Tag Archive | judith of vikings saga

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vikings Reborn: Celebrate and welcome to the world

First of all, before we get into the celebration of life and death, we have something else to celebrate. Thanks to all of you readers, fans and followers, my little blog has hit a huge milestone. Well, it’s huge for me anyway, considering the fact that when I started this blog I thought no one would bother with it but it was a place for me to escape to and live out my childhood fantasy of writing. Now, we have just reached 50,000 views! I must give credit and appreciation to those many followers who support and encourage me on various sites.

Thanks so much to all of my friends at Vikings Aftermath group on facebook! You are all so wonderful, such a great group of people! If you have not checked them out, please visit their page- you will not regret it!

Vikings Aftermath banner

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1549964118584940/

Much appreciation as well to the google communities!

Viking Mythology community

https://plus.google.com/communities/100495374719567622456

Vikings on History Channel community

https://plus.google.com/communities/100681266945249733824

And, although we are deeply entrenched in medieval and Viking history right now… and probably will remain so, I need to thank all of the Outlander fans out there! Especially, the Outlander Series facebook group! Without their initial support and encouragement, I would not have come so far on this path!

outlander series banner

https://www.facebook.com/groups/473400262697246/

Now, the thanks and credit have been mentioned and we can go on to celebrate together  Vikings style!

viking feast viking celebration4 viking celebration3 viking celebration2

Let us feast together, drink together and perhaps enjoy some entertainment together… though I promise that in this particular post party, we shall not have the prerequisite death. We shall save that sad event and the mourning for some other time. Tonight, we shall celebrate in happiness!

For your entertainment, we have managed to secure a special performance by the most popular entertainer in Francia!

mademoiselle LeWanderer

I told you the women in Paris were beautiful2

In addition, the Princess of PeePee, that well known scandalous Kwentirith will provide us with some interpretive dance…

kwentirith shows off her dancing skills

kwentirith shows off her dancing skills

Please save your cup throwing until her performance is finished!

Just a hint here Kwentirith  when everyone throws empty cups at you you may have a few friend problems!

Just a hint here Kwentirith when everyone throws empty cups at you you may have a few friend problems!

Later, we shall enjoy some relaxation in the delightful Roman spa of Wessex…

What is it  This is wrong this is just so wrong

What is it This is wrong this is just so wrong

 

 

lagertha and ecbert are getting quite relaxed with each other

lagertha and ecbert are getting quite relaxed with each other

We did send an ivitation to Harbard the Wandering Story Teller to come regale us with his stories but he is not sure he can make it… he mentioned some prior commitments?  He did also state some concerns that he may not be so welcome right now…

Harbert earning his keep and telling stories of the gods to impress the women

 The highlight of our entertainment will be a moving speech from our own Ragnar Lothbrok!

working the audience getting them all excited about paris Ragnar inspires even the youngest

Tonight is a night for celebration and goodwill between families, friends, nations and religions. We shall set our differences aside and enjoy each other’s company. There shall be no drunken brawls, name calling, other harassment, nor shall there be back stabbing behind the scenes manipulations! I know, you are probably thinking, Well that takes all of the fun out everything… I am sorry, we must all learn to work together and get along, and this is a family event. There will be young ones here so please try to be on your best behavior!

There will be no secret killings either hidden away in back rooms!

ragnar kills the survivor and sends him to his family and the gods.

ragnar kills the survivor and sends him to his family and the gods.

As I said, there will be no harassment, or religious persecution tonight!

where is your arm ring where is it athelstan is harassed by the men of kattegat

That especially applies to you Floki….

floki puts the blame on athelstan

Perhaps we can all become christians why not

And, to you as well Aethelwulf!

so it is a boy congratulations aethelwulf watches his wife torture with disgust

aethewulf has directed the arrow

No drunken brawls or fighting… Are you listening, Rollo?

or well  rollo  he's still having some difficulties Rollo and Bjorn fight for life and for death siggy bluntly revives a drunken rollo

And, Finally no back stabbing behind the scenes schemes and manipulations…

to give birth to a very special child I have to ask you how's the settlement in wessex with this ruse we have rid ourselves of the northerners and all of those nobles who question my rule look at them huddled together  it sickens me kalf is not a fool he may be devious but he is not a fool It's clear that these men do not like her or at least do not want to be ruled by her

you may recall the fate of Ragnar's enemy  Yarl Borg

you may recall the fate of Ragnar’s enemy Yarl Borg

Ok what or who is next on the list2 Now what the hell do we do with her2 Here's to you Sweetheart  just don't get too comfortable cause you won't last long2

 

No, Tonight we all come together in peace and celebration. Let us have this one night of happiness.  For as much as we have great sadness coming, we have great happiness to share! Tonight, we celebrate as well, the birth of a new generation. We have been blessed with two new souls. They are two infants on very different paths…

Welcome to our world,  Siggy and Alfred… Your lives will follow very different destinies and there will be great difficulties ahead for both of you but you are special, you are blessed and you are well loved!

two infants two paths

Welcome little Siggy to the Lothbrok family of Kattegat!  Proud Parents are Bjorn and Porunn, even though they have their personal differences, you are a precious gift to them from the Gods. May your guardian spirit, Siggy guide you along the way and be with you in your heart as you hear of her and carry her name in memory!

welcome little siggy

To you little Alfred of Wessex, we welcome you as well. Never doubt how well you are loved, you also are a gift from God!  No matter how difficult your life has been from it’s precarious beginnings or how hard it will be in the future, rest assured that you too have a guardian, a Father in heaven who will guide your path in an uncertain future.

his name is Alfred He shall be great

So, for tonight let us just join these two families in welcoming their children into the world!

Some first family photos…

it is a girl

it is a girl

I would like to call her Siggy

I would like to call her Siggy

bjorn bonding with his daughter

bjorn bonding with his daughter

bjorn blesses baby Siggy a happy Porunn agrees

family portrait Lagertha bjorn and baby siggy

Unfortunately, due to extremely difficult and extenuating circumstances in Wessex, there are few early photos of family bonding time in that household… We will go into those details later but will assure you that the Lady Judith is presently recovering from a very traumatic child birth episode. All I can say right now is if Porunn wanted to complain about her fears and her situation, she should be very glad that she was not in Judith’s particular situation.

 

baby alfred I want my baby give me my baby in wessex judith has given birth to a son

 

this father is not filled with joy.

this father is not filled with joy.

no he is not overcome with happines at this sight

no he is not overcome with happines at this sight

so it is a boy congratulations

so it is a boy congratulations

what place what are you talking about what is this

what place what are you talking about what is this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings Warrior’s fate is sacrifice

 

 

The title for this week’s chapter of our tale was labeled as Warrior’s Fate. I would suggest that sacrifice much better describes the events. Sacrifice in so many layers and on so many levels.  From the sacrifice that a dying warrior makes to save his companions, from obvious religious ritual sacrifices, from unintended and pointless sacrifices, to strategic sacrifices made in compromise… to other less apparent or deeper layers of sacrifice.

Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals to a higher purpose, in particular divine beings, as an act of propitiation or worship. While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering (Latin oblatio) can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts. For offerings of liquids (beverages) by pouring, the term libation is used. 

The Latin term came to be used of the Christian eucharist in particular, sometimes named a “bloodless sacrifice” to distinguish it from blood sacrifices. In individual pre-Christian ethnic religions, terms translated as “sacrifice” include the Indic yajna, the Greek thusia, the Germanic blōtan, the Semitic qorban/qurban, etc.

The term is also used metaphorically to describe selfless good deeds for others or a short term loss in return for a greater power gain, such as in a game of chess. Recently it has also come into use as meaning ‘doing without something’ or ‘giving something up’ (see also self-sacrifice).

torstein makes his solitary climb to his last battle odin I am coming I come I come in battle bessie's a little worried this can't be good for my milk bathed in blood2 two dead boys caught in his net

 

Before we look at those most obvious of sacrifices, such as Torstein’s final sacrifice of life to save that of his friends,  the ritual harvest sacrifice made by the Danes, or the possible sacrifice of two innocent boys to save another child, let us look at the less obvious ones…

First there is the strategic compromise sacrifice that come in the power plays for control… King Ecbert must make certain sacrifices of men, women, land in order to pursue his bigger picture, his ultimate goal of gaining Mercia and other places. To gain this control he must carefully weigh his options and decide what if anything he would be willing to sacrifice to win the power game. This type of winner take all game includes very real, very human type pawns collected over the duration of the game. Everyone under his rule could feasibly be considered as pawns in the game. This would include everyone from his Noblemen, his mercenaries such as Ragnar’s group, his family- such as his daughter in law, Judith, to ones such as Kwentirith and her brother, and finally even Lagertha and Athelstan.  The only person possibly exempt from the pawn status might be his son, Aethelwulf because of course Aethelwulf would be expected to continue the game for dominance upon Ecbert’s death.  This game is one of strategic thinking and balance.  What pawns and pieces can you collect along the way and use to your advantage in the future? If you over extend yourself and upset the balance too soon or too often, you take risk of losing control.  Ecbert is in such a position right now. All of his desires and wishes must be balanced in consideration of the overall game. Just because he is King does not mean that he can give into all of his lesser desires…

Ecbert  has placed himself in a rather difficult position with his recent decision to use Ragnar and his group of Pagan warriors. His Noblemen, his knights and the Christian Church, all of whom he must count on for support to keep his crown stable on his head, are not in favor of these Heathenish Pagans living in their midst and corrupting their souls.

ecbert's men speaking behind his back   What do you think I'm deaf

ecbert’s men speaking behind his back What do you think I’m deaf

please do me the honor of speaking to my face

tell me now if you dare that I do not deserve to be your ruler

tell me now if you dare that I do not deserve to be your ruler

because they are fighting beside us to gain the throne of mercia for that puppet of ours Kwentirith

because they are fighting beside us to gain the throne of mercia for that puppet of ours Kwentirith

 

besides who knows how the settlement will fare in the future

besides who knows how the settlement will fare in the future

speak now tell me I've chosen the wrong path tell me I should not be your king

Ecbert gets silence in return

Ecbert gets silence in return

I will remember your doubt and your questioning of my authority

Ecbert considers Kwentirith and her brother disposable pawns in the game… One could assume that his plan is for the brother to not survive this battle and for Kwentirith to be the last remaining candidate? My thought is that the Mercians would consider her rule so offensive that they would happily accept Ecbert’s rule instead. But, no matter what the outcome, he intends to win Mercia for himself and not some puppet. The sacrifice of Kwentirith or her brother would be no great loss for him in return for such great reward.

Ragnar and his men, in Ecbert’s eyes are pawns as well. If he must sacrifice them, he might feel some remorse but he will sacrifice them if he needs to. Right now they are a valuable asset to him and his fighting forces, but should anything happen to change this status, he will do what he needs to in order to keep the balance of power on his side. If, say Ragnar should forget who is in control of this land, if he should overstep his role as mercenary, Ecbert would have no choice but to remove the threat.

The other pawns within Ecbert’s hold and grasp right now are of course, Lagertha, Athelstan and the Lady Judith.  Athelstan, and I believe, Lagertha as well are so dear and valuable to him personally that it would cause him great difficulty should he have to part with them? He looks on these two as more than pawns, but when it comes down to a win or lose situation for his kingdom, I think that with immense regret he would indeed sacrifice them. The Lady Judith… well, she is a different situation. We will discuss her later.

ecbert asks Athelstan to bless the new house

ecbert asks Athelstan to bless the new house

Stones are much easier to wear than earth

 

Another type of sacrifice portrayed this week was that of careless, unintended and  pointless sacrifice. This unintentional sacrifice and Warrior’s fate comes from Porunn’s and Bjorn’s actions. I mention Bjorn’s role in this event because he does bear some responsibility. Bjorn was willing to sacrifice his own personal feelings of manhood and protector for Porunn’s happiness. In the end, Porunn’s need for independence and her refusal to take appropriate caution for her unborn child and herself may very well result in her sacrificing the life of that child and her own life.  If she lives, she will carry with her forever the knowledge that she would sacrifice her child’s life for her own desires. For all realitstic purposes, she was not ready for this battle and should not have been there. Bjorn will pay a heavy price in guilt over allowing her to come.

preparing for battle 2 porunn's fight hand to hand face to face porunn takes deadly blow porunn recieves a slash to her face porunn knocked to the ground last blows to porunn bjorn crawls to her lifeless body is she still alvie yes for nowporunn lives but for how long and in what condition

 

Floki talks of other pointless and senseless sacrifice… that which you make for something that you do not even believe in. The discussion or argument was over their involvement in the battle but it turned to a deeper difference of beliefs and opinions. It became more of an underlying thought on what or how much you are willing to sacrifice for friendship? Are you willing to sacrifice your personal beliefs for the long held friendship of one who’s views are changing. Floki is struggling with this question in his heart and will soon have to make a decision. Will he sacrifice his religion and his beliefs to remain with Ragnar on this journey, this battle that he does not believe in or approve of, or will he make the choice to  sacrifice of his friendship with Ragnar in order to be at peace with himself in his beliefs?

look look around you at all of our dead

look look around you at all of our dead

how many more of us must die  have you already in your heart renounced our gods

how many more of us must die have you already in your heart renounced our gods

all of those we have sacrificed for your jesus

all of those we have sacrificed for your jesus

This is not about you Floki or me it is about our children their children our people's future

This is not about you Floki or me it is about our children their children our people’s future

we're all fated to die sometime and you made the choice to fight here

we’re all fated to die sometime and you made the choice to fight here

 

my heart hurts as much as anyone for torstein but I am sure I will meet him again soon and in the mean time floki shut your face

my heart hurts as much as anyone for torstein but I am sure I will meet him again soon and in the mean time floki shut your face

I will address the more obvious types of sacrifice later in the context of their particular circumstances. For now, I want to deal with one last sacrifice. This is perhaps the least obvious, and most difficult to understand in terms of sacrifice.  To me though, it causes more thought and as much or more heartache than any of the others. This sacrifice could be considered in terms of the phrase, Sacrificial lamb.

The lady Judith represents this sacrifice and in her heart she knows it. In order to understand her role as sacrificial lamb, one needs to needs to realize that these early Noblewomen were most valued for their worth as a marriage, trading or alliance commodity and their ability to produce healthy heirs. From the moment of her birth to King Aelle and his wife, she was most likely viewed in terms of this worth.

Aelle and his lovely wife

judith with her fathe Aille Judith_Wedding vikings

In those times, there was a term to describe her role in marriage… she was referred to as a peace cow. She was considered property to be traded much as a cow, and it was her role and duty to enter into a marriage arranged by her Lord/Father in order to keep peace between lands. Now, this being her role, she became a valuable asset and commodity to both her own family and the family that “bought” her. Judith understood her role well and for the most part seems to have accepted it, though not without heavy heart.  She is obedient and subservient to her Lords and usually attempts to comply with their wishes and desires. Fortunately for her, she proved quickly that she could breed healthy male heirs. This raised her value and her worth but did little for her peace of mind or her happiness.

aethelwulf watching the arrival aethelwulf2

She is also fortunate in the respect that her husband is young, fairly good looking and in line to be King… She should be happy, many women do not fare nearly so well! She also seems well treated and well liked by her husband and his family, namely King Ecbert.  Realistically, in her situation, things could have been far worse for her! The fact remains however, that no matter how comfortable her environment and her treatment, she is still property, a possession to be used, or traded in should need arise. This does not escape Judith. Her only saving grace or peace is found within her religion and lately even that is failing her.

Now, while King Ecbert does seem to like and trust her… he is most probably not above using her as a pawn to his advantage if he should ever have to? Right now, she brings a peaceful alliance between Northumbria and Wessex. But, in Ecbert’s power play games, he wants more than just peaceful alliance… at some point he will want control of Northumbria in the future and Judith will be his key to achieving it in one way or another. In her heart, Judith probably realizes this and takes great care to keep always on Ecbert’s good side. If she were to do anything even indavertantly to bring shame upon herself  and consequently, the kingdom of her Father, Ecbert could justifiably use such event to break the peace and wage war against Northumbria… He did warn her earlier that she was playing a dangerous game in her fascination with the Priest, Athelstan?

 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.

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

 

judith plays a dangerous game

judith plays a dangerous game

be careful Judith who you choose to be fascinated by

be careful Judith who you choose to be fascinated by

It is one thing for a King to indulge himself in desires and affairs of the heart, that is expected and generally accepted. It is a completely different matter for a noble born, married princess to indulge or even think of such sins!

Judith tries hard to keep a smiling and happy countenance about her but she is wavering, she is torn and as she states, “I am tired, I am so very tired”  It is my belief that she is certainly not speaking in just the physical sense. No, she is tired of all of it….

judith admits her tiredness of trying to be good

Judith the daughter Judith the wife Judith the pawn

She finds comfort in Athelstan’s words and I do think that even though she may be fearful of the Pagan beliefs, she finds courage and strength in Lagertha? In Lagertha, she sees a strong, independent woman who is everything that she, Judith is not but would like to be.

lagertha the goddess

lagertha the goddess

 

 

Vikings: Warrior’s fate, again way too much to process!

Ok, once again my mind is swirling and on overload from trying to process everything going on! It will take me a few days to digest it, sort through the many details and give my thoughts on all of it. It’s always the little details, the small things, glances and looks that first get overlooked in the grander picture. When you look back on events later, sometimes those smallest seemingly insignificant things suddenly jump out at you and stick in your head.  It’s late and I’m deliriously mentally drained from the experience so I am just going to leave you these minor little glances that I noticed… I’ll be back tomorrow with a my thoughts on everything!

Now, obviously there was much more going on of far more importance than these last glimpses but as I said, these are  just stuck in my head at the moment? Probably because they came towards the end and they summed up my thoughts on Ecbert’s current predicament of being caught between a rock and a hard place… or between Lagertha and his Noblemen!  And, that last look from Judith at her father in law, well that was just too good not to leave comment on!  She’s looking at him knowing he’s in a deep bit of trouble and figuring he’s going to be looking for someone to blame this whole mess on…

you could have at least gave me a heads up on the whole blood bathOh shit I am never going to hear the end of this judith is thinking oh crap I hope he doesn't remember that it was my suggestion to stay in the first place