Edward the Elder

(c. 870—899)

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B. c.870, s. of Alfred and Ealswith; acc. 26 Oct. 899; m. (1) Ecgwynn; issue: Athelstan, da.; (2) Aelfflaed, da. of ealdorman Aethelhelm; issue: Aelfweard, Edwin, Aelfgifu, Aethelhild, Eadflaed, Eadhild; (3) Eadgifu, da. of ealdorman Sigehelm; issue: Edmund, Edred, Eadburh, Eadgifu (i), Eadgifu (ii), Eadgyth; d. Farndon, 17 July 924; bur. Winchester.

Edward the Elder, so-called to distinguish him from Edward, king 975–8, succeeded his father in 899. Almost all Edward's life was spent campaigning. In the 890s he was his father's first lieutenant, winning important victories over the Danes at Farnham (893) and at Buttington-on-Severn (near Chepstow) (894). His succession was contested by his cousin, Aethelwald (son of Aethelred I), who seized the manors of Wimborne and Christchurch. When Edward drove him out, he took refuge with the Vikings of York, who accepted him as their king. In 903 Aethelwald persuaded Oeric, king of the East Anglian Vikings, to invade Wessex on his behalf. Edward's response was swift, with a raid on East Anglia, in which Aethelwald was killed. Freed to undertake a general advance against the Danes, and assisted by his brother-in-law, Aethelred II of Mercia, and by his sister Aethelflaed, Edward won a great victory at Tettenhall in Staffordshire in 910, following it with another in 911 at Wednesfield, when an invading Viking host was intercepted returning laden with booty. While Aethelred consolidated the Mercian border, Edward pushed into Essex and East Anglia, constructing burhs at Hertford and Witham, and later at Buckingham and Bedford. A further victory at Tempsford on the Ouse, in which the Danish king Guthrum II was killed, caused Viking resistance in East Anglia to collapse.

On the death of Aethelflaed (‘the lady of the Mercians’) in 918, Edward dispossessed her daughter, Aelfwynn, and incorporated Mercia into the kingdom of Wessex. The fall of the five Danish boroughs and submission of the Welsh after he had captured and fortified Chester allowed Edward to push towards the Humber. At Dore, in Derbyshire, he is said to have received the submission in 923 of the York Vikings, the Northumbrians, and of the kings of Scotland and Strathclyde. He died at Farndon in Cheshire and was buried at Winchester. In a reign of twenty-five years, he had almost doubled the size of his kingdom.

Subjects: British History.

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