Wife of ∆thelwulf, king of Wessex.

All that is known of Osburh appears in the work of Asser (and sources depending on him), who assigns an ancestry that is clearly mythical ["Mater [∆lfredi] quoque eiusdem Osburh nominabatur, religiosa nimium femina, nobilis ingenio, nobilis et genere; quae erat filia Oslac, famosi pincernae ∆thelwulfi regis." Asser, c. 2 (p. 4)]. See the page of Oslac for further details.

Date of birth: Unknown.
Place of birth:

Date of death: Unknown.
Place of death: Unknown.
Some controversy has been generated over a famous passage in Asser, in which ∆lfred's mother tells him and his brothers that she will give a book to the first to learn, whereupon ∆lfred promptly learns it and wins the book [Asser, c. 23 (p. 20)]. Some have argued that this incident could not have occurred until after ∆thelwulf's second marriage with Judith in 856, and that this therefore proves that Osburh was still living after 856 [e.g., Lappenberg (1834-81), 2: 30]. Others have argued that the event took place before 856, and that Osburh was already dead at the time that ∆thelwulf married Judith [e.g., Stevenson, in his notes to Asser, 221-5]. The details on this matter are too vague to be certain. Although Osburh's survival past 856 would make ∆thelwulf technically a bigamist, it cannot be ruled out.

Father: Oslac, pincerna of king ∆thelwulf.

Mother: Unknown.

Spouse: ∆thelwulf, d. 858 (prob. 13 Jan.), king of Wessex.

Possible children:
Although it seems likely that Osburh was also the mother of at least some of ∆thelwulf's other children, there is no direct statement to that effect in any of the early sources.

MALE ∆thelbeald, 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.

FEMALE ∆thelswith, d. 888, bur. Pavia;
m. 853 (after Easter), Burgred, d. after 874, bur. Rome, king of Mercia, 852-874.

MALE ∆thelbeorht, d. 865◊6, bur. Sherborne, king of Kent, 858-865◊6; king of Wessex, 860-865◊6.

MALE ∆thelred I, d. soon after Easter, 871, bur Wimborne, king of Wessex, 865◊6-871;
prob. m. Wulfthryth, fl. 868.

Known child:
Osburh is explicitly called the mother of ∆lfred by Asser (see above).

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


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

Lappenberg (1834-1881) = J. M. Lappenberg, A History of England under the Anglo-Saxon Kings (translated by Benjamin Thorpe, new edition by E. C. Ottť), 2 vols. (London, 1881, orig. pub. 1834).

Compiled by Stewart Baldwin

First uploaded 20 June 2010.

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