Edred (DNB00)

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EDRED or EADRED (d. 955), king of the English, youngest son of Eadward the elder and Eadgifu, was chosen in 946 to succeed his brother Eadmund, whose two sons were too young to reign, and was crowned by Archbishop Oda at Kingston on Sunday 16 Aug. He must have been young when he came to the throne, for Eadmund was only twenty-four at his death. At his coronation he received the submission of the Northumbrians, the Northmen, the Welsh, and the Scots (A.-S. Chron.; Flor. Wig.; Kemble, Codex Dipl. 411). During his whole reign he was afflicted with a grievous sickness (B., Memorials of St. Dunstan, 31), and the government appears to have been carried on for the most part by his mother Eadgifu, and his minister the abbot Dunstan [q. v.] At the same time, in spite of his ill-health, the king was not inactive. In 947 he went into Northumbria, and at Tadcaster received the submission of Wulfstan, archbishop of York, and the Northumbrian ‘witan.’ They did not long remain faithful to their oaths, for they revolted from him, and received Eric, a northman, as their king. Eadred attempted to force them to return to their allegiance, harried Northumbria, and burnt Ripon. As he returned the northmen of York cut off the rear of his army at Chesterford. In great wrath he declared that he would destroy the land, but the Northumbrians, who had grown dissatisfied with Eric, forsook him, and in 949 again submitted to the West-Saxon king (Kemble, Codex Dipl. 424). Eadred now appears to have made Oswulf high-reeve of Bamborough and earl (ib. 426, 427). Then we are told (A.-S. Chron.) that Anlaf came to Northumbria, and he probably ruled as Eadred's underking. The Northumbrians, however, again plotted a revolt in 952, and Wulfstan, who acted almost as a national leader, was caught by Eadred and imprisoned at Jedburgh. This year the king slew many of the inhabitants of Thetford because they had slain the abbot Ealdhelm. In spite of the imprisonment of the archbishop the Northumbrian plot was carried out, and Eric Bloodaxe, son of Harold Fairhair of Norway, landed, and was chosen king (Corpus Poeticum Boreale, i. 259, ii. 489; A.-S. Chron.; Green,Conquest of England, 290, following Robertson, Essays, 197, who was misled by a confused passage in Adam of Bremen, ii. 22, makes this Norwegian king Eric Hiring, the son of Harold Blaatand. It would seem that the Eric elected in 947 was other than this Eric Bloodaxe). Eric Bloodaxe reigned in the north until 954. During this time there was probably war between him and Eadred. At last he was driven from the throne, and slain by Anlaf (Laing, Sea Kings, i. 318). Then Eadric let Wulfstan out of prison, and gave him the see of Dorchester, for he would not trust him again at York. The people of the north now returned to their obedience to Eadred, and he committed Northumbria to Oswulf as an earldom. This step was the beginning of a new policy, which was afterwards pursued with signal success by Eadgar and Dunstan: the Danes were allowed to keep their own customs and live under their own earls, and being thus freed from interference they became peaceable, and finally good subjects of the West-Saxon king. The queen-mother and Dunstan, who held the office of treasurer, seem to have been upheld by Æthelstan, the powerful ealdorman of East Anglia, and the party that followed him [see under Dunstan]. Eadred was a religious man, and was deeply attached to Dunstan. He died at Frome, Somersetshire, on 23 Nov. 955, and was buried by Dunstan in the old minster at Winchester. There is no mention of any wife or child of his.

[Anglo-Saxon Chron. sub ann.; Florence of Worcester (Engl. Hist. Soc.), i. 134–6; Vita auctore B., Memorials of St. Dunstan (Rolls Ser.), 29, 31; William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum (Engl. Hist. Soc.), i. 232; Symeon of Durham, Mon. Hist. Brit., p. 687; Kemble's Codex Dipl. ii. 311–35; Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale, i. 259, ii. 489; Robertson's Historical Essays, 197; Green's Conquest of England, 286–93.]

W. H.