English and British Monarchs Part 1, 849AD – 978AD House of Wessex

English and British Monarchs Part 1, 849AD – 978AD House of Wessex

The House became rulers of a unified English nation after the descendants of Alfred the Great (871–899) down to Edward the Confessor in 1066. Edward the Elder Alfred’s son united under his rule, by conquering the Viking occupied areas, Mercia and East Anglia with Wessex. Then his son, Æthelstan, extended his authority into the north, Northumbria, above the Mersey and Humber, but this was not fully consolidated until after his nephew Edgar succeeded to the throne. This period of the English monarchy is known as the Anglo-Saxon period, because the two main branches of settlers were Angles (in Mercia and East Anglia) or Saxon (in Wessex, Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex and Northumbria); a smaller group of settlers, the Jutes in Kent, Wight and in parts of east Sussex, merged with the Saxons.

Their rule was often contested, notably by the Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard who invaded in 995 and occupied the united English throne from 1013 to 1014, during the reign of Æthelred the Unready and his son Edmund Ironside. Sweyn, his son Canute and his successors ruled until 1042. After Harthacanute, there was a brief Anglo-Saxon restoration between 1042 and 1066 under Edward the Confessor a son of Æthelred, who was succeeded by Harold Godwinson, who was a member of the House of Godwin, possibly a side branch of the Cerdicings

ALFRED THE GREAT

Born
849ad
Wantage then in Berkshire
now Oxfordshire

Reign
23 April 871 – 26 October 899

Died
26 October 899
(around 50)
Winchester

Burial
1100
Hyde Abbey, Winchester,
Hampshire

Wife
Ealhswith

6 Children
1 Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians
2 Edward, King of Wessex
3 Æthelgifu, abbess of Shaftesbury
4 Æthelweard (No Image Available)
5 Ælfthryth, Countess of Flanders

House
of
Wessex

Father
Æthelwulf, King of Wessex

Mother
Osburh

In 853, at the age of four, Alfred is reported by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to have been sent to Rome where he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV, who “anointed him as king” He spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks

As a child Alfred won as a prize a book of Saxon poems, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it. Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn’s disease

Alfred the Great (Old English Ælfred, Ælfrad, “elf counsel” or “wise elf”) was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex. Taking the throne after the death of his brother Æthelred, Alfred spent several years dealing with Viking invasions.

After a decisive victory in the Battle of Edington in 878 Alfred made an agreement with the Vikings, creating what was known as Danelaw in the North of England. Alfred also oversaw the conversion of the Viking leader, Guthrum.

He was given shelter by a peasant woman who, unaware of his identity, left him to watch some wheaten cakes she had left cooking on the fire. Preoccupied with the problems of his kingdom Alfred accidentally let the cakes burn and was roundly scolded by the woman upon her return.

Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest, and by the time of his death had become the dominant ruler in England. He is one of only two English monarchs to be given the epithet “the Great”, the other being the Scandinavian Cnut the Great.He was also the first King of the West Saxons to style himself “King of the Anglo Saxons”. Details of Alfred’s life are described in a work by the 9th-century Welsh scholar and bishop Asser. Alfred had a reputation as a learned and merciful man of a gracious and level headed nature who encouraged education and improved his kingdom’s legal system and military structure.

In 2002 Alfred was ranked number 14 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.

Edward the Elder

Reign
26 October 899 – 17 July 924

Born
874ad

Died
17 July 924
Farndon, Cheshire,
England

Burial
New Minster, Winchester
later translated to Hyde Abbey

Wives

1 Ecgwynn (No Image Available)

2 Ælfflæd (No Image Available)

3 Eadgifu of Kent

Sons
1 Æthelstan
2 Ælfweard
3 Edwin (No Image Available)
4 Edmund
5 Eadred

Daughters
1 Saint Edith of Polesworth
2 Æthelhild
3 Eadflæd
4 Eadhild
5 Eadgyth
6 Ælfgifu
7 Eadburh
8 Eadgifu

House
of
Wessex

Father
Alfred the Great

Mother
Ealhswith

In the 910s, Edward conquered Viking-ruled southern England in partnership with his sister Æthelflæd, who had succeeded as Lady of the Mercians following the death of her husband in 911. By the end of the 910s he ruled Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia, and only Northumbria remained under Viking rule.Edward was admired by medieval chroniclers and in the view of William of Malmesbury, he was “much inferior to his father in the cultivation of letters” but “incomparably more glorious in the power of his rule”.

He was largely ignored by modern historians until the 1990s, and Nick Higham described him as “perhaps the most neglected of English kings”, partly because few primary sources for his reign survive. His reputation rose in the late twentieth century, and he is now seen as destroying the power of the Vikings in southern England, and laying the foundations for a south-centred united English kingdom.

Ælfweard of Wessex

Father
Edward, King of Wessex

Mother
Ælfflæd (No Image Available)

Little is known about Ælfweard.
He was unmarried with no children.
He died only 16 days after his
father, on 2 August 924.

ÆTHELSTAN

Reign of the Anglo-Saxons
924–927

King of the English
927 – 27 October 939

Born
894
Wessex

Died
27 October 939
(around 45)
Gloucester

Burial
Malmesbury Abbey

House
of
Wessex

Father
Edward the Elder

Mother
Ecgwynn (No Image Available)

Æthelstan or Athelstan (Old English: Æþelstan, or Æðelstan, meaning “noble stone” 894 – 27 October 939) was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 and King of the English from 927 to 939. He was the son of King Edward the Elder and his first wife, Ecgwynn.Modern historians regard him as the first King of England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings. He never married and had no children. When Edward died in July 924, Æthelstan was accepted by the Mercians as king. Æthelstan encountered resistance in Wessex for several months, and was not crowned until September 925. In 927 he conquered the last remaining Viking kingdom, York, making him the first Anglo-Saxon ruler of the whole of England. In 934 he invaded Scotland and forced Constantine II to submit to him, but Æthelstan’s rule was resented by the Scots and Vikings, and in 937 they invaded England.

Æthelstan defeated them at the Battle of Brunanburh, a victory which gave him great prestige both in the British Isles and on the Continent. After his death in 939 the Vikings seized back control of York, and it was not finally reconquered until 954. Æthelstan centralised government he increased control over the production of charters and summoned leading figures from distant areas to his councils. These meetings were also attended by rulers from outside his territory, especially Welsh kings, who thus acknowledged his overlordship.

Æthelstan was one of the most pious West Saxon kings, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches. His household was the centre of English learning. No other West Saxon king played as important a role in European politics as Æthelstan and he arranged the marriages of several of his sisters to continental rulers.

Edmund I

Reign
27 October 939 – 26 May 946

Born
921
Wessex, England

Died
26 May 946 (aged 24–25)
Pucklechurch,
Gloucestershire, England

Burial
Glastonbury Abbey

Wife
1 Saint Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury

Wife
2 Æthelflæd of Damerham

Child
1 Eadwig

Child
2 Edgar the Peaceful

House
of
Wessex

Father
Edward the Elder

Mother
Eadgifu of Kent

Edmund came to the throne in 939, with little opposition. His reign was marked by constant warfare, including conquests or reconquests of the Midlands, Northumbria, and Strathclyde (The last of which was ceded to Malcolm I of Scotland). Edmund was assassinated after six and-a-half years as king, while attending Mass in Pucklechurch Gloucestershire.

Eadred
Reign
26 May 946 – 23 November 955

Born
923
Wessex, England

Died
23 November 955 (aged 31–32)
Frome, Somerset

Burial
Old Minster,
Winchester.

House
of
Wessex

Father
Edward, King of Wessex

Mother
Eadgifu of Kent

Eadred (also Edred) was King of the English from 946 until his death. His chief achievement was to bring the Kingdom of Northumbria under total English control, which occurred with the defeat and expulsion of Eric Bloodaxe in 954. Eadred died at the age of 32 having never married.

Eadwig the All-Fair

Reign
23 November 955 – 1 October 959

Born
940
Wessex, England

Died
1 October 959
(aged 19)
Gloucester

Burial
Winchester Cathedral

Wife
Ælfgifu (annulled)

House
of
Wessex

Mother
Saint Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury

Eadwig became King in 955 aged 15. His short reign was tarnished by disputes with nobles and men of the church, including Archbishops Dunstan and Oda. The annulment of the marriage of Eadwig and Æthelfgifu is unusual in that it was against their will, politically motivated by the supporters of Dunstan. The Church at the time regarded any union within seven degrees of consanguinity as incestuous.

He died in 959, having ruled less
than four years. He was buried in
the capital Winchester.

Edgar the Peaceful

Reign
1 October 959 – 8 July 975

Born
943/944
Died
8 July 975 (aged 31/32)
Winchester

Burial
Glastonbury Abbey

Wife
1 Æthelflæd

Wife
2 Saint Wulfthryth of Wilton

Wife
3 Ælfthryth

Children
1 Edward

2 Edith of Wilton
3 Edmund (No Image Available)

4 Æthelred the Unready

House
of
Wessex

Father
Edmund

Mother
Saint Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury

He came to the throne as a teenager. As king, Edgar further consolidated the political unity achieved by his predecessors, with his reign being noted for its relative stability. His most trusted advisor was Dunstan, whom he recalled from exile and made Archbishop of Canterbury. The pinnacle of Edgar’s reign was his coronation at Bath in 973 which was organised by Dunstan and forms the basis for the current coronation ceremony.

Saint Edward the Martyr

Reign
8 July 975 – 18 March 978

Born
962

Died
18 March 978 (aged 15–16)
Corfe Castle, Dorset, England

Burial
Wareham, Dorset
later Shaftesbury
later Woking

House
of
Wessex

Father
Edgar, King of England

Mother
Æthelflæd or Wulfthryth

On Edgar’s death, the leadership of England was contested, with some supporting Edward’s claim to be king and others supporting his younger half-brother Æthelred the Unready, recognized as a legitimate son of Edgar. Edward was chosen as king and was crowned by his main clerical supporters, the archbishops Dunstan of Canterbury and Oswald of Worcester. The great nobles of the kingdom, ealdormen Ælfhere and Æthelwine, quarrelled and civil war almost broke out.

In the so-called anti-monastic reaction, the nobles took advantage of Edward’s weakness to dispossess the Benedictine reformed monasteries of lands and other properties that King Edgar had granted to them. Edward’s short reign was brought to an end by his murder at Corfe Castle in 978 in circumstances that are not altogether clear. His body was reburied with great ceremony at Shaftesbury Abbey early in 979. In 1001 Edward’s remains were moved to a more prominent place in the abbey. Edward was already reckoned a saint by this time.

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