Æthelweard (historian)

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Æthelweard (also spelled Ethelward), (died c. 998) Anglo-Saxon historian, was descended from Æthelred of Wessex (who was the 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.[1]

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[2].

In the year 991 Æthelweard was associated with archbishop Sigeric in the conclusion of a peace with the victorious Danes from Maldon[3], and in 994 he was sent with Bishop Ælfheah of Winchester to make peace with Olaf Tryggvason at Andover[4].

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[4], 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.

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