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Battle of Brunanburh

  • Date 937
  • Location Uncertain; since 2004 the leading candidate is what is now Brackenwood Golf Course between Bromborough and Bebington in Merseyside; [BBC News, 20 December 2004, retrieved 7 December 2007]. Other places suggested include Brunswark, Annandale; or Tinsley, Yorkshire

  • Belligerents Kingdom of England (approx. 15,000) v combined army of Kingdom of Dublin, Kingdom of Alba and Kingdom of Strathclyde (Approx. 15,000)
  • Causes
  • Æthelstan was proclaimed King of the English following Æthelstan's defeat of the Vikings at York in 927, and a period of relative peace followed. The threat of Æthelstan brought about an alliance between the king of Dublin, Olaf Guthfrithsson; the Scottish King Constantine II; and Owen of Strathclyde. Together they sailed and marched down to the Humber for a trial of strength against Æthelstan. They met at Brunanburh, possibly somewhere on Humberside in a ferocious and bloody battle.
  • Result English Victory. Æthelstan's defeat of the combined Norse-Celtic force confirmed England as a fully unified kingdom.

Commanders and leaders

Kingdom of England

Combined armies

  • Olaf III Guthfrithson
  • Constantin II of Scotland
  • Owen I of Strathclyde

The famous poem about the battle in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the deaths of five kings and seven earls among Æthelstan's enemies, including Constantine's son:

Five lay still

on that battlefield – young kings

by swords put to sleep – and seven also

of Anlaf’s earls, countless of the army,

of sailors and Scotsmen. There was put to flight

the Northmen’s chief, driven by need

to the ship’s prow with a little band.

He shoved the ship to sea. The king disappeared

on the dark flood. His own life he saved.

So there also the old one came in flight

to his home in the north; Constantine,

that hoary-haired warrior, had no cause to exult

at the meeting of swords: he was shorn of his kin,

deprived of his friends on the field,

bereft in the fray, and his son behind

on the place of slaughter, with wounds ground to pieces,

too young in battle.

['The Battle of Brunanburh (Version A)', trans. Livingston, in Livingston (2011), pp. 41, 43]

The following from The Battle of Brunanburh, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (937).


Æthelstan the king,

lord of earls

and ring-giver to men,

his brother beside him,

Edmund the Ætheling,

won undying glory

in furious battle

with the blades of their swords

at Brunanburh:

burst through the shield-wall,

hewed at the bucklers

with well-forged swords,

the sons of Edward ...

Casualties and losses

  • One of Constantin's sons
  • Much of the Combined army;
  • Several Jarls;
  • Five Petty kings;
  • Cellach, Son of the King of Scotland

Notable connections

Captives

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References, Sources

Further Reading

Livingston, Michael (2011). The Battle of Brunanburh: A Casebook. Exeter: University of Exeter Press. ISBN 978-0-85989-863-8.