Interesting facts which have shaped my Hardrada series...
The picture here is of Fulford Hall, which stands on the river Ouse. We don't know exactly where the battle was fought, but looking at this tranquil scene it is difficult to imagine the horror of that day.
(Photograph by Paul Glazzard)
I've taught students about 1066, and William's invasion of England, for longer than I can remember. However, a couple of years ago, a sudden thought struck me. Of all the characters which populate this amazing period, one remained a somewhat shadowy figure. Harald Hardrada, who invaded England a short time before William, striking at the north of the country. Hardrada was thought of as something of a threat. As a Viking, he already commanded a sizeable fleet, whereas William and the Normans did not. So, when Hardrada arrived it was perhaps not such a surprise to the English king, Harold Godwinson.
Hardrada met and defeated the English army of the North at Gate Fulford, then marched on to York to receive the fealty of the populace.
Fulford was a grim day for the English. Overwhelmed, the slaughter was great. Few managed to survive, and my novel 'Varangian' opens with the scene of Earl Morcar and Hereward (of Hereward 'the Wake' fame) lamenting over their defeat. With them is a curious figure, a foreigner, who fought in the ranks of the English but who is, in fact, Greek. His name is Andreas and he is to become a central figure in the entire narrative.
Fulford is on the River Ouse, and the field there was littered with English dead. The picture here is of Fulford Hall, which stands on the river. We don't know exactly where the battle was fought, but looking at this tranquil scene it is difficult to imagine the horror of that day.
The Viking host was a formidable one. Some chroniclers put their number as great as 12,000 men. If this is so, it was the largest Norwegian army to have ever landed in England. Even if we treat this number with some scepticism, it is clear that the army was substantial. And, of course, extremely well led.
Harald Hardrada was the greatest warrior of his day. At 52 years of age, he was past his best, but remained a formidable and capable leader of men. Fulford was a great victory for him ... Sadly, it was to prove his last.