Athelheard of Wessex

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Athelheard
King of Wessex
Reign 726–740
Predecessor Ine
Successor Cuthred
House House of Wessex
Died 740

Athelheard, also spelled Æthelheard ( 740), was a West Saxon nobleman and atheling. He was the King of Wessex from 726 until his death. He took the powerful kingdom of Wessex left to him by Ine and lost much of it to Mercia.


King of Wessex[change | edit source]

When Ine stepped down as King of Wessex it caused a problem of succession.[1] Ine's son had been killed rebelling against Ine a year earlier. Ine was now in his sixties and retired to Rome.[1] He 'commended his kingdom to younger men'.[2] It came down to a struggle between the two athelings, Oswald and Athelheard,[3] Oswald was descended from Ceawlin.[4] The same entry calls Athelheard kinsman to Ine.[4] The two fought and Athelheard became king.[4] In one charter Athelheard is called the brother of Ine's wife Atelburh.[a][5]

In 733 Somerton was lost to King Aethelbald of Mercia.[6] This was quickly followed by the territory beyond Selwood being lost to Mercia.[6] Athelheard's authority was so weak that Aethelbald was able to give the Archbishop of Canterbury a gift of the monastery of Cookham in Berkshire (Wessex).[6] Aethelbald also took Wiltshire, Sussex and much of the heartlands of Wessex. Athelheard could do nothing to prevent this loss. He also took part in Athelbald's wars with the Welsh.[3] It seems Athelbald's wife, Frithugyth, was Mercian herself.[3] In 737 she made a pilgrimage to Rome along with bishop Forthhere of Sherborne.[7] Athelheard died in 740, his successor was his kinsman Cuthred.[8]

Family[change | edit source]

He married Frithugyth.[3] They had no known children.

Notes[change | edit source]

  1. The charter itself has been proven a forgery but it may contain true statements.[3] The term forged charters is often incorrect. They are often termed 'retrospective charters'. These may concern gifts and rights given orally to a church or monastery that are later written down to attempt to protect those rights or promises. See: Forged Charters

References[change | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New york: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 309
  2. Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 73
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (New york: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 310
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: According to Several Original Authorities, ed. & trans. Benjamin Thorpe, Vol II (London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1861), p. 39
  5. Detlev Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Neue Folge, Band II (Marburg, Germany: J. A. Stargardt, 1984), Tafel 77
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 73
  7. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: According to Several Original Authorities, ed. & trans. Benjamin Thorpe, Vol II (London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1861), p. 40
  8. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: According to Several Original Authorities, ed. & trans. Benjamin Thorpe, Vol II (London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1861), p. 41

Other websites[change | edit source]