Aelfgifu of York, Queen Consort of England

Female ~970 - 1002

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  • Name Aelfgifu of York 
    Suffix Queen Consort of England 
    Birth ~970  (Yorkshire) England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Female 
    Death 1002  [1, 2
    Person ID I50589  The Hennessee Family
    Last Modified 25 Sep 2019 

    Father Thored Gunnarsson, Earl of Southern Northumbria,   b. 938, Wessex, England Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 992-994, Northumberland, England Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 56 years) 
    Mother Hilda LNU,   b. 948, Wessex, England Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 970, England Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 22 years) 
    Marriage (Wessex, England) Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3, 4
    Family ID F18789  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Aethelred the Unready, King of the English,   b. Abt 966, (Wessex) England Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 23 Apr 1016, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location (Age ~ 50 years) 
    Marriage Y  [1, 2, 5, 6
     1. Edmund II, King of the English,   b. 990, (Wessex) England Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 30 Nov 1016, (London) England Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 26 years)
    Family ID F18780  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 30 Apr 2023 

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBirth - ~970 - (Yorkshire) England Link to Google Earth
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  • Notes 
    • ¥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. [2]

  • Sources 
    1. [S12116] "Margaret of Wessex", Pedigree Chart,, retrieved or revisi.

    2. [S12145] "¥lfgifu of York (fl. c. 970 - 1002)", Biography,, retrieved or revis.

    3. [S12146] "Thored", Biography,, retrieved or revisited, recorded & uploaded to the website,.

    4. [S14612] "Thored Gunnarsson (0938 - 0992)", Biography, Ancestors & Descendants,, This.

    5. [S12123] "¥thelred the Unready", Biography,, retrieved or revisited, reco.

    6. [S12595] "The House of Wessex",,