Women in History: Ethelfled

Will and Ariel Durant, in their multi-volume Story of Civilization, pause for a moment to note Ethelfled [Æthelflæd] (870-918), the daughter of Alfred the Great (848-899). About 885 she was married to the Lord of Mercia to secure an alliance between Mercia and Alfred’s Wessex. Apparently her husband’s health declined from about 899 and she became the effective ruler in his place.

Alfred’s daughter Ethelfled, as regent and queen, gave Mercia for a generation effective and conscientious government. She built cities, planned military campaigns, and captured Derby, Leicester, and York from the Danes.

“From the difficulties experienced in her first labor,” says William of Malmesbury, “she ever afterward refused the embraces of her husband, protesting that it was unbecoming the daughter of a king to give way to a delight which, after a time, produced such unpleasant consequences.”

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