March 21, 867: Kings Osberht and Ælle killed trying to retake York from the Vikings

Coin of King Osberht of Northumbria
A poorly-struck copper coin of King Osberht; the legend reads OSBERCHT RE.
King Alfred the Great of Wessex (871-99) is well-remembered as the only Anglo-Saxon king to survive the Viking invasions of the ninth century, though it should be remembered that he also commissioned the historians to write the first version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and there is certainly an admixture of legend in the picture that emerges of him standing bravely and alone. Modern scholars tend to give more credit to King Ceolwulf of Mercia for keeping his kingdom than the Chronicle, though Ceolwulf was finally defeated in the end. As were the others -- King Edmund of East Anglia was killed in 869, and declared a saint shortly afterwards (he is the original Edmund of Bury St Edmunds), and so too were the kings of Northumbria.

The Chronicle again: "In this year the army [the Vikings] went from East Anglia to Northumbria, across the mouth of the Humber to York. There was a great conflict within that people: they had deposed their king Osberht and taken on a king not of the right line, Ælle, and it was only late in the year that they came to themselves and resolved to fight against the Vikings. And they gathered a large army and went up against the Vikings at York and broke into the city, and some got inside, and there was a huge slaughter of the Northumbrians, some within the city and some without, and both kings were slain, and the survivors made peace with the Vikings."

We know nothing more of Ælle, and of Osberht only that his name is the last to appear on the sequence of debased copper coins that were used in Northumbria in the ninth century.

Review the history, 806-899.