Norse Viking and Leidang III/40c: 790AD-1070AD

DBA list:
1x 4Bd (General) Harald Hardrada, King of Norway
8x 4Bd or 3Ax
2x 2Ps or 3Bw
1x 3Wb or 7Hd


The institution known as leiðangr (Old Norse), leidang (Norwegian), leding, (Danish), ledung (Swedish), expeditio (Latin) or sometimes lething (in English language), was a public levy of free farmers typical for medieval Scandinavians. It was a form of conscription to organise coastal fleets for seasonal excursions and in defence of the realm.The leiðangr as established in the medieval era, and not the Viking Age. Before the establishment of the leidang, the defence of the realm was probably based on voluntary contribution to a defence-fleet.

The lands were divided into districts, ship's crews, "skipreiða" (Old Norse), "skipæn" (Danish) or "roslag" (Swedish). The farmers of the district had to build and equip a rowed sailing ship. The size of the ships was defined as a standardized number of oars, initially forty oars, later the standardized size of 24 was increased. The head of a district was called "styrimaðr" or "styræsmand", steersman, and he functioned as captain of the ship. The smallest unit was the crew of peasants who had to arm and provide for one oarsman ("hafnæ" in Danish, "manngerð" in Old Norse).

The older laws regulating the leiðangr (the Norwegian "Older Law of the Gulating" dates to the 11th or 12th century) require every man to, as a minimum, arm himself with an axe or a sword in addition to spear and shield, and for every rowbench (typically of two men) to have a bow and 24 arrows. Later 12th-13th century changes to this law code list more extensive equipment for the more affluent freemen, with helmet, mail hauberk, shield, spear and sword being what the well-to-do farmer or burgher must bring to war.

In 12th-13th century sources, jarls are mentioned as the chieftain of the leiðangr, in the 12th century the bishop could also be head of the fleet levy, although typically nobles led levies in the 12th to 14th centuries.

Harald Sigurdsson (1015 – September 25, 1066), later given the epithet Hardrada (Old Norse: Haraldr harðráði, roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler", Hardråde in contemporary Norwegian) was the king of Norway from 1047 until 1066. Harald was the youngest of Norway's King Olaf II's three half-brothers born to Åsta Gudbrandsdatter. Harald took part, on the side of Olaf, in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. Although wounded, he managed to escape, leaving Norway in exile. He was able to form a band of warriors out of men who had also been exiled as a result of Olaf's death.

In 1031 Harald and his men reached the land of the Kievan Rus, where they served the armies of Yaroslav I the Wise, the Grand Prince of the Rus, whose wife Ingigerd was a distant relative of Harald. Harald is thought to have taken part in Grand Prince Yaroslav's campaign against the Poles, and was appointed joint commander of defense forces. Sometime after this, Harald and his retinue of some five hundred warriors moved on to Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, where there had been at least since 1034 an elite royal guard composed largely of Scandinavian Rus and called the Varangian Guard. Harald served in the guard until 1042. In 1045, in Rus, where he stayed two or three years before returning to Scandinavia, Harald married Elisabeth, daughter of Yaroslav and granddaughter of King Olof Skötkonung of Sweden. In 1047 Harald became sole ruler of Norway.

England had, in the early 1040s, belonged to Harthacnut, the son of Cnut the Great. Harald based a claim to the throne of England on an agreement supposedly made by Magnus and Harthacnut, which stated that if either died, the other would inherit the deceased's throne and lands. In 1066 Harald Sigurdsson did not bring a raiding force to England, but an army of invasion. The Leidang, a levy of ships and crews raised locally, formed a major part of this army. Each area was responsible for raising a set number of ships and their crews. Harald was joined on the Orkneys by a contingent provided by the Earl of Orkney, and by Earl Tostig and his twelve small ships as the fleet sailed down the East Coast.

In September 1066, Harald landed in Northern England with a force of around 15,000 men and 300 longships. On 20 September at the Battle of Fulford, two miles south of York, he won a great victory against the first English forces he met. Believing that King Harold was prepared to surrender and the English to accept his claim to the throne, Harald took about two thirds of his army to collect tribute from the local people, carrying light weapons and wearing only light armour, and left the rest at the ships,

However, Harold Godwinson was not prepared to give up his throne. At the Battle of Stamford Bridge, outside York, on 25 September 1066, Godwinson's forces surprised Harald's as they collected the tribute from the locals. Godwinson's forces were heavily armed and armored, and greatly outnumbered Harald's. Although one of Harald's men single-handedly blocked the English from the bridge for some time and was reported to have killed at least 40 Saxons, he fell after an Englishman sneaked under the bridge and stabbed upwards; King Harold's forces then easily broke through and both Harald and Earl Tostig were killed. Harald's army was so heavily beaten that only 24 of the 300 longboats used to transport his forces to England were used to carry the survivors back to Norway.This battle is generally considered to mark the end of the Viking Age. Harold Godwinson's victory was short lived, however, as only a few weeks later he was defeated by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings

According to Snorri Sturluson (1179 – 23 September 1241), an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician), before the battle a man bravely rode up to Harald Hardrada and Tostig and offered Tostig his earldom if he would but turn on Harald Hardrada. When Tostig asked what his brother Harold would be willing to give Harald Hardrada for his trouble, the rider replied that he would be given seven feet of ground as he was taller than other men. Harald Hardrada was impressed with the rider and asked Tostig his name, Tostig replied that the rider was none other than Harold Godwinson.

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