Wars in early 10C England

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900-24: Edward the Elder and Æthelflæd, 'Lady of the Mercians'

See the Maps of tenth-century England and Maps of England under Edward the Elder.

Chronology in the reign of Edward the Elder

The 'A', 'B', 'C' and 'D' recensions of the ASC and the 'Mercian Register' all describe similar events in the reign of Edward the Elder. Unhelpfully, they are inconsistent in their dating. From 901 to 905, the original dates in 'A' are one year ahead, while 'B', 'C', 'D' and the corrected dates in 'A' are two years ahead. From 906-12 'A' is correct, but from 913-20 it is three years ahead. 'C' and 'D' are one year in advance from 908-14 and omit the later entries for Edward's reign. As a further complication, the various continuators of the ASC for this period used September as the start of the year.

For simplicity the entries give the actual year and then the years under which each annal entry fall.

899-902: The disputed succession

899 (ASC 'C' 901: [Alfred appears to have died in 899. The 'A' recension of ASC puts this annal under 900, while 'C' (and later 'D') give it under the year 901] In this year Alfred the son of Æthelwulf died, six days before All Saints’ Day [26 October]. He was king over the whole English people except for that part which was under Danish rule, and he had held the kingdom for one and a half years less than thirty; and then his son Edwards succeeded to the kingdom.

Then the atheling Æthelwold, his father’s brother’s son [the son of Alfred’s brother and predecessor Æthelred] rode and seized the residence at Wimborne [where King Æthelred had been buried] and at Christchurch [Hampshire], without the permission of the king and his councillors. Then the king rode with the army till he encamped at Badbury [Badbury Rings, a prehistoric earthwork] near Wimborne, and Æthelwold stayed inside the residence with the men who had given allegiance to him; and he had barricaded all the gates against him, and he said that he would either live there or die there. Then meanwhile the atheling stole away by night, and went to the Danish army in Northumbria, and they accepted him as king and gave allegiance to him. [‘A’ makes no reference to Æthelwold being accepted as king, as instead says And the king ordered them to pursue him, and then he could not be overtaken.] Then the woman was seized whom he [Æthelwold] had taken without the king’s permission and contrary to the bishops’ orders – for she had been consecrated a nun.

In the ninth and tenth centuries, the throne of Wessex was not passed by automatic hereditary succession from father to son. Given the state of near-constant warfare, the king needed to be an adult capable of strong military leadership. King Alfred was the youngest of four brothers, each of whom ruled Wessex in turn. In theory, the descendant of any branch of the royal house could make a claim to the throne; seventh-century Northumbria was ruled in alternation by rival dynasties – when one was in power, the other went into exile until it could muster enough military force to bring a challenge in battle. Such dynastic disputes were bloody, divisive and offered an ideal opportunity for the vikings. The ‘Great Army’ chose to attack York in 867 when there were two rival kings.

Alfred appears to have given great thought to who should succeed him. During his own lifetime he made the West Saxon nobility agree that his son Edward should succeed him, despite the potential claims of his nephews, and he made efforts to destroy all copies of any earlier documents which suggested that anyone else might be eligible for the throne. Whether this was an attempt to establish his own dynasty, or an attempt to ensure Wessex had a king strong enough to resist the vikings, is unclear.

Despite Alfred’s best efforts, his nephew Æthelwold made a bid for the throne, taking control of royal estates including, symbolically, Wimborne, where his father King Æthelred was buried. He appears to have intended a dynastic marriage. In the event, the West Saxon aristocracy – or at least a significant portion of it – sided with Alfred’s son Edward. Æthelwold evidently judged that his cousin had larger or better forces, and opted to flee into exile rather than risk open battle.

Seeking refuge in Northumbria was a logical decision for Æthelwold. There would be a ready source of fighting men, but the kingdom was far enough from Wessex that any help would not come at too high a price in the long term.

901 (ASC ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ 901): In this year Æthelwold [the ‘Annals of St Neots’ adds "king of the Danes"] came hither across the sea with all the fleet he could procure, and which was subject to him, into Essex.

902: the battle of the Holme

902 (ASC ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ 903): In this year Æthelwold induced the army in East Anglia to break the peace so that they harried over all Mercia until they reached Cricklade. And they went then across the Thames, and carried off all that they could seize both in and round about Braydon, and turned then homeward.

Then King Edward went after them as soon as he could collect his army, and harried all their land between the Dykes [Devil’s Dyke and Fleam Dyke] and the Ouse, all as far north as the fens. When he wished to go back from there he had it announced over the whole army that they were all to set out together. Then the men of Kent lingered behind there against his command – and he had sent seven messengers to them. Then the Danish army overtook them there, and they fought there. [Æthelweard places this at the Holme] And there were killed Ealdorman Sigewulf and Ealdorman Sigehelm, and the king’s thegn Eadwold, and Abbot Cenwulf, and Sigeberht, Sigewulf’s son, and Eadwold, Acca’s son, and many besides them, though I have named the most distinguished. And on the Danish side King Eohric [king of East Anglia; Æthelweard calls him 'Haruc'] was killed, and the atheling Æthelwold, whom they had chosen as their king [‘A’ says instead ‘’who enticed him to that war’’], and Brihtsige, son of the atheling Beornoth [presumably of Mercian descent], and Ysopa the ‘hold’ and Oscetel the ‘hold’ and also very many with them, whom we cannot name now. And a great slaughter was made on both sides, but more of the Danes were killed, though they remained in possession of the battle-field.

While Æthelwold presumably hoped to use a viking army to win him the West Saxon throne, the campaign he led turned into a plundering expedition. King Edward reciprocated, and then returned home. The battle which followed seems to have been an accident, with messages failing to reach one contingent of the army. The Kentish force found itself facing King Eohric of East Anglia, who may well have outnumbered the English force. In enemy territory and carrying plunder, the Kentish men were either unable or unwilling to escape. The battle seems to have been hard-fought. The two ealdormen, abbot and three thegns killed in the battle will have fallen alongside man of their retainers, but their deaths were not in vain. The killing of King Eohric and, above all, Æthelwold, removed the most immediate threat to Edward’s rule of Wessex.

Whether Æthelwold had any realistic chance of taking the throne of Wessex is debatable. Alfred’s death had been his best opportunity, and he does not appear to have had any significant support from the West Saxon nobility. After decades of bitter conflict, would the West Saxons would have accepted a king leading a viking army? Alive, Æthelwold would have remained a potential rival to Edward. Dead, Alfred’s dynasty was secure.

c.905: The peace of Tiddingford

905? 906? (ASC ‘A’ 905, ASC ‘C’, ‘D’ 906): And that same year the peace was established at Tiddingford [near Leigton Buzzard], just as King Edward decreed, both with the East Angles and the Northumbrians.

906 (ASC ‘E’): In this year King Edward, from necessity, established peace both with the army of the East Angles and the Northumbrians.

909 (ASC ‘A’ 909, ASC ‘C’, ‘D’ 910): And that same year King Edward sent an army both from the West Saxons and from the Mercians, and it ravaged very severely the territory of the northern army, both men and all kinds of cattle, and they killed many men of those Danes, and were five weeks there.

Mercian Register 909: In this year St Oswald's body was brought from Bardney [Lincolnshire] into Mercia. [ASC 'D' places this entry at the beginning of the annal it dates to 906]

910: The battle of Tettenhall

910 (ASC ‘A' 910), ASC ‘C’, ‘D’ 911): In this year the army in Northumbria broke the peace, and scorned every privilege that King Edward and his councillors offered them, and ravaged over Mercia. And the king had collected about 100 ships, and was then in Kent, and the ships were on their way south-east by sea towards them. Then the Danish army thought that the greater part of his forces was on the ships, and that they could go unopposed wherever they wished. Then the king learnt that they had gone on a raid. He then sent his army both from the West Saxons and Mercians, and they overtook the Danish army when it was on its way home and fought against it and put the army to flight and killed many thousands of its men. And there were killed King Eowils and King Healfdene [‘John’ of Worcester calls them “brothers of King Hinguar”, i.e. Ivarr] and Earl Ohter and Earl Scurfa and Othulf the ‘hold’, and Benesing the ‘hold’, and Anlaf the Black and Thurferth the ‘hold’, and Osfrith Hlytta, and Guthfrith the ‘hold’ and Agmund the ‘hold’ and Guthfrith.

Mercian Register 910: In this year the English and the Danes fought at Tettenhall, and the English were victorious. And that same year Æthelflæd built the borough at "Bremesbyrig".

ASC ‘D’, ‘E’ 910: In this year the English army and the Danish army fought at Tettenhall, and Æthelred, lord of the Mercians died, and King Edward succeeded to London and Oxford and to all the lands which belonged to them; and a great naval force came hither from the south from Brittany, and ravaged greatly by the Severn, but they almost all perished afterwards.

Æthelweard 909: After a year the barbarians broke the peace with King Edward, and with Æthelred, who then ruled the Northumbrian and Mercian areas. The fields of the Mercians were ravaged on all sides by the throng we spoke about, and deeply, as far as the streams of the Avon, where the boundary of the West Saxons and Mercians begins. Then they were transported across the river Severn into the west country, and there they obtained no little booty by plunder. But when rejoicing in rich spoil they returned towards home, they were still engaged in crossing to the east side of the river Severn over a bridge (pons to give the Latin spelling), which is called Bridgnorth by the common people. Suddenly crowds of both Mercians and West Saxons, having formed battle-order, moved against the opposing force. They joined battle without delay on the field of Wednesfield; the English enjoyed the blessing of victory; the army of the Danes fled, overcome by armed force. These events are recounted as done on the fifth day of the month of August. There fell three of their kings in that same ‘storm’ (or ‘battle’ would be the right thing to say), that is to say Healfdene and Eywysl, and Inwær also hastened to the hall of the infernal one, and so did senior chiefs of theirs, both jarls and other noblemen.

911: The death of Æthelred of Mercia

911 (ASC ‘A’ 911, ASC ‘C’, ‘D’ 912): In this year Æthelred, ealdorman of the Mercians, died, and King Edward succeeded to London and Oxford and to all the lands which belonged to them. [Æthelweard dates this to 910 and adds that he was buried at Gloucester]

The death of Æthelred and what followed was a significant moment in the history of what was to become England. Exactly what his status was seems to have been a matter of judgement. To the Mercians, he was their ruler, and in other circumstances they would have called him their king. However, the ‘Great Army’ had left Mercia a shadow of her former self, with eastern Mercia (the area later to be known as the ‘Five Boroughs’) in Danish hands. Wessex was unquestionably the senior partner in their alliance, and Alfred had no intention of sharing power with another king. Æthelred therefore appears in most late ninth-century sources (particularly those associated with the prolific West Saxon court) as “ealdorman”, i.e. an important noble, but exercising power as a royal office-holder.

In 886 Alfred had occupied London and entrusted it to Æthelred. Historically London had been part of the East Saxon kingdom, but it had become a very important part of the eighth-century Mercian overlordship over southern England, and many royal assemblies and ecclesiastical councils were held in its environs. Edward’s decision to take direct control of London – and, more pertinently, of Oxford – moved the boundaries of Wessex northwards.

912- : Building the Mercian boroughs

912 (ASC ‘A’ 912, ASC ‘C’, ‘D’ 913): In this year about Martinmas, King Edward ordered the northern borough at Hertford to be built, between the Maran, the Beane and the Lea, and then after that in the summer, between Rogation days and mid-summer [ie between 18 May and 24 June], King Edward went with some of his forces into Essex to Maldon, and camped there while the borough was being made and constructed at Witham [the ‘Annals of St Neots’ adds “about the feast of John the Baptist, i.e. 24 June], and a good number of the people who had been under the rule of the Danish men submitted to him. And meanwhile some of his forces made the borough at Hertford on the south side of the Lea.

Mercian Register 912: In this year Æthelflæd, lady of the Mercians, came on the holy eve of the Invention of the Cross [2 May] to 'Scergeat', and built the borough there, and in the same year that at Bridgnorth.

913 (ASC ‘A’ 916, ASC ‘C’, ‘D’ 914): In this year the army from Northampton and Leicester rode out after Easter [28 March] and broke the peace, and killed many man at Hook Norton and round about there. And then very soon after that, as the one force came home, they met another raiding band which rode out against Luton. And then the people of the district became aware of it and fought against them and reduced them to full flight, and rescued all that they had captured and also a great part of their horses and weapons.

Mercian Register 913: In this year, by the grace of God, Æthelflæd, lady of the Mercians, went with all the Mercians to Tamworth, and built the borough there in the early summer, and afterwards, before Lammas [1 August], that at Stafford.

914: The battle of Archenfield

914 (ASC ‘A’ 917, ASC ‘C’, ‘D’ 915): In this year a great naval force came over here from the south from Brittany, and two earls, Ohter and Hroald, with them. And they went west round the coast so that they arrived at the Severn estuary and ravaged in Wales everywhere along the coast where it suited them. And they captured Cyfeiliog, bishop of Archenfield [Herefordshire; there is still a deanery of Archenfield (literally "field of the hedgehogs"] and took him with them to the ships; and then King Edward ransomed him for 40 pounds. Then after that all the army went inland, still wishing to go on a raid towards Archenfield. Then the men from Hereford and Gloucester and from the nearest boroughs met them and fought against them and put them to flight and killed the earl Hroald and the brother of Ohter, the other earl, and a great part of the army, and drove them into an enclosure and besieged them there until they gave him hostages, promising that they would leave the king’s dominion.

And the king had arranged that men were stationed against them on the south side of the Severn estuary, from the west, from Cornwall, east as far as Avonmouth, so that they dared not attack the land anywhere on that side. Yet they stole inland by night on two occasions – on the one occasion east of Watchet, on the other occasion at Porlock. Then on both occasions they were attacked, so that few of them got away – only those who could swim out to the ships. And then they remained out in the island of Steepholme [‘A’ says ‘Flatholme’] until they became very short of food and many men had died of hunger because they could not obtain any food. Then they went from there to Dyfed, and from there to Ireland; and this was in the autumn. [Æthelweard refers to these events, dating them to 913. He describes the arrival of a fleet, that "the fighting was not seriously protracted there", and the fleet's departure for Ireland]

And then after that in the same year, before Martinmas [11 November], King Edward went to Buckingham with his army, and stayed there four weeks, and made both the boroughs, on each side of the river, before he went away. And Earl Thurcetel came and accepted him as his lord, and so did all the earls [‘A’ calls them “holds”] and the principal men who belonged to Bedford, and also many of those who belonged to Northampton.

Mercian Register 914: [this entry continues directly from the entries for 913, describing the boroughs built by Æthelflæd and the Mercians] Then afterwards in the next year, that at Eddisbury in the early summer, and later in the same year, in the early autumn, that at Warwick.

The raid on the Severn area demonstrates how effective England’s defensive arrangements had become, with a vigilant coast-guard and rapid responses to attempted inland raiding. Quite who Cyfeiliog was is unclear, since Archenfield (the area around the river Wye) was not an English diocese. It is possible that he was a subordinate bishop supporting Edgar, bishop of Hereford (888x90-931), but it is more likely that he served a Welsh see in Gwent or Glywsing and was simply captured at or in Archenfield. The Welsh kingdoms were generally on good terms with the English kings in the late ninth and early tenth century, largely due to their mutual enemies – the vikings.

The more important events of 914 took place in southern England. Edward spent a month at Buckingham, building fortifications on both sides of the river (a common arrangement both in Francia and England, allowing the water-course to be blocked with a boom). As in 912 in Essex, many of the local nobility took the opportunity to offer their submission to him voluntarily – a better arrangement than seeing their fields and homes burned by superior West Saxon armies before being forced to submit.

915 (ASC ‘A’ 918): [the later campaigns of Edward the Elder only appear in ‘A’ and ‘G’] In this year King Edward went with his army to Bedford, before Martinmas, and obtained the borough; and almost all the citizens who dwelt there before submitted to him. And he stayed there four weeks, and before he went away ordered the borough on the south side of the river to be built.

Mercian Register 915: [this entry continues directly from the entries for 912 and 913, describing the boroughs built by Æthelflæd and the Mercians] Then afterwards in the next year after Christmas, that at Chirbury and that at "Weardbyrig"; and in the same year before Christmas, that at Runcorn.

916 (ASC ‘A’ 919): In this year before midsummer [24 June], King Edward went to Maldon and built and established the borough before he went away. And the same year Earl Thurcetel went across the sea to France, along with the men who were willing to serve him, with King Edward’s peace and support.

Earl Thurcetel was clearly an important player in the southern Danelaw. In 914 he had given his submission to King Edward, at around the same time as many of the landholders of Bedford and Northampton. Evidently judging the way the wind was blowing, he – and evidently a number of his followers – opted to leave England, but in a planned and organised fashion, presumably after selling his estates. Interestingly, the ASC records that Thurcetel’s departure had King Edward’s blessing; even if he wished to quit Edward’s lordship, he respected or feared him enough to do so in a polite manner.

Mercian Register 916: [this entry continues directly from the entries for 912-14, describing the boroughs built by Æthelflæd and the Mercians] In this year Abbot Egbert, though innocent, was killed before midsummer on 16 June – that same day was the festival of St Ciriacus the martyr – with his companions. And three days later Æthelflæd sent an army into Wales and destroyed ‘Brecenanmere’ [Llangorse Lake, near Brecon] and captured the king’s wife and 33 other persons.

917: The battle for the southern Danelaw

It may help to refer to the Maps of England under Edward the Elder.

Towcester, Tempsford, Huntingdon and "Wigingamere"

917 (ASC ‘A’ 920): In this year before Easter [13 April] King Edward ordered the borough at Towcester to be occupied and built; and then after that in the same year at the Rogation days [19-21 May] he ordered the borough at “Wigingamere” to be built. That same summer, between Lammas and midsummer [24 June – 1 August], the army from Northampton and Leicester and north of these places broke the peace, and went to Towcester, and fought all day against the borough, intending to take it by storm, but yet the people who were inside defended it until more help came to them, and the enemy left the borough and went away. And then very quickly after that, they again went out with a marauding band by night, and came upon unprepared men, and captured no small number of men and cattle between Bernwood Forest and Aylesbury.

At the same time the army came from Huntingdon and East Anglia and made the fortress at Tempsford, and took up quarters in it and built it, and abandoned the other fortress at Huntingdon, thinking that from Tempsford they would reach [‘John’ of Worcester says “recover”] more of the land with strife and hostility. And they went till they reached Bedford; and the men who were inside went out against them and fought against them and put them to flight, and killed a good part of them.

Yet again after that a great army assembled from East Anglia [‘John’ of Worcester adds “and Essex”] and Mercia and went to the borough at “Wigingamere” and besieged and attacked it long into the day, and seized the cattle round about; and yet the men who were inside defended the borough. And then the enemy left the borough and went away.

Then after that during the same summer a great host assembled in king Edward’s dominions from the nearest boroughs which could manage it and went to Tempsford and besieged the borough and attacked it until they took it by storm; and they killed the king and Earl Toglos and his son Earl Manna, and his brother and all those who were inside and chose to defend themselves; and they captured the others and everything that was inside.

The fortresses which King Edward ordered to be built during the first half of 917 were sited deliberately and provocatively, as the Maps of England under Edward the Elder shows. Towcester lay on Watling Street, close to where it divided, running to London and to Oxford; a short way south was Buckingham, where Edward had fortified both sides of the river Ouse in 914, while Danish-ruled Northampton was a similar distance north. The location of “Wigingamere” is now lost, but it was probably in a similar position, perhaps along the Icknield Way. The men of the Danelaw employed exactly the same tactic in building a fortress at Tempsford, not far from Bedford.

While the ASC describes several engagements (English forces besieged in Towcester and “Wigingamere”, raids on Buckinghamshire and Bedford, and the English capture of Tempsford), they may have been of relatively small scale, essentially comprising the citizens or garrisons of the various boroughs. The attack on Tempsford was accomplished with "a great host... from the nearest boroughs which could manage it" (most likely Bedford, Hertford and Buckingham, but possibly also Oxford, Wallingford and Sashes in the Thames valley).

Colchester and Maldon

And afterwards, very soon after that, a great [English] host assembled in autumn, both from Kent, from Surrey, from Essex and from the nearest boroughs on all sides; and they went to Colchester and besieged the borough and attacked it until they took it and killed all the people and seized everything that was inside – except the men who fled there over the wall.

Then after that, still in the same autumn, a great army from East Anglia collected, consisting both of the army of the district and of the vikings whom they had enticed to their assistance, and they intended to avenge their injury. And they went to Maldon and besieged the borough and attacked it until more troops came to the help of the citizens from outside; and the army left the borough and went away. Then the men from the borough, and also those who had come to their assistance from outside, went out after them and put the army to flight, and killed many hundreds of them, both of the shipmen and of the others.

If the battles for the southern Danelaw may have been small-scale, the force sent later in the year to attack Colchester appears to have been larger. Edward may have viewed Colchester, with its surviving Roman walls, as a more challenging prospect. The storming of this important port prompted rapid retaliation; interestingly the ASC distinguishes between the army gathered from East Anglia and the 'vikings', or 'shipmen', reflecting the way the descendants of the "Great Army" had put down roots.

The submission of the southern Danelaw

Then very soon afterwards in the same autumn King Edward went with the army of the West Saxons to Passenham, and stayed there while the borough of Towcester was provided with a stone wall. And Earl Thurferth and the ‘holds’ submitted to him, and so did all the army which belonged to Northampton, as far north as the Welland, and sought to have him as their lord and protector. And when that division of the English army went home, the other division came on service and captured the borough at Huntingdon, and repaired and restored it by King Edward’s command where it had been broken; and all the people of that district who had survived submitted to King Edward and asked for his peace and protection.

Moreover, after that during the same year, before Martinmas, King Edward went with the army of the West Saxons to Colchester, and repaired and restored the borough where it had been broken. And many people who had been under the rule of the Danes both in East Anglia and in Essex submitted to him; and all the army in East Anglia swore agreement with him, that they would (agree to) all that he would, and would keep peace with all with whom the king wished to keep peace, both on sea and on land. And the army which belonged to Cambridge chose him especially as its lord and protector, and established it with oaths just as he decreed it.


Mercian Register 917: [this continues directly from the entries for 912-16] In this year Æthelflæd, lady of the Mercians, with the help of God, before Lammas obtained the borough which is called Derby, with all that belongs to it; and there also four of her thegns, who were dear to her, were killed within the gates.

918-20: the subjection of Mercia and the Danelaw

918 (ASC ‘A’ 921): In this year, between Rogation days and midsummer [11 May – 24 June], King Edward went with the army to Stamford and ordered the borough on the south side of the river to be built; and all the people who belonged to the more northern borough submitted to him and sought to have him as their lord.

Then during the stay he made there, his sister Æthelflæd died at Tamworth twelve days before midsummer. And then he occupied the borough of Tamworth, and all the nation in the land of the Mercians which had been subject to Æthelflæd submitted to him; and the kings in Wales, Hywel, Clydog and Idwal [Hywel and Clydog, sons of Cadell, son of Rhodri, ruled in south Wales; Idwal, son of Anarawd, in Gwynedd], and all the race of the Welsh sought to have him as lord.

Then he went from there to Nottingham, and captured the borough and ordered it to be repaired and manned both with Englishmen and Danes. And all the people who had settled in Mercia, both Danish and English, submitted to him.

Mercian Register 918 and ASC ‘D’: In this year, with God’s help, she [Æthelflæd] peacefully obtained control of the borough of Leicester in the early part of the year; and the greater part of the army which belonged to it was subjected. And also the people of York had promised here – and some had given pledges, some had confirmed it with oaths – that they would be under her direction. But very soon after they had agreed to this, she died twelve days before midsummer in Tamworth, in the eighth year in which with lawful authority she was holding dominion over the Mercians. And her body is buried in Gloucester in the east chapel of St Peter’s church.

Edward’s occupation of Stamford in 918 followed logically from the submission of Huntingdon in 917. It cannot have been coincidence that the submission of Leicester to Æthelflæd happened in the same year, taking English control to a line directly east from Tamworth to the Fens. Edward’s capture of Nottingham later in 918 advanced English lordship further up Fosse Way.

The death of Æthelflæd marked the end – nearly – of Mercia as an independent polity. Following the death of her husband, Æthelflæd had enjoyed an unprecedented degree of personal power, acting for all intents and purposes as a female king. This was not so much unusual as unprecedented in Anglo-Saxon history, and the like would not be seen again until the reign of Matilda two centuries later.

Æthelflæd's death came shortly after what might have been her greatest achievement - securing the submission of York and at least some of the men of Northumbria. That this was a likely prospect by diplomatic means only is testament to the power and reputation of Wessex and Mercia. Whether it would actually have become a reality is less certain; it would take nearly half a century of fighting to make Æthelflæd's vision come true.

919 (ASC ‘A’ 922): In this year after autumn King Edward went with the army to Thelwall and ordered the borough to be built, occupied and manned; and while he stayed there he ordered another army, also from the people of Mercia, to occupy Manchester in Northumbria, and repair and man it.

Mercian Register 919 and ASC ‘D’: In this year also the daughter of Æthelred, lord of the Mercians, was deprived of all authority in Mercia and taken into Wessex, three weeks before Christmas. She was called Ælfwyn.

Since the ongoing war against the Danes had given Wessex and Mercia a common cause, Edward made a point of continuing the campaigns together after his sister’s death, establishing boroughs at the northern edge of Mercia, along the Mersey at Thelwall and Manchester. The expedition, which Edward evidently joined in person, will have given him the opportunity to meet the great and the good of Mercia and to have private discussions on the future. There was evidently a faction who sought to keep an independent Mercian ruler, who had accepted Æthelred and Æthelflæd’s daughter Ælfwynn as their queen. Just as Alfred had required Æthelred to take the title ‘ealdorman’ rather than ‘king’, Edward had no intention of allowing any rival ruler. After perhaps six months, the Mercian nobility accepted Edward as their king, and Ælfwynn was removed into Wessex, presumably to enter religious life.

920 (ASC ‘A’ 923): In this year, before midsummer, King Edward went with the army to Nottingham and ordered to be built the borough on the south side of the river, opposite the other, and the bridge over the Trent between the two boroughs.

Then he went from there into the Peak district to Bakewell, and ordered a borough to be built in the neighbourhood and manned. And then the king of the Scots and all the people of the Scots, and Ragnald, and the sons of Eadwulf and all who live in Northumbria, both English and Danish, Norsemen and others, and also the king of the Strathclyde Welsh and all the Strathclyde Welsh, chose him as father and lord.

The submission of the lords of the north at Bakewell presumably allowed Edward to enjoy the triumph which Æthelflæd had been orchestrating shortly before her death in 918. While of great symbolic importance, the decision by the kings of the Scots, Northumbrians and Strathclyde – and the kings of the Welsh two years before – to accept Edward’s lordship will have had little direct impact. Acknowledging a greater king’s power was a matter of diplomatic tact, rather than giving the over-king any meaningful control or authority.

921-4: the last years of Edward the Elder

921 (ASC ‘C’, ‘D’): In this year King Edward built the borough at Cledemutha [possibly in the mouth of the Clwyd].

923 (ASC ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’): In this year King Ragnald won York.

924 (ASC ‘A’): In this year King Edward died [17 July] and his son Æthelstan succeeded to the kingdom.

Mercian Register 924: In this year King Edward died at Farndon in Mercia, and his son Ælfweard died very soon after [‘D’ adds “after 16 days”] at Oxford, and their bodies are buried at Winchester. And Æthelstan was chosen by the Mercians as king, and consecrated at Kingston, and he gave his sister in marriage [‘D’ adds “over the sea to the son of the king of the Old Saxons”, i.e. the marriage of Edith to Otto the Great, though the original entry may have referred to a different marriage, for example that to Sihtric of York, described under 926]

924-40: Æthelstan, first King of the English

See the Maps of tenth-century England and Maps of England under Æthelstan.

Sources for the reign of Æthelstan

If Alfred the Great laid the foundations for Wessex’ triumph over the vikings, and Edward the Elder led the conquest of the England south of the Humber, it was Æthelstan who established the unified “kingdom of the English” in a shape that we would recognise today. Rightly celebrated as the ‘first king of the English’ and one of the greatest kings that we have forgotten, Æthelstan’s fifteen year reign was critical in turning the territories conquered under Edward and Æthelflæd – each with their own distinct institutions, customs and practices – into what could evolve into a powerful and united kingdom.

While sources for Æthelstan’s administrative, judicial and ecclesiastical activities are relatively plentiful (at least by the standards of early medieval historians, and in contrast to the poorly-documented seventh, eighth and ninth centuries), evidence for his military activities is more limited. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle provides just six contemporary entries (admittedly including a lengthy praise-poem). This can be supplemented by a number of later accounts. These include late eleventh-century annals by “John” of Worcester and “Symeon” of Durham, which appear to preserve earlier annals (from the broad tradition of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) from now-lost chronicles kept in the north of England. Given the limitations of the ASC entries, Æthelstan's reign provides an excellent opportunity to show the range of later sources potentially available, and the potential risks of using them.

One of the most important accounts of the reign of Æthelstan comes from the early twelfth-century historian William of Malmesbury (c. 1095 – c. 1143), who composed two significant works – the ‘Deeds of the Kings of the English’ and the ‘Deeds of the Bishops of the English’, as well as several saints’ lives. William was educated at Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, where Æthelstan was buried; in addition to an evidently well-stocked library, William appears to have had access to otherwise lost material concerning Æthelstan, who was buried at Malmesbury. While William’s accounts provide welcome detail on the reign of Æthelstan and his campaigns, they must be treated with caution – a source written two centuries after the events it describes cannot be taken as primary evidence.

925-7: the first conquest of Northumbria

925 (ASC ‘D’ 926): In this year King Æthelstan and Sihtric, king of the Northumbrians, met together at Tamworth on 30 January and Æthelstan gave him his sister in marriage.

926 (ASC ‘D’ 927): In this year appeared firery lights in the northern quarter of the sky, and Ihtric died, and King Æthelstan succeeded to the kingdom of the Northumbrians; and he brought under his rule all the kings who were in this island: first Hywel, king of the West Welsh, and Constantine, king of the Scots, and Owain, king of the people of Gwent, and Ealdred, son of Eadwulf from Bamburgh. And they established peace with pledge and oaths in the place which is called Eamont, on 12 July, and renounced all idolatry and afterwards departed in peace. [When William of Malmesbury described a very similar meeting, he also included Owain of Strathclyde]

927 (ASC ‘E’ 927): In this year King Æthelstan drove out King Guthfrith. And in this year Archbishop Wulfhelm went to Rome.

William of Malmesbury, ‘Deeds of the Kings of the English’, I, 134, i: When the ceremony of his consecration was completed, Æthelstan, intent on not disappointing the hopes of his countrymen and falling below their expectations, brought the whole of England entirely under his rule by the mere terror of hi name, with the sole exception of the Northumbrians. Their ruler was a certain Sihtric, a barbarian alike in blood and behaviour, a kinsman of the Gurmund of whom we read in the history of King Alfred. Sihtric, though he had turned up his nose at the authority of previous monarchs, sent an embassy on his own initiative humbly requesting some loser relationship, and rapidly followed this up in person and confirmed the proposals of his envoys. Rewarded with the hand of Æthelstan’s sister and gifts of many kinds, he laid the foundations of a lasting agreement. But, as I remember having said before, a year later his life came to a violent end, and this gave Æthelstan the opportunity to add Northumbria to his own share, for it was his by ancient right no less than by modern connection.

Sihtric’s son Anlaf fled to Ireland and his brother Guthfrith to Scotland, and they were promptly followed by envoys from the king, who went to Constantine king of the Scots and Owain king of the Cumbrians to demand return of the fugitive with the alternative of war. The barbarians had no spirit to utter a word of protest; they preferred to gather without reluctance at a place called Dacre and put themselves and their kingdoms in the hands of the English king. In response to this agreement, Æthelstan himself stood godfather to Constantine’s son, whose baptism he had ordered. Guthfrith, however, during the preparations for the journey slipped away with a certain Turfrith, one of the captains of the other side, and shortly afterwards laid siege to York, where, after urging the townsfolk to revolt first by appeals and then by threats and getting his way with neither, he retired. Not long afterwards, when the two of them were besieged in a certain fortress, they gave the slip to those who were watching them, and escaped: Turfrith soon met his death at sea, consigned by shipwreck to be food for fishes, and Guthfrith, pursued by many misfortunes by land and sea, came at length to the king’s court to surrender. There he was given a peaceable reception by the king and richly entertained for four days before returning to his ships, being a pirate of long experience and schooled to live in water like a fish. Æthelstan meanwhile levelled with the ground the fortress which the Danes had built long ago in York, in order to leave disloyalty no place of refuge; the booty found in the fortress – and very plentiful it was – he generously distributed to individuals.

934: English power across Britain

934 (ASC ‘A’ 933): In this year King Æthelstan went into Scotland with both a land force and a naval force, and ravaged much of it. [‘John’ of Worcester adds that King Constantine was forced to give his son as a hostage]

Annals appended to the manuscript of “Symeon of Durham” (934): King Æthelstan, going towards Scotland with a great army, came to the tomb of St Cuthbert, commended himself and his expedition to his protection, and conferred on him many and diverse gifts befitting a king, as well as estates, and consigned to the torments of eternal fire anyone who should take any of these from him. He then subdued his enemies, laid waste Scotland as far as Dunnottar and Wertermorum [the kingdom of Fortriu, in modern Moray] with a land force, and ravaged with a naval force as far as Caithness.

“Symeon” of Durham, ‘Tract on the Origins and Progress of the Church of Durham’, ii.18: In the tenth year of Wigred’s pontificate [i.e. 935], King Æthelstan, while he was on his way to Scotland, came to the tomb of St Cuthbert with the army of the whole of Britain to seek the patronage of the saint. He requested Cuthbert’s intercession, and he gave him for the adornment of his church many different kinds of gifts worthy of a king, which are still preserved to day in this church of Durham and serve as a monument to the king’s pious devotion to the church of the holy father Cuthbert and to his undying memory… After this he put to flight Owain, king of the Cumbrians, and Constantine, king of the Scots; and he conquered Scotland with a land army and a naval force in order to make it subject to him.

937: the battle of Brunanburh

937 (ASC ‘E’ 937): In this year King Æthelstan led an army to Brunanburh.

937 (ASC ‘C’, as well as ‘A’ (dated 938), ‘B’ and ‘D’): [unusually, this annal is written entirely in alliterative verse]

In this year King Æthelstan, lord of nobles, dispenser of treasure to men, and his brother also, Edmund atheling, won by the sword’s edge undying glory in battle round Brunanburh. Edward’s sons clove the shield-wall, hewed the linden-wood shields with hammered swords, for it was natural to men of their lineage to defend their land, their treasure and their homes, in frequent battle against every foe. Their enemies perished; the people of the Scots and the pirates fell doomed. The field grew dark with the blood of men, from the time when the sun, that glorious luminary, the bright candle of God, of the Lord Eternal, moved over the earth in the hours of morning, until that noble creation sank at its setting. There lay many a man destroyed by the spears, many a northern warrior shot over his shield; and likewise many a Scot lay weary, sated with battle.

The whole day long the West Saxons with mounted companies kept in pursuit of the hostile peoples, grievously they cut down the fugitives from behind with their whetted swords. The Mercians refused not hard conflict to any men who with Olaf had sought this land in the bosom of a ship over the tumult of waters, coming doomed to the fight. Five young kings lay on that field of battle, slain by the swords, and also seven of Olaf’s earls, and a countless host of seamen and Scots. There the prince of the Norsemen was put to flight, driven perforce to the prow of his ship with a small company; the vessel pressed on in the water, the king set out over the fallow flood and saved his life.

There also the aged Constantine, the hoary-haired warrior, came north to his own land by flight. He had no cause to exult in that crossing of swords [‘D’ reads “meeting of men”]. He was shorn of his kinsmen and deprived of his friends at that field of slaughter, brought low by wounds in the battle. The grey-haired warrior, the old and wily one, had no cause to vaunt of that sword-clash; no more had Olaf. They had no need to gloat with the remnants of their armies that they were superior in warlike deeds on the field of battle, in the clash of standards, the meeting of spears, the encounter of men, and the crossing of weapons, after they had contended on the field of slaughter with the sons of Edward.

Then the Norsemen, the sorry survivors from the spears, put out in their studded ships on to Ding’s mere, to make for Dublin across the deep water, back to Ireland humbled at heart. Also the two brothers, king and atheling, returned together to their own country, the land of the West Saxons, exulting in the battle. They left behind them the dusky-coated one, the black raven with its horned beak, to share the corpses, and the dun-coated, white-tailed eagle, the greedy war-hawk, to enjoy the carrion, and that grey beast, the wolf of the forest.

Never yet in this island before this by what books tell us and our ancient sages, was a greater slaughter of a host made by the edge of the sword, since the Angles and Saxons came hither from the east, invading Britain over the broad seas, and the proud assailants, warriors eager for glory, overcame the Britons and won a country.

The simple line in the ‘E’ version of the ASC that “In this year King Æthelstan led an army to Brunanburh” is typical of the factual but laconic style of such annals. By contrast, the ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ versions include a lengthy piece of exultant verse, celebrating what Æthelstan’s court clearly regarded as a notable victory against an alliance of the Norse-Irish and the Scots.

Annals appended to the manuscript of “Symeon of Durham” (937): King Æthelstan fought at 'Wendun' and put to flight King Olaf with 615 ships, and also Constantine, king of the Scots, and the king of the Cumbrians with all their host.

“Symeon” of Durham, ‘Tract on the Origins and Progress of the Church of Durham’, ii.18: [continued from the account of Æthelstan’s 935 campaign and visit to St Cuthbert] In the fourth year after this (that is the year 937 of our Lord’s Nativity), at Weondune which is called by another name Æt Brunnanwerc or Brunnanbyrig, he fought against Olaf, son of the former king Guthred, who had come against Æthelstan with 615 ships and had with him the help of the aforesaid kings, that is of the Scots and the Cumbrians. But Æthelstan trusted in the protection of St Cuthbert, and laid low an infinite multitude, driving those kings from his kingdom and bringing back to his people a glorious triumph. To his enemies everywhere he was fearsome, but he was peaceful towards his own people, and he afterwards ended his life in peace, leaving the rule of his empire to his brother Edmund.

William of Malmesbury, ‘Deeds of the Kings of the English’, I, 131, iv: His last battle was with Sihtric’s son Anlaf [Olaf], who had crossed his boundaries in hopes of invading the kingdom in concert with the Constantine of whom I spoke, who was rebelling for the second time. And as Æthelstan deliberately gave way, in order to secure a more glorious victory over an already scoffing adversary, Anlaf had advanced some distance into England, for he was a young man and very daring, with a head full of impossible ideas. At length, however, great skill in generalship and great numbers of troops confronted him at Brunefeld.

Anlaf, perceiving the impending danger, cunningly assumed the office of a spy and, laying aside his royal garments, equipped himself with a harp and made his way to our king’s tent. There he stood singing at the door and from time to time “in sweet confusion struck the vocal strings”, and easily secured admission, pretending to be an entertainer who won his daily bread by this kind of skill. For some time he entertained the king and his guests with tuneful music, and while playing surveyed the whole scene. When they had eaten their fill, the entertainment was brought to an end, and the serious business of running a war was resumed in discussion between the nobles, at which point Anlaf was told to leave and given what he had earned by his music; but scorning to carry this away, he buried it in the ground where he stood.

This was observed by a man who had once fought in his army, and at once reported to Æthelstan. Æthelstan upbraided the man for not denouncing an enemy while he was in full view, and received this reply: ‘I once swore to Anlaf, O king, the same oath that I have lately sworn to you; and if you had seen me break my oath to him, you might well be on your guard against similar behaviour towards yourself. Deign to listen to the advice of a servant; move your tent away from here, pitch it in another place until the units you have left behind arrive, and use restraint and delay to break the enemy despite his impudent insults’.

His suggestion was accepted, and they moved camp. Anlaf arrived by night ready for the fray. A bishop, who had come to join the army that evening not knowing what had happened, had seen a green and level field and had pitched his own tent there. Anlaf cut him and his whole household to pieces. He then went on and found the king himself unprepared, for, not fearing that the enemy would attempt anything of the king, he was sound asleep. Aroused by the uproar, he leapt from his couch and encouraged his men to battle as far as was possible at that time of night, when his sword by chance fell from its scabbard. At this moment of universal fear and blind confusion, he called upon God and St Aldhelm [one manuscript adds “for he was related to him by blood a long way back”], reached again to his scabbard, and there found the sword, which is still preserved among the royal treasures as evidence of the miracle. It is, they say, chased on one side, but can never be inlaid with gold or silver.

Encouraged by this gift of God, and also because day was now breaking, he attacked the Norwegian, fought tirelessly all day long until evening, and put him and his army to flight. There fell that day Constantine king of the Scots, a man of treacherous ferocity and green old age, and five other kings, twelve jarls, and almost the whole horde of barbarians; the few who escaped alive were taken prisoner with a view to their conversion to Christianity.

This account of the battle of Brunanburh, by a chronicler educated in Malmesbury, where Æthelstan was buried, attempts to present a rather less creditable narrative in as positive a light as possible. It suggests that Olaf’s army had been able to advance some way into English-controlled territory, and that the English army was still in the process of assembling when the battle took place. Whether Olaf was able to inveigle himself into Æthelstan’s tent in person may be legend, though it seems likely that he had agents active in the English camp (perhaps a further indication that the battle occurred somewhere in the Danelaw, where locals with varying sympathies might supply the English army).

The change of location is also indicated in William of Malmesbury's 'History of the English Bishops' in describing the see of Sherborne:

William of Malmesbury, ‘History of the English Bishops’, II, 80, iv: They say that Wærstan [of Sherborne] was slaughtered by the pagans in the battle fought against Anlaf by King Æthelstan. For when, as I have said elsewhere, the king had deliberately retreated, the bishop, arriving at the war with his men, and not expecting to be ambushed, camped on the flat green plain vacated by the king. Anlaf had reconnoitred the position the day before; returning after nightfall in full force, he forthwith destroyed the force he found there.

However, Wærstan appears to have been bishop of Sherborne c.909-25) and his successor Alfred (bishop c.933/4-39x41) does not seem to have ended his pontificate until early in the reign of Edmund. Since this incident is not otherwise recorded, Wærstan's fate may have been an invention or embroidery on the story of the battle.

That the battle began with a night attack, for which the English were ill-prepared, is corroborated by a different account by William of Malmesbury, concerning Oda (bishop of Ramsbury under Æthelstan, raised to be archbishop of Canterbury under Edmund):

William of Malmesbury, ‘History of the English Bishops’, I, 14, iv: So on that fatal night when, as I said in Book Two of the History of the Kings, lulled by his own unconcern, Æthelstan came close to falling into the hands of his enemies, and even lost his sword, Oda came at his call. Everything was full of blind confusion; but Oda sent his prayers heavenwards, and was the first to see the sword, the gift of heaven, glide miraculously back into the king’s scabbard. He shouted out the news to Æthelstan; and the incident made such an impression on the king that he had no hesitation on that occasion in calling Oda his saviour, and, later, in raising him to the primacy of Canterbury when Wulfhelm died [in fact Oda was promoted to Canterbury in 941].

This story is first recorded in the late eleventh century in Eadmer of Canterbury's "Life of St Oda" and appears in a number of post-Conquest accounts.

Æthelstan’s army appears to have rallied and repulsed the viking attack and, with the break of day, turned this into a wider victory, followed up (as the ASC notes) by mounted English troops. Although the end result may have been a significant victory, the circumstances do beg some questions about the quality of the English commanders, and how close Olaf came to victory.

Locating "Brunanburh"

Brunanburh” is one of a number of ‘lost’ Anglo-Saxon places. ASC ‘A’ and ‘D’ spell it “Brunanburh”; ‘B’ and ‘C’ use “Brunnanburh”. The Chronicle of Æthelweard calls it “Brunandun”, while William of Malmesbury (writing in the thirteenth century, but evidently with independent sources for the reign of Æthelstan) places it at “Brunefeld”. The eleventh-century history of the church of Durham (attributed to “Symeon”) uses “Wendun”. Exactly where "Brunanburh" was is a matter of conjecture. It was evidently somewhere in territory claimed by the English and in the path of a large raid or invasion by the Northumbrians, Norse-Irish and Scots. "John" of Worcester notes that Olaf landed in the mouth of the Humber, which might conceivably suggest somewhere in Lincolnshire, but it will probably remain a mystery.

939: the death of Æthelstan

939 (ASC ‘B’, ‘C’, D’ 940 and ‘A’ 941): In this year King Æthelstan died on 27 October [939, reckoned as 940 since the year was considered to start in September], 40 years except for one day after King Alfred died; and the atheling Edmund succeeded to the kingdom, and he was then 18 years old. And King Æthelstan had reigned for 14 years and 10 weeks.

940-55: Edmund and Eadred

941 (ASC ‘D’): In this year the Northumbrians were false to their pledges, and chose Olaf from Ireland as their king.

941-2: Olaf storms the Danelaw

ASC ‘D’ (incorrectly under 943): In this year Olaf took Tamworth by storm, and the losses were heavy on both sides, and the Danes were victorious and took away much booty with them. Wulfrun was taken captive in that raid [she was evidently from an important family: her son Wulfric Spott founded the abbey at Burton-on-Trent; his will survives, showing estates across the midlands and Danelaw, with most of his lands in Staffordshire and Derbyshire. His brother Ælfhelm was ealdorman of southern Northumbria, murdered in 1006]. In this year King Edmund besieged King Olaf and Archbishop Wulfstan [of York] in Leicester, and he could have subdued them if they had not escaped by night from the borough. And after that Olaf secured King Edmund’s friendship.

942 (ASC ‘C’, ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘D’): [like the entry for 937 on the battle of Brunanburh, this entry is in alliterative verse] In this year King Edmund, lord of the English, protector of men [‘kinsmen’ in ‘A’], the beloved performer of mighty deeds, overran Mercia, as bounded by Dore, Whitwell gate and the broad stream, the river Humber; and five boroughs, Leicester and Lincoln, Nottingham and likewise Stamford, and also Derby. The Danes were previously subjected by force under the Norsemen, for a long time in bonds of captivity to the heathens, until the defender of warriors, the son of Edward [the Elder], King Edmund, redeemed them, to his glory.

ASC ‘E’ 942: In this year King Olaf died [this was Olaf Guthfrithson, who had died before the end of 941. He was succeeded as ruler of Dublin and York by his cousin Olaf Sihtricson]

943 (ASC ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, without a date): In this year King Edmund stood sponsor to King Olaf at baptism [‘D’ adds ‘and he bestowed gifts on him royally’], and the same year, after a fairly big interval, he stood sponsor to King Ragnald at his confirmation.

944-7: the subjection of Northumbria

944 (ASC ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’): In this year King Edmund reduced all Northumbria under his rule, and drove out two kings, Olaf, Sihtrics’s son, and Ragnald, Guthfrith’s son.

945 (ASC ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’, ‘F’): In this year King Edmund ravaged all Cumberland [i.e. Strathclyde], and granted it all to Malcolm, king of the Scots, on condition that he should be his ally both on sea and on land.

946 (ASC ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’): In this year King Edmund died on St Augustine’s day [26 May] (ASC ‘D’): It was widely known how he ended his life, that Leofa stabbed him at Pucklechurch. And Æthelflæd of Damerham, Ealdorman Ælfgar’s daughter, was then his queen. (ASC ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ continue): And he had held the kingdom six years and a half. And then the atheling Eadred, his brother, succeeded to the kingdom and reduced all Northumbria under his rule. And the Scots gave oaths to him that they would agree to all that he wanted.

947 (ASC ‘D’): In this year King Eadred came to Tanshelf, and there Archbishop Wulfstan [of York] and all the councillors of the Northumbrians pledged themselves to the king, and within a short spacethey were false to it all, both pledge and oaths as well.

948-55: Erik Bloodaxe in Northumbria

948 (ASC ‘D’): In this year King Eadred ravaged all Northumbria, becase they ahd accepted Eric [Erik Bloodaxe, son of Harold Finehair of Norway, who came to England as an exile] as their king; and in that ravaging the gloriuous minster at Ripon, which St Wilfrid had built, was burnt down. And when the king was on his way hime, the army which was in York overtook the king’s army at Castleford, and they made a great slaughter there. Then the king became so angry that he wished to march back into the land and destroy it utterly. When the councillors of the Northumbrians understood that, they deserted Eric and paid to King Eadred compensation for their act.

949 (ASC ‘E’): In this year Olaf Cwiran [i.e. Sihtric’s son] came into Northumbria.

952 (ASC ‘D’): In this year King Eadred ordered Archbishop Wulfstan [of York] to be taken into the fortress of ‘Iudanbyrig’, because accusations had often been made to the king against him. And in this year also the king ordered a great slaughter to be made in the borough of Thetford in vengeance for the abbot Eadhelm [an abbot of this name witnesses charters in 949 and 951, and may have been abbot of St Augustine’s, Canterbury], whom they had slain.

952 (ASC ‘E’): In this year the Northumbrians drove out King Olaf, and received Eric, Harold’s son.

954 (ASC ‘D’, ‘E’): In this year the Northumbrians drove out Eric, and Eadred succeeded to the kingdom of the Northumbrians.

ASC ‘D’: In this year Archbishop Wulfstan received a bishopric again, in Dorchester.

955 (ASC ‘B,’ ‘C’ 956): In this year King Eadred died and Eadwig [Edmund’s son] succeeded to the kingdom.

ASC ‘D’: In this year King Eadred died, and he rests in the Old Minster, and Eadwig succeeded to the kingdom of the West Saxons, and his brother Edgar to the kingdom of the Mercians [in fact this division of the kingdom did not take place until 957]. They were sons of King Edmund and St Ælfgifu.