Edmund Ironside

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Edmund Ironside (or Edmund II) (Old English: Eadmund II Isen-Healf) (c. 988/993 – 30 November 1016) was king of the English from 23 April to 30 November 1016. The cognomen "Ironside" refers to his efforts to fend off a Viking invasion led by Cnut the Great. His authority was thereafter limited to Wessex, or the area south of the River Thames. The north was controlled by Cnut, who became "king of all England" upon Edmund's death.



Edmund was the second son of King Æthelred the Unready (also known as Æthelred II) and his first wife, Ælfgifu of York. He had three brothers, the elder Æthelstan, and the younger two Eadred and Ecgbert. His mother was dead by 996, after which his father remarried, this time to Emma of Normandy.

Æthelstan died in 1014, leaving Edmund as heir. A power struggle began between Edmund and his father, and in 1015 King Æthelred had two of Edmund's allies, Sigeferth and Morcar, executed. Edmund then took Sigeferth's widow Ealdgyth from Malmesbury Abbey, where she had been imprisoned, and married her in defiance of his father. During this time, Cnut the Great attacked England with his forces. In 1016 Edmund staged a rebellion in conjunction with Earl Uhtred of Northumbria, but after Uhtred deserted him and submitted to Cnut, Edmund was reconciled with his father.

Royal and military history

Æthelred, who had earlier taken ill, died on 23 April 1016. Edmund succeeded to the throne and mounted a last-ditch effort to revive the defence of England. While the Danes laid siege to London, Edmund headed for Wessex, where he gathered an army. When the Danes pursued him, he fought them to a standstill. He raised a renewed Danish siege of London and won repeated victories over Cnut. But, on 18 October, Cnut decisively defeated him at the Battle of Ashingdon in Essex. After the battle, the two kings negotiated a peace in which Edmund kept Wessex while Cnut held the lands north of the River Thames. In addition, they agreed that if one of them should die, territories belonging to the deceased would be ceded to the living.[1]

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