Vikings: Great Heathen Army – Battle of Ashdown 871 DOCUMENTARY
Vikings: Great Heathen Army – Battle of Ashdown 871 DOCUMENTARY

This video is sponsored by March of Empires. March of Empires is a free-to-play game available in the App Store on iOS, Android and Windows. It is created by Gameloft, and if you’ve ever played games this company’s developed, you know that their name is a badge of quality. This game is made for fans of MMO strategy with clan vs. clan combat and epic quests. You can play as a Highland King, a Northern Tsar or a Desert Sultan and vie for global domination. Dispatch powerful armies, construct magnificent buildings, defeat the vicious barbarians, conquer territories and reshape the balance of power every day. Each faction has a unique playstyle and you will find something that will suit to you. You can focus on economic buildup, be aggressive and on the offense or have a staunch defense against invaders. The game encourages diplomacy, intrigue and politicking on the path to ultimate power. Support our channel today by downloading the game on iOS, Android or Windows devices via the link in the description. The Viking Age was relatively short, but it left a distinctive mark on history. The warriors, raiders, pirates, seafarers and traders from Scandinavia influenced the fate of more regions than any other culture before the Age of Discovery and no other land more so than the British Isles. In this series, we will talk about the Viking invasions of Britain and we are going to start with the invasion of the Great Heathen Army. The Romans had pulled out of Britain by the 5th century and left in their wake a patchwork of Brittonic and Romano-Brittonic kingdoms. It didn’t take long for warlike peoples on the peripheries to move in and take advantage of this. The Picts attacked from beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Irish warriors moved in from the west but most importantly Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians moved from mainland Europe on to the east of the island. These incoming warrior cultures had replaced the Romano-Britons and Britons on the eastern portion of the island by the end of the 7th century and formed seven distinct kingdoms: Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, East Anglia, Kent, Sussex and Essex. Eventually these kingdoms all converted to Christianity, yet became no less warlike continuing to fight amongst themselves and with their native neighbors. Meanwhile, another warlike culture had been developing over the centuries across the North Sea in Scandinavia. It was there in the frosted fiordlands of Norway and the islands and archipelagos of Denmark that peoples related to the Anglo-Saxons had lived since the last Ice Age. They were still pagan and above all else, they placed importance on military power and seafaring prowess. A combination of popular pressure, Frankish aggression from the south and a revolution in shipbuilding techniques gradually forced these people to look outwards from Scandinavia towards the end of the 8th century. Soon, the dragon heads of their longships were first sighted off the shore of Britain. These opportunistic Scandinavians would eventually become known as Vikings, a word which described their profession as pirates, not their ethnicity. To the horror of the Christian writers of the time who were almost exclusively monks the Vikings focused on attacking Christian holy sites which tended to yield the best monetary rewards. All over the north of Britain and Ireland great riches were plundered and carried off. However, their tactics began to change. The most ambitious began to overwinter within Britain and settlers from Norway began to either replace or subjugate the existing populations on the Faroe Islands, Orkney, Shetland and in areas of Ireland. Mercia gradually lost its dominance during the early 9th century and was replaced by Wessex under its king Egbert, a shrewd leader who had been educated across the Channel in Frankia. Egbert was all too familiar with the Vikings and fought a number of battles against them during his reign, most notably at Carhampton in 836. He conquered the minor kingdoms of Essex, Sussex and Kent during his reign, firmly establishing his kingdom as the most powerful. In 865, Æthelred became the king of Wessex. It was during that year that a vast armada of longships appeared off the coast of East Anglia to make landfall near Thetford. This was unlike any Scandinavian raiding force seen previously. It was made up of hundreds of ships carrying an international army of Danes, Norsemen and Swedes. To the horror of the Christian writers of the time who dubbed it the “Great Heathen Army,” they had come together from Ireland, Frisia, Frankia, Scandinavia and Pictland to launch a full-scale invasion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Initially, the army seems to have been led by three war leaders. According to the Norse sagas, these were the sons of the legendary Viking Ragnar Lodbrok: Ivar, Halfdan and Ubba. They had come to England to avenge the death of their father, killed by the Northumbrian king Ælla. It is just as likely, however, that the invasion was the natural culmination of decades of raids by ambitious warriors who now sought a way to carve kingdoms out for themselves. After landing in East Anglia, they forced the local king Edmund to give them horses and supplies before they marched north to capture the capital of Northumbria, York. After this battle, Northumbria would become a bastion of Scandinavian culture for the next two centuries. After ravaging Northumbria, the army again went on the move likely gathering more and more warriors to their banners from all over the Scandinavian world as word spread of their victories. They marched south into Mercia and captured the town of Nottingham. Mercian king Burgred called for support and Wessex answered the call, yet no fighting took place as Ivar and his men remained inside the walls of Nottingham. Eventually, Burgred paid them to leave and the Mercian and West Saxon armies, mostly made up of farmers, disbanded to plow their fields. Happy to take Mercian coin for now, the Vikings moved back to York for the winter considerably richer. The sons of Lodbrok kept their word to Burgred heading back to East Anglia in the New Year, where they stamped out the kingdom entirely and turned its king Edmund into a martyr. East Anglia would suffer the same fate as Northumbria, becoming a foothold for the Danes for the next two centuries. In 870, the army split with some remaining in their new lands in Northumbria and East Anglia and others like Ivar going elsewhere in Britain to conquer other lands in this case the Kingdom of Alt Clut in southern Scotland. It was Halfdan who took center stage at this point as he led part of the army south bypassing Mercia entirely to rage deep into Wessex. Halfdan along with another warlord Bagsecg made straight for the town of Reading, where they fortified themselves to wait for the inevitable West Saxon counter-attack. King Æthelred and his brother Alfred gathered up their levies and made for Reading. Together they attacked Halfdan’s men at Reading on the 4th of January, but suffered a minor defeat. The West Saxons regrouped over the next few days and again took to the field on the 8th at a place called Ashdown, somewhere in Berkshire. It was there in the mist and gloom of a mid-winter’s morning that the most decisive battle yet of the war was fought. Æthelred divided his army into two positioning the halves on either side of a ridgeway with himself in command of one side and his younger brother Alfred commanding the other. As the Danes approached, they also split their army with Halfdan commanding one side and Bagsecg the other. Alfred and his contingent watched on from behind their shield wall as the Danes drew closer. Meanwhile, Æthelred had apparently decided that he had to pray before the battle and refused to advance until his prayer service was complete. Seeing that the Danish movement would cost him the advantage of the higher ground Alfred decided to charge up the hill without the support of the second contingent and headed straight into the heart of the Danish lines. Apparently not realizing that Alfred’s men only represented half of the West Saxon army, the second force of the Danes also moved against them. The battle turned into an hours-long brutal hand-to-hand slog of shield wall on shield wall. After heavy fighting and significant losses on both sides Æthelred’s force, whose approach was obscured in mist, finally engaged surprising the Danes and turning the battle in favor of the West Saxons. Bagsecg was killed in the fighting and Halfdan called for his remaining men to fall back leaving the West Saxons victorious. After six long years of defeats, an Anglo-Saxon army had finally emerged victorious against the Great Heathen Army. Ashdown was by no means a decisive victory and it was certainly a costly one, though the hard fighting may have made Halfdan more cautious about his future plans for Wessex. To the fortune of Halfdan and his remaining warriors who had fallen back to Reading reinforcements arrived to join them. This Great Summer Army of fresh warriors led by a sea king named Guthrum would become integral over the next seven long years of war. Æthelred and Alfred, now known as the Boar of Ashdown, continued to fight the Danes over the coming months. By April however, Æthelred was dead possibly as a result of wounds suffered in battle and Alfred replaced him as king. Halfdan had had enough of Wessex by this point and accepted a large sum of money from Alfred as payment to leave. He would head north to become the king in Northumbria whereas Guthrum went east to take control of the Vikings of East Anglia. Alfred had saved his kingdom for now, but he and all of his subjects knew the Vikings would return. Thank you for watching the first video in our series on early British history and the Viking invasions. More episodes are on the way, and we’re working on many other exciting projects. We would like to express our gratitude to our Patreon supporters who make the creation of our videos possible. Now you can also support us directly via YouTube by pressing the sponsorship button directly below the video. This is the Kings and Generals Channel, and we will catch you on the next one.

100 thoughts on “Vikings: Great Heathen Army – Battle of Ashdown 871 DOCUMENTARY”

  1. Kings and Generals says:

    Something something envoys, something something feigned retreat, something something great khan… Sorry, wrong script. Valhalla awaits! Crush that like button, kill that share button, speak up in the comments, let the Gods hear you! Skeggold, Skalmold, Skildir ro Klofnir!!!

  2. Jouni Laine says:

    One prayer = one battle victory

  3. LordRed says:

    Love the use of "vikings" characters

  4. lonely bigfoot with internet says:

    Damn it Vikings tv series spoilers 😤

  5. A. S.L says:

    funny who the east busy fighting with sultans…

  6. Ahmad Sherbeny says:

    Very interesting first victory after the total invasion was a mere luck xD , wow man history realy has tons of lessons !

  7. Bob of the Storm says:

    You forgot about how the exiled Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Uthred Ragnarsson) advised the young prince Alfred on when and where the Danes would likely march.

  8. SlavSquatter says:

    Bruh I need to know the chant sample they played when they talked about them being Christian. Someone hook me up with a link please.

  9. Hideharu Haduken says:

    So in the end who became king of Northumbria, Ubba or Halfdan?

  10. JoeOvercoat says:

    You like Vikings. Check.
    You like Led Zepplin. Check.
    You like The Transformers. Che…wait, what? Never mind just click this link…

  11. Rachit Goyal says:

    Alfred versus Ivar could've been a confrontation for the ages.

  12. EmporerAaron says:

    Makes me eager to get back to playing Mount and Blade Warband: Viking Conquest.

  13. TheMatissV says:

    "[The Vikings influenced] no other land moreso than the British Isles" – um, how about CREATING Russia…

  14. Arif Acıduman says:

    1:52 geralt of rivia

  15. Yah'Son Lew says:

    Bout time someone acknowledged The Heathens GOD spoke of in the bible!!

  16. Lewis Simpson says:

    Berkshire is pronounced Barkshire. 🇬🇧🇬🇧

  17. Bier Reisender says:

    Yet another vid of the british winning? Do tell!

  18. Halfdanr Hamarrhjarta says:

    That Halfdanr has a good name, his parents chose very well if I do say so myself 😉

  19. Troublesome '96 says:

    Warband: viking conquest comes to mind with the whole heathen horde stuff.

  20. Asterix S says:

    The tv series are made by pagans and heathens. Not fucking accurate. Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat! 🙏

  21. Israel Gallegos says:

    Can you make a video of what happened to the people left be hind by Rome's withdrawal of Britain and how it LED to people abandoning the great villas of Rome and using Roman fortresses as castles in the Anglo-Saxon era I hate how people only focus on the Norman conquest of Britain when people bring up Anglo-Saxons and King Harold but what I like to know is how they got back up after the fall of Rome in the start of Anglo-Saxon dynasty

  22. Will L says:

    The last kingdom

  23. I Digellinus says:

    Please do a history of Wales!

  24. Critical Thinker says:

    “People related to the Anglo-Saxons” erm you do realise that modern science/genetics has proven that ALL human beings are “related”, right? And that we are in fact directly related to ALL LIFE ON EARTH?

  25. Balyeet Bhagaloe says:

    Finally someone who recognises frisian vikings

  26. NiekGAE says:

    7 kingdoms after an overseas invasion eh? Heard that before.

  27. Gunther Wurm says:

    Love how you use TW for some of the scenes it mixes in very well, I like your video's man new sub here!!!

  28. SMAXZO says:

    East Anglia? Where's West Anglia?

  29. Teju H says:


  30. Tim Dutch says:

    Wait so the Frisian warriors became Wessex?

  31. Nathanael Sallhag Eriksson says:



    2:42, Ahhh… Lindisfarne

  33. Scott Saxton says:

    What’s the song at the end?

  34. Stick me thumbs in yer ass says:

    Imagine if Vikings on HBO took this road instead of the one they did in the series.

  35. Reyter says:

    I know that for some bizarre reason a lot of English people like to think they were spawned by Vikings (i.e. Vikings raped their ancestors) but the reality is, as DNA proves, the Vikings considered them scum and did quite a bit of raping but not a lot when considering the totality of the child-bearing age females. Russians on the other hand, once again, as DNA proves, were highly integrated with Vikings but they mostly try to deny it. I guess it comes down to self-loathing on the part of English people.

  36. Jonah S says:


  37. TheSealDribble says:

    This video is ripe with misconceptions about the scandinavians.

  38. aden kunz says:

    Vikings djent?

  39. Nawabzada Zafar Ali Khan says:

    Can anyone tell the name of the music in the end of this video??.

  40. Hans van Poelgeest says:

    "Ubbah.. Ubbah.. Ubbah"

  41. Marc Wittkowski says:

    At around 11:15 you show Ubbe/Ubba leaving northwards, not Halfdan.

  42. vibotx says:

    so when do we see Uhtred of Bebbanburg

  43. Ivar the Boneless says:


  44. crackshack2 says:

    Serpent Heads. Serpent Heads.

  45. Max Groenveld says:

    I think overpopulation was also a factor that played into many vikings choosing the longship and the axe.

  46. Dalton evans says:

    2:08 where is this scene from?

  47. OG fletcha says:

    Our tactics got old and the traitors helped the Christian's our end was inevitable the northmen will rise again

  48. Phil Hearing says:

    Using total war atilla faction logos, well played 😤

  49. gpep popping balloon says:

    I love is because it’s the last kingdom and Vikings together but shorter and I liked that you used their face you know the people from the show

  50. ZhengIsRight says:

    Hey, it's Geralt of Rivia! Total War x Witcher confirmed!

  51. Δημήτρης Ντάβος says:

    I believe i have a book about this

  52. Sanuku says:

    +Overpopulation and poor soil

  53. darealdemz says:

    I humbly thank you for this episode, this helps me understand some books I’ve been reading, I will now go read them again with understanding enlightenment thanks to you

  54. neile2001 says:

    "The Viking Age was relatively short, but it has left its distinctive mark on the history. The warriors, raiders, pirates, seafarers, and traders from Scandinavia influenced the fate of more regions than any other culture before the Age of Discovery, and no other land more so than the British Isles." Oh? The Romans say hello……

  55. Igor Sousa says:

    Vikings are a fucking joke. Brainless warriors ever.

  56. ekrem gumussoy says:


  57. mynameisrocket says:

    I thought it was cute flourish how you used the faces of characters from The Last Kingdom and Vikings for the portraits of the Viking warlords :3

  58. MrJuhs91 says:

    most badass people ever

  59. Javin Martinez says:


  60. Hendra Gunawan says:

    Lmao u use ubba from Vikings as photo

  61. T McDowell says:

    God wills it!

  62. Hue Janus says:

    Disliked no mention of uhtred 😔

  63. Myron Gaines says:

    Kind of bullshit when you imply that Ivar destroyed the Kingdom of Alt Clut….. didn't happen.

  64. aeaon says:

    Dat Metal at the end 😀

  65. D D Jay says:

    @Kings and Generals

    Apart from your mis-pronounciation of Berkshire, good vid.


  66. Brent W says:

    That would be legit to be in one of these battles. Only if you were a beast though. If you were just getting massacred that would suck…Or getting captured and enslaved or executed/tortured. That would be pretty whack…

  67. Mark Morris says:

    I liked the vikings show but I wish they would do a more accurate version.. Alfred the great, God bless you.

  68. Gary York says:

    My ancestors settled the north of England. From Denmark, my name was originally Jorvik. It got changed over the years.

  69. Sofia Pax says:

    Stop spoiling Vikings!

  70. Age1988 says:

    The music on this channel 🔥🔥🔥
    That metal is awesome!!!

  71. arielquelme says:

    IMO Vikings are overrated seafarer. i doubt they even more dangerous than Indian Dacoit cutthroats when comparing about Sea raiding & pirating in their era

  72. Bulza Vlad says:

    why Halfdan,have the pictures of Hviserk from Vikings???

  73. Kevin Wilson says:

    They should have just built a wall around Britain

  74. fucking scammer says:

    1:45 why isnt sweden named here?

  75. Peo Fr says:

    Unlimited POWAH

  76. Kenneth Barnard says:

    That ad of rappers pissed me off

  77. Boolos Boi says:

    1:50 Why is Geralt of Rivia there?

  78. Dr_Amir says:

    UBBA looks like Ivan Rakitic 😂

  79. Der Stoff aus dem Joghurt gemacht ist says:

    Not only where the monastrys holding a lot of riches – i consider it also probable that the vikings had lust for revenge because of all the forced and often brutal christianisation.

  80. Aldriane Vampir says:

    Very good video i might say, its like watching Vikings in real time lol

  81. Tots Keny says:

    Press F to pay respects for Roman Empire

  82. Aaron says:

    Is there a part 2???? Something ??…

  83. JustSomeGuy says:

    You should make more videos about the Migration Era

  84. ΚΕΡΒΕΡΟΣ C18 says:

    GREEK subtitles

  85. Mats Rosenquist says:

    The word vik in swedish is bay in english & it describes where the vikings came from!

  86. Capt. George says:

    So basically native Britain’s were as pathetic as the natives of the Americas.

  87. Philip Kihlström says:


    "in 865 Aethelred became the king of wessex"

    Aethelred's picture: HUURRR DURR DERP

  88. kaustav swarnakar says:

    Christian farmers spineless

  89. Shawn Murphy says:

    I love this time in history

  90. Occult Investigations says:

    At their height the Vikings were an unbeatable military force – just like the Romans. It is ironic that the factor which finally broke the Vikings was not a foreign army but a Jewish carpenter from Palestine. The Vikings were finished as soon as they converted to christianity. Just like the Romans.

  91. kd2013 says:

    0:20 "The Age of Discovery" – we call it "The Colonial Era".

  92. Marcel Gunther says:

    ehh, where are the shield maidens?? The History series has shown that half the Vikings army was actually women warriors!!

  93. Robert Andrews says:

    This was what I was expecting when the history channel released Vikings. I was soon disappointed to find it was more of a drama than history show. Kings and Generals channel does not disappoint though! Valhalla awaits you for your glorious work!

  94. Bright Lord says:

    I think it's hvitserk not halfdan

  95. TrashedGt says:

    who came here from the series Vikings?

  96. J Soth says:

    What did the vikingr do with all that loot?

  97. king and Country says:

    Not too greedy with adverts are you , won't be watching anymore from you for that reason .

  98. Tom Butthurt says:

    What white European men would have been like without Christianity

  99. Tom Butthurt says:

    1200 years forward now look at Scandinavian men… Or whatever you call them now

  100. Fnork says:

    1:50 lol geralt of rivia?

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