Edmund I Biography

(King of the English (939–946))

Born: 921

Born In: Wessex, England

Edmund I, also known as Edmund the Deed-Doer, or Edward the Magnificent, reigned as the king of the English from 939 to 946. Though his reign was short-lived, he is remembered for recapturing areas of northern England that had previously been occupied by the Vikings. The elder son of the West Saxon king Edward the Elder and Eadgifu, Edmund I was also the half-brother of King Æthelstan, who secured the political unification of England. Apart from fighting beside Æthelstan, Edmund also suppressed the aggressive campaigns of Olaf Guthfrithson, the Norse king of Dublin. He had a major role in the restoration of then-prince Louis, who ruled France as King Louis IV. He also captured Strathclyde and handed it over to its rightful overlord, Malcolm I. Edmund was killed when a thief named Leofa stabbed him in the stomach at the celebrations of the Feast of St. Augustine in 946.

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Quick Facts

Also Known As: Eadmund I, Edmund the Deed-Doer, Edward the Magnificent

Died At Age: 25

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Ælfgifu, Æthelflæd

father: Edward the Elder

mother: Eadgifu

siblings: Æthelstan, Edred of England

children: Eadwig, Edgar of England

Born Country: England

Emperors & Kings British Men

Died on: May 26, 946

place of death: Pucklechurch, United Kingdom

Cause of Death: Assassination

Childhood & Early Life

The elder son of Edward the Elder, the king of the Anglo Saxons, and his third wife, Edgith, or Eadgifu, Edmund I was born in 921. Edmund’s mother, Eadgifu, was the daughter of Sigehelm, who was an ealdorman of Kent.

Edmund was also known as the Elder, the Magnificent, and the Deed-Doer. He was also the half-brother of King Æthelstan, who is remembered for unifying England politically. Edmund was 16 when he fought beside King Æthelstan in AD 937, at the Battle of Brunanburgh, driving out the ruling Norse, including a combined army of Scots and Vikings, from Northern England.

Edmund's father, Edward, had three wives, eight or nine daughters, and five sons. Æthelstan, Edmund’s half-brother, was the only known son of Ecgwynn, Edward's first wife. Edmund’s half-brothers from Edward’s second wife, Ælfflæd, were Ælfweard and Edwin.

Edmund I also had two full sisters: Eadburh, who was a nun at Winchester and who later became a saint, and Eadgifu, who had the same name as their mother. Some accounts, however, state that Eadgifu, the sister, did not exist.

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Reign

Following Æthelstan’s death in 939, Edmund I became the first ruler to inherit a politically united England, in the year that followed, when he was just around 18 years old. However, Olaf Guthfrithson, the Danish ruler of Dublin, occupied Northumbria and the city of York and conducted raids in the Midlands soon after. Olaf was supported by Wulfstan, the Archbishop of York.

Edmund went North and managed to besiege King Olaf and Archbishop Wulfstan of York in Leicester. Finally, Wulfstan and Odo, the Danish Archbishop of Canterbury, signed a peace treaty, and the border of York and Wessex was confirmed at Watling Street. This forced Olaf to accept Edmund’s overlordship. Thus, Edmund was to rule the south of the border and Olaf was to retain control over the north of Watling Street. The treaty also stated that on the death of either, the survivor would have legal control over the whole country.

After Olaf Guthfrithson was killed during a raid in northern Northumbria in 941, Edmund moved toward the north to lay claim to the Five Boroughs of the East Midlands from Guthfrithson’s successor, Olaf Sigtryggson. Soon, he also managed to suppress the Welsh revolt of King Idwal of Gwynedd. By 944, Edmund moved to York and removed both Olaf Sigtryggson and his rival, Ragnall Guthfrithson. Olaf Sigtryggson eventually moved to Dublin.

In 945, Edmund marched with a combined army of English and Welsh and conquered Strathclyde, eventually killing its ruler, Donald Mac Donald, or Dunmail, who had previously supported Olaf Guthfrithson. Edmund then returned Strathclyde to its rightful Scottish overlord, Malcolm I, and recognized Northumbria as the northern-most limit of Anglo-Saxon England. He also stated that Malcolm should be his vassal. A peace treaty, ensuring mutual military support, was signed. Thus, Edmund ensured a secure frontier and mutually beneficial relations with Scotland that would end feuds.

French prince Louis, who later became the French king Louis IV, was Edmund’s nephew and the son of his half-sister, Eadgifu. He was also said to be a foster of Æthelstan. In the summer of 945, the Norsemen of Rouen captured Louis and released him to Duke Hugh the Great, who held him captive. It is believed, Eadgifu then wrote letters to both Edmund and Otto I, requesting them to help her son, Louis.

In 946, Edmund sent his envoys to France to negotiate the restoration of then-exiled Prince Louis. The king was, however, murdered before any agreement could be signed. His successor and brother, Edred, had no interest in the agreement.

Personal Life

Edmund I had been married twice. He was initially married to Ælfgifu, or to St. Aelfgith of Shaftesbury, around the time he rose to the throne. Ælfgifu's father’s identity is not known, but her mother was identified by one of Edgar’s charters, which states a grant by his grandmother, Wynflæd, to Shaftesbury Abbey. A benefactress of Shaftesbury Abbey, Ælfgifu was canonized by the church following her death in 944.

The couple had three children, a daughter and two sons, Edwig, or Eadwig, and Edgar. Both their sons succeeded to the English throne, as Kings Edwig All-Fair and Edgar the Peacemaker.

Following Ælfgifu’s death, Edmund got married for a second time, to Æthelflæd of Damerham in 946. She was a daughter of Ælfgar, who had probably been the ealdorman of Essex or Wiltshire. Edmund’s second marriage, however, produced no children. However, Æthelflæd was a wealthy widow after Edmund’s death.

Edmund had presented Ælfgar a sword decorated intricately with gold and silver, which Ælfgar later gifted to King Eadred, or Edred. Æthelflæd's second husband, Æthelstan Rota, was a south-east Mercian ealdorman. Æthelflæd died after 991.

Death

Edmund I was 25 and only 7 years into his kingship, when he was killed at the Feast of St. Augustine, a major Anglo-Saxon festival, in his hall, in a shocking incident. On May 26, 946, while Edmund was staying at Pucklechurch in Gloucestershire, a thief named Leofa, or Liofa, was recognized in the court. A struggle followed, and the king tried to save his steward from Leofa’s attack. However, the king, himself, ended up being killed by Leofa, who stabbed him in the stomach, causing him to die immediately.

Edmund I was buried at Glastonbury, where he had named St. Dunstan as the Abbot a few years earlier, helping him introduce the new Benedictine Rule in England. Edmund was succeeded by his half-brother, Edred.

See the events in life of Edmund I in Chronological Order

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