Ælfflæd, wife of Edward the Elder

For other people with the same name, see Ælfflæd.
Queen consort of Wessex
Tenure c. 899 - c. 919
Spouse Edward, King of the Anglo-Saxons
Issue Ælfweard
Eadgifu, Queen of West Francia
Eadhild, wife of Hugh the Great
Eadgyth, Holy Roman Empress

Ælfflæd (fl. early 10th century) was the second wife of Edward the Elder, king of the Anglo-Saxons from 899 to 924.

Ælfflæd was the daughter of an ealdorman Æthelhelm, probably ealdorman Æthelhelm of Wiltshire who died in 897. Genealogist David H. Kelley and historian Pauline Stafford have identified him as Æthelhelm, a son of Edward's uncle, King Ethelred I.[1][2] Other historians have rejected the idea, arguing that it does not appear to have been the practice for Æthelings (princes of the royal dynasty who were eligible to be king) to become ealdormen, that in a grant from King Alfred to Ealdorman Æthelhelm there is no reference to kinship between them, and that the hostile reception to King Eadwig's marriage to Ælfgifu, his third cousin once removed, shows that a marriage between Edward and his first cousin once removed would have been forbidden as incestuous.[3]

Ælfflæd married King Edward around 899. She only attested one charter, dated 901, where she was described as conjux regis. She never attested as queen. and although she was previously thought to have been consecrated as queen when Edward was crowned in 900, this is now thought unlikely.[4] In 1827 the tomb of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral was opened, and among the objects found were a stole and maniple which had inscriptions showing that they had been commissioned by Ælfflæd for bishop Frithestan of Winchester. However, they had been donated by her step-son king Æthelstan to Cuthbert's tomb, probably in 934.[5]

Ælfflæd had two sons, Ælfweard, who became king of Wessex on his father's death in 924 but died himself within a month, and Edwin, who was drowned in 933. She also had five or six daughters, including Eadgifu, wife of Charles the Simple, king of West Francia, Eadhild, who married Hugh the Great, duke of the Franks, and Eadgyth, wife of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor.[6] In around 967 Hrotsvitha, a nun of Gandersheim, wrote a eulogy of the deeds of Otto I in which she contrasted the nobility of Eadgyth's mother with the inferior descent of Æthelstan's mother.[7]

Edmund I, the future king who was a son of Edward's third wife, Eadgifu, was born in 920 or 921, so Ælfflæd's marriage must have ended in the late 910s. According to William of Malmesbury, Edward put aside Ælfflæd in order to marry Eadgifu, a claim which Sean Miller viewed sceptically,[8] but it is accepted by other historians.[9] She is reported to have retired to Wilton Abbey, where she was joined by two of her daughters, Eadflæd and Æthelhild, and all three were buried there.[10]


Her children were:[11]




  1. Stafford, pp. 324-325
  2. Kelley, pp. 63-93
  3. Yorke, pp. 33-34; Foot, 2011, p. 37 n. 25
  4. Foot, 2011, pp. 11, 37 n. 26
  5. Foot, 2011, pp. 121-123
  6. Foot, 2011 pp. xv, 38, 41, 44
  7. Foot, 2011, p. 30
  8. Miller, Edward the Elder
  9. Williams, Ælfflæd; Sharp, p. 82; Foot, 2010, p. 243
  10. Sharp, p. 82; Foot, 2011, p. 45
  11. Foot, 2011 p. xv


Preceded by
Queen consort of Wessex
c. 899 - c. 919
Succeeded by
Eadgifu of Kent
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