Æthelbald , of Wessex
b.0834 Wantage, Berkshire, England
d.20 Dec 0860
Facts and Events
He witnessed his father's charters as a kings' son in the 840s, and in 850 he received the rank of Ealdorman. In 855 he became regent of Wessex while his father, Æthelwulf, visited Rome, his elder brother Æthelstan having died in 851 or shortly after. His younger brother Æthelbert became king of Kent.
Æthelwulf returned a year later, having taken as his second wife, the Carolingian King Charles the Bald's thirteen-year-old daughter Judith. According to Alfred the Great's biographer, Asser, during Æthelwulf's absence there may have been a plot hatched to prevent the king's return either by Æthelbald, or by Ealhstan, Bishop of Sherborne and Eanwulf, Ealdorman of Somerset, or by all three. It is probable that Æthelbald was involved in such a plot due to hearing about his father's marriage to Judith. The marriage to a Frankish princess who had her own royal lineage could have produced heirs more throne-worthy than Æthelbald.
To avoid a civil war, Æthelwulf allowed Æthelbald to continue to rule Wessex itself (or the western part of Wessex) while he took Kent and the other eastern parts of the kingdom. The absence of any coins in Æthelbald's name during this period suggests the coinage continued to be in Æthelwulf's name until his death. After Æthelwulf's death, Æthelbald became the king of Wessex, while Æthelbert again became king of Kent.
Æthelbald then married his father's widow, Judith, to Asser's horror. Little is known of his reign and only one charter survives, witnessed by king Æthelbald, king Æthelbert and Judith, suggesting that he was on good terms with his brother.
Æthelbald died at Sherborne in Dorset on 20 December 860, aged around 26 or 27. Asser, who was hostile to Æthelbald both because of his revolt against his father and because of his uncanonical marriage, described him as "iniquitous and grasping", and his reign "two and a half lawless years".