Edward the Elder – Alfred’s forgotten son
Edward was old enough to remember the night when his father, Alfred, had had to flee for his life, taking his family to the marshy refuge of Athelney. He had had to wait, a child, for word as to whether his father had prevailed at the Battle of Edington or whether he would have to run again. He had been raised to fight the Viking invaders, taking his place as his father’s chief lieutenant when still a teenager, and proving worthy of that trust.
Such an upbringing inculcated a savage certainty of purpose. Through no fault or oversight of his would Edward give advantage to those pagans who would ravage his realm. To that end, he approached his marriages as the business of a king, making and breaking queens – three of them in the end – to serve his political purposes.
But there was one woman Edward did not put aside, for she had his full confidence as the other hand of the strategy he had inherited from his father: Æthelflæd, Edward’s sister, reigned as lord of Mercia, first securing her kingdom and then joining Edward in his assault on the Danelaw. Edward’s trust, however, did not extend to Æthelflæd’s daughter. When his sister died, some in Mercia would have installed Ælfwynn as a new ‘Lady of the Mercians’ but Edward removed her to a convent and brought the kingdom under his rule, the first king of a combined Wessex and Mercia.