Edmund I (Old English: Ēadmund, pronounced [æːɑdmund]; 921 – 26 May 946) was King of the English from 939 until his death. His epithets include the Elder, the Deed-doer, the Just, and the Magnificent.
Edmund in the late thirteenth-century Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings
|King of the English|
|Tenure||27 October 939 – 26 May 946|
|Coronation||c. 29 November 939|
probably at Kingston upon Thames
|Died||26 May 946 (aged 24–25)|
Pucklechurch, Gloucestershire, England
|Spouse||Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury|
Æthelflæd of Damerham
Edgar the Peaceful
|Father||Edward the Elder|
Edmund was the son of Edward the Elder and his third wife Eadgifu of Kent, and a grandson of Alfred the Great. His father died when he was young, and was succeeded by his oldest son Æthelstan. Edmund came to the throne upon the death of his half-brother in 939, apparently with little opposition. His reign was marked by almost constant warfare, including conquests or reconquests of the Midlands, Northumbria, and Strathclyde (the last of which was ceded to Malcolm I of Scotland). Edmund was assassinated after six-and-a-half years as king, while attending Mass in Pucklechurch, Gloucestershire. He was initially succeeded by his brother Eadred, but his two sons—Eadwig and Edgar the Peaceful—both later came to the throne.
Early life and military threatsEdit
Edmund came to the throne as the son of Edward the Elder, and therefore the grandson of Alfred the Great, great-grandson of Æthelwulf of Wessex and great-great grandson of Egbert of Wessex, who was the first of the house of Wessex to start dominating the Anglo Saxon realms. However, being born when his father was already a middle aged man, Edmund lost his father when he was a toddler, in 924, which saw his 30 year old half brother Athelstan come to the throne. Edmund would grow up in the reign of Athelstan, even participating in the Battle of Brunanburh in his adolescence in 937.
Athelstan died in the year 939, which saw young Edmund come to the throne. Shortly after his proclamation as king, he had to face several military threats. King Olaf III Guthfrithson conquered Northumbria and invaded the Midlands. Edmund encountered him at Leicester, but Olaf escaped and a peace was brokered by Oda of Canterbury and Wulfstan I of York. When Olaf died in 942, Edmund reconquered the Midlands. In 943, Edmund became the godfather of King Olaf of York. In 944, Edmund was successful in reconquering Northumbria. In the same year, his ally Olaf of York lost his throne and left for Dublin in Ireland. Olaf became the king of Dublin as Amlaíb Cuarán and continued to be allied to his godfather. In 945, Edmund conquered Strathclyde but ceded the territory to King Malcolm I of Scotland in exchange for a treaty of mutual military support. Edmund thus established a policy of safe borders and peaceful relationships with Scotland. During his reign, the revival of monasteries in England began.
Louis IV of FranceEdit
One of Edmund's last political movements of which there is some knowledge is his role in the restoration of Louis IV of France to the throne. Louis, son of Charles the Simple and Edmund's half-sister Eadgifu, had resided at the West-Saxon court for some time until 936, when he returned to be crowned King of France. In the summer of 945, he was captured by the Norsemen of Rouen and subsequently released to Duke Hugh the Great, who held him in custody. The chronicler Richerus claims that Eadgifu wrote letters both to Edmund and to Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor in which she requested support for her son. Edmund responded to her plea by sending angry threats to Hugh. Flodoard's Annales, one of Richerus' sources, report:
Edmund, king of the English, sent messengers to Duke Hugh about the restoration of King Louis, and the duke accordingly made a public agreement with his nephews and other leading men of his kingdom. [...] Hugh, duke of the Franks, allying himself with Hugh the Black, son of Richard, and the other leading men of the kingdom, restored to the kingdom King Louis.
Family, death and successionEdit
Edmund's first wife was Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury; the date is not recorded. There were two sons of this marriage: Eadwig (c. 940–959), and Edgar (c. 943–975). Both became kings of England. Ælfgifu died in 944, following which Edmund married Æthelflæd of Damerham. There are no known children of this marriage.
On 26 May 946, Edmund was murdered by Leofa, an exiled thief, while attending St Augustine's Day Mass in Pucklechurch (South Gloucestershire). John of Worcester and William of Malmesbury add some lively detail by suggesting that Edmund had been feasting with his nobles, when he spotted Leofa in the crowd. He attacked the intruder in person, but in the event, Leofa killed him. Leofa was killed on the spot by those present. A recent article re-examines Edmund's death and dismisses the later chronicle accounts as fiction. It suggests the king was the victim of a political assassination.
- The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 514
- "Edmund I | king of England". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
- Mawer, Allen (1911). . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 948.
- David Nash Ford, Edmund the Magnificent, King of the English (AD 921-946), Early British Kingdoms.
- Richerus, Historiae, Book 2, chapters 49–50. See MGH online[permanent dead link].
- Dorothy Whitelock (tr.), English Historical Documents c. 500–1042. 2nd ed. London, 1979. p. 345.
- Edmundus, Anglorum rex, legatos ad Hugonem principem pro restitutione Ludowici regis dirigit: et idem princeps proinde conventus publicos eumnepotibus suis aliisque regni primatibus agit. [...] Hugo, dux Francorum, ascito secum Hugo Nneigro, filio Richardi, ceterisque regni primatibus Ludowicum regem, [...] in regnum restituit. (Flodoard, Annales 946.)
- "Here King Edmund died on St Augustine’s Day [26 May]. It was widely known how he ended his days, that Liofa stabbed him at Pucklechurch. And Æthelflæd of Damerham, daughter of Ealdorman Ælfgar, was then his queen." Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, MS D, tr. Michael Swanton.
- John of Worcester, Chronicon AD 946; William of Malmesbury, Gesta regum, book 2, chapter 144. The description of the circumstances remained a popular feature in medieval chronicles, such as Higden's Polychronicon: "But William, libro ij° de Regibus, seyth (says) that this kyng kepyng a feste at Pulkirchirche, in the feste of seynte Austyn, and seyng a thefe, Leof by name, sytte [th]er amonge hys gestes, whom he hade made blynde afore for his trespasses – (quem rex prios propter scelera eliminaverat, whom the King previously due to his crimes did excile) – , arysede (arrested) from the table, and takenge that man by the heire of the hedde, caste him unto the grownde. Whiche kynge was sleyn – (sed nebulonis arcano evisceratus est) – with a lyttle knyfe the [th]e man hade in his honde [hand]; and also he hurte mony men soore with the same knyfe; neverthelesse he was kytte (cut) at the laste into smalle partes by men longyng to the kynge." Polychronicon, 1527. See Google Books
- K. Halloran, A Murder at Pucklechurch: The Death of King Edmund, 26 May 946. Midland History, Volume 40, Issue 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 120-129.
- Edmundus rex Transmarinus defungitur, uxor quoque regis Othonis, soror ipsius Edmundi, decessit. "Edmund, king across the sea, died, and the wife of King Otto, sister of the same Edmund, died also." (tr. Dorothy Whitelock, English Historical Documents c. 500–1042. 2nd ed. London, 1979. p. 345).
- Dumville, David (1985). "Learning and the Church in the England of King Edmund I, 939-946". The Historia Brittonum 3, The Vatican Recension. Cambridge, UK: Brewer.