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For other men of the same name, see Æthelhelm (disambiguation)

Æthelhelm or Æþelhelm (c. 865 – c. 890) was the elder of two known sons of King Æthelred I.[1]

Æthelred's sons were too young to become king when he died in 871, and the throne passed to their uncle, King Alfred the Great.[2] The only certain record of Æthelhelm is as a beneficiary in Alfred's will in the mid 880s,[3][4] and it is speculated that he died soon afterwards.[5]

Æthelhelm's mother was probably Wulfthryth.[6]

Some historians have suggested that he was the Æthelhelm who was Ealdorman of Wiltshire, the probable father of Edward the Elder's second wife Ælfflæd,[7] but Barbara Yorke 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,[8] that in a grant from 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.[9]

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

The historian Æthelweard claimed descent from King Æthelred and may therefore be a descendant of Æthelhelm. Some genealogists have suggested that the Godwins were descended from Æthelred I through Æthelhelm, but this is dismissed by almost all historians.

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Barbara Yorke, 'Edward as Ætheling', in N. J. Higham & D. H. Hill eds, Edward the Elder 899–924, Routledge, 2001, p. 30
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England, Æthelhelm 4
  5. ^ Yorke, op. cit., p. 31.
  6. ^ N. J. Higham, D. H. Hill, Edward the Elder: 899-924 (2013), p. 35
  7. ^ Pauline Stafford, Queen Emma and Queen Edith, Blackwell, 2001, pp. 324–325
  8. ^ However, Ætheling Æthelbald was appointed an ealdorman in 850. Sean Miller, Æthelbald, Oxford Online Dictionary of National Biography, 2004
  9. ^ 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