Due to place names changing frequently over history, I have cherry picked through modern and past variations of city and town place names. For level of ease I chose to use only a few historic place names.
During my research for this story, I learned many new and fascinating things. I have included, below, a few informational paragraphs about the three main places that this story takes place. Please check the Reading List and Recommended Links pages for lists of my various sources.
Kingdom of the East Angles
The Kingdom of the East Angles was established in the early sixth century, though Anglo-Saxons first settled there around 450 CE. Located in the east of Britain, the Kingdom of the East Angles was a small, independent kingdom comprised of the Norfolk and Suffolk counties, and the eastern section of the Fens. Ruled originally by the pagan Wuffingas dynasty, the East Angles were Christianised in the seventh century.
In the late eighth century, Offa of Mercia had the East Anglian king executed, then took the kingdom for himself. After Offa’s death two years later, the East Angles enjoyed a brief return to their independence, but that was quickly quashed by the new Mercian king.
Between 821 CE and 839 CE, the East Angles waged a successful rebellion and regained their independence under their new king, Athelstan. They maintained independence until King Edmund, the Anglo-Saxon king of East Angles, was killed by the Danes in 869 CE.
The Danes began to assault the British Isles in the late eighth century. The Great Heathen Army landed in the Kingdom of the East Angles in 865 CE, and the Danish raiders began to settle. After the defeat of King Edmund, the Kingdom of the East Angles was under Danish rule until 917 CE/918 CE. Via the treaty of Wedmore in 878 CE the Danelaw was established, encompassing the former Kingdom of the East Angles, eastern Mercia, the southern part of Northumbria and the Kingdom of the East Saxons. After a succession of Danish defeats, in 918 CE the Kingdom of the East Angles was absorbed as part of the Kingdom of Britain during the unification of the heptarchy of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
On a personal note, I chose the Kingdom of the East Angles as Aveline’s birthplace, not just because the Great Heathen Army attacked there in 865, but also because I myself am from East Anglia, from Peterborough to be precise. Peterborough, originally called Medeshamstede, was the site of a monastery founded in the 7th century. Back then, Medeshamstede was part of Mercia, close to the border of the East Angles, but later the Kingdom of the East Angles (originally comprised of Norfolk and Suffolk) expanded into Cambridgeshire, the county to which Peterborough belongs, and Peterborough became part of East Anglia.
Peterborough, like East Anglia in general, has a very rich history. For one, the Medeshamstede monastery was destroyed and the monks and Abbot were murdered by Vikings in 870 CE, apparently by the sons of Ragnar Loðbrók, Ubbe and Ivarr. It wasn’t until later in the tenth century until Medeshamstede was restored as a Benedictine abbey by Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester. One of my favourite accounts of Peterborough comes from the Peterborough Chronicle in 1127. Written by Henry d’Angely, he describes the appearance of the Wild Hunt one night.
Many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The huntsmen were black, huge, and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats, and their hounds were jet black, with eyes like saucers, and horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough, and in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns.
Roskilde is named for its legendary king Hróarr and the many sacred springs (kilde). According to the Saxo Grammaticus and various other sources, king Hróarr (referred to as ‘Ro’ by the Saxo Grammaticus) founded and ruled the town of Roskilde in the early sixth century.
Roskilde, situated on the island of Zealand (Sjælland), was an important hub of Viking land and sea trade and is one of Denmark’s oldest cities. In 980 CE, Harald Bluetooth built a church and royal estate in Roskilde, and was eventually buried in that church. In 1020 CE, Roskilde became a bishopric, and in 1268 CE, it was given the status ‘market town’.
Vikings settled in the original town of Aros due to its excellent potential as a harbour and trading position. Aros was situated around the mouth of the river Aarhus, located in eastern Jutland, the peninsula which contains the mainland regions of Denmark.
Archaeological evidence has dated the town of Aros back to 770 CE, making it one of Denmark’s oldest cities. The first Christian church, the Holy Trinity Church, was built upon the pagan burial ground in the centre of Aros in 900 CE. Later in the 900s, an earthen rampart was constructed around the city, which was reinforced by Harald Bluetooth, indicating that Aros was an important trade and military centre. Its bishopric dates to 948 CE, and in 1441 CE, Aros was granted ‘market town’ status.
According to Valdemar’s Census Book from 1231 CE, the town’s name was spelt Arus, known in Icelandic as Aros, and later spelt Aars and Aarss. The spelling ‘Aarhus’ appeared in 1406 CE and became the accepted spelling. In 1948, the spelling was changed yet again, this time to Århus, due to the Danish Spelling Reform. It was returned to the name Aarhus at the start of 2011, though both spellings of the city’s name were deemed grammatically acceptable.