Æthelred the Unready

4 Aug


Æthelred the Unready, or Æthelred II (Old English: Æþelræd (Old English pronunciation: [æðelræːd])),[1][2] (c. 966 – 23 April 1016) was King of the English (978–1013 and 1014–1016). He was the son of King Edgar the Peaceful and Queen Ælfthryth and was around 12 years old when his half-brother Edward the Martyr was murdered on 18 March 978. Although Æthelred was not personally suspected of participation, the murder was committed at Corfe Castleby his attendants, making it more difficult for the new king to rally the nation against the military raids by Danes, especially as the legend of St Edward the Martyr grew.

From 991 onwards, Æthelred paid tribute, or Danegeld, to the Danish king. In 1002, Æthelred ordered what became known as the St. Brice’s Day massacre of Danish settlers. In 1003, KingSweyn Forkbeard of Denmark invaded England, as a result of which Æthelred fled to Normandy in 1013 and was replaced by Sweyn. He would return as king, however, after Sweyn’s death in 1014.

“Unready” is a mistranslation of the Old English word unræd (meaning bad-counselled, the rædbeing cognate with Rat in German; its modern English descendant is rede, although this word is now obsolete), a twist on his name “Æthelred”, meaning noble-counseled. It should not be “unprepared”, but rather “ill-advised”.

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