Aethelred the Unready
Richard Abels examines the long and troubled reign of Aethelred II the ‘Unraed’, the ‘Ill-Advised’. It is characteristic of Aethelred’s reign that its greatest surviving work of literature, the poem The Battle of Maldon, should be a record of heroic defeat. Perhaps no ruler could have stemmed the encroachment of wave upon wave of Viking raiders, but Aethelred will always be associated with that failure.
‘Ãthelred’s reign of nearly thirty-eight years was the longest of any Anglo-Saxon ruler. If he had died in AD 1000, history would have remembered him more kindly’
Few monarchs of the Middle Ages have had a worse popular reputation than Ãthelred II, ‘the Unready’, remembered as the king who lost England to Viking invaders. But, as Richard Abels shows, the failure to defend his realm was not entirely his alone. Ãthelred was in many ways an innovative ruler but one whose challenges – a divided court, a fragile nascent kingdom, a voracious, hydra-headed enemy – were ultimately too great to overcome.