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Vikings: Valhalla: Why did King Aethelred II want all the Vikings killed?

Bosco Hogan stars as King Aethelred II in Episode 1 of Netflix's Vikings: Valhalla Season 1
Bosco Hogan stars as King Aethelred II in Episode 1 of Vikings: Valhalla Season 1. Pic credit: Netflix/Patrick Redmond

The first season of Netflix’s new Viking Age drama series, Vikings: Valhalla, opened with the St. Brice’s Day Massacre.

During this event, King Aethelred II (Bosco Hogan), also known historically as Aethelred the Unready, ordered the slaughter of Vikings.

While, in the TV series, it seemed a little unprovoked, there were actually valid reasons behind Aethelred’s decision to slaughter the Vikings.

The Vikings were still up to their old tricks

According to the history books, Aethelred instigated the St. Brice’s Day Massacre due to the fact that the Vikings were continuing their raiding ways.

While settled somewhat in England, they still tended to take people and places over by force.

There had been some settled time between the Norse settling in England, but by the 980s, the Danish were starting to up the ante when it came to raiding once more. Then, by the 990s, things were really starting to come to a head.

Because of this, the king was getting nervous, and an entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle details that the raid was also undertaken in 1002 due to Aethelred’s belief that the Vikings would kill him and rule over his lands afterward.

“And in the same summer died Archbishop Eadulf; and also, in the same year, the king gave an order to slay all the Danes that were in England. This was accordingly done on the mass-day of St. Brice; because it was told the king, that they would beshrew him of his life, and afterward all his council, and then have his kingdom without any resistance.”

Of course, in Vikings: Valhalla, slaughtering the Vikings did not have the desired effect that the king wanted. Instead, the Vikings gathered and consolidated, concentrating their forces at Aethelred rather than meekly sitting down and doing as they were told.

Kenneth Christensen stars as Jarl Nori in Episode 1 of Netflix's Vikings: Valhalla Season 1
Kenneth Christensen stars as Jarl Nori in Episode 1 of Vikings: Valhalla Season 1. Pic credit: Netflix/Bernard Walsh

The St. Brice’s Day Massacre gave the perfect starting point for Vikings: Valhalla

In a previous interview with Jeb Stuart, the Vikings: Valhalla showrunner explained why he chose this starting point for the new series.

“For me, that had some cultural resonance and relevance for me that I felt like you could start a story because we had pagan Vikings at this time and Christian Vikings,” Stuart told Collider.

“And just like in our culture you got the Republicans and Democrats, but when you go to war, when there’s a 9/11, suddenly you forget your ideology you become American and you go out, and you’re one people … We gave the Vikings a reason to stop killing each other over religious differences and become Viking again, and I thought, ‘That’s a very cool place to start a new series.”

Season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla is currently streaming on Netflix.

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