A True History of The Isles Part 13. The Vikings- The Isles Fight Back

As it will have been recalled in the previous seminar The Vikings had turned up and been quite repulsive in their dealings with the locals. It has to be said though, that the Saxon and Angles would have received little in way of sympathy from the Britons (Celts) (see A True History of These Isles Part 2 The Celtic Colonisation). But by the middle of the 9th Century unless you were lurking in mid-Wales it was very difficult to avoid Vikings; some misanthropic Angles preferred the latter option. However, as the people of The Isles had traditions of invading and being invaded they were not inclined to accept the Viking Way of things; and some didn’t care for salted fish.

There was also an undercurrent of dissatisfaction amongst the younger males. Suddenly some of the cannier local lords and nobles were at least getting to grunting and grumbling terms with their Viking neighbours, who had seen a shortage of warriors on account of berserking about the place (see A True History of The Isles Part 12 – The Vikings Arrive (A-aaa-a-ha! A-eeya-a-ha!)). Thus the astute Viking Lord would seek out the son who was the most blonde and inclined to break off from slaughter and ponder on the meaning or futility of life, usually an oddity amongst Viking folk. This lad would then be introduced to a maid selected for her ability to lower her eyes, look serious and not speak for half a day apart from a meaningful sigh. Thus marriage was certain. Various locals lads who had been looking forward to marrying Aelthenwhimsome or Orybreathless, were suddenly stuck with Odlumph or Alddleryna (The bull-wrestler). Some did try to hang around battlelfields hoping to be carried off by shield maidens; this was a bad plan; shield maidens only respected men who would fight, since shield maidens were very enthusiastic, trying to conquer one in combat was doomed to failure. Those lads who survived settled for Grettldump and so forth.

In addition, the Church was very fed up with its clergy being slaughtered by Vikings. Rome was starting to complain about the number of submissions for Martyrdom, and the backlog was horrendous. The Church in the Isles also thought the pagan Vikings were just not being fair picking on them. Being educated they pointed out that it had been Charlemagne (a sort of French King who had slaughtered pagans in the name of Christianity), and they had not been involved. It looked like just plain bullying.

Thus resistance was bound to arise:

The Big Bit:

The Vikings had changed Northumbria into the Kingdom of York, leaving the locals with only their bagpipes to scare younger Vikings in the deep of the night. East Anglia and Mercia had been divided up and as usual so had anyone the Vikings didn’t like (most people). It was only The Kingdom of Wessex which still hung on.

The Kings of Wessex had been previously occupied in convincing the folk of Essex and Sussex that in union there was strength; this was usually done by the aid of a large axe or sword, and thus were a bit depleted when the Vikings arrived. There were several kings whose names started off as Aethel.. and were thus not match for Vikings led by warriors such as Ivar, Sigurd, Ragnor or Hitversk; even Ragnor’s wife Aslaug sounded more impressive (he’d fallen in love with her because she could bite onions, look attractive in an old fishing net, and had a pet dog /wolf …..she must have been pretty fearsome because he had to ‘wait’ until they were married).

After the last Aethel had become Aethelquitedead, in 871 there appeared the more singular and memorable Alfred. Initially he did no better and was obliged in hide in a peasant hovel. There while paying his way he managed to burn some cakes, and thus being subject to a long ferocious nagging by a large ferocious housewife Alfred decided The Vikings were a snip in comparison. So he invented a navy, gathered together lots of peasants who were looking for pay-back, discontented clergy, young men betrothed to such as Uthelwhinge (The log-splitter), a few Vikings who were suffering proto-angst and existentialist doubts as to whole conquest business, and bands of Britons who were along for the fun of it. Since he had a fleet and an army the Vikings were never sure where he was going to attack, so after several memorable battles, they were forced to flee, retire or return home to deal with treachery, depending who was writing the account. After this to show the Vikings left behind he was fair minded he fought the Cornish, Mercians and Anglians (East), and some Welsh who were experimenting with Incursions; (these were cheaper than wars and more dignified than cattle raids). He also managed to find the time to be generous to the Church, learn Latin, establish English as a language and schools (although he had to convince some these were not a form of cruel and unusual punishment). He also convinced everyone that it was time to be Anglo-Saxons, as the tribes in Germany had copyright on the latter. To make sure no one forgot all this he had the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles written up. So intelligent gifted and forward thinking was Alfred that he died in 899, so that he wouldn’t clutter up the 10th Century. And being historic he was naturally known as The Great.


As was noted last (see A True History of The Isles Part 10 – The Fall of The Britons and A True History of the Isles Part 11 – Before & Why The Vikings) it had been a very trying time, just when everyone was getting themselves sorted out in nearly one nation too. It was most unfortunate for the locals as the Vikings they had to deal with mostly came from Norway and were used to Mountains and Glens (or the Nordic version) and so were able to rush up and down places and still have the strength to slaughter and pillage. This unsettled the whole process. Not only did various pictish kings start fighting amongst themselves, but the Scotti (or Scots or Irish) pitched in, The Britons of Strathclyde felt they were not inclined to listen to anyone, local Vikings found that The Kings of Norway kept interfering and everyone was thoroughly cross with everyone else. Small wonder that the local clergy had all written records removed for safekeeping. Now as any civil servant will know such a move is bound to lead to lost documentation, so to this day history of this time is bound in myth, guesses, legends and approximations. This is a blessing to writers of fiction and of course historians as both can be certain of continuous gainful employment on the subject.

There had been many heroic kings in the pitchish annals with stern sounding names such as Durst or Talroc, but none so impressive as Kenneth MacAlpin who reigned from 843(or 848) until 858. A very stern and noble man who forged the Picts, Scotti (or possible Gaels by now) into one people, correctly choosing Alba which would lead to Scotland and Scottish. If any pict complained about this choice, Kenneth would admonish them with the stern rebuke “This is no time to be picty!”. There would be many challenges and Vikings for the House of MacAlpin but with such a name they could not fail


The Irish adopted a different strategy when dealing with the Vikings. As it has been noted (see A True History of the Isles Part 11 – Before & Why The Vikings ) the Irish managed to have 150 kings all of whom were supposed to give due homage to A High King. What the Irish did not let on to the Vikings that no one was really allowed to agree who the High King was, which allowed several kings to claim they were the High King and go to war with others who felt they were even higher. Under the conventions of Irish politics of the time anyone who wanted to be a High King could also bring foreigners into his army without letting on where they came from or even if they were indigenous foreigners. An example is shown below


847 or 848: birth of Flann Sinna
862: death of Máel Sechnaill
877: Flann kills Donnchad mac Eochocain, becomes King of Mide
879: Áed Findliath dies
881: Flann attacks Armagh
888: Flann defeated by the Foreigners at the Battle of the Pilgrim
889: Domnall son of Áed Findliath raids Mide
892: many Foreigners leave Dublin
c. 900: Cathal mac Conchobair, King of Connacht, accepts Flann’s authority
901: the killing of Flann’s son Máel Ruanaid
902: Foreigners leave, or are driven out, of Dublin
904: quarrel between Flann and his son Donnchad
905: Flann attacks Osraige
906: Flann raids Munster, the Munsterman retaliate
908: Flann and his allies defeat the Munstermen and kill their king, Cormac mac Cuilennáin
909: oratory at Clonmacnoise rebuilt in stone on Flann’s orders
910: Flann attacks the kingdom of Bréifne
913 and 914: Flann and his son Donnchad raid south Brega, burning many churches
914: battle between Niall Glúndub and Óengus, son of Flann; Óengus mortally wounded
915: Flann’s sons Donnchad and Conchobar rebel; Flann names Niall Glúndub as his heir
916: death of Flann

Small wonder that the Vikings took to staying in Cork, Limerick, etc. and you just couldn’t step outside the walls without attracting arrows and spear from all directions and Vikings being used to charging in one direction were thus severely hampered. Although some of the younger restless ones probably ambled off to join in the fun (see: Britons in Alfred’s army), this was generally discouraged. And so the Vikings were contained and in the confusion they also lost Dublin (see pubs)

As it can be seen the Vikings did not have things all their own way, and also would be blamed by later nations for causing the arrival of England & Scotland ( Ireland &Wales having already set up shop), and so came about the insufferably annoying folk of The Isles.

From now, regrettably we shall have to pay more attention to dates and take a more structured look at the state of the Isles in the run up to the 1000,s and of course the Normans (who invented 1066)



5 thoughts on “A True History of The Isles Part 13. The Vikings- The Isles Fight Back

  1. Totally hilarious… and the chaos and confusion in the writing add to the effect, and make that part of history stand out even better as the chaotic and twisted time it was. Why, oh why, couldn’t you have been my history teacher when I needed you? They say when the student is ready the teacher appears. Where were you hiding?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just like to fool about with the ‘conventions’ of TV dramas and historical fictions; they bring out the mischief in me.
      Confession time: The Irish Reigns were lifted Copy & Paste from a serious historical article, just seemed to fit.
      Yes, 1066 is not far off, but we must not dash in the journey to produce a True & Accurate assessment of the history of these Isles.
      Ah me…………… the burden of the writer

      Liked by 1 person

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