Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Edmund I

from a genealogy of the kings of England
Edmund I
Edmund the Magnificent
Edmund the Just
Edmund the Deed-Doer

It isn't often that we run across an early king of England who had so much good will from his people, especially one who ruled for only a few years.

Edmund was the younger brother of Æthelstan (sometimes thought of as "the Forgotten King"), and grandson of Alfred the Great. He came to power when Æthelstan died in 939. Although Edmund was King of England for only a few years (he died on 26 May 946), he distinguished himself in the eyes of his people.

A national crisis is always a good reason for people to rally around their king. King Olaf III of Dublin invaded and conquered Northumbria and the Midlands during Edmund's reign, but Edmund succeeded in reconquering them in 942 and 943. Edmund also conquered Strathclyde in the north, but made a treaty with King Malcolm I of Scotland in which Malcolm got Strathclyde and Malcolm and Edmund became allies. Edmund also had good relations with Ireland, since he was godfather to King Olaf of York (not the same as the King Olaf mentioned above).*

He was married twice: first to Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury, by whom he had two children who would later become kings (Eadwig and Edgar, the father of Æthelred), and after her death to Æthelflæd of Damerham.

His death could probably have been easily avoided. While at church on 26 May, Edmund saw a thief who was supposed to be exiled. He attacked the thief, Leofa by name, who fought back and stabbed the king. Leofa didn't survive the encounter, either: he was attacked by the nobles present and killed. But the damage was done. Edmund died, leaving the kingdom to his brother, Eadred, who ruled for the next ten years, after which Edmund's sons succeeded him.

*You may guess that Ireland had a "Norse problem" just as England did.

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