The Royal Women Who Made England | Fascinating Historical Biographies

The Royal Women Who Made England: The Tenth Century in Saxon England
MJ Porter

Throughout the tenth century, England, as it would be recognized today, formed. No longer many Saxon kingdoms, but rather, just England. Yet, this development masks much in the century in which the Viking raiders were seemingly driven from England’s shores by Alfred, his children and grandchildren, only to return during the reign of his great, great-grandson, the much-maligned Æthelred II.
Not one but two kings would be murdered, others would die at a young age, and a child would be named king on four occasions. Two kings would never marry, and a third would be forcefully divorced from his wife. Yet, the development towards ‘England’ did not stop. At no point did it truly fracture back into its constituent parts. Who then ensured this stability? To whom did the witan turn when kings died, and children were raised to the kingship?
The royal woman of the House of Wessex came into prominence during the century, perhaps the most well-known being Æthelflæd, daughter of King Alfred. Perhaps the most maligned being Ælfthryth (Elfrida), accused of murdering her stepson to clear the path to the kingdom for her son, Æthelred II, but there were many more women, rich and powerful in their own right, where their names and landholdings can be traced in the scant historical record.
Using contemporary source material, The Royal Women Who Made England can be plucked from the obscurity that has seen their names and deeds lost, even within a generation of their own lives.
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Enjoy a Snippet from The Royal Women Who Made England:
The daughter of Æthelflæd of Mercia, Ælfwynn
Ælfwynn, the daughter of Æthelflæd of Mercia and her husband, Æthelred, was born at some point in the late 880s or early 890s. It is believed that she was an only child, although it does appear (in the later accounts of William of Malmesbury) that her cousins, Athelstan, and Edith/his unnamed sister were sent to Mercia to be raised by their aunt when Edward remarried on becoming king in 899. There is a suggestion that it might have been Alfred’s decision to do this and that Athelstan was being groomed to become king of Mercia. As such, Ælfwynn might have had close links to her Wessex cousins.
Ælfwynn is named in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the C text under 919. ‘Here also the daughter of Æthelred lord of the Mercians, was deprived of all control in Mercia, and was led into Wessex three weeks before Christmas; she was called Ælfwynn.’
And from there, we hear nothing more of Lady Ælfwynn, the second Lady of the Mercians. Even though this is the first record of a ruling woman being succeeded by her daughter.


MJ Porter is the author of over fifty fiction titles set in Saxon England and the era before the tumultuous events of 1066. Raised in the shadow of a strange little building and told from a young age that it housed the long-dead bones of Saxon kings, it’s little wonder that the study of the era was undertaken at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
The Royal Women of the Tenth Century is a first non-fiction title. It explores the ‘lost’ women of this period through the surviving contemporary source material. It stemmed from a frustration with how difficult it was to find a single volume dedicated to these ‘lost’ women and hopes to make it much easier for others to understand the prestige, wealth and influence of the women of the royal House of Wessex.
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