Æthelbald of Wessex

Æthelbald of Wessex

Infobox Monarch
title=King of Wessex

reign=856 - December 20, 860
date of birth=834
place of birth=Wessex, England
date of death=death date|860|12|20|mf=y
place of death=Wessex
place of burial=Sherborne Abbey

King Æthelbald of Wessex or Ethelbald (Old English "Æþelbald") (Means roughly 'Noble Bold') was the second of the five sons of King Ethelwulf of Wessex and Osburga and was born in about 831 or 834. In 850 he received the rank of ealdorman. He got his first taste of kingship in 855 when he was left in charge of the West Saxons while his father, Ethelwulf, was in Rome. His brother Ethelbert was left in charge of Kent. Ethelwulf eventually returned a year later having married the Carolingian King Charles' daughter Judith. According to Asser, during Ethelwulf's absence there may have been a plot hatched to prevent the king's return either by Æthelbald, or by Ealhstan, Bishop of Sherborne and Eanwulf, Ealdorman of Somerset, or by all three. It is probable that Æthelbald was involved in such a plot due to hearing about his father's marriage to Judith. The marriage to a Frankish princess who had her own royal lineage could have produced heirs more throne-worthy than Æthelbald's. To avoid a civil war Ethelwulf allowed Æthelbald to rule western Wessex while he himself retained central and eastern Wessex. The absence of any coins in Æthelbald's name during this period suggests the coinage continued to be in Ethelwulf's name until his death. After Æthelwulf's death Æthelbald became sole king of the West Saxons, with his younger brother remaining king of Kent. He was crowned at Kingston upon Thames and later made himself unpopular with the church by marrying Judith, his father's sixteen year old wife. The relationship was deemed incestuous and in direct contravention of church law. Her outraged father, Charles the Bald, intervened and forced his daughter into a nunnery. She later eloped with Baldwin, Count of Flanders, making her the ancestress of another Queen of England, Matilda of Flanders, the consort of England's first Norman King, William the Conqueror.Despite all this Æthelbald made a popular king. He died at Sherbourne in Dorset on 20 December, 860, aged around 35, after a four year reign. He was greatly mourned by his people, although Bishop Asser describes him as being 'headstrong and arbitrary'. It should be noted, however, that he evoked the censure of the church through his uncanonical marriage, making Asser's opinion of the King a highly biased one.

ee also

*House of Wessex family tree

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