Aethelflaed: A Warrior Princess

by Sharon Carroll

The image of a medieval princess is that of a demure, passive young woman who is married off to create strategic alliances. While that may be an accurate portrayal of some women, it couldn't be further from the truth in respect to the life of Aethelflaed.

Aethelfaed was born sometime in the tenth century as the daughter of King Alfred. She was married to a man named Aethelred, who was ealdorman of the West Mercians (Labarge, Margeret Wade. A Small Sound of the Trumpet,Beacon Press, Boston, 1986: page 3). After King Alfred's death, she and her husband lent their support to her brother, King Edward. Edward was attempting to create a kingdom of the English, a struggle that was long and bloody. Aethelflaed did not merely send her knights to augment her brother's troops, but actually went into battle herself.

Aethelflaed led troops into frays with Vikings, rebuilt walls that were constructed originally by the Romans, and even created formiddable fortresses along the Mercian border (Gies, Frances and Joseph. Women in the Middle Ages,Harper Perennial Press, London, 1978: page 26). Two of these fortresses would later become the center of thriving towns, known today as Warwick and Stafford (IBID page 23).

Aethelflaed was quite a remarkable woman, even by contemporary standards. Although she had been born into a royal and could have lived her life in seclusion, she fought for her country and for her family. Thanks to his sister's bravery and brilliant strategy, Edward the Elder became one of England's most powerful rulers.

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