Today on September 25, 1066, the newly crowned King of England, Harold Godwinson, fended off a viking invasion at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Harold Godwinson was crowned King of England after the death of Edward the Confessor earlier in 1066. His succession sparked several disputes over who was the rightful ruler of England, including from the Norwegian King, Harald Hardrada. Godwinson’s own brother, Tostig, supported the Norwegian claim and joined the invading force prior to the battle.
As soon as Godwinson learned of the Norwegian force’s landing, he assembled his army and traveled north with remarkable speed. Marching day and night, they made it from London to Yorkshire in only four days; a distance of almost 200 miles. The vikings had absolutely no clue that a hostile army was even in their vicinity. The element of a surprise attack would ultimately give Godwinson the deciding advantage.
The Battle of Stamford Bridge took place in northern England at the village of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire. The engagement was long, and bloody. Most of the viking soldiers did not even have time to put their armour on, as Godwinson had suddenly appeared on the battlefield. Most of the estimated 9,000 viking warriors, including Hardrada and Tostig, were killed that day. Of the more than 300 transport ships they used to reach England, only 24 of them sailed home.