Æthelbald (Wessex) of the West Saxons

Æthelbald (Wessex) of the West Saxons (abt. 0835 - 0860)

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Æthelbald "King of the West Saxons" of the West Saxons formerly Wessex
Born about in Wessex, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Rochford, Essex, Englandmap
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Profile last modified | Created 11 Sep 2011
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Categories: House of Wessex.

The House of Wessex crest.
Æthelbald (Wessex) of the West Saxons is a member of the House of Wessex.
British Aristocracy
Æthelbald (Wessex) of the West Saxons was a member of aristocracy in the British Isles.
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Preceded by
King of the West Saxons
13 January 858 – 20 December 860
Succeeded by



835 Birth

Æthelbald was born about 835-840. [1]


Æthelbald was the child of Æthelwulf, King Wessex and Osburg Unknown.

Æthelbald was the second of five sons of King Æthelwulf of Wessex. [2]

850 Battle of Aclea

In 850 Æthelbald's elder brother Æthelstan defeated the Vikings in the first recorded sea battle in English history, but he is not recorded afterwards and had probably died in the early 850s. The next year Æthelwulf and Æthelbald inflicted another defeat on the Vikings at the Battle of Aclea. [2]

"Edelbaldus filius suus" fought with King Æthelwulf at Temesmuthe, London and in Kent in 851. [1]

855 Father's Pilgrimage to Rome

In 855 Æthelwulf went on pilgrimage to Rome and he appointed Æthelbald king of Wessex, while Æthelberht, the next oldest son, became King of Kent, which had been conquered by Wessex thirty years earlier. [2]

When Æthelwulf returned to England in 856, Æthelbald refused to give up the crown. Most historians believe that Æthelbald continued to be king of Wessex while Æthelberht gave up Kent to his father, but some scholars think that Wessex itself was divided, with Æthelbald ruling the west and his father the east, while Æthelberht kept Kent. When Æthelwulf died in 858 Æthelbald continued as (or became again) king of Wessex and his brother resumed (or carried on) his kingship of Kent.[2]

855 The Succession Plot

Æthelbald was appointed under-king in Wessex when his father left for Rome in 855. Asser records that "king Ethelbald and Ealstan bishop of…Sherborne, with Eanwulf earl of the district of Somerton are said to have made a conspiracy together that king Ethelwulf, on his return from Rome, should never again be received into his kingdom" and that "many ascribe [the plot] solely to the insolence of the king, because the king was pertinacious in this matter, and in many other perversities…as also was proved by the result of that which follows". [1]

856 Father's Marriage to Judith

On his way back from Rome, Æthelwulf stayed for several months with Charles the Bald, King of the Franks and maDirried Charles' twelve-year-old daughter, Judith. [2]

Division of the Kingdom

After his return, Æthelwulf abdicated part of his realm in favour of his son, who succeeded as Æthelbald King of Wessex, while his father continued to rule in the other part of Wessex and in Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Essex. Stenton says that Æthelwulf did this "to avoid a civil war" after learning that "his eldest son and some of the leading men of Wessex were resolved that he should not be received as king" after returning to England. Presumably he bases this on the report by Asser. The new conclusions referred to below regarding the possible illegitimacy of King Æthelwulf's son Æthelberht suggest another possible explanation. Æthelberht, most likely older than his half-brother Æthelbald, may have been the ring-leader of the plot. King Æthelwulf may have wished to control Æthelberht's ambitions by installing his oldest legitimate son as king during his own lifetime. Asser's report blaming Æthelbald may have been due to the chronicler's evident disapproval of the king's marrying his stepmother after his father's death. [1]


After Æthelwulf's death Æthelbald married his stepmother, to the later horror of Asser, the biographer of his youngest brother, Alfred the Great. Asser denounced the union as being "against God's prohibition and Christian dignity, and also contrary to the practice of all pagans", but the marriage does not appear to have been condemned at the time. Æthelbald and Æthelberht appear to have been on good terms: when Æthelbald died in 860 Æthelberht became king of both Wessex and Kent, and they were never again divided.[2]

He married his step-mother Queen Judith of Wessex.[3].The marriage was eventually annulled in 860 on the grounds of consanguinity .

Æthelbald married his step-mother upon his father's death. "This rather surprising marriage may also have been motivated by the need to reinforce Æthelbald's possibly weak power-base in the face of a continuing threat from his more powerful older half-brother Æthelberht. "Adelbaldus ex occidentalium Saxonem" granted land at Teffont, Wiltshire to "Osmund minister" by charter dated 860, subscribed by (in order) "Iudith regis filius [sic]" and "Osric dux".[1]

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the death in 860 of King Æthelbald and his burial at Sherborne. [1]

He married, about 858-859, separated as her second husband, his stepmother, JUDITH of the Franks, widow of ÆTHELWULF King of Wessex, daughter of CHARLES II "le Chauve" King of the West Franks & his first wife Ermentrudis [d’Orléans] ([844]-after 870). [1]

Asser records that when King Æthelwulf was dead, his son Æthelbald married Judith daughter of Charles king of the Franks "contrary to God's prohibition and the dignity of a Christian, contrary also to the custom of all the pagans…and drew down much infamy upon himself". The Annales Bertiniani record the marriage of "Iudit reginam" and "Adalboldus filius eius [=Edilvulf regis]" in 858 after the death of her first husband. Roger of Hoveden also records this second marriage of Judith. Roger of Wendover records the marriage and adds that Æthelbald repudiated his wife in penitence for the marriage. [1]

860 Death

Æthelbald died 20 December 860 and was buried in Sherborne Abbey, Dorset). [1]

Widow's return to Senlis

The Annales Bertiniani record that Judith returned to her father after the death of her second husband, lived at Senlis "sub tuitione paterna", and from there was abducted by "Balduinum comitem" with the consent of her brother Louis, her father consenting to the marriage the following year. Judith eloped with her future third husband, Baudouin I Count of Flanders, around Christmas 861 and married him at Auxerre end-863. Flodoard names "Balduini comitis et Iudita…Karoli regis filia, Edilvulfo regi Anglorum qui et Edelboldus in matrimonium". [1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Charles Cawley. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy. Medieval Lands Database. England: AngloSaxon and Danish Kings Accessed August 28, 2018 jhd
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Wikipedia: Æthelbald_of_Wessex Accessed August 28, 2018 jhd
  3. Annales Bertiniani II 858, cited by Charles Cawley. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy. Medieval Lands Database. England: AngloSaxon and Danish Kings


Thank you to Roger Travis for creating Wessex-362 on 3 Aug 13. Click the Changes tab for the details on contributions by Roger and others.

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Æthelbald by comparing test results with other carriers of his ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. Y-chromosome DNA test-takers in his direct paternal line on WikiTree:

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Images: 1
King Æthelbald in the early fourteenth century Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England
King Æthelbald in the early fourteenth century Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England


On 30 Sep 2017 at 08:17 GMT C. Mackinnon wrote:

Sean Miller, ‘Æthelbald (d. 860)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 Sept 2017

On 3 Aug 2013 at 21:11 GMT Roger Travis Jr. wrote:

Hi! Here's another one to open, please. Thanks!

On 3 Aug 2013 at 19:22 GMT Roger Travis Jr. wrote:

Æthelbald is 38 degrees from Rosa Parks, 34 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 25 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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