Æthelred the Unready

Æthelred (Old English: Æþelræd, pronounced [ˈæðelræːd];[n 1] c. 966 – 23 April 1016), known as the Unready, was King of the English from 978 to 1013 and again from 1014 until his death in 1016. His epithet does not derive from the modern word "unready", but rather from the Old English unræd meaning "poorly advised"; it is a pun on his name, which means "well advised".

Æthelred in an early thirteenth-century copy of the Abingdon Chronicle
King of the English
Reign18 March 978 – 1013
PredecessorEdward the Martyr
SuccessorSweyn Forkbeard
Reign1014 – 23 April 1016
PredecessorSweyn Forkbeard
SuccessorEdmund Ironside
Bornc. 966
Died23 April 1016 (aged about 49)
London, England
FatherEdgar, King of England

Æthelred was the son of King Edgar and Queen Ælfthryth. He came to the throne at about the age of 12, following the assassination of his older half-brother, Edward the Martyr. His brother's murder was carried out by supporters of his own claim to the throne, although he was too young to have any personal involvement.[citation needed]

The chief problem of Æthelred's reign was conflict with the Danes. After several decades of relative peace, Danish raids on English territory began again in earnest in the 980s. Following the Battle of Maldon in 991, Æthelred paid tribute, or Danegeld, to the Danish king. In 1002, Æthelred ordered what became known as the St. Brice's Day massacre of Danish settlers. In 1013, King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark invaded England, as a result of which Æthelred fled to Normandy in 1013 and was replaced by Sweyn. However, he returned as king for two years after Sweyn's death in 1014. Æthelred's 37-year combined reign was the longest of any Anglo-Saxon king of England, and was only surpassed in the 13th century, by Henry III. Æthelred was briefly succeeded by his son, Edmund Ironside, but he died after a few months and was replaced by Sweyn's son, Cnut. Another of Æthelred's sons, Edward the Confessor, became king in 1042.