Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4958
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  • Title: Anglo-Saxon Historiography: The Position of Aethelflaed of Mercia [analysis based on contemporary chronicles including the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," the "Mercian Register," and the "Fragmentary Annals of Ireland"].
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 29, 3 (Spring 1996):
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians Chronicles Politics Power Queens
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 10
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  • Abstract: F. T. Wainwright has argued that Œthelflœd, the most powerful woman of late Anglo-Saxon history, who ruled Mercia from 911 to 918 A.D., was nothing more than a loyal pawn in the service of her brother, Edward of West Saxony. Wainwright credits Edward for the successful Mercian and West Saxon military cooperation against the Danes. He views Edward's annexation of London and Oxford as a confirmation of Œthelflœd's acceptance of a subordinate role, and he considers Edward's 919 A.D. annexation of Mercia as a logical conclusion to this relationship. One might question his theory, however, because Edward waited until after Œthelflœd's death to annex Mercia, deposing her daughter in the process, and because Œthelflœd is barely mentioned at all in the West Saxon MS A of the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle." I have therefore reconsidered Œthelflœd's career by examining not only the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" but also the "Mercian Register" and the "Fragmentary Annals of Ireland," along with other chronicles of that time. My conclusion is that Œthelflœd was extremely powerful in her own right. She defeated threatening Danes and Norwegians, battered the hostile Welsh, strengthened Mercia's borders, initiated and led an anti-Norse coalition, accepted the city of York under her protection, and undertook public building. She was so well known that her death is recorded in several annals which don't mention Edward and sometimes not even Alfred. I therefore see her cooperation with Edward as an alliance between equals, congruent with the rest of her policies to strengthen and protect Mercia. I would assert that Edward did not annex Mercia until after Œthelflœd's death simply because he was not in a powerful enough position to do so, and it therefore seems likely that Edward's West Saxon historians purposefully omitted lEthelflred from MS A of the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" in order not to remind the Mercians of their recent independence and power [Reproduced by permission of Robert Schicler, the “Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies” editor, and the editors of the “Old English Newsletter.”].
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  • Year of Publication: 1996.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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