Written by Christy Beall
Theme: King Alfred and the Great Heathen Army (865-899)
b_145_145_16777215_00_images_issues_mw_III-5_mw_III-5.jpgIntroduction: Kenneth Cline, 'Historical introduction - The 300-year nightmare'. Illustrated by Carlos Garcia.
On 8 June 793, Anglo-Saxon England received a taste of what the next 300 years would be like, when a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne was suddenly beset by swarms of invaders, likened by a medieval chronicler to ?stinging hornets? and ?fearful wolves?, who plundered the church of its gold and silver treasures and slaughtered or enslaved those brothers who were unable to escape across the tidal flats to the mainland. These invaders, whom earlier Anglo-Saxon chroniclers described variously as ?pagans?, ?heathen men? or ?Danes?, but who are best known to us as Vikings, had served notice on the English that their brand of piracy was a force to be reckoned with.
The Source: Andrei Pogacias, 'A medieval English panegyric - Asser?s Life of Alfred'.
Alfred was one of the most important rulers in the history of England. For his civilian and military achievements, he alone of all English kings and queens was called ?the Great?, a title he received in the sixteenth century. Due to his efforts to promote reading, writing and culture, today we have some very important works describing his life and the history of the Anglo-Saxons. His life is preserved, amongst others, in the texts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Aethelweard?s writings, Alfred?s own testament and, most importantly, the contemporary royal biography written by Asser.
Theme: Thomas Williams, 'Victory, battlefield, and the language of war - The Battle of Ashdown'.b_145_145_16777215_00_images_issues_mw_III-5_abbey.jpg
By 871, the Vikings had been a feature of the English military landscape for around 90 years, but only from 851, when they first overwintered at Thanet in the Thames estuary, had they become a major threat to the stability of the English kingdoms. From that point onwards ? and particularly from 865, with the appearance of what the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle called the micel here (usually translated as ?great raiding army?) ? Viking armies were to effect lasting change on the political geography of England.
Theme: Gareth Williams, 'Alternative strategies of the Great Army - Danegeld, coups, oaths and treachery'. Illustrated by Jason Juta.
The Vikings have acquired a reputation for ferocity and violence, but is it all deserved? There was more to the Viking arsenal than military arms. It appears that the Vikings were, at times, reluctant to commit themselves militarily and would therefore employ a number of other strategies to gain a victory. What were these alternative tactics? They can be discovered through an examination of the struggles between King Alfred and the Great Heathen Army during the years 871-880.
Theme: Stephen Bennett, 'Alfred?s campaign of 878 and the Battle of Edington - The wyvern resurgent'. Illustrated by Filippo Conconi Sabbadini and José Daniel Cabrera Pe?a.
The Battle of Edington and subsequent peace treaty saw the successful culmination of King Alfred the Great?s attritional strategy to defeat the Danes, both militarily and spiritually, establishing the preconditions for a dramatic administrative and military reorganization of Wessex.
b_145_145_16777215_00_images_issues_mw_III-5_viking.jpgTheme: Stephen Pollington, 'How to counter the Viking invasions of England - Alfred?s military reorganization'. Illustrated by Milek Jakubiec.
King Alfred?s 28-year reign (871-899) was rather long for a monarch of the early medieval period, and a very eventful one. We are fortunate to know quite a lot about the King and his times due to two documents: one is his biography, written by the Welsh cleric Asser; the other is the compilation called mthe Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a series of documents written in Old English, beginning with an original at Winchester (Alfred?s capital) and subsequently sent out to several monasteries, where it was copied and the narrative continued. Such sources, combined with archaeological evidence, provide us with a clear view of how Alfred finally managed to defeat the invaders, who had conquered the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in only a few years.
b_145_145_16777215_00_images_issues_mw_III-5_fresco.jpgThe Weapon: Jean-Claude Brunner, 'The Swiss weapon of choice - The halberd'. Illustrated by Jason Juta.
The lives of Leopold III, Duke of Austria, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and probably Richard III, King of England, were ended by a halberd strike. They were prominent victims of a new, simple, cheap and effective weapon that made obsolete the dominant medieval weapon system of knight and warhorse. Yet its very own success doomed the halberd?s presence on the battlefield and relegated it to a ceremonial function.
The Campaign: Russ Mitchell & Annamaria Kovács, 'The Hungarian invasion of Italy. Part II - Joanna returns'. Illustrated by Jose Antonio Gutierrez Lopez and Juhani Jokinen.
Warfare does not occur in a vacuum, but within a political context. Louis of Hungary?s claim to the Neapolitan kingdom (see Medieval Warfare III-4 for the first part of this article) clashed directly with the aims of Pope Clement VI, who wanted to strengthen the Valois and Neapolitan Angevins. Clement could not afford to allow Hungary to control the Kingdom of Naples, given that Louis was his enemy, was allied with England, had already defeated the Bohemians and the Golden Horde in the field, and had close ties with Bavaria and Poland. Louis? military campaign in southern Italy thus not only indirectly aided England during the starting phase of the Hundred Years War, but was a serious threat to Clement?s policies as well.
Special: Filippo Donvito, 'The birth of a noble infantry - From knight to officer'.
The twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw the apogee of the European feudal system and its armed wing, the noble knight, crushing his enemies with powerful cavalry charges. By the fourteenth century, however, things began to change. The great battles of Courtrai, Kephissus and Bannockburn were only the first of a long list of disasters suffered by heavy cavalry at the hands of armed peasants fighting on foot. At the same time, aristocratic warriors increasingly started to dismount from their armoured steeds to take command of infantry units on the battlefield. It was the waning of the Middle Ages, and a new era of warfare was about to be born.