Battle of Assandun

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The Battle of Assandun (or Essendune)[1] was fought between Danish and English armies on 18 October 1016. There is disagreement whether Assandun may be Ashdon near Saffron Walden in north Essex or, as long supposed, Ashingdon near Rochford in southeast Essex, England. It was a victory for the Danes, led by Canute the Great (Cnut, Knut or Knud), who triumphed over the English army led by King Edmund II ('Ironside'). The battle was the conclusion to the Danish reconquest of England.

Battle[edit]

Ashingdon hill, possible location of the battle.

The battle is mentioned briefly in Knýtlinga saga which quotes a verse of skaldic poetry by Óttarr svarti, one of Canute's court poets.

King Knut fought the third battle, a major one, against the sons of Æthelred at a place called Ashington, north of the Danes' Woods. In the words of Ottar:

At Ashington, you worked well
in the shield-war, warrior-king;
brown was the flesh of bodies
served to the blood-bird:
in the slaughter, you won,
sire, with your sword
enough of a name there,
north of the Danes' Woods.[2]

Aftermath[edit]

Following his defeat, Edmund was forced to sign a treaty with Canute. By this treaty, all of England except Wessex would be controlled by Canute and when one of the kings should die the other would take all of England, that king's son being the heir to the throne. After Edmund's death on 30 November, Canute duly ruled the whole kingdom directly. Thus for the first time England became a single united kingdom, covering the same territory as it does today.

Canute was accustomed to building a church, chapel or holy site after winning a battle to commemorate the soldiers who died in battle. A few years later in 1020 the completion took place of the memorial church known as Ashingdon Minster, on the hill next to the presumed site of the battle in Ashingdon. The church still stands to this day. Canute attended the dedication of Ashingdon Minster with his bishops and appointed his personal priest, Stigand, to be priest there. The church is now dedicated to Saint Andrew but is believed previously to have been dedicated to Saint Michael, who was considered a military saint: churches dedicated to him are frequently located on a hill.

Battlefield location[edit]

There is another possible location of the battle; Ashdon, also in Essex. There have been many finds of Roman and Anglo-Saxon coins in the area. Historians have argued inconclusively over the two sites for years. There is some strong evidence: a couple of Anglo-Saxon wills that definitely show Ashdon as the battle site.[citation needed] Also, the 10th century wooden village church, itself possibly built on the site of a pre-Christian temple, was probably rebuilt in stone in the early 11th century, about the right time for Canute's conquest. Unfortunately little remains of the earlier structures, which were largely obliterated by the construction of the current church of All Saints during the late 13th to early 15th centuries.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Ernest F. Fairbairn, W. H., ed. Tewkesbury Abbey. Notes on Famous Churches and Abbeys. [1916]. London: SPCK. p. 2. 
  2. ^ "Knut's Invasion of England in 1015-16, according to the Knytlinga Saga". De Re Militari. Retrieved 17 October 2011. [dead link]
  3. ^ "All Saints Church, Ashdon, Essex - History". Retrieved 10 May 2013.