So the question is – did the vikings attack London? Well, yes. Yes, they did. A few times.
Here’s some facts about the Vikings’ attacks on the capital of England…
Fact 1 – London was only just recovering from ruin
When the Vikings started their attacks on London, the city had only just recovered from centuries of neglect! It was, of course, a Roman town, and had fallen into disrepair and was almost deserted until the 7th century.
However, by the 9th century, London was thriving again, which meant that the Danish Vikings were very interested in invading and occupying London.
London was made capital of England by Aetheldred the Unready. The Anglo-Saxons called it Lundenwic.
Fact 2 – The Vikings Attacked in 842 and 851
The attack on London of 842 was called “the great slaughter”, and many people were murdered by the rampaging Danish Vikings.
In 851, they returned with over 350 ships to plunder the city of its wealth.
Fact 3 – The Vikings Occupied London in 867
London became strategically very important for the Vikings, and so under the rule of Halfdere, the Vikings occupied London. It wasn’t until 886 that Alfred the Great took control of the London once more and renewed its fortifications which had been destroyed by the Vikings.
Fact 4 – Sweyn Forkbeard attacked twice!
Not content with attacking just the once, Sweyn Forkbeard attacked London in 996, and then waited a full 17 years before attacking again in 1013. He failed both times, repelled by the English army.
However, Sweyn Forkbeard’s Great Heathen Army took control of the rest of England, and Sweyn became the first Viking King of England. A chronicler said “all the nation regarded him as full king”.
Aethelred the Unready went into exile – he ran off to Normandy. His subjects had to pay a tribute (a large amount of money) to help their conqueror Sweyn Forkbeard.
Fact 5 – The Nursery Rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down May originate from a Viking Attack on London
Aethelred the Unready returned from Normandy and sailed up the Thames with his soldiers and his ally, the Norwegian King, Olaf. The army started taking the roofs from houses and they held these roofs over their heads while they approached London Bridge, to defend themselves against a shower of spears from the Danish Vikings.
When they got to the bridge, they attached ropes to the piers and they started pulling London Bridge down.