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General Discussion / OTD 18th October 1016/1020: Assandun
« Last post by Phyllis on October 24, 2020, 11:09:50 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the most popular post from the past week commemorating the Battle of Assandun / Ashingdon on 18th October 1016 and the consecration of the church there on the same day in 1020 as a commemoration. It also features one of the alleged villains of English history, Eadric Streona, who was identified by historians to be in the top 10 of “worst historical Britons” for BBC History magazine in 2005.

Here’s the post:

On 18th October we recall the Battle of Assandun (Ashingdon) in 1016 when Cnut, son of Swein Forkbeard, who had briefly been King of England in 1014, defeated Edmund Ironside. In spite of his victory, Cnut agreed to divide England between the two of them.

The idea of England as a single country was an option, but not a fixed idea yet. It was still reasonable to split the land in this way, and may even have continued if Edmund had not died fairly soon after. This was the point at which England as a whole became part of Cnut's “Empire of the North”.
William of Malmesbury describes the events of early 1016:

“Canute, having settled his affairs in Denmark, and entered into alliance with the neighbouring kings, came to England, determined to subdue it or perish in the attempt. Proceeding from Sandwich into Kent, and thence into West Saxony, he laid everything .waste with fire and slaughter, while the king was lying sick at Corsham. Edmund indeed attempted to oppose him, but being thwarted by Edric [Streona], he placed his forces in a secure situation.”

Edmund in fact had raised revolt against his father and married Ealdgyth, whom his father had ordered should be taken to Malmesbury Abbey following the murder of her husband by Eadric Streona. Edmund tried to persuade his army to fight the invading Danish but they dispersed because Æþelred did not come to lead them.

Finally on 23rd April 1016 Æþelred died, while he and Edmund were in London preparing to defend it from Cnut. Edmund was chosen as King and so began his brief and embattled reign, during which he displayed a more martial spirit than his father. While London held itself against Cnut, who besieged it to no avail, Edmund broke out and headed for Wessex where he raised a further army. Cnut then moved to Wessex to face the threat from Edmund. They fought first at Penselwood (Dorset) where Edmund had a victory, then at Sherston after midsummer, which was inconclusive although some English defected to the Danish side, including Eadric Streona.

Cnut returned to London to try to take the city again. Edmund raised more troops and was then able to relieve London. Some of Cnut’s forces were driven to their ships, and Edmund fought them again at Brentford. He then drove the Danes into Kent and fought at Otford, and Eadric appeared to feel the tide had turned in the English favour and returned to Edmund, although not for long.

The Battle of Assandun was the final and decisive battle of the year. The location is not entirely certain but generally thought to be in Essex near Rochford. Both sides had lost a great many men in the preceding months and the date is late in the campaigning season; but the battle went to Cnut, along with the kingdom. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes it tersely:

“then assembled he [Edmund], for the fifth time, all the English nation, and followed after them [the Danes], and overtook them in Essex, at the down which is called Assandun: and there they strenuously joined battle. Then did Eadric the ealdorman, as he had oft before done, begin the flight first with the Magesaetas, and so betrayed his royal lord and the whole people of the English race. There Cnut had the victory; and all the English nation fought against him. There was slain bishop Eadnoth, and abbat Wulsige, and Aelfric the ealdorman, and Godwine the ealdorman of Lindsey, and Ulfcytel of East-Anglia, and Aethelweard, son of Aethelwine the ealdorman; and all the nobility of the English race was there destroyed.”

The Liber Eliensis (Book of Ely) also records that “there was a massacre in that place of almost the whole array of the nobility of the English, who never received a more wounding blow in war than there.”

Eadric’s treachery was countered by Edmund’s stirring rally of his men, according to the Encomium Emmae Reginae, written for Queen Emma, widow of King Æþelred, who married Cnut after his victory.

“Then Eadmund, observing what had occurred, and hard pressed on every side, said: "Oh Englishmen, today you will fight or surrender yourselves all together. Therefore, fight for your liberty and your country, men of understanding; truly, those who are in flight, inasmuch as they are afraid, if they were not withdrawing, would be a hindrance to the army." And as he said these things, he advanced into the midst of the enemy, cutting down the Danes on all sides, and by this example rendering his noble followers more inclined to fight.”

Edmund did not want to admit defeat even after this catastrophe, but his support drained away. Skaldic verse refers to one further battle near the Forest of Dean before the peace talks at Deerhurst, where England was divided between the two sides, until Edmund’s death in November. And so England had a second Danish king, the founder of a North Sea Empire which nevertheless did not survive his death.

In 1020 Cnut consecrated a church at Assandun on 18th October, the anniversary of the battle, to commemorate the warriors who died.

News & Events / Re: Wreath laying Battle Abbey
« Last post by Phyllis on October 24, 2020, 10:57:19 AM »
A couple joined the companions today after seeing our wreath at Battle Abbey.

This is such a lovely piece of news!

Thanks again to the gesithas who were able to attend and so let more people know about us :)
News & Events / Re: Wreath laying Battle Abbey
« Last post by David on October 23, 2020, 09:52:01 PM »
A couple joined the companions today after seeing our wreath at Battle Abbey.
News & Events / Re: Wreath laying Battle Abbey
« Last post by Phyllis on October 23, 2020, 03:23:33 PM »
I would also like to say thank you to the gesithas who managed to attend. It feels like a really important thing for us to do, and like the Pony Express it's good to see we were not prevented!
General Discussion / Re: Rare coin of King Harold found in Norfolk
« Last post by Phyllis on October 23, 2020, 03:21:40 PM »
kids today eh?

Actually I was really pleased to see that they are getting involved  :)
News & Events / Re: Wreath laying Battle Abbey
« Last post by Eanflaed on October 22, 2020, 09:18:38 AM »
That would be great, David.
News & Events / Re: Wreath laying Battle Abbey
« Last post by David on October 21, 2020, 08:06:52 PM »
Yes I have a few that I and Archie's mother took. Then Tim and Nigel have said that they might send me some.
General Discussion / Rare coin of King Harold found in Norfolk
« Last post by Blackdragon on October 21, 2020, 11:58:20 AM »
News & Events / Re: Wreath laying Battle Abbey
« Last post by Eanflaed on October 21, 2020, 09:08:09 AM »
Did you get any photos of it for Wiðowinde David? I think it was very good and important that you intrepid few were there.
News & Events / Talk: Susan Oosthuizen
« Last post by Phyllis on October 20, 2020, 02:43:56 PM »
Gesithas might be interested in this event:


It's a talk by Susan Oosthuzen on her book The Emergence of the English, and is free to attend but requires registration
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