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The Great Heathen Army, also known as the Viking Great Army, was a coalition of Vikings, mainly Danes but including Norsemen from Norway and Sweden, who invaded England in 865. It sought to invade and conquer the four remaining kingdoms of the Heptarchy.

The army was formed as a result of a merger between two factions of Vikings: the group led by the Sons of Ragnar who invaded England to seek revenge for the death of their father Ragnar Lothbrok, who was killed by King Ælla of Northumbria, and the Great Summer Army led by Bersi and Guthrum that landed in England in 871.

The invasion and subsequent war with the kingdoms lasted from 865 until 878 with the Battle of Edington and founding of the Danelaw in Eastern England.[1]

Behind the scenes

According to the sagas, the cause of the invasion and war was the killing of legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok by Northumbrian King Ælla. This in turn led Ragnar's sons, Ivarr the Boneless, Björn Ironside, Ubba Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Halfdan Ragnarsson to seek revenge.

The Danelaw was granted to the Vikings by Alfred the Great on the condition that Viking commander Guthrum convert to Christianity.