They say ‘it is good to be king’ and in most cases, it certainly is. However, being the English king during the so-called ‘Dark’ Ages and Medieval times was fraught with danger. If you weren’t risking death in the midst of battle, you were constantly monitoring your court for signs of treachery. A large number of English monarchs met a violent end, and in this article, I will look at 8.
1 – Edward the Elder (924)
Edward became king after the death of his father, Alfred the Great, in 899. Like most monarchs of the era, he was interested in expanding his empire and successfully captured East Anglia and the eastern Midlands from the Danes in 917. The following year, he became the ruler of Mercia upon the death of his sister, Aethelflaed. He received the title ‘the Elder’ well after his death. It was used to distinguish him from Edward I, also known as ‘the Martyr.’
Edward was very much a warrior king and was involved in numerous battles during his reign. He also had to deal with the complex nature of internal politics in what was far from a unified kingdom. Shortly after he became King of Mercia, his niece, Aelfwynn, was recognized as the Lady of the Mercians. This turn of events worried the king to the point where he removed Aelfwynn from this position and took control of Mercia in December 918. He was worried that the kingdom might try to seek independence.
One of Edward’s most significant achievements was forcing the Danish Vikings to submit. At the Battle of the Holme, Edward’s cousin, Ethelwold, attacked the Anglo-Saxons. While the Danes won the battle, Ethelwold was killed, so the rebellion was finished. Hostilities were renewed a few years later and, along with his sister, Edward defeated the Danish armies one by one. By the end of 917, there was resistance in just four locations across the country.
By the end of the following year, the Danes had submitted to him. The exact circumstances surrounding his death are unclear, but it is very likely that Edward died violently on the battlefield. Although he forced the Danes to give in, rebellions in the kingdom were commonplace. In 924, he led an army to Cheshire in a bid to put down a Cambro-Mercian rebellion. He died on July 17 in a fight at Farndon-upon-Dee.