Edmund I

Edmund I (Old English: Ēadmund, pronounced [æːɑdmund]; 921 – 26 May 946) was King of the English from 939 until his death. His epithets include the Elder, the Deed-doer, the Just, and the Magnificent.[2]

Edmund I
Edmund I - MS Royal 14 B V.jpg
Edmund in the late thirteenth-century Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings
King of the English
Tenure27 October 939 – 26 May 946
Coronationc. 29 November 939
probably at Kingston upon Thames[1]
Died26 May 946 (aged 24–25)
Pucklechurch, Gloucestershire, England
SpouseÆlfgifu of Shaftesbury
Æthelflæd of Damerham
Edgar the Peaceful
FatherEdward the Elder
MotherEadgifu of Kent

Edmund was the son of Edward the Elder and his third wife Eadgifu of Kent, and a grandson of Alfred the Great. Edmund was a young child when his father died in 924, and was succeeded by his eldest son and Edmund's half-brother Æthelstan, who died in 939. Edmund then became king. His reign was marked by almost constant warfare, including conquests or reconquests of the Midlands, Northumbria, and Strathclyde (the last of which was ceded to Malcolm I of Scotland). Edmund was killed in a brawl with an outlaw at Pucklechurch in Gloucestershire after six-and-a-half years as king. He was succeeded by his brother Eadred, who was succeeded by Edmund's sons Eadwig and then Edgar the Peaceful.

Early life and military threatsEdit

Edmund lost his father whilst a toddler, in 924 and his 30-year-old half-brother Athelstan came to the throne. Edmund grew up during the reign of Athelstan, participating in the Battle of Brunanburh in 937.[3]

Athelstan died in 939, and Edmund became king. Shortly after his proclamation, he had to face several military threats. King Olaf III Guthfrithson conquered Northumbria and invaded the Midlands. Edmund encountered him at Leicester, but Olaf escaped and a peace was brokered by Oda of Canterbury and Wulfstan I of York.[3] When Olaf died in 942, Edmund reconquered the Midlands.[2] In 943, Edmund became the godfather of King Olaf of York. In 944, Edmund reconquered Northumbria.[4] In the same year, his ally Olaf of York lost his throne and left for Dublin. Olaf became the king of Dublin as Amlaíb Cuarán, still allied to his godfather. In 945, Edmund conquered Strathclyde but ceded the territory to King Malcolm I of Scotland in exchange for a treaty of mutual military support.[4] Edmund thus established a policy of safe borders and peaceful relationships with Scotland. During his reign, the revival of monasteries in England began.

Louis IV of FranceEdit

Silver penny of Edmund I

One of Edmund's last known political efforts was his role in the restoration of his nephew Louis IV of France. Louis, son of Charles the Simple and Edmund's half-sister Eadgifu, had resided at the West-Saxon court for some time until 936, when he returned to be crowned King of France. In the summer of 945, he was captured by the Normans and subsequently released to Duke Hugh the Great, who held him in custody. The chronicler Richerus claims that Eadgifu wrote letters both to Edmund and to Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor in which she requested support for her son. Edmund responded to her plea by sending angry threats to Hugh.[5] Flodoard's Annales, one of Richerus' sources, report:

Edmund, king of the English, sent messengers to Duke Hugh about the restoration of King Louis, and the duke accordingly made a public agreement with his nephews and other leading men of his kingdom. [...] Hugh, duke of the Franks, allying himself with Hugh the Black, son of Richard, and the other leading men of the kingdom, restored to the kingdom King Louis.[6][7]


Edmund's first wife was Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury. There were two sons of this marriage: Eadwig (c. 940–959), and Edgar (c. 943–975). Both became kings of England. Ælfgifu died in 944, following which Edmund married Æthelflæd of Damerham. There are no known children of this marriage.[3]

Death and successionEdit

Coin of King Edmund

On 26 May 946, St Augustine's Day, Edmund was murdered by Leofa, a convicted outlaw, at Pucklechurch in Gloucestershire. According to the post-Conquest chronicler, John of Worcester, Leofa attacked Edmund's seneschal, and Edmund was stabbed when he intervened to protect his servant.[8] A 2015 article re-examines Edmund's death and dismisses the later chronicle accounts as fiction. It suggests the king was the victim of a political assassination.[9]

Edmund's sister Eadgyth, the wife of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, died earlier the same year, as Flodoard's Annales for 946 report.[10]

Edmund was buried at Glastonbury Abbey,[3] and was succeeded as king by his brother Eadred, king from 946 until 955.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 514
  2. ^ a b "Edmund I | king of England". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Mawer, Allen (1911). "Edmund I." . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 948.
  4. ^ a b David Nash Ford, Edmund the Magnificent, King of the English (AD 921-946), Early British Kingdoms Archived 10 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Richerus, Historiae, Book 2, chapters 49–50. See MGH online[permanent dead link].
  6. ^ Dorothy Whitelock (tr.), English Historical Documents c. 500–1042. 2nd ed. London, 1979. p. 345.
  7. ^ Edmundus, Anglorum rex, legatos ad Hugonem principem pro restitutione Ludowici regis dirigit: et idem princeps proinde conventus publicos eumnepotibus suis aliisque regni primatibus agit. [...] Hugo, dux Francorum, ascito secum Hugo Nneigro, filio Richardi, ceterisque regni primatibus Ludowicum regem, [...] in regnum restituit. (Flodoard, Annales 946.)
  8. ^ Williams, Ann (2004). "Edmund I (920/21–946)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8501. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  9. ^ K. Halloran, A Murder at Pucklechurch: The Death of King Edmund, 26 May 946. Midland History, Volume 40, Issue 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 120-129.
  10. ^ Edmundus rex Transmarinus defungitur, uxor quoque regis Othonis, soror ipsius Edmundi, decessit. "Edmund, king across the sea, died, and the wife of King Otto, sister of the same Edmund, died also." (tr. Dorothy Whitelock, English Historical Documents c. 500–1042. 2nd ed. London, 1979. p. 345).

Further readingEdit

  • Dumville, David (1985). "Learning and the Church in the England of King Edmund I, 939-946". The Historia Brittonum 3, The Vatican Recension. Cambridge, UK: Brewer.

External linksEdit

Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of the English
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ragnall Guthfrithson
King of Northumbria
As King of the English

c. 944 to 946
Succeeded by
Eric Bloodaxe