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Æthelswith (c. 838–888) was the only known daughter of King Æthelwulf of Wessex. She married King Burgred of Mercia in 853. The couple had no known issue. Her marriage probably signaled the subordination of Burgred to his father-in-law and the Saxon kingdom at a time when both Wessex and Mercia were suffering Danish (Viking) raids. Burgred also had ongoing problems with the Kingdom of Powys on his western border and in 853 Æthelwulf subjugated the Welsh state on Burgred's behalf.

Repeated Danish incursions over the years gradually weakened Mercia militarily and in 868 Burgred was forced to call upon Æthelswith's brother King Æthelred of Wessex to assist him in confronting an entrenched Danish army at Nottingham. This was the last time the Saxons came to the aid of the Mercians and is also notable as the occasion on which Alfred the Great, another brother of Æthelswith's, married his Mercian wife Ealhswith.

Burgred's reign lasted till 874 when the Vikings drove him from the kingdom and he fled to Rome with Æthelswith. He died shortly after. Æthelswith lived on in Italy, to be buried at Pavia in 888.[1]


  1. ^ Simon Keynes & Michael Lapidge eds, Alfred the Great, Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources (Penguin Classics). London: Penguin, 1983, pp. 69, 113, 232, 281.

Further reading[edit]

On Æthelswith's ring see:

  • Webster, Leslie (1991). "The Age of Alfred: Metalwork, wood and bone". In Webster, Leslie; Backhouse, Janet (eds.). The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600-900. London, UK: The Trustees of the British Museum. ISBN 0-7141-0555-4 (Exhibition catalogue)
  • Wilson, David M. (1964). Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork 700-1100 in the British Museum. London, UK: The Trustees of the British Museum. OCLC 183495.

External links[edit]