House: House of Mercia and Wessex (joining the Angles and the Saxons)
Parents: Father Alfred the Great – Mother Ealhswith
Born: c. 870
Died: 12 June 918 Tamworth, Staffordshire
Burial: St Oswald’s Priory, Gloucester
She was a formidable military leader and came at a time of great threat from Viking incursions into England and was a true credit to her father.
Æthelflaed was already married to Æthelred, then ealdorman of Mercia. Æthelred and Æthelflæd are recorded as having had one daughter, Ælfwynn. Æthelstan, the son of Edward the Elder and the grandson of Alfred, was brought up in their court.
Near the end of the reign of Alfred the Great, Æthelred and Æthelflæd were requested by Werferth, the Bishop of Worcester, to fortify the town, in return for which they shared the rents and other profits which had belonged to the bishop.
Æthelflæd established garrisons in Hereford and Gloucester before 914 and repaired the old walls of Chester in 907. In 910 she built her first fortress; since her husband took no part in the campaign against the Danes, some scholars suggest that she was the real leader of the Mercian people.
|‘King Alfred’s blood’. Æthelflæd was a formidable military leader and tactician. Here she stands over a dead Viking with her brother.|
On her husband’s death in 911 after the Battle of Tettenhall, she was recognised as the “Lady of the Mercians”. This was not a purely honorific title; Æthelflæd was a formidable military leader and tactician and ruled for eight years.
Upon succeeding her husband, she began to plan and build a series of fortresses in English Mercia, ten of which can be identified:
- Bridgnorth (912)
- Tamworth (913)
- Stafford (913)
- Eddisbury (914)
- Warwick (914)
- Chirbury (915)
- Runcorn (915).
Three other fortresses, at Bremesburh, Scergeat and Weardbyrig, have yet to be located.
Æthelflæd allied herself to her brother Edward the Elder. Historian Sir Frank Stenton said that Edward was able to achieve “the outstanding feature of his reign”, the move against the occupying Danes in the south of England, due to being able to rely upon Æthelflæd.
In 916 she led an expedition into Wales to avenge the murder of a Mercian abbot, and succeeded in capturing the wife of the king of Brycheiniog. Edward the Elder issued coinage with novel reverses of extraordinary designs, and it is speculated that this series of coinage was for circulation in the part of Mercia under the rule of Edward and his sister, with the design of the coinage perhaps showing the influence of Æthelflæd.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Aethelflaed Lady of the Mercians ruler of Mercia 911 to 918" https://englishhistory.net/middle-ages/aethelflaed/, March 4, 2022