Edmund, king of England (939 - 26 May 946 [stabbed at Pucklechurch])

Edmund (d. 26 May 946), son of Edward the Elder and Eadgifu, was king of England (939-46) after his half-brother Athelstan. He was the first king to succeed to all of England, including Northumbria; by the end of his first year, however, he had lost not only Northumbria but Mercia north of Watling Street. He reconquered Mercia in 942, and Northumbria in 944, but his reign shows clearly that though Æthelstan had conquered Northumbria, it was still not really part of a united England, nor would it be until the end of Eadred's reign.

Edmund fought beside his half-brother Æthelstan at Brunanburh in 937; it was Olaf Guthfrithson, the Norse king who fought against them at Brunanburh, who took back York before the end of 939, apparently without opposition, and raided into the midlands in 940. Olaf was besieged in Leicester in 940, together with Wulfstan, archbishop of York. In 940, Wulfstan of York and the archbishop of Canterbury arranged a peace whereby the border between Olaf and Edmund was set at Watling Street. Olaf Guthfrithson died on a raid into northern Northumbria in 941, and his successor Olaf Sihtricson was unable to hold the new territories. Edmund won back Mercia in 942, in the same year crushing the Welsh revolt of Idwal of Gwynedd. The recovery of Mercia was celebrated by a short poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In 944, Edmund continued north and drove from York both Olaf and his rival Rægnald Guthfrithson. Olaf retired to Dublin, but he came back to rule York briefly around 951-52. In 945, Edmund ravaged Strathclyde, and gave it to Malcolm, king of Scotland. The gesture was short-lived, as the deposed king of Strathclyde was soon back in power, but it shows Edmund recognizing that Northumbria was the northern limit of Anglo-Saxon England. In 946, Edmund sent a mission to Francia to negotiate for the restoration of Louis, who had been fostered at Æthelstan's court, but was killed before anything could come of it; his successor Eadred had his hands full with yet another Northumbrian revolt and is not known to have pursued the matter. Unusually, we know how Edmund died: he was stabbed by a man called Leofa, while trying to rescue one of his officials in a brawl at Pucklechurch. He was buried at Glastonbury.

Beyond losing and then recovering Northumbria, Edmund is best known for appointing Dunstan as abbot of Glastonbury. Edmund was not as single-mindedly behind the monastic reform movement as his son Edgar would prove to be, but Dunstan's introduction of the Benedictine Rule at Glastonbury was an important step towards the reforms later in the century.

Edmund was twice married. His first wife, Ælfgifu (d. 944), was a benefactress of Shaftesbury, where a cult of St Ælfgifu developed: she was the mother of kings Eadwig and Edgar. Neither was old enough to succeed on Edmund's death, and the kingship passed to his brother Eadred. Edmund's second wife was Æthelflæd of Damerham.