1013: the year the Vikings conquered England

It's more than 1,000 years since Swein Forkbeard employed superior military strength and tactical ability to supplant the descendants of Alfred the Great. Sarah Foot traces Swein's journey from foreign adventurer to first Viking king of England...

A portrait of Swein, king of Denmark and England, taken from one of his coins. (Getty Images)
Around one thousand years ago, the king of Denmark (and lord also over Norway and Sweden) invaded England with a large fleet. After a brief campaign, he secured the submission of all the English people apart from the inhabitants of London. When, as a near-contemporary English chronicler reported, “all the nation regarded him as full king”, the citizens of London finally capitulated and submitted, giving the Dane hostages, “for fear that he would destroy them”.
That king was Swein Forkbeard. His swift conquest sent the Anglo-Saxons’ native ruler, Æthelred (nicknamed ‘the Unready’) into exile in Normandy, leaving his English subjects to pay a large tribute and supply their conqueror and his army with provisions.

Want to read more?

Become a BBC History Magazine subscriber today to unlock all premium articles in The Library

Unlock now