Æthelheard of Wessex

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For the archbishop of Canterbury, his ecclesiastical homonym, see Æthelhard.

Æthelheard (meaning roughly "Noble Stern"), also spelled Ethelheard or Æþelheard, was King of Wessex from 726 to 740. There is an unreliable record of Æthelheard having been the brother-in-law of his predecessor, Ine, but his ancestry is unknown, perhaps making him the first King of Wessex not to be descended from Cynric by blood.

When Ine abdicated and went to Rome in 726, he left behind no obvious heir, and according to Bede simply left his kingdom "to younger men".[1] In the wake of his departure, the West Saxon throne was disputed between Æthelheard and a rival claimant, Oswald. Oswald may have had the better claim, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle calls him a descendant of the early king Ceawlin,[2] but it was Æthelheard who prevailed. It is possible that his success was due to the support of Æthelbald of Mercia, since he seems to have been subject to Æthelbald afterward. However, Æthelheard's lack of independence does not seem to have prevented Æthelbald from taking considerable territory from Wessex in 733, including the royal manor of Somerton.

Æthelheard's wife Frithugyth is recorded in the Chronicle as making a pilgrimage to Rome in 737.

Æthelheard was succeeded by Cuthred, possibly a brother or other relative.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (1943, 1971, 1998 Oxford paperback), pages 72–73.
  2. ^ ASC manuscript A, 728.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Wessex
Succeeded by