A sad day in Medieval England history – 13th November, 1002 AD – the St Brice Massacre took place; it was ordered by King Æthelred of England which renewed the conflict with the Danes and eventually led to the loss of his throne.
The Danes had long troubled England, but by 1002 an uneasy co-existence had been arrived at. Æthelred was paying protection money – Danegeld – to Sweyn Forkbeard, the King of a Viking super-state of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Sweyn had left hostages against his good behaviour. But demands from other Vikings troubled the English King, and the number of Danish settlers was increasing yearly.
Æthelred’s solution was an attempt to engineer the slaughter of all Danes in England, “like weeds in the wheat” according to his decree.
Whole settler villages were wiped out. Oxford saw the burning of St Frideswide’s church where fleeing Danes had sought sanctuary. Those attempting to escape were cut down outside, the rest burned in the church. One of the hostages left by Forkbeard, Gunnhild, possibly his sister, or perhaps just an unlucky Viking noble-woman, was also murdered. Whatever her status, she was to be revenged by Forkbeard, who in the following year arrived with a huge fleet to raid and ravage the country. The Vikings only departed when a famine of which they were a major cause hit the land in 1005.