Trouble Up North

The Saxon Times 

31st August 1066



Harald Hardrada calls to arms his Viking brothers and embarks from the Isle of Solund. His invasion fleet consists of 300 warships and about 12000 men. It is a formidable force and prides itself on its fierce history.


16th August and Hardrada reaches the Shetland Islands. There is ‘overlord business’ to take care of as befitting a colony of Norway and the stay on Shetland is prolonged for a few days. The men use the time for a little rest and recreation in the true Viking way and there are a few battered and weary bodies when the call comes to embark ship for the next journey.


By the end of the week, they reach the Orkney Islands, another Norwegian protectorate.

To cement his position as King and to seal the alliance, Hardrada betroths his daughters to the brothers Paul Thorfinnsson and Erland Thorfinnsson who jointly rule the Isles as Earls of Orkney.

It is no coincidence that the Earls ‘agree’ to provide reinforcements for the Norse army and they sail to Scotland with Hardrada at the end of August.


Hardrada spends the rest of August feasting, renewing and accepting new oaths of fealty.

A horse was sacrificed to the old Gods, spitted and roasted until it fell off the bone. Salt fish and pork and goat added courses to the feast with plenty of fresh heavy bred to mop up the grease and gravy.

Some would use the bred as a plate, rather than the wooden bowls laid out for Hardrada, and their fingers instead of the sharp knives and spoons – made from wood, horn or animal bone. For the King they had been carved and decorated in the form of a dragon.

For the lesser tables, there was stew from the great iron cauldron over the fire. The stew, of boiled lamb bones, beans, peas, carrots, turnips and whatever else could be found, had been simmering for the last few days. The smoke from this fire and the one for the spit, roasting the horse, left the great long hall full of smoke.

A thin layer of fat has formed over the stew that softens the bred and which the men seem to enjoy although there is little appetite for the fresh fruit and the honey on buttered bred.

There is beer and more beer but Hardrada seems to prefer his mead made from the local honey and drunk from a silvered and decorated animal horn. The men get louder, the more they drink and soon start to sing the old Norse songs before falling asleep on the floor of the Great Hall.

For the full report behind these headlines and the reports, read 1066 The Saxon Times and experience the Norman Conquest through the eyes of the Saxon Times reporters.

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