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Ethelfleda – Lady of the Mercians (869-918) - was a Staffordshire woman who lit up the dark ages. She fought back the invasion of the Vikings and re-established Tamworth as the capital of the Mercian Kingdom.
Most people have probably never have heard of her. But one thing’s for sure – she’d never heard of the Sex Discrimination Act.
This woman led armies, built castles and routed the Vikings more than a thousand years before anyone even thought of it. It’s probably fair to say Ethlefleda had attitude.
Who was she?
Let’s face it, Ethelfleda got off to a pretty good start in life. She was the daughter of one of our most famous kings, Alfred. He quite enjoyed fighting the Vikings too.
We think she was born in about 869, but we can’t be sure – what we do know is that after her husband Ethelred’s death, she became the Lady of the Mercians (a bit like Queen of Mercia really).
Who were the Mercians?
Well, that was us here in Staffordshire. The Kingdom of Mercia covered a huge area of the middle of England and was constantly being given a hard time by the Vikings.
That was, until Alfred started giving the invaders a bit of their own back. Ethelfleda carried on the tradition after her husband died – within three days she was leading her army into battle.
Where did she fight?
Better to ask where didn’t she? She captured Derby and Leicester, she invaded Wales, she took on the Vikings at Chester – and everywhere she went, she seemed to build castles.
The best known is right here in Staffordshire – Tamworth Castle was all Ethelfleda’s work (well, with a bit of help from a few labourers here and there).
What happened to her?
By 918, she’d even forced the Vikings to surrender their stronghold at York. But sadly, Ethelfleda died in that year at Tamworth – just as she seemed on the brink of ending the Danish threat forever.
And where is she buried?
Ethelfleda ended up at St. Oswald’s Priory in Gloucester and you can now go and see her tombstone in the Gloucester City Museum.
The stone doesn’t bear any words, but there’s no doubt Ethelfleda was the woman who lit up the Dark Ages.
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last updated: 18/03/2008 at 14:31