The Battle of Stamford Bridge was one of the most important battles that occurred in 1066 during a period of political upheaval. Prior to this period was the reign of King Edward the Confessor. His reign was reasonably prosperous with few threats to the English throne. Edward was somewhat of a puppet-king later in his rule with the real power being held by the earls of England such as his brother in law Harold Godwinson. In 1065 Harold Godwinson forced King Edward to exile Harold’s older brother Tostig.
Upon King Edward’s death succession became as issue as Edward had no heir. Harold Godwinson was present at Edward’s death and was soon proclaimed king. Others sought the throne though. Tostig, William Duke of Normandy, and King Harold Hardrada of Norway would all become involved. Expecting an attack from William of Normandy, King Harold Godwinson assembled a massive army and marched to the south of England. Meanwhile Tostig had assembled a force and advanced but attacked in the north, fearing his brother’s army. Tostig was defeated by Edwin, Earl of Mercia and Morcar, Earl of Northumbria and fled. Tostig combined the remnants of his forces with Harold Hardrada and the Norwegians descended on England. Harold Hardrada’s army defeated the earls Edwin and Morcar. After this battle hostages were exchanged and more were promised to Harold Hardrada a few days later at Stamford Bridge. Harold Godwinson quickly marched north and arrived at Stamford Bridge. On September 25th Harold Godwinson launched a surprise attack on the Norwegians starting the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Harold Hardrada and his army were caught by surprise and slaughtered. Harold Hardrada and Tostig were killed but Hardrada’s son was allowed to leave with his life.
Within the week Harold Godwinson heard that William or Normandy had landed on English soil. Harold Godwinson quickly marched to the south to take of the new invaders. Upon reaching London Harold Godwinson chose to attack William head on instead of starving him out through the winter. Part of the reasoning could be the high moral felt by Harold Godwinson and his army after the victory at Stamford Bridge. This battle is the famed Battle of Hastings that resulted in Harold Godwinson’s death and the beginning of Norman rule over England.