The Warrior Queen: The Life and Legend of Aethelflaed, Daughter of Alfred the Great by Joanna Arman

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The Warrior Queen: The Life and Legend of Aethelflaed, Daughter of Alfred the Great by Joanna Arman

Category: Biography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: Aethelflaed, the 'Lady of the Mercians', was the daughter and eldest child of King Alfred. The author does her a service in pointing out that her life and career were in some respects were no less remarkable than those of her father, and that she deserves to be plucked from obscurity to be remembered in the way that she deserves.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 296 Date: May 2017
Publisher: Amberley
ISBN: 978-1445662046

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Aethelflaed, the 'Lady of the Mercians', was the daughter and eldest child of King Alfred. Considering the scanty details of her life which have been handed down to posterity, the author has done a very good job in presenting us with a portrait of her life and times.

We are told that she was 'every inch her father's daughter', and much of the first few chapters comprise an examination the reign and achievements of King Alfred. On his death he was succeeded as King of Wessex by her brother Edward (the Elder), and between them they embarked on a policy of starting to conquer territories which had been lost to the Danes, specifically much of the Eastern part of Mercia for her, which she ruled from 911 until her death seven years later, and East Anglia for him. In doing so they had to stake their claim against that of Aethelwold, Alfred's nephew, who failed in his bid to make himself King in Wessex but succeeded in Danish Northumbria and made his capital at York. It was a shortlived triumph as he was killed in battle against Edward not long afterwards.

Although it seems that she was never formally crowned Queen, Aethelflaed was and remained one of the only women of the Anglo-Saxon era who was ever chosen by the witan to rule a kingdom, leading her army into battle and defeating the Danes. Yet there was more to her than the figure of a warrior Queen, for she followed in her father's footsteps by promoting the causes of scholarship, learning and church building.

A certain amount of the book inevitably examines and traces the various rivalries so prevalent in the unsettled and unstable pre-Norman era. Historical records of the time as do still exist do not yield much information, but Ms Arman has worked painstakingly through what is available. She also provides some detail of her expedition against the Welsh, to avenge the murder of a Mercian abbot and his companions, when Aethelflaed took control of a punitive expedition which ended with considerable destruction and the capture of over thirty prisoners. Two years later, at the peak of her powers, the woman whom the author calls 'the greatest female leader of her time' was dead, apparently of natural causes and possibly from sheer exhaustion.

One valid point made in the conclusion to the book is that the Anglo-Saxon era is much neglected and has long been uncharted territory. Many of us would be hard pressed to name or say anything about any of the monarchs other than Alfred the Great or Ethelred the Unready. While we will never be in a position to know much if anything at all about such historically remote figures as personalities, we can be grateful for biographies such as this one which help to put them in perspective with regard to their achievements and their place in pre-Norman Conquest history. As the author states, Aethelflaed led a life and career which in some respects wno less remarkable than those of her father, and that she deserves to be plucked from obscurity to be remembered in the way that she deserves. This fine book equally deserves to be part of the process.

Buy The Warrior Queen: The Life and Legend of Aethelflaed, Daughter of Alfred the Great by Joanna Arman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Warrior Queen: The Life and Legend of Aethelflaed, Daughter of Alfred the Great by Joanna Arman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Warrior Queen: The Life and Legend of Aethelflaed, Daughter of Alfred the Great by Joanna Arman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Warrior Queen: The Life and Legend of Aethelflaed, Daughter of Alfred the Great by Joanna Arman at Amazon.com.


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