Thank you Anna for having me. I am absolutely delighted to be here today to talk about one of my favourite subjects — Vikings and the Kingdom of Northumbria. A number of my Viking set books have had links to Northumbria and I think it a shame that this aspect of history is often overlooked.
The North East of England which is where the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was basically located has long been entwined with Vikings. It was here the Lindisfarne raid in 793 ushered in the Viking Age and in 1066, the Battle of Stamford Bridge ended Viking pretensions to an empire. In the intervening 273 years, Northumbria initially repulsed raids before succumbing to the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok in 866 who attacked the capital Eoforwic (York) on All Saints Day when everyone was in church. Northumbria was also in the midst of one of its regularly occurring civil wars which might have helped. The Vikings basically then ruled Northumbria. They concentrated on the area around York, while allowing the client kingdom of Bernicia to provide a buffer between them and the Scots. The Irish Vikings as well as the emerging kingdom of Sctoland vied with the Yorkshire Vikings for control of Northern England. Much of this fighting took place in what is now call the Broder region of England and Scotland. Many battles are half-remembered places. For example, we know there were two battles of Corbridge because the second battle in 922 was referenced because Constantine of the Scots was defeated and then retired to St Andrews. No one knows when the first battle was.
In order to ensure the Vikings would not return and threaten his rule, William the Conqueror conducted the razing of the North. There is very little about the North East in the Doomsday Book because of what William the Conqueror’s soldiers did. Even his biographer found it difficult to excuse his treatment of the North East. After burning villages, the Northumbrian people were sold into slavery — mainly to the emerging kingdom of Scotland. It took a long time for the North to recover.
Prior to this, Northumbria was a prosperous kingdom – both under the Vikings and the Anglo Saxons, renowned its wool, hunting dogs and embroidery. Very few pieces of Anglo Saxon embroidery survive. The Normans took most of it but several pieces are in Durham cathedral.
Evidence in place names, and gravestones shows that the Vikings did stay and become part of the country and as they did, they became part of Anglo Saxon culture.
It would also be a mistake to think the Northumbrians were totally inept militarily. While the Lindisfarne raid was hugely successful, the next attempted Viking raid in 794 failed due to a terrible storm (dubbed St Cuthbert’s storm after the king of Northumbria prayed to the saint to avenge the raid) which stranded the Viking raiders. The Vikings were all slaughtered. After this botched raid, the Viking threat to Northumbria diminished and the raids in Northumbria (but not the rest of the UK) were less severe until they invaded properly in 866. The pretext for the invasion was the murder of Ragnar Lodbrok by the king of Northumbria, but Scandinavian politics may have played their part. And the Vikings seemed to have an unerring eye at attacking those countries which were weaker than they were.
One of the reasons I love writing about the Viking sin Northumbria besides getting use the wonderful landscapes of Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland is the chance to explore about what happens when the person you considered a demon becomes the person you are meant to be with. When cultures clash and there is real enmity, how does love blossom and grow? How do people see beyond racial stereotypes to the person underneath?
In my latest, Summer of the Viking examines what happens when a Viking warrior is forced to survive in Northumbria quite soon after the St Cuthbert raid and what happens when his rescuer falls for him and then discovers the truth about his origins.
This is a short excerpt from it:
“I would defend you to my dying breath,” he said.
“Our people are enemies, Valdar. Enemies,” she replied.
“Are we enemies, Alwynn?”
“We are certainly not friends.”
“We were lovers.”
“That is in the past.”
He went over to her, magnificent in his nakedness. “It will never be over between us as long as I have breath in my body.”
You can read the first chapter for free at https://www.overdrive.com/media/2150388/summer-of-the-viking
Summer of the Viking is published in June 2015 and available in print from Harlequin http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=59135&cid=191 and as an e-book everywhere including Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Summer-Viking-Michelle-Styles-ebook/dp/B00R0HZZ8S/ref=zg_bsnr_700119011_32
.You can learn more about Michelle on her website www.michellestyles.co.uk or follow her on twitter @michellelstyles.