See also

Family of Aethelred +* and Emma of NORMANDY

Husband: Aethelred +* (968-1016)
Wife: Emma of NORMANDY (985-1052)
Children: Alfred AETHELING (c. 1002-1036)
Edward III (1003-1066)
Goda of ENGLAND (1004-1047)

Husband: Aethelred +*


Aethelred +*

Name: Aethelred +*
Sex: Male
Nickname: The Unready
Father: Edgar +* (943-975)
Mother: Aelfthryth +* of DEVON (945-1000)
Birth 0968 Wessex, England
Occupation King of England
Title frm 18 Mar 0978 to 23 Apr 1016 (age 9-48) King of England
Death 23 Apr 1016 (age 47-48) London, Middlesex, England
Burial Old St. Paul's Cathedral
London, Middlesex, England

Wife: Emma of NORMANDY

Name: Emma of NORMANDY
Sex: Female
Father: Richard I * + (933-996)
Mother: Gunnora+ * HARLDSDOTTIR (936-1031)
Birth 0985
Occupation Queen Consort of England
Death 6 Mar 1052 (age 66-67) Winchester, Hampshire, England

Child 1: Alfred AETHELING

Name: Alfred AETHELING
Sex: Male
Birth 1002 (est)
Death 1036 (age 33-34)

Child 2: Edward III


Edward III


Spouse: Edith of WESSEX

Name: Edward III
Sex: Male
Nickname: The Confessor
Spouse: Edith of WESSEX (1024-1075)
Birth 1003 Islip, Oxfordshire, England
Title frm 8 Jun 1042 to 5 Jan 1066 (age 38-63) King of England
Occupation King of England
Death 4 Jan 1066 (age 62-63) London, Middlesex, England
Burial 6 Jan 1066 Westminster Abbey, Westminster, Middlesex, England
Westminster, Middlesex, England

Child 3: Goda of ENGLAND

Name: Goda of ENGLAND
Sex: Female
Spouse 1: Drogo + (1000-1035)
Spouse 2: Eustache II + (1015-1087)
Birth 1004 London, Middlesex, England
Death 1047 (age 42-43) Sussex, England

Note on Husband: Aethelred +*

Æthelred the Unready, or Æthelred II[1][2] (c. 968 – 23 April 1016), was king of England (978–1013 and 1014–1016). He was son of King Edgar and Queen Ælfthryth. Æthelred was only about 10 (no more than 13) when his half-brother Edward was murdered. Æthelred was not personally suspected of participation, but as the murder was committed at Corfe Castle by the attendants of Ælfthryth, it made it more difficult for the new king to rally the nation against the military raids by Danes, especially as the legend of St Edward the Martyr grew. Later, Æthelred ordered a massacre of Danish settlers in 1002 and also paid tribute, or Danegeld, to Danish leaders from 991 onwards. His reign was much troubled by Danish Viking raiders. In 1013, Æthelred fled to Normandy and was replaced by Sweyn, who was also king of Denmark. However, Æthelred returned as king after Sweyn died in 1014.


"Unready" is a mistranslation of Old English unræd (meaning bad-counsel) – a twist on his name "Æthelred" (meaning noble-counsel). A better translation would be Redeless - without counsel (Rede).

The story of Æthelred's notorious nickname, "Æthelred the Unready", from Old English Æþelræd Unræd, goes a long way toward explaining how his reputation has declined through history. His first name, composed of the elements æðele, meaning "noble", and ræd, meaning "counsel" or "advice",[3] is typical of the bombastic compound names of those who belonged to the royal House of Wessex, and it characteristically alliterates with the names of his ancestors like, for example, Æthelwulf ("noble-wolf"), Ælfred ("elf-counsel"), Edward ("prosperous-protection"), and Edgar ("rich-spear").[4] His nickname Unræd is usually translated into present-day English as 'The Unready', though, because the present-day meaning of 'unready' no longer resembles its ancient counterpart, this translation disguises the meaning of the Old English term. Bosworth-Toller's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary defines the noun unræd in various ways, though it seems always to have been used pejoratively.[3] Generally, it means "evil counsel", "bad plan", "folly". Bosworth-Toller do not record it as describing a person directly; it most often describes decisions and deeds, and once refers to the nature of Satan's deceit (see Fall of Man). The element ræd in unræd is the element in Æthelred's name which means 'counsel'. Thus Æþelræd Unræd is a pun meaning "Noble counsel, No counsel". The nickname has alternatively been taken adjectivally as "ill-advised", "ill-prepared", "indecisive", thus "Æthelred the ill-advised".


The epithet would seem to describe the poor quality of advice which Æthelred received throughout his reign, presumably from those around him, specifically from the royal council, known as the Witan. Though the nickname does not suggest anything particularly respectable about the king himself, its invective is not actually focused on the king but on those around him, who were expected to provide the young king with god ræd. Unfortunately, historians, both mediaeval and modern, have taken less of an interest in what this epithet suggests about the king's advisers, and have instead focused on the image it creates of a blundering, misfit king. Because the nickname was first recorded in the 1180s, more than 150 years after Æthelred's death, it is doubtful that it carries any implications for how the king was seen by his contemporaries or near contemporaries.[5]


In the view of Oxford professor Chris Wickham, Æthelred was one of the most forceful kings of the tenth century, who ended the control of every one of the major magnate families over their ealdormanries in the two decades after 985, and although this was ultimately to prove to his disadvantage, it is significant that he maintained the strength to push all of them into private life in spite of the military crisis of the period.[6]


Gold mancus of Æthelred wearing armour, 1003–1006.Sir Frank Merry Stenton remarked that "much that has brought condemnation of historians on King Æthelred may well be due in the last resort to the circumstances under which he became king."[7] Æthelred's father, King Edgar, had died suddenly in July of 975, leaving two young sons behind. The elder, Edward (later Edward the Martyr), was probably illegitimate,[8] and was "still a youth on the verge of manhood" in 975.[9] The younger son was Æthelred, whose mother, Ælfthryth, Edgar had married in 964. Ælfthryth was the daughter of Ordgar, ealdorman of Devon, and widow of Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia. At the time of his father's death, Æthelred could have been no more than 10 years old. As the elder of Edgar's sons, Edward – reportedly a young man given to frequent violent outbursts – probably would have naturally succeeded to the throne of England despite his young age, had not he "offended many important persons by his intolerable violence of speech and behaviour."[9] In any case, a number of English nobles took to opposing Edward's succession and to defending Æthelred's claim to the throne; Æthelred was, after all, the son of Edgar's last, living wife, and no rumour of illegitimacy is known to have plagued Æthelred's birth, as it might have his elder brother's.[10] Both boys, Æthelred certainly, were too young to have played any significant part in the political manoeuvring which followed Edgar's death. It was the brothers' supporters, and not the brothers themselves, who were responsible for the turmoil which accompanied the choice of a successor to the throne. Æthelred's cause was led by his mother and included Ælfhere, Ealdorman of Mercia and Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester,[11] while Edward's claim was supported by Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Saint Oswald of Worcester, the Archbishop of York[12] among other noblemen, notably Æthelwine, Ealdorman of East Anglia, and Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex. In the end, Edward's supporters proved the more powerful and persuasive, and he was crowned king at Kingston upon Thames before the year was out.


Edward reigned for only three years before he was murdered by members of his brother's household.[13] Though we know little about Edward's short reign, we do know that it was marked by political turmoil. Edgar had made extensive grants of land to monasteries which pursued the new monastic ideals of ecclesiastical reform, but these disrupted aristocratic families' traditional patronage. The end of his firm rule saw a reversal of this policy, with aristocrats recovering their lost properties or seizing new ones. This was opposed by Dunstan, but according to Cyril Hart, "The presence of supporters of church reform on both sides indicates that the conflict between them depended as much on issues of land ownership and local power as on ecclesiastical legitimacy. Adherents of both Edward and Æthelred can be seen appropriating, or recovering, monastic lands."[8] Nevertheless, favour for Edward must have been strong among the monastic communities. When Edward was killed at Æthelred's estate at Corfe Castle in Dorset in March of 978, the job of recording the event, as well as reactions to it, fell to monastic writers. Stenton offers a summary of the earliest account of Edward's murder, which comes from a work praising the life of Saint Oswald of Worcester: "On the surface his [Edward's] relations with Æthelred his half-brother and Ælfthryth his stepmother were friendly, and he was visiting them informally when he was killed. [Æthelred's] retainers came out to meet him with ostentatious signs of respect, and then, before he had dismounted, surrounded him, seized his hands, and stabbed him. ... So far as can be seen the murder was planned and carried out by Æthelred's household men in order that their young master might become king. There is nothing to support the allegation, which first appears in writing more than a century later, that Queen Ælfthryth had plotted her stepson's death. No one was punished for a part in the crime, and Æthelred, who was crowned a month after the murder, began to reign in an atmosphere of suspicion which destroyed the prestige of the crown. It was never fully restored in his lifetime."[14] Nevertheless, at first, the outlook of the new king's officers and counsellors seems in no way to have been bleak. According to one chronicler, the coronation of Æthelred took place with much rejoicing by the councillors of the English people.[15] Simon Keynes notes that "Byrhtferth of Ramsey states similarly that when Æthelred was consecrated king, by Archbishop Dunstan and Archbishop Oswald, 'there was great joy at his consecration’, and describes the king in this connection as 'a young man in respect of years, elegant in his manners, with an attractive face and handsome appearance'."[15] Æthelred could not have been older than 13 years of age in this year.


During these early years, Æthelred was developing a close relationship to Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester, one who had supported his unsuccessful claim to the throne. When Æthelwold died, on 1 August 984, Æthelred deeply lamented the loss, and he wrote later in a charter from 993 that the event had deprived the country of one "whose industry and pastoral care administered not only to my interest but also to that of all inhabitants of the country."[15]


England had experienced a period of peace after the reconquest of the Danelaw in the mid-10th century by King Edgar, Æthelred's father. However, beginning in 980, when Æthelred could not have been more than 14 years old, small companies of Danish adventurers carried out a series of coast-line raids against England. Hampshire, Thanet, and Cheshire were attacked in 980, Devon and Cornwall in 981, and Dorset in 982. A period of six years then passed before, in 988, another coastal attack is recorded as having taken place to the south-west, though here a famous battle was fought between the invaders and the thegns of Devon. Stenton notes that, though this series of isolated raids had no lasting effect on England itself, "their chief historical importance is that they brought England for the first time into diplomatic contact with Normandy."[16] During this period, the Normans, who remembered their origins as a Scandinavian people, were well-disposed to their Danish cousins who, occasionally returning from a raid on England, sought port in Normandy. This led to grave tension between the English and Norman courts, and word of their enmity eventually reached Pope John XV. The pope was disposed to dissolve their hostility towards each other, and took steps to engineer a peace between England and Normandy, which was ratified in Rouen in 991.


However, in August of that same year, a sizeable Danish fleet began a sustained campaign in the south-east of England. It arrived off Folkestone, in Kent, and made its way around the south-east coast and up the river Blackwater, coming eventually to its estuary and occupying Northey Island.[15] About 2 km west of Northey lies the coastal town of Maldon, where Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, was stationed with a company of thegns. The battle that followed between English and Danes is immortalised by the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon, which describes the doomed but heroic attempt of Byrhtnoth to defend the coast of Essex against overwhelming odds. Stenton summarises the events of the poem: "For access to the mainland they [the Danes] depended on a causeway, flooded at high tide, which led from Northey to the flats along the southern margin of the estuary. Before they [the Danes] had left their camp on the island[,] Byrhtnoth, with his retainers and a force of local militia, had taken possession of the landward end of the causeway. Refusing a demand for tribute, shouted across the water while the tide was high, Byrhtnoth drew up his men along the bank, and waited for the ebb. As the water fell the raiders began to stream out along the causeway. But three of Byrthnoth's retainers held it against them, and at last they asked to be allowed to cross unhindered and fight on equal terms on the mainland. With what even those who admired him most called 'over-courage', Byrhtnoth agreed to this; the pirates rushed through the falling tide, and battle was joined. Its issue was decided by Byrhtnoth's fall. Many even of his own men immediately took to flight and the English ranks were broken. What gives enduring interest to the battle is the superb courage with which a group of Byrhtnoth's thegns, knowing that the fight was lost, deliberately gave themselves to death in order that they might avenge their lord."[17] This was the first of a series of crushing defeats felt by the English: beaten first by Danish raiders, and later by organised Danish armies.


In 991, Æthelred was around 24 years old. In the aftermath of Maldon, it was decided that the English should grant the tribute to the Danes that they desired, and so a gafol of 10,000 pounds was paid them for their peace. Yet it was presumably the Danish fleet that had beaten Byrhtnoth at Maldon that continued to ravage the English coast from 991 to 993. In 994, the Danish fleet, which had swollen in ranks since 991, turned up the Thames estuary and headed toward London. The battle fought there was inconclusive. It was about this time that Æthelred met with the leaders of the fleet, foremost among them Olaf Tryggvason, and arranged an uneasy accord. A treaty was signed between Æthelred and Olaf that provided for seemingly civilised arrangements between the then-settled Danish companies and the English government, such as regulation settlement disputes and trade. But the treaty also stipulated that the ravaging and slaughter of the previous year would be forgotten, and ended abruptly by stating that 22,000 pounds of gold and silver had been paid to the raiders as the price of peace.[18] In 994, Olaf Tryggvason, already a baptised Christian, was confirmed as Christian in a ceremony at Andover; King Æthelred stood as his sponsor. After receiving gifts, Olaf promised "that he would never come back to England in hostility."[15] Olaf then left England for Norway and never returned, though "other component parts of the Viking force appear to have decided to stay in England, for it is apparent from the treaty that some had chosen to enter into King Æthelred's service as mercenaries, based presumably on the Isle of Wight."[15]


In 997, Danish raids began again. According to Keynes, "there is no suggestion that this was a new fleet or army, and presumably the mercenary force created in 994 from the residue of the raiding army of 991 had turned on those whom it had been hired to protect."[15] It harried Cornwall, Devon, western Somerset, and south Wales in 997, Dorset, Hampshire, and Sussex in 998. In 999, it raided Kent, and, in 1000, it left England for Normandy, perhaps because the English had refused in this latest wave of attacks to acquiesce to the Danish demands for gafol or tribute, which would come to be known as Danegeld, 'Dane-payment'. This sudden relief from attack Æthelred used to gather his thoughts, resources, and armies: the fleet's departure in 1000 "allowed Æthelred to carry out a devastation of Strathclyde, the motive for which is part of the lost history of the north."[19]


In 1001, a Danish fleet – perhaps the same fleet from 1000 – returned and ravaged west Sussex. During its movements, the fleet regularly returned to its base in the Isle of Wight. There was later an attempted attack in the south of Devon, though the English mounted a successful defence at Exeter. Nevertheless, Æthelred must have felt at a loss, and, in the Spring of 1002, the English bought a truce for 24,000 pounds. Æthelred's frequent payments of immense Danegelds are often held up as exemplary of the incompetency of his government and his own short-sightedness. However, Keynes points out that such payments had been practice for at least a century, and had been adopted by Alfred the Great, Charles the Bald, and many others. Indeed, in some cases it "may have seemed the best available way of protecting the people against loss of life, shelter, livestock, and crops. Though undeniably burdensome, it constituted a measure for which the king could rely on widespread support."[15]


Æthelred ordered the massacre of all Danish men in England on St Brice's Day, 13 November 1002. No order of this kind could be carried out in more than a third of England, where the Danes were too strong, but Gunhilde, sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, was said to have been among the victims. It is likely that a wish to avenge her was a principal motive for Sweyn's invasion of western England the following year.[20] By 1004 Sweyn was in East Anglia, where he sacked Norwich. In this year, a nobleman of East Anglia, Ulfcytel Snillingr met Sweyn in force, and made an impression on the until-then rampant Danish expedition. Though Ulfcytel was eventually defeated, outside of Thetford, he caused the Danes heavy losses and was nearly able to destroy their ships. The Danish army left England for Denmark in 1005, perhaps because of their injuries sustained in East Anglia, perhaps from the very severe famine which afflicted the continent and the British Isles in that year.[15]


An expedition the following year was bought off in early 1007 by tribute money of 36,000 pounds, and for the next two years England was free from attack. In 1008, the government created a new fleet of warships, organised on a national scale, but this was weakened when one of its commanders took to piracy, and the king and his council decided not to risk it in a general action. In Stenton's view: "The history of England in the next generation was really determined between 1009 and 1012...the ignominious collapse of the English defence caused a loss of morale which was irreparable." The Danish army of 1009, led by Thorkell the Tall and his brother Hemming, was the most formidable force to invade England since Æthelred became king. It harried England until it was bought off by 48,000 pounds in April 1012.[21]


Sweyn then launched an invasion in 1013 intending to crown himself king of England, during which he proved himself to be a general greater than any other Viking leader of his generation. By the end of 1013 English resistance had collapsed and Sweyn had conquered the country, forcing Æthelred into exile in Normandy. But the situation changed suddenly when Sweyn died on 3 February 1014. The crews of the Danish ships in the Trent that had supported Sweyn immediately swore their allegiance to Sweyn's son Canute, but leading English noblemen sent a deputation to Æthelred to negotiate his restoration to the throne. He was required to declare his loyalty to them, to bring in reforms regarding everything that they disliked and to forgive all that had been said and done against him in his previous reign. The terms of this agreement are of great constitutional interest in early English History as they are the first recorded pact between a King and his subjects and are also widely regarded as showing that many English noblemen had submitted to Sweyn simply because of their distrust of Æthelred.[22]


Æthelred then launched an expedition against Canute and his allies, the men of Lindsey. Canute's army had not completed its preparations and, in April 1014, he decided to withdraw from England without a fight leaving his Lindsey allies to suffer Æthelred's revenge. In August 1015, he returned to find a complex and volatile situation unfolding in England. Æthelred's son, Edmund Ironside, had revolted against his father and established himself in the Danelaw, which was angry at Canute and Æthelred for the ravaging of Lindsey and was prepared to support Edmund in any uprising against both of them.


Over the next months, Canute conquered most of England, and Edmund had rejoined Æthelred to defend London when Æthelred died on 23 April 1016. The subsequent war between Edmund and Canute ended in a decisive victory for Canute at the Battle of Ashingdon on 18 October 1016. Edmund's reputation as a warrior was such that Canute nevertheless agreed to divide England, Edmund taking Wessex and Canute the whole of the country beyond the Thames. However, Edmund died on 30 November and Canute became king of the whole country.[23]


Æthelred was buried in old St Paul's Cathedral, London.


Marriages and issue

A charter of Æthelred's in 1003 to his follower, Æthelred.Æthelred married first Ælfgifu, daughter of Thored, earl of Northumbria, in about 985.[15] Their known children are:


Æthelstan Ætheling (died 1014)

Ecgberht Ætheling (died c. 1005)[24]

Edmund Ironside (died 1016)

Eadred Ætheling (died before 1013)

Eadwig Ætheling (executed by Canute 1017)

Edgar Ætheling (died c. 1008)[24]

Edith (married Eadric Streona)

Ælfgifu (married Uchtred the Bold, ealdorman of Northumbria)

Wulfhilda (married Ulfcytel Snillingr)

Abbess of Wherwell

In 1002 Æthelred married Emma of Normandy, sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy. Their children were:


Edward the Confessor (died 1066)

Ælfred Ætheling (died 1036–7)

Goda of England (married 1 Drogo of Mantes and 2 Eustace II, Count of Boulogne)

All of Æthelred's sons were named after predecessors of Æthelred on the throne.[25]


Æthelred's government produced extensive legislation, which he "ruthlessly enforced."[26] Records of at least six legal codes survive from his reign, covering a range of topics.[27] Notably, one of the members of his council (known as the Witan) was Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York, a well-known homilist. The three latest codes from Æthelred's reign seemed to have been drafted by Wulfstan.[28] These codes are extensively concerned with ecclesiastical affairs. They also exhibit the characteristics of Wulfstan's highly rhetorical style. Wulfstan went on to draft codes for King Cnut, and recycled there many of the laws which were used in Æthelred's codes.[29]


Despite the failure of his government in the face of the Danish threat, Æthelred's reign was not without some important institutional achievements. The quality of the coinage, a good indicator of the prevailing economic conditions, significantly improved during his reign due to his numerous coinage reform laws.[30]


Later perspectives of Æthelred have been less than flattering. Numerous legends and anecdotes have sprung up to explain his shortcomings, often elaborating abusively on his character and failures. One such anecdote is given by William of Malmesbury (lived c. 1080–c. 1143), who reports that Æthelred had defecated in the baptismal font as a child, which led St. Dunstan to prophesy that the English monarchy would be overthrown during his reign. This story is, however, a fabrication, and a similar story is told of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Copronymus, another mediaeval monarch who was unpopular among certain of his subjects.


Efforts to rehabilitate Æthelred's reputation have gained momentum since about 1980. Chief among the rehabilitators has been Simon Keynes, who has often argued that our poor impression of Æthelred is almost entirely based upon after-the-fact accounts of, and later accretions to, the narrative of events during Æthelred's long and complex reign. Chief among the culprits is in fact one of the most important sources for the history of the period, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which, as it reports events with a retrospect of 15 years, cannot help but interpret colour events with the eventual English defeat a foregone conclusion. Yet, as virtually no strictly contemporary narrative account of the events of Æthelred's reign exists, historians are forced to rely on what evidence there is. Keynes and others thus draw attention to some of the inevitable snares of investigating the history of a man whom later popular opinion has utterly damned. Recent cautious assessments of Æthelred's reign have more often uncovered reasons to doubt, rather than uphold, Æthelred's later infamy. Though the failures of his government will always put Æthelred's reign in the shadow of the reigns of kings Edgar, Aethelstan, and Alfred, historians' current impression of Æthelred's personal character is certainly not as unflattering as it once was: "Æthelred's misfortune as a ruler was owed not so much to any supposed defects of his imagined character, as to a combination of circumstances which anyone would have found difficult to control."[31]


Æthelred has been credited with the formation of a local investigative body made up of twelve thegns who were charged with publishing the names of any notorious or wicked men in their respective districts. Because the members of these bodies were under solemn oath to act in accordance with the law and their own good consciences, they have been seen by some legal historians as the prototype for the English Grand Jury.[32] Æthelred makes provision for such a body in a law code he enacted at Wantage in 997, which states:


þæt man habbe gemot on ælcum wæpentace; & gan ut þa yldestan XII þegnas & se gerefa mid, & swerian on þam haligdome, þe heom man on hand sylle, þæt hig nellan nænne sacleasan man forsecgean ne nænne sacne forhelan. & niman þonne þa tihtbysian men, þe mid þam gerefan habbað, & heora ælc sylle VI healfmarc wedd, healf landrican & healf wæpentake.[33]

that there shall be an assembly in every wapentake,[34] and in that assembly shall go forth the twelve eldest thegns and the reeve along with them, and let them swear on holy relics, which shall be placed in their hands, that they will never knowingly accuse an innocent man nor conceal a guilty man. And thereafter let them seize those notorious [lit. "charge-laden"] men, who have business with the reeve, and let each of them give a security of 6 half-marks, half of which shall go to the lord of that district, and half to the wapentake.

But the wording here suggests that Æthelred was perhaps revamping or re-confirming a custom which had already existed. He may actually have been expanding an established English custom for use among the Danish citizens in the North (the Danelaw). Previously, King Edgar had legislated along similar lines in his Whitbordesstan code:


ic wille, þæt ælc mon sy under borge ge binnan burgum ge buton burgum. & gewitnes sy geset to ælcere byrig & to ælcum hundrode. To ælcere byrig XXXVI syn gecorone to gewitnesse; to smalum burgum & to ælcum hundrode XII, buton ge ma willan. & ælc mon mid heora gewitnysse bigcge & sylle ælc þara ceapa, þe he bigcge oððe sylle aþer oððe burge oððe on wæpengetace. & heora ælc, þonne hine man ærest to gewitnysse gecysð, sylle þæne að, þæt he næfre, ne for feo ne for lufe ne for ege, ne ætsace nanes þara þinga, þe he to gewitnysse wæs, & nan oðer þingc on gewitnysse ne cyðe buton þæt an, þæt he geseah oððe gehyrde. & swa geæþdera manna syn on ælcum ceape twegen oððe þry to gewitnysse.[35]

It is my wish that each person be in surety, both within settled areas and without. And 'witnessing' shall be established in each city and each hundred. To each city let there be 36 chosen for witnessing; to small towns and to each hundred let there be 12, unless they desire more. And everybody shall purchase and sell their goods in the presence a witness, whether he is buying or selling something, whether in a city or a wapentake. And each of them, when they first choose to become a witness, shall give an oath that he will never, neither for wealth nor love nor fear, deny any of those things which he will be a witness to, and will not, in his capacity as a witness, make known any thing except that which he saw and heard. And let there be either two or three of these sworn witnesses at every sale of goods.

The 'legend' of an Anglo-Saxon origin to the jury was first challenged seriously by Heinrich Brunner in 1872, who claimed that evidence of the jury was only seen for the first time during the reign of Henry II, some 200 years after the end of the Anglo-Saxon period, and that the practice had originated with the Franks, who in turn had influenced the Normans, who thence introduced it to England.[36] Since Brunner's thesis, the origin of the English jury has been much disputed. Throughout the twentieth century, legal historians disagreed about whether the practice was English in origin, or was introduced, directly or indirectly, from either Scandinavia or Francia.[32] Recently, the legal historians Patrick Wormald and Michael Macnair have reasserted arguments in favour of finding in practices current during the Anglo-Saxon period traces of the Angevin practice of conducting inquests using bodies of sworn, private witnesses. Wormald has gone as far as to present evidence suggesting that the English practice outlined in Æthelred's Wantage code is at least as old as, if not older than, 975, and ultimately traces it back to a Carolingian model (something Brinner had done).[37] However, no scholarly consensus has yet been reached.


Æthelred was the subject of a stageplay by Ronald Ribman titled The Ceremony of Innocence which was made into a film by the same name. It was first performed in 1968, and depicted interactions between Æthelred and his court, family and advisors, and also with the Danish king. Æthelred was portrayed by Richard Kiley in both play and film.


Æthelred is also the subject of Richard Edward Wilson's Æthelred the Unready, a comical one-act opera composed in 1992.[38] He has also been referenced in the 'Civilization' franchise of video games, and occupies one of the lowest comparative ranks a player may achieve upon the game's completion, second only to Dan Quayle.

Note on Wife: Emma of NORMANDY

Emma (c.?985 – 6 March 1052 in Winchester, Hampshire), was a daughter of Richard the Fearless, Duke of Normandy, by his second wife Gunnora. She was Queen consort of England twice, by successive marriages: first as second wife to Æthelred the Unready of England (1002–16); and then second wife to Cnut the Great of Denmark (1017–35). Two of her sons, one by each husband, and two stepsons, also by each husband, became kings of England, as did her great-nephew, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy.


In 1000–1 Normandy gave shelter to a Viking army threatening England, and Æthelred may have attempted an invasion of Normandy in response, but in 1002 he changed tack and arranged to marry Emma, the sister of Richard II, Duke of Normandy, as his second wife.[1] She was given an English name, Ælfgifu, which was used instead of her Norman name on formal occasions or on charters. She had two sons, Edward (the future Edward the Confessor) and Alfred, and a daughter, Goda. She was accorded a more prominent place in charters than his first wife.[2] She received properties that had belonged to Queen Ælfthryth in Winchester and Rutland, and also controlled the city of Exeter, parts of Devonshire, Suffolk and Oxfordshire.[3]


In 1013 Æthelred sent Emma and her children to her brother in Normandy to escape Sweyn's invasion, and soon followed himself, but they were able to return when Sweyn died in February 1014. Æthelred's eldest son, Æthelstan had long been recognised as heir apparent, and charter evidence shows that Edward ranked behind all Æthelred's sons by his first marriage,[4] but Æthelstan died in June 1014, and Emma now tried to get her own son, the ten year old Edward, recognised as heir. She was an ally of her husband's most trusted adviser, the deeply distrusted Eadric Streona, ealdorman of Mercia, and he took her side, but she was opposed by Æthelred's oldest surviving son, Edmund Ironside, and his allies, who naturally regarded him as the heir.


Edmund revolted against his father, and in 1015 Sweyn's son Cnut invaded. Æthelred was able to hold out against Cnut in London, but in April 1016 Æthelred died, as did Edmund in November. Queen Emma still held out against Cnut in London, but it was finally agreed that her sons should go to live in Normandy and she would marry Cnut.[5] The marriage probably saved her sons, as Cnut tried to rid himself of rival claimants, but spared their lives.[6]


[edit] Reign of CnutHarthacnut was intended to rule England, along with most of Scandinavia, which, if he had succeeded, could have made a very different history. During the first years of Cnut's reign, Emma was rarely called upon to act as witness to his acts. This changed around 1020, when she became more active in affairs.[7] Like Queen Ælfthryth, she acted as patroness of the clergy and abbot Ælfsige of Peterborough was one of her closest advisors. She also befriended clergy from the continent, which added to the prestige of both herself and her husband as a christian king.


It is thought though, due not least to the extolling of her in the Encomium Emmae Reginae, that in addition to political machinations, Cnut grew fond of Emma. In this, an affectionate marriage and the ability to keep the threat from over the channel at bay, was seen as a happy coincidence. Unfortunately, events did not go as well as they might have.



Cnut and Emma of Normandy, from the Liber Vitae of the New Minster, Winchester (1031).[edit] Reigns of Harold I, Harthacnut and Edward the ConfessorAfter Cnut's death, Edward and Alfred returned to England from their exile in 1036, to see their mother, and were put under their half-brother, Harthacnut's, protection. This was seen as a move against Harold Harefoot, Cnut's son by Ælfgifu of Northampton, who put himself forward as Harold I with the support of many of the English nobility. In contempt of Harthacnut, and at war with his enemies in Scandinavia, Alfred was captured, blinded, and shortly after, died from his wounds. Edward escaped to Normandy and Emma herself soon left for Bruges and the court of the Count of Flanders. It was at this court that the Encomium Emmae (see above) was written.



Twice the Queen of the English kingdom, Emma of Normandy sits here in receipt of the Encomium Emmae, with her sons Harthacnut and Edward the Confessor in the frame.Harthacnut prepared an invasion force after he had made his Danish Lands secure in 1040 and picked Emma up from Flanders before setting out to England.[8] The death of Harold I in 1040 made his accession easier. Emma then held Wessex as regent for her son Edward,[9] until he was officially made welcome in England the next year. Harthacnut told the Norman court that Edward should be made king if he himself had no sons. Edward was subsequently King of England on the death of Harthacnut, who, like Harold I, met his end in the throes of a fit. Emma was also to return to England, yet was cast aside, as she supported Magnus the Noble, not Edward, her son. It is supposed that she had no love for her children from her first marriage.


[edit] Psychological speculationEmma of Normandy might well have seen herself as coming second to the first wife, in both of her marriages (Æthelred's first wife Ælfflaed possibly died in childbirth or from complications during labour). With her marriage to Cnut, set in the shade of his first wife, Ælfgifu of Northampton, she, at the time was known as Ælfgifu of Normandy. Her second marriage, then, in some way left her as a second Ælfgifu, which she was clearly inclined to abandon, preferring Emma. Despite her being a second wife, her noble marriages created a strong connection between England and Normandy, which was to find its culmination under her great-nephew William the Conqueror in 1066.


Emma's issue with Æthelred the Unready were:


Edward the Confessor

Goda of England

Alfred Ætheling



Her issue with Cnut the Great were



Gunhilda of Denmark