The Anglo-Saxon and Danish Kings of England and their Consorts 802-1066

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Aug 2, 2003
Egbert (802-39 AD) Known as the first King of All England, recognised as king of Wessex in 802. In 829, he was proclaimed "Bretwalda" or sole ruler of Britain.

Æthelwulf (839-58 AD) Æthelwulf was the son of Egbert and a sub-king of Kent. He assumed the throne of Wessex upon his father's death in 839. Æthelwulf is remembered, however dimly, as a highly religious man. He was an only child, but had fathered five sons, by his first wife, Osburga. He recognized that there could be difficulties with contention over the succession, so he devised a scheme which would guarantee (insofar as it was possible to do so) that each child would have his turn on the throne without having to worry about rival claims from his siblings.

Æthelbald (858-60 AD) Æthelbald plotted against his father whilst he was on a pilgrimage to Rome. The specific details of the plot are unknown, but upon his return, Æthelwulf found his direct authority limited to the sub-kingdom of Kent, while Æthelbald controlled Wessex. Æthelwulf died in 858, and full control passed to Æthelbald. However, he did not live long to enjoy it. He died in 860, passing the throne to his brother, Æthelbert, just as Æthelwulf had planned.

Æthelbert (860-66 AD) Very little is known about Æthelbert, who took his rightful place in the line of succession to the throne of Wessex at around 30 years of age.

Æthelred I (866-71 AD) Anglo-Saxon king of Wessex, and son of King Æthelwulf, who ruled England during a time of great pressure from the invading Danes. He was an affable man, a devoutly religious man and the older brother of Alfred the Great. Together, they defeated the Danish kings Bagseg and Halfdan at the battle of Ashdown in 870.

Alfred, the Great (871-900 AD) Youngest son of King Æthelwulf, Alfred became King of Wessex during a time of constant Viking attack. Alfred created a series of fortifications to surround his kingdom and provide needed security from invasion. However, the reign of Alfred was known for more than military success. He was a codifier of law, a promoter of education and a supporter of the arts. After his death, he was buried in his capital city of Winchester, and is the only English monarch in history to carry the title, "the Great."

Edward I, the Elder (900-24 AD) Son of Alfred the Great, Edward immediately succeeded his father to the throne.

Æthelstan (924-40 AD) The grandson of Alfred the Great, Æthelstan succeeded his father, Edward the Elder, to the throne of Wessex. He was the first English sovereign ever to be crowned on the King's Stone at Kingston-upon-Thames in 925. Incorrectly claimed by some to be the first King of All England, Æthelstan was a great warrior, nonetheless, whose fame stemmed from his conquests in Cornwall and Wales, and his defeat of a combined force of Scots, Welsh and Vikings at the battle of Brunanburh in 938.

Edmund I (940-46 AD) Son of Edward the Elder, succeeded his half-brother, Æthelstan.

Eadred (946-55 AD) King of Wessex and acknowledged as overlord of Mercia, the Danelaw and Northumbria.

Eadwig (Edwy) (955-59 AD) On the death of Eadred, who had no children, Eadwig was chosen to be king since he was the oldest of the children in the natural line of the House of Wessex. He became king at 16. An incident, which occurred on the day of Eadwig's consecration as king, purportedly, illustrates the character of the young king. According to the report of the reliable William of Malmesbury, all the dignitaries and officials of the kingdom were meeting to discuss state business, when the absence of the new king was noticed. Dunstan was dispatched, along with another bishop, to find the missing youth. He was found with his mind on matters other than those of state, in the company of the daughter of a noble woman of the kingdom. Malmesbury writes, Dunstan, " regardless of the royal indignation, dragged the lascivious boy from the chamber and...compelling him to repudiate the strumpet made him his enemy forever." Eadwig went on to marry Ælgifu, the girl with whom he was keeping company at the time of Dunstan's intrusion. For her part, " the strumpet" was eventually referred to as among "the most illustrious of women", and Eadwig, in his short reign, was generous in making grants to the church and other religious institutions. He died, possibly of the Wessex family ailment, when he was only 20.

Edgar (959-75 AD) Edgar was made King of Mercia and Northumbria in 957 and succeed to the throne of Wessex at his brother, Eadwig's, death in 959. With this, Edgar was King of Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex (the three most powerful kingdoms in England at that time), simultaneously and could be considered the first ruler of a United England.

Edward II, the Martyr (975-78 AD) Elder son of King Edgar, he succeeded to the throne as a boy of 12, and in so doing, aroused rival claims on behalf of his even younger half-brother, Æthelred II, the Unready. He was murdered by members of Æthelred's household at Corfe Castle in 978.

Æthelred II, the Unready (978-1016 AD) He succeeded to the throne after the murder of his half-brother, Edward II, the Martyr, at the age of ten. His reign was plagued by poor advice from his personal favorites and suspicions of his complicity in Edward's murder. His was a rather long and ineffective reign.

Edmund II, Ironside (1016 AD) Edmund was King of England for only a few months.
Edith of Wessex, Queen Consort of Edward the Confessor (c1029-1075)

This article below is from Wikipedia:
Edith of Wessex, (c. 1029December 19, 1075), married King Edward the Confessor of England in 1045. The marriage produced no children. Later ecclesiastical writers claimed that this was because Edward took a vow of celibacy, but modern historians have postulated alternative hypotheses, one being that Edward refused to consummate the marriage because of his antipathy to Edith's family, the Godwines.
Edith was the daughter of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, one of the most powerful men in England at the time of King Edward's rule. Her mother Gytha Thorkelsdóttir was daughter to Torkel Styrbjörnsson, granddaughter to Styrbjörn Starke and Tyra and great-granddaughter to both Olof (II) Björnsson and his sister Gyrid by Harold I of Denmark.
When Godwine and his family were expelled from the country in 1051, Edith was put aside by Edward and sent to a nunnery. When the Godwines effected their return through force in 1052, Edith was reinstated.
Upon Edward's death, on 4 January 1066, he was succeeded by Edith's brother, Harold Godwinson. At the Battle of Stamford Bridge (25 September, 1066) and the Battle of Hastings (14 October, 1066), Edith lost her remaining four brothers (Tostig, Harold, Gyrth and Leofwine). She was therefore the only senior member of the Godwine family to survive the Norman conquest of England, the sons of Harold having fled to Ireland.
Carola Hicks, an art historian, has recently put her forward as a candidate for the author of the Bayeux Tapestry[1].

Other than this, is their anymore info on this obscure and ignored Queen of England? Is there left that can tell us about her personality or her looks? How she felt about the events that she lived through? What she thought of when William the Conqueror and the Normans took over England?

Carola Hicks, an art historian, has recently put her forward as a candidate for the author of the Bayeux Tapestry[1].

Other than this, is their anymore info on this obscure and ignored Queen of England? Is there left that can tell us about her personality or her looks? How she felt about the events that she lived through? What she thought of when William the Conqueror and the Normans took over England?

That's an interesting posit, Ithil. Does Carola Hicks give any reasons for the Tapestry's very blatantly Norman political bias?

As for finding out more about this Queen, there are a few references around. Her father and brothers were strong, determined and somewhat ferocious (with Harold, reportedly, being devastatingly handsome) and there's reason, then, to suppose that she may have been like them in some way or t'other. She was well-educated, seems to have been more intelligent than they, and she was very rich. From memory, it was she who commissioned the monks to compile the work which tells us most about Edward, her husband, and it's possible that Edith might have preferred to foster the belief that the marriage wasn't consummated, rather than that she was barren. She would have been important to William, however, due to her money and influence and his anxiety to be seen as a 'honourable' usurper.

Three sources which might interest you -

Michael Lapidge: The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England

P.Stafford: Queen Emma and Queen Edith: Queenship and Women's Power in Eleventh Century England. OUP, 1997.

The scholarly journal, Past and Present, will, most likely, have some articles, too.

The references should be available in college or university libraries and often can be accessed via inter-library loans, if such a system exists in the US between college and local libraries. If not, Past and Present is on the web and you can search articles online and access them for a small fee.

Actually, I've just checked and Lapidge's work is also on the web. Stafford's book will probably available from second hand bookstores on the Web.

Happy research!
Thank you Polly for the info!
Eadgyth (910-946), daughter of Edward the Elder and sister of King Athelstan

'Royal' bones return to England

Skeleton of Alfred the Great's granddaughter - 21 January 2010

The granddaughter of Alfred the Great has returned to England - or at least fragments of a body have returned, more than 1000 years after the Wessex princess was packed off by her brother as a diplomatic gift to a Saxon king. Tests in Bristol are expected to prove that Eadgyth was indeed the woman found wrapped in silk and sealed in a lead coffin inside a sarcophagus at the Gothic Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany.

''Her brother Athelstan was the first king of a unified England, her husband became the first Holy Roman Emperor and her blood runs in the veins of every royal family in Europe,'' said Professor Mark Horton, of Bristol University. ''Alfred's body disappeared long ago, bones of other members of her family are all jumbled up in Winchester Cathedral after [Thomas] Cromwell got his hands on them, so this may prove to be the oldest complete remains of an English royal.''

There is no contemporary portrait of Eadgyth and few insights into her life. She was born in Wessex in 910 into one of the most powerful families in England, the daughter of Edward the Elder and a half-sister to Athelstan, well on his way to being recognised as the first king of all England. In 929 he sent her and her sister, Adiva, off to King Otto and invited him to take his pick, sealing an alliance between two of the rising stars of the Saxon world: Otto chose Eadgyth. They had at least two children before she died in 946.
The historian in the article stated that Eadgyth's blood runs in the veins of every royal family in Europe. I wonder which family is directly descended from her?
Wiki has an excellent detailed line of descent of German rulers and Kings from Charlemagne.
Otto, through his wife Eadgyth (shown as "Edith of Wessex") is an ancestor of many although the direct line in this chart appears to run out with the marriage of Frederick II, Margrave of Meissen (1310-1349) to Matilda (1313-1346), daughter of the Wittelsbach King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV.
However, if every linked blood relationship was shown the tree would most likely be impenetrable. :D

It's certainly worth a look: German monarchs family tree

Edith was highly intelligent, well educated and considered quite a beauty in her day. She married young to a man in his 40s (old by the standards of the day) - who decided for reasons known only unto himself, not to bear offspring.

If Edith was indeed considered barren, Edward could quite easily have put her aside to remarry - but he did not. When Godwin and family were outlawed and Edith confined to a nunnery, Edward could have annulled / divorced her - he did not. Was he truly celibate - we ill never know.

What we do know is despite his "sainthood" Edward was a cruel and vindictive man who may well have withdrawn conjugal rights intentionally.
That's an interesting posit, Ithil. Does Carola Hicks give any reasons for the Tapestry's very blatantly Norman political bias?

The logical answer to this is that it was commissioned by the Normans and stitched by the Norman ladies after the conquest.

It was always going to be biased towards the Normas from the moment it was conceived.
The Strange Death of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings

I just finish reading Helen Hollick's comprehensive novel, "I am the Chosen King," about King Harold, the defeated king to William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. She posits that Harold was not killed by the supposed arrow in the eye, but was brutally hacked to death on the battlefield. I was intrigued by this, always believing that the arrow to the eye was his mode of death, and started reading about the Bayeux Tapestry. Apparently, that underwent restoration and there are discrepancies in the area where Harold dies. Apparently, William tried to cover up Harold's true mode of death since that could have sullied his claiming the throne if it were known he hacked a crowned and anointed King of England to pieces. Apparently, the Bayeux Tapestry was his form of propaganda commissioned by his half-brother. I'm linking to a website where I read a good article about Harold's death on the battlefield which has piqued my interest more. You have to download the article with Adobe Acrobat.

The strange death of King Harold II: Propaganda and the problem of legitimacy in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings - The Historical Association
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That is not only possible, it is very probable.

Accounts contemporary to the Battle (those written shortly after it) confirm that Harold Godwinson was killed by several knights, including William of Normandy himself, and his body was dismembered. One such account is the "Song of the Battle of Hastings" (Carmen de Hastingae Proelio) written by the Bishop of Amiens.
First accounts of Harald being shot in the eye appeared several decades after his death (in Montecassino's "History of the Normans").

As for the Bayeux Tapestry, it might have been both an attempt at propaganda, or just a misinterpretation.
Some historians suggest that King Harald is not the man with an arrow in his eye, but the mutilated body lying next to him.

In any case, such propaganda would not have been unusual. Although of course no one could match a later "King of spin" - Henry VII.
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The article also claims that the man lying at the foot of the soldier is most likely Harold, not the figure pulling out the arrow. As the Duke of Spin, William preferred the idea of an arrow killing Harold since there was no human intervention in his death, but a divine one seeking retribution for Harold's oath breaking (which he did under duress as William's "guest"). Therefore, William would have had no part in Harold's death; I had also read that he took part in that as well.
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Well, killing a Monarch was always a bit tricky business. On one hand, assassinations and murders in battle were obviously common methods of power transition. But on the other, no Monarch (including prospective ones) wanted to give people the idea Monarchs are humans like everyone else and it was OK to kill them (Roman Emperors were a bit careless in that respect).

Naturally, whenever possible new claimants tried to cement their claims by claiming divine intervention of some sort. A symbolic death through an arrow in the eye is certainly preferable to brutal hacking of a crowned and anointed monarch.
My dear Baroness of Books,

Thank you for posting the link to the article. It is late here and I will have to continue reading it tomorrow. It seems that this is another situation where the victor gets to write the historical account to the victor's credit. The Romans did it with Cleopatra and the Americans did it with the American Indians. It is a way of legitimising and strengthening the victor's authority.
St Edward the Confessor (c1003-1066): An Analysis of His Coat of Arms

Good Afternoon,

I've been studying meaning within images for quite some time.
The domain of investigation chosen was medieval heraldry with a visual language of its own. This research produced an MSc thesis in 2008 and since then I have been developing the theory I presented then. This is mainly an extension of canting arms.

Recently I've done a quite interesting analysis of the attributed arms of St Edward the Confessor. If you are interested in this subject please feel free to visit the thesis blog at:

5 x 11: The Meaning of Arms

Maybe you understand it better if you begin reading the first post at the bottom of the page (C(e) roi ~ Crois), then the second (Edouard ~ Et due harde) and finally the last at the top (Seint ~ Cinc).

Kind regards,

Carlos da Fonte
This is very interesting. I plan to read it again more carefully.

I've published the fourth semantic level for the coat of arms of St Edward:

St Edward the Confessor - J' Wincestrin ~ Juints cestrins

at: 5 x 11: The Meaning of Arms

Many thanks,

Carlos da Fonte
St Edward the Confessor - Itchen ~ I chenne

Good Afternoon,

The fifth semantic level for the coat of arms of St Edward is published,
including the river Itchen at Winchester:

St Edward the Confessor - Itchen ~ I chenne


Kind regards,

Carlos da Fonte
any coat of arms given to Edward was a later invention, as these did not exist while he was alive
That's precisely what attributed arms means in heraldry if you mind to have a look at my first message above.
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