Name: King Edward The Elder
Parents: Alfred the Great and Ealswith of Mercia
House of: Wessex
Crowned: June 8, 900 at Kingston-upon-Thames, aged c.29
Married: (1) Ecgywn (2) Elfleda and (3) Edgiva.
Children: 5 sons and 11 daughters
Died: July 17, 924 at Farndon-on-Dee
Buried at: Winchester
Succeeded by: his son Æthelstan
King of the West Saxons (Wessex). He became king in 899 upon the death of his father, Alfred the Great. His court was at Winchester, previously the capital of Wessex. He captured the eastern Midlands and East Anglia from the Danes in 917 and became ruler of Mercia in 918 upon the death of the great English warrior Queen Æthelflæd, his sister.
All but two of his charters give his title as “Anglorum Saxonum rex” or “king of the Anglo-Saxons”.
He reconquered southeast England and the Midlands from the Viking Danes, uniting Wessex and Mercia with the help of Æthelflæd. By the time of his death his kingdom was the most powerful in the Isles. He was succeeded by his son the fearsome English warrior King, Æthelstan.
Edward extended the tight mutually supporting system of burghal defence begun by Alfred the Great, building new burhs, for example at Hertford and Buckingham, and twin burghs at Bedford and Stamford.
King Edward the Elder
Alfred died in 899 AD, but the struggle with the Norsemen had yet to pass through strangely contrasted phases. Alfred’s blood gave the English a series of great rulers, and while his inspiration held victory did not quit the Christian ranks. In his son Edward, who was immediately acclaimed King, the armies had already found a redoubtable leader. A quarrel arose between Edward and his cousin, Ethelwald, who fled to the Danelaw and aroused the Vikings of Northumbria and East Anglia to a renewed inroad upon his native land. In 902 Ethelwald and the Danish King crossed the upper reaches of the River Thames at Cricklade and ravaged part of Wiltshire.
Edward in retaliation ordered the invasion of East Anglia, with an army formed of the Men of Kent and London. They devastated Middle Anglia; but the Kentish contingent, being slow to withdraw, was overtaken and brought to battle by the infuriated Danes. The Danes were victorious, and made a great slaughter; but, as fate would have it, both Eric, the Danish king and the renegade Ethelwald perished on the field, and the new king, Guthrum II, made peace with Edward on the basis of Alfred’s treaty of 886 AD, but with additions which show that the situation had changed. It is now assumed that the Danes are Christians and will pay their tithes, while the parish priest is to be fined if he misleads his flock as to the time of a feast-day or a festival.
In 910 AD this treaty was broken by the Danes, and the war was renewed in Mercia. The main forces of Wessex and Kent had already been sent by Edward, who was with the fleet, to the aid of the Mercians, and in heavy fighting at Tettenhall, in Staffordshire in the Midlands of England, the Danes were decisively defeated. This English victory was a milestone in the long conflict. The Danish armies in Northumbria never recovered from the battle, and the Danish Midlands and East Anglia thus lay open to English conquest. Up to this point Mercia and Wessex had been the defenders, often reduced to the most grievous straits. But now the tide had turned. Fear camped with the Danes.
Ethelfleda (Æthelflaeda ) – English Warrior Princess
Edward’s sister had been married to Earl Ethelred of Mercia. Ethelred died in 911 AD, and his widow, the formidable Ethelfleda,born to Alfred the Great in 872 AD, succeeded and surpassed him. In those savage times the emergence of a woman ruler was enough to betoken her possession of extraordinary qualities. Edward the Elder, as he was afterwards called, and his sister, “the Lady of the Mercians”, conducted the national war in common, and carried its success to heights which Alfred never knew. The policy of the two Kingdoms, thus knit by blood and need, Angles and Saxons marched in perfect harmony, and the next onslaught of the Danes was met with confident alacrity and soon broken. The victors then set themselves deliberately to the complete conquest of the Dane-law and its Five Boroughs. This task occupied the next ten years, brother and sister advancing in concert upon their respective lines, and fortifying towns they took at every stage. In 917 AD, when Edward stormed Tempsford, near Bedford, and King Guthrum II was killed, the whole resistance of East Anglia collapsed, and all the Danish leaders submitted to Edward as their protector and lord. They were granted in return their estates and the right to live according to their Danish customs. At the same time “the Lady of the Mercians” conquered Leicester, and received even from York offers of submission. In this hour of success Ethelfleda died, and Edward, hastening to Tamworth, was invited by the nobles of Mercia to occupy the vacant throne.
Alfred’s son was now undisputed King of all England South of the River Humber in Northern England, and the British Princes of North and South Wales hastened to offer their perpetual allegiance. Driving Northwards in the next two years, Edward built forts at Manchester, at Thelwall in Cheshire, and at Bakewell in the Peak country. The Danes of Northumbria saw their end approaching. It seemed as if a broad and lasting unity was about to be reached. Edward the Elder reigned five years more in triumphant peace, and when he died in 924 AD his authority and his gifts passed to a third remarkable sovereign, the greatly feared English King Athelstan.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Edward The Elder" https://englishhistory.net/middle-ages/edward-the-elder/, February 17, 2022