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York, kingdom of

York, kingdom of. The Viking kingdom of York has attracted great attention since the Coppergate excavations revealed so much about Jorvik and its inhabitants. Post-Roman York was in the kingdom of Deira, taken over in 655 by its northern neighbour Bernicia to form the kingdom of Northumbria. In 867 York was seized by Danish raiders from the Viking kingdom of Dublin, led by Ivarr and his brother Halfdan. Holding the new conquest did not prove easy. Halfdan was killed in Ireland in 877 trying to assert his claim to Dublin. Halfdan II, who held the kingdom in 910, was killed at Tettenhall in Staffordshire fighting against Edward the Elder. York's next ruler, Ragnall, a grandson of Ivarr, submitted to Edward in 920. The later decades of the kingdom were chaotic. England's suzerainty seems to have lasted since Ragnall's successor Sihtric was married to a sister of Athelstan, who took over the kingdom on Sihtric's death in 927, turning out Sihtric's brother Guthfrith and ruling it until 939. Guthfrith's son Olaf then recaptured York but died soon after. Sihtric's son Olaf could not hold it. From 944 the kings of England took over again until 947 when Erik Bloodaxe, the last of the York Vikings, established a shaky rule. He was killed at Stainmore in 954, possibly fleeing to Dublin. Henceforward the kingdom formed part of England, under Edred and Eadwig. The relative prosperity of Jorvik—its busy international trade, thriving workshops, and well-established mints—is perhaps a warning not to judge exclusively by chronicles, which tend to record death, destruction, and disaster, rather than peaceful progress. The archbishops of York, particularly Wulfhere and Wulfstan, seem at least to have accommodated themselves to Viking rule, perhaps to prevent the region falling to the southern English.

J. A. Cannon

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