Ælfweard of Wessex

King of Wessex (perhaps)
Reign (perhaps) 17 July 924 – 2 August 924
Predecessor Edward the Elder
Successor Æthelstan
Born c. 902
Wessex, England
Died 2 August 924 (aged 2122)
Oxford, England
Burial New Minster, Winchester
House Wessex
Father Edward, King of Wessex
Mother Ælfflæd
Religion Roman Catholic

Ælfweard (c. 902 – 2 August 924) was the second son of Edward the Elder, the eldest born to his second wife Ælfflæd.

Kingship and death

Will of Alfred the Great, AD 873–888 (11th-century copy, British Library Stowe MS 944, ff. 29v–33r)[1]

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle simply states that Ælfweard died soon after his father's death on 17 July 924 and that they were buried together at Winchester. Manuscript D of the Chronicle specifies that he outlived his father by only 16 days. No reign is explicitly attributed to him here. However, a list of West-Saxon kings in the 12th-century Textus Roffensis[2] mentions him as his father's successor, with a reign of four weeks.[3] He is also described as king in the New Minster Liber Vitae,[4][5] an 11th-century source based in part on earlier material. On the other hand, William of Malmesbury, relying on a poem, related that Edward's eldest son (by his first wife Ecgwynn), Æthelstan, succeeded directly under the terms of King Alfred's will (since lost).[6] The poem had once been considered a near-contemporary authority, but Michael Lapidge has shown this to be based on a misunderstanding of William's reference to "a certain obviously ancient book".[7]

This conflicting documentation has led to alternative interpretations, some modern historians concluding that he had succeeded his father in preference to his older half-brother Æthelstan, while others maintain that Æthelstan was the only heir to his father.[6] Alternatively, a divided rule has been suggested, since the so-called Mercian register of the Chronicle reports that Æthelstan became king of the Mercians, and William of Malmesbury, though denying a reign for Ælfweard, reports that Æthelstan was educated at the Mercian court of his aunt Æthelflæd.[3][6][8] In the view of Simon Keynes, Ælfweard was recognised as king in Wessex and Æthelstan in Mercia, and although it is possible that Edward intended a division of the kingdom after his death, it is more likely that the leaders of Wessex chose Ælfweard and Mercia set up Æthelstan in opposition.[9]

Ælfweard died only 16 days after his father, on 2 August 924 at Oxford, and was buried at the New Minster, Winchester. Æthelstan still had difficulty in securing acceptance in Wessex, and he was not crowned king of the Anglo-Saxons until 4 September 925.[9][10]


See also


  1. Charter S 1507 at the Electronic Sawyer
  2. (Rochester, Cathedral Library, MS A.3.5, fols. 7v-8r).
  3. 1 2 Yorke, Bishop Æthelwold. p. 71.
  4. f. 9v, cited by Yorke.
  5. "Ælfweard 4". Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England.
  6. 1 2 3 Williams, "Some Notes", pp. 149–50.
  7. Lapidge, "Some Latin poems as evidence for the reign of Athelstan." 50-1.
  8. Walker, Mercia and the Making of England. p. 127.
  9. 1 2 Keynes, 'Rulers of the English', p. 514
  10. Foot, Æthelstan, p. 17


Further reading

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Edward the Elder
King of Wessex
Succeeded by
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