Edmund Ironside: Wikis


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Edmund Ironside
King of the English
Matthew Paris's (early 13th-century) impression of the Battle of Assandun, depicting Edmund Ironside (left) and Cnut (right)
Reign 23 April 1016 – 30 November 1016
Predecessor Æthelred the Unready
Successor Cnut the Great
Spouse Ealdgyth
Edward the Exile
Father Æthelred the Unready
Mother Ælfgifu of York
Born 989
Wessex, England
Died 30 November 1016 (aged 27)
Glastonbury, England
Burial Glastonbury Abbey

Edmund Ironside or Edmund II (Old English: Eadmund) (c. 988/993 – 30 November 1016) was king of the English from 23 April to 30 November 1016. The cognomen "Ironside" refers to his efforts to fend off a Viking invasion led by Cnut the Great. His authority was limited to Wessex, or the area south of Thames. The north was controlled by Cnut, who became "king of all England" upon Edmund's death.



Edmund was the second son of King Æthelred the Unready (also known as Æthelred II) and his first wife, Ælfgifu of York. He had three brothers, the elder Æthelstan, and the younger two Eadred and Ecgbert. His mother was dead by 996, after which his father remarried, this time to Emma of Normandy.

Æthelstan died in 1014, leaving Edmund as heir. A power struggle began between Edmund and his father, and in 1015 King Æthelred had two of Edmund's allies, Sigeferth and Morcar, executed. Edmund then took Sigeferth's widow Ealdgyth from Malmesbury Abbey, where she had been imprisoned, and married her in defiance of his father. During this time, Cnut the Great attacked England with his forces. In 1016 Edmund staged a rebellion in conjunction with Earl Uhtred of Northumbria, but after Uhtred deserted him and submitted to Cnut, Edmund was reconciled with his father.

Royal and military history

Arms of Edmund Ironside, as imagined by Matthew Paris in the first half of the 13th century

Æthelred, who had earlier taken ill, died on 23 April 1016. Edmund succeeded to the throne and mounted a last-ditch effort to revive the defence of England. While the Danes laid siege to London, Edmund headed for Wessex, where he gathered an army. When the Danes pursued him, he fought them to a standstill. He raised a renewed Danish siege of London and won repeated victories over Cnut. But, on 18 October, Cnut decisively defeated him at the Battle of Ashingdon in Essex. After the battle, the two kings negotiated a peace in which Edmund kept Wessex while Cnut held the lands north of the River Thames. In addition, they agreed that if one of them should die, territories belonging to the deceased would be ceded to the living.[1]


On 30 November 1016, King Edmund died in Oxford or London. His territories were ceded to Cnut, who then became king of England. The cause of Edmund's death has never been clear, with many accounts listing natural causes [2], while others suggest that he was assassinated by being stabbed 'up the bottom' with a dagger by a viking.[3] Edmund was buried at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset. His burial site is now lost. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, any remains of a monument or crypt were destroyed. The location of his body is unknown.


Edmund had two children by Ealdgyth: Edward the Exile and Edmund. Cnut the Great ordered them both sent to Sweden, to be murdered, but they were sent on to Kiev and ended up in Hungary.

Shakespearean play?

18th-century portrait of Edmund

Edmund Ironside is the name of an anonymous play in the Shakespeare Apocrypha, which has been attributed to Shakespeare on stylistic grounds.[4] Plays in the Shakespeare Apocrypha are not generally accepted as Shakespearean.[5]

See also



Preceded by
Æthelred the Unready
King of the English
Succeeded by
Cnut the Great

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EDMUND, or EADMUND (c. 980-1016), called IRONSIDE, king of the English, was the son of 'Ethelred II. by his first wife " Elfgifu. When Canute invaded England in 1015, Edmund sought to resist him, but, paralysed by the treachery and desertion of the ealdorman Edric, he could do nothing, and Wessex submitted to the Danish king. Next year Canute and Edric together harried Mercia, while Edmund with infinite difficulty gathered an army. Returning into Northumbria, he in his turn harried the districts which had submitted to the invader, but a march northward by Canute brought about the speedy submission of Northumbria and the return of Edmund to London. The death of 'Ethelred on the 23rd of April 1016 was followed by a double election to the English crown. The citizens of London and those members of the Witan who were present in the city chose Edmund, the rest of the Witan meeting at Southampton elected Canute. In the warfare which ensued Edmund fought at the severest disadvantage, for his armies dispersed after every engagement, whatever its issue. Canute at once fiercely besieged London, but the citizens successfully resisted all attacks. Edmund meanwhile marched through Wessex and received its submission. At Pen in Somersetshire he engaged the Danes and defeated them. Canute now raised the siege of London and soon afterwards encountered Edmund at Sherston in Wiltshire. The battle was indecisive, but Canute marched back to London and left Edmund in possession of Wessex. Edmund hastened after him and relieved London, which he had again besieged. He defeated the Danes at Brentford and again at Otford, and drove them into Sheppey. He was now joined by Edric, in conjunction with whom he followed the Danes into Essex, overtaking them at Assandun (or Ashington). In the battle which ensued Edric again played the traitor, and the English were routed with terrible slaughter. Edmund retired into Gloucestershire, whither he was followed by Canute. He himself was anxious to continue the struggle, but Edric and the Witan persuaded him to accept a reconciliation. At Olney the two rivals swore friendship, and a division of the kingdom was effected - Canute taking the north, Edmund the south. Soon afterwards Edmund died (30th of November 1016), probably from natural causes, though later historians hint at foul play. (C. S. P.*)

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