Woman of the week - Aethelflaed

Name: Aethelflaed (alternative spellings: Ethelfleda, Aelfled)
Born: Early 870's (?)
Died: 918
Married to: Aethelred
Children: Aelfwynn
Occupation: Ruler of Mercia

Aethelflaed was born as the eldest daughter of king Alfred the Great of Wessex. Her mother was Ealhswith, and she had four siblings. She comes into history with the biography over her father, written by Asser, a text from about 890 - and at that time she had already married Aethelred, ealdorman (earl) of Mercia. He was not a de facto king, nor was she a queen, because there was a line of Mercian kings who held the right to the throne - but in anything but the name Aethelred did rule as if he had been one himself.

The couple had just one child, Aelfwynn, born shortly after the marriage. According to one biographer, William of Malmesbury, the birth was so complicated that Aethelflaed then chose to remain celibate. It is, of course, impossible to know if this is actually true, but there was no more children in any case.

At this time the land was having much problem with Danish Vikings, and a lot of effort went into defending land, people and property against these attacks. This was something Aethelflaed put much of her heart into, not leaving it all to her husband - she would be the ruler of Mercia after his death in 911, but she had in fact been taking care of things (in his name) before this. It is not known from what he died, exactly, but he was severely indisposed some time before his actual dying and it was Aethelflaed, his wife, who had to take care of all matters. This she did very well, and she worked together with her brother, Edward the Elder, king of the West Saxons, in doing so. After her husband's death she was given the title "Lady of the Mercians". She ruled until her death in 918 in Tamworth. She was buried in what is now St Oswald's priory in Gloucester - back then it was St Peter's church.

On a sidenote - her daughter, and only child, who was about 20 at the death of her mother, became the ruler after her mother. But she was soon overturned by her uncle Edward, and taken away from Mercia to Wessex three weeks before Christmas - according to the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. It is likely she was sent to a convent after this to be a nun, but no more is known about her, not even when she died - she just faded out of history when she had left the political stage.

No portrait of this lady has survived.

1 comment:

wildrose said...

Härligt att du börjat skriva här igen!! Ser fram emot mer :)