On this day, 13 January, in the year 858, Æthelwulf, Anglo-Saxon King in England, died in Steyning, Sussex, England. He was my 35th great-grandfather through his great-granddaughter Eadgifu of Wessex and my 36th great-grandfather through his great-grandson Edmund I of England, both children of Edward “The Elder” of Wessex and Mercia and grandchildren of his son Alfred “The Great” of Wessex.
The son of the Egbert, King of Wessex, Æthelwulf was born in 795 in Aachen, Germany. He ascended his father’s throne in 839, four years after the Danes had commenced significant raids of the English coast. As ruler of the West Saxons from 839 to 856, Æthelwulf allied his kingdom of Wessex with Mercia, thereby withstanding repeated invasions by Danish Vikings. In 851, Æthelwulf scored a major victory over a large Danish army at Aclea, Surrey.
At some point, Æthelwulf married Osburh, daughter of Oslac—”King Æthelwulf’s famous butler.” Little is known about Osburh, other than what was written by her son’s (King Alfred “The Great”) biographer, who described Osburh as “a most religious woman, noble in character and noble by birth.”
Together, Æthelwulf and Osburh had five sons and one daughter. Their eldest son, Æthelstan, was old enough to be appointed King of Kent in 839, so he must have been born in the early 820s. Æthelstan died in the early 850s. Their second son, Æthelbald, is first recorded as a charter witness in 841. If, like Alfred, he began to attest when he was about six-years old, then he would have been born circa 835. Æthelbald was King of Wessex from 858 to 860. Their only daughter, Æthelswith, was born about 838. In 853, she married Burgred, King of Mercia. Their third son, Æthelberht, was born about 839 and was King of Wessex from 860 to 865. Their fourth son, Æthelred, was born around 848 and was King of Wessex from 865 to 871. Finally, their youngest son, Alfred, was born around 849 and was King of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred is both my 34th and my 35th great-grandfather.
It is assumed that Osburh died sometime before 855, because Æthelwulf made a pilgrimage to Rome in 855.
In 856, en route home from his pilgrimage, Æthelwulf visited the court of the Charles the Bald, King of West Francia, my 34th great-grandfather through his son Louis “Le Bègue” of Francia and my 35th great-grandfather through his daughter Rothilde.
While there, Æthelwulf met Charles the Bald’s daughter, Judith of Flanders, who was 14 years old at the time. (Æthelwulf was nearly 50 years old.) In July 856, Æthelwulf and Judith were engaged; then, on 1 October 856, they were married in Verberie, France.
Æthelwulf then returned to his kingdom, where he learned that he had been deposed by a rival faction. However, Æthelwulf continued to rule Kent and several other eastern provinces until his death on 13 January 858. After his death, his widow Judith married his eldest son and successor, Æthelbald.