1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ætheling

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

ÆTHELING, an Anglo-Saxon word compounded of æthele, or ethel, meaning noble, and ing, belonging to, and akin to the modern German words Adel, nobility, and adelig, noble. During the earliest years of the Anglo-Saxon rule in England the word was probably used to denote any person of noble birth. Its use was, however, soon restricted to members of a royal family, and in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it is used almost exclusively for members of the royal house of Wessex. It was occasionally used after the Norman Conquest to designate members of the royal family. The earlier part of the word formed part of the name of several Anglo-Saxon kings, e.g. Æthelbert, Æthelwulf, Æthelred, and was used obviously to indicate their noble birth. According to a document which probably dates from the 10th century, the wergild of an ætheling was fixed at 15,000 thrymsas, or 11,250 shillings. This wergild is equal to that of an archbishop and one-half of that of a king.