|Reign||911 - 918 AD|
|Predecessor||Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians|
|House||House of Wessex|
|Father||Alfred the Great|
|Died||12 June 918, Tamworth, Staffordshire|
|Burial||St Oswald's Priory, Gloucester|
Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, (died 918) was the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, and his queen, Ealhswith. Æthelflæd was born at the height of the Viking invasions of England. Her father married her to Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, also known as 'Æthelred, Ealdorman of Mercia'. After his death in 911 she ruled Mercia, until her own death in 918. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle referred to her as the Myrcna hlæfdige, 'Lady of the Mercians'.
During a sustained campaign of repeated attacks between 865 and 878, the Danish Vikings overran most of the English Kingdoms such as Northumbria, eastern Mercia and East Anglia. They threatened the very existence of Wessex. Alfred and his descendants reconquered these lands from the Danes by 937. The aid given him in this by Mercia had to be acknowledged. Instead of making the dominion of Wessex over Mercia seem like a conquest, Alfred married Æthelflæd to Æthelred of Mercia and gave his son-in-law the title Ealdorman or Earl of Mercia, thus allowing some ongoing autonomy. Since much of western Mercia was never under the control of the Danes, and remained strong, this was a prudent move. Further prudence prevailed when the kingdoms were finally absorbed; they were not absorbed into Wessex or greater Wessex but into England. The term Anglo-Saxon thus reflects King Alfred's diplomatic integration of the Mercians Angles and the Saxons.
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Family and marriage 
Æthelflæd is mentioned by Alfred's biographer Asser, who calls her the first-born child of Alfred and Ealhswith and a sister to Edward, Æthelgifu, Ælfthryth and Æthelweard.  By the time he wrote, roughly about the year 890, she was already married to Æthelred, then ealdorman of Mercia. Æthelred and Æthelflæd are recorded as having had one daughter, Ælfwynn. Æthelstan, the son of Edward the Elder and the grandson of Alfred, was brought up in their court.
Near the end of the reign of Alfred the Great, Æthelred and Æthelflæd were requested by Werferth, the Bishop of Worcester, to fortify the town, in return for which they shared the rents and other profits which had belonged to the bishop.
Lady of the Mercians 
Æthelflæd is known to have established garrisons in Hereford and Gloucester before 914 and to have repaired the old walls of Chester in 907. In 910, she built her first fortress, whilst her husband took no part in the campaign against the Danes, leading some scholars to suggest that she was the real leader of the Mercian people.
On her husband's death in 911 after the Battle of Tettenhall, she was recognised as the 'Lady of the Mercians'. This title was not a nominal position; Æthelflæd was a formidable military leader and tactician and ruled for eight years. Upon succeeding her husband, she began to plan and build a series of fortresses in English Mercia, ten of which can be identified: Bridgnorth (912); Tamworth (913); Stafford (913); Eddisbury (914); Warwick (914); Chirbury (915); Runcorn (915). Three other fortresses, at Bremesburh, Scergeat and Weardbyrig, have yet to be located.
Æthelflæd allied herself to her brother Edward the Elder. The historian Sir Frank Stenton described Edward's ability to rely on Æthelflæd during this period as the reason why he was able to achieve "the outstanding feature of his reign", the move against the occupying Danes in the south of England.
In 916, she led an expedition into Wales to avenge the murder of a Mercian abbot and succeeded in capturing the wife of the king of Brycheiniog. Edward the Elder issued coinage with novel reverses of extraordinary designs and it is speculated[by whom?] that this series of coinage was for circulation in that part of Mercia under the rule of Edward and his sister, with the design of the coinage perhaps showing the influence of Æthelflæd.
Death and legacy 
In 918, the people of the region around York promised to pledge their loyalty to Æthelflæd, probably in order to secure her support against Norse raiders from Ireland, but she died on June 12 918, less than two weeks before the city was able to pay homage to her.
She died at Tamworth, Staffordshire in 918 and was buried at St Peter's Church (now St Oswald's Priory) in Gloucester, a city she had reconstructed from Roman ruins, and laid out the core street plan, which is still in existence today. She was succeeded as Lady of the Mercians by her young daughter, Ælfwynn.
Æthelflæd is a featured figure on Judy Chicago's installation piece The Dinner Party, being represented as one of the 999 names on the Heritage Floor. A statue dedicated to her stands outside Tamworth Castle.
- Hill, Paul, The Age of Athelstan, Tempus Publishing, 2004. (ISBN 0-7524-2566-8)
- Cook, Asser's Life of Alfred, pp. 37-38.
- Cook, Asser's Life of Alfred, p. 37.
- Wood, In Search of England, p. 158.
- Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, p. 529.
- Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, p. 326.
- Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, p. 324.
- Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, p. 326-7.
- Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, p. 324.
- Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, p. 327.
- Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, p. 329.
- "Aethelflaed". Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Aethelflaed. Brooklyn Museum. 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
Primary sources 
- Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (MSS A, B, C, D and E), ed. D. Dumville and S. Keynes, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. A Collaborative Edition. Vols. 3–7. Cambridge, 1983.
- Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, ed. and tr. Joan N. Radner, Fragmentary annals of Ireland. Dublin, 1978.
- Anglo-Saxon charters: S 221(AD 901), S 223 (AD 884 x 901), S 224 (AD 901), S 225 (AD 878 for 915), S 367 (AD 903), S 1280 (AD 904).
Secondary sources 
- Cook, Albert S. (1906). Asser's Life of King Alfred (in English). New York: Ginn & Co.*Sir Francis Palgrave. History of the Anglo-Saxons. 1876. Paperback edition on Senate. p. 164.
- Stenton, Sir Frank (1988). Anglo-Saxon England. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-821716-1.
- Wood, Michael (2001). In Search of England:Journeys into the English Past. Berkeley: University of Califormia Press. ISBN 0-520-23218-6.
Further reading 
- Costambeys, Marios (2004). Æthelflæd (d. 918), in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
- Heighway, C. and Bryant R. (1999). The Golden Minster.
- Keynes, Simon (1999). "England, c.900–1016". In Reuter, Timothy. The New Cambridge Medieval History III. Cambridge University Press. pp. 456–484. ISBN 0 521 36447 7.
- Keynes, Simon (1998). "King Alfred and the Mercians". In Blackburn, M.A.S.; Dumville, D.N. Kings, Currency and Alliances: History and Coinage of Southern England in the Ninth Century. ISBN 9780851155982.
- Lacey, Robert (2007). Great Tales from English History. Abacus.
- Meijns, Brigitte (2010). "The Policy on Relic Translations of Baldwin II of Flanders (879-918), Edward of Wessex (899-924) and Æthelflæd of Mercia (d. 924)". In Rollason, David; Leyser, Conrad; Williams, Hannah. England and the Continent in the Tenth Century:Studies in Honour of Wilhelm Levison (1876-1947). Brepols. ISBN 9782503532080.
- Justin Pollard. Alfred the Great: the Man Who Made England (2005)
- Don Stansbury. The Lady Who Fought Vikings (1993)
- Szarmach, P.R. 1998. "Æðelflæd of Mercia, mise en page." In Words and works: studies in medieval English language and literature in honour of Fred C. Robinson, ed. P.S. Baker and N. Howe. 105–26.
- Stafford, Pauline (2007). "'The Annals of Æthelflæd': Annals, History and Politics in Early Tenth-Century England". In Barrow, Julia; Wareham, Andrew. Myth, Rulership, Church and Charters. Ashgate. pp. 101–116. ISBN 978-0-7546-5120-8.
- Wainwright, F. T. (1975). "Aethelflæd, Lady of the Mercians". Scandinavian England: Collected Papers. Phillimore. pp. 305–324. ISBN 0 900592 65 6.
- Ian W. Walker. 2001. Mercia and the Making of England.
- Jane Wolfe. Aethelflaed: Royal Lady, War Lady (2001)