Eadred Biography

(King of the English (946 until his death))

Born: 923

Born In: Wessex, England

Eadred, or Edred, reigned as the King of the English from 946 to 955 AD, he was known for bringing Northumbria under permanent English rule. Eadred was the son of the King of the Anglo-Saxons, Edward the Elder, and his third wife, Eadgifu. He was also one of the half-brothers of King Æthelstan and the brother of King Edmund I. Though the Northumbrians initially swore allegiance to Eadred, they soon revolted and proclaimed Viking ruler Eric Bloodaxe as their king. Eadred marched into Northumbria and ravaged the kingdoms of the North. Meanwhile, a conflict between Olaf Sihtricson and Eric Bloodaxe followed, but Eadred eventually regained control over Northumbria. He also lent his support to St. Æthelwold and St. Dunstan in their bid to strengthen the English Benedictine Reform Movement. In his later years, weakened by chronic digestive ailments, he handed over the major administrative powers of his kingdom to Dunstan. He eventually died without an heir in his early 30s.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Edred

Died At Age: 32


father: Edward the Elder

mother: Eadgifu of Kent

siblings: Æthelstan, Edmund I of England

Born Country: England

Emperors & Kings British Men

Died on: November 23, 955

place of death: Frome, Somerset, England

Early Life & Family

Edred, or Eadred, was born in 923 AD in Wessex, to Anglo Saxon ruler Edward the Elder and his third wife, Edgiva. His mother was the daughter of Sieghelm, Ealdorman of Kent. Eadred was also the grandson of Alfred the Great.

Eadred was raised along with his brother, Edmund I, at Æthelstan's court. The brothers were given a fair share of the kingdom when they grew up. Edmund I, or Eadmund I, was about 18 when he became the king of the Anglo Saxons in 939 AD.

Apart from Edmund, Eadred had at least two full siblings (sisters): Eadburh, a nun at Winchester, and Eadgifu, who married Louis, prince of Aquitaine. Eadred had several other half-siblings through his father’s two other wives.

After King Edmund (also known as Edmund the Elder and Edmund the Magnificent) was stabbed to death on May 26, 946 AD, his two sons were not accepted as rulers by the Witan due to them being underage. Thus, Eadred was chosen as the next ruler and was around 21 when he succeeded his brother to England's throne.

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When Eadred’s elder half-brother Æthelstan took over as the King of the English after Edward the Elder’s death in 924 AD, he inherited a huge kingdom extending till the south of the Humber River. Æthelstan extended his kingdom further by conquering the northern Viking territory of York and thus passed the whole kingdom to his half-brothers, Edmund and later Eadred.

Eadred was named the King of the English on May 26, 946 AD, soon after King Edmund I was killed in a brawl in Gloucestershire. Eadred’s coronation took place on August 16, 946 AD. He was crowned by Archbishop Oda of Canterbury at Kingston upon Thames, where he appears to have received the submission of the Welsh rulers and the northern earls.

Eadred had the responsibility of safeguarding his conquered lands and protecting them from the Viking threats. He soon gained control over the sub-rulers of England and the Northumbrian ealdormen at Tanshief, near Pontefract, Yorkshire.

The Northumbrian contingent was led by Wulfstan, Archbishop of York back then. After the death of the Viking leader of the north, Harold Fairhair, his son, Eric Bloodaxe, became the King of Norway.

Though Eric was soon overthrown by his brother Haakon, he was later invited to be the King of Northumbria. The Northumbrians, along with Archbishop Wulfstan of York, betrayed Eadred and offered their allegiance to Eric.

In response, Eadred marched north and attacked the province. He burned down Ripon, following which Eric fled. Eadred’s army was attacked at Castleford, but he ravaged Northumbria again. The Northumbrians soon realized they needed to stop supporting Eric Bloodaxe.

Eadred captured Archbishop Wulfstan of York, the mastermind of the troubles in the North, in 952 AD. Wulfstan was imprisoned at the castle of Judanburh.

While Eadred was busy countering the Archbishop of York, Olaf Sihtricson had taken over as the king of Northumbria in 950 AD. This was one of his three periods of rule.

In 952 AD, Olaf was ousted, in favor of Eric, who re-established himself as the king of York and ruled till 954 AD. Eric was expelled later and died in an ambush led by Eadred’s supporters.

By 954 AD, Northumbria was under the control of Osullf, who was the first ealdorman of Northumbria (appointed by King Eadred) and had previously ruled Bamburgh. Eadred thus regained control of the whole of the north of England

In his capacity, Eadred supported the monastic reform movement and appointed St. Æthelwold to the Abbacy of Abingdon. He was highly influenced by St. Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury, who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury. He supported Dunstan in the attempt to revive Monasticism.

Final Years & Death

In his later years, Eadred assigned many significant administrative roles to Dunstan. For instance, Dunstan was given the authority to issue charters. Previously, he had assigned similar tasks to Eadgifu, allowing her to sanction grants to institutions and figures.

Eadred’s continuous struggle with ill health later affected his ability to govern. He suffered from digestive health conditions for a long time and eventually died on November 23, 955 AD (St. Clement’s Mass Day), at his Frome palace in Somerset. He was 32 at the time of his death.

With no direct heir, Eadred was succeeded to the throne by his nephew, Eadwig, or Edwy. Eadred was buried in the Old Minster, Winchester Cathedral, beside his ancestors of the House of Wessex.

Personal Life

There is no record of Eadred having married, and he died without an heir. Known to be of small stature, he suffered from ill-health for almost his entire life.

He had some form of a chronic disease that, at times, even rendered him unable to eat. Nonetheless, he was considered a man of significant courage and determination.

See the events in life of Eadred in Chronological Order

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