Did You Know? Viking Invasions and Anglo-Saxon Silver

October 21st, 2013 by


The only coin minted in Anglo-Saxon England for over 500 years was a pure silver coin called the penny. Weighing about 1-1/2 grams, it was still a decent amount of money for the times.  But if you want to find one today, you’ll have better luck in Scandinavia than Sussex!  After having pillaged towns, burned monasteries to the ground and slaughtered the populace of England for the last 200 years, the Vikings discovered extortion.

King Aethelred the Unready paid 40 million silver pence to the marauding Viking fleets over five separate incidents between 991 and 1013. It was that year that King Sven Forkbeard of Denmark decided he would just take the entire country – and he did. He drove Aethelred overseas to Normandy, but died shortly after conquering England. His son Knut, also known as King Canute, defeated a returning Aethelred, then raised a tribute of 20 million silver pence to pay off his vast Viking army, and settle in as “King of all England and Denmark, of the Norwegians, and some of the Swedes.” To this day, Viking stelae in Denmark and Sweden still stand, inscribed with the rich hauls local Vikings brought home from England.