When the Vikings Came Back to England
One of the last heroic kings of the Anglo-Saxon era was Edmund II, AKA Edmund Ironside (circa 993 – 1016), who ruled England king from April 23rd to November 30th, 1016. He was the son of one of England’s worst kings: the weak and vacillating Ethelred the Unready. The son was a vast improvement over his father, and Edmund proved himself made of sterner stuff than his predecessor. He earned the surname “Ironside” for his staunch resistance to a massive invasion led by the Danish King Canute – the one whom supposedly ordered the sea’s waves to stop. In in 991, Edmund’s father, Ethelred the Unready had unwisely sought to buy off the Danes, who occupied northern England at the time. To get them to stop their nonstop raids into his kingdom, Ethelred paid them a tribute known as the Danegeld, or “Danish gold”.
That only emboldened the Danes. Aware that Ethelred was a pushover, they upped their demands, and insisted on ever greater tribute payments. Ethelred had set himself up for extortion, and did not get anything out of the Anglo-Saxons’ gold. The Danes collected the tribute, and continued to raid and plunder England, secure in the knowledge that they had little to fear from its weak king. Finally, after over a decade of bankrupting his kingdom and beggaring its people with the high taxes needed to pay the Danegeld, Ethelred snapped. In 1002, he ordered a massacre of all Danish settlers in his kingdom.