History of War

GUTHRUM VIKING KING

It was a brilliant stroke – an attack through the dark and chill of a winter’s night – that won a kingdom. Guthrum led his Viking war band south, riding hard from his base in Gloucester, heading for the royal estate at Chippenham. They were going to kill a king.

Riding fast, the Viking war band made its way through the winter-locked countryside. Although they rode through Wiltshire, land owing fealty to Alfred, king of Wessex, no hands or swords were raised against them. Their lord, Guthrum, had made his preparations well. In the months before their winter ride, Guthrum had made surreptitious contact with the ealdorman of Wiltshire, named Wulfhere.

Like many of the great men of Wessex, Wulfhere had lost faith in his young king, Alfred. The agents Wulfhere had received from Guthrum during the autumn of 877 had whispered promises to him, promises of preferment, possibly even of a throne. The Great Heathen Army that had conquered the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Britain over the last 12 years had in Mercia and Northumbria installed client kings rather than ruling directly.

For Wulfhere, maybe the prospect

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