Alfred had been king for a month when he fought - and lost - against the Vikings in Wilton.Click for footnote After Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia, Wessex now also 'made peace' with the Vikings. And the Vikings left. The winter quarters of 871-2 of the two combined armies were taken up at London, where the Mercians once more 'made peace' with them.

In Northumbria, there had by now been a rebellion against Egbert, the 'puppet ruler' of the Vikings, and both armies moved up there in 872 to restore their power, at which they succeeded in doing. The winter of 872-3 found them once more in Mercia, this time at Torksey in Lindsey, where the Mercians - how could it be otherwise? - 'made peace' with them.

land whenever the Vikings wanted it. At this point, the two Viking armies split up. For the army of 865, it was time to settle down. In 874-5 they set up winter quarters somewhere along the river Tyne and 'then conquered the land'. In 876, one year before his probable death in Ireland, Healfdene 'shared out the land of the Northumbrians', and the Vikings 'proceeded to plough the land and to support

This was not very effective though. Towards the end of 873, the Vikings moved further into Mercia and set up their winter camp at Repton in Derbyshire. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the 'Vikings drove Burgred from his kingdom and "conquered the land"' Ceolwulf was made king instead, under the condition that he should hand over the

themselves.' This settlement secured the first part of the territory that was later to become the Danelaw. The army of 871 had not been on the move for quite so long and took a different course. They spent the winter of 874-5 and the following year in Cambridge. But towards the end of that year they moved on into Wessex for a second time. And for a second time, King Alfred ' made peace' with them. But the Vikings were not ready to leave yet. Instead, they moved westward and spent the winter of 876-7 at Exeter. After a new agreement with King Alfred, they left for Mercia and camped at Gloucester. And once more, the Vikings 'shared out a land'. Some of Mercia was given to Ceolwulf. But the Vikings took over the areas of Lincoln, Leicester, Nottingham, Stamford, Derby, Northampton, Bedford and London and settled there, thus creating the second part of the Danelaw territory. 878 began terribly for King Alfred. While he was probably spending Christmas at the royal seat of Chippenham, those of the Viking army that did not settle down (still a substantial group) left Mercia and launched a surprise attack against Chippenham. The effect was desastrous. They 'occupied and settled the land of the West Saxons, and drove a great part of the people across the sea, and then subdued and subjected to themselves most of the others, except King Alfred'. Alfred seemed to have lost everything. He was forced to hide somewhere in the marshes of Somerset, as Asser describes. But he did not give up so easily. The king made a fortification at Athelney and began to fight back. 'The period spent by the King in his refuge became in course of time the most celebrated part of his reign, and gave rise to various popular stories which served to illustrate, variously, the depths to which he had sunk, the assistance he received from divine powers, and his resourcefulness in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.' For victory it was.

In early May, 'Alfred left Athelney and rode to "Egbert's Stone", east of Selwood, and was met there by the people of Somerset, Wiltshire and of part of Hampshire.' Alfred dug out a new army in practically no time - an army strong enough to defeat the Vikings at Edington in Wiltshire and pursue them to their base in Chippenham. After a one-week siege, the Vikings gave up and - for the first time - 'made peace' with an Anglo-Saxon, Alfred. Three weeks later, 'the Viking king Guthrum came with his leading men to Alfred at Aller, near Athelney; Alfred stood sponsor to Guthrum at his baptism.' A few days after this, a treaty was signed at Wedmore near Glastonbury, establishing a line between the realms of Wessex and the Danish country, between Chester and London. The lands east of this line were Danelaw.Click for footnote Within a single year, Alfred had been almost defeated, turned the wheel of fortune and - by his amazing victory - laid another stone in the foundation of the English nation. The army of Guthrum moved on from Chippenham to Cirencester towards the end of 878, and 'a year later it returned to East Anglia and settled there and shared out the land'. This third stage of Viking settlement concluded the area of Danelaw.

The victory at Edington had another advantage as well. A new Viking army had attempted to invade Wessex, but when they heard of Alfred's victory, they 'set sail for Europe and stayed there for the next thirteen years'.

'Nevertheless, in about fifteen years the Viking armies of 865 and 871 had transformed the map of Anglo-Saxon England, by overthrowing the ancient kingdoms of East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia and by replacing them with new political structures of their own; their influence on the society of the areas where they settled was more subtle, but no less significant for that.'

Danish Armies
Viking Tour
King Alfred and the Vikings II
The Early Raids Danish Armies King Alfred and the Vikings I
King Alfred and the Vikings II English Re-Conquest King Æthelred
  A Danish king on the
throne of England