Aethelred the Unready

The following post is reblogged from Susan Abernathy’s the Freelance History Writer. It’s the first in a long line of reblogs I’ll be doing in conjunction with our 1014 series. Aethelred the Unready was unseated as King of England by Sweyn Forkbeard just before Christmas in 1013. As we’ve seen, Sweyn passed away in February, paving the way for Aethelred’s return from exile, which he’ll do sometime in March.

If you haven’t checked out Susan’s blog, you should do so. Some of us write funny or interesting pieces about the things we like. Susan writes posts that can be used as a resource. Enjoy!

The Freelance History Writer

Image of Aethelred the Unready A thirteenth century chronicler recorded Aethelred as being named “Un-raed” which has come to mean Unready in modern terms. The name Aethelred is a compound of two words: Aethel meaning “prince” and raed meaning “noble counsel”. Un-raed means “no counsel” so the chronicler was basically making a pun on Aethelred’s name. But this pun had overtones and alternative meanings including “evil counsel” or “a treacherous plot”. Calling Aethelred “Unraed” could mean he was given bad counsel, he did not take advice from his counselors or that he himself was unwise. Perhaps all were true. Let’s look at the story and see.

Aethelred was the great-great grandson of Alfred the Great and born c. 968. His father was Edgar the Peaceable, King of England and his mother was Queen Aelfthryth. Edgar died in 975 leaving a young Aethelred and an elder son by a previous…

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Eustace the Monk: A Black Magic, Double-Crossing Pirate Soldier in the Service of the King(s)

Eustace's death at the Battle of Sandwich (13th century illustration by Matthew Paris). Via Wikispaces.

Eustace’s death at the Battle of Sandwich (13th century illustration by Matthew Paris). Via Wikispaces.

In case you haven’t noticed, Medieval history is one of my favorite historical periods. It happens to be one of the eras that I know the most about. I guess I find it fascinating because once you start to get a depth of written records and knowledge about the period, after little recorded history during the ‘Dark Ages’, you find some truly bizarre stuff is taking place and being noted.

The Age of Exploration and Age of Enlightenment have so much intrigue and a massive amount of detail, but much of the mindset and motivation and the actions of the main players makes sense. That’s not necessarily the case with Medieval Europe. You’re often left thinking, ‘I recognize the world this is taking place in, but what in the hell are these guys doing?’

If the Middle Ages is one of my favorite eras, Eustace the Monk is one of my favorite characters.

Not a lot is known about Eustace Busket’s early life. He is France’s version of Robin Hood, though we know, without a doubt, that Eustace existed. He is in official records having served the King of England, King John. He entered the monastery as a young man, but gained a reputation for foul language and gambling. His monicker of the black monk may be owed to this. His father was murdered and he abandoned the monastic life to either seek revenge or claim his inheritance, setting in motion a chain of events that would lead him to black magic, piracy and, ultimately, his head on a pole.

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On This Day in 1014: Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark, Norway and England Dies

Sweyn Forkbeard, possibly being murdered in his sleep by St Edmund. 13th century, artist unknown.

Sweyn Forkbeard, possibly being murdered in his sleep by St Edmund. 13th century, artist unknown.

One thousand years ago today…

…Sweyn Forkbeard, son of Harald Bluetooth, father of Cnut the Great, died of causes yet to be agreed upon. By the time of his death, he had set the groundwork for a great maritime power known as The North Sea Empire, to be ruled by his son. He ruled over Denmark, his territorial homeland, Norway, and for a period of five weeks, England (becoming the first Viking king of that country).

The cause of death is uncertain. Some say he fell from a horse. Others say he was murdered in his sleep by St. Edmund. He died in Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. As if being a Viking king weren’t epic enough, he may have been murdered by a ghost saint!

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King Alfred the Great: Bone of the First King of the Anglo-Saxons Found in a Box?

King Alfred the Great. Artist and date not listed. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

King Alfred the Great. Artist and date not listed. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The latest edition of  my History in the News Series, a look at current events that have some sort of historical slant.

King Alfred is the greatest of Anglo-Saxon kings and one of the most famous monarchs in England’s long recorded history. His list of deeds includes defeating Viking hoards, uniting the Anglo-Saxons, strengthening the islands defenses, legal reforms, fomenting scholarship and general, all around enlightenment. Rare for a king of his time to accomplish so much, especially with hereditary monarchy being such a crap shoot. He is England’s Charlemagne. He truly was deserving of the nickname ‘The Great.’ So why was his pelvis bone found in a box at the Winchester City Museum?

“I desired to live worthily as long as I lived, and to leave after my life, to the men who should come after me, the memory of me in good works.”

Words purportedly spoken by the great king. But first, some more on the man and his times.

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War Paint (Part 1): The Bayeux Tapestry

Part 1 in a 10-part series on depictions of war in art.

The Bayeux Tapestry is a beautiful piece of art. Produced sometime in the 1070’s by the victorious Norman’s following their conquest of England, the tapestry depicts the build up and conquest by William, Duke of Normandy, in 1066. The Battle of Hastings, where King Harold Godwinson of England was slain, is the climax. The death of Harold is the scene I’ve chosen as the featured image, as it was, historically speaking, the critical event.

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