Aethelred I

Assembled by D. A. Sharpe



®thelred I (Old English: ®_elr¾d, sometimes rendered as Ethelred, "noble counsel"; c._847 Ð 871) was King of Wessex from 865 to 871. He was the fourth son of King ®thelwulf of Wessex. He succeeded his brother, ®thelberht (Ethelbert), as King of Wessex and Kent in 865.


Aethelred Mucil is the 7th great grand uncle of Count Poitou William, the 14th great grand uncle of Sir Edward Southworth, the husband of Alice Carpenter, my 7th great Grandmother. Southworth was her first husband.  After his death, she came to the New World and married Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony, a leader among the first Mayflower passengers.  My descending is through Alice and William. I am the 24th great grandson of Plantagenet Geoffrey (1113-11151).


In 853 his younger brother Alfred went to Rome, and according to contemporary references in the Liber Vitae of San Salvatore, Brescia, ®thelred accompanied him. He first witnessed his father's charters as an ®theling in 854, and kept this title until he succeeded to the throne in 865. He may have acted as an underking as early as 862, and in 862 and 863 he issued charters as King of the West Saxons. This must have been as deputy or in the absence of his elder brother, King ®thelberht, as there is no record of conflict between them and he continued to witness his brother's charters as a king's son in 864


In the same year as ®thelred's succession as king (865), a great Viking army arrived in England, and within five years they had destroyed two of the principal English kingdoms, Northumbria and East Anglia.


In 868 ®thelred's brother-in-law, Burgred king of Mercia, appealed to him for help against the Vikings. ®thelred and his brother, the future Alfred the Great, led a West Saxon army to Nottingham, but there was no decisive battle, and Burgred bought off the Vikings.In 874 the Vikings defeated Burgred and drove him into exile.


In 870 the Vikings turned their attention to Wessex, and on 4 January 871 at the Battle of Reading, ®thelred suffered a heavy defeat. Although he was able to re-form his army in time to win a victory at the Battle of Ashdown, he suffered further defeats on 22 January at Basing, and 22 March at Meretun.


In about 867, ®thelred effectively established a common currency between Wessex and Mercia by adopting the Mercian type of lunette penny, and coins minted exclusively at London and Canterbury then circulated in the two kingdoms.


®thelred died shortly after Easter April 23, 871, and is buried at Wimborne Minster in Dorset. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Alfred the Great.


®thelred's wife was probably called Wulfthryth. A charter of 868 refers to Wulfthryth regina (queen). It was rare in ninth century Wessex for the king's wife to be given the title queen, and it is only definitely known to have been given to ®thelwulf's second wife, Judith of Flanders. Historians Barbara Yorke and Pauline Stafford, and the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England, treat the charter as showing that Wulfthryth was ®thelred's queen. She might have been the daughter or sister of Ealdorman Wulfhere of Wiltshire, who forfeited his lands charged with deserting King Alfred for the Danes in about 878. However, Sean Miller in his Oxford Online DNB article on ®thelred does not mention her Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge in the notes to their 1983 edition of Asser's Life of King Alfred the Great refer to a "mysterious 'Wulfthryth regina'" but Keynes stated in 1994 that she was "presumably the wife of King ®thelred".


®thelred had two known sons, ®thelhelm and ®thelwold.  ®thelwold disputed the throne with Edward the Elder after Alfred's death in 899. ®thelred's descendants include the tenth-century historian, ®thelweard, and ®thelnoth, an eleventh-century Archbishop of Canterbury.