Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ælfhere

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ÆLFHERE (d. 983), ealdorman of the Mercians, was a kinsman of King Eadgar. He was the head of the anti-monastic party, which, on the death of Eadgar in 975, attempted to overthrow the ecclesiastical policy he had pursued. Ælfhere and the great men who held with him turned the monks out of the churches in which Eadgar and Bishop Æthelwold had established them. In recording the ‘unrighteous and unlawful doings’ of Ælfhere in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the writer makes his lament in verse. There were two sides to the question, and the secular clergy and many of the landowners had reason to complain of the aggressions of the monks. After the murder of Eadward, Ælfhere joined with Dunstan in bringing the body of the king, with great pomp, from Wareham to Shaftesbury. He died in 983, and was succeeded in his ealdormanship by his son Ælfric [see Ælfric, fl. 950–1016]. The name of Ælfhere is subscribed to most of the charters of the time. Latin writers have blackened the character of this enemy of the monks. William of Malmesbury accuses him in one passage of the murder of King Eadward. The charge is of course untrue, as it implies an action wholly contrary to his policy. He also tells an idle tale of the repentance of Ælfhere, and the loathsome death which marked the divine vengeance for his misdeeds.

[Anglo-Saxon Chron. sub an. 975; Florence of Worcester, sub an. 975; Henry of Huntingdon, lib. v.; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, lib. ii. c. 162, 165; Chron. Monast. de Abingdon, Rolls Ser. i. passim; Freeman, Norman Conquest, i. c. 5, § 1.]

W. H.