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Ordgar (died 971) was Ealdorman of Devon in England. He was a great West Country landowner and apparently a close advisor[1] of his son-in-law Edgar the Peaceful, king of England. His daughter Ælfthryth was King Edgar's third wife and was the mother of King Æthelred the Unready (c.968 – 1016). He was created an ealdorman by King Edgar in 964.


Historical sources[edit]

Little is known about Ordgar other than what survives in three historical sources:

Gaimar's account[edit]

According to Gaimar, Ordgar was the son of an ealdorman, and owned land in every parish from Exeter in Devon to Frome in Somerset. He married an unknown lady of royal birth, by whom he had a daughter Ælfthryth. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography draws a conclusion that Ordgar was "clearly a figure of some importance" to have secured such a match.[1] King Edgar determined on marrying Ælfthryth and to this end he sent Æthelwald, Ealdorman of East Anglia as his agent to woo her. On arrival Æthelwald found her in company with her father Ordgar, whom she completely controlled by her personality, playing chess, which they had learned from the Danes.[4] Æthelwald instead took Ælfthryth for his own wife and married her in about 956.[4]

Æthelwald died in 962, and Dunstan suspected that he was murdered by his wife Ælfthryth who thereafter, according to Dunstan, seduced King Edgar and murdered his son Prince Edward the Martyr in order to pave the way for the crowning of her son Æthelred as king. It is, however, certain that, under whatever actual circumstances, Ælfthryth became King Edgar's third wife in 964 and in the same year her father Ordgar was created ealdorman. The ODNB supposes that Ordgar from the time of his daughter's royal marriage until 970 was one of Edgar's closest advisors, by virtue of his being named as a witness on almost all charters issued by King Edgar during the period.[1]

Tavistock Abbey[edit]

Older historians thought that Tavistock Abbey was founded in 961 by Ordgar[5] but the modern consensus is that it was wholly the foundation of his son Ordwulf in 974;[6][7] the charter of confirmation was granted in 981 by King Æthelred, Ordwulf's nephew.

Death and burial[edit]

Ordgar died in 971. According to William of Malmesbury, he was buried with his son Edulf at Tavistock, Devon, but according to Florence of Worcester, he was buried at Exeter.[4]


The name of Ordgar's wife is not known; however, he is known to have issue:

  • Ordwulf (died after 1005), High Reeve of Devon
  • Ælfthryth, Queen Consort of England, married King Edgar of England.
  • Edulf (died 971 or before), was of gigantic strength and stature.[8][9]


  1. ^ a b c d Lewis, C.P. "Ordgar (d. 971), magnate". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  2. ^ Thomson, R. M.; Winterbottom, M. (2007). William of Malmesbury: Gesta Pontificum Anglorum: Volume II: General Introduction and Commentary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-19-922661-0.
  3. ^ Short, Ian. "Gaimar, Geffrei (fl. 1136–1137), Anglo-Norman poet and historian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Bateson 1895.
  5. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Tavistock" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 457–458.
  6. ^ "Tavistock Abbey". Historic England. 28 August 2001. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  7. ^ Freeman, Mary (2012). "Ordulf's Shadow in Tavistock". In Bliss, Jane; et al. (eds.). Aspects of Devon History. Devon History Society. pp. 23–36. ISBN 978-0-903766-02-9.
  8. ^ Gesta Pontiff. pp. 202-3
  9. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 42 pg 242-243

External links[edit]