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Ēadweard se Ieldra or Edward the Elder(870 – July 17, 924) was King of England between 900 and 924. He was the son of Alfred the Great and his wife Ealhswith, and became King upon his father's death in 899.

He was king at a time when the Kingdom of Wessex was becoming transformed into the Kingdom of England. The title he normally used was King of the Anglo-Saxons, but he is rememberred, as his father as King of England, although the territory he ruled over was significantly smaller than the present borders of England.


Of the five children born to Alfred and Eahlswith who survived infancy, Edward was the second-born and the elder son. Edward's name was a new one among the West Saxon ruling family. His siblings were named for their father and other previous kings, but Edward was perhaps named for his maternal grandmother Eadburh, of Mercian origin and possibly a kinswoman of Mercian kings Coenwulf and Ceolwulf. Edward's birth cannot be certainly dated. His parents married in 868 and his eldest sibling Æthelflæd was born soon afterwards as she was herself married in 883. Edward was probably born rather later, in the 870s, and probably between 874 and 877.

Asser's Life of King Alfred reports that Edward was educated at court together with his youngest sister Ælfthryth. His second sister, Æthelgifu, was intended for a life in religion from an early age, perhaps due to ill health, and was later Abbess of Shaftesbury. The youngest sibling, Æthelweard, was educated at a court school where he learned Latin, which suggests that he too was intended for a religious life. Edward and Ælfthryth, however, while they learned English, received a courtly education, and Asser refers to their taking part in the "pursuits of this present life which are appropriate to the nobility".

The first appearance of Edward, called filius regis, the king's son in the sources is in 892, in a charter granting land at North Newnton, near Pewsey in Wiltshire, to ealdorman Æthelhelm, where he is called filius regis. Although he was the reigning king's elder son, Edward was not certain to succeed his father. Until the 890s, the obvious heirs to the throne were Edward's cousins Æthelwold and Æthelhelm, sons of Æthelred, Alfred's older brother and predecessor as king. Æthelwold and Æthelhelm were around ten years older than Edward. Æthelhelm disappears from view in the 890s, seemingly dead, but a charter probably from that decade shows Æthelwold witnessing before Edward, and the order of witnesses is generally believed to relate to their status. As well as his greater age and experience, Æthelwold may have had another advantage over Edward where the succession was concerned. While Alfred's wife Eahlswith is never described as queen and was never crowned, Æthelwold and Æthelhelm's mother Wulfthryth was called queen.

Succession and Early Reign[]

When Alfred died, Edward's cousin Aethelwold, the son of King Ethelred of Wessex, rose up to claim the throne and began Aethelwold's Revolt. He seized Wimborne, in Dorset, where his father was buried, and Christchurch. Edward marched to Badbury and offered battle, but Aethelwold refused to leave Wimborne. Just when it looked as if Edward was going to attack Wimborne, Aethelwold left in the night, and joined the Danes in Northumbria, where he was announced as King. In the meantime, Edward is alleged to have been crowned at Kingston upon Thames on June 8, 900.

In 901, Aethelwold came with a fleet to Essex, and encouraged the Danes in East Anglia to rise up. In the following year, he attacked Cricklade and Braydon. Edward arrived with an army, and after several marches, the two sides met at the Battle of Holme. Aethelwold and King Eohric of the East Anglian Danes were killed in the battle.

Relations with the North proved problematic for Edward for several more years. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions that he made peace with the East Anglian and Northumbrian Danes "of necessity". There is also a mention of the regaining of Chester in 907, which may be an indication that the city was taken in battle.

In 909, Edward sent an army to harass Northumbria. In the following year, the Northumbrians retaliated by attacking Mercia, but they were met by the combined Mercian and West Saxon army at the Battle of Tettenhall, where the Northumbrian Danes were destroyed. From that point, they never raided south of the River Humber.

Edward then began the construction of a number of fortresses (burhs), at Hertford, Scregeat, Witham and Bridgnorth. Other forts were built at Tamworth, Stafford, Eddisbury and Warwick.


Edward extended the control of Wessex over the whole of Mercia, East Anglia and Essex, conquering lands occupied by the Danes and bringing the residual autonomy of Mercia to an end in 918, after the death of his sister, Ethelfleda (Æðelflǣd). Ethelfleda's daughter, Ælfwynn, was named as her successor, but Edward deposed her, bringing Mercia under his direct control. He had already annexed the cities of London and Oxford and the surrounding lands of Oxfordshire and Middlesex in 911. By 918, all of the Danes south of the Humber had submitted to him. By the end of his reign, the Norse, the Scots and the Welsh had acknowledged him as "father and lord". This recognition of Edward's overlordship in Scotland led to his successors' claims of suzerainty over that Kingdom.

Edward reorganized the Church in Wessex, creating new bishoprics at Ramsbury and Sonning, Wells and Crediton. Despite this, there is little indication that Edward was particularly religious. In fact, the Pope delivered a reprimand to him to pay more attention to his religious responsibilities.

He died leading an army against a Welsh-Mercian rebellion, on July 17, 924 at Farndon-Upon-Dee and was buried in the New Minster in Winchester, Hampshire, which he himself had established in 901. After the Norman Conquest, the minster was replaced by Hyde Abbey to the north of the city and Edward's body was transferred there. His last resting place is marked by a cross-inscribed stone slab within the outline of the old abbey.


Edward had four siblings, including Ethelfleda, Queen of the Mercians and Ælfthryth, Countess of Flanders.

King Edward had about fourteen children from three marriages, and may have had illegitimate children too.

Edward married a young woman of low birth called Ecgwynn around 893, and they became the parents of the future King Athelstan and a daughter who married Sihtric, King of Dublin and York in 926. Nothing is known about Ecgwynn other than her name.

When he became king in 899, Edward set Ecgwynn aside and married Ælfflæd, a daughter of Æthelhelm, the ealdorman of Wiltshire. Their son was the future king, Elfward, and their daughter Eadgyth married Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor. The couple's other children included five more daughters: Edgiva aka Edgifu, whose first marriage was to Charles the Simple; Eadhild, who married Hugh the Great, Duke of Paris; Ælfgifu who married Conrad of Burgundy; and two nuns Eadflæd and Eadhild. According to the entry on Boleslaus II of Bohemia, the daughter Adiva (referred to in the entry for Eadgyth) was his wife. A son, Edwin Aetheling who drowned in 933 was possibly Ælfflæd's child, but that is not clear.

Edward married for a third time, about 919, to Edgiva, aka Eadgifu, the daughter of Sigehelm, the ealdorman of Kent. They had two sons who survived infancy, Edmund and Edred, and two daughters, one of whom was Saint Edburga of Winchester the other daughter, Eadgifu, married Louis l'Aveugle.

Eadgifu outlived her husband and her sons, and was alive during the reign of her grandson, King Edgar. William of Malmsbury's history De antiquitate Glastonie ecclesiae claims that Edward's second wife, Aelffaed, was also alive after Edward's death, but this is the only known source for that claim.

See Also[]