Friday, February 17, 2012

The Last Viking

Harald Hardradi cut his teeth at 15 at the battle of Stiklarstadir where his brother, the dethroned King Olaf attempted to seize his Kingdom of Norway back from the Danes. The battle lost, his brother slain, Harald left the frozen northland and wandered to his kinfolk's Kingdom on the Dniepr. He stayed in Kiev for awhile waging Viking where he could. At last he wandered south to the court of the Emperor of Byzantium, where he took up service with the Varangian guards. He fought in campaigns in Sicily and Bulgaria and some few in Anatolia earning such credit that the Emperor refused to allow him leave.

He shirked that refusal and taking his 500 men decided to return to his inheritance in Norway. In a long campaign he stole back half of Norway and eventually the whole of it. Lording over the northlands, sporting a great beard and wielding his axe he was called by all King Harald Land Waster for his long and brutal war with the Danes and the Upplanders.

After years of war with the Danes Harald turned his eyes on England where the King had died and another Viking King Harald had taken the throne. Through his father's kin Land Waster had a claim to that throne too and he marshaled and army to take his chances. Crossing the North Sea he ravaged the coasts of Northumbria and plunged his army into the heart of the northern counties.

But here fate met the old Viking at last. His army met Harald Godwin's at Stamford Bridge and caught off guard (for none expected Godwin to move so fast) Harald Hardradi met the Viking in a brutal battle. Hardradi dies with an arrow in his throat, fighting to the last no doubt.

His son, Olaf, quit the field and promised peace and returned to rule in Norway for 30 years. The Viking Age had ended.

post script: Harold Godwin fell some weeks later at the hands of William the Bastard.

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