The Viking Invasion!
After waiting for
sight of the Normans and losing his levies the desperate news then came of a Viking
landing on a lightly defended part of the North East coast.
There had been a defeat at York. The Viking forces were even
greater than those expected from the Normans. Harold had no alternative but to move his army to defend his
Kingdom from the Vikings.
his Army to the North of England, on the old Roman road called
"Watling Street". This destroyed King Harold's plans to deal with Duke William's
invading force from Normandy.
Treachery! Earl Tostig plots with
The questions on
Harold's mind must have been "What had provoked the Viking
attack, and why now, when England was facing the threat of the
Normans?" He soon found out! Harold's ambitious, renegade
brother, Earl Tostig, had travelled to Norway and persuaded
the Norse King to attack England.
Tostig was the son
of Earl Godwin of Wessex, and brother of Harold, was born in
about 1025. In 1051 Tostig married Judith, daughter of Baldwin
IV, the count of Flanders. In 1055, King Edward the Confessor
made Tostig the Earl of Northumbria, Northamptonshire and
Huntingdonshire. Tostig's rule was tyrannical and in 1065 he
was replaced by Morcar, Harold's brother-in-law. Tostig was
banished from the country and fled to Flanders. Tostig then
went to Normandy and offered to help Duke William against his
brother. In May 1066 Tostig landed in the Isle of Wight and
then sailed to the North of England but was defeated by
Morcar. Tostig tried to involve King Sweyn of Denmark to fight
against Harold and when he refused Tostig went to Norway to
meet with King Hardrada.
Hardrada was keen to take the English crown and the combined
forces of Harald Hardrada and Tostig were massive and believed
to have totalled a formidable 10,000 men. (The Norman army
numbered less than 7,000 men and the English force was
originally 7000-8000 strong)
fleet consisted of over five hundred ships, nearly half of
which were warships, furthermore the best Norse warriors were
with the fleet. He sailed first to the Orkneys, where he
convinced many of the islanders to join him, and then on to
The possibility of
an attack from King Harald Hardrada had been totally
eclipsed by the gathering invasion force of Duke William. The
Norse attack was larger and more fierce than could ever have
been expected, possibly the largest fleet to ever sail from
the Scandinavian ports.
Earl Tostig with
King Harald Hardrada and the Vikings must have felt totally
confident in wining a victory! King Harold and his army were
waiting on the South coast of England for the Normans, leaving
the North of England vulnerable to the treacherous Earl
Tostig, King Harald Hardrada and the Vikings!