Aethelred (II The Unready, King of the English 978-1013, 1014-1016)

 Born  967   Born At  
 Died  23 Apr 1016   Buried At  Old St. Paul's Cathedral
 Father  EDGAR (I, King of the English 959-975)   Mother  Elfthyrth
Preceded by  Swein (Fork-Beard) Succeeded by  EDMUND (II Ironside, King of the English 1016)
 Royal House   Wessex

Titles Include

King of England

ethelred (Ethelred) 'The Unready' was King of the English from 978 to 1016. The term 'Unready' was probably a misinterpretation of the word 'un-raed' which meant 'lack of council'. It appears that Aethelred was not able to make any decisions on his own and relied on the Witan council heavily. Atheltred's reign was dominated by the many Viking raids on England. Under the leadership of Olaf Trygvasson and Swein Fork-Beard Vikings attacked the south and east coasts of England. Unable to defeat the Vikings by force Aethelred instead came to an agreement with them paying them money and providing lodging as long as they stopped the attacks. These payments were known as Danegeld. Aethelred had first married Aelfgifu then in 1002 he married Emma the daughter of Richard I Duke of Normandy. Aethelred's hope that by marrying into Emma's family they could provide assistance against the Vikings. Aethelred also had many Danes living in England killed to prevent them assisting the invading Vikings. Finally, in 1013, the Vikings invaded England forcing the Aethelred and his family into exile in Normandy. From September of 1013 until his death in February 1014, Swein Fork-Beard of Denmark is acknowledged as King of all England. Swein's son Canute was elected King of England by the Danes but the Witan council elected Aethelred. Aethelred sent a delegation from Normandy, including his son Edward (the Confessor), to England to discuss his return. Canute returned to Denmark to enforce his control there and in March of 1014 Aethelred returned to England to resume his reign. Canute had not given up his fight for control of England and in April 1016 he returned to England to overthrow Aethelred but the Saxon King died in the same month. Edmund Ironside, Aethelred's eldest son, was chosen to be king by the Londoners but elsewhere others chose Canute.


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Partial Personal Timeline

979 Mar  12yrsAethelred becomes king
 Aethelred became king after the assassination of Edward the Martyr. 
 Mar 18  Murder of Edward the Martyr
 Edward, the King of the English was assassinated under orders from his step-mother, who wanted her son Aethelred to become king. 
980   13yrsFirst Viking attacks
 With Aethelred on the throne for a short time and possibly showing some weakness in his ability to rule the Vikings started their attacks. Concentrating on the south coast the raids were limited and the affect to the country as a whole was small.[1]

Episode: Viking Invasions  
991 - 993 24yrsVikings attack the wealthy south-east
 Under the leadership of Olaf Trygvasson the Vikings attacked the wealthy south-east coast of England and took as much riches as they could carry.[1]

Episode: Viking Invasions  
   Vikings paid to leave England with land tax
 Aethelred was advised by Archbishop Sigeric to talk to Olaf and arrange a truce rather than trying to defeat the Vikings in battle. The Vikings accepted a large payoff and left. The sum of money was around 10,000 pounds and was raised by collecting and land tax known as Danegeld.[2]

Episode: Viking Invasions  
992   25yrsShips gather in London
 King Aethelred decreed that all sea-worthy ships should gather in London and then put to sea and destroy the Viking army. But alderman Aelfric sent word to the Danes the night before the attack of the King's plan which allowed them to escape. Aelfric then fled. [2]

Episode: Viking Invasions  
994   27yrsSwein Fork-Beard invades Britain
 Swein Fork-Beard had overthrone this father King Harold Blue-Tooth Gormsson, King of Denmark in 988. With a huge fleet of 94 ships he arrived in the Thames estuary with Olaf Trygvasson by his side. London put up a good defence and drove the Vikings back so Fork-Beard moved his forces again to attack the south-east coast to plunder what he could find.[1]

Episode: Viking Invasions  
 Winter  Trygvasson converted to Christianity
 Through the Winter months Aethelred provided the Vikings with lodgings and £16,000 in cash to stop the raids on his land. Aethelred was also the sponsor at the baptism of Olaf Trygvasson. Olaf was given instruction from the Bishop of Winchester.[1]

Episode: Viking Invasions  
1000   33yrsAethelred attacked Strathclyde and Isle of Man.
 Aethelred the Unready attacked Strathclyde and Isle of Man.[3] 
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