When Alfred the Great concluded the Peace of Wedmore (878) with the Viking ruler, Guthrum, the boundaries between Wessex and the Danelaw (the area in which the laws of the Danes prevailed) were agreed, and an uneasy peace prevailed. The Vikings concentrated on devastating northern France, but in 891 Guthrum died. Within a year a three-pronged invasion was mounted. The main force landed at Lymne under Haesten – ‘a man accursed: fierce, mightily cruel, and savage, pestilent, hostile, sombre, truculent, given to outrage, pestilent and untrustworthy, fickle and lawless. Death-dealing, uncouth, fertile in ruses, warmonger general, traitor, fomenter of evil, and double-dyed dissimulator’. A further fleet landed at Milton, joined by reinforcements from Danish Northumbria. Despite the fearsome billing, Haesten was summarily dealt with by Alfred and his Mercian allies, routed at Aldershot, then stormed in his stronghold at Benfleet. Further raids on Exeter and London were both repulsed, the remnant of the Northumbrian fleet holing up in Dublin.
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