Aelfgifu of York, Queen Consort of England

Female ~970 - 1002

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Generation: 1

  1. 1.  Aelfgifu of York, Queen Consort of England was born in ~970 in (Yorkshire) England (daughter of Thored Gunnarsson, Earl of Southern Northumbria and Hilda LNU); died in 1002.


    ¥lfgifu of York (fl. c. 970 – 1002) was the first wife of ¥thelred the Unready (r. 968–1016), by whom she bore many offspring, including Edmund Ironside. It is most probable that she was a daughter of Thored, Earl of southern Northumbria.

    Queen consort of England
    Tenure 980s–1002
    Born fl. c. 970
    Died c. 1002
    Spouse ¥thelred the Unready
    Issue ¥thelstan ¥theling
    Ecgberht of England
    Edmund, King of England
    Eadred ¥theling
    Eadwig ¥theling
    Edgar of England
    Edith, Lady of the Mercians
    ¥lfgifu, Lady of Northumbria
    Wulfhilda, Lady of East Anglia

    Identity and background

    Her name and paternity do not surface in the sources until sometime after the Conquest. The first to offer any information at all, Sulcard of Westminster (fl. 1080s), merely describes her as being “of very noble English stock” (ex nobilioribus Anglis), without naming her,[1] while in the early 12th century, William of Malmesbury has nothing to report. All primary evidence comes from two Anglo-Norman historians. John of Worcester, also writing in the early 12th century, states that ¥thelred's first wife was ¥lfgifu, daughter of the nobleman ¥thelberht (comes Agelberhtus) and the mother of Edmund, ¥thelstan, Eadwig and Eadgyth.[2] Writing in the 1150s, Ailred of Rievaulx identifies her as a daughter of earl (comes) Thored and the mother of Edmund, though he supplies no name.[3] Ailred had been seneschal at the court of King David I of Scotland (r. 1124–53), whose mother Margaret descended from King ¥thelred and his first wife. Although his testimony is late, his proximity to the royal family may have given him access to genuine information.[4]

    Problem of fatherhood

    These two accounts are irreconcilable at the point of ascribing two different fathers to ¥thelred's first wife (in both cases, Edmund's mother). One way out of it would be to assume the existence of two different wives before the arrival of Queen Emma, ¥thelred's Norman wife, although this interpretation presents difficulties of its own, especially as the sources envisage a single woman.[5] Historians generally favour the view that John of Worcester was in error about the father's name, as ¥thelberht's very existence is under suspicion:[6] if Latin comes is to be interpreted as a gloss on the office of ealdorman, only two doubtful references to one or two duces (ealdormen) of this name can be put forward that would fit the description.[7] All in all, the combined evidence suggests that ¥thelred's first wife was ¥lfgifu, the daughter of Earl Thored. This magnate is likely to have been the Thored who was a son of Gunnar and earl of (southern) Northumbria.[8]

    Marriage and children[edit]
    Based largely on the careers of her sons, ¥lfgifu's marriage has been dated approximately to the (mid-)980s.[8] Considering Thored's authority as earl of York and apparently, the tenure of that office without royal appointment, the union would have signified an important step for the West-Saxon royal family by which it secured a foothold in the north.[9] Such a politically weighty union would help explain the close connections maintained by ¥lfgifu's eldest sons Edmund and ¥thelstan with noble families based in the northern Danelaw.[10]

    The marriage produced six sons, all of whom were named after ¥thelred's predecessors, and an unknown number of daughters. The eldest sons ¥thelstan, Ecgberht, Eadred and Edmund first attest charters in 993, while the younger sons Eadwig and Edgar first make an appearance in them in 997 and 1001 respectively.[11] Some of these sons seem to have spent part of their childhood in fosterage elsewhere, possibly with ¥thelred's mother ¥lfthryth.[12]

    Out of ¥lfgifu's six sons, only Edmund Ironside outlived his father and became king. In 1016 he suffered several defeats against Cnut and in October they agreed to share the kingdom, but Edmund died within six weeks and Cnut became king of all England. ¥thelred gave three of his daughters in marriage to ealdormen, presumably in order to secure the loyalties of his nobles and so to consolidate a defence system against Viking attacks.[13]


    ¥thelstan (born before 993, d. 1014)
    Ecgberht (born before 993, d. 1005)
    Edmund (II) Ironside (born before 993, d. 1016)
    Eadred (d. 1012 x 1015)
    Eadwig (born before 997, exiled and killed 1017)
    Edgar (born before 1001, d. 1012 x 1015)


    Eadgyth (born before 993), married Eadric Streona, ealdorman of Mercia.[14]
    ¥lfgifu, married ealdorman Uhtred of Northumbria.[15]
    (possibly) Wulfhild, who married Ulfcytel (Snillingr) (d. 1016), apparently ealdorman of East Anglia.[16]
    possibly an unnamed daughter who married the ¥thelstan who was killed fighting the Danes at the Battle of Ringmere in 1010. He is called ¥thelred's aºum, meaning either son-in-law or brother-in-law.[16] Ann Williams, however, argues that the latter meaning is the appropriate one and refers to ¥thelstan as being ¥lfgifu's brother.[8]
    possibly unnamed daughter, who became abbess of Wherwell.[17]

    Life and death

    Unlike her mother-in-law, ¥lfthryth, ¥lfgifu was not anointed queen and never signed charters.[18] She did, however, make at least some impression on the contemporary record. In a will issued between 975/980 and 987, the thegn Beorhtric and his wife bequeathed to their “lady” (hlµfdige) an armlet worth 30 gold mancuses and a stallion, calling upon her authority to oversee the implementation of the arrangements set out by will.[19] In a will of later date (AD 990 x 1001), in which she is addressed as “my lady” (mire hlµfdian), the noblewoman ¥thelgifu promised a bequest of 30 mancuses of gold.[20] Just as little is known of ¥lfgifu's life, so the precise date and circumstances of her death cannot be recovered.[21] In any event, she appears to have died by 1002, possibly in childbirth, when ¥thelred took to wife Emma of Normandy, daughter of Count Richard of Rouen, who received or adopted her predecessor's Anglo-Saxon name, ¥lfgifu.

    Family/Spouse: Aethelred the Unready, King of the English. Aethelred (son of Edgar the Peaceful, King of England and Aelfthryth) was born about 966 in (Wessex) England; died on 23 Apr 1016 in London, England; was buried in London, England. [Group Sheet] [Family Chart]

    1. Edmund II, King of the English was born in 990 in (Wessex) England; died on 30 Nov 1016 in (London) England; was buried in Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, England.

Generation: 2

  1. 2.  Thored Gunnarsson, Earl of Southern Northumbria was born in 938 in Wessex, England; died in 992-994 in Northumberland, England.

    Other Events:

    • Alt Death: 992, Wessex, England


    Thored (Old English: £oreº or ´oreº; fl. 979–992) was a 10th-century ealdorman of York, ruler of the southern half of the old Kingdom of Northumbria on behalf of the king of England. He was the son of either Gunnar or Oslac, northern ealdormen. If he was the former, he may have attained adulthood by the 960s, when a man of his name raided Westmorland. Other potential appearances in the records are likewise uncertain until 979, the point from which Thored's period as ealdorman can be accurately dated.

    Although historians differ in their opinions about his relationship, if any, to Kings Edgar the Peaceable and Edward the Martyr, it is generally thought that he enjoyed a good relationship with King ¥thelred II. His daughter ¥lfgifu married ¥thelred. Thored was ealdorman in Northumbria for much of his reign, disappearing from the sources in 992 after being appointed by ¥thelred to lead an expedition against the Vikings.

    Ealdorman of York
    Reign c. 964/974x979–992x994
    Predecessor Oslac (?)
    Successor ¥lfhelm
    Born unknown
    Died 992 or 994
    Burial unknown
    Issue ¥lfgifu (died 1002)
    ¥thelstan (died 1010)
    Father Gunnar (probable)/
    Oslac (potential)
    Mother unknown


    The area shaded under "Jorvik" (York), probably corresponds very roughly with Thored's territory of southern Northumbria; it should be noted that the Danelaw as a territory is a modern construct, though Yorkshire was in the area where Dena lagu ("Scandinavian law") was practised

    Thored appears to have been of at least partially Scandinavian origin, suggested by the title applied to him in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for 992. Here, the ealdorman of Hampshire is called by the English title "ealdorman", while Thored himself is styled by the Scandinavian word eorl (i.e. Earl).[1]

    Two accounts of Thored's origins have been offered by modern historians. The first is that he was a son of Oslac, ealdorman of York from 966 until his exile in 975.[2] This argument is partly based on the assertion by the Historia Eliensis, that Oslac had a son named Thorth (i.e. "Thored").[3] The other suggestion, favoured by most historians, is that he was the son of a man named Gunnar.[4] This Gunnar is known to have held land in the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire.[5]

    If the latter suggestion is correct, then Thored's first appearance in history is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recension D (EF)'s entry for 966, which recorded the accession of Oslac to the ealdormanry of southern Northumbria:

    In this year, Thored, Gunnar's son, harried Westmoringa land, and, in this same year, Oslac succeeded to the office of ealdorman.[6]

    The Anglo-Saxon scholar Frank Stenton believed that this was an act of regional faction-fighting, rather than, as had been suggested by others, Thored carrying out the orders of King Edgar the Peaceable.[7] This entry is, incidentally, the first mention of Westmoringa land, that is, Westmorland.[7] Gunnar seems to have been ealdorman earlier in the decade, for in one charter (surviving only in a later cartulary) dated to 963 and three Abingdon charters dated to 965, an ealdorman (dux) called Gunnar is mentioned.[8]

    Thored may be the Thored who appears for the first time in charter attestations during the reign of King Edgar (959–75), his earliest possible appearance being in 964, witnessing a grant of land in Kent by King Edgar to St Peter's, Ghent. This is uncertain because the authenticity of this particular charter is unclear.[9] A charter issued by Edgar in 966, granting land in Oxfordshire to a woman named ¥lfgifu, has an illegible ealdorman witness signature beginning with ´, which may be Thored.[10]


    Coin of ¥thelred the Unready.jpgAethelred rev2.jpg
    O: Draped bust of ¥thelred II left. +¥£ELRED REX ANGLOR R: Long cross. +EAD?OLD MO C¥NT
    'LonCross' penny of ¥thelred II, moneyer Eadwold, Canterbury, c. 997-1003. The cross made cutting the coin into half-pennies or farthings (quarter-pennies) easier. (Note spelling Ead?old in inscription, using Anglo-Saxon letter wynn in place of modern w.)
    Thored's governorship as ealdorman, based on charter attestations, cannot be securely dated before 979.[11] He did attest royal charters during the reign of ¥thelred II, the first in 979,[12] six in 983,[13] one in 984,[14] three in 985,[15] one in 988,[16] appearing in such attestations for the last time in 989.[12] It is possible that such appearances represent more than one Thored, though that is not a generally accepted theory.[17] His definite predecessor, Oslac, was expelled from England in 975.[18] The historian Richard Fletcher thought that Oslac's downfall may have been the result of opposing the succession of Edward the Martyr, enemy and brother of ¥thelred II.[19] What is known about Thored's time as ealdorman is that he did not have a good relationship with Oswald, Archbishop of York (971–92). In a memorandum written by Oswald, a group of estates belonging to the archdiocese of York was listed, and Oswald noted that "I held them all until Thored came to power; then was St Peter [to whom York was dedicated] robbed".[20] One of the estates allegedly lost was Newbald, an estate given by King Edgar to a man named Gunnar, suggesting to historian Dorothy Whitelock that Thored may just have been reclaiming land "wrongly alienated from his family".[21]

    His relationship with King Edgar is unclear, particularly given the uncertainty of Thored's paternity, Oslac being banished from England in 975, the year of Edgar's death.[2] Richard Fletcher, who thought Thored was the son of Gunnar, argued that Thored's raid on Westmorland was caused by resentment derived from losing out on the ealdormanry to Oslac, and that Edgar thereafter confiscated various territories as punishment.[5] The evidence for this is that Newbald, granted by Edgar to Gunnar circa 963, was bought by Archbishop Osketel from the king sometime before 971, implying that the king had seized the land.[5]

    Thored's relationship with the English monarchy under ¥thelred II seems to have been good. ¥lfgifu, the first wife of King ¥thelred II, was probably Thored's daughter.[22] Evidence for this is that in the 1150s Ailred of Rievaulx in his De genealogia regum Anglorum wrote that the wife of ¥thelred II was the daughter of an ealdorman (comes) called Thored (Thorth).[23] Historian Pauline Stafford argued that this marriage was evidence that Thored had been a local rather than royal appointment to the ealdormanry of York, and that ¥thelred II's marriage was an attempt to woo Thored.[24] Stafford was supported in this argument by Richard Fletcher.[25]


    Modern imaginative depiction of the ship of Ólâafr Tryggvason, the "Long Serpent" (Illustration by Halfan Egedius)
    The date of Thored's death is uncertain, but his last historical appearance came in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, recension C (D, E), under the year 992, which reported the death of Archbishop Oswald and an expedition against a marauding Scandinavian fleet:

    In this year the holy Archbishop Oswald left this life and attained the heavenly life, and Ealdorman ¥thelwine [of East Anglia] died in the same year. Then the king and all his counsellors decreed that all the ships that were any use should be assembled at London. And the king then entrusted the expedition to the leadership of Ealdorman ¥lfric (of Hampshire), Earl Thored and Bishop ¥lfstan [.of London or of Rochester.] and Bishop ¥scwig [of Dorchester], and they were to try if they could entrap the Danish army anywhere at sea. Then Ealdorman ¥lfric sent someone to warn the enemy, and then in the night before the day on which they were to have joined battle, he absconded by night from the army, to his own disgrace, and then the enemy escaped, except that the crew of one ship was slain. And then the Danish army encountered the ships from East Anglia and from London, and they made a great slaughter there and captured the ship, all armed and equipped, on which the ealdorman was.[26]

    Scandinavians led by Ólâafr Tryggvason had been raiding England's coast since the previous year, when they killed Ealdorman Brihtnoth of Essex at the Battle of Maldon.[27]

    Historians think that Thored was either killed fighting these Scandinavians, or else survived, but became disgraced through defeat or treachery.[28] Fletcher speculated that Thored was removed from office and replaced by the Mercian ¥lfhelm as a result of his failure against the Scandinavians.[29] Another historian, William Kapelle, believed Thored was removed because of his Scandinavian descent, an argument based on the Worcester Chronicle's claim, added to the text borrowed from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, that Frµna, Godwine and Frythegyst fled a battle against the Danes in the following year because "they were Danish on their father's side".[30]

    A man named ¥thelstan who died at the Battle of Ringmere in 1010, "the king's a¤um", was probably Thored's son.[31] The term a¤um means either "son-in-law" or "brother-in-law", so this ¥thelstan could also have been Thored's grandson by an unknown intermediary.[32] Thored's immediate successor was ¥lfhelm, who appears witnessing charters as ealdorman from 994.[33]

    Thored married Hilda LNU in (Wessex, England). Hilda was born in 948 in Wessex, England; died in 970 in England. [Group Sheet] [Family Chart]

  2. 3.  Hilda LNU was born in 948 in Wessex, England; died in 970 in England.
    1. 1. Aelfgifu of York, Queen Consort of England was born in ~970 in (Yorkshire) England; died in 1002.