For other men of the same name, see Æthelhelm (disambiguation)
Died c. 890
House House of Wessex
Father Æthelred of Wessex
Mother Wulfthryth

Æthelhelm or Æþelhelm (fl. 880s) was the elder of two known sons of Æthelred I,[1] King of Wessex from 865 to 871.

Will of Alfred the Great, AD 873–888, granting land to Æthelhelm (11th-century copy, British Library Stowe MS 944, ff. 29v–33r)[2]

Æthelred's sons were too young to become king when their father died in 871, and the throne passed to their uncle, Alfred.[3] The only certain record of Æthelhelm records him as a beneficiary in Alfred's will in the mid 880s,[4][5] and it is speculated that he died soon afterwards.[6]

Æthelhelm's mother was probably Wulfthryth.[7]

Some historians have suggested identifying him with the Æthelhelm who served as Ealdorman of Wiltshire, the probable father of Ælfflæd,[8] who became Edward the Elder's second wife about 899. However, Barbara Yorke rejected this 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,[9] that a grant from Alfred to Ealdorman Æthelhelm makes 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.[10]

On Alfred's death in 899 Æthelhelm's younger brother Æthelwold contested the succession and died in battle.

The historian Æthelweard (died c. 998) claimed descent from King Æthelred I and may therefore be a descendant of Æthelhelm. Some genealogists have suggested that the Godwins descended from Æthelred I through Æthelhelm, but almost all historians dismiss this idea.

See also


  1. He may have had an older brother called Oswald or Osweald (David Dumville, The ætheling: a study in Anglo-Saxon constitutional history, Anglo-Saxon England, 8, 1979, p. 11).
  2. Charter S 1507 at the Electronic Sawyer
  3. Barbara Yorke, 'Edward as Ætheling', in N. J. Higham & D. H. Hill eds, Edward the Elder 899–924, Routledge, 2001, p. 30
  4. King Alfred's Will in Simon Keynes & Michael Lapidge, translation & notes, Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources, Penguin, 1983, pp. 177, 321, n. 66.
  5. "Æthelhelm 4". Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England.
  6. Yorke, op. cit., p. 31.
  7. N. J. Higham, D. H. Hill, Edward the Elder: 899-924 (2013), p. 35
  8. Pauline Stafford, Queen Emma and Queen Edith, Blackwell, 2001, pp. 324–325; PASE s.v. Æthelhelm 7
  9. However, Ætheling Æthelbald was appointed an ealdorman in 850. Sean Miller, Æthelbald, Oxford Online Dictionary of National Biography, 2004
  10. Yorke, op. cit., pp. 33–34. Keynes and Lapidge also treat the two Æthelhelms as different people, although they are more cautious in rejecting the identification, saying that they are "probably" not the same, p. 321, n. 66
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