Anglo-Saxon and Viking Queens of England

Wives of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Kings

Emma with Canute (Cnut)
Emma with Canute (Cnut). Culture Club/Getty Images

Either Aethelstan or his grandfather, Alfred the Great, is usually considered the first king of England, rather than of one part of England.  Alfred the Great adopted the title of king of the Anglo-Saxons, and Aethelstan, king of the English.

The powers and roles of queens – the wives of monarchs – evolved considerably through this period.  Some weren't even named in contemporary records. I’ve arranged these queens (and consorts who were not queens) according to their husbands for clarity.

Alfred 'The Great' (r. 871-899)

He was the son of Aethelwulf, king of Wessex, and Osburh

  1. Ealhswith - married 868
    She was the daughter of Aethelred Mucil, a Mercian noble, and Eadburh, also a Mercian noble, supposedly descended from King Cenwulf of Mercia (ruled 796 – 812).
    She was never actually given the title of “queen.”
    Among their children were Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians; Aelfthryth, who married the Count of Flanders; and Edward, who succeeded his father as king.

Edward 'The Elder' (r. 899-924)

He was the son of Alfred and Ealhswith (above).  He had three marriages (or two and one nonmarital relationship).

  1. Ecgwynn – married 893, son was Athelstan, daughter Edith
  2. Aelfflaed – married 899
    • seven children including four daughters who married into European royalty and a fifth who became a nun, and two sons, Aelfweard of Wessex and Edwin of Wessex
    • one daughter was Edith (Eadgyth) of England, who married Emperor Otto I of Germany
  1. Eadgifu – married about 919, sons included Edmund I and Edred, a daughter Saint Edith of Winchester who was considered a saint, and another daughter (whose existence is questionable) who may have married a prince of Aquitaine

Aelfweard (r. briefly and contested: 924)

He was the son of Edward and Aelfflaed (above).

  • no recorded consort

Athelstan (r. 924-939)

He was the son of Edward and Ecgwynn (above).

  • no recorded consort

Edmund I (r. 939-946)

He was the son of Edward and Eadgifu (above).

  1. Aelfgifu of Shaftesbury – date of marriage unknown, died 944
    revered as a saint soon after her death
    mother of his two sons, who each ruled: Eadwig (born about 940) and Edgar (born 943)
    no indication she was recognized with the title of queen during her time
     
  2. Aethelflaed of Damerham – married 944, daughter of Aelfgar of Essex. Left a wealthy widow when Edmund died in 946, she remarried.

Eadred (r. 946-55)

He was the son of Edward and Eadgifu (above).

  • no recorded consort

Eadwig (r.955-959)

He was the son of Edmund I and Aelfgifu (above).

  1. Aelfgifu, married about 957; details are uncertain but she may have been of Mercian background; a lurid story is told of her and the king, involving a fight with (later Saint) Dunstan and Archbishop Oda. The marriage was dissolved in 958 because they were closely related – or perhaps to protect the claim of Eadwig’s brother, Edward, to the throne; she seems to have gone on to accumulate significant property

Edgar (r. 959-975)

He was the son of Edmund I and Aelfgifu (above) – the details of his relationships and the mothers of his sons are disputed.

  1. Aethelflaed (not married)
    • Son Edward (below)
  2. Wulthryth (not married; Edgar is said to have kidnapped her from the nunnery at Wilton)
    • Daughter Saint Edith of Wilton
  3. Aelfthryth, who was anointed as queen
    • Son Aethelred (below)

Edward II 'The Martyr' (r. 975-979)

He was the son of Edgar and Aethelflaed

  • no known consort

Aethelred II 'The Unready' (R. 979-1013 and 1014-1016)

He was the son of Edgar and Aelfthryth (above). Also spelled Ethelred.

  1. Aelfgifu of York – married possibly in the 980s – her name does not appear in writings until about 1100 – probably the daughter of Earl Thored of Northumbria – never anointed as queen – died about 1002
    • Six sons, including Aethelstan Aetheling (heir apparent) and the future Edmund II, and at least three daughters including Eadgyth, married to Eadric Streona
  2. Emma of Normandy (about 985 – 1052) – married 1002 – daughter of Richard I, Duke of Normandy, and Gunnora – changed her name to Aelfgifu on marriage to Aethelred – married Canute after Aethelred’s defeat and death.  Their children were:
    1. Edward the Confessor
    2. Alfred
    3. Goda or Godgifu

    Sweyn or Svein Forkbeard (r. 1013-1014)

    He was the son of Harold Bluetooth of Denmark and Gyrid Olafsdottir.

    1. Gunhild of Wenden – married about 990, fate unknown
    2. Sigrid the Haughty – married about 1000
      1. Daughter Estrith or Margaret, married Richard II of Normandy

    Edmund II 'Ironside' (r Apr - Nov 1016)

    He was the son of Aethelred the Unready and Aelfgifu of York (above).

    1. Ealdgyth (Edith) of East Anglia - married about 1015 - born about 992 – died after 1016 – probably the widow of a man named Sigeferth. Probably the mother of:
      1. Edward the Exile
      2. Edmund Aetheling

    Canute 'The Great' (r. 1016-1035)

    He was the son of Svein Forkbeard and Świętosława (Sigrid or Gunhild).

    1. Aelfgifu of Northampton – born about 990, died after 1040, regent in Norway 1030 – 1035 – she was simply put aside as a wife according to customs of the time so that Cnut could marry Emma of Normandy
      1. Sweyn, King of Norway
      2. Harold Harefoot, King of England (below)
    2. Emma of Normandy, widow of Aethelred (above)
      1. Harthacnut (about 1018 – June 8, 1042) (below)
      2. Gunhilda of Denmark (about 1020 – July 18, 1038), married Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor, without offspring

    Harold Harefoot (r. 1035-1040)

    He was the son of Canute and Aelfgifu of Northampton (above).

    1. may have been married to an Aelfgifu, may have had a son

    Harthacnut (r. 1035-1042)

    He was the son of Canute and Emma of Normandy (above).

    • not married, no children

    Edward III 'The Confessor' (r. 1042-1066)

    He was the son of Aethelred and Emma of Normandy (above).

    1. Edith of Wessex –lived about 1025 to December 18, 1075 – married January 23, 1045 – crowned as queen – they had no children
      Her father was Godwin, an English earl, and mother was Ulf, a sister of Cnut’s brother-in-law

      Harold II Godwinson (r. Jan - Oct 1066)

      He was the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and Gytha Thorkelsdottir.

      1. Edith Swannesha or Edith the Fair – lived about 1025 – 1086 – common-law wife? -- five children including a daughter who married a Grand Duke of Kiev
      2. Ealdgyth or Edith of Mercia – was the wife of Wales ruler Gruffud ap Llywelyn and then queen consort of Harold Godwineson – marriage date probably 1066

      Edgar Atheling (r. Oct - Dec 1066)

      He was the son of Edward the Exile (son of Edmund II Ironside and Ealdgyth, above) and Agatha of Hungary. 

      • not married, no children

      Edgar’s sisters had connections to later English and Scottish rulers:

      Next queens: 

       Norman Queens of England