Biography of Ælfred Ætheling Wessex 1005-1036

Paternal Family Tree: Wessex

978 Murder of King Edward the Martyr

1016 Death of King Æthelred "Unready"

1017 Marriage of Canute and Emma of Normandy

1036 Murder of Aelfred Ætheling Wessex by Godwinson

Murder of King Edward the Martyr

On 18 Mar 978 [his uncle] King Edward "Martyr" I of England (age 16) was murdered at Corfe Castle, Dorset [Map] when visiting his younger half-brother [his father] Æthelred (age 12) and his [Æthelred's] mother [his grandmother] Aelfthryth (age 33). He was buried in Wareham, Dorset [Map] without ceremony. His half brother King Æthelred "Unready" II of England (age 12) succeeded II King England.

Around 985 [his father] King Æthelred "Unready" II of England (age 19) and Aelfgifu of York Queen Consort England were married. She by marriage Queen Consort England. She the daughter of Thored Northumbria. He the son of King Edgar "Peaceful" I of England and Aelfthryth Queen Consort England (age 40).

In 1002 [his father] King Æthelred "Unready" II of England (age 36) and [his mother] Emma aka Ælfgyfu of Normandy Queen Consort England (age 17) were married. She by marriage Queen Consort England. She the daughter of Richard "Fearless" Normandy I Duke Normandy and Gunnora Countess Ponthieu. He the son of King Edgar "Peaceful" I of England and Aelfthryth Queen Consort England (age 57).

Around 1005 Ælfred Ætheling Wessex was born to King Æthelred "Unready" II of England (age 39) and Emma aka Ælfgyfu of Normandy Queen Consort England (age 20).

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 1013. The year after that Archbishop Elfeah was martyred, the [his father] king (age 47) appointed Lifing to the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury. And in the same year, before the month August, came King Sweyne (age 53) with his fleet to Sandwich, Kent [Map]; and very soon went about East-Anglia into the Humber-mouth, and so upward along the Trent, until he came to Gainsborough [Map]. Then soon submitted to him Earl Utred, and all the Northumbrians, and all the people of Lindsey, and afterwards the people of the Five Boroughs, and soon after all the army to the north of Watling-street; and hostages were given him from each shire. When he understood that all the people were subject to him, then ordered he that his army should have provision and horses; and he then went southward with his main army, committing his ships and the hostages to his son [his step-father] Knute (age 18). And after he came over Watling-street, they wrought the greatest mischief that any army could do. Then he went to Oxford, Oxfordshire [Map]; and the population soon submitted, and gave hostages; thence to Winchester, where they did the same. Thence went they eastward to London; and many of the party sunk in the Thames, because they kept not to any bridge. When he came to the city, the population would not submit; but held their ground in full fight against him, because therein was King Ethelred (age 47), and Thurkill with him. Then went King Sweyne (age 53) thence to Wallingford; and so over Thames westward to Bath, where he abode with his army. Thither came Alderman Ethelmar, and all the western thanes with him, and all submitted to Sweyne (age 53), and gave hostages. When he had thus settled all, then went he northward to his ships; and all the population fully received him, and considered him full king. The population of London also after this submitted to him, and gave hostages; because they dreaded that he would undo them. Then bade Sweyne (age 53) full tribute and forage for his army during the winter; and Thurkill bade the same for the army that lay at Greenwich, Kent [Map]: besides this, they plundered as oft as they would. And when this nation could neither resist in the south nor in the north, King Ethelred (age 47) abode some while with the fleet that lay in the Thames; and the [his mother] lady (age 28)57 went afterwards over sea to her brother [his uncle] Richard (age 49), accompanied by Elfsy, Abbot of Peterborough. The king sent Bishop Elfun with the ethelings, [his brother] Edward (age 10) and Alfred (age 8), over sea; that he might instruct them. Then went the king from the fleet, about midwinter, to the Isle of Wight [Map]; and there abode for the season; after which he went over sea to Richard (age 49), with whom he abode till the time when Sweyne (age 53) died. Whilst the lady (age 28) was with her brother (age 49) beyond sea, Elfsy, Abbot of Peterborough, who was there with her, went to the abbey called Boneval, where St. Florentine's body lay; and there found a miserable place, a miserable abbot, and miserable monks: because they had been plundered. There he bought of the abbot, and of the monks, the body of St. Florentine, all but the head, for 500 pounds; which, on his return home, he offered to Christ and St. Peter.

Note 57. This was a title bestowed on the queen.

Death of King Æthelred "Unready"

On 23 Apr 1016 [his father] King Æthelred "Unready" II of England (age 50) died. His son [his half-brother] King Edmund "Ironside" I of England (age 26) succeeded I King England although tthe Witan meeting at Southampton chose [his step-father] King Canute of England (age 21).

Marriage of Canute and Emma of Normandy

Around Aug 1017 [his step-father] King Canute of England (age 22) and [his mother] Emma aka Ælfgyfu of Normandy Queen Consort England (age 32) were married. She the daughter of Richard "Fearless" Normandy I Duke Normandy and Gunnora Countess Ponthieu. He the son of Sweyn "Forkbeard" King Denmark King Norway King England.

John of Worcester. 1036. The innocent ethelings Alfred (age 31) and Edward, sons of Ethelred, formerly king of England, sailed from Normandy, where they had been for many years at the court of their uncle Richard, and, attended by many Norman knights, crossed over to England with a small fleet to confer with their [his mother] mother (age 51), who still abode at Winchester. Some of the men in power were very indignant at this, being much more devoted to Harold (age 20), however unjustly, than to the ethelings: especially, it is said, earl Godwin (age 35). The earl, therefore, arrested Alfred (age 31) on his road to London to confer with King Harold (age 20) as he had commanded, and threw him into prison.

Murder of Aelfred Ætheling Wessex by Godwinson

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 1036. This year came hither Alfred the innocent etheling (age 31), son of King Ethelred, and wished to visit his [his mother] mother (age 51), who abode at Winchester: but Earl Godwin (age 35), and other men who had much power in this land, did not suffer it; because such conduct was very agreeable to Harold (age 20), though it was unjust.

Him did Godwin let, and in prison set. His friends, who did not fly, they slew promiscuously. And those they did not sell, like slaughter'd cattle fell! Whilst some they spared to bind, only to wander blind! Some ham-strung, helpless stood, whilst others they pursued. A deed more dreary none in this our land was done, since Englishmen gave place to hordes of Danish race. But repose we must in God our trust, that blithe as day with Christ live they, who guiltless died- their country's pride! The prince with courage met each cruel evil yet; till 'twas decreed, they should him lead, all bound, as he was then, to Ely-bury fen. But soon their royal prize bereft they of his eyes! Then to the monks they brought their captive; where he sought a refuge from his foes till life's sad evening close. His body ordered then these good and holy men, according to his worth, low in the sacred earth, to the steeple full-nigh, in the south aile to lie of the transept west- his soul with Christ doth rest.

John of Worcester. 1036. At the same tune he dispersed some of his attendants, others he put in fetters and afterwards deprived of their sight, some he scalped and tortured, amputated their hands and feet and heavily mulcted: many he ordered to be sold, and put to death six hundred of them at Guildford, Surrey [Map] with various torments: but we trust that the souls of those, who, guilty of no crime, had their bodies so cruelly slaughtered in the fields, are now rejoicing with the saints in paradise. On hearing of this, queen [his mother] Elgiva (age 51) sent back her son [his brother] Edward (age 33), who had remained with her, in all haste to Normandy. Then, by order of Godwin (age 35) and others, Alfred (age 31) was conducted, heavily chained, to the Isle of Ely [Map]; but as soon as the ship touched the land, his eyes were most barbarously plucked out while he was on board, and in this state he was taken to the monastery [Map] and handed over to the custody of the monks. There he shortly afterwards died, and his body was buried, with due honours, in the south porch at the west end of the church [Map]; but his spirit is in the enjoyment of the delights of paradise.

In 1036 Ælfred Ætheling Wessex (age 31) returned to England where he and his men were met by Godwin Godwinson 1st Earl Kent and Wessex (age 35) at Guildford, Surrey [Map]; ostensibly friendly. The following day, however, Godwin Godwinson 1st Earl Kent, Earl Wessex 1001-1053's men attacked Aelfred's (age 31) men murdering most of them. Aelfred (age 31) was taken to Ely [Map] where he was blinded and died shortly thereafter.

John of Worcester. 1040. Harold (age 24), king of England, died at London, and was buried at Westminster. After his funeral, the nobles of almost the whole of England sent envoys to [his half-brother] Hardicanute (age 22) at Bruges, where he was staying with his [his mother] mother (age 55), and, thinking it was for the best, invited him to come to England and ascend the throne. Thereupon, he fitted out fifty ships, and embarking Danish troops, before midsummer sailed over to England, where he was received with universal joy, and shortly afterwards crowned; but during his government he did nothing worthy his royal power. For as soon as he began to reign, calling to mind the injuries which both he and his mother had suffered at the hands of his predecessor, and reputed brother, king Harold (age 24), he despatched to London, Ælfric, archbishop of York, and earl Godwin (age 39), with Stor, the master of his household, Edric, his steward, Thrond, captain of his guards, and other men of high rank, with orders to dig up the body of Harold (age 24) and throw it into a sewer; and when it was thrown there, he caused it to be dragged out and cast into the river Thames. Shortly afterwards, it was picked up by a fisherman, and being immediately brought to the Danes, was honourably buried by them in a cemetery they possessed at London.60 After this, he ordered that eight marks should be paid to every rower in his fleet, and twelve to each steersman, to be levied from the whole of England; a tax so burthensome, that scarcely any one would pay it, and he became thoroughly detested by those who at first were most anxious for his coming. Besides, he was greatly incensed against earl Godwin (age 39), and Living, bishop of Worcester, for the death of his brother Alfred, of which they were accused by Ælfric, archbishop of York, and some others. In consequence, he took the bishopric of Worcester from Living and gave it to Ælfric; but the following year, he ejected Ælfric and graciously restored Living, who had made his peace with him.

Note 60. The cemetery of St Clement-Danes, where the Northmen had a settlement on the bank of the Thames, outside the walls of London. The Saxon Chronicle is silent as to Harold's corpse being thrown into the Thames and fished up, but Henry of Huntingdon gives the same account as our author.

John of Worcester. 1040. Godwin (age 39), to obtain the king's favour, presented him with a galley of admirable workmanship, with a gilded figure-head, rigged with the best materials, and manned with eighty chosen soldiers splendidly armed. Every one of them had on each arm a golden bracelet weighing six ounces, and wore a triple coat of mail and a helmet partly gilt, and a sword with gilded hilt girt to his side, and a Danish battle-axe inlaid with gold and silver hanging from his left shoulder; in his left hand he bore a shield, the boss and studs of which were also gilt, and in his right hand a lance, called in the English tongue "Atagar."61 Moreover, he made oath to the [his half-brother] king (age 22), with almost all the chief men and greater thanes in England, that it was not by his counsel, or at his instance, that his brother's eyes were put out, but that he had only obeyed the commands of his lord, king Harold (age 24).

Note 61. Anglo-Saxon, atgar; old Norsk, atgeirr.

Ælfred Ætheling Wessex 1005-1036 appears on the following Descendants Family Trees:

King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex 849-899

Rollo Normandy Duke Normandy 846-930

Royal Ancestors of Ælfred Ætheling Wessex 1005-1036

Kings Wessex: Son of King Æthelred "Unready" II of England

Ancestors of Ælfred Ætheling Wessex 1005-1036

Great x 4 Grandfather: King Æthelwulf of Wessex

Great x 3 Grandfather: King Alfred "The Great" of Wessex

Great x 4 Grandmother: Osburgh Queen Consort Wessex

Great x 2 Grandfather: King Edward "Elder" of the Anglo Saxons

Great x 4 Grandfather: Æthelred Mucel Mercia Earldorman Gaini

Great x 3 Grandmother: Æalhswith of Mercia Queen Consort of England

Great x 4 Grandmother: Eadburh of Mercia

Great x 1 Grandfather: King Edmund I of England

Great x 3 Grandfather: Sigehelm Earldorman Kent

Great x 2 Grandmother: Eadgifu Kent Queen Anglo Saxons

GrandFather: King Edgar "Peaceful" I of England

Great x 1 Grandmother: Aelfgifu of Shaftesbury Queen Consort England

Father: King Æthelred "Unready" II of England

Great x 1 Grandfather: Ordgar Earldorman Devon

GrandMother: Aelfthryth Queen Consort England

Ælfred Ætheling Wessex

Great x 2 Grandfather: Rollo Normandy Duke Normandy

Great x 1 Grandfather: William "Longsword" Normandy I Duke Normandy

Great x 2 Grandmother: Poppa Unknown Duchess Normandy

GrandFather: Richard "Fearless" Normandy I Duke Normandy

Great x 1 Grandmother: Sprota Unknown

Mother: Emma aka Ælfgyfu of Normandy Queen Consort England

Great x 1 Grandfather: Unknown Unknown

GrandMother: Gunnora Countess Ponthieu