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Æthelweard (also spelled Ethelward), (died c. 998) Anglo-Saxon historian, was descended from King Æthelred I (the elder brother of Alfred the Great), and was ealdorman or earl of the western provinces.
Æthelweard first witnesses charters as a minister after the accession of Eadwig in 955, and this is likely to be connected with the king's marriage to Ælfgifu. This Ælfgifu is identified with the noblewoman of this name who in her will leaves bequests to a brother of this name, and another brother, Ælfweard, who also begins witnessing at this time.
Æthelweard signs as dux or ealdorman in 973, and was accorded primacy among the ealdormen after 993. He continues to witness until 998, about which time his death must have taken place. Æthelweard's ealdormanry was the Western Provinces, probably the south-west peninsula. His brother Ælfweard, a royal discthegn, or household official, continues to sign as minister until 986.
In the year 991 Æthelweard was associated with archbishop Sigeric in the conclusion of a peace with the victorious Danes from Maldon, and in 994 he was sent with Bishop Ælfheah of Winchester to make peace with Olaf Tryggvason at Andover.
Æthelweard was the friend and patron of Ælfric of Eynsham, who in the preface to his Old English Lives of saints, addressed Æthelweard and his son Æthelmær.
In 957 King Eadwig, the great-grandson of King Æthelred I's brother, Alfred the Great, was obliged to divorce Æthelweard's sister Ælfgifu on grounds of consanguinity, and in the introduction to his Latin Chronicle Æthelweard claims to be the "grandson's grandson" of King Æthelred.
It has been postulated that Æthelweard and his siblings Ælfweard, Ælfgifu and Ælfwaru were the children of Eadric, ealdorman of Hampshire. This identification rests on Aelfgifu's possession of the estate of Risborough, which had belonged to Eadric's mother, Æthelgyth, the wife of ealdorman Æthelfrith of Mercia.
One possible construction is that his putative grandfather Æthelfrith was the grandson of King Æthelred I through his son Æthelhelm. This royal connection would go some way to explaining the enormous prestige enjoyed by Æthelfrith’s sons.
Assuming that the identification of Æthelweard as the brother of Ælfgifu is correct, his mother was the Æthelgifu whose company Eadwig enjoyed along with her daughter whilst escaping his coronation. Ælfgifu leaves a bequest to an Æthelflaed, who is either Æthelweard’s wife or his sister-in-law.
Æthelweard was father of Æthelmær the Stout, who was ealdorman of the Western provinces towards the end of Æthelred II's reign. Æthelmær was the father of Æthelnoth, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1020, and was later regarded as a saint.; and of the Æthelweard executed by King Cnut in 1017. Æthelmær has also been tentatively identified as the father Wulfnoth Cild, who was the father of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and grandfather of King Harold II.
Æthelweard wrote his work on request of his relative Mathilde, abbess of Essen Abbey monastery and granddaughter of emperor Otto I and Eadgyth of Wessex, to help her in the duty of keeping the remembrance of the dead relatives. Most likely Mathilde rewarded him with a copy of Vegetius' work De Re Militari which was written in Essen and survived in England.
His works are composed in the hermeneutic style almost universally adopted by English scholars writing in Latin in the tenth century. Michael Lapidge defines it as "a style whose most striking feature is the ostentatious parade of unusual, often very arcane and apparently learned vocabulary." The later medieval historian William of Malmesbury, who hated the style, says of him
- "... a noble and illustrious character, who attempted to arrange these chronicles in Latin, and whose intention I could applaud, if his language did not disgust me it would be better to be silent..."
- Whitelock, Dorothy, ed. Anglo-Saxon Wills, 1930, No 8
- Keynes, Simon. The Diplomas of King Æthelred the Unready 978-1016, 1980
- Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
- Barlow, Lundie W. "The Antecedents of Earl Godwine of Wessex" in New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1957
- Mason, Emma "Æthelnoth (d. 1038)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press, 2004 Online Edition accessed November 7, 2007
- Anscombe, "The Pedigree of Earl Godwine" in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 1913, 3rd Series, Vol. 7
- Miller, Sean, "Æthelweard" in The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. Michael Lapidge, 2001
- Lapidge, pp. 105, 135-136, 139
- Æthelweard, Chronicon, ed. and tr. Alistair Campbell, The Chronicle of Æthelweard. London, 1961.
- Barker, E.E. (ed.). "The Cottonian fragments of Æthelweard's Chronicle." Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 24 (1951): 46-62.
- Ælfric, preface to Lives of Saints, ed. and tr. W.W. Skeat, Ælfric’s Lives of Saints. 2 vols: vol. 1. Oxford, 1881-1900. 2-7.
- Ælfric, preface to his Old English homilies, ed. and tr. Benjamin Thorpe, The Homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Church. The First Part, Containing the Sermones Catholici, or Homilies of Ælfric. 2 vols: vol 1. London, 1844-6.
- William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum Anglorum, ed. and tr. R.A.B. Mynors, R. M. Thomson and M. Winterbottom, William of Malmesbury. Gesta Regum Anglorum. The History of the English Kings. OMT. 2 vols. Oxford, 1998.
- John of Worcester, Chronicon ex chronicis, ed. Benjamin Thorpe, Florentii Wigorniensis monachi chronicon ex chronicis. 2 vols. London, 1848-9.
- Campbell, James. "England, c. 991." In The Battle of Maldon: Fiction and Fact, ed. Janet Cooper. London and Rio Grande, 1993. 1-17.
- Houts, Elisabeth van. "Women and the Writing of History in the Early Middle Ages: The Case of Abbess Mathilda of Essen and Æthelweard." Early Medieval Europe 1 (1992): 53-68.
- Howlett, D.R. "The Verse of Æthelweard's Chronicle." Bulletin Du Cange 58 (2000): 219-24.
- Jezierski, Wojtek. "Æthelweardus redivivus." Early Medieval Europe 13.2 (2005): 159-78.
- Lapidge, Michael (1993). Anglo-Saxon Literature 900-1066. The Hambledon Press. ISBN 1-85285--012-4.
- Lutz, Angelika. "Æthelweard’s Chronicon and Old English poetry." Anglo-Saxon England 29 (2000): 177-214.
- Meaney, Audrey L. "St. Neots, Æthelweard and the Compilation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: a Survey." Studies in Earlier Old English Prose, ed. Paul E. Szarmach. Albany, 1986. 193-243.
- Stenton, Frank Merry. "Æthelweard's Account of the Last Years of King Alfred's Reign." In Preparatory to Anglo-Saxon England, being the Collected Papers of Frank Merry Stenton, ed. D.M. Stenton. Oxford, 1970. 8-13. Published previously in English Historical Review 24: 79-84.
- Whitbread, L. "Æthelweard and the Anglo-Saxon chronicle." English Historical Review 74 (1959): 577-89.
- Winterbottom, Michael. "The Style of Æthelweard." Medium Aevum 36 (1967): 109–18.