King Æthelred II "The Unready" England of England
- Born: Abt 968, Wessex, England
- Marriage (1): Emma Princess Of Normandy Queen Of England on 5 Apr 1002 in Normandy, France
- Marriage (2): Queen Ælfgifu (Aelflaed) of England about 985 in Wessex, England
- Died: 23 Apr 1016, London, Middlesex, England about age 48
- Buried: 1016, St. Paul's Cathedral, London, Middlesex, England
Following the assassination of his brother, Edward, Æthelred was propelled upon the English throne at the age of 10 years. The circumstance of his rise to power, as a pawn in the ambitions of others, did not alter throughout his 48 years of life. The nickname of Unready is though to derive from the Saxon word meaning 'with no reputable policy' which can be taken as both accurate and ironic in that Æthelred is itself said to have meant 'noble policy'.
Æthelred was married twice. His first wife, Elfigfu of Mercia bore him no less than 11 children: Athelstan, Ecgbert, Edmund, Edred, Edwig, Edgar, Wulfhild, Edgyrth, Elfgifu and a further two other daughters whose names are not commonly recorded.
His second marriage, to Emma of Normandy, produced three children, Edward, Alfred and Goda.
All through his reign he was shackled by the fact that he could not fully trust the support of his generals, both military and political, at a time when the fearsome Danish invaders were a constant threat to the English. In an act of, what proved to be, futile appeasement Æthelred attempted to stem the Danish ambitions by paying what was known as Danegeld.
In 1009 the King of the Danes, Sweyn decided that as well as keeping the territory, and monies, he had taken from the English he would now pursue the whole country. Four years later, in 1013, Sweyn had overrun the country and Æthelred had fled to Normandy to seek protection from Emma's brother, Robert the Good.
This flight brings into the picture the son of Robert the Magnificent, William, later to be known as William the Conqueror.
Sweyn died in 1014 and Æthelred reclaimed the English crown for a further 2 years before his death at the age of 48 in 1016. Ethelred II or Æþelræd Unræd (c. 968 - April 23, 1016), known as the Unready, was a King of England (978 - 1013, and 1014 - 1016).
Early life and family
According to William of Malmesbury, Ethelred defecated in the baptismal font as a child, which led St. Dunstan to prophesy that the English monarchy would be overthrown during Ethelred's reign. This story is, however, almost certainly a fabrication.
Ethelred succeeded to the throne aged about 10 following the death of his father King Edgar and subsequent murder of his half-brother Edward the Martyr. His nickname "The Unready" does not mean that he was ill-prepared, but derives from the Anglo-Saxon unræd meaning "without counsel" or "indecisive". This is also a pun on his name, Æþelræd, which means "Well advised".
Ethelred had at least sixteen children from two marriages, the first to Aelgiful/Ælgifu, the daughter of Thored, the ealdorman of Northumbria and the second, in 1002, to Emma of Normandy, whose grandnephew, William I of England, would later use this relationship as the basis of his claim on the throne.
Conflict with the Danes
England had experienced a long period of peace after the reconquest of the Danelaw in the first half of the 10th Century. However in 991 Ethelred was faced with a Viking fleet larger than any since Guthrum's "Summer Army" a century earlier. This fleet was led by Olaf Trygvasson, a Norwegian with ambitions to reclaim his country from Danish domination. After initial military setbacks including the defeat of his Ealdorman Birhtnoth at the Battle of Maldon, Ethelred was able to come to terms with Olaf, who returned to Norway to gain his kingdom with mixed success. While this arrangement won him some respite, England faced further depredations from Viking raids. Ethelred fought these off, but in many cases followed the practice of earlier kings including Alfred the Great in buying them off by payment of what was to become known as Danegeld.
Ethelred ordered the massacre of the Danes living in England on St Brice's Day (November 13) 1002, in response to which Sweyn Haraldsson started a series of determined campaigns to conquer England. In this he succeeded, but after his victory, he lived for only another five weeks.
Death and legacy
In 1013, Ethelred fled to Normandy, seeking protection by his brother-in-law, Robert of Normandy, when England was over-run by Sweyn Haraldsson of Denmark and his forces. He returned in February, 1014, following the death of Sweyn Haraldsson. Ethelred died on April 23, 1016, in London, where he was buried. He was succeeded by his son, Edmund II of England.
Despite the steady stream of Viking attacks, Ethelred's reign was far from the disaster described by chroniclers writing well after the event. Ethelred introduced major reforms to the machinery of government in Anglo-Saxon England, and is responsible for the introduction of Shire Reeves or Sheriffs. The quality of the coinage, always a good indicator of the prevailing economic conditions, remained very high during his reign. Ethelred II or Æþelræd Unræd (c. 968 - April 23, 1016), known as the Unready, was a King of England (978 - 1013, and 1014 - 1016).
Æthelred married Emma Princess Of Normandy Queen Of England, daughter of Richard I "The Fearless" 'Sans Peur' Duke Of Normandy 3rd and Gonnor de Crepon, on 5 Apr 1002 in Normandy, France. (Emma Princess Of Normandy Queen Of England was born about 986 in Normandy, France, died on 6 Mar 1052 in Winchester, Hants, England and was buried in 1052 in St. Martin's Church, Winchester, Hampshire, England.)
Æthelred next married Queen Ælfgifu (Aelflaed) of England, daughter of Thored Ealderman Gunnarsson and Mrs-Thored Gunnarsson, about 985 in Wessex, England. (Queen Ælfgifu (Aelflaed) of England was born about 968 in Wessex, England.)