuvered his army of Mercians and West Saxons between the booty laden Viking army and forced the three brothers to battle outside the village of Tettenhall.

Not much is known of the specifics of the Battle of Tettenhall. What is known is that Edward and Aethelflaed “trapped” the Viking army. “Many thousands” of Vikings died, including Ivarr, Eowils and Halfdan, and potentially the entire army was wiped out. The massacre was “so terrible… no language can describe.” The devastating Viking loss at Tettenhall broke the Danelaw, and laid it open for invasion and re-conquest by the Anglo-Saxons.

The Viking host of Ivarr, Eowils and Halfdan was the last great Viking raiding army to ravage Anglo-Saxon lands. With the northern Danes defeated, Edward and Aethelflaed reconquered the southern kingdoms of the Heptarchy. Edward’s son Aethelstan continued his father’s and aunt’s reconquest by invading and conquering the Kingdom of York. Shortly thereafter, Aethelstan accepted the fealty of the notoriously proud northern Northumbrians. In 927 CE, Aethelstan was crowned the first King of England.

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