Edmund the Magnificent: A great (young) warrior

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With the death of Athelstan came the kingship of Edmund, keeping the throne all in the family, so to speak.

Poor Edmund didn’t have very long on the throne, though, beating back a Mercian Dane uprising before he was murdered in his only hall. The year was 946, and Edmund was only 25.

While he was alive, Edmund did extraordinary things. He was so much so considered a hero by writers of his and later times that he earned the right to be called Edmund the Magnificent.

While Athelstan was king, Edmund fought with his brother in defeating the Norsemen at the decisive Battle of Brunanburgh. This was in 937, and Edmund was 16, a powerful, strapping young lad who had his brother’s magnetism and their father’s survival instinct.

Edmund helped Athelstan become King of all English lands, and Edmund inherited that title when Athelstan died. The relative peace didn’t last long, however, as Olaf Guthrithson went on the march, seizing York and marauding through the Midlands. Rallying the Saxons to him, King Edmund marched to Leicester to confront Olaf and Archbishop Wulfstan of York. The siege dragged on until Archbishop Wulfstan and the Archbishop of Canterbury struck a peace deal.

The troublesome Olaf died on a raid in 941, and Edmund consolidated his position by reclaiming a large part of the Midlands and also turning back the revolt of King Idwal of Gwynedd, who thought Edmund’s getting bogged down in northern matters was a signal to expand Gwynedd’s influence.

The years 944 and 945 were especially good for Edmund, as he retook York and killed Strathcylde’s trouble-making king Donald mac Donald. Then, with the magnificence of a monarch who is thinking beyond his next day’s meal, Edmund gave Strathclyde back to Scotland’s Malcolm I, who promptly became an ally of the Crown for life.

Also in 944, Edmund was married to Ethelflaed. She was actually his second wife. Early in his reign, Edmund married Aelfgith, who bore him two sons, both of whom were future kings: Edwig All-Fair and Edgar the Peacemaker. Sadly, Ethelflaed bore Edmund no children.

Edmund’s reign, though brief, has been considered a great success by scholars. It also had a tragic end: On May 26, 946, Edmund was staying at Pucklechurch in Gloucestershire. Someone at the court recognized a outlaw named Leofa and tried to apprehend the rogue. When it appeared that Leofa would elude capture, Edmund personally intervened; for his trouble, he was stabbed in the stomach. He died almost instantly.