July 17, 924: Death of King Edward the Elder

Coin of King Edward the Elder
Coin of King Edward the Elder, diademed, facing left. Legend: + EADVVEARD REX.
King Edward the Elder (899-924), son of Alfred the Great (871-899), is best known for reconquering Mercia from the Vikings in the 910s, with the help of his sister Æthelflæd, the Lady of the Mercians. She had been married to Æthelred, the Ealdorman of Mercia, who had submitted to King Alfred as overlord by 883, and died in 911. On Æthelred's death, she continued to lead the Mercians, though Edward was the king of the Anglo-Saxons, West Saxon and Mercian, and Mercian coins had only been issued in his name. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives a detailed year-by-year account of the campaigns of Edward and his sister, up until 920 when the Northumbrians, the Scots and the people of Strathclyde submitted to him. However, unlike Æthelstan after 927, Edward did not control the Northumbrian coinage, so the 920 submission may have been more ceremonial than actual.

The Chronicle is largely silent about the last four years of Edward's reign, until his death in 924 at Farndon in Mercia. There is no more contemporary information, but William of Malmesbury in the 12th century notes that he died shortly after putting down a joint English and British revolt at Chester (in Mercia, close to Farndon). It is plausible that some of the Mercians still saw Edward as a "foreign" West Saxon ruler rather than the new king of the Anglo-Saxons, which was the spin that the West Saxon court developed for Alfred and his son Edward. A separate strand of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Mercian Register, seems to give the Mercian view, and emphasizes at Æthelflæd's death in 918 that she had held lawful authority over the Mercians, and records that Edward then had her daughter Ælfwyn "deprived of all authority in Mercia and taken into Wessex". While all of the English were still fighting the Vikings as a common enemy, the Mercians were perhaps in no position to make their resentment felt; but perhaps it burst forth again when the wars were over and the Vikings defeated.

Review the history, 880-927.