Æthelred II of England King of England
(Abt 0966-1016)


Family Links

1. Ælfgiva

2. Unknown
3. Emma de Normandie

Æthelred II of England King of England

  • Born: Abt 966
  • Marriage (1): Ælfgiva between 980 and 985
  • Marriage (2): Unknown
  • Marriage (3): Emma de Normandie in 1002
  • Died: 23 Apr 1016, London, GB aged about 50
  • BuriedMale: St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Paul's Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AD, GB

  General Notes:

ÆTHELRED, son of EDGAR "the Peaceable" King of England & his second wife Ælfthryth of Devon ([966]-London 23 Apr 1016, bur Old St Paul's Cathedral). Simeon of Durham names "Eadmuind and Egelræd" as the sons of King Eadgar and his wife "the daughter of Ordgar duke of Devonshire…". Roger of Hoveden gives his parentage. When his father died, a large number of nobles promoted the election of Æthelred to succeed instead of his older half-brother, maybe because the latter was considered unsuitable due to his outbursts of rage or because of the inferior status of his mother. He succeeded after the murder of his half-brother in 978 as ÆTHELRED II "the Unready/Unræd/Redeles" King of England, crowned 4 Apr or 4 May 978 at Kingston-upon-Thames. Danish attacks on England recommenced in 980, with raids on Hampshire, Thanet and Cheshire. Raids on Devon and Cornwall followed in 981, and on Dorset in 982. A further wave of attacks started in 988 in Devon. As part of his plan to control the Danes, King Æthelred agreed a non-aggression pact with Richard I "Sans Peur" Comte de Normandie on 1 Mar 991, designed apparently to dissuade either party from sheltering Viking marauders. After a third wave of attacks in 991, King Æthelred signed a treaty with Olaf Tryggveson (who succeeded in [995] as Olav I King of Norway) under which 22,000 pounds of gold and silver was paid in return for a promise of help in thwarting future attacks. The treaty presumably never came into full effect, despite payment of the money, as this was only the first of a long series of "Danegeld" payments funded by heavy taxation which ultimately led to the virtual ruin of King Æthelred's government. The attack of 994, in which for the first time Svend King of Denmark took part, resulted in some English support to declare Svend king from those who despaired of King Æthelred's government. The raids of 997/999 on Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, South Wales, Dorset and Kent, were followed in 1000 by the Danish army moving to Normandy to await the following summer. The king's second marriage in 1002 was presumably part of his continuing efforts to prevent the Normans from allowing the Danes to use their ports from which to attack England. King Æthelred ordered the massacre of Danes in England 13 Nov 1002, which included the death of Gunhild sister of King Svend, although this only resulted in intensified attacks. In a desperate late attempt to strengthen the country's defences, King Æthelred ordered the construction of a fleet of new warships, completed in 1009. Nearly one third of the fleet was lost as a result of the rebellion of Wulfnoth, father of Godwin Earl of Wessex, and the attempt by Brihtric, brother of Eadric "Streona/the Acquisitor", to capture him. A full-scale Danish invasion came in 1013 and by the end of the year Svend King of Denmark had become de facto king of England. King Æthelred fled to Normandy after Christmas 1013, but after Svend's death in Feb 1014 he was invited back, on condition he improved his rule. By end-Apr 1014, Æthelred counter-attacked the Danes in Lindsey, after which the Danish fleet, under King Svend's son Knud, withdrew to Denmark. In August 1015, Knud of Denmark invaded England again. During the latter part of King Æthelred's reign further trouble was caused by the treachery of his son-in-law Eadric "Streona/the Acquisitor", appointed Ealdorman of Mercia in 1007. He acquired a position of considerable influence over the king, only to defect to Knud after this last invasion. The Danes controlled Wessex by the end of 1015, and Northumbria in early 1016, turning their attention to London and the south-east after King Æthelred died. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the death on St George's day 1016 of King Æthelred. The Libellus de Anniversariis of Ramsey Monastery records the death "IX Kal Mai" of "Ethelredus rex Angliæ, qui dedit Brochtune".

[m] firstly ([980/85]) [ÆLFGIVA], daughter of ---. The information about the parentage of the first "wife" of King Æthelred is contradictory. According to Florence of Worcester´s genealogies, she was Ælfgiva, daughter of Ealdorman "Ægelberht", as he names "Ælfgiva, comitis Ægelberhti filia" as mother of King Æthelred´s three sons "Eadmundum, Eadwium et Æthelstanum" and his daughter "Eadgitham". (It should be noted in passing that this is the only example of the root "Ægel-" being found in an Anglo-Saxon name; it is therefore possible that "it represents a transcription error, maybe for "Æthelberhti".) On the other hand, Ailred Abbot of Rievaulx records that she was --- , daughter of Thored Ealdorman of York, naming "filia Torethi…comitis" as the mother of "Edmundum" [King Edmund "Ironsides"]. The Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei, written in [1245], must have used Ailred as its source as it states that the first wife of King Æthelred II was the daughter of "Count Torin". Roger of Wendover is unspecific, noting that "rex Ethelredus" married "cujusdam ducis filiam" by whom he fathered "filium…Eadmundum", although in a later passage he says that King Eadmund had "matrem quondam ignobilem fœminam". No trace of King Æthelred´s first wife has been found in any other contemporary document. In charters dated 996, King Æthelred's mother countersigns "Ælfthryth regina", but there is no mention of the king's wife. This suggests that Ælfgiva (if indeed that was her name) was an "unofficial" wife, having a similar status to Æthelflæd, first "wife" of King Eadgar, King Æthelred´s father. The will of her son ætheling Æthelstan, dated [1014], refers to "the soul of Ælfthryth my grandmother who brought me up" but makes no mention of his mother, which suggests that she played little part in his early life. This seems suprising if she was in fact the mother of all King Æthelred's children who were not born to his known wife Emma, as is generally reported in most secondary sources. There must therefore be some doubt whether [Ælfgiva] was the king's only wife or concubine before his marriage to Emma de Normandie.

[m] [secondly] [---. No direct information has been found on this supposed second "wife" of King Æthelred. However, as noted above, there must be some doubt whether Ælfgiva, if indeed that was her name, was the king´s only wife or concubine before his marriage to Emma de Normandie. In addition, no information has been found in any of the primary sources so far consulted which identifies the mother of King Æthelred´s children, generally attributed by secondary sources to his first marriage, other than his three sons Eadmund, Eadwig and Æthelstan. It is therefore possible that King Æthelred had more than one "unofficial" wives or concubines who may have been the mother(s) of some or all of his children. It is even possible that the unnamed daughter of Ealdorman Thored (referred to by Ailred of Rievaulx) was not the same person as Ælfgiva (named by Florence of Worcester) and that they were both "married" to King Æthelred, either at the same time or one after the other. If this is correct, the sources are contradictory regarding the identity of the mother of King Eadmund "Ironsides".]

m [secondly/thirdly] (betrothed 1000, 1002) as her first husband, EMMA de Normandie, daughter of RICHARD I "Sans Peur" Comte de Normandie & his second wife Gunnora --- ([985]-Winchester 14 Mar 1052, bur Winchester Cathedral, Old Minster). Guillaume de Jumièges names Emma as one of the three daughters of Duke Richard and Gunnor. The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines names "Emma Anglorum regina" as sister of "dux Normannie Richardus II". Emma was described by Henry of Huntingdon as "Emma Normanorum gemma", although it is not known whether this was a particular indication of her beauty or mere hyperbole. She adopted the name "ÆLFGIFU" in England. "Ælfgifu regina" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II between 1002 and 1012, also referred to as "Ælfgifu conlaterana regis". Her first husband sent her to her brother's court in Normandy in 1013 after the invasion of Svend King of Denmark. She was living in Normandy in 1017 when King Æthelred's successor King Canute proposed marriage to her. She married King Canute as her second husband (2 or 31 Jul 1017). Roger of Wendover records the marriage in Jul 1018 of "Cnuto" and "ducem Ricardum…Emmam sororem suam et regis Ethelredi relictam". After the death of her second husband, she continued to live at Winchester. After the election of her step-son as regent in early 1036, it was recognised that she would continue to live there to look after the interests of her son Harthacnut (then absent in Denmark), who had nominally succeeded his father as King of England and Denmark. It is likely that she encouraged her sons by her first husband, Edward and Alfred, to join her. After Harold was recognised as King of England in 1037, Queen Emma was expelled from England and took refuge at Bruges. She commissioned the work later known as the Encomium Emmæ Reginæ from a Flemish convent at Saint-Omer, maybe St Bertin's, designed to promote her son Harthacnut's claim to the English throne. Harthacnut joined her in Bruges in early 1040, and after the death of King Harold, they returned together to England. After the accession of Edward "the Confessor" to the English throne, Emma appears to have supported the rival claim of Magnus King of Norway. Whatever the truth of this, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that King Edward did confiscate her property in 1043. She seems to have spent the last years of her life in retirement in Winchester. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the death of "Ælfgifu Emma, the mother of king Edward and of king Harthacnut" in 1052.

King Æthelred II & his first [wife] had [six] children: Æthelstan, Ecgberht, Eadmund, Eadred, Eadwig and Eadgyth.

King Æthelred II & his [first/second] [wife] had [five] children: Eadgar, Ælfgifu, Wulfhild and two daughters.

King Æthelred II & his [second/third] wife had three children: Eadward, Ælfred and Godgifu.

Æthelred married Ælfgiva between 980 and 985.

Æthelred next married.

Æthelred next married Emma de Normandie, daughter of Richard [I] de Normandie Comte de Normandie and Gunnora, in 1002. (Emma de Normandie was born about 985, died on 14 Mar 1052 in Winchester, Hampshire, SO22, GB and was buried in Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9LS, GB.)

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