The Lady of Mercia’s Daughter
The Tenth Century Series
by M J Porter
* Book Spotlight *
Publication Date: 24th August, 2017 (new cover December 2022)
Series: The Tenth Century
Publisher: MJ Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction / Historical Action & Adventure
Betrayal is a family affair.
12th June AD918.
Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians and daughter of Alfred the Great, is dead.
Ælfwynn, the niece of Edward, king of Wessex, has been bequeathed her mother’s power and status by the men of the Mercian witan. But she knows Mercia is vulnerable to the north, exposed to the retreating world of the Viking raiders from her mother’s generation.
With her cousin Athelstan, Ealdorman Æthelfrith and his sons, Archbishop Plegmund and her band of trusted warriors, Ælfwynn must act decisively to subvert the threat from the Norse. Led by Rognavaldr, the grandson of the infamous Viking raider, Ivarr of Dublin, they've turned their gaze toward the desolate lands of Northern England and the jewel of York.
Inexplicably she's also exposed to the south, where her detested cousin, Ælfweard, and uncle, King Edward, eye her position covetously, their ambitions clear to see.
This is the unknown story of Ælfwynn, the daughter of the Lady of the Mercians and the startling events of late 918 when family loyalty and betrayal marched hand in hand across lands only recently reclaimed by the Mercians. Kingdoms could be won or lost through treachery and fidelity, and there was little love and even less honesty. And the words of a sword were heard far more loudly than those of a king or churchman, noble lady’s daughter or Viking raider.
Few women of the Saxon period are better known than Lady Æthelflæd, the daughter of King Alfred, wed to Æthelred of Mercia.
Why, then, you might ask, did I decide to tell the story of her little-known daughter? The answer to that is quite simple. The succession of Lady Ælfwynn to Mercia following the unexpected death of her mother in June 918 is the earliest recorded occurrence of a woman being succeeded by a woman in what would become England. And yet, and not meaning to give many spoilers here, Lady Ælfwynn’s rule lasted for such a short period of time that some of the sources for the period don’t even mention it.
The ‘main’ primary source used for the history of Saxon England from the later ninth-century onwards is The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC), begun at King Alfred’s court. To this day, nine ‘recensions’ (versions) exist, which were variously completed and compiled at many stages from the later ninth century until the mid-twelfth century. Much time and ink has been spent trying to ‘reconcile’ the different recensions to compose a coherent history of Anglo-Saxon England.
Lady Ælfwynn is given little space in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 918.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ‘A’ doesn’t mention Ælfwynn at all but instead has King Edward of Wessex taking control of Tamworth (the ancient capital of Mercia) as soon as his sister (Lady Æthelflæd) dies.
‘…and then when he (Edward) was settled in the seat there, his sister Æthelflæd at Tamworth, died 12 days before midsummer … and all the nation of the land of Mercia which was earlier subject to Æthelflæd turned to him.’
The C text of 918 offers, ‘here in the early part of this year, with God’s help, she [Æthelflæd] peaceably got in her control the stronghold at Leicester and the most part of the raiding-armies that belonged to it were subjected. And also the York-folk had promised her – and some of them granted so by pledge, some confirmed with oaths – that they would be at her disposition. But very quickly after they had done that, she departed, twelve days before midsummer, inside Tamworth, the eighth year that she held control of Mercia, with rightful lordship; and her body lies inside Gloucester in the east side-chapel of St Peter’s Church.’
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle E only mentions Lady Æthelflæd’s death in AD918 and not what happens immediately after in Mercia. ‘Here Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, passed away.’
This gap in information has allowed me to envisage all sorts of events within Mercia following the immediate death of Lady Æthelflæd.
While more is known about Lady Æthelflæd, the ability to weave a narrative through the details that are known and unknown held far more appeal. Especially with the potential for family politics and the ravages of the Viking raiders to the north of Mercia. And so, The Lady of Mercia’s Daughter offers a possible vision of what her rule might have been like.
All quotations taken from Swanton, M. trans and edit The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, (Orion Publishing Group, 2000)
The Lady of Mercia’s Daughter is available on #KindleUnlimited.
M J Porter
MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.
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