In other Oxford news (of the kind that doesn’t make you smack your forehead with the heel of your hand), is this amazing archaeological find on the grounds of St. John’s College. The article is a bit of a long read and admittedly it took me two days-worth of subway rides to get through it all but for the story that’ll have you painting your van with Frank Frazetta art, check out page three. There you’ll find most of the story of King Aethelred the Ill-advised, successor to Alfred the Great and Edgar the Peaceful, who 1000 years ago, tried to buy-off raiding Vikings, essentially hiring them as mercenaries until they eventually turned on him and resumed their attacks. To protect himself, Aethelred married the sister of the Duke of Normandy, securing a powerful ally. When he found out his life was in jeopardy (which may have been a manipulation in itself) he ordered the Vikings “be destroyed by a most just extermination.” The result was the St. Brice’s Day massacre, committed on St. Brice’s Day, November 13, 1002:
Aethelred himself recounted exactly how the residents of Oxford killed the Danes in a local church: “Striving to escape death, [the Danes] entered [a] sanctuary of Christ, having broken by force the doors and bolts, and resolved to make a refuge and defence for themselves therein against the people of the town and the suburbs; but when all the people in pursuit strove, forced by necessity, to drive them out, and could not, they set fire to the [building’s] timbers and burnt [it] down.”Apparently the hands of history didn’t think this was enough like an HBO series, so among the dead was the sister of Danish King Svein, who was married to one of the treacherous Viking mercenaries. King Svein launched an avenging war, resulting in the conquering of England and the crowning of Svein’s son, Canute. The heat of all this happens over the course of about 20 years. Later, in 1066, William the Conquerer comes along and takes over the whole mess. Meanwhile, in and around Oxford it seems impossible to dig a hole without uncovering a thousand-year-old corpse. All of this history lends an odd layer of meaning to the fact that the youth soccer team in the next town is called is called The Witney Vikings.
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