Alfred’s son Edward the Elder was a much married man. Unfortunately we have to rely on later writers for much of our information.
For example Edward’s children by his first marriage to Egwina are described by William of Malmesbury in the twelfth century as illegitimate. This is probably unlikely as one of his sons with Edwina was Althelstan whose rule was not contended when he became king after Edward the Elder died. It is reasonable to assume that had there been a question mark over his legitimacy one of Edward’s other sons would have stood a better chance of becoming king – having said that legitimacy wasn’t necessarily the issue that it became later on.
Edward’s eldest son by his second marriage to Elfleda was called Edwin and he died in 933. Weir notes that he may have been murdered on his half-brother’s orders. Two sons of Edward’s third marriage to Edgiva would wear the crown in their turn.
Rather conveniently for us Athelstan never married. He was succeeded by his brother Edmund who added the tag “the Magnificent” to his name and managed to marry himself to a saint in the first instance and then to an Ethelfleda who became a nun in the second. Edmund was murdered in his own dining hall in 946 and succeeded by his brother Ædred or Edred depending on which spelling you happen to prefer. Between the Danes and assorted assassinations it was clearly not a good time to become a monarch no matter how magnificent you might have been.
By the time Edred died Edmund’s sons were considered old enough to inherit so first Ædwig (or Edwy) became king and he in his turn was succeeded by his brother Edgar. If you recall from the previous post Edwy who was only a young teenager allegedly had a fall out with St Dunstan. Edgar on the other hand came to rely upon Dunstan who encouraged the king to found abbeys and ensure that papal taxes were paid – resulting in Edgar being known as “the Peaceable” and being made a saint.
Having offered you a saint and a murder or two it’s now time to introduce Edgar’s lady wives. Firstly Edgar married Ethelfelda – a popular name- so the sobriquet “the fair” is usually added to differentiate from all the other Ethelfledas. Sometime between 962 and 964 Ethelfleda died or if you prefer the scandalous version Edgar divorced her and sent her off to a nunnery so that he could marry wife number two with whom he was said to be conducting an adulterous affair.
Wife number two is Elfrida – which isn’t entirely helpful as the names of the two women are alarmingly easy to swap around. Elfrida had been married firstly to Ethelwald, the Ealdorman of Devon. There is a question mark over the ealdorman’s somewhat convenient death. When she was crowned in Bath Abbey on 11th May 973 alongside Edgar she became the first recorded instance of a coronation for a queen of England – she did not set a particularly good example thereafter.
When Edgar died in 975 he was buried at Glastonbury Abbey and his son by Ethelfleda (wife number one) became King Edward…the Martyr.
Alison Weir Britain’s Royal Families