Family Links

Edward ÆŞELING, Prince of Wessex


  • Married: Between 1040 and 1045

  Research Notes:

Agatha is named as the wife of Edward in many sources, but her origin has been the subject of lively debate for years. The early 12th century chronicles are contradictory. The assertion by Orderic Vitalis that she was "daughter of Solomon King of the Magyars" can be dismissed as impossible chronologically. One group of chroniclers suggest a German origin, saying that she was "the daughter of the brother of the Emperor Henry". This includes John of Worcester ("filia germani imperatoris henrici", in a passage which Humphreys speculates was written some time between 1120 and 1131 although possibly based on the earlier work of Marianus Scotus), Florence of Worcester ("daughter of the brother of Emperor Henry"), the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ("the emperor's kinswoman" and, in relation to her daughter Margaret, "descended from the emperor Henry who had dominion over Rome".) Ailred Abbot of Rievaulx records that "Edwardo", son of "regem Edmundum" [King Edmund "Ironsides"], married "filiam germani sui Henrici imperatoris…Agatha". Matthew of Paris calls Agatha "soror Henrici imperatoris Romani" when recounting the ancestry of Henry II King of England. A second group of chroniclers propose a Russian origin, suggesting that Agatha belonged to the family of Iaroslav Grand Prince of Kiev. For William of Malmesbury, she was "sister of the [Hungarian] queen", which from a chronological point of view could only refer to Anastasia Iaroslavna, wife of King András I. In a 13th century interpolation in one copy of the Leges Anglo-Saxonicæ (written in [1130]) she was "ex genere et sanguine regum Rugorum". The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines names "Agatham regine Hunorem sororem", the Hungarian Magyars frequently, though incorrectly, being referred to as "Huns" in many other sources. Lastly, Roger of Wendover records that "Eadwardus" married "reginæ Hungariæ sororem…Agatham". In considering the German origin theory, the uterine half-brothers ("germani") of Emperor Heinrich III provide a likely candidate. These half-brothers were Liudolf von Braunschweig, Markgraf in Friesland (son of Gisela of Swabia, mother of Emperor Heinrich III, by her first marriage with Bruno Graf [von Braunschweig]), and Ernst von Babenberg Duke of Swabia and his younger brother Hermann IV Duke of Swabia (sons of Gisela by her second marriage). The latter, the Babenberg brothers, born in [1014/16], were both too young to have been Agatha's father so can be dismissed. Liudolf von Braunschweig was first proposed as Agatha's father in 1933, and has been the preferred candidate for many historians since then. His birth date is estimated at [1003/05]...which is consistent with his having been Agatha's father. The marriage taking place in Kiev would not exclude a German origin, as contacts were reported between Kiev and the imperial court in 1040, when Russia was aiming to create a tripartite alliance with England and Germany to weaken Denmark, and also in 1043, when the situation required review following the accession of King Edward "the Confessor" in England. The major drawback to the German origin theory is the total absence of onomastic connections between the Braunschweig family and the descendants of Edward and Agatha, although this is not of course conclusive to prove or disprove the hypothesis. The Russian origin theory has also found considerable academic support. Edmund must have had contact with the Russian royal family during his period in Kiev, assuming it is correct, as suggested above, that he spent time there during his exile. There are numerous onomastic connections between the the extended family of Grand Prince Iaroslav and the descendants of Edward and Agatha. For example, the names of Edward and Agatha's own daughters, Margaret and Christina, were both used in the Swedish royal family, to which Grand Prince Iaroslav's wife belonged. In the next generation, among Queen Margaret's own children, the name David is one which seems only to have been used in the Kiev ruling family among all contemporary European royal dynasties. The major problem with the Russian origin theory is the complete failure to explain the source references to Agatha's family relationship with the emperor, which it is unwise to dismiss as completely meaningless. It is of course possible that neither of these theories is correct, and that Agatha belonged to a minor German, Russian or Hungarian noble family the importance of whose family connections were exaggerated in the sources. Edward's relationship to the kings of England may, at the time of his marriage, have seemed remote and unimportant in eastern Europe, especially as England was ruled by Danish kings whose position must then have seemed secure. He may not have provided a sufficiently attractive marriage prospect for a prominent European princess. In conclusion, therefore, there is no satisfactory way of deciding between each of the competing theories concerning Agatha's origin and it appears best to classify it as "unknown". It is unlikely that the mystery of Agatha's origin will ever be solved to the satisfaction of all. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that, after the Norman conquest, Agatha left England with her children in Summer 1067 and found refuge at the court of Malcolm King of Scotland. Florence of Worcester records that "clitone Eadgaro et matre sua Agatha duabusque sororibus suis Margareta et Christina" left England for Scotland, in a passage which deals with events in mid-1068. According to Weir, in old age, possibly after the death of her daughter Queen Margaret, she became a nun at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but the primary source on which this is based has not yet been identified. 1


One of the latest theories was proposed by Ian Mladjov. Dismissing the Kievan theory as insufficiently grounded, he infers that Agatha was daughter of Gavril Radomir, Tsar of Bulgaria by his first wife, a Hungarian princess, the daughter of Duke Géza of Hungary. This hypothesis has Agatha born in Hungary after her parents divorced, her mother being pregnant when she left Bulgaria, as indicated in Byzantine sources. The argument is based primarily on the onomastic precedent provided by the fact that Gavril Radomir's own mother was also named Agatha, and it vindicates the intimate connection between Agatha and Hungary attested in the Medieval sources.

The article reviews the sources, the Hungarian, German, and Kievan theories for Agatha's antecedents, and looks into the contemporary onomastic repertoire, concluding that of the few contemporary Agathas, only Gavril Radomir's mother could possibly have been an ancestor of the wife of Edward the Exile. Some of the other names associated with Agatha and used to corroborate theories based in onomastics are also readily available within the Bulgarian ruling family at the time, including Mary and several Davids. Another aspect of the study is to draw attention to genealogical improbabilities posed by several marriages within the prohibited degrees of kinship, as posited by earlier theories (especially the German and Kievan ones, including the French marriage of Anne of Kiev). The article also re-examines some long-standing assumptions about the chronology of Gavril Radomir's marriage to the Hungarian princess, and concludes that its dating to the late 980s is unsupportable, and its dissolution belongs in c. 1009–1014.

This corrected chronology, the clear onomastic precedent, and the lack of problematic genealogical relationships would allow Agatha's identification as the daughter of Saint Stephen's sister, raised at the Hungarian court, and married (possibly while in exile in Kievan Rus') to Edward the Exile. It is inferred that the relative familiarity with Germany and unfamiliarity with Hungary partly distorted the depiction of Agatha in the English sources; her actual position would have been that of a daughter of the (unnamed) sister of the King of Hungary (Stephen I), himself the brother-in-law of the Holy Roman Emperor (Henry II, and therefore kinsman of Henry III). 2

  Marriage Information:

Agathe married Edward ÆŞELING Prince of Wessex, son of Edmund II "Ironside", King of Wessex and Queen Ealdgyth (Algitha) MORCARSON, between 1040 and 1045. (Edward ÆŞELING Prince of Wessex was born in 1016 in Wessex, England, died on 19 Apr 1057 in London, Middlesex, England and was buried in St Paul Cathedral, London, Middlesex, England.)


1 Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, Medlands, Eadmund.

2 Cited by various secondary sources, but have been able to identify neither original writer nor the article referred to.

Home | Table of Contents | Surnames | Name List

This Web Site was Created 30 Nov 2015 with Legacy 4.0 from Millennia