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This article is about Æthelred but you may be looking for Æthelred as they share the same name.
"Æthelflæd! I know that I have not always treated you kindly. For that, I am sorry. I was younger and more foolish. And, as for you, I hope that you can find some comfort. To live without being loved is a torture."
—Æthelred's last words to Æthelflæd, while on his death bed[src]

Æthelred of Mercia was a main character in both The Saxon Stories novel series, and The Last Kingdom television series. Æthelred was the lord of Mercia and the husband of Æthelflæd.

BiographyEdit

The Saxon StoriesEdit

In The Pale Horseman, Æthelred is first seen accompanying his father for a visit to Wessex. His father collapses during wedding negotiations. Æthelred succeeds his father as king of Mercia. Æthelflæd is charmed by his looks. After she weds Æthelred, she finds out that Æthelred is not the gentleman she envisaged.

When Æthelred wants to conquer Lunden, he forces Æthelflæd to come with him. During a Danish raid Æthelflæd is kidnapped and Æthelred returns swiftly to Wintanchester to convey the news. He joins Uhtred in an attempt to free Æthelflæd in Beamfleot.

In The Empty Throne, he became severely injured in the Battle of Teotanheale.

The Last KingdomEdit

Season 2Edit

Winchester, Wessex; Æthelred arrives in Winchester with Lord Ceolwulf to meet with King Alfred to discuss Mercia's need of more warriors as the Danes are moving in and raiding. Ceolwulf demands swords and the men to carry them. Ceolwulf suddenly dies right there before them. Whilst everyone is distracted, Ælswith grabs the letter that Ceolwulf wrote for them. She then asks who is Æthelred. He makes himself known. Æthelflæd appears satisfied. Alfred asks him to assure that Ceolwulf is returned to his family. ("Episode 2.3")

Much time has passed. Æthelred and Aldhelm sit down with Alfred, Ælswith, Odda, and Æthelwold. Æthelred informs Alfred that his gift of warriors has served Mercia well this winter. The raids haven’t been as frequent. They proceed to discuss the price of her marriage. Æthelred has proposed 4,000 pieces. They want more than silver. Æthelred is also willing to bequeath her titled lands in order to strengthen the union between Mercia and Wessex. ("Episode 2.3")

King Æthelred and Aldhelm arrive in Wessex. Æthelred is envious of Wessex not having to share a border with the Welsh. They’re at the very middle of Alfred’s idea of an England. As they head into Winchester, they are greeted by the villagers. ("Episode 2.5")

Æthelred approaches Uhtred and Gisela. He makes a crude remark towards Gisela. Uhtred draws his sword and pulls Æthelred off his horse. Aldhelm tells his men to fallback as he is sure Uhtred won’t hurt the lord. Aldhelm then politely requests that Uhtred let Æthelred go and apologies to Gisela on his lord’s behalf. Uhtred releases Æthelred and parts ways. Æthelred tells Aldhelm that he wants Uhtred dead, but they both know Alfred will never allow it, as Uhtred has value. Uhtred fights Danes, survives slavery, and saves people. Even Æthelred's wife-to-be sings his praises. Their hope lies in Daneland. With luck, the unrest will grow, leading to a war. Aldhelm wants to see Æthelred as King of Mercia and Wessex. For that to happen, Alfred would have to die. That will come should war occur. ("Episode 2.6")

Æthelred arrives in Winchester and marries Æthelflæd. After an informal Witan with Uhtred and Alfred, Æthelred tells Æthelflæd that it’s not her place to involve herself in a conversation that becomes an informal Witan. Æthelflæd has taken interest in these matters and her father has encouraged her to be involved. However, she’s his queen. She questions if he actually believes he’s a king. Æthelred is insulted by her tone. He tells her to lie on her belly on the bed. He threatens to hand her back to Wessex should her disobedience persist. She stops him from leaving and does as he says. He proceeds to hump her as she cries. ("Episode 2.6")

Uhtred, Finan, Sihtric, Clapa, Æthelred, and Aldhelm arrive in London, where they fail to convince the brothers to leave. They return to Winchester and report back to Alfred and Odda. The Danes have well over 1,000 men in London. Uhtred and Æthelred argue over the best method of attack. Alfres intends to devise a plan of attack without Uhtred, which appears to alarm Steapa and Odda, though they don’t make their concerns heard. Alfred wants Uhtred to return to Coccham. Alfred then instructs Æthelred and Aldhelm to return to Mercia to gather men. Lastly, Alfred asks Steapa if he trusts Uhtred. Steapa replies with his life. ("Episode 2.6")

Æthelred and Æthelflæd have dinner. He wants Æthelflæd to travel with him, at least part of the way to war. He touches her face, but she pulls away. She tells him that love should be gentle. Æthelred is insulted and asks who else she has been with. She demands that he show her some respect. Æthelred grabs her by her hair and places her head on the table and tells her to never raise her voice to him. He then makes plans for her to see a priest. ("Episode 2.6")

Æthelred, Æthelflæd, Beocca, Thyra, and Aldhelm ride in a boat to Coccham. Æthelred tells Beocca that he fears that he isn’t the first to lie in bed with his wife. He asks if there’s a way to test her purity. Beocca admits that there is a way, from the holy books. Æthelred orders that it be done immediately. ("Episode 2.6")

Æthelred and Aldhelm go to the hall, where Aldhelm remarks that he’s never seen the inside of a pagan hall and is surprised by its warmth. He tells Gisela that he was expecting to see heads on the wall. Gisela then asks about Æthelflæd, who Æthelred claims isn’t feeling well. Æthelred has brought a letter from the king, which details that Uhtred must accept that Æthelred is in charge of all men. They will travel down river and meet with the armies of Mercia and Wessex. There, they will make camp a short distance from London. Uhtred and his men will attack from the north gate while Æthelred leads his men from the marshes. Steapa then hands Æthelred a letter from the king, assigning him to Uhtred. Æthelwold follows behind Steapa. ("Episode 2.6")

Uhtred leads his men to the north gate. They find it open and unguarded. An obvious trap, but they proceed. They meet up with Æthelred and Aldhelm, neither haven’t crossed a single man. Æthelred believes that the Danes have fled and celebrates. Suddenly, fire is set in a tower above. Undoubtedly a signal. Uhtred realizes that the signal was to alert the Danes to attack their camp. ("Episode 2.6")

Winchester, Wessex; King Alfred, Ælswith, and Odda get news of Æthelred’s return from war. He, along with Father Beocca, Æthelwold, Aldhelm, and Steapa, inform them that while London has been reclaimed, the brothers abducted Æthelflæd. And they’re unsure if she’s still alive. Alfred will send word and ask for word regarding Æthelflæd’s health. Odda accuses Æthelred of putting all kingdoms at risk, making him the fool he always believed him to be. Aldhelm comes to Æthelred’s defense and tells Odda to go and find another cup of wine. Instead, he asks for every detail from Beocca and Steapa. Æthelwold finds amusement in Æthelred’s scolding and reminds him and Aldhelm that the only man capable of cleaning up this mess is Uhtred, who they’re desperately trying to blame. ("Episode 2.7")

They arrive at the fortress, where Erik and Sigefrid await. Æthelred demands to see his wife before negotiations start. Erik then forces Æthelred to kneel. Dagfinn brings out Æthelflæd, who is alive and well. She assures Æthelred that she is being treated well and has not been touched. He warns her that negotiation is about to begin and not to be alarmed by anything he says. Æthelred asks for their price. He offers 100 pounds of silver. Sigefrid asks if Æthelred speaks for Alfred. When Uhtred says that he does not, Sigefrid calls down Weland and instructs him to knock Æthelred out. ("Episode 2.7")

Æthelred wakes up naked in the pig's pin. He enters the hall, where Sigefrid welcomes him to sit and eat. Aldhelm gives him a blanket to cover himself with and informs him that a bargain has been made. Finan tells him that Father Pyrlig and Uhtred went to check on Æthelflæd. ("Episode 2.7")

Æthelred, Aldhelm and Father Pyrlig return to Winchester to inform Alfred that Odda has raised the fyrd of Devonshire. He intends to march against Beamfleot. They have no choice but to stop Odda. They lead an army of warriors to stop Odda and the Devonshire fyrd. They eventually manage to catch up to him. Odda explains that he lied to his men and told them that they were there to fight on Alfred’s orders. Odda explains that he’s done what he had to for Wessex. Before long, Uhtred, Finan, Sihtric, and Osferth arrive with Lady Æthelflæd. Uhtred warns Alfred that Sigefrid and his men are near and that now is the chance to kill them all. They go head to head with the Danes and defeat them. ("Episode 2.8")

Season 3Edit

Aegelesburg, Mercia; Aldhelm informs Æthelred that they are prepared to march. However, Æthelred instructs Aldhelm to march with only half of the guards. He shall remain in Merica. Aldhelm advises him to remain close to Wessex as Alfred doesn’t have much time left, but the Lord is insistent on staying where he is. Æthelflæd joins them, insisting that she ride off into battle as well as she wishes to see her father. She tells Æthelred that he should be leading his men, but he’d rather she leave him alone. Æthelred then asks Æthelflæd how is her daughter. Æthelflæd retorts that the child is their daughter. Æthelflæd and Aldhelm then prepare to lead the Merican guard into battle. ("Episode 3.1")

Æthelwold arrives in Aegelesburg to see Æthelred. Aldhelm demands to know what he wants. Æthelwold wants their disloyalty towards Alfred. He adds that Uhtred has left Alfred’s side, making him vulnerable. Æthelwold claims that the crown of Wessex is his and unlike Alfred, he doesn’t want to control Mercia. He’d rather leave that to Æthelred. He’s proposing they form an alliance. Æthelwold even suggests harming Æthelflæd, who is away at her own estate. Æthelred has considered Æthelwold’s proposal. He tells Aldhelm that he wants Æthelflæd killed, as well as her child. ("Episode 3.2")

Æthelred discovers that Æthelflæd has fled and that her estate is empty. He suspects that she was warned and kills one of his men. Aldhelm advises him against such actions. Æthelred tells Aldhelm to find Æthelflæd and give her location to the Danes. ("Episode 3.3")

Æthelred gets word from Alfred of a pending battle with a great army of Danes, led by Ragnar. ("Episode 3.4")

Æthelred, Aldhelm, and Steapa greet Uhtred and Æthelflæd at the gate. They claim that they only want to warn Alfred about Hæsten. Æthelred allows them in but without their weapons. Æthelred fears that perhaps Æthelflæd got wind of the danger posed by him and fled to Uhtred. Aldhelm would rather discuss the pending battle, but Æthelred is far too worried about his wife and what she knows. He wants all of his men at the ready. If his wife has come to accuse him, then they must be ready. ("Episode 3.5")

The Witan has requested Uhtred and Æthelflæd's presence. Edward has come in place of the king. Æthelflæd claims that Danes are near and it was Hæsten who attacked her. Æthelred and Æthelhelm question how Uhtred knew where to find Æthelflæd. He accuses Uhtred of making a plan with Hæsten in order to gain Æthelflæd’s trust. Alfred joins them and demands the truth. Uhtred wants 1,000 men and he will give them Beamfleot and peace. Alfred denies Uhtred's proposal. ("Episode 3.5")

Æthelflæd invites Æthelred to join her for dinner. She informs him that she has no plans of returning to Wincelcumb. She has assigned her guard to Uhtred and will remain in Merica until the battle. She then remarks that he didn’t appear concerned or surprised at Hæsten’s attempt to kill her. She wonders why Æthelred doesn’t kill him. ("Episode 3.5")

Æthelred and Aldhelm ride to Æthelflæd’s estate. He orders Aldhelm to bed his wife, so that Æthelred can then divorce her. They reach her estate and propose sending 30 men to guard her. However, Æthelflæd doesn’t want his help and is willing to absolve him of his responsibilities of her. She assures Æthelred that her guard is adequate. He then asks about her daughter, the half Dane. Æthelflæd replies that their daughter isn’t half Dane, but Æthelred only sees a Dane. Aldhelm jokes that Æthelred also looks like a Dane. ("Episode 3.7")

Winchester, Wessex; Æthelflæd, Æthlred, and Aldhelm arrive for Edward’s wedding and attend the ceremony. ("Episode 3.8")

Aldhelm catches Æthelred in the act of humping another woman. Aldhelm explains that he did not dispatch the messenger to summon further guards as Æthelred requested. He believes the men among them are more than enough and sending more could suggest aggression. Æthelred accuses Aldhelm off disobeying him and it has become a habit. Æthelred warns Aldhelm from falling under his wife’s spell. He is to bed her and nothing more, so that he can then get divorced. On the day Alfred dies, Æthelred will become King of Mercia. He again demands that Aldhelm send for 50 or more guards as he was told. ("Episode 3.9")

Æthelred and Aldhelm meet with Æthelwold and Sigebriht to propose an uprising against Edward. Æthelwold suggests they negotiate with the Danes and allow them to slaughter Edward and his followers. Father Beocca enters with an axe and slams it onto the table, blaming Æthelwold for the bile he spews, encouraging those around him to act unchristian-like. ("Episode 3.10")

Æthelred tells Æthelflæd to inform her family that Mercia has a king with his own mind. Alfred is gone and therefore all agreements made with Alfred are gone with him. He adds that both countries are equal and free to choose who they ally with or fight against. Aldhelm is, however, in agreement with Æthelflæd. He hopes that Æthelred doesn’t intend to align with Æthelwold or the Danes. Æthelred then asks if Aldhelm sent for his guard of 50 men, which he admits he did not. For his disobedience, Æthelred stabs Aldhelm and tells him that his wound is from an ale house brawl, should anyone ask. ("Episode 3.10")

Uhtred prepare Wessex for a battle with the Danes. Æthelred has spies inside Danelaw that have confirmed the Danes are moving closer. Æthelred has issued an order for his men to retreat, but he wants to know when they will be joined by Wessex. Æthelred asks if the Ealdormen stand with Edward. Æthelhelm insists that they do. Uhtred reminds them that the Danes will have greater numbers. Although, they can still win. Æthelred will return to Mercia and wait for Edward’s orders. ("Episode 3.10")

Season 4Edit

Avlesburv, Mercia; Æthelred tells Eadith to come and lie with him, but she turns him down. He shall only have her when the time is right. He threatens to use force but is interrupted by the arrival of Eardwulf. He reports that he met a Danish spy who revealed that Cnut is taking his warriors from East Anglia and heading to Irland, leaving their women and children in undefended settlements. Æthelred plots to take over East Anglia while the Danish are gone. Eardwulf suggests they leave quietly, before the Ealdorman can disapprove. Æthelred remarks that relics of St. Oswald are already working in his favor. He’s collecting all the bones of their beloved Saint as a good omen to signal to the Mercian people that he shall restore their lands to greatness. Monks are leaving with silver to bargain for his heart. ("Episode 4.1")

Mercia; Æthelred, Eardwulf, and Eadith lead a group of warriors to conquer East Anglia. On the border of Mercia and East Anglia, Æthelred tells Eardwulf that soon all the land will belong to Mercia. Later, Æthelred and Eardwulf reach the Kingdom of East Anglia only to discover that it’s been attacked. He orders Eardwulf to seize the land to the north until he reaches the sea. And then they will see which Saxon Kingdom is the greatest. ("Episode 4.1")

East Anglia; King Æthelred has made settlement at the Kingdom of East Anglia. Inside his tent, he encourages Eadith to try on the dress he had made for her, but she refuses to get dressed in front of him. He questions why she continues to deny him. She claims that she acts solely for the good of his soul, as he has a wife. And so, Æthelred plans to make himself a widower, so he can then marry Eadith. ("Episode 4.2")

King’s Lynn, East Anglia; Eardwulf hands Æthelred a sword that they ripped from the hands of an ugly Dane named Ulf. They’ve also taken Lindcylne. Æthelred promises Eardwulf that he will be rewarded for his hand in their victory. Eardwulf only asks that he remain in charge of the king’s armies and to restore his family’s name. To lift the king’s decree that every generation be born into disgrace. Æthelred says he’ll consider it after Eardwulf takes all of East Anglia. Later, Eadith puts on the dress that Æthelred had made for her and enters his tent. She proceeds to kiss Æthelred and have sex with him. ("Episode 4.3")

King Æthelred asks for an update on their troops in Lindcylne. Eardwulf explains that the surrounding settlements are resisting, but they will prevail. Æthelred reminds Eardwulf of their bargain; he wants all of East Anglia if Eardwulf's family is to be forgiven. ("Episode 4.4")

East Anglia; Eardwulf informs Æthelred that the settlements around Lindcylne have capitulated. Also, Cnut's armies have raided Mercia and taken the king’s palace at Aegelesburg. Æthelred blames Eardwulf, as it was on his intel that they left Mercia. Eardwulf reveals that he got this information from Hæsten, who the king calls a well known liar. Æthelred fears that his reputation will be ripped to shreds. However, Eardwulf explains that they’ve had word from Lady Æthelflæd. She will be at Tettenhall, where she plans to lure Cnut. There is an advantage in this, so the king can return to Mercia a hero. And so, Æthelred asks if his men can be there by morning. As for Eardwulf, when they return to Aegelesburg, the king will have him publicly castrated. His family will never prosper and his sister will never leave Æthelred’s bed. ("Episode 4.4")

Tettenhall, Mercia; Æthelred, Eardwulf, and the Mercia army join in on the battle at Tettenhall. ("Episode 4.4")

King Æthelred is nearly killed in battle. He is knocked on the back of his head, causing his ears to ring, though he manages to recover and orders his men to push on. However, he has a notable gash in the back of his head. Later, King Æthelred is carted back to camp. He is wounded, unconscious, and the back of his head is split open. ("Episode 4.4")

Aegelesburg, Mercia; Eardwulf and Eadith lead a fleet of men back to Aegelesburg, where they can tend to King Æthelred. King Æthelred is weak and barely conscious. He asks why have the Ealdormen circled around him. Eardwulf and Eadith tell him that he’s been sleeping since the day of the battle, where he fell and hit his head. However, they did defeat the Danes and Erdwukf assures the king he'll recover. The last thing Æthelred remembers is arriving at the battle. ("Episode 4.5")

Æthelred holds Eadith’s hand and demands that she do not leave his room. Eardwulf returns and asks his sister if the king blames him for their late return. Eadith reveals that he has not spoken of Eardwulf, but they should leave before his mind returns. However, Eardwulf believes the king will be dead soon, and if that’s the case, they’ll have no need to run. This is an opportunity to regain their influence. The Mercian Guard is loyal to Eardwulf and the Ealdormen are against the king. Groups are forming. Æthelflæd then unexpectedly arrives, familiar with both Eardwulf and Eadith. Æthelflæd would like to be left alone with Æthelred and tells everyone to withdraw. ("Episode 4.5")

Æthelred remarks that he must be dying if Æthelflæd has returned. He fears he is dying after the priests prayed over over him as though preparing for final rights. He questions why she came. Æthelflæd is concerned about the fate of their daughter should he die. She’s treated cruelly because as Æthelred points out, Ælfwynn isn’t his daughter. At the very least, Æthelflæd asks that Æthelred agree not to betroth her to a heartless fool. The Ealdormen of marriageable age were all slaughtered. Æthelflæd wants to personally choose someone suitable so that the Kingdom will thrive. Æthelred agrees. Had he not treated her with such cruelty since their wedding night, perhaps things could’ve been different between them. Æthelred then takes the time to apologize to Æthelflæd. ("Episode 4.5")

Eadith sits at Æthelred’s side. He realizes that all his people wish him dead and wonders what he did to offend them. He then asks to be alone with Eadith. He can’t recall much, but he remembers her name and asks if they were in love, but they weren’t. Æthelred apologizes if he’s ever mistreated her. He asks if she’ll survive without him, but she doesn’t know. She’s survived a great deal already. He asks for her to tell him the truth about his status. Eadith truthfully tells him that he is in fact dying. He’ll need a miracle to survive. She suggests he could pray on the relics of St. Oswald. ("Episode 4.5")

Eardwulf tells Æthelred that he’s been chosen as the successor. However, the king will not agree to it. He promised Æthelflæd that he would not act without her. Eardwulf fears that without a plan, King Edward will take Æthelred’s throne and Mercia will be subsumed. Eardwulf claims to have always served the king well, but while Æthelred cannot place it, his stomach tells him that Eardwulf lies. Æthelred tells Eardwulf that he isn’t worthy of his daughter and he will never rule Mercia. Eardwulf becomes enraged. He climbs on top of Æthelred and snaps his neck. Unbeknownst to him, Eadith watches through the curtains. ("Episode 4.5")

AppearancesEdit

The Saxon StoriesEdit

Books 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
The Saxon Stories            

The Last KingdomEdit

Episodes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Season 1                
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5

TriviaEdit

  • This character has been based on a real historical figure of Æthelred.
  • The name Æthelred comes from Old English. The name is made up of the words æthel, which means "noble", and red, which means "counsel, wisdom".
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