Why Sweyn Forkbeard Declared War On Anglo-Saxon?

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Why Sweyn Forkbeard Declared War On Anglo-Saxon?

Sweyn Forkbeard was one of the most famous Viking kings who made his name as the first Viking king of England. His decision to declare war on King Aethelred of Wessex made his name, his life, and his generation's life came to a higher level. But why Sweyn finally decided to wage war against the king of Wessex?

First off, Sweyn Forkbeard was one of the most brutal and Viking-spirit-deeply-implanted warriors. He was the son of Harald Bluetooth Gormson who united the Danes under one single banner. But the father and the son had nothing in common, especially their belief in the Norse pantheon. While Harald Bluetooth very soon decided to submit himself to the cross, Sweyn Forkbeard's belief remained in his Norse Pantheon. Because Harald was a king, he had little time to spare with his son. Sweyn accordingly was brought up by Palnatoke whose belief was deeply rooted in the Odin and Aesir gods. 

Sweyn Forkbeard

Sweyn's nickname "Forkbeard" came from his fork-shaped appearance

Harald Bluetooth baptized himself and abandoned his ancient belief. This event gradually harbored the hatred within Sweyn Forkbeard. Hatred piled up and it climaxed when Sweyn dethroned his father and made him go exile. 

In 986 AD, Sweyn Forkbeard made himself the King of Denmark. But his attention was not only within his father's land, he started to care about England. 

As soon as 990 AD, he led his army to knock knock on the door of England. The Vikings at the moment were a nightmare to anyone around Europe. For once, the Vikings on the Midgard serpents spilled blood on the Holy Land Lindisfarne. Kind Aethelred at that time decided to give Sweyn and his army a sum of money in order for them to leave his land in peace. But the Vikings kept turning back and threatening this Wessex king. Some of the Danes even settled down in England which made the ruler of Wessex at that moment toss and turn every night. 

The biggest mistake that King Aethelred made during his reign was listening to his noblemen. One small mistake can ruin everything in one moment. 

On St. Brices Day, November 13th,1002, King Aethelred decided to kill all of the Danes who stayed in Wessex. 

Those Danes who dwelt in the afore-mentioned town, striving to escape death, entered this sanctuary of Christ, having broken by force the doors and bolts, and resolved to make refuge and defence for themselves therein against the people of the town and the suburbs; but when all the people in pursuit strove, forced by necessity, to drive them out, and could not, they set fire to the planks and burnt, as it seems, this church with its ornaments and its books. Afterwards, with God's aid, it was renewed by me.

One of the people settling down in Wessex at that moment was Gunhild, sister of Sweyn Forkbeard and her husband. All of them could not escape their fate on St Brice's Day. 

St Brice's Day Massacre

Although no source mentioned whether Sweyn Forkbeard and his sister got along well with each other or not, scholars claimed that the death of his sister in Wessex pushed him to declare eternal war on King Aethelred. Whether this reason was right or not, the war was real. Also, some scholars mentioned that the death of Gunhild was just a good reason allowing Sweyn to invade Wessex with the agreement of his people. 

Sweyn later won the battle making Aethelred flee to Normandy in 1013. Sweyn declared himself as the king of Wessex although his reign was short followed by his death. However, his sons and grandchild carried on his legacy. 

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