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The End of the Viking Age: The Battle of Stamford Bridge and the Death of Harald Hardrada

Who Was the Last Viking?

The Vikings were a group of seafaring warriors, explorers, traders, and settlers who dominated much of Europe and parts of Asia and North America from the 8th to the 11th centuries CE. They were known for their daring raids, their skill in navigation, their craftsmanship, their culture, and their mythology. But who was the last Viking? And when did the Viking Age end?

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In this article, we will explore the life and legacy of Harald Hardrada, the king of Norway who is widely regarded as the last Viking. We will also look at some of the historical, literary, and archaeological sources that tell us about him and his fellow Norsemen.

The Viking Age: A Period of Exploration and Conquest

The Viking Age is generally considered to have begun in 793 CE, when a group of Norse raiders attacked the monastery of Lindisfarne on the coast of Northumbria in England. This was followed by more attacks on other monasteries, towns, and kingdoms in Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia, and beyond. The Vikings were not only raiders but also colonizers who established settlements in places like Iceland, Greenland, Normandy, Sicily, and Newfoundland.

The Vikings were also adventurers who traveled far and wide in search of new lands, riches, and fame. They reached as far as Constantinople, Baghdad, Jerusalem, North Africa, and North America. They traded with various peoples and cultures along their routes and exchanged goods, ideas, and genes. They also encountered resistance and hostility from some of their targets and rivals, such as the Franks, the Anglo-Saxons, the Byzantines, and the Rus'.

Harald Hardrada: the last Viking king

The end of the Viking Age in 1066 CE

The Varangian Guard and the Byzantine Empire

The Viking invasions of England and Normandy

The North Sea Empire and the Danelaw

The Norse colonies in Iceland and Greenland

The Viking discovery of North America

The Viking raids on monasteries and towns

The Norse culture and religion

The Viking ships and navigation

The Viking sagas and legends

The Viking art and runes

The Viking weapons and warfare

The Viking trade and exploration

The Viking settlements and society

The Norse-Gaels and the kingdom of the Isles

The Normans and the Battle of Hastings

The Rus' people and the Kievan Rus'

The Faroese and the Faroe Islands

The Icelanders and the Althing

Roald Amundsen: the last Viking explorer

The South Pole and the Northwest Passage

The Norwegian Antarctic Expedition

The race to the North Pole

The disappearance of Roald Amundsen

The Viking influence on modern languages

The Viking heritage and DNA

The Viking reenactment and festivals

The Viking archaeology and museums

The Viking tourism and attractions

The Last Viking: a biography of Roald Amundsen

The Last Kingdom: a historical fiction series

Vikings: a historical drama series

Assassin's Creed Valhalla: a video game

How to Train Your Dragon: an animated film series

Thor: a Marvel superhero based on Norse mythology

Ragnarok: a Netflix series set in Norway

Norsemen: a comedy series about Vikings

Vinland Saga: a manga and anime series

God of War: a video game series featuring Norse gods

The Vikings were not a unified or homogeneous group but rather a collection of different clans, tribes, kingdoms, and alliances that often competed or fought with each other. They had different origins, dialects, customs, beliefs, and loyalties. They were also influenced by their contacts with other cultures and religions, especially Christianity. Some Vikings converted to Christianity voluntarily or by force while others remained faithful to their pagan gods.

Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking King

One of the most famous and influential Vikings was Harald Hardrada (c. 1015-1066 CE), who became the king of Norway in 1047 CE. His name means "hard ruler" or "resolute" in Old Norse. He was also known as Harald Sigurdsson or Harald III.

Harald's life was full of adventure and danger from an early age. He was born into a royal family that was involved in a power struggle with another dynasty in Norway. He fought alongside his half-brother Olaf II against Cnut the Great of Denmark who had conquered Norway. Olaf was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030 CE while Harald was wounded and fled to Russia.

From there he traveled to Constantinople where he joined the Varangian Guard, an elite unit of mostly Norse mercenaries who served as bodyguards to the Byzantine emper ors. He fought in many battles and campaigns in the Balkans, Asia Minor, Sicily, and the Holy Land. He earned a reputation as a brave and skilled warrior and a cunning and ruthless leader. He also amassed a fortune in gold, jewels, and lands. He even married a Byzantine princess named Zoe.

Harald eventually returned to Norway in 1045 CE after hearing that his nephew Magnus had become the king. He made a deal with Magnus to share the throne and the rule of Norway. Magnus died two years later, leaving Harald as the sole king. Harald then set out to expand his power and influence in Scandinavia and beyond. He fought against the Danes, the Swedes, and the Finns. He also made alliances with other Viking leaders and rulers, such as Sweyn Estridsson of Denmark, Tostig Godwinson of England, and Malcolm III of Scotland.

Harald's ultimate ambition was to conquer England, which had been ruled by the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor since 1042 CE. Edward had no children and his succession was uncertain. Harald claimed that he had a right to the English throne based on an agreement he had made with Magnus and Edward in 1064 CE. He also had a personal grudge against Harold Godwinson, Edward's brother-in-law and the most powerful noble in England, who had betrayed and exiled his ally Tostig.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge: The End of an Era

In 1066 CE, Edward the Confessor died and Harold Godwinson was crowned as the new king of England. Harald Hardrada saw this as an opportunity to invade England and claim the crown for himself. He gathered a large army of Norsemen, Danes, Irishmen, Scotsmen, and others and sailed across the North Sea. He landed in Yorkshire in September 1066 CE and joined forces with Tostig.

Harald and Tostig marched southward, defeating a local army at the Battle of Fulford on September 20th. They then reached Stamford Bridge on September 25th, where they expected to meet some hostages and supplies from the nearby town of York. However, they were surprised by the arrival of Harold Godwinson's army, which had marched northward at an incredible speed.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge was a fierce and bloody clash between the two armies. Harald's forces were caught off guard and outnumbered by Harold's forces. Harald fought bravely but was killed by an arrow that pierced his throat. Tostig was also killed along with most of their men. Only a few survivors managed to escape and return to Norway.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge is considered to be the end of the Viking Age, as it marked the last major attempt by a Viking leader to conquer England or any other part of Europe. It also paved the way for another invasion of England by William of Normandy, who defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings on October 14th and became the king of England. The Legacy of the Last Viking

Harald Hardrada may have been the last Viking king, but he was not the last Viking. The Vikings left behind a lasting impact on the world, both in terms of their descendants and their contributions to history, culture, and literature. Here are some examples of how the Vikings influenced the world after Harald's death.

The Norse-Gaels, Normans, and Rus' People

Some of the Vikings who settled in other lands intermarried with the local populations and formed new ethnic groups and cultures. One of these groups was the Norse-Gaels, who were the descendants of the Vikings and the Gaels in Ireland and Scotland. They adopted some aspects of Gaelic culture, such as language, religion, and laws, but also retained some of their Norse heritage, such as names, art, and shipbuilding. They established several kingdoms and dynasties in Ireland and Scotland, such as Dublin, Limerick, the Isles, and Man.

Another group was the Normans, who were the descendants of the Vikings and the Franks in Normandy. They adopted some aspects of Frankish culture, such as language, religion, and feudalism, but also retained some of their Norse heritage, such as names, military tactics, and exploration. They became one of the most powerful and influential groups in medieval Europe, conquering England, Sicily, southern Italy, and parts of the Middle East.

A third group was the Rus' people, who were the descendants of the Vikings and the Slavs in Russia. They adopted some aspects of Slavic culture, such as language, religion, and customs, but also retained some of their Norse heritage, such as names, trade routes, and administration. They established several principalities and states in Russia and Ukraine, such as Novgorod, Kiev, Vladimir-Suzdal, and Galicia-Volhynia.

The Sagas, Poems, and Chronicles

Some of the Vikings who remained in Scandinavia or Iceland preserved their history and culture through oral and written traditions. One of these traditions was the sagas, which were prose narratives that told the stories of legendary heroes, kings, families, and events. Some of the most famous sagas are the Icelandic sagas, which depict the lives and adventures of the settlers of Iceland in the 9th to 11th centuries CE. Some e


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