Tag Archive | early Saxon history

Vikings Reborn: Judith’s story

 

Before we talk of Judith’s recent terror, let us look closer at Judith and her history- both real and imagined.  In our world, Judith is the daughter of King Aelle of Northumbria.

In actual history, not a lot is known about Aelle other than the fact that he was partially responsible for the Great Heathen armies of the Vikings descending on England for a long and bloody war.  A war which would set Aethelwulf’s son, Alfred the Great against the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, first in revenge for their Father’s death, then in fights for land all over England.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ælla_of_Northumbria

Ælla became king after Osberht was deposed. This is traditionally dated to 862 or 863, but may have been as late as 866.  Almost nothing is known of Ælla’s reign. Symeon of Durham states that Ælla had seized lands at Billingham, Ileclif, Wigeclif, and Crece, which belonged to the church. While Ælla is described in most sources as a tyrant, and not a rightful king, one source states that he was Osberht’s brother.

The Great Heathen Army marched on Northumbria in the late summer of 866, seizing York on 21 November 866.  Symeon of Durham, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Asser, and Æthelweard all recount substantially the same version of events in varying detail. Symeon’s Historia Regum Anglorum gives this account of the battle on 21 March 867 where Osberht and Ælla met their deaths at the hands of the Vikings:

In those days, the nation of the Northumbrians had violently expelled from the kingdom the rightful king of their nation, Osbryht by name, and had placed at the head of the kingdom a certain tyrant, named Alla. When the pagans came upon the kingdom, the dissension was allayed by divine counsel and the aid of the nobles. King Osbryht and Alla, having united their forces and formed an army, came to the city of York; on their approach the multitude of the shipmen immediately took flight. The Christians, perceiving their flight and terror, found that they themselves were the stronger party. They fought upon each side with much ferocity, and both kings fell. The rest who escaped made peace with the Danes.

Ragnarssona þáttr (The Tale of Ragnar’s sons) adds a great deal of colour to accounts of the Viking conquest of York. This associates the semi-legendary king of Sweden Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons, Hvitserk, Björn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, Ivar the Boneless, and Ubba. According to the stories, Ragnar was killed by Ælla, and the army which seized York in 866 was led by Ragnar’s sons who avenged his death by subjecting Ælla to the blood eagle.  Earlier English sources record that both Ælla and Osberht died in battle, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle stating that “both the kings were slain on the spot”.  The main figure in the revenge tales is Ivar, who is sometimes associated with the Viking leader Ímar, brother of Amlaíb Conung, found in the Irish annals. Dorothy Whitelock notes that “it is by no means certain that he should be identified with the son of Ragnar, for the name is not uncommon”.  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not name the leaders in Northumbria, but it does state that “Hingwar and Hubba” slew King Edmund of East Anglia (Saint Edmund) some years later.  Hubba is named as a leader of the army in Northumbria by Abbo of Fleury, and by the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto. Symeon of Durham lists the leaders of the Viking army as “Halfdene, Inguar, Hubba, Beicsecg, Guthrun, Oscytell, Amund, Sidroc and another duke of the same name, Osbern, Frana, and Harold.

 

King Aella of Northumbria

Aelle and his wife, Ealhswith

Aelle and his lovely wife

Aelle with the rest of the family while attending the baptism of Rollo.

Aelle and family attend  yes his son is named ecbert

King Aelle traded Judith to Ecbert as part of a peace agreement and alliance between the two countries. Young Judith became what was known as a peace weaver or peace cow in her marriage to Ecbert’s son Aethelwulf.  She did not seem overly displeased about the arrangement. Why should she… she knew her place and duty as a Noble Royal daughter, it was getting her away from the disagreeable and disgusting King Aelle, and as far as husbands went- Aethelwulf would seem to be a decent match. He was at least young and not bad looking, he was a Prince in line to a throne, and his household was probably much more friendly and comfortable than her Fathers. What was there to disagree about in this arrangement! She was herself, a rather pious and devoted to God young woman so Aethelwulf’s initial devotion to his religion would have probably set well with her.

 

Judith traveling to Wessex with Aelle.

Judith traveling to Wessex with Aelle.

 

Judith's wedding

Judith’s wedding

The marriage for all appearances, seemed to be going well. She quickly proved her breeding ability and provided a son as was her main duty in life. After this accomplishment, Judith could rest somewhat easily in her new household, though she really should at some point put efforts toward providing additional sons… It was unwise to rely on just one heir back then as children could die so easily. And, even once they reached adulthood, a King’s life was filled with dangers- there really should be at least one or two back up heirs in case of some tragedy.  But, for the time being, Judith was comfortable in her position and could relax.  She was well liked by her husband’s family- King Ecbert and much of the time, it appeared that she served as the Lady of his court.  She was present at various family events and functions, both with and without her husband in attendance. Judith got along well with King Ecbert, which would serve to her benefit in the future tragedy to come.

When Ragnar and his group arrived in Wessex, Aethelwulf and Judith were both present at their arrival and later at the feasting in their honor.

aethelwulf watching the arrival

aethelwulf watching the arrival

aethelwulf and judith listen and watch the meeting.

aethelwulf and judith listen and watch the meeting.

aethelwulf volunteers to fight along side these pagans

aethelwulf volunteers to fight along side these pagans

Later, after the warriors- including her husband prepared to do battle, Judith was left on her own at court with King Ecbert as her company. As I have mentioned, they seemed to get along well, were quite friendly with each other, and Judith was included in the various visits with the Pagans… whether she wanted to be there or not- as was the case in a few instances.  It was during this time that she first met the Priest who would so fascinate her and forever change her life. She had heard many rumors about this Holy man, Athelstan from Ecbert and from church members.  Most of the talk was indeed positive and glowing, among the dissenters though, was her husband Aethelwulf. Aethelwulf could not get his mind past the fact that Athelstan lived among the Pagans and so must be a traitor to the true God, the true religion of Christianity.  Aethelwulf is so devout in his beliefs that any dissent from the Christian way is to be viewed with suspicion, contempt and mistrust. He is truly intolerant of any other way of thinking. This will not bode well for Judith in the future.

aethelwulf and athelstan aethelwulf vikings2

Judith was insistant and determined to meet this priest. After her first meeting, she was completely infatuated and entranced with Athelstan.

lady Judith enters and makes her play for Athelstan in a chastely religious manner

now judith will be enraptured with this saintly man marked by god

now judith will be enraptured with this saintly man marked by god

Judith can't resist grabbing his hand to see such a religious sign

Judith can’t resist grabbing his hand to see such a religious sign

judith is in extacy, awe and religious fervor could set in at any moment

Judith I am fascinated by these Northmen

Judith I am fascinated by these Northmen

judith hangs on every word he speaks

judith hangs on every word he speaks

Athelstan was a bit smitten by her as well…

Is Athelstan blushing  I think he is

King Ecbert had an idea what was beginning to happen between the two…

ecbert waits anxiously for Athelstan's answer

Judith went so far as to visit Athelstan in his private quarters…a highly inappropriate and risky action on her part.

judith comes to call

judith comes to call

judith pays athelstan a visit

King Ecbert did warn Judith that she should be careful of those she chooses to be fascinated with… she is playing a very dangerous game.

be careful Judith who you choose to be fascinated by

be careful Judith who you choose to be fascinated by

judith plays a dangerous game

judith plays a dangerous game

Despite Ecbert’s warnings, Judith continued to be fascinated with Athelstan and continuously put herself in his close company. She did however, hold on to her virtue and her pious religious upbringing for the most part. There were times when Ecbert’s more enlightened ways caused her much stress and undue embarrassment but she made every attempt to go along with activities. One such example was the visit to the Roman bath… Poor Judith was much out of here element and comfort zone in this situation but tried hard to participate in it.  It was probably overwhelming and shocking to her, but in some part of her being, it was also too tempting to pass up.  She was religious but not to such an extent as her husband, and she was learning to be more open minded about life and other cultures from Ecbert as well as Athelstan and the other Pagans she encountered such as Lagertha. Judith’s eyes and heart were opening to the bigger world and it was causing her to question all of her so strongly held beliefs.

judith gulps at ecbert's suggestion for them to join him

thoughts in judith's head  no no no euwwwww I can't watch this

thoughts in judith’s head no no no euwwwww I can’t watch this

a quick stare at Judith getting out of the tub

judith's thought omg maybe if I drink enough this will be easier!

judith’s thought omg maybe if I drink enough this will be easier!

Judith's a little uncomfortable here judith makes her escape

After the event in the tub, Judith was torn and at her breaking point. She pours out her heart to Athelstan in a few simple words… I am so tired, tired of everything.

judith admits her tiredness of trying to be good

Athelstan made attempt to comfort her, he was as heart weary as her and understood her words well.

Judith the daughter Judith the wife Judith the pawn

Judith did confess the sin in heart, her deepest feelings for Athelstan… the sin was not hers alone because Athelstan held the same feelings for her.

The sin in Judith's heart is for Athelstan Judith confesses the sin in her heart

hearing Judith's confession

hearing Judith’s confession

Eventually the feelings were too much for them to ignore and they gave in to their desire for each other

Athelstan and Judith ignore their responsibilities and give in to their own desires Judith in the aftermath of pleasure there it's done

It was a bittersweet short lived affair and it was not so secret as they might have assumed that it was. I am quite sure that Ecbert had his suspicions about it even though he did not come outright with it. He did make references to their feelings for each other and their relationship when he was attempting later to get Athelstan to remain with them in Wessex.

 

The men returned from battle victorious over Mercia. This brought the affair to an end as it brought Aethelwulf home, full of crowning glory for feats that he did not accomplish. It also brought Judith’s Father King Aelle to visit and check up on his daughter.  Judith was suffering much anguish at this time as well as possibly some other ailments.  Her Father’s harsh comments and concern only pertained to her not doing her duty as wife of a Noble conquering hero returning home. His concern was not for her happiness or her health, it was for his own personal issues. He was more concerned that her behavior would cause them to look bad and it would affect their so far steady treaty with Wessex. He was not a loving or forgiving Father or ruler for that matter… if she had done anything to affect this peace agreement, she would find no sympathy or forgiving sanctuary from this man!

Aelle and judith What is your problem

Aelle and judith What is your problem

I hear there's a nunnery down the road

I hear there’s a nunnery down the road

King Ecbert  was determined to dissuade any thought or rumor of Judith’s possible indiscretions. As in any small community, there were always rumors and gossip concerning the Nobles and their personal behaviors. Ecbert most probably knew full well of Judith’s affair with Athelstan and possibly even the result of it… But, at this point he needed her to present a loving and devoted wifely attitude towards her husband, Ecbert’s son. This was not a time for womanly hysterics or fits of stubbornness. This was a time to present a united front to all that were watching.

she has missed you beyond endurance she has spent countless hours praying in the chapel for your safe return

she has missed you beyond endurance she has spent countless hours praying in the chapel for your safe return

ecbert throws judith at aethelwulf  your wife has missed you

ecbert throws judith at aethelwulf your wife has missed you

judith is the pawn again

Judith was able to pull herself together and maintain her false pretense until she glimpsed her Athelstan watching from a distance.

 

Judith fakes her welcome of Aethelwulf while eying athelstan

a pensive athelstan in the middle of the feast an uncomfortable Athelstan looks on

During later events of that evening Ecbert used the relationship between Judith and Athelstan in attempt to get his beloved friend to remain with him in Wessex.

perhaps athelstan will stay   Will you  ohhh please say yes don't leave me this way

perhaps athelstan will stay Will you ohhh please say yes don’t leave me this way

When Athelstan mentioned his indecision, Ecbert hinted as to the ongoing relationship… he talked of how he knew that Judith spent much time with Athelstan, held him so dear to her heart and even used him as her personal confessor.  He also asked Athelstan if he had discussed this decision with Judith?

ecbert's response to athestan  Or with Judith

Athelstan’s decision to leave brought panic and fear along with heartbreak from Judith…

I gave myself to you please don't leave me

they say you will go home with ragnar  ohhh please stay don't leave me here by myself not now

they say you will go home with ragnar ohhh please stay don’t leave me here by myself not now

His decision brought a different but equally somber response from Ecbert. Ecbert was disappointed, told him it was the wrong decision and also left him with a final disturbing message…”You have made the wrong decision, your future lies here in Wessex.” Was that just Ecbert’s frustration speaking, or did he know more than he was willing to say.

 I've made up my mind  I will go back with ragnar

I’ve made up my mind I will go back with ragnar

ecbert to athelstan  I think that is the wrong decision.

ecbert to athelstan I think that is the wrong decision.

ecbert is disappointed with athelstan's decision

ecbert is disappointed with athelstan’s decision

In any event, all of their heart wrenching personal discussions and feelings were overshadowed by the final event of that evening… the death of Kwentirith’s brother. That event seemed to unsettle Judith even more.

judith's personal thought when is this going to be over I think I'm going to be sick

It was not until after Ragnar’s group, including Athelstan, departed back to Kattegat that the real consequence of Judith’s affair and her distress were revealed. Judith spent more and more time by herself, avoiding Aethelwulf and instead devoting her attentions to prayer and to God.

judith and her cross 2 lady judith

judith's cross to bear

judith’s cross to bear

judith's cross2

Eventually Aethelwulf inquired of what was bothering her… then demanded to know what her problem was as her husband it was his right to know.

facing aethelwulf

facing aethelwulf

 

silence as judith tries to find courage to tell aethelwulf her condition

silence as judith tries to find courage to tell aethelwulf her condition

Judith finally told Aethelwulf of what was bothering her…

I am with child   What I did not hear you correctly

I am with child. What I did not hear you correctly?

it is true I am with child

it is true I am with child

To say that Aethelwulf did not take the news well would be an understatement! He had not slept with Judith since the birth of their son… this child could not be his! He was beyond words, he was filled with uncontrollable rage, then with sheer terror and panic. There was his rage at his wife’s unfaithfulness and desire to abuse her brutally, but then there was his panic and his fear as well. His fear of his own anger, his fear of  God’s punishment upon them both for this act.

Well that's impossible we have not slept together since the birth of our son.

Well that’s impossible we have not slept together since the birth of our son.

Who's child it answer me

panic and fear in aethelwulf along with humiliation

panic and fear in aethelwulf along with humiliation

 

aethelwulf's anger and frustration

aethelwulf’s anger and frustration

His anger and bitterness at Judith’s betrayal were set aside temporarily when Ecbert employed him to go the North Settlement and end the disputes going on there. There was much betrayal in that act- the betrayal was between Ecbert and Ragnar, as well as in Ecbert and his own son… Ecbert used his own son to carry out the horrific act, but that story does not have a part in Judith’s personal story, other than the fact that in the act Aethelwulf showed his own brutality, his own berserker qualities and his growing extremism with his Christian faith. He would later use those qualities in his treatment of Judith. As to the most violent act that he bestowed on the settlement, I think that some of it involved his venting his rage at Judith.

Aethelwulf casts judith an evil look  I'll deal with you later

Aethelwulf casts judith an evil look I’ll deal with you later

Judith watches her husband leave

Judith watches her husband leave

judith trying to remain calm

What ever retribution or revenge that Aethelwulf would want to extract upon Judith for her adultery and her betrayal could not be implemented while she was with child. While his Christian church and faith would allow for many atrocities, even they would not condone or sanction killing a pregnant Noblewoman and her unborn child. No, that was just not acceptable in any of their Church guided laws. Really, even killing her after a birth would not be truly acceptable. There were other ways of punishing such a woman for her sins, ones which would ensure that she would go through life marked with her sin for all to see. Of far greater importance in this matter would be what to do with the child of such sin? Of course, realistically child birth was such high risk back then that very often a Mother and or her child did not survive it anyway. That would end the whole situation very easily and they could be done with this mess… 

Judith did not follow along that most easy plan of dealing with her. She and her child survived the ordeal of childbirth.  She gave birth to what we would initially assume to be a healthy son. (I say, assume here because from what is know about this child’s later life, he was not really so healthy.) 

in wessex judith has given birth to a son

baby alfred

So, Judith gave birth and with both her and child having survived it, Aethelwulf did show up if only for proper appearance’s sake. No need to cause such scandal quite yet… perhaps Mother and child were at death’s door and he could put the mess behind him. No, it did appear that they were both healthy and not about ease his problems by dying any time soon.

this father is not filled with joy.

this father is not filled with joy.

aethelwulf barely pays glance at this child this child's birth is not so well recieved

He stayed only long enough to assure himself that they would live… It was then that Judith’s real terror and nightmare began.

She asked for her child so she could hold him, but before that could happen the group of women were interrupted by soldiers and churchmen.

I want my baby give me my baby

she was interrupted before she could hold her new son

she was interrupted before she could hold her new son

The priest said he was acting on the King’s orders, and he probably was. But, I do think in part it was more due to Aethelwulf’s demands and insistence. Aethelwulf would have felt so betrayed and enraged by Judith’s act that he would have insisted on this punishment by the Church… especially with the child being a boy. This is the most important matter in this whole event. Judith had just given birth to a son, an imposter, a usurper of a son who, by being born within the confines of marriage would be looked at as a legitimate heir to the throne! This would have cause Aethelwulf even more inner rage than he already had and he would have been determined to see things set right.  If it had been a girl, he may have been able to contend himself with keeping quiet, and then found reason to ship both Judith and said daughter off to a nunnery. But, a boy… No a boy changed the situation entirely. Now, Judith must be convicted of adultery if for no other reason than to disinherit this child from any chance at the throne.  Even King Ecbert may have seen the need, the justification for such an act seeing as Judith has never admitted to them as yet who the Father may be.  Ecbert could have all the suspicions he chose, but until Judith admitted it publically, he had no choice but to go along with some trial and punishment to be on the safe side…. because, really, what if he was wrong, what if she had been with someone else, someone who she did not him to know about?  No, he could not take that chance when the matter of future kingship was at stake.

You must come with us now on the King's orders.

You must come with us now on the King’s orders.

what place what are you talking about what is this

what place what are you talking about what is this

Judith had no idea what was taking place, what was happening to her or why… She was in a true panic and feared for her life.

what is happening where are we going my children need me

what is happening where are we going my children need me

The terror that Judith was put through on this day was so horrific and brutal.  In Judith’s own words it was barbaric and not an act that her God or Jesus Christ would ever condone. I am quite sure that the event will remain forever in Judith’s mind and heart. Aside from any physical reminder, it will color and affect the way that she looks at life and the Church in the future!

Judith was left to the judgement and punishment of the Church on that day. She was tied to a stake and put on public trial for all to witness her punishment for the sin of adultery.

judith's terror begins2 judith tied to the stake 

No, she would not be killed, only tortured, maimed and scarred for life as well as being disavowed, disowned and publically humiliated by everyone in attendance. This public trial and humiliation would scar and mark her for life as an adultery in the eyes of everyone who would see her in the future. If she survived the injuries, she would have no other choice but to hide herself in some nunnery and repent for her sins the rest of her life. And, most likely her baby would not be killed but abandoned to the fate of being a bastard child of an adultering Mother.

The church’s Bishop presided over the trial and the given punishment.

you must face god for forgiveness

you must face god for forgiveness

the punishment as told by the holy book that your ears and nose be cut off

the punishment as told by the holy book that your ears and nose be cut off

Judith’s heartfelt response was “My Lord Jesus Christ never advocated such punishments”

My Lord Jesus never advocated such wrongful punishments

My Lord Jesus never advocated such wrongful punishments

she pleads with Ecbert and Aethelwulf  What is this what are you doing to me

It was barbaric, brutal and horrifying. Judith endured it and staunchly refused to confess who the Father of her child was.  All the while, Aethelwulf watched with no remorse or guilt, on disgust and anger towards her.

aethelwulf watches his wife torture with disgust a very angry aethelwulf

Ecbert watched with some grim determination

ecbert watches with grim determination

as judith faces her torture ecbert finally steps in

as judith faces her torture ecbert finally steps in

Ecbert pleaded with her to tell them the name of the man.

Judith will you not give us the name of this man

Judith staunchly refused to tell the name, perhaps in some desperate act of trying to protect Athelstan from any future retribution… little did she realize there was no point in this. For one thing he had  gone with the Vikings- that had already sealed his fate in some eyes such as Aethelwulf’s. For another, he had already suffered his own fatal consequences. But, she was determined to keep the secret and gave up an ear in the attempt…

judith refuses to name the father and gives up an ear for it ecbert listens and watches. he can do nothing to stop this unless she admits in public who is the father

Damn it Judith why must you be so stubborn if you had just said the name we could be done with this

Finally, in shock, Judith could take no more and uttered a small whisper of Athelstan…

judith can not take any more pain and utters the word Athelstan

judith can not take any more pain and utters the word Athelstan

athelstan is the father of my child

athelstan is the father of my child

This was the admission that Ecbert needed in order to ensure her safety. She needed to admit it publically before he could attempt to do any damage control in this situation. He immediately called a halt to the proceedings.

Hold Stop now

Aethelwulf looked as if he had been the tortured one on hearing her admission… Oh My Dear God, she slept with the Priest!

aethelwulf looks like he has been the tortured one

Ecbert quickly took control of the event and used his powers of persuasion to convince his son that this was really a miracle, an event touched and blessed by God. Aethelwulf was so devout and rigid in his thinking about his faith that this story actually began to have impact on him. He showed that where matters of religion and faith were concerned, he could be as easily swayed and as gullible as many others were.  Ecbert told Aethelwulf that Athelstan was indeed a very holy man, blessed by God and this was a special child, chosen by God. In his own thought, perhaps Ecbert felt that if he could not have Athelstan near to him, then he could at least have his child to raise up as a holy Christian… against the Pagans who had stolen away the heart and soul of his beloved friend Athelstan.

how can we punish a woman who like the blessed virgin gave birth to a holy child

how can we punish a woman who like the blessed virgin gave birth to a holy child

 

so you think that god had a hand in this conception?

so you think that god had a hand in this conception?

I do I do my son

I do I do my son

a dazed and confused Aethelwulf on hearing his wife has been chosen by god

a dazed and confused Aethelwulf on hearing his wife has been chosen by god

Judith and her son were saved by Ecbert and he vowed that there would be a christening of the child.

and the boy's name will be Alfred

and the boy’s name will be Alfred

his name is Alfred He shall be great

Athelstan has after all left a legacy, a child who will be raised as a devout and holy Christian. A child who will become a King that works tirelessly to unite the Kingdoms of England and stop the advance on their lands by the Heathen armies, the Vikings. A child who will become one called Alfred the Great and fight against the sons of Ragnar Lothbrock. But, that is all in the distant future of this infant.  What now might be in store for the child’s mother who fought so hard to keep him safe, who almost lost her life because of religious zealots such as her husband and power brokers such as King Ecbert.  The only thing we can be certain of for now is that she is alive and she is now deeply in Ecbert’s debt… which is not always such a good place to be. Ecbert want this son of Athelstan’s so the boy will be safe, well cared for and well raised despite any possible objections from Aethelwulf. Will Ecbert continue to show the same care for Judith? That does remain to be seen, but I believe that being so much in Ecbert’s debt, this makes her an even greater pawn for him to use to his advantage.

Now, as to Judith in real history… because there was a Judith, wife of Aethelwulf in history. In real and accurate history, she was Judith of Flanders. She was no relation nor had any connection to Aelle of Northumbria.

Judith of Flanders

Judith in history

Judith of Flanders (or Judith of France) (c. 843 – c. 870)  was the eldest daughter of the West Frankish King and later Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald and his wife Ermentrude of Orléans. Through her marriages to two Kings of Wessex, Æthelwulf and Æthelbald, she was twice a queen. Her first two marriages were childless, but through her third marriage to Baldwin, she became the first Countess of Flanders and an ancestress of later Counts of Flanders. One of her sons by Baldwin married Ælfthryth, a daughter of Æthelbald’s brother, Alfred the Great. She was also an ancestress of Matilda of Flanders, the consort of William the Conqueror, and thus of later monarchs of England.

In 855 King Æthelwulf of Wessex made a pilgrimage to Rome, and on his way back in 856 he stayed at the court of the West Frankish king, Charles the Bald. In July Æthelwulf became engaged to Charles’s daughter, Judith, who was no more than fourteen, while Æthelwulf was about fifty years old, and on 1 October 856 they were married at Verberie in northern France. The marriage was a diplomatic alliance. Both men were suffering from Viking attacks, and for Æthelwulf the marriage had the advantage of associating him with Carolingian prestige. In Wessex it was not customary for kings’ wives to be queens, but Charles insisted that his daughter be crowned queen.

The marriage provoked a rebellion by Æthelwulf’s eldest surviving son, Æthelbald, probably because he feared displacement by a higher born half brother. However father and son negotiated a compromise under which Æthelwulf received the eastern districts of the kingdom and Æthelbald the western. It is not known whether this meant that Æthelwulf took Kent and Æthelbald Wessex, or whether Wessex itself was divided.

Judith had no children by Æthelwulf, who died on 13 January 858. He was succeeded by Æthelbald, who married Judith, his step-mother, probably to enhance his status because she was the daughter of the West Frankish king. The marriage was condemned by Asser in his Life of Alfred the Great:

Once King Æthelwulf was dead, Æthelbald, his son, against God’s prohibition and Christian dignity, and also contrary to the practice of all pagans, took over his father’s marriage-bed and married Judith, daughter of Charles, king of the Franks, incurring great disgrace from all who heard of it.

Judith was still childless when Æthelbald died in 860 after a reign of two and a half years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_of_Flanders

In true history, Aethelwulf was married prior to Judith and it was this wife who bore him all of his children, including young Alfred.

Queen_Osburga_reads_for_her_son,_Alfred

Osburh or Osburga (died before 856) was the first wife of King Æthelwulf of Wessex and mother of Alfred the Great. Alfred’s biographer, Asser, described her as “a most religious woman, noble in character and noble by birth”.

Osburh’s existence is known only from Asser‘s Life of King Alfred. She is not named as witness to any charters, nor is her death reported in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. So far as is known, she was the mother of all Æthelwulf’s children, his five sons Æthelstan, Æthelbald, Æthelberht, Æthelred and Alfred the Great, and his daughter Æthelswith, wife of King Burgred of Mercia. Osburh presumably died before 856 when her husband married the Carolingian princess Judith.

She is best known for Asser’s story about a book of Saxon songs which she showed to Alfred and his brothers, offering to give the book to whoever could first memorise it, a challenge which Alfred took up and won. This exhibits the interest of high status ninth-century women in books, and their role in educating their children.

Osburh was the daughter of Oslac (who is also only known from Asser’s Life), King Æthelwulf’s pincerna (butler), an important figure in the royal court and household. Oslac is described as a descendant of King Cerdic‘s Jutish nephews, Stuf and Wihtgar, who conquered the Isle of Wight,  and, by this, is also ascribed Geatish/Gothic ancestry.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osburh

One last note of interest… Michael Hirst, creator of the Vikings has confirmed that this baby is indeed the Alfred that grows up to be called Alfred the Great so we can rest assured that this baby will remain safely cared for no matter what might befall Judith in the future.  There is also an interesting thought here on Alfred’s future health ailments… he suffers from ill health all of his life in true history. Perhaps it is due to the religious thought that Aethelwulf would put so much store in… The sins of the Fathers, or Mothers will be passed on to their children? Or in other terms, the children will suffer in some way because of the parent’s sins.

Alfred died on 26 October 899. How he died is unknown, although he suffered throughout his life with a painful and unpleasant illness. His biographer Asser gave a detailed description of Alfred’s symptoms and this has allowed modern doctors to provide a possible diagnosis. It is thought that he either had Crohn’s disease or haemorrhoidal disease.  His grandson King Edred seems to have suffered from a similar illness.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great#Death.2C_burial_and_fate_of_remains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings: Wanderer, part one Let us speak of Ecbert

 

 

they're at the top of that hill

they’re at the top of that hill

Before we talk of battle, blood and fears, let us talk of King Ecbert. If you recall, I previously mentioned my concerns about the land he has given us and I also voice thoughts on what his plans or motives might be?

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/vikings-our-arrival-in-wessex-causes-much-gossip/

Because as we all know, everyone has secrets, everyone has some ulterior motive in their actions… well, everyone but Athelstan, but his is another story that we will talk of later! For now we will just focus on Ecbert, his possible motives and of course his involvement with us.

Upon our arrival at our farms, Lagertha did indeed question King Ecbert about the same concerns that I thought of earlier. He admitted that the previous landholders had been removed to allow for our settlement. He did make much assurance though that there would be no problem and we would be well safe and under his protection.

settling into the new home ecbert makes assurance that he will protect them and there will be no repercussions

It was always Ragnar's dream to find land to farm and live peacably now that is my dream as well

It was always Ragnar’s dream to find land to farm and live peacably now that is my dream as well

I give my oath that you will be safe here

I give my oath that you will be safe here

King Ecbert did little to hide his affections for Lagertha and made much attempt to win her heart? I am not saying whether this is good or bad… time will tell of that. I trust that my Lady Lagertha is wise enough to know of what games he might play, know the consequences and even take advantage of his affections for her if the need should arise. As I have said, I am sure that he has his own agenda and motives for his actions. But, as I see it for now, he truly does care for Lagertha so, really is that such a bad thing? She enjoys his company as well and as long as she is happy, that is all matters for the time being. Who are we to judge what is in the heart of others? To some, Ecbert’s  first gift to Lagertha may have seemed lacking… but it spoke volumes to Lagertha’s heart!

the way to a farm girl's heart  a gift of dirt Ahhhh dirt my favorite scent ecbert does seem sincere in his gift though I thank you with all my heart

The farming is a hard task and everyone must help to see it’s success. Lagertha  does never put herself above us and is always willing to do far more than she needs to.

the farmstead in Wessex

In her efforts, we are reminded of the Seer’s words to her… “The Sword and the Plow will sustain you until you become like a virgin once more.”

the marriage of plow and sword will sustain you until you become a virgin once more

the marriage of plow and sword will sustain you until you become a virgin once more

King Ecbert sees her efforts and her diligence, and I think he became even more impressed with her worth? He did offer some respite to her in an invitation to visit his Villa.

Farmer Lagertha agrees to visit Ecbert's home because  I need a bath

And, so Lagertha and Athelstan went back to Egbert’s home for a visit. He did his best to ensure her comfort. When  a  dinner time discussion of religion became a bit too uncomfortable for everyone, he gracefully managed to change the subject by presenting her with an additional gift! The topic had turned to differences in beliefs, always a touchy subject for casual dinner conversation.

ecbert waits anxiously for Athelstan's answer Athelstan tries to explain the differences athelstan's answer I love Odin and I love jesus christ ecbert decides a change of subject is needed Stones are much easier to wear than earth Now really what woman could resist such a gift

Later as Lagertha and Athelstan prepared to leave, there was a discussion in which Lagertha showed that she was wiser than thought and knew more of this English language than Ecbert had assumed?  Lagertha made thanks for the beautiful necklace and mentioned that it was such fine work, it must have been created by the dwarves. Ecbert laughed and said, “We do not have dwarves in this country.” Lagertha’s reply, “Oh, yes you do, you just don’t see them!”

we don't have dwarves in England  Yes you do  you just don't see them

we don’t have dwarves in England Yes you do you just don’t see them

There was much more that happened during this visit but it regards Athelstan and the Lady Judith and not Ecbert or his involvements so much with us. We will speak more of it when we speak of Athelstan’s troubles.

 

Now, let us speak more Ecbert and his other possible motives and reasons… His motives and other plans do include that Princess Kwentirith, and of course his son Aethelwulf, so we will speak of both of them during this discussion.  First it might help to know some true  history regarding King Ecbert and his reign over Wessex. because then it might make more sense to see how Kwentirith would tie in to his possible plans.

Although Kwentirith is a fictional person, I have made mention that she bears close resemblance to a real person in the history of Wessex. For that information you can refresh your memory by reading more about that here:  https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/vikings-trivia-who-is-princess-kwenthrith/

Offa of Mercia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offa_of_Mercia

Kwentirith at one time mentioned that her Father was Offa, King of Mercia. There was actually a battle over the control of Mercia after Offa’s death, though Ecbert was not directly involved in that other than for the fact that many of the Mercians continuously opposed him and his rule of Wessex.  It was not until later years that he became involved in wanting control of Mercia.  For our purposes, Kwentirith would play into his plans for achieving this control?  She is fighting for control of Mercia herself, or so we would assume… But, in reality, it is quite obvious that the woman is not stable and very doubtful whether the residents of Mercia would allow her to rule even if she were stable minded. If Ecbert were to back her in her plan, though, he could then take control of Mercia from her. Once the battle was won, it would not be difficult to prove her unfitness to rule and if the Papacy were on his side he could very easily gain the rule of Mercia. The Papacy was on his side as it is thought that it was their backing that helped gain him the crown of Wessex in the first place.

The battle of Ellendun

A map of England during Egbert’s reign

 In 825 one of the most important battles in Anglo-Saxon history took place, when Egbert defeated Beornwulf of Mercia at Ellendun—now Wroughton, near Swindon. This battle marked the end of the Mercian domination of southern England.   The Chronicle tells how Egbert followed up his victory: “Then he sent his son Æthelwulf from the army, and Ealhstan, his bishop, and Wulfheard, his ealdorman, to Kent with a great troop.” Æthelwulf drove Baldred, the king of Kent, north over the Thames, and according to the Chronicle, the men of Kent, Essex, Surrey and Sussex then all submitted to Æthelwulf “because earlier they were wrongly forced away from his relatives.”  This may refer to Offa’s interventions in Kent at the time Egbert’s father Ealhmund became king; if so, the chronicler’s remark may also indicate Ealhmund had connections elsewhere in southeast England.

The Chronicle’s version of events makes it appear that Baldred was driven out shortly after the battle, but this was probably not the case. A document from Kent survives which gives the date, March 826, as being in the third year of the reign of Beornwulf. This makes it likely that Beornwulf still had authority in Kent at this date, as Baldred’s overlord; hence Baldred was apparently still in power.  In Essex, Egbert expelled King Sigered, though the date is unknown. It may have been delayed until 829, since a later chronicler associates the expulsion with a campaign of Egbert’s in that year against the Mercians.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not say who was the aggressor at Ellendun, but one recent history asserts that Beornwulf was almost certainly the one who attacked. According to this view, Beornwulf may have taken advantage of the Wessex campaign in Dumnonia in the summer of 825. Beornwulf’s motivation to launch an attack would have been the threat of unrest or instability in the southeast: the dynastic connections with Kent made Wessex a threat to Mercian dominance.

The consequences of Ellendun went beyond the immediate loss of Mercian power in the southeast. According to the Chronicle, the East Anglians asked for Egbert’s protection against the Mercians in the same year, 825, though it may actually have been in the following year that the request was made. In 826 Beornwulf invaded East Anglia, presumably to recover his overlordship. He was slain, however, as was his successor, Ludeca, who invaded East Anglia in 827, evidently for the same reason. It may be that the Mercians were hoping for support from Kent: there was some reason to suppose that Wulfred, the Archbishop of Canterbury, might be discontented with West Saxon rule, as Egbert had terminated Wulfred’s currency and had begun to mint his own, at Rochester and Canterbury,  and it is known that Egbert seized property belonging to Canterbury.  The outcome in East Anglia was a disaster for the Mercians which confirmed West Saxon power in the southeast.

 

 More information of Egbert of Wessex and the battle Ellendun http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egbert_of_Wessex

More information on Aethelwulf:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86thelwulf_of_Wessex

You might wonder how this relates in any way possible to our Vikings Saga?  Well, as it’s mentioned, this battle is the key to Ecbert taking control of Mercia. Let us look at how our story might make use of such battle?

We already know that Kwentirith is involved in a fight with her remaining brother for the land and that Ecbert has offered his help to her in this battle. Why would he offer assistance if there were not some potential of great gain for him.  He needs assistance to win the fight is not above using the force of well trained Danish mercenaries such as Ragnar and his men. This would also be a benefit because many of his own men probably are not keen on fighting with neighbors and family in Mercia? Ragnar and his men know little of the bigger picture… though Ragnar did mention earlier, “There is some bigger problem here that is not ours, but his.” He was referring to Ecbert at the time.

Ecbert’s son Aethelwulf quickly volunteered to join in the battle, which would put him in place to receive great credit for a success. A defeat of Mercia would bode well for him and it would go along with history’s reference to him being involved in the battle.

Initially there was no battle on the river bank because Kwentirith’s brother chose wisely to listen to his advisor who told him in no uncertain terms, “Leave, leave now in order to survive!”

well ok maybe the shrooms haven't quite worn off yet time to meet the brother

Bergrid I love you don't leave

Bergrid I love you don’t leave

Maybe now is a good time to pray

There was much that led up to this meeting but I will address them in another discussion. This discussion only pertains to those events important to understanding these Saxons involved in the fight.

WTH It's that crazy sister of mine!

WTH It’s that crazy sister of mine!

you must not trust her she killed your brother and she will kill you

you must not trust her she killed your brother and she will kill you

but I love her

but I love her

survive first then talk of love

survive first then talk of love

Realistically, if you were a Mercian, would you want this woman as your ruler? If  she succeeds in defeating her brother, the Mercians will probably beg King Ecbert to step in and remove her!

Kwentirith as future ruler

Bergrid made a choice to flee rather than face this army… probably a wise choice at the time. Ragnar knew he must continue the fight and sent Aethelwulf to find out where they would flee to. Aethelwul is not just a meek Christian but a warrior in his own right, and he begins to show his worth in this situation.

aethelwulf shows his own warrior leader side

aethelwulf shows his own warrior leader side

Aethelwulf also shows that he is not above his own methods of torture to gain needed information!

aethelwulf shows his own warrior leader side

aethelwulf shows his own warrior leader side

brother birghred's man is captured

brother birghred’s man is captured

I could remove an eye or some teeth which would you prefer

I could remove an eye or some teeth which would you prefer

I don't believe you I don't know anything it's your choice

It's strange how I always know if someone is telling the truth

It’s strange how I always know if someone is telling the truth

After the threat of such torture, the captured man gives up his information and Aethelwulf offers some forgiveness as he is not like those Northmen?

I have no argument with you let's sup together  we're not all like the northmen

One added thought on Aethelwulf’s comments… perhaps Lady Judith would be wise to take heed of his warnings?

I always know when someone is telling me the truth

I always know when someone is telling me the truth

Aethelwulf returns to the group with his information that holds the key to the possible future battle?

they're at the top of that hill

they’re at the top of that hill

Berghrid and his men wait at the top of the hill for help to defeat Ragnar and Ecbert’s forces.  Why is this important, why is this the key? That most important battle for Ecbert, the battle of Ellendun was fought at or near a place called Wroughton.  Occupation of the area continued into the early Middle Ages (AD 410–1066) when two battles are understood to have taken place in the area: Breahburh (AD 567), thought to have been fought by Ceawlin of Wessex on the slopes of Barbury Hill, and Ellandun (AD 825) at Elcombe Hall by Egbert of Wessex. However there is no agreement that the latter was here (it is known to have been south of Swindon). Burial sites in the vicinity are believed to be associated with these battles.

Wroughton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wroughton

battle of Ellendun

battle of Ellendun

Barbury Castle:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbury_Castle

aerial photograph  by webbaviation.co.uk

Barbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort situated in Wiltshire, England. It is one of several such forts found along the ancient Ridgeway route. The site, which lies within the Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has been managed as a country park by Swindon Borough Council since 1971. It is situated on Barbury Hill, a local vantage point, which, under ideal weather conditions, commands a view across to the Cotswolds and the River Severn. It has two deep defensive ditches and ramparts. The Old Ridgeway runs close by and the modern Ridgeway crosses through the castle. In the surrounding area are to be found round barrows, Celtic field systems and 18th-19th Century flint workings.

On a side note, this area is also the site of another historical landmark.  The Uffington White Horse is located close by.

The Uffington White Horse is a highly stylised prehistoric hill figure, 110 m long (374 feet), formed from deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk. The figure is situated on the upper slopes of White Horse Hill in the English civil parish of Uffington (in the county of Oxfordshire, historically Berkshire), some 8 km (5 mi) south of the town of Faringdon and a similar distance west of the town of Wantage; or 2.5 km south of Uffington. The hill forms a part of the scarp of the Berkshire Downs and overlooks the Vale of White Horse to the north. Best views of the figure are obtained from the air, or from directly across the Vale, particularly around the villages of Great Coxwell, Longcot and Fernham. The site is owned and managed by the National Trust and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

History

Uffington White Horse, sketched by William Plenderleath in The White Horses of the West of England (1892)

The figure presumably dates to “the later prehistory“, i.e. the Iron Age (800 BC–AD 100) or the late Bronze Age (1000–700 BC). This view was generally held by scholars even before the 1990s, based on the similarity of the horse’s design to comparable figures in Celtic art, and it was confirmed following a 1990 excavation led by Simon Palmer and David Miles of the Oxford Archaeological Unit, following which deposits of fine silt removed from the horse’s ‘beak’ were scientifically dated to the late Bronze Age.

Iron Age coins that bear a representation comparable to the Uffington White Horse have been found, supporting the early dating of this artefact; it has also been suggested that the horse had been fashioned in the Anglo-Saxon period, more particularly during Alfred’s reign, but there is no positive evidence to support this and the view is classified as “folklore” by Darvill (1996).

Numerous other prominent prehistoric sites are located nearby, notably Wayland’s Smithy, a long barrow less than 2 kilometres (1 mi) to the west. The Uffington is by far the oldest of the white horse figures in Britain, and is of an entirely different design from the others.  It has long been debated whether the chalk figure was intended to represent a horse or some other animal. However, it has been called a horse since the 11th century at least. A cartulary of Abingdon Abbey, compiled between 1072 and 1084, refers to “mons albi equi” at Uffington (“the White Horse Hill”).

The medieval Welsh book, Llyfr Coch Hergest [The Red Book of Hergest] (1375-1425), states: “Gerllaw tref Abinton y mae mynydd ac eilun march arno a gwyn ydiw. Ni thyf dim arno.” which translates as “Near to the town of Abinton there is a mountain with a figure of a stallion upon it and it is white. Nothing grows upon it.”

The head of the horse, with sheep grazing around it.

The horse is thought to represent a tribal symbol perhaps connected with the builders of Uffington Castle.

White Horse Hill and Dragon Hill

Also important to note here is Ecbert’s later move on to Northumbria?  According to history, shortly after his victory of  Mercia, he took control of Northumbria as well.Later in 829, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Egbert received the submission of the Northumbrians at Dore (now a suburb of Sheffield); the Northumbrian king was probably Eanred.  According to a later chronicler, Roger of Wendover, Egbert invaded Northumbria and plundered it before Eanred submitted: “When Egbert had obtained all the southern kingdoms, he led a large army into Northumbria, and laid waste that province with severe pillaging, and made King Eanred pay tribute.” Roger of Wendover is known to have incorporated Northumbrian annals into his version; the Chronicle does not mention these events.   However, the nature of Eanred’s submission has been questioned: one historian has suggested that it is more likely that the meeting at Dore represented a mutual recognition of sovereignty. In 830 Egbert led a successful expedition against the Welsh, almost certainly with the intent of extending West Saxon influence into the Welsh lands previously within the Mercian orbit. This marked the high point of Egbert’s influence.
Our Vikings saga differs from history in that our Aelle is currently leader of Northumbria… and conveniently, his daughter, Lady Judith has been married off to Aethelwulf to seal alliances between the kingdoms.  At this time, I am unaware of what precise agreements were made between Aelle and Ecbert so I can not delve into that right now.
Ecbert did gain control over Mercia and Northumbria in the 820s but was unable to maintain that control. Both Wessex’s sudden rise to power in the late 820s, and the subsequent failure to retain this dominant position, have been examined by historians looking for underlying causes. One plausible explanation for the events of these years is that Wessex’s fortunes were to some degree dependent on Carolingian support. The Franks supported Eardwulf when he recovered the throne of Northumbria in 808, so it is plausible that they also supported Egbert’s accession in 802. At Easter 839, not long before Egbert’s death, he was in touch with Louis the Pious, king of the Franks, to arrange safe passage to Rome. Hence a continuing relationship with the Franks seems to be part of southern English politics during the first half of the ninth century.Carolingian support may have been one of the factors that helped Egbert achieve the military successes of the late 820s. However, the Rhenish and Frankish commercial networks collapsed at some time in the 820s or 830s, and in addition, a rebellion broke out in February 830 against Louis the Pious—the first of a series of internal conflicts that lasted through the 830s and beyond. These distractions may have prevented Louis from supporting Egbert. In this view, the withdrawal of Frankish influence would have left East Anglia, Mercia and Wessex to find a balance of power not dependent on outside aid.

Despite the loss of dominance, Egbert’s military successes fundamentally changed the political landscape of Anglo-Saxon England. Wessex retained control of the south-eastern kingdoms, with the possible exception of Essex, and Mercia did not regain control of East Anglia.   Egbert’s victories marked the end of the independent existence of the kingdoms of Kent and Sussex. The conquered territories were administered as a subkingdom for a while, including Surrey and possibly Essex.   Although Æthelwulf was a subking under Egbert, it is clear that he maintained his own royal household, with which he travelled around his kingdom. Charters issued in Kent described Egbert and Æthelwulf as “kings of the West Saxons and also of the people of Kent.” When Æthelwulf died in 858 his will, in which Wessex is left to one son and the southeastern kingdom to another, makes it clear that it was not until after 858 that the kingdoms were fully integrated.  Mercia remained a threat, however; Egbert’s son Æthelwulf, established as king of Kent, gave estates to Christ Church, Canterbury, probably to counter any influence the Mercians might still have there.

In the southwest, Egbert was defeated in 836 at Carhampton by the Danes,  but in 838 he won a battle against them and their allies the West Welsh at the Battle of Hingston Down in Cornwall. The Dumnonian royal line continued after this time, but it is at this date that the independence of one of the last British kingdoms may be considered to have ended.  The details of Anglo-Saxon expansion into Cornwall are quite poorly recorded, but some evidence comes from place names.  The river Ottery, which flows east into the Tamar near Launceston, appears to be a boundary: south of the Ottery the placenames are overwhelmingly Cornish, whereas to the north they are more heavily influenced by the English newcomers.

I know that I have probably provided more information on Ecbert than most would be interested in knowing, but as I have stated before, I think it is important to understand some of his historical background when trying to figure out his character in our version of history.  I also think that it is important to present some of this history as a counter part to the fiction that is being presented in our story.

In regards to the changes that Michael Hirst makes in order to adapt history to the storyline, I feel he makes great attempts to weave historical events and people into the story. I remind everyone that it is after all, historical fiction! My personal feeling is that this battle of Ellendun is  crucial to the expansion of Ecbert’s rule and later, Aethelwulf’s rule as well. I would think that might well get presented somehow within the story to show that other side of Ecbert, that side that we have seen little of as yet?  So, my current thought is that Berghrid’s men at the top of that hill in the distance could be some reference to this important battle.

they're at the top of that hill

they’re at the top of that hill

 

 

 

Some early Saxon history: From Aethelwulf and descendants to Ivar the Boneless!

 

 

 

First of all, remember to fight/vote! Shirtless men are in an even race with Highland Warriors…

Now on to our history lesson for the night! You may recall that recently I sent a message to Athelstan urging him to tread cautiously and carefully in affairs of the heart where the Lady Judith, wife of Aethulwulf is concerned?

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/vikings-message-to-athelstan/

aethelwulf vikings2 judith vikings

more wooo but with who?

more wooo but with who?

Well, tonight’s history lesson has to do with descendants of Aethulwulf. If you remember, I did mention how important his descendants are in the future rule of England.  I just recently came across an interesting article and discovery about one of his descendants! It is a bit of old news but seeing as I just discovered it, some of you may also find it interesting as well?

Remains discovered in Germany confirmed as oldest confirmed British Royal, who died more than 1,000 years ago

Bones found in a German cathedral belong to the granddaughter of Saxon king Alfred the Great, experts confirmed today.  Body parts excavated in Magdeburg Cathedral in 2008 are those of Saxon princess Eadgyth, who died more than 1,000 years ago.  They are the oldest surviving remains of an English royal burial, according to experts at the University of Bristol who analysed the skeletal fragments to piece together a snapshot of the princess’s life.

640px-HerscherpaarMagdeburgCathedral Eadgyth and otto

Eadgyth was married off to Otto I, the Great, in AD 929 by her half brother Athelstan, who was the first king to rule all of England.   As wife of the king of Saxony, she lived most of her married life in Magdeburg, capital of Saxony-Anhalt, and had at least two children.  Eadgyth died in AD 946 aged about 36 and was buried in the monastery of St Maurice in Switzerland.  Her bones were moved at least three times before being finally interred in an elaborate tomb in Magdeburg Cathedral in 1510.

Edward

Two years ago, German archaeologists opened the tomb, expecting it to be empty.  To their surprise, they found it contained a lead box bearing the inscription ‘The remains of Queen Eadgyth are in this sarcophagus’.   When they opened the coffin they discovered bone fragments wrapped in silk.  It is thought some of the missing body parts, including hands and feet and much of the skull, were probably taken by medieval relic hunters.  An analysis of the remains by Professor Kurt Alt at the University of Mainz established they were those of a female who died aged between 30 and 40.  Professor Alt also found evidence that the woman was a frequent horse rider and ate a high protein diet with large amounts of fish, which suggested she had enjoyed an aristocratic lifestyle.

I find the article interesting from a scientific point of view even though I do question the need for opening up a coffin to examine the remains in order to prove exactly who the person was. If there was a sound reason for a more thorough and in depth examination, it might sit better with me? An example of a more sound reason to prove who ancient remains are would be in a case such as the controversy over skeletal remains which might or might not be connected to mystery of the Princes of the Tower. But, that is another story for another time!

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1287283/Remains-Saxon-princess-Eadgyth-oldest-British-Royal-discovered-Germany.html#ixzz3Qg4fjq4q
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I know you are thinking, Ohhh well an odd and interesting bit of information- but what does she have to do with Aethulwulf?

Well, if you follow along with my very brief genealogy lesson, you will see how she is related to our Aethelwulf… You know, the one who is turning more and more to a life of pious devotion to God? Oh, by the way, he passes this devotion down to future generations as well!

what goes on here 2

what goes on here 2

what on earth is going on here?

what on earth is going on here?

 

Eadgyth, or Edith was born to the reigning English king Edward the Elder by his second wife, Ælfflæd, and hence was granddaughter of Alfred the Great. Nothing is known of her until in order to seal an alliance between two Saxon kingdoms, her half-brother, King Athelstan of England, sent two of his sisters (Eadgyth and Eadgifu of Wessex) to Germany, instructing the Duke of Saxony (later Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor) to choose whichever one pleased him best. Otto chose Edith and married her in 930. The remaining sister Algiva or Adiva was married to a “king near the Jupiter mountains” (the Alps). The precise identity of the husband of this sister is debated.

In 936 King Henry I of Germany died and his eldest son, Eadgyth’s husband, was crowned at Aachen as King Otto I. There is a surviving report of the ceremony by Widukind of Corvey which makes no mention of his wife having been crowned at this point, but according to Thietmar of Merseburg‘s chronicle Eadgyth was nevertheless anointed as queen, albeit in a separate ceremony. As queen, Eadgyth undertook the usual state duties of “First lady”: when she turns up in the records it is generally in connection with gifts to the state’s favoured monasteries or memorials to holy women and saints. In this respect she seems to have been more diligent than her now widowed and subsequently sainted mother-in-law Queen Matilda whose own charitable activities only achieve a single recorded mention from the period of Eadgyth’s time as queen. There was probably rivalry between the Benedictine Monastery of St Maurice founded at Magdeburg by Otto and Eadgyth in 937, a year after coming to the throne and Matilda’s foundation at Quedlinburg Abbey, intended by her as a memorial to her husband, the late King Henry I.

Eadgyth accompanied her husband on his travels, though not during battles. She spent the hostilities of 939 at Lorsch Abbey

Like her brother, Athelstan, Edith was devoted to the cult of Saint Oswald and was instrumental in introducing this cult into Germany after her marriage to the emperor. Her lasting influence may have caused certain monasteries and churches in Saxony to be dedicated to this saint.

Eadgyth’s death at a relatively young age, in her early thirties, was unexpected.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadgyth

Eadgyth was the granddaughter of one Alfred the Great, who was the son of Aethelwulf! 

Alfred was born in the village of Wanating, now Wantage, Oxfordshire. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife,Osburh.

In 853, at the age of four , Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who “anointed him as king”. Victorian writers later interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, his succession could not have been foreseen at the time, as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a “consul“; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.  It may also be based on Alfred’s later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855.

On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming, the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e., traditional Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east.

When King Æthelwulf died in 858, Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred’s brothers in succession, Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred.

Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in Saxon, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it.  Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn’s disease.  Statues of Alfred in Winchester and nev Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong, and though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than a warlike character.

During the short reigns of the older two of his three elder brothers, Æthelbald of Wessex and Æthelberht of Wessex, Alfred is not mentioned. An army of Danes which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described as the Great Heathen Army had landed in East Anglia with the intent of conquering the four kingdoms that constituted Anglo-Saxon England in 865.  It was with the backdrop of a rampaging Viking army that Alfred’s public life began, with the accession of his third brother, Æthelred of Wessex, in 866.

640px-England_Great_Army_map_svg

It is during this period that Bishop Asser applied to Alfred the unique title of “secundarius”, which may indicate a position akin to that of the Celtic tanist, a recognised successor closely associated with the reigning monarch. It is possible that this arrangement was sanctioned by Alfred’s father, or by the Witan, to guard against the danger of a disputed succession should Æthelred fall in battle. The arrangement of crowning a successor as royal prince and military commander is well known among other Germanic tribes, such as the Swedes and Franks, to whom the Anglo-Saxons were closely related.

Fighting the Viking invasion

In 868, Alfred is recorded as fighting beside Æthelred in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Great Heathen Army led by Ivar the Boneless out of the adjoining Kingdom of Mercia.  At the end of 870, the Danes arrived in his homeland. The year which followed has been called “Alfred’s year of battles”. Nine engagements were fought with varying outcomes, though the place and date of two of these battles have not been recorded. Yes, if that Viking Heathen name sound familiar, you would be correct in having heard of it in our Viking Saga! Ivar the Boneless is one of the sons of Ragnar and Aslaug… You know, that poor infant that Aslaug warned Ragnar would be cursed, and the one that she as his Mother could not and would not leave to die.

In Berkshire, a successful skirmish at the Battle of Englefield on 31 December 870 was followed by a severe defeat at the siege and Battle of Reading by Ivar’s brother Halfdan Ragnarsson on 5 January 871. Four days later, the Anglo-Saxons won a brilliant victory at the Battle of Ashdown on the Berkshire Downs, possibly near Compton or Aldworth. Alfred is particularly credited with the success of this latter battle.

Later that month, on 22 January, the English were defeated at the Battle of Basing. They were defeated again on 22 March at the Battle of Merton (perhaps Marden in Wiltshire or Martin in Dorset). Æthelred died shortly afterwards on 23 April.

Alfred eventually went on to defeat the Dane Vikings and unite much of England under one rule.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

Statue_of_King_Alfred_in_Wantage_Market_Square Alfred the Great 1024px-Southwark_Bridge_City_Plaque 1024px-A_Chronicle_of_England_-_Page_057_-_Alfred_Plans_the_Capture_of_the_Danish_Fleet

Seeing as Ivar the boneless was mentioned in connection with Alfred’s history, I feel it important to include a bit of history on him as he is one of Ragnar’s sons!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivar_the_Boneless

aslaug pregnant as usual Aslaug and Ragnar with Ivar

Ivar the boneless

Ivar was one of the leaders of the Great Heathen Army which invaded the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia in 865.  According to the Norse sagas this invasion was organised by the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, of whom Ivar was one, to wreak revenge against Ælla of Northumbria. Ælla had supposedly executed Ragnar in 865 by throwing him in a snake pit, but the historicity of this explanation is unknown. The invaders are usually identified as Danes, although the tenth-century churchman Asser stated in Latin that the invaders came “de Danubia”, which translates into English as “from the Danube“, the fact that the Danube is located in what was known in Latin as Dacia suggests that Asser may have actually intended Dania, a Latin term for Denmark.

the snake pit

King Aelle’s snake pit!

 

The Great Heathen Army landed in East Anglia in the autumn of 865, where they remained over the winter and secured horses for their later efforts.  The following year the army headed north and invaded Northumbria, which was in the midst of a civil war between Ælla and Osberht, warring claimants for the Northumbrian throne.  Late in 866 the army conquered the rich Northumbrian settlement of York.   The following year Ælla and Osberht put their differences aside, and teamed up to retake the town. The attempt was a disaster and both of them lost their lives.  According to legend, Ælla was captured alive, but was executed by Ivar and his brothers using the blood eagle, a method of execution whereby the ribcage is opened from behind and the lungs are pulled out, forming a wing-like shape.  With no obvious leader, Northumbrian resistance was crushed and the Danes installed a puppet-king, Ecgberht, to rule in their name and collect taxes for their army.

Later in the year the Army moved south and invaded the kingdom of Mercia, capturing the town of Nottingham, where they spent the winter.  The Mercian king, Burghred, responded by allying with the West Saxon king Æthelred, and with a combined force they laid siege to the town. The Anglo-Saxons were unable to recapture the city, but a truce was agreed whereby the Danes would withdraw to York. The Great Heathen Army remained in York for over a year, gathering its strength for further assaults.

The Danes returned to East Anglia in 869, this time intent on conquest. They seized Thetford, with the intention of remaining there over winter, but they were confronted by an East Anglian army.[13] The East Anglian army was defeated and their king, Edmund, was slain.  Medieval tradition identifies Edmund as a martyr who refused the Danes’ demand to renounce Christ, and was killed for his steadfast Christianity.  Ivar and Ubba are identified as the commanders of the Danes, and the killers of Edmund.  How true the later accounts of Edmund’s death are is unknown, but it has been suggested that his capture and execution is not an unlikely thing to have happened.

Following the conquest of East Anglia Ivar apparently left the Great Heathen Army – his name disappears from English records after 870.

 

 

Scandinavian sources for Ivar Boneless

According to the saga of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ivar Boneless was the eldest son of Ragnar and Aslaug. It is said he was fair, big, strong, and one of the wisest men who had ever lived. He was consequently the advisor of his brothers Björn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Hvitserk.

The story has it that when king Ælla of Northumbria had murdered their father, by throwing Ragnar into a snake-pit, Ivar’s brothers tried to avenge their father but were beaten. Ivar then went to king Ælla and sought reconciliation. He only asked for as much land as he could cover with an ox’s hide and swore never to wage war against Ælla. Then Ivar cut the ox’s hide into so fine strands that he could envelope a large fortress (in an older saga it was York and according to a younger saga it was London) which he could take as his own. (Compare the similar legendary ploy of Dido.)

Right after the messenger of king Ælla delivered the message that Ragnar had died to Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-eye, and Hvitserk, Ivar said: “I will not take part in or gather men for that, because Ragnar met with the fate I anticipated. His cause was bad; he had no reason to fight against King Ella, and it has often happened that when a man wanted to be overbearing and wrong others it has been the worst for him; I will take wergild from King Ella if he will give it”.[24]

As Ivar was the most generous of men, he attracted a great many warriors, whom he subsequently kept from Ælla when Ælla was attacked again by Ivar’s brothers. Ælla was captured, and when the brothers were to decide how to give Ælla his just punishment, Ivar suggested that they carve the “blood eagle” on his back. According to popular belief, this meant that Ælla’s back was cut open, the ribs pulled from his spine, and his lungs pulled out to form “wings.”

In Ragnar Lodbrok’s saga, there is an interesting prequel to the Battle of Hastings: it is told that before Ivar died in England, he ordered that his body was to be buried in a mound on the English Shore, saying that so long as his bones guarded that section of the coast, no enemy could invade there successfully. This prophecy held true, says the saga, until “when Vilhjalm bastard (William the Conqueror) came ashore[,] he went [to the burial site] and broke Ivar’s mound and saw that [Ivar’s] body had not decayed. Then [Vilhjalm] had a large pyre made [upon which Ivar’s body was] burned… Thereupon, Vilhjalm proceeded with the landing invasion and achieved] the victory.  What is interesting about this particular legend is if you look at the ancestry of William the Conqueror, you find that he was descended from the Viking, Rollo…  Ivar sets forth a prophecy or curse that no “enemy” would invade that coast successfully, but if William’s ancestry is taken into account, he would not necessarily be an enemy, would he? But, more of a distant descendant!

Explanation for Ivar’s nickname:

There is some disagreement as to the meaning of Ivar’s epithet “the Boneless” (inn Beinlausi) in the sagas. Some have suggested it was a euphemism for impotence or even a snake metaphor (he had a brother named Snake-in-the-Eye). It may have referred to an incredible physical flexibility; Ivar was a renowned warrior, and perhaps this limberness gave rise to the popular notion that he was “boneless”. The poem “Háttalykill inn forni” describes Ivar as being “without any bones at all”.

Alternatively, the English word “bone” is cognate with the German word “Bein”, meaning “leg”. Scandinavian sources mention Ivar the Boneless as being borne on a shield by his warriors. Some have speculated that this was because he could not walk and perhaps his epithet simply meant “legless”—perhaps literally or perhaps simply because he was lame. Other sources from this period, however, mention chieftains being carried on the shields of enemies after victory, not because of any infirmity.

John Haywood put forth another hypothesis from the origin of Ivar’s nickname:  the nickname, in use by the 1140s, may be derived from a 9th-century story about a sacrilegious Viking whose bones shriveled and caused his death after he plundered the monastery of Saint- Germain near Paris.

Genetic disease

Still another interpretation of the nickname involves Scandinavian sources as describing a condition that is sometimes understood as similar to a form of osteogenesis imperfecta. The disease is more commonly known as “brittle bone disease.” In 1949, the Dane Knud Seedorf wrote:

Of historical personages the author knows of only one of whom we have a vague suspicion that he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, namely Ivar Benløs, eldest son of the Danish legendary king Regnar Lodbrog. He is reported to have had legs as soft as cartilage (‘he lacked bones’), so that he was unable to walk and had to be carried about on a shield.

There are less extreme forms of this disease where the person afflicted lacks the use of his or her legs but is otherwise unaffected, as may have been the case for Ivar the Boneless. In 2003 Nabil Shaban, a disability rights advocate with osteogenesis imperfecta, made the documentary The Strangest Viking for Channel 4‘s Secret History, in which he explored the possibility that Ivar the Boneless may have had the same condition as himself. It also demonstrated that someone with the condition was quite capable of using a longbow, such that Ivar could have taken part in battle, as Viking society would have expected a leader to do.

 

That concludes our history lesson for the night, from Aethelwulf and his descendants to Ivar the Boneless and how they’re all a part of early Saxon history!