Queen In All But Name

By Annie Whitehead

Aethelflaed, who died on 12th June AD918 was not a Mercian. She was a West-Saxon, the daughter of Alfred the Great of Wessex. She was born around the year 869 - we don’t know where - and was the eldest child of Alfred and his wife, who was a Mercian princess of the Gaini tribe. Alfred’s sister was married to King Burgred of Mercia, so here, already, there was a double connection between the two royal houses, alliance cemented by marriage twice over.

There is evidence to suggest that Aethelflaed was fostered by her aunt and spent her early years in Mercia. At this time there were essentially four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms: Northumbria in the northeast and East Anglia in the east had already been overrun by the Danish Vikings and now those Danish invaders were pushing at the borders of Mercia in the midlands. Mercia could not hold them off, caught as it was in a succession dispute. Unable to stand united, the Mercians failed to arrest the advancing army. Wessex, in the southwest, was, as Bernard Cornwell called it, The Last Kingdom.

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