This image, painted by the Norwegian artist Peter Nicolai Arbo (c. 1831–1892), showcases the deadly clash between King Harald “Hardrada” Sigurdsson of Norway and King Harold Godwinson of England at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. The battle was a surprise attack by the English forces, launched against the unprepared and underequipped Norwegian camp that was, at that time, taking an ill-timed moment to relax after having forced the capitulation of York. In the messy brawl that ensued, one of the two kings present at the battle would be killed. The one who died in battle, displayed in the center of the painting with a blue shirt, was King Harald of Norway. Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic politician and historian, described the alleged manner of the Norwegian king’s death, writing, “King Harald Sigurdsson was struck in the throat by an arrow, and this was his death-wound. He fell, and with him fell all those who had advanced with him, except for those who retreated with the royal standard” (Heimskringla, King Harald’s Saga, section 92). Unfortunately for the victorious Harold Godwinson, this was only the first of two invasions he would need to defend against in 1066. Next up to challenge Harold for the English throne would be William the Conqueror of Normandy, who would defeat the Anglo-Saxon forces at the Battle of Hastings and go on to conquer England.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- Heimskringla, by Snorri Sturluson and translated by Lee Hollander. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964, 2018.
- The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle translated by Benjamin Thorpe in 1861 and republished by Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- King Harald’s Saga, by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Magnus Mangusson and Hermann Pálsson. New York: Penguin Books, 1966, 2005.