Ethelred the Pious

Off-site discussion

The Ninth Century covers the first thirty years after the point of divergence.


The Danes under Halfdan Rangnarsson and his brother Ivar conquered all of England after the Battle of Ashdown. They chased Ethelred and Alfred from Ashdown to the south, the heart of the West Saxon kingdom, and then into Kent. Ethelred made frequent counterattacks, some of them successful, but in the end was unable to decisively defeat the Danes as his own army dwindled.

With the victory at the Battle of Headcorn, Halfdan and Ivar's conquest of England was complete. They were in command of two new Danish kingdoms, Jórvík (York) and Østangeln (Eastanglia).


Britain in 900

The Vikings' next task was to secure their conquest. The rest of the century was devoted to consolidating Scandinavian rule in an island that was still largely Anglo-Saxon. There was still a rump Saxon Kingdom of Northumberland in the far north and a self-governing Mercia in the Midlands. Many of the nobility of Wessex had taken refuge on the often-raided but unconquered Isle of Wight. Most pressing was the rebellion Alfred continued to wage.

Many Viking chieftains and their followers were settled on the wide southlands of Jorvik, where they became local rulers over the Saxon people. Mercia's partition into jarldoms began the process of absorbing the remaining Saxon states. In 895, Hrolfr the Northman and his band of warriors were granted lands in Devon, from which Hrolf would later invade and conquer the Welsh kingdom of Kernow. Alfred's rebellion was wiped out in 881.

Other tensions lurked beneath the surface. There was conflict between the Saxons and their new Scandinavian rulers. Halfdan of Jorvik dealt with this through unthinkable cruelty and bloodshed. His son Hogni was more temperate and re-established some of the Saxons' local laws and customs, at least in the far South, in the so-called Angelagen.

At the same time, the two kingdoms were not getting along. Halfdan had been the stronger partner in his alliance with his brother, and after their victory had absorbed most of Wessex and all of Mercia into Jorvik, leaving Ivar of Østangeln with little to show for all his campaigning in 871-873. War broke out twice, in which Halfdan decidedly defended his conquests. Their sons attempted to make peace, but to no avail.

Frankish lands

In the 880s, Charles the Fat reunited the Frankish Empire, just as he would have without the point of divergence. However, he faced a very different situation in the north of the empire. The Vikings were a constant problem, but they came in petty raiding parties, not massive invasion forces; this is because England was drawing off so many of the Vikings' energies.

Sigfred, a Danish king, attacked Paris in 885. Count Odo was the defender of Paris, holding the titles of Count of Paris and Margrave of Neustria. He easily drove off the petty Danish raiding party. Therefore, he never became a famous general, and never was a contender for the throne of West Francia. Therefore, the Robertian dynasty of Paris never had a chance to rise to power in the Ninth Century; rather than rulers of an independent kingdom, they finished the century as rather powerful vassals to the Frankish, or Western Roman Empire.

The Franks' unity was threatened when Charles died unexpectedly in 889 with his only heir being a child and an adoptee, Louis the Wary. Louis' supporters began a long but successful struggle to gain control in the empire. By 899, Louis was full grown and was acknowledged as ruler in most parts of his father's realm. The Pope crowned him in 900.

Englebrog Century Pages for Ethelred the Pious

9th | 10th | 11th | 12th
Front page | Main timeline

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.