October 26, 899. Death of King Alfred
Succession of King Edward (the Elder)
Revolt of Æthelwold, son of Alfred's brother Æthelred

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Alfred died on October 26, and that his son Edward succeeded to the kingdom. However, the ætheling Æthelwold, son of Alfred's elder brother Æthelred (king of the West Saxons 865-71), refused to accept Edward's lordship and rode instead and seized royal residences at Wimborne (Dorset) and at Christchurch (Hants), against the will of the king. Edward took his army to Badbury near Wimborne, and Æthelwold barricaded himself within Wimborne with his men and a nun he had kidnapped, saying that he would live there or die there. The stage seems set for another set-piece of loyalty and heroism like the fights of Cynewulf and Cyneheard (see entry for 786), but instead Æthelwold fled by night and went to the Viking army in Northumbria, who accepted him as king and swore allegiance to him.

The earliest record of King Edward being called senior ("the Elder") is near the beginning of a Life of St Æthelwold from the end of the 10th century, presumably to distinguish him from the more recent King Edward (the Martyr, of 975-8).

M. Lapidge and M. Winterbottom (edd.), Wulfstan of Winchester: Life of St Æthelwold (Oxford: 1991), pp.2-3

901. Foundation of the New Minster, Winchester

We can deduce that the New Minster was founded in 901 from charters (S 365, 366, and 1443) and from an entry in the late version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (dated 903, but other events in that annal took place in 901). It seems clear that Edward intended the new foundation to look after the spiritual interests of his family: two of the initial charters (S 366 and 1443) mention this in general terms, while the third (S 365) notes that a grant of land is made on condition that prayers are said at the monastery every day for Edward, his father, and his ancestors.

For the first quarter of the 10th century, the New Minster also functioned as a royal mausoleum: Alfred's body was moved from its place in the Old Minster to the New Minster, Alfred's wife Ealhswith was buried at the New Minster on her death in 902, as were Edward's younger brother Æthelweard on his death in 920/922, Edward himself in 924, and Edward's son Ælfweard (also in 924). King Æthelstan preferred Malmesbury for royal burial in his reign, and the tradition was broken, but King Eadwig was also buried at the New Minster at his death in 959.

It may be that the New Minster, built not twenty feet from the Old Minster which had stood there since the West Saxon Cenwealh ordered its construction in the mid-7th century (see entry on 660), was also a tangible statement that Alfred and Edward were at the head of a new dynasty, kings of the Anglo-Saxons rather than just the West Saxons.

S. Keynes, "The West Saxon Charters of King Æthelwulf and His Sons", English Historical Review 109 (1994), pp.1109-49

S. Keynes, The Liber Vitae of the New Minster and Hyde Abbey, Winchester (Copenhagen: 1996)

S. Miller, Charters of the New Minster, Winchester (Oxford: 2001)

B. Yorke, "Æthelwold and the Politics of the Tenth Century", Bishop Æthelwold: His Career and Influence (Woodbridge: 1988), pp.65-88

901. Æthelwold, Æthelred's son, comes to Essex

Nothing is heard of Æthelwold between his revolt and flight to Northumbria at the end of 899 and his return south, in the fall of 901. There are Northumbrian coins in the name of Alvaldus from about this period: these may be coins of Æthelwold, which would corroborate the Chronicle's assertion that he was accepted as king by the Northumbrian Vikings (see Grierson and Blackburn, p.321).

P. Grierson and M. Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, 1: The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) (Cambridge: 1986)

902. Æthelwold, with the East Anglians, harries Mercia and into Wessex
December 13, 902. Battle of the Holme: Edward defeats Æthelwold

In the fall of 902 Æthelwold induced the East Anglian Vikings to break the peace and they harried all over Mercia as far as Cricklade in Wiltshire. When Æthelwold and his forces crossed the Thames into Wessex and raided Braydon (also in Wiltshire), King Edward pursued them with his army, and harried Essex and East Anglia (or as the Chronicle puts it, "all their lands between the Dykes and the Ouse, as far north as the fens"). Then Edward tried to stage an orderly withdrawal, but the men of Kent lingered behind against his command. The Chronicle notes that Edward had sent seven messengers to them, which implies that, like Nelson much later, they were turning a blind eye... The Danish army overtook the men of Kent at the Holme (unidentified) and fought them there, and very many people were killed on both sides, including Æthelwold. (The Chronicle names the most important of the dead as the ealdormen Sigewulf and Sigehelm, the thegn Eadwold, abbot Cenwulf, Sigeberht Sigewulf's son, Eadwold Acca's son, and on the Danish side king Eohric, ætheling Æthelwold, Brihtsige son of the ætheling Beornoth, Ysopa and Oscetel.) Æthelweard in his Chronicle dates the battle to December 13. The Chronicle admits that the Danes won the victory, though more of them than of the English were killed, but the death of the rebel Æthelwold will have been the most important result of the battle as far as Edward was concerned.

It would be interesting to know more about Brihtsige son of the ætheling Beornoth: the name (alliterating on B- like the names of the 9th-century Mercian kings, Beornwulf and Beorhtwulf and Burgred) suggests that he might have been the son of a prince of the Mercians. It is possible that in the uncertainty of the disputed succession after Alfred the Mercians attempted to claim independence from Edward and his kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons: a Mercian charter of 901 (S 221) issued by Æthelred and Æthelflæd has somewhat grander titles than usual and makes no mention of Edward's overall authority. However, there is no clearer evidence of Mercian independence at this point (no coins have survivied in the names of Æthelred or Æthelflæd, for example), and by 903 they were appearing in charters very much as the subordinates of Edward (S 367).

906. Edward makes peace with the East Angles and the Northumbrians

Nothing is reported of English / Danish hostilities between the Battle of the Holme in December 902 and 906: that there were ongoing troubles is suggested by the fact that in 906 the Chronicle reports that Edward made peace at Tiddingford (Berks.) with the Northumbrians and the East Anglians. One version of the Chronicle notes that he did this "from necessity", a formula which suggests that Edward was hard-pressed and might even suggest the "making peace" of an earlier generation by paying for the East Anglians and Northumbrians to cease harrying. The "restoration" of Chester in the following year suggests that hostilities continued in spite of the peace, and it was in 909 that the campaigns which led to the reconquest of the Danelaw began.

907. Chester was restored

This is recorded in the Mercian annals incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. No details are given of who restored it or from whom. Chester is described as deserted when the Vikings occupied it briefly in 894, but the English army starved them out. It may be that the inhabitants of the Danelaw recaptured Chester early in the 10th century, in the unrecorded battles which presumably led to Edward making peace with the East Angles and Northumbrians in 906.

909. Further subdivision of West Saxon bishoprics

For the earlier history of the West Saxon bishopric, see entry on 705, in which year the original see was split in two, Winchester and Sherborne. The further split of 909, which added the new sees of Ramsbury, Wells, and Crediton, is recorded in two documents of the later 10th century, dealing with disputes between the West Saxon see of Crediton and the neighbouring see of Cornwall (see EHD 229, and Whitelock, Councils & Synods, no. 35). The division can confidently be dated to 909, because new bishops are appointed to replace Denewulf of Winchester (who last appears in 908) and Asser of Sherborne (who dies in 909), and one of the new appointees, Frithestan of Winchester, first appears in 909.

Whitelock (ed.), Councils & Synods with Other Documents Relating to the English Church, I: 871-1066 (Oxford: 1981)

909. Edward sends a West Saxon and Mercian army to harry Northumbria

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Edward sent an army of West Saxons and Mercians to the territory of the northern army (i.e. Northumbria), and that they spent five weeks there, killing many of the Danes and their cattle.

It is noteworthy that Edward is commanding both the West Saxons and the Mercians: this lends substance to the claim that he was in overall charge of all of the Anglo-Saxons.

910. Northumbrians harry in Mercia
August 5/6, 910. Battle of Wednesfield/Tettenhall: West Saxons and Mercians defeat Northumbrians

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, conveniently ignoring Edward's campaign of the previous year, claims that the Northumbrians broke the peace and ravaged Mercia, and that Edward, who was in Kent at the time, sent an army of West Saxons and Mercians against them. Æthelweard gives more details, noting that the Northumbrians harried Mercia as far as the river Avon and the West Saxon border, that they then crossed the Severn into the west country, and were returning home with rich spoil and crossing back over the Severn at Bridgnorth when the troops of the Mercians and the West Saxons suddenly appeared against them. Battle was joined at Wednesfield (according to Æthelweard) or Tettenhall (according to the Chronicle; the two are only about four miles apart). The English won and killed very many of the Northumbrians ("many thousands of men", according to the Chronicle), and put the rest to flight. Æthelweard tells us the battle is said to have taken place on August 5, while one of the versions of the Chronicle prefers August 6.

A very important result of this battle is that the Northumbrian Danes remained north of the Humber from then on: there are no records of the Northumbrian Vikings becoming involved in southern battles until (presumably) Brunanburh in 937, which enabled Edward and his Mercian allies, Æthelred and Æthelflæd, to concentrate on the Danish armies south of the Humber.

910. Æthelflæd builds a fortress at Bremesbyrig (unidentified)

911. Death of Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that in this year Ealdorman Æthelred of the Mercians died and Edward succeeded to London and Oxford and all the lands which had belonged to them. Although this is clearly a sign of Edward taking more direct control over the Mercian territories, it should be emphasized that he was king of the Anglo-Saxons (including the Mercians) from the beginning: coins were minted in his name, not those of Æthelred or Æthelflæd, and charters from as early as 903 (S 367) note explicitly that Æthelred and Æthelflæd hold the governance of the Mercians under the authority of Edward. (It may be worth noting though that the Mercian annals in the Chronicle mention Æthelred's death without mentioning Edward's succession to London and Oxford, and it is tempting -- especially in light of more pointed remarks in 918 -- to read Mercian dissatisfaction into this omission.)

November 11, 911. Edward orders fortress built at Hertford

The date is given in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ("around Martinmas"). This fort would block the southern advance of East Anglian Danes from Bedford and Cambridge, and its position near the river Lea would place it near the camp where the Vikings wintered in 894/5.

912. Death of Eadwulf of Bamburgh
Ealdred, son of Eadwulf, succeeds to Bamburgh (?)

This is recorded by Æthelweard, and also by the Annals of Ulster, which call him "king of the North Saxons". The last known ruler of what was probably Bernicia before this was Ecgberht the second, whose accession Simeon of Durham reports in 876; Eadwulf presumably succeeded some years after that, but there is no way of knowing when. That the rulers of Bernicia were no longer the puppet-kings of the Northumbrian Vikings, as the first appointee Ecgberht had been in 867, is suggested from the comment in the History of St Cuthbert (extracts at EHD 6) that there was a warm friendship between Eadwulf and King Alfred.

912. Edward takes army to Essex, builds fortress at Witham, receives submissions from Essex
Æthelflæd builds fortresses at Scergeat and Bridgnorth

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that in the summer Edward went with some of his forces to Maldon in Essex, and camped there while a fortress was built at Witham, and many of the people who had been under Danish rule submitted to him. Little is known of Essex since Benfleet there was used as a Viking base in the 893-6 campaign and Æthelwold landed there in 901, but from this context it seems likely that it fell under the control of the East Anglian Danes, and that 912 marks a stage of its recapture by the English. The fort at Witham would block the westwards advance of Danes from Colchester. Meanwhile, another part of Edward's army built a second fortress at Hertford.

The Mercian annals note that Æthelflæd built a fortress at Scergeat (unidentified), and another at Bridgnorth (which is where the Vikings had crossed the Severn in 910 before meeting the English at Wednesfield/Tettenhall).

913. Raiding parties from Northampton and Leicester
Æthelflæd builds fortresses at Tamworth and Stafford

The main Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, recording Edward's campaign, notes no fortress-building this year, but only the activities of armies from Northampton and Leicester which raided around Hook Norton and Luton. The people of the district defeated the raiding band and put them to flight and recaptured their booty.

Æthelflæd, meanwhile, built the fortress at Tamworth in the early summer, and another before August at Stafford. These fortresses would shore up the northeastern boundaries of English Mercia against the Danish armies in the Five Boroughs.

c.914. Battle of Corbridge: Ragnall defeats the Scots and the English Northumbrians

F. Wainwright, "The Submission to Edward the Elder", History, n.s., 27 (1952), 114-30

914. Viking fleet comes from Brittany, ravages in Wales and along the southwest
Edward builds fortresses at Buckingham, receives submissions from Bedford and Northampton

Æthelflæd builds fortresses at Eddisbury and Warwick

The Viking fleet from Brittany was led by two earls, Ohter and Hroald, and they arrived at the Severn estuary and ravaged in Wales and around the coast. They went inland into Herefordshire, but the men of Hereford and Gloucester and the nearest fortresses met them and put them to flight and killed Hroald and Ohter's brother, and besieged them until they gave hostages and promised to leave. After this, Edward arranged that men were stationed along the south side of the Severn estuary, to deter attacks. The Vikings nonetheless did manage twice to steal inland, once to Watchet and once to Porlock . On both occasions, however, they were caught and heavy casualties were inflicted. They were camped on the island of Steepholme, and they remained there until the autumn when they grew very short of food, at which point they went on to Dyfed, and from there to Ireland.

Also in the same year, before Martinmas (November 11), Edward stayed at Buckingham with his army, and built two fortresses there, and the Earl Thurcetel submitted to him there, as did the principal lords of Bedford and many of those at Northampton. Edward took his army to Bedford and occupied the borough and stayed there four weeks and ordered another fortress to be built there.

Æthelflæd meanwhile built a fortress at Eddisbury in the early summer (which would block raids into northern Mercia from the Mersey) and another at Warwick in the early autumn (another fortress, like Tamworth and Stafford, on the northeastern border of English Mercia, against the Five Boroughs).

915. Æthelflæd builds fortresses at Chirbury and at Weardburh and at Runcorn

The fort at Chirbury was on the Welsh / Mercian border, that at Weardburh is unidentified, and that at Runcorn, like that at Eddisbury, was presumably designed to block raids into northern Mercia from the Mersey.

916. Edward builds fortress at Maldon
Earl Thurcetel leaves England for France

The main Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Edward built the fortress at Maldon, and that Earl Thurcetel, who had submitted to Edward late in 914, went with his followers across the sea to France.

916. Æthelflæd sends an army into Wales, destroys Brecenanmere (Llangorse Lake, near Brecon)

The Mercian annals meanwhile reveal that Æthelflæd, in addition to dealing with the Danes, had conflicts with the Welsh. The innocent abbot Ecgberht was slain with his companions on June 16, presumably by the Welsh; in retaliation Æthelflæd sent an army into Wales three days later, and destroyed Brecenanmere (Llangorse Lake, near Brecon), and captured the king's wife and 33 others. These events, and the building of the fortress at Chirbury in 915, should perhaps be seen as parts of ongoing Welsh / English hostilities that are otherwise unrecorded -- like the English attack on Gwynedd in 878.

917. Edward builds fortresses at Towcester and Wigingamere
Much campaigning: Edward receives submissions of armies of Northampton, East Anglia, Cambridge
Æthelflæd takes the borough of Derby (one of the Five Boroughs)

In 917, before Easter, Edward ordered a fort built at Towcester (which would block the southern advance of Danes from Northampton), and another at Wigingamere (unidentified).

In the summer, the Danes of Northampton and Leicester and the area to the north stormed the new fort at Towcester but were repelled; they then successfully raided a less well-protected area, near Aylesbury. Meanwhile, the Danish army of Huntingdon and East Anglia built a fortress at Tempsford, some ten miles south of Huntingford, abandoning Huntingford because Tempsford was closer to the English border. The Danes of Tempsford attacked the nearby English fortress at Bedford, but were repulsed. Another Danish army from East Anglia and Mercia gathered, and attacked the fortress at Wigingamere, but were repulsed.

In the English counterattack, Edward gathered an army and attacked the Danish fortress at Tempsford and took it by storm, killing the king and Earl Toglos and his son, Earl Manna. Another English host assembled in the autumn from Kent, Surrey, and Essex and the nearest fortresses on all sides, and besieged the Danish fortress of Colchester and took that and killed all the people within.

In the autumn, an army of East Anglians and Vikings went to Maldon and attacked the fortress, but more English troops came from outside, and the Danes were put to flight. (This East Anglian army may have been fragmenting, since their king and many nobles had been killed at Tempsford.)

Shortly afterwards, in that same autumn, Edward brought the army of the West Saxons to Passenham, and stayed there while the fortress of Towcester was given a stone wall. Then Earl Thurferth submitted to him, as did the army of Northampton. The English army went on to restore the fortresses at Huntingdon and Colchester (abandoned by and taken from the Danes earlier in the year), and many of the people who had been under Danish rule in East Anglia and Essex submitted to him, as did the Danish army in East Anglia, and the army of Cambridge.

These decisive English victories are partly the result of the system of fortifications that had been perhaps a decade (counting from the restoration of Chester in 907) in the making, and partly also of the fact that the Danes were actually under attack from both sides. While Edward was holding the southward advance from the Five Boroughs and advancing westwards from East Anglia, his sister Æthelflæd took Derby, one of the Five Boroughs, and all that belonged to it. The Mercian annals report that this took place before Lammas (August 1).

918. Second Battle of Corbridge: Ragnall against the Scots and the English Northumbrians

918. Æthelflæd peacefully obtains control of Leicester and receives pledges from the people of York
Edward takes Stamford and Nottingham

In the first half of the year, Æthelflæd peacefully obtained control of Leicester (another of the Five Boroughs), and also received pledges from the people of York that they would be under her direction. It is not certain whether the "people of York" at this point were English or Danes or whether they were already a mixed people, but they seem to be displaying the political pragmatism seen among the Northumbrians of the 8th century and later in the mid-10th century. The submission to Æthelflæd was probably designed to gain a strong southern ally against the depradations of Ragnall and his Norse Vikings: if with Æthelflæd's help they could defend themselves more successfully against the Norse, then so be it. Very shortly after this, Æthelflæd died.

Also in the first half of 918, Edward took his army to Stamford, and started to build another fortress there, and Stamford submitted to him (third of the Five Boroughs to fall). On Æthelflæd's death Edward went back south to Tamworth (see next entry), but after that he came back and captured Nottingham and ordered it to be repaired and manned with both Englishmen and Danes. The Chronicle concludes that all the people who had settled in Mercia, both Danish and English, submitted to him. This implies that Edward also took Lincoln, the last of the Five Boroughs. However, the existence of a Viking coinage of Lincoln in the early 920s suggests either that Edward did not recapture Lincoln, or that it regained its independence almost immediately (see Grierson and Blackburn, p.323).

P. Grierson and M. Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, 1: The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) (Cambridge: 1986)

June 12, 918. Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, dies at Tamworth
Edward occupies Tamworth, receives submissions of all the English Mercians (and some Welsh kings)
December 918. Ælfwyn, Æthelflæd's daughter, taken into Wessex

On June 12, 918, Æthelflæd died at Tamworth, seven years after the death of her husband Æthelred in 911. The Mercian annals note that this was in the eighth year in which with lawful authority she was holding dominion over the Mercians, and that she was buried at Gloucester. They continue in their next annal that three weeks before Christmas, Ælfwyn, daughter of Æthelred, lord of the Mercians, was deprived of all authority in Mercia and taken into Wessex.

The main body of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (or what can more properly be called the West Saxon version) states only that Edward's sister Æthelflæd died and that Edward occupied Tamworth and all the Mercians who had been subject to Æthelflæd submitted to him, as did also three Welsh kings, Hywel, Clydog and Idwal. As far as West Saxon observers were concerned, Æthelflæd was to be the last separate ruler of Mercia.

It is clear from several sources that Edward was in overall charge of both Wessex and Mercia in the first twenty years of the 10th century, and the change in 918 was not so much Edward taking over Mercia as Edward removing an intermediate level of government between himself and his Mercian subjects. Edward commanded armies of West Saxons and Mercians in 909 and 910; he seems to have issued coins in his own name throughout Wessex and Mercia (no coins survive in the names of Æthelred and Æthelflæd); the charters make clear that Æthelred and Æthelflæd hold their power under Edward's authority (e.g. S 367 of 903).

However, the references to Æthelflæd's "legitimate authority" and Ælfwyn being "deprived of all authority" in the Mercian annals make it equally clear that at least one Mercian observer expected that the Mercians would keep their own governor. It is most unfortunate that no royal diplomas survive from the period, so we have no evidence of whether Ælfwyn ever exercised authority in Mercia. A charter from the second half of 918 in Ælfwyn's name, witnessed by the members of her court, might offer a fascinating glimpse into the politics of the period. (The West Saxon version of the Chronicle, which states that all the Mercians submitted to Edward shortly after Æthelflæd's death, implies that the West Saxons would see any attempt by Ælfwyn to issue charters in her own name as a revolt -- but the way the Mercian annals suggest that Ælfwyn was deprived of authority may suggest the attempt was made.)

The most tantalizing question about Mercian politics in 918 is what part was taken by Edward's son Æthelstan. Pre-Conquest sources tell us little about Æthelstan's upbringing, but the 12th-century William of Malmesbury notes that he was brought up at the court of Æthelred and Æthelflæd. If this is so, he may have played a key part in these events, either for Edward or for Ælfwyn, and his actions here might well relate to his own apparently problematic succession in 924/5.

918. Edward builds and occupies a fortress at Thelwall (Cheshire)
Edward orders a Mercian army to occupy and repair the fortress at Manchester in Northumbria

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle puts these events "after autumn", so towards the end of 918. Edward takes the army to Thelwall (the new fortress is just northeast and east of Æthelflæd's fortresses of Runcorn and Eddisbury, defending the northern border of Mercia), and orders a Mercian army to go farther northeast (this time north of the Mersey) to build another fortress at Manchester. The Danelaw south of the Humber may have been almost entirely under Edward's control, but the Norse Vikings north of the Humber were still a threat, as Ragnall's storming of York in 919 and Sihtric's storming of Davenport in Cheshire in 920 would make clear.

919. Ragnall takes York

920. Edward takes army north and builds second fortress at Nottingham, and another at Bakewell
The Scots, Ragnall, the sons of Eadwulf, all the Northumbrians, and the Strathclyde Britons submit to Edward

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Edward built this second fortress at Nottingham before midsummer (he had taken the existing fortress from the Danes in 918), and a bridge across the Trent between the two fortresses. Then he took his army to Bakewell in the Peak District, built another fortress, and received the general submission of the people of the north, who "chose him as father and lord". The Chronicle mentions the king of the Scots, all the people of the Scots, Ragnall (the Norse Viking), the sons of Eadwulf and all the Northumbrians, English and Danish, Norsemen and others, and the king of the Strathclyde Welsh and all the Strathclyde Welsh. While a peace may have been agreed, the fact that Ragnall's brother Sihtric was issuing coins in his own name in the 920s (see CTCE p.107) shows that the agreement of 920 did not give Edward effective control of the north.

C. Blunt, I. Stewart, S. Lyon, Coinage in Tenth-Century England (Oxford: 1989)

920. Ragnall dies
Sihtric, Ragnall's brother, takes over York
Sihtric takes Davenport in Mercia

921. Edward builds a fortress at Cledemutha (the mouth of the Clwyd in Cheshire?)

July 17, 924. Edward dies
Ælfweard, Edward's son, succeeds (in Wessex?)
August 924. Ælfweard dies
Æthelstan, Edward's son, succeeds
September 4, 925. Æthelstan's coronation

Pulling together information from several pre-Conquest sources we can say that Edward died on July 17, 924, at Farndon in Mercia. His son Ælfweard was recognized as king at least in Winchester (the Liber Vitae of the New Minster at Winchester calls him king, and one version of the West Saxon regnal list includes his reign), but he died either 16 days or 4 weeks later (either way, in the first half of August 924). Both Edward and Ælfweard were buried at the New Minster. No version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions Ælfweard's kingship: the West Saxon branch says only that Edward died and Æthelstan succeeded, while the Mercian annals say that Edward died, Ælfweard died shortly after (without suggesting that Ælfweard was king), the Mercians chose Æthelstan as king, and he was consecrated at Kingston. A charter issued on the day of Æthelstan's coronation gives us the date, September 4, 925 (S 394).

The puzzle in all this is why was the coronation delayed for over a year, from Ælfweard's death in August 924 until September 925? Pre-Conquest sources shed no light on this problem, so later sources must be cautiously invoked. From William of Malmesbury's writings in the 12th century come hints that the delay should be seen in terms of a division between the Mercians and the West Saxons.

First of all, William adds the detail that Edward died shortly after putting down an English and British revolt in Chester (in Mercian territory; Farndon, where the Mercian annals report Edward died, is nearby). Unfortunately the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is blank for the last three years of Edward's reign, so there is no contemporary corroboration of this revolt, but in view of the apparent resentment in the Mercian annals of the treatment of Ælfwyn in 918, a Mercian revolt is plausible. (Another reason for revolt might be the reorganization of western Mercia into shires, which it has been suggested took place in the last years of Edward's reign, after his assertion of direct control over Mercia in 918; see Gelling, p.141. These new boundaries ran rough-shod over the older divisions of Mercia, and the rearrangement would probably have caused at least as much outrage in the 10th as it did in the 20th century.)

William also notes that Æthelstan was brought up at the court of Æthelred and Æthelflæd. This might have made him more acceptable as a ruler to the Mercians, though this might well depend on what part he played (if any) in the suppression of Ælfwyn in 918 and the Mercian revolt at Chester in 924 (if this really happened). If he had sided with the Mercians against his father on either occasion, it might also have made him less acceptable as a ruler to the West Saxons. That some of the West Saxons did object to Æthelstan is suggested by William's note that there was a conspiracy, led by a certain Alfred, to have Æthelstan blinded at Winchester. William reports that Alfred's conspiracy was based on the assertion that Æthelstan was illegitimate, the son of a concubine. This suggests that there may have been a faction, based perhaps at Winchester, which favoured the accession of Ælfweard's brother Edwin after Ælfweard's death in August 924. (According to William of Malmesbury, Ælfweard and Edwin were sons of Edward and Ælfflæd, while Æthelstan was the son of Edward and Ecgwynn.)

Perhaps the Mercians chose Æthelstan as king immediately after Ælfweard's death in August 924, and the West Saxons chose Edwin, and it was the resolution of this conflict that delayed the coronation. (The only document of Æthelstan's reign witnessed by Edwin is a charter of the New Minster of Winchester, S 1417, which may strengthen the case that support for Ælfweard and Edwin was based at Winchester.) Edwin lived on until 933, when he was driven abroad by troubles in the kingdom and died at sea; later legend (perhaps inevitably) suggested that Æthelstan was somehow to blame.

D. Dumville, "The West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List: Manuscripts and Texts", Anglia 104 (1986), pp.1-32 [for Ælfweard see p.29]

M. Gelling, The West Midlands in the Early Middle Ages (Leicester: 1992)

B. Yorke, "Æthelwold and the Politics of the Tenth Century", Bishop Æthelwold: His Career and Influence (Woodbridge: 1988), pp.65-88

January 30, 926. Æthelstan and Sihtric of Northumbria meet at Tamworth

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes this meeting, and states that Æthelstan gave Sihtric his sister in marriage. This attempt to ensure peace with Northumbria came to nothing because Sihtric died the following year.

927. Sihtric of Northumbria dies
Guthfrith succeeds to Northumbria, but is driven out by Æthelstan

Sihtric's death is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. One manuscript goes on to say that Æthelstan succeded him without mentioning any other claimants, while another notes that Æthelstan drove out a King Guthfrith. Sihtric left a son, Olaf Cuaran, who would return to seize York after Æthelstan's death in 939. Guthfrith was Sihtric's brother and Olaf's uncle, and after being expelled from York by Æthelstan went back to being king of Dublin.

R. Mynors and others, William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum (Oxford: 1998)

A. Smyth, Scandinavian York and Dublin (Dublin: 1975-8)

July 12, 927. Æthelstan's great meeting at Eamont
Æthelstan's title becomes Rex Anglorum, King of the English

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in this year Æthelstan succeeded to Northumbria, and that he brought under his rule all the kings of the island, Hywel of the West Welsh, Constantine of the Scots, Owain of Gwent, and Ealdred, son of Eadwulf of Bamburgh. At a meeting at Eamont (in Cumbria) on 12 July they made peace with pledge and oaths. William of Malmesbury in the 12th century mentions a meeting at Dacre where Constantine of the Scots and Owain of Strathclylde pledged peace to Æthelstan, so it may be that Owain of Strathclyde should be added to the Eamont list (GRA, ii.134.2).

Michael Lapidge has demonstrated that a Latin poem about Æthelstan, the Carta Dirige Gressus, was composed in the immediate aftermath of the council at Eamont (see Lapidge, pp. 90-93). The poem agrees with the triumphal tone of the Chronicle entry, noting that England was now "made whole" (perfecta Saxonia), and there are other indications that the victory of 927 was seen as a turning point. Æthelstan's coins after 927 often bear an abbreviation of the style Rex Totius Britanniae, "King of the Whole of Britain", and coins in Æthelstan's name are minted all over the country, including Northumbria. Charters also show the change to the perfecta Saxonia: the king's style changed from the Rex Angul-Saxonum, "King of the Anglo-Saxons", used by Alfred and Edward and Æthelstan in his earliest years and implying rule over the West Saxons and the Mercians, to the simpler Rex Anglorum, "King of [all] the English". In the early 930s, the style expanded to "King of the English and by Grace of God Leader of all Britain". The witness-lists of some charters from 928 to 935 include the attestations of Welsh and Scottish rulers (Hywel Dda of Dyfed, Idwal of Gwynedd, Constantine of the Scots), who appear as sub-kings (subreguli) of Æthelstan.

C. Blunt, "The coinage of Athelstan, 924-939", British Numismatic Journal 42 (special vol., 1974), pp.35-160

M. Lapidge, "Some Latin poems as evidence for the reign of Athelstan", Anglo-Saxon England 9 (1981), pp.61-98

R. Mynors and others, William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum (Oxford: 1998)

933. Edwin, Edward the Elder's son, dies at sea

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes only that the ætheling Edwin was drowned at sea. The Acts of the Abbots of St Bertin's, written by Folcuin in the mid-10th century (extract at EHD 26), note that King Edwin, driven by a disturbance in his kingdom, took ship to the Continent but the ship was wrecked by a storm, and the body was washed ashore and brought to the monastery of St Bertin's for burial.

No contemporary English source explains the disturbance in the kingdom that caused Edwin to flee the country. William of Malmesbury in the 12th century hesitantly advances the theory that Edwin was accused of plotting against Æthelstan, and though Edwin denied the charges under oath he was driven into exile. Moreover, Æthelstan compelled Edwin to go to sea with only a single companion in a boat without oars or oarsmen and rotten with age, as if to make assurance double sure (GRA, ii.139.3-4; 140).

William's account of the basic situation (if not perhaps his description of the boat) seems plausible enough. If there had been even the rumour of a faction at Winchester that favoured the accession of Edwin (Ælfflæd's son) rather than Æthelstan (Ecgwynn's son) after Ælfweard's death in 924, then wily courtiers could use such rumours to their own advantage. It will probably never be clear whether there was a pro-Edwin party in Winchester early in Æthelstan's reign, though the fact that the near-contemporary Folcuin calls Edwin a king rather than a prince may suggest that he got his information from such a supporter of Edwin.

R. Mynors and others, William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum (Oxford: 1998)

934. Constantine of Scotland rebels
Æthelstan's Scottish campaign

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Æthelstan went to Scotland with both a land force and a naval force, and ravaged much of it. Presumably Constantine had rebelled; William of Malmesbury in the 12th century, describing the run-up to Brunanburh in 937, notes that Constantine was rebelling "for the second time" (GRA, ii.131.4). Because Æthelstan's charters for the period give unusually precise dating information, we can follow Æthelstan's movements. On May 28 he was in Winchester (S 425), on June 7 he had moved up to Nottingham (S 407), and on September 12 he was back in Buckingham (S 426). Since the Buckingham charter was witnessed by Constantine, it is likely that Æthelstan broke the rebellion over the summer and brought Constantine back into line.

R. Mynors and others, William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum (Oxford: 1998)

937. Battle of Brunanburh

The battle of Brunanburh is commemorated in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle by an Old English poem. From that poem we learn that Æthelstan and his brother Edmund won a victory at Brunanburh (unidentified), against Constantine of Scotland and Olaf, that they slew five young kings and seven of Olaf's earls, and a numberless host of seamen and Scots. The prince of the Norsemen was driven back to Dublin, and Constantine also returned to his own land.

The Olaf who was defeated at Brunanburh was not the Olaf Cuaran (son of Sihtric) whom Guthfrith came to York to support in 927, but Guthfrith's own son, somewhat confusingly also called Olaf. This Olaf Guthfrithsson became king of Dublin in 934, when his father died, and so appropriately is driven back to Dublin at battle's end (see Stenton, pp.342-3).

F. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd edn (Oxford: 1971)

October 27, 939. Æthelstan dies
Edmund, Edward the Elder's son, succeeds to England
c. November 29, 939. Edmund consecrated king

Edmund was the son of Eadgifu and Edward the Elder, and half-brother to Æthelstan. He was the first king to succeed to all of England, including Northumbria, but he soon lost Northumbria and most of Mercia; he spent a good part of his reign recovering them (see entries on 939, 942, 944). He also faced down a Welsh revolt in the process (942), and went on to ravage Strathclyde when he was done (see entry on 945). He died in 946.

Edmund was twice married. By his first wife, Ælfgifu (who died in 944) he had two sons, Eadwig and Edgar. She was a benefactress of Shaftesbury, where a cult of St Ælfgifu developed. Edmund's second wife was Æthelflæd of Damerham.

939. Olaf Guthfrithsson becomes king in York
939/40. Olaf expands southwards, takes Five Boroughs, to Watling Street

Olaf Guthfrithsson, who was defeated by Æthelstan at Brunanburh in 937, returned from Dublin to England in the two months between Æthelstan's death and the end of 939 (see Beaven, p.2, drawing on Irish chronicles), and had probably occupied York by the end of 939. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that the Northumbrians were false to their pledges and chose Olaf from Ireland as their king, which suggests there was no resistance.

The Chronicle notes that Olaf next took Tamworth by storm, and carried away much plunder from there. Then King Edmund besieged King Olaf and Archbishop Wulfstan at Leicester, and could have taken them if they had not escaped by night. Simeon of Durham, writing in the 12th century, adds some details, noting that Olaf marched south from York to Northampton, and when that siege failed he went on to Tamworth, and ravaged the area. On his return to Leicester and meeting with Edmund, serious fighting was averted by the two archbishops, Oda and Wulfstan, who reconciled the kings and helped conclude a truce. By the terms of the truce, Watling Street became the boundary between Edmund's kingdom and Olaf's.

Since Oda was not transferred from Ramsbury to Canterbury until 941 (see S 475 and 476), it may be that his presence at Leicester as archbishop in 940 is a literary embellishment of Simeon's to balance the other archbishop. But that the boundary was returned to Watling street is shown independently from Edmund's reconquests of 942 and 944.

The return of the border to Watling Street meant that in a single year Olaf Guthfrithsson had reversed the reconquest of the Danelaw which Edward and Æthelflæd had managed in the 910s, and Æthelstan had apparently sealed in the 920s and 930s. It is also worth noting that Wulfstan, archbishop of York, was acting on behalf of the Norse king: his taking of sides here makes it easier to understand why King Eadred would order Wulfstan's arrest in 952 when another Norse king was in charge of York (q.v.).

M. Beaven, "King Edmund I and the Danes of York", English Historical Review 139 (1918), pp.1-9

c.940?946. Edmund makes Dunstan abbot of Glastonbury

N. Brooks, "The Career of St Dunstan", in N. Ramsay and others (edd.), St Dunstan: His Life, Times and Cult (Woodbridge, 1992), pp.1-23

941. Olaf Guthfrithsson raids Bernicia; dies shortly afterwards
Olaf Sihtricsson succeeds

Simeon of Durham in the 12th century records that Olaf ravaged the church of St Bealdhere and burnt Tyninghame, and perished shortly afterwards, that the men of York laid waste Lindisfarne in revenge and killed many people, and that Olaf Sihtricsson succeeded to the Northumbrians.

One manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records King Olaf's death in 942, but this is contradicted by Celtic chronicles, which support the 941 date (see Beaven, p.5). Tyninghame is on the south coast of the Firth of Forth, and so it seems that Olaf, having been checked by the king of the English to the south, turned around to see how far he could get against the Bernicians. Celtic annals suggest that Olaf Sihtricsson came to York late in 940 at Olaf Guthfrithsson's invitation (see Beaven, p.6), and it may be that Sihtricsson's succession on Guthfrithsson's death was helped by the fact that his father Sihtric had previously ruled in York (920-7).

M. Beaven, "King Edmund I and the Danes of York", English Historical Review 139 (1918), pp.1-9

942. Edmund defeats Idwal of Gwynedd

The Annales Cambriae record that Idwal and his brother Eliseg were killed by the Saxons in 943. (For the re-dating of this annal to 942, and the ordering of the revolt of the Welsh and the retaking of the Five Boroughs, see Beaven, p.7.) The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle makes no mention of this incident, but since Idwal was the king of Gwynedd this must have been a major uprising and Edmund was presumably responsible for crushing it.

M. Beaven, "King Edmund I and the Danes of York", English Historical Review 139 (1918), pp.1-9

942. Edmund recaptures the Five Boroughs

Edmund's recapture of the Five Boroughs, which removed the border with the Vikings back to the Humber, is celebrated by a short and triumphal poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

943. Edmund stands sponsor to King Olaf, and much later to King Ragnall

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that Edmund stood sponsor to King Olaf at baptism, and then much later the same year to King Ragnall at confirmation. The next annal calls Ragnall a son of Guthfrith, and if he is the brother of Olaf Guthfrithsson he was presumably claiming to be king of York: contemporary coins of York in Ragnall's name support this claim (see Grierson and Blackburn, p.324, which also mentions an otherwise unknown king Sihtric striking coins at York in this period). It is uncertain how King Ragnall's reign related to King Olaf's, though Simeon of Durham's 12th-century note that the Northumbrians drove out Olaf in 943 may suggest that Ragnall took over for 943-4. Since Olaf was still in Northumbria to be driven out by Edmund in 944, it may be that the two kings were fighting over the leadership when the English invaded, much as the (English) Northumbrians had done when faced with Viking attack in 866.

P. Grierson and M. Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, 1: The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) (Cambridge: 1986)

944. Edmund recaptures Northumbria

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Edmund reduced all Northumbria under his rule, and drove out both kings, Olaf Sihtricsson and Ragnall Guthfrithsson.

945. Edmund ravages Strathclyde, and grants it to Malcolm, king of the Scots

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Edmund ravaged all Cumberland (i.e., the British kingdom of Strathclyde), and granted it to Malcolm, king of the Scots, in return for his alliance. (The identification of the Chronicle's Cumberland with Strathclyde is confirmed by the Annales Cambriae, which note the devastation of Strathclyde by the Saxons.) The new lines drawn were not permanent, as Dunmail was shortly ruling in Strathclyde once more, but it does show Edmund's recognition that Northumbria was the most northerly part of the kingdom of England (see Stenton, p.359). Edmund may also have been trying to cut the link between Scandinavian York and Dublin.

F. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd edn (Oxford: 1971)

May 26, 946. Edmund dies (stabbed in a brawl)
Eadred, Edmund's brother, succeeds to England
August 16, 946. Eadred consecrated king

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that Edmund died on St Augustine's day (26 May), stabbed by Leofa in a brawl at Pucklechurch. John of Worcester, writing in the 12th century, adds that Edmund was trying to rescue his seneschal from being killed by a robber, and that he was buried at Glastonbury by St Dunstan (JW, pp.398-9).

It was only in Eadred's reign that Northumbria became a permanent part of the kingdom of England, almost three decades after Æthelstan conquered Northumbria and declared the perfecta Saxonia (q.v.). His dealings with the Northumbrians took up most of his reign (see entry on 947-54).

Eadred is not known to have married or had children, and seems increasingly remote in his last years: less than a third of the charters of 953-5 are witnessed by the king, and the prevalence of "Dunstan B"-type charters may suggest that Dunstan took over some of the production of charters in this period (see Keynes, pp.185-6).

The earliest Life of St Dunstan, written towards the end of the century, deals with King Eadred in chapters 19 and 20 (extracts at EHD 234). It describes a very good relationship between Eadred and Dunstan, such that Dunstan was one of Eadred's favourite counsellors, and that Eadred entrusted the best of his treasures to Dunstan. This fits the possibility that Dunstan took over some of the charter-production in 953-5, and Eadred's will, in which Abbot Dunstan appears on a level with bishops and the archbishop of Canterbury, confirms that Eadred held Dunstan in high esteem (S 1515; see EHD 107). The will also confirms that some of Eadred's treasures were distributed among the ecclesiastics (a sum put aside for the use of Bishop Oscytel of Dorchester is said to be in the possession of Bishop Wulfhelm of Wells). The Life of Dunstan also notes that Eadred suffered from an unpleasant-sounding but unidentified disease, which eventually killed him. He died in 955.

R. Darlington and others, The Chronicle of John of Worcester, II: The Annals from 450 to 1066 (Oxford: 1995)

S. Keynes, "The 'Dunstan B' Charters", Anglo-Saxon England 23 (1994), pp.165-93

W. Stubbs, Memorials of St Dunstan (London: 1874) [A new edition of the Life of St Dunstan is being prepared by M. Lapidge and M. Winterbottom]

947-54. Eadred and the Northumbrians

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in 947 Eadred came to Tanshelf, where Wulfstan, archbishop of York, and all the councillors of the Northumbrians pledged themselves to the king. Very shortly afterwards, they betrayed their oaths, and took the Norwegian Erik Bloodaxe as their king. In 948 Eadred ravaged Northumbria, and burnt down St Wilfrid's minster at Ripon. While Eadred was on his way home, the army of York overtook him at Castleford and inflicted heavy losses. This so enraged Eadred that he threatened to march back into Northumbria and destroy it utterly, at which point the Northumbrians deserted Erik and paid Eadred compensation. In 949 Olaf Cuaran came back to Northumbria, and the implication seems to be that he was accepted as king, because in 952 the Northumbrians drove out King Olaf and took back Erik. Also in 952 Eadred ordered the imprisonment of Archbishop Wulfstan of York. In 954 the Northumbrians drove out Erik, and Eadred finally succeeded to Northumbria. Contemporary sources do not record what happened to Erik, but Roger of Wendover in the 13th century records that he was betrayed by Earl Oswulf and treacherously killed by Earl Maccus at Stainmore.

The information of the Chronicle is contradicted on one point by the evidence of contemporary charters, some of which (the so-called "alliterative" charters) include very detailed royal titles. Such charters survive for the years 946 (S 520), 949 (S 544, 548-50), 950 (S 552a), 951 (S 556-7), and 955 (S 566, 569), and Eadred is specifically called king of the Northumbrians in charters for 946, 949, 950, and 955. (The fact that he is not called king of Northumbria in 951 may well be a tacit admission that he had lost the province by that time, but the charters give no evidence on the control of Northumbria between 946-9 and 951-5.) Since Eadred was in control of Northumbria in 950, either Olaf's arrival should be moved from 949 to 950 or at least some part of Northumbria remained loyal to Eadred in the first year of Olaf's presence.

A second point of apparent contradiction between the Chronicle and the charters comes in the note in the Chronicle under 954 that Wulfstan received a bishopric again, in Dorchester. This has been taken to mean that Wulfstan was incarcerated from 952-4, which would be contradicted by the fact that he witnesses a charter in 953 (S 560). However, Eadred may well have preferred to have the treacherous archbishop of York under house arrest at his own court rather than up in Northumbria consorting with foreign kings, which would account for Wulfstan's arrest in 952, his witnessing of a charter in 953, and his restoration to his bishopric in 954 after Erik had been exiled for the last time and the crisis was over.

952. Eadred orders slaughter in Thetford

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes this slaughter in the borough of Thetford was made in vengeance for the abbot Eadhelm, who had been slain in Thetford.

November 23, 955. Eadred dies
Eadwig, Edmund's son, succeeds to England
c. January 26, 956. Eadwig consecrated king
Eadwig dispossesses Eadgifu, exiles Dunstan

Eadwig was the son of King Edmund and Ælfflæd (q.v.), and the nephew of King Eadred. His reign looks like an energetic attempt to distance himself from the advisors of the previous generation, and set up a new group of advisors who were loyal to him; the attempt failed, and history has judged him somewhat harshly as a result.

The tension in Eadwig's reign is apparent from the beginning. Eadred's will has survived (S 1515), and granted large sums of money as well as estates to several religious houses and to his mother Eadgifu. The money cannot be traced, but there is no evidence that any of the religious houses held the estates they were bequeathed, and more positive proof that the will was disregarded comes from a charter of Eadgifu's issued in 959 (S 1211), in which she notes that when Eadred died she was robbed of all her property, and it was only returned on King Edgar's accession in 959. It also seems from the wording of his will that Eadred intended his body to rest somewhere other than the Old Minster at Winchester, where he was buried. (The will mentions, but does not name, the place where he intended to be buried, and seems to distinguish it from Winchester which he mentions in another context.)

Within months of his accession Eadwig had also quarrelled with Dunstan, abbot of Glastonbury, who had been a favourite of Eadred's and may have taken on some of the production of charters in Eadred's illness in 953-5 (q.v.). Dunstan witnesses only a handful of Eadwig's charters, from early in 956 (see Keynes, pp.49 and 59). The earliest Life of St Dunstan explains the exile with a story that Eadwig left his coronation feast to pursue his own pleasures, and was dragged back by St Dunstan, as a result of which Dunstan won the enmity both of the young king and of the two noblewomen who were his companions, and had his possessions seized and was exiled shortly thereafter (chapters 21-3; extracts in EHD 234, p.901). While there is nothing inherently unlikely in this account, it must be remembered that since Eadwig exiled the protagonist of his story, the author of the Life of St Dunstan would be duty-bound to show him in the worst light possible. (For a different light on the coronation feast, see the account in J. K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat.) One wonders, for instance, if some of the treasures of Dunstan that were seized according to the Life were in fact treasures of King Eadred which Dunstan had failed to return to Eadred's successor Eadwig, or if Dunstan and Eadwig fought over the overturning of Eadred's will (especially if Eadred had originally intended to be buried at Dunstan's Glastonbury).

With the possessions of Dunstan and Eadgifu (and quite possibly other important courtiers of previous administrations) in hand, Eadwig was in a position to benefit new followers. There are an unprecedented sixty or so charters from 956 (for most years, five or fewer charters survive), and the most likely explanation is that Eadwig, having dispossessed the old guard, was trying to create a group of followers whose first loyalty was to him. A less flattering explanation would be that Eadwig was being manipulated by courtiers who had not advanced under Edmund and Eadred in a settling of old scores. The Life of St Dunstan (chapter 24; EHD 234, p.901) is predictably dismissive, saying that Eadwig acted foolishly, getting rid of wise and cunning counsellors and replacing them with the ignorant and those like himself. Æthelwold, in his account of King Edgar's establishment of monasteries (EHD 238), suggests that Eadwig had through the ignorance of childhood dispersed the kingdom and divided its unity, and distributed the lands of churches to rapacious strangers.

Barbara Yorke has demonstrated that some of the people favoured by Eadwig, his wife Ælfgifu among them, were a close-knit family descended from Alfred's older brother Æthelred, and suggested that the older established families, such as those of Æthelstan "Half King" (chief ealdorman in Eadwig's time and foster-father of Edgar) and Dunstan himself, were alarmed by these developments and moved to stop them (Yorke, pp.75-7). If Ælfgifu is correctly identified as a descendent of King Æthelred (q.v.), Edgar himself might have been still more alarmed, as a child born of two royal parents might have been seen as more throne-worthy than Edgar himself. This was probably part of the reason for Æthelbald's revolt when Æthelwulf came back with a Frankish princess as a bride in 856, and it is unlikely that Edgar was any happier with the situation a hundred years later.

However and by whomever they were put in motion, moves to stop Eadwig were forthcoming. In 957, Eadwig's brother Edgar was given enhanced power as the king of the Mercians, though the evidence of charters and coins suggest that Eadwig was still in overall charge of the kingdom. Also in that year or the next (q.v.), Eadwig was divorced from his wife Ælfgifu, ostensibly because they were too closely related. It is unlikely that the relationship was suddenly discovered in 957, so "consanguinity" was probably a cover for more pragmatic motives. Eadwig died without issue in 959, and his brother Edgar succeeded to the whole kingdom.

Æthelweard in his version of the Chronicle notes that Eadwig was called "All-Fair" by the common people on account of his great beauty, and that he ruled for four years and deserved to be loved. However, since Æthelweard may have been the brother of Eadwig's wife Ælfgifu (q.v.), his comments should probably command as much caution as those of the Life of St Dunstan.

A. Campbell (ed.), The Chronicle of Æthelweard (London: 1962)

S. Keynes, The Diplomas of King Æthelred "The Unready" 978-1016: A Study in their Use as Historical Evidence (Cambridge: 1980)

B. Yorke, "Æthelwold and the Politics of the Tenth Century", Bishop Æthelwold: His Career and Influence (Woodbridge: 1988), pp.65-88