Did The Destruction Of London Bridge Really Happen? (Like In Vikings: Valhalla)

Did The Destruction Of London Bridge Really Happen? (Like In Vikings: Valhalla)

Vikings: Valhalla is the newest sensation right now, thanks to how it was able to mix a great storyline with a lot of different action scenes and battles. Of course, one of the most defining battle scenes in this Netflix original is the Siege of London, wherein King Canute’s forces were able to defeat the English armies thanks to how they were able to destroy London Bridge. But did the destruction of London Bridge really happen?

The destruction of London Bridge did indeed happen during the Viking siege on London during the 11thcentury. Historical accounts suggest that King Olaf’s ships were responsible for destroying the bridge by pulling the foundations away. As such, it wasn’t Leif Eriksson who destroyed the bridge.

One of the things that you should know about Vikings: Valhalla is that plenty of the different events that happened in this series are based on historical accounts. As such, the destruction of London Bridge was one of them. But, because there were changes introduced to the events in the series, let’s get behind what truly happened when London Bridge fell down.

Did Vikings Destroy London Bridge?

Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla is becoming more and more prominent today as more and more people have been watching it since it was released on February 25, 2022. That said, like Vikings, Vikings: Valhalla is based on real people and true historical events that happened in the past. As such, a lot of the things that happened in the series are based on actual events.

One such event that became one of the more important events in the series was the destruction of London Bridge because that was what allowed King Canute’s forces to march into London and take England for themselves. But did the Vikings really destroy London Bridge?

Did The Destruction Of London Bridge Really Happen? (Like In Vikings: Valhalla)

A lot of people are familiar with the nursery rhyme that goes, “London Bridge is falling down.” The first verse of the rhyme goes:

London Bridge is falling down

Falling down, falling down

London Bridge is falling down

My fair lady

However, the truth is that there is a much darker past to this nursery rhyme as it is actually based on the historical destruction of London Bridge. That’s why the original version of the song, as translated from the Heimskringla, goes:

London Bridge is broken down. —

Gold is won, and bright renown.

Shields resounding,

War-horns sounding,

Hild is shouting in the din!

Arrows singing,

Mail-coats ringing —

Odin makes our Olaf win!

As you can guess from the original version, there was possibly a battle that happened during the fall of London Bridge. Shields were resounding, and war horns were sounding when the event happened. Of course, the name “Olaf” is mentioned in the song.

This could possibly mean that London Bridge did indeed fall down during the battle that involved the Viking invaders and the Englishmen during the beginning of the second millennium. As such, the destruction of London Bridge did indeed happen a long time ago at the hands of the Vikings when they took over England during the 11th century.

Was The Destruction Of London Bridge Leif Erikson’s Idea?

It is worthy to point out that one of the key narratives in the entire series is King Canute’s invasion of England as a means of retaliation against the country for what King Aethelred did during the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. That’s why his forces besieged London, which was protected by the immature and inexperienced boy-king Edmund, and the widowed queen, Emma of Normandy.

Queen Emma proved to be a master strategist during the battle because she was able to match Canute’s own strategies with her own. However, it was Olaf’s knowledge of the English defenses and of London Bridge, which he helped build several years ago, that allowed the Vikings to ultimately defeat the Englishmen.

In the series, Leif Eriksson, who is one of the main characters, weakened the bridge’s foundations because he found a fatal flaw in its design. After that, Canute’s forces were able to find a way to goad the inexperienced King Edmund to march out of London to meet the Danish forces head-on. The weight of Edmund’s forces allowed the bridge to collapse, as Canute was able to capture the boy king to secure his victory over the Englishmen.

Did The Destruction Of London Bridge Really Happen? (Like In Vikings: Valhalla)

After that, King Canute proclaimed Leif Eriksson as a hero for destroying London Bridge. But did Leif Eriksson really London Bridge in history?

History suggests that Leif Eriksson, who lived through the latter part of the 10th century and the early part of the 11thcentury, didn’t take part in the Vikings’ war against the Englishmen. That’s because Leif was never mentioned to be a great warrior or a renowned commander of armies. 

RELATED: Who Is Leif Eriksson From Vikings: Valhalla? (& What They Got Wrong About Him)

In fact, he is historically portrayed as a great explorer that devoted much of his time to the exploration and discovery of new lands. It is even suggested that it was Leif Eriksson who first founded North America. As such, there is no evidence that would suggest that he had something to do with London Bridge or even the Viking war against England.

Going back to what we said about the original London Bridge nursery rhyme, the name “Olaf” was mentioned. That’s because, in the Heimskringla, it was suggested that Olaf II (later known as St. Olaf) was responsible for destroying London Bridge.

In the historical accounts, what King Olaf did was he used wickerwork to shield his ships until they reached London Bridge. His men then tied ropes to the foundations of the bridge. And using sheer force, his ships were able to pull apart the foundations to destroy the bridge.

Did The Destruction Of London Bridge Really Happen? (Like In Vikings: Valhalla)

As such, it is the same King Olaf who is portrayed to be a treacherous Christian in the series that was actually historically responsible for the destruction of London Bridge. That means that Leif Eriksson, who wasn’t even in the battle in the first place, had nothing to do with it.

When Did Vikings Destroy London Bridge?

The battles between the Vikings and the Englishmen started in 1003, a year after the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. King Sweyn Forkbeard led the attack against England but was helped by different armies, such as that of King Olaf’s forces.

RELATED: The St. Brice’s Day Massacre In Vikings: Valhalla Explained (True Story)

After more than a decade of war, King Sweyn was finally able to occupy London in 1014. That means that there is a possibility that Olaf might have destroyed London Bridge when the Danish armies were finally able to occupy the capital of England during the same year. As such, the destruction of London Bridge likely happened in 1014.

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