Essential Wessex: Edgar Ætheling

Edgar Ætheling (c1052-1125) was the last male member of the royal house of Wessex. Elected by the Witan following the death of Harold Godwinson in 1066, he reigned for less than three months before being forced to submit to William the Bastard. According to a late 13th century chronicle, he had one daughter, Margaret Lovel, who married into the Lovel (or Lovell) family of Castle Cary, thus maintaining a connection with Wessex.

Born in Hungary, Edward was still a teenager when elected king. Boy kings were not unusual in the early medieval period, but as the Normans closed in on London, doubts grew about the wisdom of backing him, and many of his powerful supporters deserted him. He was brought before William at Berkhamsted and submitted to his rule.

Little is known of Edgar’s later life. Accounts in later chronicles are fragmentary and often contradictory. Orderic Vitalis has him commanding the English Fleet during the First Crusade in March 1098, but Florence of Worcester places him in Scotland at the end of 1097, and it is unlikely that he would have been able to make the journey to Syria in that time. He was reported as still being alive in 1125, but the exact date and location of his death are unknown.

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