Æthelred "the Unready", King of the English

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Æthelred 'Unræd' King of England Ætheling

Nicknames: "Unræd", "The Unready", "Ill-Counsel", "Ethelred the unready", "Æthelred II 'Unræd'", "Ænglisc Cyning;the Unready", "King of Wessex", "Æthelred 'Unræd'", "cyning ænglisc"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Wessex, England
Death: Died in London, Middlesex, England
Place of Burial: St Paul's, London, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Edgar I "The Peaceful", King of the English and Ælfthryth
Husband of Ælfflæd and Emma Ælfgifu of Normandy, Queen consort of Denmark, Norway and England
Father of Æthelstan; Edmund II 'Ironside' King of England; Eadred; Ecgberht; Eadwig and 12 others
Brother of Edmund
Half brother of St. Eadgyth of Wilton, Abbess of Wilton and Edward the Martyr, King of the English

Occupation: King of the English (978 - 1016), Roi, d'Angleterre, 978, King of the English, Kung av England (978–1013 och 1014–1016), Kung i England 978-1013, Kung i England 978-10013 + 1014-16, King of England (978-1013 and 1014-1016), King of England
Managed by: Jason Scott Wills
Last Updated:

About Æthelred 'Unræd' King of England Ætheling

Æthelred II the Unready

Son of King Edgar 'the Peaceful' and Queen Ælfthryth

Links

Predecessor Edward "the Martyr" (978) - Sweyn I "Forkbeard" (1014) Successor Sweyn I "Forkbeard" (1013) - Edmund "Ironside" (1016)

Married

1. Ælfgifa Thoredsdottir

2. maybe a second wife

3. Emma de Normandie (daughter of Richard I 'sans peur')

Six children with Ælfgifa:

1. Æthelstan

2. Æcgbert

3. Eadmund/Edmund Ironside

4. Eadred

5. Eadwig (Edwy) (son)

6. Eadgyth (daughter), married Eadric Streona and Thorkell

Another five children by her or another, unknown wife or mistresses - see below.

7. Eadgar

8. Ælfgifu (Uchtred's wife)

9. Wulfhild

10. Daughter (married one Æthelstan)

11. Daughter, Abbess of Wherwell

Children with Emma de Normandie were:

12. Goda

13. Edward the Confessor

14. Alfred Aetheling

A total of 14 children, see more below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86thelred_the_Unready

Æðelræd II, cyning Englalonde (West-Seaxna)

Æthelred the Unready, or Æthelred II,[1][2] (c. 968 – 23 April 1016), was a king of the English (978–1013 and 1014–1016). He was a son of King Edgar and Queen Ælfthryth. His reign was much troubled by Danish, or Viking, raiders. Æthelred was only about 10 (no more than 13) when his half-brother Edward was murdered, and was not personally suspected of participation. But as the deed occurred at Corfe Castle by the attendants of Æthelred's mother it made it more difficult for the new king to rally the nation against the invader, especially as a legend of St Edward the Martyr soon grew. Later Æthelred ordered a massacre of Danish settlers in 1002 and also paid tribute, or Danegeld, to Danish leaders from 982 onwards. In 1013, Æthelred fled to Normandy and was replaced by Sweyn, who was also king of Denmark. However, Æthelred returned as king after Sweyn died the following year. "Unready" is from Anglo-Saxon unræd, meaning ill-advised.

Æþelræd Unræd

The story of Æthelred's notorious nickname, "Æthelred the Unready", from Old English Æþelræd Unræd, goes a long way to explaining how his reputation has declined through history. His first name, composed of the elements æðele, meaning "noble", and ræd, meaning "counsel" or "advice",[3] is typical of the bombastic compound names of those who belonged to the royal House of Wessex, and it characteristically alliterates with the names of his ancestors like, for example, Æthelwulf ("noble-wolf"), Ælfred ("elf-counsel"), Edward ("prosperous-protection"), and Edgar ("rich-spear").[4] His nickname Unræd is usually translated into present-day English as 'The Unready', though, because the present-day meaning of 'unready' no longer resembles its ancient counterpart, this translation disguises the meaning of the Old English term. Bosworth-Toller defines the noun unræd in various ways, though it seems always to have been used pejoratively. Generally, it means "evil counsel", "bad plan", "folly". Bosworth-Toller do not record it as describing a person directly; it most often describes decisions and deeds, and once refers to the nature of Satan's deceit (see Fall of Man). The element ræd in unræd is the element in Æthelred's name which means 'counsel'. Thus Æþelræd Unræd is a pun meaning "Noble counsel, No counsel". The nickname has alternatively been taken adjectivally as "ill-advised", "ill-prepared", "indecisive", thus "Æthelred the ill-advised".

The epithet would seem to describe the poor quality of advice which Æthelred received throughout his reign, presumably from those around him, specifically from the royal council, known as the Witan. Though the nickname does not suggest anything particularly respectable about the king himself, its invective is not actually focused on the king but on those around him, who were expected to provide the young king with god ræd. Unfortunately, historians, both medieval and modern, have taken less an interest in what this epithet suggests about the king's advisers, and have instead focused on the image it creates of a blundering, misfit king. Because the nickname was first recorded in the 1180s, more than 150 years after Æthelred's death, it is doubtful that it carries any implications for how the king was seen by his contemporaries or near contemporaries.[5]

Early life

Gold mancus of Æthelred wearing armour, 1003-1006.

Sir Frank Merry Stenton remarked that "much that has brought condemnation of historians on King Æthelred may well be due to in the last resort to the circumstances under which he became king."[6] Æthelred's father, King Edgar, had died suddenly in July of 975, leaving two young sons behind him. The elder, Edward (later Edward the Martyr), was Edgar's son by his first wife, Æthelflæd,[7] and was "still a youth on the verge of manhood" in 975.[8] The younger son was Æthelred, whose mother, Ælfthryth, Edgar had married in 964. Ælfthryth was the daughter of Ordgar, ealdorman of Devon, and widow of Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia. At the time of his father's death, Æthelred could have been no more than 10 years old. As the elder of Edgar's sons, Edward - reportedly a young man given to frequent violent outbursts - probably would have naturally succeeded to the throne of England despite his young age, had not he "offended many important persons by his intolerable violence of speech and behaviour."[9] In any case, a number of English nobles took to opposing Edward's succession and to defending Æthelred's claim to the throne; Æthelred was, after all, the son of Edgar's last, living wife, and no rumour of illegitimacy is known to have plagued Æthelred's birth, as it might his elder brother's.[10] It must be remembered that both boys, Æthelred certainly, were too young to have played any significant part in the political manoeuvring which followed Edgar's death. It was the brothers' supporters, and not the brothers themselves, who were responsible for the turmoil which accompanied the choice of a successor to the throne. Æthelred's cause was led by his mother and included Ælfhere, Ealdorman of Mercia and Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester.[11] while Edward's claim was supported by Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Saint Oswald of Worcester, the Archbishop of York[12] among other noblemen, notably Æthelwine, Ealdorman of East Anglia, and Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex. In the end, Edward's supporters proved the more powerful and persuasive, and he was crowned king before the year was out.

Edward reigned for only three years before he was murdered by his brother's household. Though we know little about Edward's short reign, we do know that it was marked by political turmoil. Edgar had made extensive grants of land to monasteries which pursued the new monastic ideals of ecclesiastical reform, but these disrupted aristocratic families' traditional patronage. The end of his firm rule saw a reversal of this policy, with aristocrats seizing, or seizing back, land. This was opposed by Dunstan, but according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography "The presence of supporters of church reform on both sides indicates that the conflict between them depended as much on issues of land ownership and local power as on ecclesiastical legitimacy. Adherents of both Edward and Æthelred can be seen appropriating, or recovering, monastic lands."[13] Nevertheless, favour for Edward must have been strong among the monastic communities. When Edward was killed at Æthelred's estate at Corfe Castle in Dorset in March of 978, the job of recording the event, as well as reactions to it, fell to monastic writers. Stenton offers a summary of the earliest account of Edward's murder, which comes from a work praising the life of Saint Oswald of Worcester: "On the surface his [Edward's] relations with Æthelred his half-brother and Ælfthryth his stepmother were friendly, and he was visiting them informally when he was killed. [Æthelred's] retainers came out to meet him with ostentatious signs of respect, and then, before he had dismounted, surrounded him, seized his hands, and stabbed him. ... So far as can be seen the murder was planned and carried out by Æthelred's household men in order that their young master might become king. There is nothing to support the allegation, which first appears in writing more than a century later, that Queen Ælfthryth had plotted her stepson's death. No one was punished for a part in the crime, and Æthelred, who was crowned a month after the murder, began to reign in an atmosphere of suspicion which destroyed the prestige of the crown. It was never fully restored in his lifetime."[14] Nevertheless, at first, the outlook of the new king's officers and counsellors seems in no way to have been bleak. According to one chronicler, the coronation of Æthelred took place with much rejoicing by the councillors of the English people.[15] Simon Keynes notes that "Byrhtferth of Ramsey states similarly that when Æthelred was consecrated king, by Archbishop Dunstan and Archbishop Oswald, 'there was great joy at his consecration’, and describes the king in this connection as ‘a young man in respect of years, elegant in his manners, with an attractive face and handsome appearance’."[16] Æthelred could not have been older than 13 years of age in this year.

During these early years, Æthelred was developing a close relationship to Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester, one who had supported his unsuccessful claim to the throne. When Æthelwold died, on 1 August 984, Æthelred deeply lamented the loss, and he wrote later in a charter from 993 that the event had deprived the country of one "whose industry and pastoral care administered not only to my interest but also to that of all inhabitants of the country."[17]

Conflict with the Danes

O: Draped bust of Æthelred left. +ÆĐELRED REX ANGLOR R: Long cross. +EADǷOLD MO CÆNT

'LonCross' penny of AÆthelred II, moneyer Eadwold, Canterbury, c. 997-1003. The cross made cutting the coin into half-pennies or farthings (quarter-pennies) easier. (Note spelling Eadƿold in inscription, using Anglo-Saxon letter wynn in place of modern w.)

England had experienced a period of peace after the reconquest of the Danelaw in the mid-10th century by King Edgar, Æthelred's father. However, beginning in 980, when Æthelred could not have been more than 14 years old, small companies of Danish adventurers carried out a series of coast-line raids against England. Hampshire, Thanet, and Cheshire were attacked in 980, Devon and Cornwall in 981, and Dorset in 982. A period of 6 years then passed before, in 988, another coastal attack is recorded taking place to the south-west, though here a famous battle was fought between the invaders and the thegns of Devon. Stenton notes that, though this series of isolated raids had no lasting effect on England themselves, "their chief historical importance is that they brought England for the first time into diplomatic contact with Normandy."[18] During this period, the Normans, who remembered their origins as a Scandinavian people, were well-disposed to their Danish cousins who, occasionally returning from a raid on England, would seek port in Normandy. This led to grave tension between the English and Norman courts, and word of their enmity eventually reached Pope John XV. The pope was disposed to dissolve their hostility towards each other, and took steps to engineer a peace between England and Normandy, which was ratified in Rouen in 991.

However, in August of that same year a sizable Danish fleet began a sustained campaign in the south-east of England. It arrived off Folkestone, in Kent, and made its way around the south-east coast and up the river Blackwater, coming eventually to its estuary and occupying Northey Island.[19] About 2 km east of Northey lies the coastal town of Maldon, where Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, was stationed with a company of thegns. The battle that followed between English and Danes is immortalized by the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon, which describes the doomed but heroic attempt of Byrhtnoth to defend the coast of Essex against overwhelming odds. Stenton summarizes the events of the poem: "For access to the mainland they [the Danes] depended on a causeway, flooded at high tide, which led from Northey to the flats along the southern margin of the estuary. Before they [the Danes] had left their camp on the island Byrhtnoth, with his retainers and a force of local militia, had taken possession of the landward end of the causeway. Refusing a demand for tribute, shouted across the water while the tide was high, Byrhtnoth drew up his men along the bank, and waited for the ebb. As the water fell the raiders began to stream out along the causeway. But three of Byrthnoth's retainers held it against them, and at last they asked to be allowed to cross unhindered and fight on equal terms on the mainland. With what even those who admired him most called 'over-courage', Byrhtnoth agreed to this; the pirates rushed through the falling tide, and battle was joined. Its issue was decided by Byrhtnoth's fall. Many even of his own men immediately took to flight and the English ranks were broken. What gives enduring interest to the battle is the superb courage with which a group of Byrhtnoth's thegns, knowing that the fight was lost, deliberately gave themselves to death in order that they might avenge their lord."[20] This would be the first of a series of crushing defeats felt by the English at the hands of first Danish raiders, then organized Danish armies.

In 991 Æthelred was around 24 years old. In the aftermath of Maldon, it was decided that the English should grant the tribute to the Danes that they desired, and so a gafol of 10,000 pounds was paid them for their peace. Yet it was presumably the Danish fleet that had beaten Byrhtnoth at Maldon that continued to ravage the English coast from 991-93. In 994, the Danish fleet, which had swollen in ranks since 991, turned up the Thames estuary and headed towards London. The battle fought there was inconclusive. It was about this time that Æthelred met with the leaders of the fleet, foremost among them Olaf Tryggvason, and arranged an uneasy accord. A treaty was signed between Æthelred and Olaf that provided for seemingly civilized arrangements between the now-settled Danish companies and the English government, such as regulation settlement disputes and of trade. But the treaty also stipulates that the ravaging and slaughter of the previous year will be forgotten, and ends abruptly by stating that 22,000 pounds of gold and silver have been paid the raiders as the price of peace.[21] In 994, Olaf Tryggvason, already a baptized Christian, was confirmed as Christian in a ceremony at Andover; King Æthelred stood as his sponsor. After receiving gifts, Olaf promised "that he would never come back to England in hostility."[22] Olaf then left England for Norway and never returned, though "other component parts of the Viking force appear to have decided to stay in England, for it is apparent from the treaty that some had chosen to enter into King Æthelred's service as mercenaries, based presumably on the Isle of Wight."[23]

In 997 Danish raids began again. According to Keynes, "there is no suggestion that this was a new fleet or army, and presumably the mercenary force created in 994 from the residue of the raiding army of 991 had turned on those whom it had been hired to protect."[24] It harried Cornwall, Devon, western Somerset, and south Wales in 997, Dorset, Hampshire, and Sussex in 998. In 999 it raided Kent, and in 1000 it left England for Normandy, perhaps because the English had refused in this latest wave of attacks to acquiesce to the Danish demands for gafol or tribute, which would come to be known as Danegeld, 'Dane-payment'. This sudden relief from attack Æthelred used to gather his thoughts, resources, and armies: the fleet's departure in 1000 "allowed Æthelred to carry out a devastation of Strathclyde, the motive for which is part of the lost history of the north."[25]

In 1001 a Danish fleet - perhaps the same fleet from 1000 - returned and ravaged west Sussex. During its movements, the fleet regularly returned to its base in the Isle of Wight. There was later an attempted attack in the south of Devon, though the English mounted a successful defence at Exeter. Nevertheless, Æthelred must have felt at a loss, and in the Spring of 1002 the English bought a truce for 24,000 pounds. Æthelred's frequent payments of immense Danegelds are often held up as exemplary of the incompetency of his government and his own short-sightedness. However, Keynes points out that such payments had been practice for at least a century, and had been adopted by Alfred the Great, Charles the Bald, and many others. Indeed, in some cases it "may have seemed the best available way of protecting the people against loss of life, shelter, livestock, and crops. Though undeniably burdensome, it constituted a measure for which the king could rely on widespread support."[26]

Æthelred ordered the massacre of all Danish men in England on St Brice's Day, 13 November 1002. No order of this kind could be carried out in more than a third of England, where the Danes were too strong, but Gunhilde, sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, was said to be among the victims. It is likely that a wish to avenge her was a principal motive for Sweyn's invasion of western England the following year.[27] By 1004 Sweyn was in East Anglia, where he sacked Norwich. In this year a nobleman of East Anglia, Ulfcytel Snillingr met Sweyn in force, and made an impression on the, until then, rampant Danish expedition. Though Ulfcytel was eventually defeated, outside of Thetford, he caused the Danes heavy losses and was nearly able to destroy their ships. The Danish army left England for Denmark in 1005, perhaps because of their injuries sustained in East Anglia, perhaps from the very severe famine which afflicted the continent and the British Isles in that year.[28]

An expedition the following year was bought off in early 1007 by tribute money of 36,000, and for the next two years England was free from attack. In 1008 the government created a new fleet of warships, organised on a national scale, but this was weakened when one of its commanders took to piracy, and the king and his council decided not to risk it in a general action. In Stenton's view: "The history of England in the next generation was really determined between 1009 and 1012...the ignominious collapse of the English defence caused a loss of morale which was irreparable." The Danish army of 1009, led by Thorkell the Tall and his brother Hemming, was the most formidable force to invade England since Æthelred became king. It harried England until it was bought off by 48,000 pounds in April 1012.[29]

Sweyn then launched an invasion in 1013 intended to make him king of England, and showed himself to be a general above any other Viking leader of his generation. By the end of 1013 English resistance had collapsed and Sweyn had conquered the country, forcing Æthelred into exile in Normandy, but the situation changed suddenly when Sweyn died on 3 February 1014. The crews of the Danish ships in the Trent immediately gave their allegiance to Sweyns's son Canute, but leading Englishmen sent a deputation to Æthelred to negotiate his restoration. He was required to promise to be a true lord to them, to reform everything of which they had complained, and forgive all that had been said and done against him. The terms are of great constitutional interest as the first recorded pact between a king and his subjects, and also as showing that many noblemen had submitted to Sweyn because of their distrust of Æthelred.[30]

Æthelred then launched an expedition against Canute and his allies, the men of Lindsey. Canute's army had not completed its preparations, and in April 1014 he decided to withdraw from England without a fight, abandoning his Lindsey allies to Æthelred's revenge. The debacle damaged the young and inexperienced Canute's prestige, but in August 1015 he was able to launch a new invasion with the assistance of his sister's husband, Eric of Hlathir. He returned to a complex situation in England. Æthelred's son, Edmund Ironside, had revolted against his father and established himself in the Danelaw, which was so angry at Canute and Æthelred for the ravaging of Lindsey that it was prepared to support Edmund against both of them. Over the next months, Canute conquered most of England, and Edmund had rejoined Æthelred to defend London when Æthelred died on 23 April 1016. The subsequent war between Edmund and Canute ended in a decisive victory for Canute at the Battle of Ashingdon on 18 October 1016. Edmund's reputation as a warrior was such that Canute neverthess agreed to divide England, Edmund taking Wessex and Canute the whole of the country beyond the Thames. However, Edmund died on 30 November and Canute became king of the whole country.[31]

Æthelred was buried in St Paul's, London.

Marriages and issue

A charter of Æthelred's in 1003 to his follower, Æthelred.

Æthelred married first Ælfgifu, daughter of Thored, earl of Northumbria, in about 985.[32] Their known children are:

   * Æthelstan Ætheling (died about 1012)
   * Ecgberht Ætheling (died about 1005)
   * Edmund Ironside (died 1016)
   * Eadred Ætheling (died about 1012)
   * Eadwig Ætheling (executed by Canute 1017)
   * Eadgar Ætheling the Elder (died about 1008)
   * Edith (married 1 Eadric Streona possibly 2 Thorkell the Tall)
   * Ælfgifu (married Uchtred the Bold, earl of Northumbria)
   * Possibly Wulfhild (married Ulfcytel Snillingr)
   * Abbess of Wherwell

In 1002 Æthelred married Emma of Normandy, sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy. Their children were:

   * Edward the Confessor (died 1066)
   * Ælfred Ætheling (died 1036-7)
   * Goda of England (married 1 Drogo of Mantes and 2 Eustace II, Count of Boulogne)

All of Æthelred's sons were named after predecessors of Æthelred on the throne.[33]

Legislation

Æthelred's government produced extensive legislation, which he "ruthlessly enforced."[34] Records of at least six legal codes survive from his reign, covering a range of topics.[35] Notably, one of the members of his council (known as the Witan) was Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York, a well-known homilist. The three latest codes from Æthelred's reign seemed to have been drafted by Wulfstan.[36] These codes are extensively concerned with ecclesiastical affairs. They also exhibit the characteristics of Wulfstan's highly rhetorical style. Wulfstan went on to draft codes for King Cnut, and recycled there many of the laws which were used in Æthelred's codes.[37]

Despite the failure of his government in the face of the Danish threat, Æthelred's reign was not without some important institutional achievements. The quality of the coinage, a good indicator of the prevailing economic conditions, significantly improved during his reign due to his numerous coinage reform laws.[citation needed]

Legacy

Later perspectives of Æthelred have been less than flattering. Numerous legends and anecdotes have sprung up to explain his shortcomings, often elaborating abusively on his character and failures. One such anecdote is given by William of Malmesbury (lived c. 1080-c. 1143), who reports that Æthelred had defecated in the baptismal font as a child, which led St. Dunstan to prophesy that the English monarchy would be overthrown during his reign. This story is, however, a fabrication, and a similar story is told of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Copronymus, another medieval monarch who was unpopular among certain of his subjects.

Efforts to rehabilitate Æthelred's reputation have gained momentum since about 1980. Chief among the rehabilitators has been Simon Keynes, who has often argued that our poor impression of Æthelred is almost entirely based upon after-the-fact accounts of, and later accretions to, the narrative of events during Æthelred's long and complex reign. Chief among the culprits is in fact one of the most important sources for the history of the period, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which, as it reports events with a retrospect of 15 years, cannot help but interpret colour events with the eventual English defeat a foregone conclusion. Yet, as virtually no strictly contemporary narrative account of the events of Æthelred's reign exists, historians are forced to rely on what evidence there is. Keynes and others thus draw attention to some of the inevitable snares of investigating the history of a man whom later popular opinion has utterly damned. Recent cautious assessments of Æthelred's reign have more often uncovered reasons to doubt, than uphold, Æthelred's later infamy. Though the failures of his government will always put Æthelred's reign in the shadow of the reigns of kings Edgar, Aethelstan, and Alfred, historians' current impression of Æthelred's personal character is certainly not as unflattering as it once was: "Æthelred's misfortune as a ruler was owed not so much to any supposed defects of his imagined character, as to a combination of circumstances which anyone would have found difficult to control."[38]

Did Æthelred invent the jury?

Æthelred has been credited with the formation of a local investigative body made up of twelve thegns who were charged with publishing the names of any notorious or wicked men in their respective districts. Because the members of these bodies were under solemn oath to act in accordance with the law and their own good consciences, they have been seen by some legal historians as the prototype for the English Grand Jury.[39] Æthelred makes provision for such a body in a law code he enacted at Wantage in 997, which states:

   þæt man habbe gemot on ælcum wæpenkace; & gan ut þa yldestan XII þegnas & se gerefa mid, & swerian on þam haligdome, þe heom man on hand sylle, þæt hig nellan nænne sacleasan man forsecgean ne nænne sacne forhelan. & niman þonne þa tihtbysian men, þe mid þam gerefan habbað, & heora ælc sylle VI healfmarc wedd, healf landrican & healf wæpentake.[40]
   that there shall be an assembly in every wapentake,[41] and in that assembly shall go forth the twelve eldest thegns and the reeve along with them, and let them swear on holy relics, which shall be placed in their hands, that they will never knowingly accuse an innocent man nor conceal a guilty man. And thereafter let them seize those notorious [lit. "charge-laden"] men, who have business with the reeve, and let each of them give a security of 6 half-marks, half of which shall go to the lord of that district, and half to the wapentake.

But the wording here suggests that Æthelred is perhaps revamping or re-confirming a custom which already existed. He may actually have been expanding an established English custom to be used among the Danish citizens in the North (the Danelaw). Previously, King Edgar had legislated along similar lines in his Whitbordesstan code:

----------------------

   ic wille, þæt ælc mon sy under borge ge binnan burgum ge buton burgum. & gewitnes sy geset to ælcere byrig & to ælcum hundrode. To ælcere byrig XXXVI syn gecorone to gewitnesse; to smalum burgum & to ælcum hundrode XII, buton ge ma willan. & ælc mon mid heora gewitnysse bigcge & sylle ælc þara ceapa, þe he bigcge oððe sylle aþer oððe burge oððe on wæpengetace. & heora ælc, þonne hine man ærest to gewitnysse gecysð, sylle þæne að, þæt he næfre, ne for feo ne for lufe ne for ege, ne ætsace nanes þara þinga, þe he to gewitnysse wæs, & nan oðer þingc on gewitnysse ne cyðe buton þæt an, þæt he geseah oððe gehyrde. & swa geæþdera manna syn on ælcum ceape twegen oððe þry to gewitnysse.[42]
   It is my wish that each person be in surety, both within settled areas and without. And 'witnessing' shall be established in each city and each hundred. To each city let there be 36 chosen for witnessing; to small towns and to each hundred let there be 12, unless they desire more. And everybody shall purchase and sell their goods in the presence a witness, whether he is buying or selling something, whether in a city or a wapentake. And each of them, when they first choose to become a witness, shall give an oath that he will never, neither for wealth nor love nor fear, deny any of those things which he will be a witness to, and will not, in his capacity as a witness, make known any thing except that which he saw and heard. And let there be either two or three of these sworn witnesses at every sale of goods.

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The 'legend' of an Anglo-Saxon origin to the jury was first challenged seriously by Heinrich Brunner in 1872, who claimed that evidence of the jury could only been seen for the first time during the reign of Henry II, some 200 years after the end of the Anglo-Saxon period, and that the practice had originated with the Franks, who in turn had influenced the Normans, who thence introduced it to England.[43] Since Brunner's thesis, the origin of the English jury has been much disputed. Throughout the twentieth century, legal historians disagreed about whether the practice was English in origin, or was introduced, directly or indirectly, from either Scandinavia or Francia.[44] Recently, the legal historians Patrick Wormald and Michael Macnair have reasserted arguments in favour of finding in practices current during the Anglo-Saxon period traces of the Angevin practice of conducting inquests using bodies of sworn private witnesses. Wormald has gone as far as to present evidence suggesting that the English practice outlined in Æthelred's Wantage code is at least as old as, if not older than, 975, and ultimately traces it back to a Carolingian model (something Brinner had done).[45] However, no scholarly consensus has yet been reached.

Cultural references

Æthelred was the subject of a stageplay by Ronald Ribman titled The Ceremony of Innocence. It was first performed in 1968, and depicted interactions between Æthelred and his court, family and advisors, and also with the Danish king. He has also been referenced in the 'Civilization' franchise of video games, and occupies one of the lowest comparative ranks a player may achieve upon the game's completion.

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http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/ENGLAND,%20AngloSaxon%20&%20Danish%20Kings.htm#AethelredIIdied1016A

ÆTHELRED, son of EDGAR "the Peaceable" King of England & his second wife Ælfthryth of Devon ([966]-London 23 Apr 1016, bur Old St Paul's Cathedral). Simeon of Durham names "Eadmuind and Egelræd" as the sons of King Eadgar and his wife "the daughter of Ordgar duke of Devonshire…"[1776]. Roger of Hoveden gives his parentage[1777]. When his father died, a large number of nobles promoted the election of Æthelred to succeed instead of his older half-brother, maybe because the latter was considered unsuitable due to his outbursts of rage or because of the inferior status of his mother. He succeeded after the murder of his half-brother in 978 as ÆTHELRED II "the Unready/Unræd/Redeles" King of England, crowned 4 Apr or 4 May 978 at Kingston-upon-Thames. Danish attacks on England recommenced in 980, with raids on Hampshire, Thanet and Cheshire. Raids on Devon and Cornwall followed in 981, and on Dorset in 982. A further wave of attacks started in 988 in Devon. As part of his plan to control the Danes, King Æthelred agreed a non-aggression pact with Richard I "Sans Peur" Comte de Normandie on 1 Mar 991, designed apparently to dissuade either party from sheltering Viking marauders[1778]. After a third wave of attacks in 991, King Æthelred signed a treaty with Olaf Tryggveson (who succeeded in [995] as Olav I King of Norway) under which 22,000 pounds of gold and silver was paid in return for a promise of help in thwarting future attacks. The treaty presumably never came into full effect, despite payment of the money, as this was only the first of a long series of "Danegeld" payments funded by heavy taxation which ultimately led to the virtual ruin of King Æthelred's government. The attack of 994, in which for the first time Svend King of Denmark took part, resulted in some English support to declare Svend king from those who despaired of King Æthelred's government[1779]. The raids of 997/999 on Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, South Wales, Dorset and Kent, were followed in 1000 by the Danish army moving to Normandy to await the following summer. The king's second marriage in 1002 was presumably part of his continuing efforts to prevent the Normans from allowing the Danes to use their ports from which to attack England. King Æthelred ordered the massacre of Danes in England 13 Nov 1002[1780], which included the death of Gunhild sister of King Svend, although this only resulted in intensified attacks. In a desperate late attempt to strengthen the country's defences, King Æthelred ordered the construction of a fleet of new warships, completed in 1009. Nearly one third of the fleet was lost as a result of the rebellion of Wulfnoth, father of Godwin Earl of Wessex, and the attempt by Brihtric, brother of Eadric "Streona/the Acquisitor", to capture him[1781]. A full-scale Danish invasion came in 1013 and by the end of the year Svend King of Denmark had become de facto king of England. King Æthelred fled to Normandy after Christmas 1013[1782], but after Svend's death in Feb 1014 he was invited back, on condition he improved his rule[1783]. By end-Apr 1014, Æthelred counter-attacked the Danes in Lindsey, after which the Danish fleet, under King Svend's son Knud, withdrew to Denmark. In August 1015, Knud of Denmark invaded England again. During the latter part of King Æthelred's reign further trouble was caused by the treachery of his son-in-law Eadric "Streona/the Acquisitor", appointed Ealdorman of Mercia in 1007. He acquired a position of considerable influence over the king, only to defect to Knud after this last invasion. The Danes controlled Wessex by the end of 1015, and Northumbria in early 1016, turning their attention to London and the south-east after King Æthelred died. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the death on St George's day 1016 of King Æthelred[1784]. The Libellus de Anniversariis of Ramsey Monastery records the death “IX Kal Mai” of “Ethelredus rex Angliæ, qui dedit Brochtune”[1785].

[m] firstly ([980/85]) [ÆLFGIVA], daughter of ---. The information about the parentage of the first "wife" of King Æthelred is contradictory. According to Florence of Worcester´s genealogies, she was Ælfgiva, daughter of Ealdorman "Ægelberht", as he names "Ælfgiva, comitis Ægelberhti filia" as mother of King Æthelred´s three sons "Eadmundum, Eadwium et Æthelstanum" and his daughter "Eadgitham"[1786]. (It should be noted in passing that this is the only example of the root "Ægel-" being found in an Anglo-Saxon name; it is therefore possible that "Ægelberhti" represents a transcription error, maybe for "Æthelberhti".) On the other hand, Ailred Abbot of Rievaulx records that she was ---, daughter of Thored Ealdorman of York, naming "filia Torethi…comitis" as the mother of "Edmundum" [King Edmund "Ironsides"][1787]. The Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei, written in [1245], must have used Ailred as its source as it states that the first wife of King Æthelred II was the daughter of "Count Torin"[1788]. Roger of Wendover is unspecific, noting that "rex Ethelredus" married "cujusdam ducis filiam" by whom he fathered "filium…Eadmundum", although in a later passage he says that King Eadmund had "matrem quondam ignobilem fœminam"[1789]. No trace of King Æthelred´s first wife has been found in any other contemporary document. In charters dated 996, King Æthelred's mother countersigns "Ælfthryth regina", but there is no mention of the king's wife. This suggests that Ælfgiva (if indeed that was her name) was an "unofficial" wife, having a similar status to Æthelflæd, first "wife" of King Eadgar, King Æthelred´s father. The will of her son ætheling Æthelstan, dated [1014], refers to "the soul of Ælfthryth my grandmother who brought me up" but makes no mention of his mother[1790], which suggests that she played little part in his early life. This seems suprising if she was in fact the mother of all King Æthelred's children who were not born to his known wife Emma, as is generally reported in most secondary sources. There must therefore be some doubt whether [Ælfgiva] was the king's only wife or concubine before his marriage to Emma de Normandie.

[m] [secondly] [---. No direct information has been found on this supposed second "wife" of King Æthelred. However, as noted above, there must be some doubt whether Ælfgiva, if indeed that was her name, was the king´s only wife or concubine before his marriage to Emma de Normandie. In addition, no information has been found in any of the primary sources so far consulted which identifies the mother of King Æthelred´s children, generally attributed by secondary sources to his first marriage, other than his three sons Eadmund, Eadwig and Æthelstan. It is therefore possible that King Æthelred had more than one "unofficial" wives or concubines who may have been the mother(s) of some or all of his children. It is even possible that the unnamed daughter of Ealdorman Thored (referred to by Ailred of Rievaulx) was not the same person as Ælfgiva (named by Florence of Worcester) and that they were both "married" to King Æthelred, either at the same time or one after the other. If this is correct, the sources are contradictory regarding the identity of the mother of King Eadmund "Ironsides".]

m [secondly/thirdly] (betrothed 1000, 1002[1791]) as her first husband, EMMA de Normandie, daughter of RICHARD I "Sans Peur" Comte de Normandie & his second wife Gunnora --- ([985]-Winchester 14 Mar 1052, bur Winchester Cathedral, Old Minster[1792]). Guillaume de Jumièges names Emma as one of the three daughters of Duke Richard and Gunnor[1793]. The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines names "Emma Anglorum regina" as sister of "dux Normannie Richardus II"[1794]. Emma was described by Henry of Huntingdon as "Emma Normanorum gemma"[1795], although it is not known whether this was a particular indication of her beauty or mere hyperbole. She adopted the name "ÆLFGIFU" in England[1796]. "Ælfgifu regina" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II between 1002 and 1012, also referred to as "Ælfgifu conlaterana regis"[1797]. Her first husband sent her to her brother's court in Normandy in 1013 after the invasion of Svend King of Denmark[1798]. She was living in Normandy in 1017 when King Æthelred's successor King Canute proposed marriage to her. She married King Canute as her second husband (2 or 31 Jul 1017). Roger of Wendover records the marriage in Jul 1018 of "Cnuto" and "ducem Ricardum…Emmam sororem suam et regis Ethelredi relictam"[1799]. After the death of her second husband, she continued to live at Winchester. After the election of her step-son as regent in early 1036, it was recognised that she would continue to live there to look after the interests of her son Harthacnut (then absent in Denmark), who had nominally succeeded his father as King of England and Denmark. It is likely that she encouraged her sons by her first husband, Edward and Alfred, to join her. After Harold was recognised as King of England in 1037, Queen Emma was expelled from England and took refuge at Bruges[1800]. She commissioned the work later known as the Encomium Emmæ Reginæ from a Flemish convent at Saint-Omer, maybe St Bertin's, designed to promote her son Harthacnut's claim to the English throne. Harthacnut joined her in Bruges in early 1040, and after the death of King Harold, they returned together to England. After the accession of Edward "the Confessor" to the English throne, Emma appears to have supported the rival claim of Magnus King of Norway[1801]. Whatever the truth of this, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that King Edward did confiscate her property in 1043[1802]. She seems to have spent the last years of her life in retirement in Winchester[1803]. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the death of "Ælfgifu Emma, the mother of king Edward and of king Harthacnut" in 1052[1804].

King Æthelred II & his first [wife] had [six] children:

1. ÆTHELSTAN ([986]-killed in battle after 25 Jun 1014[1805]). Florence of Worcester´s genealogies name "Ælfgiva, comitis Ægelberhti filia" as mother of King Æthelred´s three sons "Eadmundum, Eadwium et Æthelstanum" and his daughter "Eadgitham"[1806]. "Æthelstanus filius regis/clito/ætheling" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II dated between 993 and 1013, his name being recorded consistently first among his brothers and specified as "primogenitus" in 1004[1807]. He was killed fighting the Danes[1808]. Ætheling Æthelstan, under his will dated [1014], made bequests (in order) to "my father King Æthelred, my brother Eadmund, my brother Eadwig, Ælfmær…Godwine, Wulfnoth's son…my foster mother Ælfswith, my mass priest Ælfwine, my seneschal Ælfmær, Sigeferth…Æthelweard the Stammerer and Lifing…Leofstan the brother of Leofwine Cwatt…Leofmær of Bygrave, Godwine the Driveller, Eadric son of Wynflæd…", names "Ælfmær, Ælfric's son" and refers to "the soul of Ælfthryth my grandmother who brought me up"[1809].

2. ECGBERHT (-1005). "Ecgbyrht/Ecbyrhtus filius regis/clito" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II dated between 993 and 1005, in all cases named directly after his brother Æthelstan, consistent with Ecgberht being the second son[1810]. If this is correct, it is assumed that Ecgberht was the son of King Æthelred´s "wife" Ælflæd, although he is not specifically named by Florence of Worcester as one of her children.

3. EADMUND ([990]-30 Nov 1016, bur Glastonbury Abbey). Florence of Worcester´s genealogies name "Ælfgiva, comitis Ægelberhti filia" as mother of King Æthelred´s three sons "Eadmundum, Eadwium et Æthelstanum" and his daughter "Eadgitham"[1811]. "Eadmundus filius regis/clito/ætheling" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II dated between 993 and 1015, the last dated 1015 being signed "Eadmund regie indolis soboles"[1812]. He succeeded his father in 1016 as EDMUND "Ironside" King of England.

4. EADRED (-[1012]). "Eadred regis filius/clito" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II dated between 993 and [1012/13][1813], a charter dated 1011 specifying "Eadred tercia proles regia"[1814]. Eadred was named after "Eadmund" in all lists in which the two appear, consistent with his being his father's fourth son. If this is correct, it is assumed that Eadred was the son of King Æthelred´s "wife" Ælflæd, although he is not specifically named by Florence of Worcester as one of her children. "Eadric clito" subscribed a charter of King Æthelred II dated 1005[1815]. As this charter is not one subscribed by "Eadred", it is reasonable to assume that this is a copyist's error rather than that King Æthelred had another son of this name. "Eadred clito" countersigned his father's 1006 charter making grants to St Alban's, signing fifth among the brothers[1816].

5. EADWIG (-murdered 1017, bur Tavistock Abbey, Devon[1817]). Florence of Worcester´s genealogies name "Ælfgiva, comitis Ægelberhti filia" as mother of King Æthelred´s three sons "Eadmundum, Eadwium et Æthelstanum" and his daughter "Eadgitham"[1818]. "Eadwius/Eadwig filius regis/clito" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II dated between 1000 and 1014[1819]. He is named after his brother Eadred in the lists of subscribers, indicating that Eadwig was the fifth son. Eadwig countersigned his father's charter dated 1002 which grants land at Codicote, Hertfordshire to Ælthelm, signing fifth among his brothers[1820], and "Eadwig clito" his father's 1006 charter which made grants to St Alban's, signing sixth[1821].

Ætheling Æthelstan, under his will dated [1014], made bequests to "…my brother Eadmund, my brother Eadwig…"[1822]. He was banished "by the counsel of the perfidious ealdorman Eadric" and murdered on the orders of King Canute[1823]. Simeon of Durham records that King Canute outlawed "the Atheling Edwy the brother of king Eadmund who was called King of the Churls" in 1017[1824].

6. EADGYTH (-after 11 Nov 1021). Florence of Worcester´s genealogies name "Ælfgiva, comitis Ægelberhti filia" as mother of King Æthelred´s three sons "Eadmundum, Eadwium et Æthelstanum" and his daughter "Eadgitham"[1825]. Roger of Hoveden names her as the daughter of King Æthelred when recording her first marriage[1826]. Florence of Worcester records that she was banished from England with her second husband 11 Nov 1021[1827]. m firstly (1009) EADRIC "Streona/the Acquisitor", son of --- (-murdered 25 Dec 1017). One of the main advisers of King Æthelred II from [1006], he acquired a position of considerable power but gained a reputation for treachery. He was made Ealdorman of Mercia in 1007[1828]. He changed sides several times during 1014/1016, wavering between Edmund "Ironside" or Canute depending on who had the upper hand at the time, but finally abandoned Edmund's cause at the battle of Ashingdon. Canute appointed Eadric as Ealdorman of Mercia in 1017, but had him murdered in 1017. m secondly (1017 or after) THORKELL "Havi/the Tall", son of [STRUTHARALD King in Skane] (-killed in battle 1039). One of the leaders of the Danish invasion of England in 1009. He changed sides and supported Æthelred II King of England at the end of 1012, but defected back to join the invasion fleet of Knud of Denmark in Aug 1015. King Canute appointed him Ealdorman of the East Angles 1017 after the murder of Eadric "Streona/the Acquisitor", whose widow he married. It is probable that the King appointed him Regent of England 1019, during his absence in Denmark. King Canute outlawed him 11 Nov 1021[1829], but they entered a pact of reconciliation in 1023 under which Thorkell would govern Denmark and each would keep the other's son as hostage[1830]. He remained regent in Denmark for about three years, being replaced by Ulf, King Knud's brother-in-law. He was killed by the Welsh[1831].

King Æthelred II & his [first/second] [wife] had [five] children:

7. EADGAR (-[1012/15]). "Eadgarus filius regis/clito" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II dated between 1001 and 1008[1832]. He is named after his brother Eadwig in the lists of subscribers, consistent with Eadgar being the sixth son. Eadgar countersigned his father's charter dated 1002 which grants land at Codicote, Hertfordshire to Ælthelm, signing sixth among his brothers[1833], and "Eadgar clito" his father's 1006 charter which made grants to St Alban's, signing seventh[1834].

8. ÆLFGIFU ([990/95]-). She is named as daughter of King Æthelred by Roger of Hoveden, when he records her marriage[1835]. Her birth date range is estimated from her having given birth to her daughter before 1016. m ([1009/16][1836]) as his third wife, UHTRED Earl of Northumbria, son of WALTHEOF Earl of Northumbria & his wife --- (-murdered 1016).

9. WULFHILD . The primary source which confirms her parentage and marriage has not yet been identified. m ULFCYTEL "Snillingr/the Valliant", son of --- (-killed in battle Ashingdon Oct 1016[1837]). Ealdorman of East Anglia. After being surprised by the forces of Svend King of Denmark which landed at Norwich, he made peace with the invader. After the Danes broke the treaty, Ulfcytel forced them to retreat to their ships[1838]. He was defeated by the Danes outside Thetford in 1004[1839], and again in East Anglia 18 May 1009[1840]. He was defeated by the Danes 5 May 1010 at Ringmere after their landing near Ipswich[1841]. He was killed in King Edmund II's final battle against Canute.

10. daughter. m ÆTHELSTAN, son of --- (-killed in battle Ringmere 5 May 1010). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle names Athelstan as "the king's son-in-law", killed by the Danes after they landed near Ipswich[1842]. Simeon of Durham names "Ethelstan the son-in-law of king Ethelred" among those killed in battle by the Danes "in East Anglia…Ringmere"[1843].

11. daughter (-after 1051). Abbess of Wherwell. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that the abbess of Wherwell was the king's sister but does not name her when recording that she received Queen Eadgyth in 1051 after the disgrace of her family[1844].

King Æthelred II & his [second/third] wife had three children:

12. EADWARD ([1005]-Palace of Westminster 5 Jan 1066, bur Westminster Abbey[1845]). "Eadweard clito/filius regis" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II dated between 1005 and 1015[1846]. He is named after his half-brother Eadgar in all documents in which the two are mentioned together, consistent with Edward being the junior of the two. Edward fled England for Normandy with his mother in 1013 after the invasion of Svend King of Denmark. Anointed king of England during the lifetime of his father[1847], probably in 1015 when his older half-brother, later King Edmund, was in dispute with their father over his unauthorised marriage. This assumes that Edward returned to England from Normandy with his father. According to Orderic Vitalis, Edward and his brother Alfred were living in exile in Normandy when Duke Robert left on pilgrimage for Jerusalem in [1035][1848]. "…Hetwardi, Helwredi…" witnessed the charter dated to [1030] under which Robert II Duke of Normandy donated property to the abbey of Fécamp[1849]. After the appointment of Harold "Harefod/Harefoot" as regent of England in 1036, Edward landed along Southampton Water to rejoin his mother who, on hearing of the fate of her other son Alfred, sent Edward back to Normandy[1850]. "…Hatuardus Rex…" witnessed the charter dated to [1042] under which Guillaume II Duke of Normandy donated "nostras insulas Serc et Aurrene, propter medietatem Grenere" to the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, supported by "Rannulfo filio Anschitilli"[1851]. He returned to England in 1041 and was "sworn in as future king" according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle[1852]. On his half-brother's death, he was elected EDWARD "the Confessor" King of England in London, crowned at Winchester Cathedral 3 Apr 1043[1853]. His relations with his mother were strained as she appears to have supported the claim of Magnus King of Norway to the English throne on the death of King Harthacnut[1854]. Whatever the truth of this, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that King Edward confiscated her treasury in 1043[1855]. Godwin Earl of Wessex enjoyed a position of power during King Edward's reign, marrying his daughter to the king in 1045. However, the king's relations with Earl Godwin became tense after a dispute over the appointment of a new archbishop of Canterbury in 1050. In 1051, Earl Godwin refused the king's order to punish an affray at Canterbury, in which one of Eustache Comte de Boulogne's men was killed. The dispute escalated, and 1 Sep 1051 Godwin made a show of force against the king with his two older sons near Tetbury. Leofric Earl of Mercia and Siward Earl of Northumbria supported King Edward, and battle was avoided. Godwin and his family were given five days' safe conduct to leave the country by the king's council 8 Sep 1051[1856]. It was probably about this time that Edward promised the throne to Guillaume II Duke of Normandy, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the duke's visit to England in 1051[1857]. Earl Godwin was restored in 1052, after another show of force. After Godwin's death in 1053, his son Harold assumed his earldom and became as powerful in the kingdom as his father had been. It appears that King Edward gradually withdrew from active government, becoming more involved in religious matters and especially planning the construction of Westminster Abbey, which was finally consecrated 28 Dec 1065 although Edward was by then too infirm to attend. Despite his earlier promise of the succession to Guillaume Duke of Normandy, on his deathbed King Edward bequeathed the kingdom to Harold Godwinson Earl of Wessex, a choice which was accepted unanimously by the members of the council. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the king's death "on the vigil of…Epiphany" and his burial in Westminster abbey the next day[1858]. King Edward was canonised 7 Feb 1161, his feast day is 13 Oct[1859]. m (23 Jan 1045) EADGYTH, daughter of GODWIN Earl of Wessex & his wife Gytha ([1020/22]-Winchester 18 Dec 1075, bur Westminster Abbey). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in 1045 "king Edward took to wife Edith the daughter of Earl Godwin, ten days before Candlemas"[1860]. Her husband confined her to Wherwell Abbey in 1051 when the rest of her family was banished, but she was brought back to court when her father was restored the following year. She commissioned the Vita Ædwardi Regis from a foreign clerk, probably from Saint-Omer, setting out the history of her family. She continued to live around Winchester after the Norman conquest, and appears to have been treated well by King William I[1861]. Florence of Worcester records the death "XIV Kal Jan" in [1074] of "Edgitha regis Haroldi germana quondam Anglorum regina" at Winchester and her burial at Westminster[1862].

13. ÆLFRED (after 1005-Ely 5 Feb 1036, bur Ely Cathedral). "Ælfred clito" subscribed two charters of King Æthelred II dated 1013 and 1014[1863]. He fled to Normandy with his mother in 1013. He and his brother Edward were living in exile in Normandy when Duke Robert left on pilgrimage for Jerusalem (in [1035])[1864]. "…Hetwardi, Helwredi…" witnessed the charter dated to [1030] under which Robert II Duke of Normandy donated property to the abbey of Fécamp[1865]. He landed in England in 1036 with his brother Edward to rejoin their mother at Winchester, but was arrested by Godwin Earl of Wessex's troops. He was taken first to Guildford, surrendered to King Harold's servants, then taken to Ely, where he was blinded and died soon after from his injuries, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which places the blame for the murder on Earl Godwin[1866].

14. GODGIFU [Goda] (-before 1049). Her parentage is stated by Orderic Vitalis, who says that Godgifu went into exile in Normandy with her brother[1867] in 1013. According to Orderic Vitalis, her first marriage was arranged by Robert II Duke of Normandy[1868], indicating that she probably did not return to England after leaving for exile. However, this information is suspect, assuming that the charter of "Robertus Rex", which names "Comes Drogo…cum duobus fratribus Fulcone…et Rodulpho necnon uxore cum filiis supra memorati Drogonis", is correctly dated to 1025 as Duke Robert did not succeed as duke of Normandy until 1027[1869]. Another possibility is that Drogo's children at that date were born from an earlier otherwise unrecorded marriage. There is no indication of the birth dates of his known children, but the fact that none of them was given a typically Anglo-Saxon name also suggests that Godgifu may not have been the mother of all or any of them. Godgifu's second marriage is referred to by Florence of Worcester[1870]. m firstly ([1025 or before]) DREUX [Drogo] Comte de Mantes et du Vexin, son of GAUTHIER [II] "le Blanc" Comte de Mantes, d'Amiens et du Vexin & his wife Adèle --- (-[13 Aug] 1035). m secondly ([1036]) as his first wife, EUSTACHE [II] Comte de Boulogne, son of EUSTACHE [I] Comte de Boulogne & his wife Mathilde de Louvain (-[soon after 1070/1087]).

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethelred_II_of_England

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ETHELRED II 978 Ethelred was the son of King Edgar and began to reign when only 11 years old. He was a weakling, totally unable to withstand the Danish onslaught that re-started on his accession. He continually attempted to buy off the Danes - Danegeld - as when he lost the Battle of Maldon in 991. In a state of near panic he ordered the slaughter of all Danes whether peaceful settlers or not and this foul deed was put in hand on St.Brices Day 13th Nov 1002. Among the victims was the sister of Sweyn, King of Denmark. The Norsemen were furious and ravaged the country from Cornwall to Kent and from South Wales to East Anglia. At this time Ethelred married Emma, sister of the Duke of Normandy. By 1013, Sweyn, who was accompanied by his son Canute, was proclaimed King but he died soon afterwards. Ethelred fled to Normandy when Sweyn's rule prevailed and then on Sweyn's death he returned but the English lords placed severe restrictions on him. The Danes led by Canute returned in 1015 and landing at Poole they crossed the Thames at Cricklade. Ethelred died on Monday 23rd April 1016 and was buried at Glastonbury. He had truly earned his name - Ethelred the Unready. Abroad, the Vikings settled Greenland in 982 and, under Lief Ericsson in 1002, they explored the Eastern coast of America.

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Æthelred the Unready, or Æthelred II, (c. 968 – 23 April 1016), was a king of the English (978–1013 and 1014–1016). He was a son of King Edgar and Queen Ælfthryth. His reign was much troubled by Danish Viking raiders. Æthelred was only about 10 (no more than 13) when his half-brother Edward was murdered and was not personally suspected of participation. But as the deed occurred at Corfe Castle by the attendants of Æthelred's mother, it made it more difficult for the new king to rally the nation against the invader, especially as a legend of St Edward the Martyr soon grew. Later, Æthelred ordered a massacre of Danish settlers in 1002 and also paid tribute, or Danegeld, to Danish leaders from 991 onwards. In 1013, Æthelred fled to Normandy and was replaced by Sweyn, who was also king of Denmark. However, Æthelred returned as king after Sweyn died the following year. "Unready" is from Anglo-Saxon unræd, meaning ill-advised

for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethelred_the_Unready

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Ethelred II, the Unready (978-1016 AD)

Reigned 979-1013 (deposed) and 1014-1016.

Date of birth: About 967

Date of death: April 23, 1016

Age at death: 49

Place of death: London, England

Burried at: St. Paul's Cathedral, London, England

Father: Edgar, King of the English

Mother: Elfthryth

Ethelred II (c. 968 – 23 April 1016), also known as Ethelred the Unready was King of England (978–1013, and 1014–1016). He was a son of King Edgar and his queen Ælfthryth. The majority of his reign (991–1016) was marked by a developing, defensive war against Danish invaders.

The story of Ethelred's notorious nickname, "Ethelred the Unready", from Old English Æþelræd Unræd, goes a long way to explaining how his reputation has declined through history. His first name, composed of the elements æðele, meaning "noble", and ræd, meaning "counsel" or "advice", is typical of the bombastic compound names of those belonging to the royal house of Wessex, and it characteristically alliterates with the names of his ancestors like, for example, Æthelwulf ("noble-wolf"), Ælfred ("elf-counsel"), Edward ('prosperous-protection'), and Edgar ("rich-spear"). His nickname Unræd is usually translated into present-day English as 'The Unready', though, because the present-day meaning of 'unready' no longer resembles its ancient counterpart, this translation completely disguises the meaning of the Old English term. Bosworth-Toller defines the noun unræd in various ways, though it seems always to have been used pejoratively. Generally, it means "evil counsel", "bad plan", "folly". Bosworth-Toller do not record it as describing a person directly; it most often describes decisions and deeds, and at least once refers to the nature of Satan's deceit. The element ræd in unræd is the element in Ethelred's name which means 'counsel'. Thus Æþelræd Unræd is a pun meaning "Noble counsel, No counsel". The nickname has alternatively been taken adjectivally as "ill-advised", "ill-prepared", "indecisive", thus "Ethelred the ill-advised".

Ethelred's father, King Edgar, had died suddenly in July of 975, leaving two young sons behind him. The elder, Edward (later Edward the Martyr), was Edgar's son by his first wife, Æthelflæd, and was "still a youth on the verge of manhood" in 975. The younger son was Ethelred, whose mother, Ælfthryth, Edgar had married in 964. Ælfthryth was the daughter of Ordgar, ealdorman of Devon, and widow of Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia. At the time of his father's death, Ethelred could have been no more than 10 years old. As the elder of Edgar's sons, Edward - reportedly a young man given to frequent violent outbursts - probably would have naturally succeeded to the throne of England despite his young age, had not he "offended many important persons by his intolerable violence of speech and behaviour." In any case, a number of English nobles took to opposing Edward's succession and to defending Ethelred's claim to the throne; Ethelred was, after all, the son of Edgar's last, living wife, and no rumour of illegitimacy is known to have plagued Ethelred's birth, as it might his elder brother's. It must be remembered that both boys, Ethelred certainly, were too young to have played any significant part in the political manoeuvring which followed Edgar's death. It was the brothers' supporters, and not the brothers themselves, who were responsible for the turmoil which accompanied the choice of a successor to the throne. Ethelred's cause was led by his mother and included ealdorman Ælfhere and Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester. while Edward's claim was supported by Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Saint Oswald of Worcester, the Archbishop of York among other noblemen, notably Æthelwine, Ealdorman of East Anglia, and Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex. In the end, Edward's supporters proved the more powerful and persuasive, and he was crowned king before the year was out.

Edward ruled for only three years before he was murdered by his brother's household. Though we know little about Edward's short reign, we do know that it was marked by political turmoil. Edward, perhaps owing to his close connections with Dunstan and Oswald, was fond of endowing monasteries with large land-holdings, which often had to be at the expense of the local influence of the ealdormen and thegns whose job and privilege it was to govern England's many shire communities. Resentment on the part of the king's royal officers was inevitable, and perhaps an air of hostility towards Edward was beginning to propagate through the nobility. Nevertheless, favour for Edward must have been strong among the monastic communities. When Edward was killed at Ethelred's estate at Corfe in Dorset in March of 978, the job of recording the event, as well as reactions to, it fell to monastic writers. Stenton offers a summary of the earliest account of Edward's murder, which comes from a work praising the life of Saint Oswald of Worcester: "On the surface his [Edward's] relations with Æthelred his half-brother and Ælfthryth his stepmother were friendly, and he was visiting them informally when he was killed. [Æthelred's] retainers came out to meet him with ostentatious signs of respect, and then, before he had dismounted, surrounded him, seized his hands, and stabbed him. ... So far as can be seen the murder was planned and carried out by Æthelred's household men in order that their young master might become king. There is nothing to support the allegation, which first appears in writing more than a century later, that Queen Ælfthryth had plotted her stepson's death. No one was punished for a part in the crime, and Æthelred, who was crowned a month after the murder, began to reign in an atmosphere of suspicion which destroyed the prestige of the crown. It was never fully restored in his lifetime." Nevertheless, at first, the outlook of the new king's officers and counsellors seems in no way to have been bleak. According to one chronicler, the coronation of Ethelred took place with much rejoicing by the councillors of the English people. Simon Keynes notes that "Byrhtferth of Ramsey states similarly that when Æthelred was consecrated king, by Archbishop Dunstan and Archbishop Oswald, 'there was great joy at his consecration’, and describes the king in this connection as ‘a young man in respect of years, elegant in his manners, with an attractive face and handsome appearance’." Ethelred could not have been older than 13 years of age in this year.

During these early years, Ethelred was developing a close relationship to Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester, one who had supported his unsuccessful claim to the throne. When Æthelwold died, on 1 August 984, Ethelred deeply lamented the loss, and he wrote later in a charter from 993 that the event had deprived the country of one "whose industry and pastoral care administered not only to my interest but also to that of all inhabitants of the country."

England had experienced a period of peace after the reconquest of the Danelaw in the mid-10th century by King Edgar, Ethelred's father. However, beginning in 980, when Ethelred could not have been more than 14 years old, small companies of Danish adventurers carried out a series of coast-line raids against England. Hampshire, Thanet, and Cheshire were attacked in 980, Devon and Cornwall in 981, and Dorset in 982. A period of 6 years then passed before, in 988, another coastal attack is recorded taking place to the south-west, though here a famous battle was fought between the invaders and the thegns of Devon. Stenton notes that, though this series of isolated raids had no lasting effect on England themselves, "their chief historical importance is that they brought England for the first time into diplomatic contact with Normandy."[15] During this period, the Normans, who remembered their origins as a Scandinavian people, were well-disposed to their Danish cousins who, occasionally returning from a raid on England, would seek port in Normandy. This led to grave tension between the English and Norman courts, and word of their enmity eventually reached Pope John XV. The pope was disposed to dissolve their hostility towards each other, and took steps to engineer a peace between England and Normandy, which was ratified in Rouen in 991.

However, in August of that same year a sizable Danish fleet began a sustained campaign in the south-east of England. It arrived off Folkestone, in Kent, and made its way around the south-east coast and up the river Blackwater, coming eventually to its estuary and occupying Northey Island.[16] About 2 km east of Northey lies the coastal town of Maldon, where Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, was stationed with a company of thegns. The battle that followed between English and Danes is immortalized by the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon, which describes the doomed but heroic attempt of Byrhtnoth to defend the coast of Essex against overwhelming odds. Stenton summarizes the events of the poem: "For access to the mainland they [the Danes] depended on a causeway, flooded at high tide, which led from Northey to the flats along the southern margin of the estuary. Before they [the Danes] had left their camp on the island Byrhtnoth, with his retainers and a force of local militia, had taken possession of the landward end of the causeway. Refusing a demand for tribute, shouted across the water while the tide was high, Byrhtnoth drew up his men along the bank, and waited for the ebb. As the water fell the raiders began to stream out along the causeway. But three of Byrthnoth's retainers held it against them, and at last they asked to be allowed to cross unhindered and fight on equal terms on the mainland. With what even those who admired him most called 'over-courage', Byrhtnoth agreed to this; the pirates rushed through the falling tide, and battle was joined. Its issue was decided by Byrhtnoth's fall. Many even of his own men immediately took to flight and the English ranks were broken. What gives enduring interest to the battle is the superb courage with which a group of Byrhtnoth's thegns, knowing that the fight was lost, deliberately gave themselves to death in order that they might avenge their lord." This would be the first of a series of crushing defeats felt by the English at the hands of first Danish raiders, then organized Danish armies.

In 991 Ethelred was around 24 years old. In the aftermath of Maldon, it was decided that the English should grant the tribute to the Danes that they desired, and so a gafol of 10,000 pounds was paid them for their peace. Yet it was presumably the Danish fleet that had beaten Byrhtnoth at Maldon that continued to ravage the English coast from 991-93. In 994, the Danish fleet, which had swollen in ranks since 991, turned up the Thames estuary and headed towards London. The battle fought there was inconclusive. It was about this time that Ethelred met with the leaders of the fleet, foremost among them Olaf Tryggvason, and arranged an uneasy accord. A treaty was signed between Ethelred and Olaf that provided for seemingly civilized arrangements between the now-settled Danish companies and the English government, such as regulation settlement disputes and of trade. But the treaty also stipulates that the ravaging and slaughter of the previous year will be forgotten, and ends abruptly by stating that 22,000 pounds of gold and silver have been paid the raiders as the price of peace. In 994, Olaf Tryggvason, already a baptized Christian, was confirmed as Christian in a ceremony at Andover; King Æthelred stood as his sponsor. After receiving gifts, Olaf promised "that he would never come back to England in hostility." Olaf then left England for Norway and never returned, though "other component parts of the Viking force appear to have decided to stay in England, for it is apparent from the treaty that some had chosen to enter into King Æthelred's service as mercenaries, based presumably on the Isle of Wight."

In 997 Danish raids began again. According to Keynes, "there is no suggestion that this was a new fleet or army, and presumably the mercenary force created in 994 from the residue of the raiding army of 991 had turned on those whom it had been hired to protect." It harried Cornwall, Devon, western Somerset, and south Wales in 997, Dorset, Hampshire, and Sussex in 998. In 999 it raided Kent, and in 1000 it left England for Normandy, perhaps because the English had refused in this latest wave of attacks to acquiesce to the Danish demands for gafol or tribute, which would come to be known as Danegeld, 'Dane-payment'. This sudden relief from attack Ethelred used to gather his thoughts, resources, and armies: the fleet's departure in 1000 "allowed Æthelred to carry out a devastation of Strathclyde, the motive for which is part of the lost history of the north."

In 1001 a Danish fleet - perhaps the same fleet from 1000 - returned and ravaged west Sussex. During its movements, the fleet regularly returned to its base in the Isle of Wight. There was later an attempted attack in the south of Devon, though the English mounted a successful defence at Exeter. Nevertheless, Ethelred must have felt at a loss, and in the Spring of 1002 the English bought a truce for 24,000 pounds. Ethelred's frequent payments of immense Danegelds are often held up as exemplary of the incompetency of his government and his own short-sightedness. However, Keynes points out that such payments had been practice for at least a century, and had been adopted by Alfred the Great, Charles the Bald, and many others. Indeed, in some cases it "may have seemed the best available way of protecting the people against loss of life, shelter, livestock, and crops. Though undeniably burdensome, it constituted a measure for which the king could rely on widespread support."

It seems that no amount of money could staunch the flow of Danish assaults, however, indeed it may have encouraged them, for in 1003 Danish armies were again active in the west under the command of Swein Forkbeard, who had been with fleet that had attacked London in 994. By 1004 Swein was in East Anglia, where he sacked Norwich. In this year a nobleman of East Anglia, Ulfcytel Snillingr met Swein in force, and made an impression on the, until then, rampant Danish expedition. Though Ulfcytel was eventually defeated, outside of Thetford, he caused the Danes heavy losses and was nearly able to destroy their ships. The Danish army left England for Denmark in 1005, perhaps because of their injuries sustained in East Anglia, perhaps from the very severe famine which afflicted the continent and the British Isles in that year.

During the next twelve years England was devastated by a succession of large Danish armies, either under the leadership of King Sweyn I of Denmark or of other commanders such as Thorkell the Tall, which Ethelred's government failed to combat effectively. He was only able to halt the depredations of these armies by the payment of large payments of Danegeld. Each payment led to the withdrawal of the Danes, but on each occasion a fresh onslaught began after a year or two, and each Danegeld payment was much larger than the last. Ethelred's most desperate response was the massacre of the Danes living in England on St Brice's Day (13 November) 1002. Finally in 1013 English resistance collapsed and Sweyn conquered the country, forcing Ethelred into exile, but after his victory Sweyn lived for only another five weeks. In 1014, Canute the Great was proclaimed King of England by the Danish army in England, but was forced out of England that year. Canute launched a new invasion in 1015. Subsequently, Ethelred's control of England was already collapsing once again when he died at London on 23 April 1016. Ethelred was buried in St Paul's and was succeeded by his son, Edmund Ironside.

Ethelred married first Ælfgifu, daughter of Thored, the ealdorman of York, by whom he had six sons: Æthelstan Ætheling (died 1011), Edmund Ironside, Ecgberht Ætheling, Eadred Ætheling, Eadwig Ætheling (killed 1017) and Eadgar Ætheling the Elder. They also had four daughters: Edith, who married Eadric Streona, ealdorman of Mercia, and Ælfgifu, who married Uchtred the Bold, ealdorman of Bamburgh. Less certainly there may also have been a daughter named Wulfhild married to Ulfcytel Snillingr, and a fourth daughter, Aethelreda married to Gospatric.

His second marriage, in 1002, was to Emma of Normandy, sister of Richard II, duke of Normandy. Emma's grandnephew, William I of England, would later use this relationship as the basis of his claim on the throne. They had two sons, Eadweard (later King of England and known now as Edward the Confessor) and Ælfred Ætheling. By this marriage, he also had Goda of England, who married Drogo of Mantes, Count of Vexin.

--------------------

Aethelred II "The Unready" King of England *-9700 [Parents] was born in 967 in of Wessex,England. He died on 23 Apr 1016 in London,Middlesex,England. He was buried in St Paul's,London,Middlesex,England. He married Aelfgifu (Aelflaed) Queen of England *-971 about 985 in Of,,Wessex,England. The marriage ended in divorce.

   Other marriages:
       Princess of Normandy, Queen of England, Emma +
   [Notes] 

Aelfgifu (Aelflaed) Queen of England *-971 [Parents] was born about 968 in of Wessex,England. She married Aethelred II "The Unready" King of England *-9700 about 985 in Of,,Wessex,England. The marriage ended in divorce.

   [Notes] 

They had the following children:

     		M 	i 	Athelstan Prince of England +-970 was born about 986 in of Wessex,England. He died in 1016 in England. [Notes]
     		M 	ii 	Egbert Prince of England +-9635 was born about 987 in of Wessex,England. He died about 1005 in England. [Notes]
     		M 	iii 	Edmund II "Ironside" King of England *-9638
     		M 	iv 	Edgar Prince of England +-8934 was born about 994 in of Wessex,England. [Notes]
     		F 	v 	Edith Princess of England +-8683
     		F 	vi 	Elfgifu Princess of Eengland +-6606
     		F 	vii 	Wulfhild Princess of England +-1266
     		F 	viii 	Princess of England Queen of France +-6535
     		F 	ix 	Miss Ethelred Abess of England +-6533 was born about 1001 in of Wherewell,Hampshire,England. [Notes]
     		F 	x 	Elfgifu Princess of England +-9978
     		F 	xi 	Elgiva (Alfgifu) Princess of England *-9979
     		M 	xii 	Eadred Prince of England +-9982 was born about 990 in of Wessex,England. [Notes]
     		M 	xiii 	Eadwig Prince of England +-9983 was born about 991 in of Wessex,England. He died in 1017 in ,,,England. [Notes]
     		M 	xiv 	Edward Prince of England +-9984 was born about 994 in of Wessex,England. [Notes]
     		F 	xv 	Aethelreda Princess of England +-9986

References

   * Bosworth, J., & Toller, T. N., eds., An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (1882-98); with Supplement (1908-21) .
   * Godsell, Andrew "Ethelred the Unready" in "History For All" magazine September 2000, republished in "Legends of British History" (2008)
   * Hart, Cyril, "Edward the Martyr", in C. Matthew, B. Harrison, & L. Goldman (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2007), http://www.oxforddnb.com [accessed 9 November 2008].
   * Higham, Nick, The Death of Anglo-Saxon England (1997), ISBN 0-7509-2469-1.
   * Keynes, Simon, "The Declining Reputation of King Æthelred the Unready", in David Hill (ed.), Ethelred the Unready: Papers from the Millenary Conference, British Archaeological Reports, British Series 59 (1978), pp. 227–53.
   * Keynes, Simon, "A Tale of Two Kings: Alfred the Great and Æthelred the Unready", Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series 36 (1986), pp. 195–217.
   * Keynes, Simon, "Æthelred II (c.966x8–1016)", in C. Matthew, B. Harrison, & L. Goldman (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), http://www.oxforddnb.com [accessed 12 June 2008].
   * Liebermann, Felix, ed., Die Gesetze der Angelsaschen, vol. 1 (1903).
   * Miller,Sean, "Edward the Martyr", in M. Lapidge, J. Blair, S. Keynes, & D. Scragg (eds.), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England (1999), p. 163. ISBN 0-631-22492-0.
   * Phillips, G. E., "Saint Edward the Martyr", in C. G. Herbermann, et al. (eds.), The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 5 (1909), p. 323.
   * Schröder, Edward, Deutsche Namenkunde: Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kunde deutsche Personen- und Ortsnamen (1944).
   * Stafford, Pauline, Unification and Conquest: A Political and Social History of England in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries (1989), ISBN 0-7131-6532-4.
   * Stenton, F. M., Anglo-Saxon England, 3rd edition, The Oxford History of England 2 (1971).
   * Turner, Ralph V., "The Origins of the Medieval English Jury: Frankish, English, or Scandinavian?", The Journal of British Studies 7 (1968), pp. 1–10.

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Ethelred II (c. 968 – April 23, 1016), also known as Æthelred II, Aethelred II, Ethelred the Unready, Æthelred the Unready and Aethelred the Unready (from Old English Æþelræd), was King of England (978–1013, and 1014–1016). He was a son of King Edgar and his queen Ælfthryth. The majority of his reign (991–1016) was marked by a developing, defensive war against Danish invaders. Æþelræd Unræd

Different spellings of this king’s name which are most commonly to be found in modern texts are "Ethelred", and "Aethelred", the latter being closer to the original Old English form "Æþelræd". However ‘Ethelred’ is perhaps most familiar to the modern eye, and so is used here.

The story of Ethelred's notorious nickname, "Ethelred the Unready", from Old English Æþelræd Unræd, goes a long way to explaining how his reputation has declined through history. His first name, composed of the elements æðele, meaning "noble", and ræd, meaning "counsel" or "advice",[1] is typical of the bombastic compound names of those belonging to the royal house of Wessex, and it characteristically alliterates with the names of his ancestors like, for example, Æthelwulf ("noble-wolf"), Ælfred ("elf-counsel"), Edward ('prosperous-protection'), and Edgar ("rich-spear").[2] His nickname Unræd is usually translated into present-day English as 'The Unready', though, because the present-day meaning of 'unready' no longer resembles its ancient counterpart, this translation completely disguises the meaning of the Old English term. Bosworth-Toller defines the noun unræd in various ways, though it seems always to have been used pejoratively. Generally, it means "evil counsel", "bad plan", "folly". Bosworth-Toller do not record it as describing a person directly; it most often describes decisions and deeds, and at least once refers to the nature of Satan's deceit. The element ræd in unræd is the element in Ethelred's name which means 'counsel'. Thus Æþelræd Unræd is a pun meaning "Noble counsel, No counsel". The nickname has alternatively been taken adjectivally as "ill-advised", "ill-prepared", "indecisive", thus "Ethelred the ill-advised".

The epithet would seem to describe the poor quality of advice which Ethelred received throughout his reign, presumably from those around him, and specifically the royal council, known as the Witan. Though the nickname does not suggest anything particularly respectable about the king himself, its invective is not actually focused on the king but on those around him, who were expected to provide the young king with god ræd. Unfortunately, historians, both medieval and modern, have taken less an interest in what this epithet suggests about the king's advisers, and have instead focused on the image it creates of a blundering, misfit king. Because the nickname was first recorded in the 1180s, more than 150 years after Ethelred's death, it is doubtful that it carries any implications for how the king was seen by his contemporaries or near contemporaries.[3]

[edit]Early life

Sir Frank Merry Stenton remarked that "much that has brought condemnation of historians on King Æthelred may well be due to in the last resort to the circumstances under which he became king."[4] Ethelred's father, King Edgar, had died suddenly in July of 975, leaving two young sons behind him. The elder, Edward (later Edward the Martyr), was Edgar's son by his first wife, Æthelflæd,[5] and was "still a youth on the verge of manhood" in 975.[6] The younger son was Ethelred, whose mother, Ælfthryth, Edgar had married in 964. Ælfthryth was the daughter of Ordgar, ealdorman of Devon, and widow of Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia. At the time of his father's death, Ethelred could have been no more than 10 years old. As the elder of Edgar's sons, Edward - reportedly a young man given to frequent violent outbursts - probably would have naturally succeeded to the throne of England despite his young age, had not he "offended many important persons by his intolerable violence of speech and behaviour."[7] In any case, a number of English nobles took to opposing Edward's succession and to defending Ethelred's claim to the throne; Ethelred was, after all, the son of Edgar's last, living wife, and no rumour of illegitimacy is known to have plagued Ethelred's birth, as it might his elder brother's.[8] It must be remembered that both boys, Ethelred certainly, were too young to have played any significant part in the political manoeuvring which followed Edgar's death. It was the brothers' supporters, and not the brothers themselves, who were responsible for the turmoil which accompanied the choice of a successor to the throne. Ethelred's cause was led by his mother and included ealdorman Ælfhere and Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester.[9] while Edward's claim was supported by Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Saint Oswald of Worcester, the Archbishop of York[10] among other noblemen, notably Æthelwine, Ealdorman of East Anglia, and Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex. In the end, Edward's supporters proved the more powerful and persuasive, and he was crowned king before the year was out.

Edward ruled for only three years before he was murdered by his brother's household. Though we know little about Edward's short reign, we do know that it was marked by political turmoil. Edward, perhaps owing to his close connections with Dunstan and Oswald, was fond of endowing monasteries with large land-holdings, which often had to be at the expense of the local influence of the ealdormen and thegns whose job and privilege it was to govern England's many shire communities. Resentment on the part of the king's royal officers was inevitable, and perhaps an air of hostility towards Edward was beginning to propagate through the nobility. Nevertheless, favour for Edward must have been strong among the monastic communities. When Edward was killed at Ethelred's estate at Corfe in Dorset in March of 978, the job of recording the event, as well as reactions to, it fell to monastic writers. Stenton offers a summary of the earliest account of Edward's murder, which comes from a work praising the life of Saint Oswald of Worcester: "On the surface his [Edward's] relations with Æthelred his half-brother and Ælfthryth his stepmother were friendly, and he was visiting them informally when he was killed. [Æthelred's] retainers came out to meet him with ostentatious signs of respect, and then, before he had dismounted, surrounded him, seized his hands, and stabbed him. ... So far as can be seen the murder was planned and carried out by Æthelred's household men in order that their young master might become king. There is nothing to support the allegation, which first appears in writing more than a century later, that Queen Ælfthryth had plotted her stepson's death. No one was punished for a part in the crime, and Æthelred, who was crowned a month after the murder, began to reign in an atmosphere of suspicion which destroyed the prestige of the crown. It was never fully restored in his lifetime."[11] Nevertheless, at first, the outlook of the new king's officers and counsellors seems in no way to have been bleak. According to one chronicler, the coronation of Ethelred took place with much rejoicing by the councillors of the English people.[12] Simon Keynes notes that "Byrhtferth of Ramsey states similarly that when Æthelred was consecrated king, by Archbishop Dunstan and Archbishop Oswald, 'there was great joy at his consecration’, and describes the king in this connection as ‘a young man in respect of years, elegant in his manners, with an attractive face and handsome appearance’."[13] Ethelred could not have been older than 13 years of age in this year.

During these early years, Ethelred was developing a close relationship to Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester, one who had supported his unsuccessful claim to the throne. When Æthelwold died, on 1 August 984, Ethelred deeply lamented the loss, and he wrote later in a charter from 993 that the event had deprived the country of one "whose industry and pastoral care administered not only to my interest but also to that of all inhabitants of the country."[14]

[edit]Conflict with the Danes

A coin bearing Ethelred's profile

England had experienced a period of peace after the reconquest of the Danelaw in the mid-10th century by King Edgar, Ethelred's father. However, beginning in 980, when Ethelred could not have been more than 14 years old, small companies of Danish adventurers carried out a series of coast-line raids against England. Hampshire, Thanet, and Cheshire were attacked in 980, Devon and Cornwall in 981, and Dorset in 982. A period of 6 years then passed before, in 988, another coastal attack is recorded taking place to the south-west, though here a famous battle was fought between the invaders and the thegns of Devon. Stenton notes that, though this series of isolated raids had no lasting effect on England themselves, "their chief historical importance is that they brought England for the first time into diplomatic contact with Normandy."[15] During this period, the Normans, who remembered their origins as a Scandinavian people, were well-disposed to their Danish cousins who, occasionally returning from a raid on England, would seek port in Normandy. This led to grave tension between the English and Norman courts, and word of their enmity eventually reached Pope John XV. The pope was disposed to dissolve their hostility towards each other, and took steps to engineer a peace between England and Normandy, which was ratified in Rouen in 991.

However, in August of that same year a sizable Danish fleet began a sustained campaign in the south-east of England. It arrived off Folkestone, in Kent, and made its way around the south-east coast and up the river Blackwater, coming eventually to its estuary and occupying Northey Island.[16] About 2 km east of Northey lies the coastal town of Maldon, where Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, was stationed with a company of thegns. The battle that followed between English and Danes is immortalized by the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon, which describes the doomed but heroic attempt of Byrhtnoth to defend the coast of Essex against overwhelming odds. Stenton summarizes the events of the poem: "For access to the mainland they [the Danes] depended on a causeway, flooded at high tide, which led from Northey to the flats along the southern margin of the estuary. Before they [the Danes] had left their camp on the island Byrhtnoth, with his retainers and a force of local militia, had taken possession of the landward end of the causeway. Refusing a demand for tribute, shouted across the water while the tide was high, Byrhtnoth drew up his men along the bank, and waited for the ebb. As the water fell the raiders began to stream out along the causeway. But three of Byrthnoth's retainers held it against them, and at last they asked to be allowed to cross unhindered and fight on equal terms on the mainland. With what even those who admired him most called 'over-courage', Byrhtnoth agreed to this; the pirates rushed through the falling tide, and battle was joined. Its issue was decided by Byrhtnoth's fall. Many even of his own men immediately took to flight and the English ranks were broken. What gives enduring interest to the battle is the superb courage with which a group of Byrhtnoth's thegns, knowing that the fight was lost, deliberately gave themselves to death in order that they might avenge their lord."[17] This would be the first of a series of crushing defeats felt by the English at the hands of first Danish raiders, then organized Danish armies.

In 991 Ethelred was around 24 years old. In the aftermath of Maldon, it was decided that the English should grant the tribute to the Danes that they desired, and so a gafol of 10,000 pounds was paid them for their peace. Yet it was presumably the Danish fleet that had beaten Byrhtnoth at Maldon that continued to ravage the English coast from 991-93. In 994, the Danish fleet, which had swollen in ranks since 991, turned up the Thames estuary and headed towards London. The battle fought there was inconclusive. It was about this time that Ethelred met with the leaders of the fleet, foremost among them Olaf Tryggvason, and arranged an uneasy accord. A treaty was signed between Ethelred and Olaf that provided for seemingly civilized arrangements between the now-settled Danish companies and the English government, such as regulation settlement disputes and of trade. But the treaty also stipulates that the ravaging and slaughter of the previous year will be forgotten, and ends abruptly by stating that 22,000 pounds of gold and silver have been paid the raiders as the price of peace.[18] In 994, Olaf Tryggvason, already a baptized Christian, was confirmed as Christian in a ceremony at Andover; King Æthelred stood as his sponsor. After receiving gifts, Olaf promised "that he would never come back to England in hostility."[19] Olaf then left England for Norway and never returned, though "other component parts of the Viking force appear to have decided to stay in England, for it is apparent from the treaty that some had chosen to enter into King Æthelred's service as mercenaries, based presumably on the Isle of Wight."[20]

In 997 Danish raids began again. According to Keynes, "there is no suggestion that this was a new fleet or army, and presumably the mercenary force created in 994 from the residue of the raiding army of 991 had turned on those whom it had been hired to protect."[21] It harried Cornwall, Devon, western Somerset, and south Wales in 997, Dorset, Hampshire, and Sussex in 998. In 999 it raided Kent, and in 1000 it left England for Normandy, perhaps because the English had refused in this latest wave of attacks to acquiesce to the Danish demands for gafol or tribute, which would come to be known as Danegeld, 'Dane-payment'. This sudden relief from attack Ethelred used to gather his thoughts, resources, and armies: the fleet's departure in 1000 "allowed Æthelred to carry out a devastation of Strathclyde, the motive for which is part of the lost history of the north."[22]

In 1001 a Danish fleet - perhaps the same fleet from 1000 - returned and ravaged west Sussex. During its movements, the fleet regularly returned to its base in the Isle of Wight. There was later an attempted attack in the south of Devon, though the English mounted a successful defence at Exeter. Nevertheless, Ethelred must have felt at a loss, and in the Spring of 1002 the English bought a truce for 24,000 pounds. Ethelred's frequent payments of immense Danegelds are often held up as exemplary of the incompetency of his government and his own short-sightedness. However, Keynes points out that such payments had been practice for at least a century, and had been adopted by Alfred the Great, Charles the Bald, and many others. Indeed, in some cases it "may have seemed the best available way of protecting the people against loss of life, shelter, livestock, and crops. Though undeniably burdensome, it constituted a measure for which the king could rely on widespread support."[23]

It seems that no amount of money could staunch the flow of Danish assaults, however, indeed it may have encouraged them, for in 1003 Danish armies were again active in the west under the command of Swein Forkbeard, who had been with fleet that had attacked London in 994. By 1004 Swein was in East Anglia, where he sacked Norwich. In this year a nobleman of East Anglia, Ulfcytel Snillingr met Swein in force, and made an impression on the, until then, rampant Danish expedition. Though Ulfcytel was eventually defeated, outside of Thetford, he caused the Danes heavy losses and was nearly able to destroy their ships. The Danish army left England for Denmark in 1005, perhaps because of their injuries sustained in East Anglia, perhaps from the very severe famine which afflicted the continent and the British Isles in that year.[24]

During the next twelve years England was devastated by a succession of large Danish armies, either under the leadership of King Sweyn I of Denmark or of other commanders such as Thorkell the Tall, which Ethelred's government failed to combat effectively. He was only able to halt the depredations of these armies by the payment of large payments of Danegeld. Each payment led to the withdrawal of the Danes, but on each occasion a fresh onslaught began after a year or two, and each Danegeld payment was much larger than the last. Ethelred's most desperate response was the massacre of the Danes living in England on St Brice's Day (November 13) 1002. Finally in 1013 English resistance collapsed and Sweyn conquered the country, forcing Ethelred into exile, but after his victory Sweyn lived for only another five weeks. In 1014, Canute the Great was proclaimed King of England by the Danish army in England, but was forced out of England that year. Canute launched a new invasion in 1015. Subsequently, Ethelred's control of England was already collapsing once again when he died at London on 23 April 1016. Ethelred was buried in St Paul's and was succeeded by his son, Edmund Ironside.

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Æthelred the Unready, or Æthelred II,[1][2] (c. 968 – 23 April 1016), was a king of the English (978–1013 and 1014–1016). He was a son of King Edgar and Queen Ælfthryth. His reign was much troubled by Danish Viking raiders. Æthelred was only about 10 (no more than 13) when his half-brother Edward was murdered and was not personally suspected of participation. But as the deed occurred at Corfe Castle by the attendants of Æthelred's mother, it made it more difficult for the new king to rally the nation against the invader, especially as a legend of St Edward the Martyr soon grew. Later, Æthelred ordered a massacre of Danish settlers in 1002 and also paid tribute, or Danegeld, to Danish leaders from 991 onwards. In 1013, Æthelred fled to Normandy and was replaced by Sweyn, who was also king of Denmark. However, Æthelred returned as king after Sweyn died the following year. "Unready" is from Anglo-Saxon unræd, meaning ill-advised.

Æþelræd Unræd

The story of Æthelred's notorious nickname, "Æthelred the Unready", from Old English Æþelræd Unræd, goes a long way to explaining how his reputation has declined through history. His first name, composed of the elements æðele, meaning "noble", and ræd, meaning "counsel" or "advice",[3] is typical of the bombastic compound names of those who belonged to the royal House of Wessex, and it characteristically alliterates with the names of his ancestors like, for example, Æthelwulf ("noble-wolf"), Ælfred ("elf-counsel"), Edward ("prosperous-protection"), and Edgar ("rich-spear").[4] His nickname Unræd is usually translated into present-day English as 'The Unready', though, because the present-day meaning of 'unready' no longer resembles its ancient counterpart, this translation disguises the meaning of the Old English term. Bosworth-Toller defines the noun unræd in various ways, though it seems always to have been used pejoratively. Generally, it means "evil counsel", "bad plan", "folly". Bosworth-Toller do not record it as describing a person directly; it most often describes decisions and deeds, and once refers to the nature of Satan's deceit (see Fall of Man). The element ræd in unræd is the element in Æthelred's name which means 'counsel'. Thus Æþelræd Unræd is a pun meaning "Noble counsel, No counsel". The nickname has alternatively been taken adjectivally as "ill-advised", "ill-prepared", "indecisive", thus "Æthelred the ill-advised".

The epithet would seem to describe the poor quality of advice which Æthelred received throughout his reign, presumably from those around him, specifically from the royal council, known as the Witan. Though the nickname does not suggest anything particularly respectable about the king himself, its invective is not actually focused on the king but on those around him, who were expected to provide the young king with god ræd. Unfortunately, historians, both medieval and modern, have taken less of an interest in what this epithet suggests about the king's advisers, and have instead focused on the image it creates of a blundering, misfit king. Because the nickname was first recorded in the 1180s, more than 150 years after Æthelred's death, it is doubtful that it carries any implications for how the king was seen by his contemporaries or near contemporaries.[5]

Early life

Gold mancus of Æthelred wearing armour, 1003-1006.

Sir Frank Merry Stenton remarked that "much that has brought condemnation of historians on King Æthelred may well be due to in the last resort to the circumstances under which he became king."[6] Æthelred's father, King Edgar, had died suddenly in July of 975, leaving two young sons behind him. The elder, Edward (later Edward the Martyr), was Edgar's son by his first wife, Æthelflæd,[7] and was "still a youth on the verge of manhood" in 975.[8] The younger son was Æthelred, whose mother, Ælfthryth, Edgar had married in 964. Ælfthryth was the daughter of Ordgar, ealdorman of Devon, and widow of Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia. At the time of his father's death, Æthelred could have been no more than 10 years old. As the elder of Edgar's sons, Edward - reportedly a young man given to frequent violent outbursts - probably would have naturally succeeded to the throne of England despite his young age, had not he "offended many important persons by his intolerable violence of speech and behaviour."[8] In any case, a number of English nobles took to opposing Edward's succession and to defending Æthelred's claim to the throne; Æthelred was, after all, the son of Edgar's last, living wife, and no rumour of illegitimacy is known to have plagued Æthelred's birth, as it might

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Æthelred "the Unready", King of the English's Timeline

966
966
Wessex, England
978
March 18, 978
- April 23, 1016
Age 12
England
979
April 14, 979
Age 13
King of England
985
985
Age 19
Of, , Wessex, England
986
986
Age 20
Of, , Wessex, England
987
987
Age 21
Wessex
988
988
Age 22
Wessex, England
990
990
Age 24
Wessex, England
991
991
Age 25
Wessex, , England
994
994
Age 28
Wessex, England