Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Aelfthryth, Queen of England

The story of a tempestuous Saxon queen.
Aelfthryth was born c. 945, the daughter of Ordgar who held numerous properties in southwest England. Her mother was a member of the royal family of Wessex and her brother Ordulf founded the abbey of Tavistock. Edgar was born c. 943 and became King in 959. He married a childhood friend, Aethelflaed when very young and had a son named Edward by this wife who appears to have died soon afterward. There is some confusion over whether he married his second wife or not. Her name was Wulfthryth and she had a daughter with Edgar who later became Saint Edith of Wilton but, there were no male heirs born. Eventually, Edgar disposed of Wulfthryth as his “wife” and began a search for another wife.

What happened next is the subject of debate. Legend says Edgar heard that Aelfthryth was exceedingly beautiful and Edgar needed allies in the part of the country where her father was ealdorman. He sent one of his courtiers, Aethelwald, ealdorman of East Anglia to visit Aelfthryth to determine if she was beautiful and suitable to be his queen. Aethelwald found her so astoundingly beautiful he married her himself, telling the King she was unsuitable. Edgar found out the deception and decided to judge for himself if Aelfthryth was beautiful. Alarmed, Aethelwald asked Aelfthryth to make herself unattractive for the King’s visit. She did just the opposite. Edgar was so enticed by her gorgeous looks he wanted her for himself and managed to have Aethelwald killed in a hunting accident so he could marry her. (Read entire post.)

1 comment:

Brantigny said...

Royal marriages were a bit fluid then. Charlemagne had so many wives that not all their names are recorded. I do like the tespestous bit though, is that synomynous with a mind of her own? Good post as always Elena-Maria.