Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ethelbald (d.860)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ETHELBALD or ÆTHELBALD (d. 860), king of the West-Saxons, the second son of Æthelwulf, was present with his father at the victory over the Scandinavian pirates at Ockley in Surrey in 851, and is said by Asser to have conspired with Ealhstan, bishop of Sherborne, and the West-Saxons to supplant Æthelwulf while on his pilgrimage to Rome (855–6). On Æthelwulf's return Æthelbald and his party refused to allow him to continue to reign in Wessex; he retired to Kent, and Æthelbald ruled over the West-Saxons [on these matters see more fully under Ethelwulf]. When Æthelwulf died in 858, he took to wife his father's widow, Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bald, greatly to the scandal of all men (Asser, p. 472; Kemble, Codex Dipl. 1058; Annales Bertiniani, Prudentius, 858). It has been suggested that the reason of this marriage was purely political (Green); it is perhaps more natural to believe that it either showed a tendency to adopt old heathen customs [see under Eadbald], or was simply the result of inclination. It is said that Swithun, bishop of Winchester, reproved the king for his sin, and that he repented and separated from Judith (Anglia Sacra, i. 204). This, however, is extremely doubtful, and does not rest on good authority. Judith did not return to France until after Æthelbald's death, and she was then spoken of as his widow (Ann. Bertin. Hincmar, 862). Æthelbald died in 860 (Asser), after a reign of five years (A.-S. Chron.), which must probably be reckoned from the date of his father's departure from England in 855. He was buried at Sherborne. All England is said to have mourned for him, and in after years to have felt how much it had lost by his death (Henry of Huntingdon, p. 737). The share he had in the victory of Ockley, and the peace that, to judge from the silence of the chroniclers, prevailed during his reign, are enough to explain the regret with which his people are said to have remembered him.

[Anglo-Saxon Chron., Asser, Henry of Huntingdon, all in Mon. Hist. Brit.; Kemble's Codex Dipl. (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Annales Bertin. ed. Waitz, Script. Rerum Germ., Pertz; Wharton's Anglia Sacra; Green's Conq. of Engl.]

W. H.