Harald Hardrada was the foremost warrior of his age, king of Norway, veteran of the Kievan Rus and ex-commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard. The last Anglo-Saxon ruler of England, King Harold, annihilated Hardrada’s army at Stamford Bridge. Hardrada and his ally, Harold’s faithless brother Tostig, were both slain, ending the Viking age. In any other year, this would have been an epoch-defining encounter; in 1066 it was little more than an appetiser. And for Harold, it was a pyrrhic victory. His depleted army had force-marched north 300 miles (480 km) to stop Hardrada, now they had to force-march south to face William of Normandy. Near Hastings, the Saxons formed a defensive wall on Senlac Hill. The battle was one of attrition not manoeuvre. Repeated Norman cavalry charges alternated with volleys of arrows. Feinted Norman retreats enticed the Saxon defenders to break ranks in pursuit, creating gaps in the Saxon ranks. Late in the day, Harold fell, and Saxon resistance crumbled. Normandy, not Norway, had seized the English throne.
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