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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

AEfthryth - Queen Elfthryth of England AD 962 - AD 975

Queen Elfthryth
Queen Elfthryth was an Anglo Saxon Queen of England. She was the second wife of Anglo Saxon King Edgar and was the first of all English King’s wives’ known to be crowned in full Christian ritual. This was in a ceremony before an Arch Bishop and in a cathedral in the city of Bath. Her name is spelt in many ways: AEfthryth, Alfrida, but for this blog it is Elfthryth.

She lived from AD 945 to AD 1000 or AD 1001 – the records are not too sure on her death, but she was around mid-fifties when she passed away, which was a fair age for that time. It was still Dark Age Britain and Queen Elfthryth was important because of what happened to her and what she did. Some historians have given her a bad press but she was a survivor and was capable of doing under hand things to protect her off spring in a world fraught with danger.

She was born of a noble family of Wessex and was renowned for her beauty. One day, in a year around early AD 960s, she was visited by an Earl called AEthelwald. She was about fifteen to seventeen years and Earl AEthelwald was on a mission for the Anglo Saxon king of England. The Earl was charged to see how her beauty was. For AEfthryth was reported to be one of the most beautiful ladies of the land. AEthelwald was so smitten that he asked for her hand in marriage and reported back to King Edgar that the reports were exaggerated and she was not attractive at all.

How long passed is not known, concerning the time of Elfthryth’s marriage to AEthelwald, but King Edgar heard of the deception and he decided to visit the supposedly afflicted Lady Elfthryth. Earl AEthelwald tried to make sure his new wife, Elfthryth, made herself unappealing before King Edgar, but instead she did her best to look beautiful. Maybe Elfthryth was angered by not knowing the king had looked upon her as potential Queen and she had been deceived as much as King Edgar the Peaceful, as he was often called. The year of the visit was AD 962 and upon seeing the beautiful Elfthryth, King Edgar was also smitten.

He went hunting in the surrounding lands and had Earl AEthelwald killed while on the hunt. Supposedly, Edgar the Peaceful was not living up to his name on this particular day. He then took Elfthryth to be his wife and returned to his Anglo Saxon seat of power with his young and beautiful wife. King Edgar would have been about nineteen or twenty years of age while his wife perhaps seventeen or eighteen.

When the young Queen Elfthryth came to the king’s court, he already had a son called Edward and a daughter called Edith. This son was not the acknowledged heir to the throne and perhaps Queen Elfthryth felt secure in the knowledge her children would become heirs. However, this was the Dark Ages, and people of power would kill to gain prominence, none more so then kings or emperors. At such a young age, Elfthryth would not probably have been too sensitive to such dangers, but as she got older and bore her own son by King Edgar, she would have matured in understanding. She might have even known that certain people of the king’s council would favour the oldest son over her's, AEthelred. This circumstance would have prevailed for many years during King Edgar’s reign.

Although Edgar was called King and Elfthryth Queen, it was fourteen years into his reign before he went through the ceremonial coronation in the year of AD 973. It was a grand occasion and six kings from various parts of Britain went to see him in Chester shortly after the coronation. Among them, were two kings from domains in Scotland. This was also the coronation in which Elfthryth was officially proclaimed Queen of England.
King Edgar and six British Kings

Two years later in AD 975, King Edgar the Peaceful died in his early thirties. Elfthryth was no longer Queen and the late King Edgar’s unacknowledged heir became King Edward of England. He would have been just fifteen years of age and was almost certainly influenced by older advisers.

Elfthryth watched the young King Edward’s reign for three years until an opportunity presented itself to her when the King was visiting Corfe Castle in today’s county of Dorset. It is believed her servants and supporters of her son, AEthelred, assassinated King Edward at the castle in AD 978. He was later proclaimed Edward the Martyr.
Corfe Castle where
King Edward the Martyr was killed

Elfthryth had secured the throne for her son AEthelred who was around ten years old and too young to rule. Therefore Elfthryth ruled as Dowager until young King AEthelred was old enough to become king. He would become known as King AEthelred the Unready, which meant bad council or ill advised.

Elfthryth would have seen much of the mismanaged rule and the trouble with Danish settlers. She died in about AD 1000 – 1001 with the stigma of creating Edward the Martyr because her servants were believed to have killed the young king in favour of her own son.

Had Edward the Martyr lived to become older and wiser, he may have dealt the same demise upon Elfthryth and her son AEthelred, it was a dog eat dog world and perhaps Elfthryth had learnt the art of survival better then young King Edward and his advisers.


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