Back on November 13th of 1002, the King of England, King Ethelred II, ordered the massacre of all Danish in England. Why? It is a story that reminds me of just shows that the brutality and closed mindedness we see today is nothing new to the world.
Before Ethelred became king his father Edgar was king. Edgar's great grandfather was Alfred the Great. During King Edgar's reign, England enjoyed unity under one king. That hadn't happened since before Alfred the Great. It seemed as though, while King Edgar was in charge, that England was at its height and was free from dangers. This time of peace led to King Edgar being referred to as "Edgar the Peaceful", which was a much more desireable nick name than the one given later to his son Ethelred.
Ethelred was actually the second son, and not originally in line for the throne but he had a very ambitious mother, who was not the same mother as his older brother. When King Edgar died, there was a power struggle and at the end of it, Ethelred's older brother and only obstacle to the throne was murdered. Ethelred became king of England at ripe young age of 10 years old in the year 978.
As Ethelred grew into manhood he did not learn to control or maintain the loyalty of the people around him and the unity of England began to unwind. While that was happening there were also threats from the Vikings. The Vikings grew more and more bold as time passed. Their attacks left the coast and moved further into England. Ethelred was not able to effectively raise a military to fight back the invaders so he tried to bribe them into going away. These bribes were known as "Danegeld". As the years passed and the new millennium got closer the payments had to get bigger and bigger and had less and less affect. By the year 1002, Ethelred became desperate. He decided the only recourse was to kill every Dane living in England.
Many of these people had lived in England for generations and were not loyal to the Vikings; they considered themselves Englishmen. It didn't matter to the King and the Anglo Saxons in England. They needed a scapegoat and November 13, 1002, one of the blackets day in English history, people slaughtered as many Danes as possible. Neighbor turned upon neighbor and killed without any sign of mercy. It became known as the St. Brice's Day Massacre because it fell on the feast day of St. Brice.
The massacre didn't solve any problems, but merely made problems worse. It gave the attackers from Denmark justification to attack England. King Sein of Denmark sailed an enormous fleet to England and finally conquered so much of England that Ethelred was forced to flee the country.
Once Ethelred had fled, King Swein became the "ruler" of England but died only a year later. His death divided England once again. Many expected King Swein's son to become king but many others wanted Ethelred to come back, which he did. Once he had returned he and his military sought out and found King Swein's son Cnut and forced him to leave England along with his fleet. Sadly, the victory didn't last long and the attacks began again, forcing Ethelred to pay Danegeld again.
Just a few years later Ethelred died. When he died, his son Edmund became king, but by this time England was no longer united and he was ruler of London and parts of Southern England only. He led an unsuccessful fight against Cnut but lost. King Edmund was murdered and Cnut became the ruler of England.
The nickname given to Ethelred II was "Ethelred the Unread", which has been modified to "Unready". In the old Anglo-Saxon language his name Ethelred actualy meant "noble council". Since for most of his life he didn't seem to do the right thing he was coined "unread" which meant "without council". He failed miserably as a king and during his career the country went from beign united and peaceful to being a fief of the Danish empire. It would take William the Conquerer to put England back together again.