Thursday, September 1, 2016


Lesson #7 on Kings and Queens of England and Scotland.  I hope you are not becoming bored.  I will keep adding each week as I find by 'writing' it I retain more in my memory although not as much as I'd like to.  I am putting two kings here as their stories are rather interwoven as you will see.

EDWARD 975-978 (Eadward)  Known as Edward the Martyr.

Born: ? 963

Succeeded as King of the English in 975 aged about 12.

Eldest son of his predecessor Edgar.

Died:  18 March, 978, assassinated at Corfe Castle aged about 15, having reigned three years.  Buried at Wareham, later at Shaftesbury.

Edward, Edgar's eldest son, was entering his teens when his father died, and he had a party backing his claim to the throne, formed in opposition to the rival party backing Ethelred.  Edward was the son of Edgar's first wife. Ethelred the son of the third wife.  (The nun Wudfryth bore a daughter who became an abbess).  Ethelred was about seven years old and could not be considered a politically responsible person at the time, so he must be acquitted of any moral guilt for his brother's murder, which occurred soon enough.  In 978  young Edward rode to visit Ethelred at Corfe in Dorset.  Ethelred's retainers crowded around him in a mock welcome and stabbed him.   The body was swiftly buried at Wareham but a year later the Ealdorman (chief noble) of Mercia - the title is a reminder that Mercia accepted the dynastically West Saxon King of the English without any dispute involving a Mercian pretender - dug up the corpse and had it re-interred in the royal mausoleum at Shaftesbury.  There were inspired whispers that the king's body had not bot been corrupted by decay, though paradoxically, some parts of the skeleton were piously filched as holy relics.  The new king, the unfortunate Ethelred, was ready enough to compound some of his guilt-by-implication in a brother's murder by acknowledging him as a Saint, (canonisation being then a less rigorously filtered process), and the dead youth became King Edward the Martyr.

ETHELRED II  978-1013  1014-1016  (known as Ethelred the Unready)

Born:  ? 968

Succeeded as King of the English in 978 when aged about 10.

Younger brother of his murdered predecessor Edward, and younger son of King Edgar.

Married:  1.  Elgifu of Mercia; 2. Emma of Normandy.

Children: of Elfgifu: Ethelstan, Ecgbert, EADMUND, Eadred, Eadwig. Eadar. Wulfhild, Eadgyth, Elfgifu and two other daughers;  of Emma: EDWARD, Alfred, Goda.

Died: 23 April, 2016 in London, aged 48 having reigned 37 years.  Buried in St Paul's Cathedral.

Ethelred was brought to the throne at the age of ten by the crude hatchetmen who had killed his elder brother  All through his life this hapless king was to be a pawn in the power game, and in view of his eaa position he showed a certain political shrewdness and considerable powers of survival.   His name Ethelred Unraed which has no reference to being 'unready' is best understood as  skint on his name.  This spelt in its older Saxon farm, is Ethelraed, meaning "noble policy'.  The adjective Unraed means with no reputable policy', and carried a hint of dirty business, which could refer to the murder of King Edward.  The nickname is therefore not affectionately tolerant but a positive denigration, and has much more affinity with double dealing than simple weakness.

Ethelred's permanent disadvantage was that he could not count on reliable support from his political generals at a time when national unity and forceful military leadership was the only combination which could have saved England from the increasingly menacing attacks of the ambitious Danes.  For many years Ethelred using much the same sincere reasoning which is still advanced to justify the Munich capitulation of 1938, bought off the Danes with inflationary payments of protection money.  But:
'If once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane and in 1009 Sweyn, King of the Danes, who had been actively nibbling away at Ethelred's territory, produced his 'last territorial demand', which was nothing less than England itself.  By 1013 he had over-run the country, and Ethelred fled to Normandy, where his second wife Emma had already retreated to join her brother Richard the Good, Duke of Normandy, father of Robert the Devil, father of William the bastard.


  1. This continues to be fascinating, I read parts of it aloud to my husband. Imagine to become king at age 10 or twelve, and all the assassinations.

  2. Being heir to the throne did have its drawbacks, didn't it? Think I would rather be a surf ...

    I am enjoying all this information and intrigue!

  3. Hari OM
    Don't recall every knowing about the Unraed before - very cool. What a cast of characters though... no wonder they made Game of Thrones, it has all the elements of a sword and sorcery novel!!! YAM xx

  4. Like S.J.Qualls; I'd prefer to be a serf also; although the poverty is a drawback, at least I wouldn't have to worry about being killed for my crown.
    I'm still baffled and wondering about the constant use of E names.