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Edmund (Ironside) of Wessex
Biography



EDMUND, or EADMUND (c. 980-1016), called IRONSIDE, king of the English, was the son of AEthelred II. by his first wife AElfgifu. When Canute invaded England in 1015, Edmund sought to resist him, but, paralysed by the treachery and desertion of the ealdorman Edric, he could do nothing, and Wessex submitted to the Danish king. Next year Canute and Edric together harried Mercia, while Edmund with infinite difficulty gathered an army. Returning into Northumbria, he in his turn harried the districts which had submitted to the invader, but a march northward by Canute brought about the speedy submission of Northumbria and the return of Edmund to London. The death of AEthelred on the 23rd of April 1016 was followed by a double election to the English crown. The citizens of London and those members of the Witan who were present in the city chose Edmund, the rest of the Witan meeting at Southampton elected Canute. In the warfare which ensued Edmund fought at the severest disadvantage, for his armies dispersed after every engagement, whatever its issue. Canute at once fiercely besieged London, but the citizens successfully resisted all attacks. Edmund meanwhile marched through Wessex and received its submission. At Fen in Somersetshire he engaged the Danes and defeated them. Canute now raised the siege of London and soon afterwards encountered Edmund at Sherston in Wiltshire. The battle was indecisive, but Canute marched back to London and left Edmund in possession of Wessex. Edmund hastened after him and relieved London, which he had again besieged. He defeated the Danes at Brentford and again at Otford, and drove them into Sheppey. He was now joined by Edric, in conjunction with whom he followed the Danes into Essex, overtaking them at Assandun (or Ashington). In the battle which ensued Edric again played the traitor, and the English were routed with terrible slaughter. Edmund retired into Gloucestershire, whither he was followed by Canute. He himself was anxious to continue the struggle, but Edric and the Witan persuaded him to accept a reconciliation. At Olney the two rivals swore friendship, and a division of the kingdom was effected - Canute taking the north, Edmund the south. Soon afterwards Edmund died (30th of November 1016), probably from natural causes, though later historians hint at foul play. (C. S. P.*)

contributed by Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911


30 May 2006
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