London Bridge is falling down…
The story behind the nursery rhyme.
By Mary Anne Yarde
We all know the children's nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling down.
Well, I wonder if you have ever heard this verse...
London Bridge is broken down.
Gold is won, and bright renown.
Hild is shouting in the din!
Odin makes our Olaf win!
Let's take a journey back to the early 11th Century.
It is story time, now listen...
The oars of the great Viking longships hardly made any sound as they cut through the water of the River Thames. The mist from the Thames hid their presence and they made good progress. However, as the sun began to rise, so did the mist.
Her cry was taken up by others, and King Cnut, whose Father had only recently toppled King Æthelred from the throne, came out with his warriors. Surely Æthelred would not be so foolish as to try and take his kingdom back?
|King Sweyn (Cnut's father) invading England 1013 ~ WIkipedia|
"To the Bridge," he yelled. King Cnut knew that if they could hold the Bridge, then they could hold the kingdom. King Æthelred would have to pass under the bridge if he had any chance of winning this battle. King Cnut prayed to God that King Æthelred would keep coming, for he had one heck of a surprise for him.
But, this had once been King Æthelred's kingdom, he knew the territory and he knew this bridge. So he was not at all surprised when he saw that King Cnut had used the bridge to form an impassable blockade.
King Æthelred smiled, it was exactly what he had expected King Cnut to do and he had prepared for such an eventuality. He had instructed King Olaf to build high platforms on the boats. He knew that King Cnut would think that this had been done to protect the rowers, but that was not the reason.
When the dragon heads reached the bridge, King Æthelred and King Olaf's men climbed onto the platforms. They were now on the same level as King Cnut's warriors who were standing on the bridge. King Æthelred had instructed his and King Olaf's men to stand in pairs. One of which would hold a shield and the other a grappling hook.
|A typical Viking shield ~ Wikipedia|
Arrows, rocks, and rubble rained down upon them, but it did not deter the warriors who threw their hooks towards the bridge’s wooden pilings. But they were not trying to moor up, far from it.
King Cnut's released what King Æthelred planned to do and he ordered his men to throw mighty boulders down onto the ships, but it was too late.
King Æthelred gave the order to row back the way they had come. The wood of the bridge’s pilings held strong for a moment. King Æthelred felt a moment of doubt. This wasn't working. But then, God answered his prayers. The wood began to tear as the grappling hooks dug in. London Bridge began to shake.
King Æthelred encourage his mean to heave and to his delight he watched as wood, stone and men fell into the water.
|Æthelred in an early thirteenth-century copy of the Abingdon Chronicle ~ Wikipedia|
A great cheer rose up from the Viking boats. King Æthelred and King Olaf had won. London Bridge had fallen down.
Is there any truth in the story...?
|King Cnut defending London Bridge ~ Wikipedia|
Well, yes! Æthelred the Unready did indeed lose his throne to Sweyn. Æthelred fled to Normandy, but then Sweyn died unexpectedly and his son, Cnut, became king. Æthelred launched an expedition, with the support of Olaf Haraldsson to retake his kingdom. Olaf led a successful attack on London Bridge, and Cnut and his army withdrew from England.
Later, Æthelred son, Edmund Ironside, revolted against his father and established himself in the Danelaw. Cnut returned and over the next few months conquered most of England. Cnut won a decisive victory over Edmund at the Battle of Ashingdom (1016) but, so impressed was he with Edmund that he agreed to divide the nation. Edmund took Wessex while Cnut took the whole of the country beyond the Thames. Edmund died a few weeks later, and Cnut became the first Viking King of England.
Unless otherwise stated, all images can be found on Pixabay.
The Du Lac Prophecy
(Book 4 of The Du Lac Chronicles)
(Book 4 of The Du Lac Chronicles)
Two Prophesies. Two Noble Households. One Throne.
Distrust and greed threaten to destroy the House of du Lac. Mordred Pendragon strengthens his hold on Brittany and the surrounding kingdoms while Alan, Mordred’s cousin, embarks on a desperate quest to find Arthur’s lost knights. Without the knights and the relics they hold in trust, they cannot defeat Arthur’s only son – but finding the knights is only half of the battle. Convincing them to fight on the side of the Du Lac’s, their sworn enemy, will not be easy.
If Alden, King of Cerniw, cannot bring unity there will be no need for Arthur’s knights. With Budic threatening to invade Alden’s Kingdom, Merton putting love before duty, and Garren disappearing to goodness knows where, what hope does Alden have? If Alden cannot get his House in order, Mordred will destroy them all.
Mary Anne Yarde
Mary Anne Yarde is the multi award-winning author of the International Bestselling Series — The Du Lac Chronicles. Set a generation after the fall of King Arthur, The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Britain and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed.
Mary Anne is the founder of The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has been a professional reader since 2016 and in this time Mary Anne has reviewed many books for the big and small publishing houses, as well as books penned by her fellow indie authors. Mary Anne is also an editorial reviewer for BooksGoSocial. Mary Anne has been a judge for a prestigious Historical Fiction Book Award for the last three years, as well as being a Top Reviewer on Netgalley.
Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury — the fabled Isle of Avalon — was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.
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Fascinating, Mary Anne! I never knew this. When I have more time, I will read more about this period. I’ve just finished the first du Lac book and loved it! I shall start the next this evening. Would you ever think of writing a prequel? I am so intrigued by this take on Arthur as a mean, duplicitous character, I’d love to read a ‘what happened before book’! Val PooreReplyDelete
I am so glad you enjoyed The Du Lac Chronicles, Val! There may well be a prequel, but not for a long while yet!!Delete
Loved this story! Thank you for sharing it. 😊ReplyDelete
It certainly puts the nursery rhyme in a different light!!Delete
Gosh, I never knew the story behind the nursery rhyme. Thanks for this, Mary Anne!ReplyDelete
I love folklore, and this story is one of my favourites!Delete
What a fascinating post, Mary Anne. I did not know this story.ReplyDelete
It is such an interesting story, Mrs Lords. I am glad you learnt something new on the blog today!Delete
Loved the story, if you want to have the best international courier services to UK then you need to check out ICC Worldwide.ReplyDelete