King Æthelbald of Wessex was born circa 833 in Wessex to Æthelwulf of Wessex (c795-858) and Osburga (-bef856) and died 20 December 860 Sherborne, Dorsetshire, England of unspecified causes. He married Judith (844-870) 858 JL in Wessex.
King Æthelbald of Wessex or Ethelbald (Old English: Æþelbald meaning "Noble and Bold") was the second of the five sons of King Æthelwulf of Wessex and Osburga (-bef856). He succeeded his father to become the king of Wessex from 858 to 860. (See House of Wessex family tree).
He witnessed his father's charters as a kings' son in the 840s, and in 850 he received the rank of Ealdorman. In 855 he became regent of Wessex while his father, Æthelwulf, visited Rome, his elder brother Æthelstan of Kent (-c852) having died in 851 or shortly after. His younger brother Æthelberht of Wessex (-865) became king of Kent, and later succeeded him as King of Wessex.
To avoid a civil war, Æthelwulf allowed Æthelbald to continue to rule Wessex itself (or the western part of Wessex) while he took Kent and the other eastern parts of the kingdom. Ann Williams dates the start of Æthelbald's reign to 855, regarding father and son as joint kings from Æthelwulf's return from Rome in 856 until his death in 858.
Little is known of his reign and only one charter survives, witnessed by king Æthelbald, king Æthelbert and Judith, suggesting that he was on good terms with his brother. The absence of any coins in Æthelbald's name during this period suggests the coinage continued to be in Æthelwulf's name until his death. Æthelbald then became the king of Wessex, while Æthelberht again became king of Kent.
Æthelbald died at Sherborne in Dorset on 20 December 860. Asser, who was hostile to Æthelbald both because of his revolt against his father and because of his uncanonical marriage, described him as "iniquitous and grasping", and his reign as "two and a half lawless years". He was succeeded by his brother, Æthelberht of Wessex (-865).
Marriage to Judith of Flanders
His father, King Æthelwulf of Wessex, returned in 856 from Rome and having taken as his second wife, the Carolingian King Charles the Bald (823-877)'s thirteen-year-old daughter Judith (844-870). It is probable that Æthelbald was involved in such a plot because of his father's marriage to Judith. The marriage to a Frankish princess who had her own royal lineage could have produced heirs more throne-worthy than Æthelbald.
According to Alfred the Great's biographer, Asser, during Æthelwulf's absence there may have been a plot hatched to prevent the king's return either by Æthelbald, or by Ealhstan, Bishop of Sherborne and Eanwulf, Ealdorman of Somerset, or by all three.
Once King Æthelwulf was dead, Æthelbald, his son, against God's prohibition and Christian dignity, and also contrary to the practice of all pagans, took over his father's marriage-bed and married Judith, daughter of Charles, king of the Franks, incurring great disgrace from all who heard of it.
Judith's charisma as a Carolingian princess was so great that rather than lose the prestige of the connection Æthelbald then married her, in spite of strong clerical opposition, as marriage to a widowed stepmother was considered incestuous.
Sherborne Abbey Memorial
- Ethelbald of Wessex - Wikipedia
- Miller, Sean (2004). "Æthelbald (d. 860), king of the West Saxons". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8901. Retrieved 17 April 2013. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Nelson, Janet L. (2004). "Æthelwulf (d. 858), king of the West Saxons". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39264. Retrieved 17 April 2013. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Keynes, Simon; Lapidge, Michael, eds. (1983). Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred & Other Contemporary Sources. Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-044409-4.
- Ortenberg, Veronica (2010). "'The King from Overseas: Why did Æthelstan Matter in Tenth-Century Continental Affairs?". In Rollason, David; Leyser, Conrad; Williams, Hannah. England and the Continent in the Tenth Century:Studies in Honour of Wilhelm Levison (1876–1947). Brepols. ISBN 9782503532080.
- Stenton, Frank (1971). Anglo-Saxon England (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280139-5.
Williams, Ann (1991). "Æthelbald king of Wessex 855-60". In Williams, Ann; Smyth, Alfred P.; Kirby, D. P. A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain. Seaby. p. 18. ISBN 1 85264 047 2.
- Williams, Ann (1991). "Æthelwulf king of Wessex 839-58". In Williams, Ann; Smyth, Alfred P.; Kirby, D. P. A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain. Seaby. p. 35. ISBN 1 85264 047 2.
- See also List of English monarchs