King Aethelbald (Æthelbald or ‘Noble Bold’) was the eldest surviving son of Aethelwulf, and King of Wessex from 855-860. He had a short reign, and a short life, having only lived into his 20s when he died. During his reign, Aethelbald is most famous for refusing his own father’s entry to his kingdom, when Aethelwulf returned from Frankia with his new wife.
Facts about King Aethelbald
- Born. c.831.
- Parents. Aethelwulf of Wessex and Osburh.
- Married. Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald, king of the Franks (His step-mother).
- Children. None.
- Acceded. 855.
- Crowned. 855.
- Reign. 5 years.
- Died. 20 December 860 at Sherborne, aged c.29. Buried in Sherborne Abbey.
- Successor. Aethelbert, brother of Aethelbald.
5 things you may not know about King Aethelbald
- Battle. Aethelbald was old enough to accompany his father to the victorious battle at Aclea.
- Power. Aethelbald was left in charge of the kingdom, along with his brother, Aethelbert, when their father Aethelwulf left for a pilgrimage to Rome in 855. Aethelbald co-ruled the larger western region of Wessex, and Aethelbert the smaller eastern side.
- Feud. In 856, plotting with the Bishop of Sherborne, Aethelbald refused entry to his father Aethelwulf and his new bride, Judith, on their return from Frankia. Concerned that the new marriage had broken their agreements, Aethelbald feared he could lose his inheritance. Aethelwulf had to spend the rest of his reign co-ruling with this son, to avoid civil war.
- Marriage. After his father had died, Aethelbald chose to marry his step-mother, Judith. This was seen as incest, but a precedent had been set a few centuries before, and so it was allowed.
- Residence. Aethelbald most likely resided in the lands west of Selwood, where he held the most support.
Battles and Skirmishes
- Battle of Aclea. 851. Major victory against a large Viking fleet of 300 ships.
Timeline for King Aethelbald
– 831 –
Aethelbald is born, to Aethelwulf of Wessex and Osburh.
– 855 –
Aethelbald and his brother are left in control of Wessex, while their father goes on a pilgrimage to Rome.
– 856 –
Aethelbald refuses his father entry to western Wessex.
– 858 –
King Aethelbald marries his step-mother, Judith.
– 860 –
King Aethelbald dies in Sherborne.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did King Aethelbald marry his step-mother? Yes he did, in 858, after the death of his father he married Judith.