Æþelræd (Ethelred) II Unræd, King of England
- Born: Abt 968, Wessex, England
- Married (1): Abt 985, Wessex, England
- Married (2): 997
- Married (3): 5 Apr 1002, Winchester Cathedral, London, England
- Died: 23 Apr 1016, London, Middlesex, England
- Buried: St Paul's, London, Middlesex, England
He was a weakling, totally unable to withstand the Danish onslaught that re-started on his accession. He continually attempted to buy off the Danes - Danegeld - as when he lost the Battle of Maldon in 991. In a state of near panic he ordered the slaughter of all Danes whether peaceful settlers or not and this foul deed was put in hand on St.Brices Day 13th Nov 1002. Among the victims was the sister of Sweyn, King of Denmark. The Norsemen were furious and ravaged the country from Cornwall to Kent and from South Wales to East Anglia. At this time Ethelred married Emma, sister of the Duke of Normandy. By 1013, Sweyn, who was accompanied by his son Canute, was proclaimed King but he died soon afterwards. Ethelred fled to Normandy when Sweyn's rule prevailed and then on Sweyn's death he returned but the English lords placed severe restrictions on him. The Danes led by Canute returned in 1015 and landing at Poole they crossed the Thames at Cricklade.
Although many in later generations have found his nickname "The Unready" appropriate considering the Viking onslaught he faced, his contemporaries did not consider the moniker to indicate he was ill-prepared. Rather, the nickname derives from the Anglo-Saxon unræd meaning "without counsel", "poorly counselled" or "indecisive". This could also be interpreted as a pun on his name, Æþelræd, which may be understood to mean "noble counsel" in Old English.
Simeon of Durham names "Eadmuind and Egelræd" as the sons of King Eadgar and his wife "the daughter of Ordgar duke of Devonshire…". Roger of Hoveden gives his parentage. When his father died, a large number of nobles promoted the election of Æthelred to succeed instead of his older half-brother, maybe because the latter was considered unsuitable due to his outbursts of rage or because of the inferior status of his mother.
He succeeded after the murder of his half-brother in 978 as ÆTHELRED II "the Unready/Unræd/Redeles" King of England, crowned 4 Apr or 4 May 978 at Kingston-upon-Thames. Danish attacks on England recommenced in 980, with raids on Hampshire, Thanet and Cheshire. Raids on Devon and Cornwall followed in 981, and on Dorset in 982. A further wave of attacks started in 988 in Devon. As part of his plan to control the Danes, King Æthelred agreed a non-aggression pact with Richard I "Sans Peur" Comte de Normandie on 1 Mar 991, designed apparently to dissuade either party from sheltering Viking marauders. After a third wave of attacks in 991, King Æthelred signed a treaty with Olaf Tryggveson (who succeeded in  as Olav I King of Norway) under which 22,000 pounds of gold and silver was paid in return for a promise of help in thwarting future attacks. The treaty presumably never came into full effect, despite payment of the money, as this was only the first of a long series of "Danegeld" payments funded by heavy taxation which ultimately led to the virtual ruin of King Æthelred's government. The attack of 994, in which for the first time Svend King of Denmark took part, resulted in some English support to declare Svend king from those who despaired of King Æthelred's government. The raids of 997/999 on Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, South Wales, Dorset and Kent, were followed in 1000 by the Danish army moving to Normandy to await the following summer. The king's second marriage in 1002 was presumably part of his continuing efforts to prevent the Normans from allowing the Danes to use their ports from which to attack England. King Æthelred ordered the massacre of Danes in England 13 Nov 1002, which included the death of Gunhild sister of King Svend, although this only resulted in intensified attacks. In a desperate late attempt to strengthen the country's defences, King Æthelred ordered the construction of a fleet of new warships, completed in 1009. Nearly one third of the fleet was lost as a result of the rebellion of Wulfnoth, father of Godwin Earl of Wessex, and the attempt by Brihtric, brother of Eadric "Streona/the Acquisitor", to capture him. A full-scale Danish invasion came in 1013 and by the end of the year Svend King of Denmark had become de facto king of England. King Æthelred fled to Normandy after Christmas 1013, but after Svend's death in Feb 1014 he was invited back, on condition he improved his rule. By end-Apr 1014, Æthelred counter-attacked the Danes in Lindsey, after which the Danish fleet, under King Svend's son Knud, withdrew to Denmark. In August 1015, Knud of Denmark invaded England again. During the latter part of King Æthelred's reign further trouble was caused by the treachery of his son-in-law Eadric "Streona/the Acquisitor", appointed Ealdorman of Mercia in 1007. He acquired a position of considerable influence over the king, only to defect to Knud after this last invasion. The Danes controlled Wessex by the end of 1015, and Northumbria in early 1016, turning their attention to London and the south-east after King Æthelred died.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the death on St George's day 1016 of King Æthelred. The Libellus de Anniversariis of Ramsey Monastery records the death “IX Kal Mai” of “Ethelredus rex Angliæ, qui dedit Brochtune”. 1
Æþelræd married Ælflæd, Queen of Wessex, daughter of Thored of Northumbria, Ealdorman of York and Ealdgyth, about 985 in Wessex, England. (Ælflæd, Queen of Wessex was born in 968 in Wessex, England and died in 1002.)
Æþelræd also married Aelgifu of Northampton in 997.
Æþelræd also married Emma DE NORMANDIE Princess of England, daughter of Richard I "Sans Peur" DE NORMANDIE Count of Normandy and Gunnora D' ARQUES Duchess of Normandy, on 5 Apr 1002 in Winchester Cathedral, London, England. (Emma DE NORMANDIE Princess of England was born in Rouen, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie, France, died on 6 Mar 1051-1052 in Winchester Buckley, Hampshire, England and was buried in Cathedral Winchester, London, Middlesex, England.)