MALE Ęthelwulf

King of the West Saxons (Wessex), 839-855.
King of Kent, ca. 825?-839; 855?-858.

Ęthelwulf appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle leading an army for his father Ecgbeorht in 825 [ASC(A,E) s.a. 823(=825)]. Under Ecgbeorht, Ęthelwulf was sub-king in Kent. The date at which this occurred is unclear. If certain doubtful charters can be trusted, Ęthelwulf was named as king soon after the West Saxon conquest of Kent in 825 [Cart. Sax. 1: 549-50 (#394), 550-1 (#395), 578 (#413)]. However, it is only in the year 838, late in Ecgbeorht's reign, that we find clear confirmation of Ęthelwulf's royal title ["Ego . Ecgbearhtus rex cum consensu dilęctissimi filii nostri Ęšęlwulfi regis ..." ibid., 1: 585 (#418); "Ego Ętheluulf rex Cancie ... Cum consensu & licentia patris mei Ecgberti regis Occidentalium Saxonum ..." ibid., 1: 586 (#419)]. In 839, Ęthelwulf succeeded his father as king of the West Saxons, while Ęthelstan, who was either a brother or elder son of Ęthelwulf, became king in Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex ["... & se Ecgbryht ricsode .xxxvii. wińt [&] .vii. monaž. & feng Eželwulf Ecgbrehting to Wesseaxna rice, & he salde his suna Ęželstane Cantwara rice & East Seaxna & Sužrigea & Suž Seaxna." ASC(A) s.a. 836 (=839); "Anno ab incarnatione domini .DCCC.XXX.IX. primo videlicet anno regni Ęšelwulfi regis post obitum patris sui" Cart. Sax. 1: 594 (#423)]. In 855, Ęthelwulf went to Rome, part of a continental trip which included his second marriage to Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald [ASC(A) s.a. 855]. According to Asser, his son Ęthelbeald then conspired against his father, and as a result received the Western part of the kingdom (Wessex), while Ęthelwulf remained king of the eastern portion (probably Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Essex) [Asser, c. 12 (pp. 9-10)]. When Ęthelwulf died in 858 [see below], his other son Ęthelbeorht succeeded to Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Essex.

Date of birth: Unknown.
Place of birth:

Date of death: 858, prob. 13 January.
Place of burial: Winchester.
The chronology of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is difficult and confused during this period. The annal of "855" covers events of more than one year, and states that he died two years after his return from the Franks, and was buried at Winchester, after a reign of eighteen and a half years ["... & ymb .ii. gear žęs še he on Francum com he gefor. & his lic liž ęt Wintanceastre, & he ricsode nigoteože healf gear." ASC(A) s.a. 855]. Fortunately, the year of Ęthelwulf's death is independently given as 858 by two foreign sources of high quality, Prudentius of Troyes (Annales Bertiniani) and the Annals of Ulster ["Edilvulf rex occidentalium Saxonum moritur; relictam eius, Iudit reginam, Adalboldus, filius eius, uxorem ducit." Ann. Bertin., s.a. 858, p. 49; "... Adulf rex Saxan, mortui sunt." AU, s.a. 857 (=858)]. John of Worcester gives 13 January as the day of the year ["Defuncto autem illo idibus Januarii, et apud Wintoniam sepulto, ..." John Worc., s.a. 855 (1: 78)].

Father: Ecgbeorht, d. 839, king of Wessex, 802-839.

Supposed mother: Rędburh, regis Francorum sororia.
[Searle (1899), 343, citing "MS Trin Coll Oxf x"] The name of Ecgbeorht's wife does not occur in any early source.

If Ęthelstan was in fact a son of Ęthelwulf, then it would be likely that Ęthelwulf had another wife previous to Osburh.

(1) Osburh, daughter of Oslac pincerna.
["Mater [Ęlfredi] quoque eiusdem Osburh nominabatur, religiosa nimium femina, nobilis ingenio, nobilis et genere; quae erat filia Oslac, famosi pincernae Ęthelwulfi regis." Asser c. 2 (p. 4)]

(2) m., at Verberie, near Senlis, 1 October 856, Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald, king of the West Franks, emperor.
["Edilvulf rex occidentalium Anglorum Roma rediens, Iudith, filiam Karli regis, menso Iulio desponsatam, Kalendis Octobribus in Vermaria palatio in matrimonium accipit, ..." Ann. Bertin., s.a. 856, 47; "Ęthelwulfus ... Quo peracto, ad patriam suam remeavit, adferens secum Iuthittam, Karoli, Francorum regis, filiam." Asser, c. 11 (p. 9)]

Eldest son or brother:

MALE Ęthelstan, fl. 839-851, king of Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex.
There are conflicting account of the parentage of Ęthelstan in the sources, with some sources making him a son of Ecgbeorht and others making him a son of Ęthelwulf. Chronology appears to favor making Ęthelstan a son of Ecgbeorht, but there are two charters that, if genuine, appear to settle the matter in favor of Ęthelwulf as the father. The evidence is discussed in detail on the page of Ecgbeorht. If Ęthelstan was a son of Ęthelwulf, it is unlikely that he was also a son of Osburh, as Osburh's son Ęlfred was probably not born until ca. 848/9.

The West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List, which probably achieved its present form in the reign of Ęlfred, gives the following account of the succession of the sons of Ęthelwulf to the throne of Wessex: "Ond ša feng Ęželbald his sunu to rice & heold .v. gear. ža feng Ęšelbyrht his brožur to & heold .v. gear. ža feng Ęšered his brošor to rice & heold .v. gear. ža feng Ęlfred hyra brožer to rice, ..." [Dumville (1986), 25]. Other early sources include the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle [e.g., ASC(A) s.a. 855, 860, 866, 871], and Asser's life of Ęlfred [Asser, passim].

MALE Ęthelbeald, d. 860, bur. Sherborne, king of Wessex, 855-860;
Judith, his father's widow, daughter of Charles the Bald, king of the West Franks, emperor.
Ęthelbeald's first certain appearance is in 847 as a witness to one of his father's charters ["Signum manus Ęšelbaldi filii regis" Cart. Sax. 2: 34 (#451)]. According to Asser, Ęthelbeald conspired against Ęthelwulf during the latter's absence at Rome in 855, and successfully obtained the West-Saxon kingdom [Asser, c. 12 (pp. 9-10)]. Although Asser (along with those using him as a source) is the only source for this claim, it is supported by the West Saxon king lists, which give Ęthelbeald a five year reign. He died in 860 ["Her Ęšelbald cining foršferde. & his liš ęt Scireburnan." ASC(A) s.a. 860; Asser, c. 18 (p. 17)].

FEMALE Ęthelswith, d. 888, bur. Pavia;
m. 853 (after Easter), Burgred, d. after 874, bur. Rome, king of Mercia, 852-874.
Ęthelswith married king Burgred of Mercia after Easter in 853 ["Ond žęs ofer Eastron geaf Ęželwulf cyning his dohtor Burgrede cyninge of Wesseaxum on Merce." ASC(A) s.a. 853; "& Burhred Myrcene cining feng to Ęšelwulfes dohtor WestSeaxna cininges." ASC(E) s.a. 852]. Burgred and Ęthelswith can be found on numerous Mercian charters [see Sawyer (1968), 123-5]. Burgred reigned until 874, when he was driven out by the Vikings after a 22 year reign. He settled in Rome, and was buried in St. Mary's Church in the English Quarter in that city [ASC(A) s.a. 874]. Ęthelswith died in 888, and was buried in Pavia ["& Ęželswiž cuen, sio węs Ęlfredes sweostor cyninges, foržferde, & hire lic liž ęt Pafian." ASC(A) s.a. 888; similarly ASC(E) s.a. 888]. When Asser mentions the will of Ęthelwulf, he refers to the daughter of Ęthelwulf in the singular, suggesting that he had only one daughter ["... epistolam: in qua et regni inter filios suos, duos scilicet seniores, et propriae hereditatis inter filios et filiam et etiam propinquos, ..." Asser, c. 16 (p. 14)].

MALE Ęthelbeorht, d. 865×6, bur. Sherborne, king of Kent, 858-865×6; king of Wessex, 860-865×6.
Ęthelbeorht succeeded his father in 858 as king of Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex ["Ond ža feng<on> Ęželwulfes suna twegen to rice, Ęželbald to Wesseaxna rice, & Ęželbryht to Cantwara rice, & to East Seaxna rice, & to Sužrigea, & to Suž Seaxna rice; & ža ricsode Ęželbald .v. gear." ASC(A) s.a. 858]. In 860, he succeeded his brother Ęthelbeald as king of the West Saxons ["... & feng Ęšelbriht to eallum žam rice his brošor. ... & se Ęželbryht ricsode .v. gear, & his lic liž ęt Scireburnan." ASC(A) s.a. 860]. Since the year "866" of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle actually began in September 865, and Ęthelbeorht is given a reign of only five years in the king lists, he may have died late in 865 [see Beaven (1918), 340]. However, if his brother Ęthelbald died late in 860 (his exact date of death is unknown), then Ęthelbeorht could have died early in 866 and still only have reigned five years and a few months. Doubts have sometimes been expressed that Ęthelbeorht was a son of Ęthelwulf, due to the description of Ęthelwulf's will in a preamble to the will of Ęlfred, which mentions bequests of Ęthelwulf (Ašulf) to Ęlfred and his brothers Ęthelbeald and Ęthelred ("... Ašulf cinge min fęder us žrim gebrošrum becwęš. Ašelbolde. & Ęšerede. & me."), and then mentions certain arrangements that the three brothers had with their kinsman (męg) king Ęthelbeorht ("Ęšelbyrhte cincge. uncrum męge.") [Thorpe (1865), 484-492 (with modern English translation); Cart. Sax., 2: 176-180 (#553)]. On the surface, it certainly looks as though Ęlfred regarded Ęthelbeorht to be related in some way other than his brother. However, other apparently nearly contemporary sources (the king lists, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Asser's Life of Ęlfred) quite clearly call Ęthelbeorht a son of Ęthelwulf. Also, in a charter dated 864, king Ęthelbeorht mentions his brothers Ęthelred and Ęlfred, his deceased father Ęthelwulf, and his deceased brother Ęthelbeald ["mķnra brošera Ęšelredes & Ęlfredes ... Ęšelwulfes saule mķnes fęder. & Ęšelbaldes mķnes brošor" Cart. Sax. 2: 121 (#510); Thorpe (1865), 124-7 (with modern English translation)]. Thus, the evidence that Ęthelbeorht was Ęthelwulf's son seems compelling. Perhaps Ęthelbeorht had a different mother from the other brothers.

MALE Ęthelred I, d. soon after Easter, 871, bur Wimborne, king of Wessex, 865×6-871;
prob. m. Wulfthryth, fl. 868.
Ęthelred succeeded his brother Ęthelbeorht as king in late 865 or early 866 ["Her feng Ęžered Ęželbryhtes brožur to Wesseaxna rice;" ASC(A) s.a. 866]. He was succeeded by his brother Ęlfred in 871 ["... & žęs ofer Eastron gefor Ęžered cyning, & he ricsode .v. gear, & his lic liž ęt Winburnan. Ža feng Ęlfred Ęželwulfing his brožur to Wesseaxna rice;" ASC(A) s.a. 871]. Since he had known sons who were apparently legitimate, he was evidently married. His wife was probably the queen Wulfthryth who appears in a doubtful charter of 868 ["Ego Wulfšryd Regina" Cart. Sax. 2: 135 (#520)].

by Osburh:

MALE Ęlfred "the Great", b. ca. 848×9, d. 26 October 899, king of Wessex, 871-899;
Ealhswith, d. 5 December 902×3, daughter of Ęthelred Mucil, ealdorman of the Gaini.


Ann. Bertin. = G. Waitz, ed., Annales Bertiniani (MGH SRG 6, Hannover, 1883).

Asser = William Henry Stevenson, ed., Asser's Life of King Alfred (Oxford, 1959).

AU = Seįn Mac Airt and Gearóid Mac Niocaill, eds., The Annals of Ulster (Dublin, 1983).

Beaven (1918) = Murray L. R. Beaven, "The Beginning of the Year in the Alfredian Chronicle (866-87)", English Historical Review 33 (1918): 328-342.

Cart. Sax. = Walter de Gray Birch, ed., Cartularium Saxonicum, 4 vols. (1885-99).

Dumville (1986) = David N. Dumville, "The West Saxon Genealogical Regnal List: Manuscripts and Texts", Anglia 104 (1986): 1-32.

John Worc. = Benjamin Thorpe, ed., Florentii Wigorniensis monachi chronicon ex chronicis, 2 vols., (London, 1848-9). (The work formerly attributed to Florence of Worcester is now generally attributed to John of Worcester.)

MGH SRG = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum (separate editions).

Onom. Anglo-Sax. = William George Searle, Onomasticon Anglo-Saxonicum (Cambridge, 1897). Spellings of Anglo-Saxon names on this page have been standardized according to this source.

Sawyer (1968) = P. H. Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters. An Annotated List and Bibliography (London, 1968).

Sim. Durh. = Thomas Arnold, ed., Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia, 2 vols. (Rolls Series 75, 1882-5).

Thorpe (1865) = Benjamin Thorpe, ed., Diplomatarium Anglicum Ęvi Saxonici (London, 1865).

Compiled by Stewart Baldwin

First uploaded 20 June 2010.

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