The Forgotten History of King Edmund and the Danish Kingdom of East Anglia (c. 855-917)
with Dr Sam Newton (Wuffing Education at Sutton Hoo)
at Sutton Hoo on Saturday, 18th November, 2017.

The day before the eve of the 1148th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Edmund on 20th November, 869, we shall attempt to chart what we can of the last days of the kingdom of the Wuffings and of the beginnings of Danish East Anglia.

The near contemporary entries in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle provide our primary sources for events in East Anglia during these interesting times.  They help us in places to get behind the later legends of the saint, which have tended to overshadow our understanding of the history. The entry for the year 869, for example, seems to imply that King Edmund was killed in battle near Thetford, defending the kingdom against the formidable Micel Here, ‘Great Army’ of the Danes, led by the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok.

At some point the leadership of the Ragnarssons was replaced by that of Gúðormr (Guthrum).  After a long campaign culminating in his dramatic defeat in Wessex, he was baptised as King Alfred’s godson in 878 and went on to settle down as king of East Anglia.  We shall assess what we can of the history of the Eastern Danelaw, up to the year 917, when the East Anglian Danes accepted West Saxon overlordship under Edward the Elder.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:          Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:          The Forgotten History of King Edmund.

11.15 – 11.40:          Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:          The Coming of the Danes and the Killing

                                of King Edmund

12.40 – 14.00:          Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:          The Coming of Gúðormr (Guthrum)

14.50 – 15.10:          Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:          The Danish Kingdom of East Anglia

c.16.00:                   Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Farmer, D.H. (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford 1978).

Gransden, Antonia, “The legends and traditions concerning the origins of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds” English Historical Review, 100 (1985), pp.1-14.

Hart, C., The Danelaw (Hambledon 1992).

  • Hervey, F., (ed.) Corolla Sancti Edmundi: The Garland of St Edmund, King and Martyr (London 1907).
  • Keynes, S., & M. Lapidge (ed. & tr.), Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources (Penguin Classics 1983).
  • Pinner, R., The Cult of St Edmund in Medieval East Anglia (Boydell Press 2015).
  • Scarfe, N., Suffolk in the Middle Ages (Boydell 1986).
  • Smyth, A., Scandinavian York and Dublin (Dublin 1975).
  • Smyth, A., Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles 850-880 (Oxford 1977).
  • Smyth, A., King Alfred the Great (Oxford 1995).
  • Swanton, M., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Dent 1996; Phoenix 2000).
  • Whitelock, Dorothy, “Fact and Fiction in the Legend of St Edmund”, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology & History, 31 (1970), pp.217-33.
  • Young, F., “St Edmund, King and Martyr in Popular Memory since the Reformation”, Folklore 126 (2015), pp. 159–176.


About Dr Sam Newton

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991.  He published his first book, The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia, in 1993, and his second, The Reckoning of King Rædwald: the Story of the King linked to the Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial, in 2003. He has lectured widely around the country and has contributed to many radio and television programmes, especially Time Team.  He is a tutor for Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education, an accredited NADFAS lecturer, and a Director of the Wuffing Education Study-Day Partnership at Sutton Hoo.